So, as much as I love movies (and I LOVE them), I don’t actually watch many new ones. I tend to view films when I feel like it, and my interest has little to do with release schedules. I do go to the theater, but not that often, and usually to see older stuff. (Also, I was sick for a really long time last year and didn’t get out much.) My top 10 for 2012 list is a little different than most because it’s what I watched in 2012—not what came out. The only rule: it cannot be something I have seen before. (Otherwise it would just be all Hitchcock and John Carpenter.) Runners up include In Name Only (1939), Ball of Fire (1941), Public Speaking (2010), Sound of my Voice (2011), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Magic Mike (2012), 2 Days in New York (2012), Three Godfathers (1936), and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011). There is one movie that I saw, The Gatekeepers (2012), that would have made the list pretty near the top, but it is not being released for a while, so I’m leaving a space for it on next year’s list.
2012 was a terrific year at the movies. 2010 and 2011 both felt a little underwhelming at the time. There was some good work, to be sure, but the amount of work that felt new or exciting was less and less. However, this last year felt like an embarrassment of riches at times. Good stuff was coming out every week, and a lot of it had real merit. Below is my list of top 10 films for 2012.
It’s been one heck of a good year for movies. From mainstream blockbusters to low-budget indies, there was a little bit for everyone in 2012. Even with a less than stellar summer season, I would argue that this been the strongest film year since 2007. When I sat down to write my end of the year list, I kept scratching out certain entries and starting over, because there were so many films that I wanted to mention. Even with the list you’re about to go through, I’m already questioning whether I should do it again just one more time. That’s the silliness of making these things in the first place. There were so many good movies this year that attempting to rank them one over the other is an exercise in absurdity. But that’s the kind of absurdity we movie fans love to put ourselves through.
Here is my list of the top 10 films of 2010. Spencer and I go into more detail on the films themselves in Episode 74. This post exists as more of a cheat sheet for those of you looking to catch up on the films of last year.
#8 …Not the Tom Cruise flick.
The next slot in my top ten of twenty-ten list is reserved for a very special film—but before we dive into the movie, I’d like to spend a sentence or two or six talking about the house that built the flick… Pixar by far is my favorite production company. The house is very story-oriented; I’d go so far to say that they have mastered the art of storytelling. I, personally, have witnessed an audience of adults cry like a ward of infants within the first seven minutes of a feature length Pixar film. That means an emotional bond was created between the characters and the crowd within the first two minutes; everything after that initial introduction was icing on the cake. I’ve seen films longer than two hours that weren’t able to connect with their audiences. Granted, most of them were starring Kevin Costner. Since Pixar understands the craft and has developed the ability to implement the power of a feature into a very short period of time, I only find it fitting to put their soon-to-be Oscar-winning short Day and Night in my top ten.
Obviously, to limit the amount of good films that come out in a single year to only ten is ultimately unreasonable. To take a group of films and say, “these are the best of the year” is a pretty bold statement, because there are a ton of movies that come out. Does this list include films that have come out from all over the world? Does it include animated movies, documentaries, TV movies, or short films? How do you rank a romantic comedy from America over a hard-hitting melodrama from Europe? You can’t, and for a while I scratched my head trying to put my chosen films in an order that made some sort of sense. I guess for me, there are two reasons why a list like this exists: 1) It gives me the opportunity to put the spotlight on a film or two that may not have gotten the attention I feel it deserves, and 2) it gives you (the reader) the chance to tell me how very wrong (or right!) I am in picking these movies.
I heard from different places that 2010 was a “down” year in movies. As I look over the movies on my list, and some of the ones that just missed the cut-off, I would tend to disagree. Yes, the summer blockbuster season did have a lack of notable entries, but the beginning of the year, and particularly the end, showcased a strong number of movies, some of which we may be still be talking about well into the future. As I tried putting my list together, I had to continually push it off because of a certain big movie that I had to watch before setting my group in place. Even now, with my list complete and here before us, I’m almost certain that I’m going to run in to another movie down the line that could have easily made its way to a spot if I’d only had the opportunity to see it earlier. But that’s what so great about the movies, it is continually growing, continually changing, continually bringing something new and fresh every week. I’ll gladly take another movie year like 2010 if it gives me the same amount of quality that it has here.
But enough blabbering, let’s get to the list:
EXT. BUS STOP – MORNING
Two adults in their mid-twenties, one man and one woman, stand at a bus stop. The man wears a white T-shirt with the word “courier” printed in black across the chest. The woman, dressed in business-casual clothes, finishes applying lip gloss to her lips, caps the gloss, and nests it back into her purse. The man walks over to the bus schedule, glances at it, then stands next to woman like the schedule was a way of entry to getting close to his female commuter.
So, I’ll be the 157th person to say it: 2010 was a kinda crappy year for movies. If you want to know what is currently wrong with Hollywood, it can be summed up in three simple words: Yogi Bear 3D (if you count “3D” as a word). The very idea of this movie reeks of movie-making by committee, complete with focus groups, product placement, and targeted name recognition aimed at separating you from your hard earned $15.50 when you pay for the usually completely underwhelming 3D glasses at your local IMAX-enhanced google-plex. There wasn’t a lot this year that felt like it moved the medium forward. For every interesting puzzle of a movie that got people thinking, there seemed to be a Last Airbender, Dinner for Schmucks, or Saw 3D lurking around the corner to stink up the joint.
