Best movies (in 2010)

In putting together my Top 5 album list it got me thinking about the few good movies that I came across this year.  When I was thinking back, there weren’t that many standouts to be honest, which perhaps is in part a reflection of fact I didn’t get to see as many movies as I would have liked this year.  But still, there were some noteworthy additions…

Avatar: the plot for this film was terrible, but just for the imagery and technological marvel alone it gets number one spot for me.  It was the only film that prompted repeat viewings (3 times — all in 3D, once at IMAX).  I don’t know that I want it on DVD as it was in part the immersion into James Cameron’s wonderful 3D world, at cinema scale, that really grabbed me.

Inception: this was such a wonderfully crafted film.  I loved the premise and it was excellently executed.  I’m a fan of Leonardo Di Caprio’s abilities, but despite excellent performances in the past few films I’ve seen him in (The Departed, Blood Diamond, Body of Lies, Shutter Island), his casting has left me a bit out of sorts — for some reason the characters just seemed to have been a misfit, this one included.  However, the strength of performance (across the cast), fantastic script and great execution (the visual effects are mostly very effective as a storytelling device, rather than for the sake of them) really made up for any such misgivings to land this in my top 5.

The King’s Speech: I admittedly only saw this film the other night (a day or two after the new year kicked in), but I figured it worth including in last years’ list as it was released then and I’d only missed it by a few days.  It was great to see a great character driven piece with exceptional performances by all of the headline actors.

The Hurt Locker: another one I was late to get to see (originally released in 2008), I finally got this out on DVD and had the opportunity to see what all the hype was about.  A tremendous film — terrifically shot to provide a real sense of being close to the action/character with great performances across the board, but especially by Jeremy Renner.

The Social Network: I want to preface this one by saying I didn’t actually want to go and see this film due to the subject matter being so close to my profession, but the hype around the director and screenwriter pushed me over the line, and I must admit it was an excellent film — but very much, in my mind, a work of fiction.  The dialogue was fast-paced and witty (though clearly not based in reality).  And for the filmmakers to turn such dry material into such a great piece of cinema deserves due credit.  However, I was left wondering at the end of the film how much was real and how much was “creative license”, especially after hearing on two separate occasions how far from reality Justin Timberlake’s entertaining portrayal of Sean Parker was.  I would also recommend reading Lawrence Lessig’s critique of the meta-story in the film also.

As with my music Top 5, I found myself with two “notable mentions” in this category also:

Tron Legacy: I want to love this film, but I’m not sure I can.  I will see whether it is a grower (I will watch it again on DVD).  I love that we get to continue the previous story which has become such a cult hit.  I loved the visuals.  But it felt a little too heavily derivative of The Matrix in many parts, and I felt it also suffered a little from the same problems of Star Wars Episode I — the plot filling in gaps between fast-paced, high-effects action sequences.  For whatever reason, though, it didn’t resonate with me as a classic.  I read Andy Carvin’s review on NPR and I agree with a lot of what he says as driving the success of the film at the box office.  However, Legacy fails to inspire the same creativity and action that he describes for a new generation, so I think in the long run it will remain relevant mostly for fans of the original.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: we got this out for laughs over the Christmas break (at the recommendation of my hairdresser of all things) and I can’t help but like the film.  It is ridiculous and fun.  It has a unique visual style that I find quite appealing.  It’s the sort of film I feel like I shouldn’t like, but I did.  Your mileage may vary. (Update: Scott Zoller Seitz’s take over at Slate was an interesting read…)