Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

A whopping 39 films vie for my top ten of 2010, which I’ll announce tomorrow. What's funny is, the higher the number of movies I'm considering indicates a year with not a lot of greats.  Normally, I cull my top ten from my "must-sees" but since that number is just seven, I'll have to pull from the 31 "recommended" to make the final list. I didn’t think this would end up a particularly good year for movies (after a lackluster summer) but in the end there were a lot of movies I at least liked a lot and several I loved. As per my quota, I’ve viewed 65 films this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [7]
1. Blue Valentine. Love is everything they said it would be.
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop. Informative, revealing, surprising— in that order.
3. Fighter, The. A lot of familiar territory, but the small pockets of originality add up in the end.
4. Get Low. Methodical narrative that never lets go of its audience.
5. King's Speech, The. Beautifully photographed and acted.
6. Social Network, The. Pulls off the difficult task of making recent history compelling in its own time.
7. Youth in Revolt. Oddball but endearing.

Recommended [31]
1. A Prophet. Brutal and engrossing.
2. Alice in Wonderland. Loose script but visually pleasing.
3. Catfish. Thought-provoking but perhaps a different approach (rather than thriller-esque) might have worked better.
4. Cyrus. Kind of half a movie, but a crowd pleaser.
5. Despicable Me. Suprisingly original and sweet.
6. Easy A. Likeable; throwback.
7. Eclipse (Twilight Saga). Although the lack of action from the last movie holds over, there is much more suspense here, and it also manages the difficult task of keeping the love triangle viable.
8. Fair Game. The personal story needed to take an even further precedence over the political for full impact.
9. Get Him to the Greek. Stays just on the side of funny while still showing the excessive rock star lifestyle.
10. Ghost Writer, The. Outclasses "genre" by just a hair; ensemble is very good.
11. Hot Tub Time Machine. Not Citizen Kane, nor even Back to the Future, but offers a high chuckle-factor.
12. How Do You Know. More laughs than most comedies this year (many courtesy of Owen Wilson)— a definite "feel good" movie but with some very awkward scenes with Paul Rudd's character's pregnant assistant and an overall talkiness.
13. How to Train Your Dragon. Nice pleasing adventure.
14. Inception. Love that final shot.
15. Iron Man 2. A shade off the original, but still a fun "adult" take on the comic book movie.
16. Kick-Ass. Its brilliance is in somehow making the horrific violence "acceptable."
17. Kids Are All Right, The. The performances (particularly Ruffalo and Wasikowska) outweigh the occasional obvious dramatics.
18. Let Me In. Nicely avoids the shock factor in favor of character.
19. MacGruber. Manages a feature film from nothing, decent laugh quotient.
20. Machete. Delivers the goods without forcing cult status.
21. Other Guys, The. Seems that there were A LOT of cooks making this comedy stew, but despite lacking in character depth it's just very funny [even with a distractingly odd serious element about white collar crime].
22. Red. Oscar-types having a good time.
23. Runaways, The. Well cast, with a nice emphasis on character instead of benchmark biopic "moments."
24. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Keeps its bag of tricks in check.
25. Somewhere. Well-represented by it's trailer, use it to decide your interest— really it's not much of anything, but for some reason it appealed to me.
26. Town, The. Exciting ensemble piece, not deep.
27. Toy Story 3. That same old formula, but even all these WAY many years later it still works.
28. Tron: Legacy. Different from the original but nifty in it's own way.
29. True Grit. A rousing romp with great period flavor.
30. Valentine's Day. Surprisingly sweet, if somewhat 1991ish.
31. When in Rome. Formulaic film succeeds in spite of itself by some good old-fashioned star charisma in lead Kristen Bell.