With that rant in mind, there were still some shining gems filled with nougaty goodness at the movies. The following ten films were my favorites that I’ve seen this year. Please keep in mind that there might be some odd omissions from this list. That’s largely because I haven’t been able to see EVERYTHING yet. I’ll get there. But in the meantime, here are my favorites of 2010:
10. Iron Man 2
This might not have made the list if this had been a stronger year. Just like everyone else, when the first Iron Man came out, I was surprised at how good it was. I had always thought Robert Downey, Jr. would make the perfect Tony Stark, ever since the first time I heard him announced. Now you can’t picture anyone else in the role. This second outing has all of the primary players back, with the exception of replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey with Don Cheadle (were those the only two non-Denzel Washington black actors that the often short-sighted Hollywood could think of?). Cheadle is one of our finest actors, so this was almost a trade upwards.
I will grant that the second movie feels a bit…less than the original. The scene where Iron Man and War Machine fight at Tony’s birthday party in particular felt like a fight for a fight’s sake instead of being for any particular reason. Despite all that, Jon Favreau still made a darn fun film. Tony’s first meeting with Mickey Rourke as Whiplash at the Grand Prix was spectacular and fun. The chemistry between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts still crackles, Scarlett Johanson looks fantastic in a skin tight pleather body suit, and above all, Sam Robards continues his streak of being able to steal any movie he’s in. Plus, nothing else got the 10-year old fanboy in me jumping for joy as much as the Easter egg after the end credits (won’t spoil it for those who still haven’t seen it).
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
So people endlessly debate which Harry Potter movie is the best. “The 4th one”, “No, the 3rd one”, “The 5th rocks!”, and so on. I think in about a year we will be able to look back on this whole series as a piece, much like we do now for the Lord of the Rings movies, and get to enjoy them as an impressive streak of really solid genre entertainments. The joy of Harry Potter is the fact that the stories get darker as the kids grow older. This time around, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run. They are wanted by the Ministry of Magic, and the constant chase, and being surrounded by death is weighing them down. This may be the most somber entry in the series, and I loved it.
Also, may I add, that if there was ever an Oscar for Casting Directors, whoever originally cast all of the actors in these movies years ago was a genius and should get a lifetime achievement award. Not only did they have the good sense to cast every fine English actor who isn’t Michael Caine in these films, but their ability to spot budding, watchable talent in young actors that we would be fascinated by for years is staggering. Daniel Radcliffe in particular has developed before our very eyes into a fine young actor.
8. Casino Jack and the United States of Money
This documentary, directed by Alex Gibney (who gave us the equally engrossing Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), is a snappy and succinct accounting of very recent history. We have all heard Jack Abramoff’s name bandied about many times over the years, especially concerning his arrest and public prosecution. But, as in the previous film, they do a tremendous job of laying out exactly what went on in an understandable way. The access to power that Abramoff had over the years, and the glib attitude that the “College Republicans” had towards the amounts of money they were making, really reveal the darkest parts of American politics. And near the end of the film it is pointed out that while “Casino Jack” may have been the most famous purveyor of this kind of gaming the system, he was by no means alone. Our current political system invites and condones this behavior. One of the best arguments for campaign finance reform ever.
I didn’t know Ryan Reynolds could act. Don’t get me wrong, I always kinda liked him. I think he’s a fun choice for the upcoming Green Lantern movie, he was good in the very fine Adventureland, he was my favorite thing in the Wolverine movie, and I’ll fully admit that the guy has nice biceps. But who knew Van Wilder could act?
This tense little movie was all about Ryan Reynolds stuck in a coffin, buried alive, armed initially with only a cell phone and a lighter. He is the only actor on screen during the entire movie, and this simple concept resulted in a very Hitchcock-worthy thriller. His only communication to the outside world is through the phone he’s given. We in the audience can feel his panic and frustration every time he’s stuck on hold, or has a run in with a useless bureaucrat, or an argument with a bitchy family member, all in the name of just trying to get some help. Yet again, proof that a good script, a good idea, and good acting is all you really need to make an exciting film.
The Social Network is not the best.
David Fincher’s narcissistic baby seems to be popping up in the number one slot of everyone’s top ten list. If I had to go on record with early predictions, I’d say the Network will probably take best film, script, and director awards at the Oscars. Once again, David Fincher has shown us that he can make a movie, and he can make it well. The Social Network said the right thing at the right time and spoke with style and an unbelievably quick wit. We could spend weeks talking about the sharp language, intriguing plots and the dramatized portrait of internet tycoon Mark Zuckerberg. David Fincher knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to make a film about the legend instead of making a film about the man. The movie teeter-tottered between factual depositions and creative liberties, telling a story that was larger than any character, actual or fictional. In The Social Network, reality and fantasy moved together effortlessly.
I love best, worst and “most” lists of all sorts. Whether they can ever escape the inherent flaws of being somewhat arbitrary and never all-encompassing, they are fun. They can make your opinion feel validated, or spark a lively argument, or both. I’ve read dozens of top film lists already this year, and am happy to now provide my own.
I spent a little over two-thirds of 2010 contributing to this site, and I look forward to doing much more in 2011. So, we’ll call this my First Annual Top Ten list. There are other movies I very much admired, but these are the ones that most spoke to me personally.