Top 10 Films of 2010 – Ed’s Picks
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.