Last year, there were more great films than places on my top 10 list, which made it one of the more difficult lists to compile.
This year was pretty tough too, but in a very different way. 2010 has seen a dearth of decent movies, with both big budget blockbusters and auteur-driven indy films alike falling short. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to find 10 movies that stood out among the dross. As ever, if you think I’ve missed something off, feel free to verbally abuse me at twitter.com/mikeshaw101
So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 films of 2010:
The film’s title and threatening promotional posters do this film a great disservice. Essentially a road movie with a great romance threaded through it, the monsters don’t play much of a part at all. There are no cheap jumps, no formulaic chase scenes where the heroine falls over a tree stump, no scenes of people having their insides chewed. What there is, however, is an excellent story, perfectly pitched and well-told by two excellent leads and a director who is now one to watch.
The Social Network
A film all about nerds and the creation of Facebook? Booooooring. Except, it wasn’t. Combine David Fincher’s excellent direction, a superb screenplay from The West Wing and Studio 60’s Aaron Sorkin, and an atmospheric soundtrack from Trent Reznor and you wonder why we ever doubted it in the first place. Factor in pitch-perfect performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake (who knew he’d be so good at playing an irritating egocentric prick?) and you’ve got not only of the best films of the year, but also of Fincher’s career.
One of my favourite comic books of recent years, Kick-Ass didn’t disappoint when it hit the big screen. Funny, violent and fantastically sweary, it got the Daily Mail all riled up, and gave us Nic Cage’s best performance in years. All in all, a great big win: Kick Ass was unashamedly entertaining, and was only topped in the knowing daftness stakes by The Expendables.
Regular readers will have been able to chart my excitement about Sylvester Stallone’s film via this column. From the first pre-production announcement, through each casting decision, I gleefully reported them on these pages. But what you couldn’t tell from my words, was the terrible fear that haunted me day and night. What if the film was bad? And not bad in a good way, just plain bad. I shouldn’t have worried: I knew Jason Statham wouldn’t let me down. Outlandish weaponry, comical bad guys, enormous explosions and plenty of salty language, The Expendables was delightfully aware of just how ridiculous it was, fully embraced it, from start to finish. It wasn’t high art, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.
Jailed for six years, illiterate French-Arab teenager Malik (played by an amazing Tahar Rahim) is initiated into the prison’s criminal underworld. He learns quickly and soon starts to climb the brutally violent inmate hierarchy to become a formidable player.
A Prophet didn’t receive the same kind of attention as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but it more than deserved it. Track it down over the Christmas hols. It’s not exactly cheery, but it’ll be a refreshing change to teenage relatives’ Twilight DVDs and the endless Bond repeats on TV.
More teen comedies are released each year than Iceland sells prawn rings, but 99 per cent of them are just cheap, nasty and full of fluff (the films, not the delicious Kerry Katona-endorsed Christmas treats). However, every so often one comes along that bucks the trend and makes you realise that no matter how bogged down in rubbish the genre gets, you can never write it off completely.
Starring Emma Stone, Easy A’s source material is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and tells the story of a high school girl who accidentally becomes the school tramp when she pretends to have sex with a friend to hide his homosexuality. Clever dialogue and brilliant comic performances, it’s like Mean Girls crossed with Juno, and is one of the year’s hidden gems.
Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel about a father and son making their way across a post-apocalyptic American wasteland was a truly special book, so when it was announced that it was being adapted for the screen, it felt like one of those occasions where the idea of introducing an army of angry, diseased monkeys into Hollywood was a perfectly reasonable idea.
However, director John Hillcoat managed to create a film that retained the haunting and emotionally shattering qualities of The Road, while bringing something new to the story.
Computer animated films might be the ones that rock the box office, but traditional animation is the stuff that touches the heart. As much as I looked forward to The Illusionist, I didn’t think that Sylvain Chomet would be able to top his wonderful 2003 film, Belleville Rendez-vous. It was one of the very rare occassions where I am wrong. Beautiful and bittersweet, The Illusionist is a leap forward in filmmaking and proves that Chomet is improving with age.
When Chris Morris announced he was working on a film, the interwebs went a little bit mental. When it later transpired that the film was about British-born Muslim terrorists, the rest of the world followed suit.
Most people expected the man responsible for The Day Today and Brass Eye to produce a cutting critique of both terrorists and the British media’s response to them, with plenty of close-to-the-bone humour. What we actually got was nothing of the sort, and the resulting film was unfairly regarded as a flop.
Four Lions was a film of two halves; the first being fairly pedestrian with cheap gags and none of the waspish wit or socio-political skewing we have come to expect of Morris. The second however, was a measured take on friendship, brotherhood, naivety and religious extremism, and provided some of the most poignant scenes of 2010.
The secrecy surrounding Chris Nolan’s first film post-The Dark Knight was intense, with plot details not being given out until close to the release date. The studio needn’t have bothered with such furtiveness, however, as nothing would have made sense anyway. Complex and ever-so-slightly confusing, even after multiple viewings Inception is still revealing secrets. Add in a brilliant cast and mind-bending effects, and Inception is a modern classic.