Skippable [21]
1. 127 Hours. For my money it didn't quite sustain it's (barely) feature length.
2. Black Swan. It wasn't perfect.
3. Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Well adapted film suffers from its fidelity to the source material, re: thin.
4. Clash of the Titans. Surprisingly good performances and decent updating (a rip-off 3-D-wise though)
5. Dinner for Schmucks. Wins points for trying, but it just didn't work.
6. Expendables, The. Actually delivers but not to the point that anyone outside of the target audience should bother.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows— Part 1. Well-paced episodic entry in which very little of actual substance happens.
8. Jackass 3-D. Delivers to an extent but offers too little 3-D-wise and not really any truly clever stunts.
9. Little Fockers. Mildly humorous; Jessica Alba ungodly hot.
10. Made in Dagenham. Fine production values and a story worth telling only it doesn't quite distinguish itself.
11. Paranormal Activity 2. Decent companion piece to the first film is nowhere near as potent.
12. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Slow start but when the kids trek off on their own, okay episodic fare.
13. Predators. Moderate actioner.
14. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Generic.
15. Shutter Island. Stylish and never dull, but strictly genre.
16. Tangled. Pleasing eye candy that needed better songs and more originality to truly break out.
17. Unstoppable. The exciting parts were exciting but the boring parts were boring.
18. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Did the original "Wall Street" have this much crying?
19. Winter's Bone. Not without interest but too low-key.
20. Wolf Man. All the elements are there (particularly the art direction), but it somehow doesn't satisfy.
21. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Some good acting work (Hopkins, Punch) but doesn't resolve most of its narrative threads.

Avoid [6]
1. Another Year. Determined to be depressing, only succeeded in being a snooze.
2. Date Night. Trying really hard to be funny just isn't good enough.
3. Love and Other Drugs. Another in a long line of movie romances that THINKS we need no further evidence that the main characters are in love than some corny dialogue generally delivered toward the end.
4. Piranha. Too self conscious and too gruesome to enjoy.
5. Rabbit Hole. The bad side of Oscar bait.
6. Salt. Stupefying!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

National Film Registry 2010 Announced

Happened to be up to see this break: the National Film Registry picks for 2010. It's probably the best all-around bunch I've seen-- nice job this year. Three of my votes made it (THE EXORCIST, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK). The list spans over a hundred years, from 1891 to 1996— certainly the longest time span of any NFR 25.

Here's a link to the LA Times article.

The AP article is here and offers the tidbit that more than 2,100 films were nominated by the public this year.

Here's the list:

AIRPLANE! (1980)



CRY OF JAZZ (1959)







IT'S A GIFT (1934)




MALCOLM X (1992)











Saturday, December 25, 2010

Presents under the Christmas Tree

Christmas has transitioned to the big MOVIE DAY for me, but that doesn't mean I don't like opening those Christmas presents. This year, I scored a combo: Flicker Alley's DVD collection "Chaplin at Keystone" & Ted Okuda and David Maska's Charlie Chaplin at Keystone & Essanay.

Best Christmas wishes!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Indiewire Poll 2010

The great Indiewire Poll of critics is posted on their website. Another vote of confidence for The Social Network!

Link to the Indiewire Poll.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

100th Anniversary of Edison's "A Christmas Carol" -- Released December 23, 1910

Pretty wild to see films reaching their 100th... next year will be the first opportunity to see features hitting their centennial (starting with L'Inferno [1911]).  Tangerine Dream: Inferno
This version of A Christmas Carol is not the first... and there is a three-and-a-half-minute 1901 UK version called Scrooge, Or Marley's Ghost on You Tube (see below).  Both are pretty good.  The 1910 version has the added interest of featuring Charles Ogle as Bob Cratchit-- Ogle played Frankenstein's monster in Edison's March 1910 film.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Contenders 2010: Narrative Live-Action Features

With the early returns of the Satelite Noms, National Board, D.C. critics, reviews & buzz, here's a list of films to look out for with next week's critics picks and Golden Globes. Not a comprehensive list (and excluding docs and animated films) but a guideline:

127 Hours
Animal Kingdom
Another Year
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Fair Game
The Fighter
Get Low
The Ghost Writer
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
Love and Other Drugs
Rabbit Hole
The Social Network
The Town
True Grit
Winter's Bone