If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This isn't going to be a huge post like my others. I just wanted to mirror Alexander Fedderly's Top 10, a well-written but delusional (I kid.) list you can read in the link at the bottom. I haven't seen all, or really any, of the main Oscar contenders so my list is subject to change. But since this is more about getting people to see movies, it might be better that my list isn't filled with obvious choices. Either way, here it is:
15. Kick-Ass - I was grudging with this film before I saw it because I've grown to dislike Mark Millar, who's turned from superb character writer for comics to someone who writes them as cheap platforms for future movie adaptations. However, it takes film-literate masters like Mathew Vaughn (director) and Jane Goldman (co-screenwriter) to straighten out his newer material. In a way, Kick-Ass is a combination between the fantasy of Stardust and the unrelenting realism (i.e. the constant protagonist beatdown) of L4yer Cake, a near perfect combination at that. Unfortunately, the eccentric supporting cast has to hold the movie up for the bland, eponymous hero played by Aaron Johnson, who was similarly miscast in this year's Nowhere Boy; but that hardly prevents this from being one of funniest and legitmately controversial films of the year.
14. ODDSAC - Animal Collective's little-known visual album ended up the year's most visually creative--with the possible exception of Enter the Void which I haven't seen. It's not quite as trance inducing as the music on it's own due to some laughably weird scenes, but it's an experience that'll at least leave you disoriented once you leave the theater. Describing the songs/sections of the film is rather pointless, but just go into it like you would a normal Animal Collective album: expecting zaniness, ultimately rewarding patience-testing and plenty of good post-screening conversation fodder.
13. Louis C.K.: Hilarious - 'Nuff said.
12. The American: Anton Corbijn, unlike also-foreign director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Tourist), didn't fuck up his second film effort this year. The American is a quietly explorative character study in the vein of The Man With No Name Trilogy. George Clooney's Jack is a soft-spoken but well-trained assassin losing his focus at his late age, leading his employers to believe he is a risk and, therefore, dispensible. This film is boldly paced and beautifully shot, making it one of the rare films that pays you for its two-hour runtime and not the other way around.
11. Youth In Revolt: 2010 turned out to be The Year of Satire. But unlike Portlandia, Scott Pilgrim,and Four Lions, which were all critcially lauded but publically shunned, Youth in Revolt was disliked by both. I get it. Michael Cera is one-note... wait that's not true (he's a character actor); it's quirky... though every character drives the story forward; and it's indie "precious"... except that it's satirizing that very concept. OK, I don't get it. This film is one of the few I've seen this year where almost every joke hit and the set pieces didn't drag down the humor. Maybe, like The American, the fact that the marketing was aimed toward casual moviegoers instead of film geeks is the source of all the hate because both are heavy with references. But, those are suplementary to understanding the characters and appreciating the story, so I'm baffled.
10/9. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers/ The Oath: The year's most high profile documentaries (Casino Jack, Inside Job, Client 9, Waiting for Superman) concentrated on our country's internal and economical fuckeduppedness; but since I haven't seen any of them yet, my list has these two about our foreign policy's fuckeduppedness instead. Well, that's not the only reason. What makes these two interesting is that they're focused on events of the near past but are equally as current as the afformentioned docs, with Daniel Ellsberg acting as yesteryear's Julian Assange and The Oath's Salim Hamdan being an unfortunate representation of America's misguided and conterproductive demonization of its wartime enemies. While both of the films' protagonists are rare breeds, their voices are essential in showing the public how broad this country's sword is and why the individual is always more important than policy.
8. Shutter Island - The Academy disagrees, but I believe this to be Martin Scorcese's best feature work since Casino (though I still need to see Bringing Out the Dead.) Scorsese to me is the ultimate film fan as much as he is the ultimate director and Shutter Island is the ultimate affirmation of that. Seemingly every frame of this film is laced with film history, from the psychodramatic staging and acting style to the Hitchcockian pacing. This is probably why many film fans guessed the twist early on, but like Edgar Wright, Scorsese is so well-versed in the language of film that he anticipates this and leaves the audience with a haunting ending that puts the whole experience in a new perspective, making it ripe for multiple viewings.
7. Best Worst Movie - With the newfound interest in the suckiness of the Star Wars thanks to Red Letter Media's scathing but heartfelt reviews, you'd think this year's The People vs. George Lucaswould've made more of a splash than Best Worst Movie. But that just proves that positive fandom is thankfully more impactful than cries of childhood raping. This film is less about the badness of Troll 2, as it is a celebration of the cult fandom and an examination of the players' post-film lives, which are hysterical (in more than one way.) This is as much of a must-see as the film it laughs with, not at... OK maybe at a little.
6. Dogtooth: Another piece in the 2010 satirical circle, this film is exactly what the Europeans do best: making you forget you're laughing at some pretty sick shit. Just see it. The less you know the better.
5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: I didn't really see this one for its subject. Being a teenager whose knowledge of history only extends to film and politics, Joan River to me was just that bitch who hypocritcally makes fun of stars' attire on the red carpet and makes Comedy Central commercials unwatchable with the constant advertisement of her Roast. Wow do I regret that now! A Piece of Work focuses on River's desperate later years as she tries to convince the world she's more than a pretty plastic face hiding an aged face hiding a washed up comedic mind. Overall, she's unsuccessful in doing so with her own play production, but the documentary's behind-the-scenes camera shows otherwise. Rivers is probably one of the most self-aware and hilarious entertainers working today; but her need to stay in the spotlight instead of being in quality material has ruined her career, resulting in shit like the new reality show with her daughter who sucks. Whether or not that's fair is beside the point. What's most important is watching Joan be a sport as well as blast throughout it all.
4. The Social Network: What's special about The Social Network is not only its willingness to break the rules of screenwriting and take major risks with the likabilty of its protagonists; it's the fact that it's universally praised for it. This year, it simultaneously tricked The Academy into thinking it was watching a Harvard production of Shakespeare and the general audience into thinking it was watching anything but. Methinks one of these days that Fincher fellow will trick America into think Chuck Palanuick is a great writer. Oh wait...
3. Exit Through the Gift Shop: Art questioning art. What will they think of next? Same withDogtooth: see it blind if possible.
2. A Prophet/ Toy Story 3 - Prison films never go out of style, but both these films have more than genre in common. The themes of adaptation, mortality, and survival are present in these films. Woody and Malik start the story rigid in their values, expecting to beat the odds while clinging to them. Reality sets in, forcing them to adapt in order to survive, as well as fight mirrors of their old stubborn selves, Woody with Lotso Lovin' Bear and Malik with his creator, Luciani. It's amazing to me that a kids film likeToy Story 3 can share so much with the ugliest, most adult film of the year to the point where it makes me question why I didn't put Pixar in front of A Prophet for taking more of risk. The I realized thinking that way is pandering to Pixar because they are so far above such labels. Pixar makes universal films, and in that sense, both its creation and A Prophet are on equal ground.
1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Social Network is the film being hailed as the summation of this generation, yet I doubt many can relate to Mark Zuckerberg's upper-class power struggle in these times. Aaron Sorkin himself admits his attraction to the story comes from the themes that are as old as storytelling itself. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is the exact opposite in that it's so generation specific that it's polarizing to practically everyone outside of its target demographic. As I'm part of that demographic, all I can tell you is director Edgar Wright got it down flawlessly. I'm hoping that, after Wright's still tireless post-release promotion, this film gets the views it should have in the theater and becomes a timeless record of its era in same way as Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused, Walter Hill's The Warriors and Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause. Times infinity.
The Shit List:
*Link to Alexander's blog post: http://alexanderkhan.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-top-10-films-of-2010.html