Pretty good year for movies, all things considered. Though, I'm surprised by the amount of smaller films on this list. A lot of the bigger, Hollywood/Studio driven stuff didn't work for me and I found refuge in a lot of smaller movies. Not all of them, there's definitely a couple of blockbusters on here, but for the most part that holds true. Films I wished I had seen
This actually isn't as extensive as it usually is, pretty happy about that!: 127 Hours, Centurion, Date Night, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Dogtooth, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Legend of the Guardians, Let Me In, Restrepo, Tangled, The Town, Tron Legacy, Waking Sleeping Beauty & Walt and El GroupoTop 15
15.) The Sorcerer's Apprentice
I have to be one of the only people in the world to put this on a Top Films of the Year list, besides the people involved and maybe not even them. What can I say though? I watched it with my little sister and we had a great time with it. Only scene I wasn't crazy about was the scene with the brooms, which was just kind of shoehorned in. This really didn't need to be called The Sorcerer's Apprentice, it could have been called anything, the name attachment probably didn't even mean that much to the general public. I liked Nicolas Cage in this, thought he was fun and I was surprised how much I liked Jay Burachel too. There's not a lot to it, I just had a ton of fun watching it!
14.) Easy A
Just caught this today, so I might be on a high from it, but I really enjoyed it and it, along with another film on this list was a one-two combo to get me excited about watching the Spider-Man reboot. Emma Stone is pretty adorable in this though and definitely surpassed her Lindsay Lohan-lite category that I had kind of placed her in. I've liked her well enough in other things, but was never sure that she could carry a movie on her own. She did and more, this is one of my favorite leading actress roles of this year now! Britt pointed this out and I thought it was a good point, but there are a lot of movies like this and usually the teen is rebelling or making fun of their parents, but here Emma Stone's character Olive's relationship with her parents is great through the whole thing. Thought that was a nice, refreshing take on this kind of movie. Again, nothing deep or interesting about the movie, but it was just a fun watch!
13.) Despicable Me
Again, just a completely fun movie, that like the first couple of movies, I had absolutely no expectations when I sat down to watch it with my family on Christmas. It's great that we're starting to get a little better quality CG movies from Studios other than Pixar. Yeah, you can see everything coming from a mile away as far as the emotional beats come, but I don't think that's necessarily a problem and I think it works pretty well. I like the family dynamic they build in the movie with people that are essentially outsiders, thought all of that worked pretty well and the humor of the film, between the little girls and Steve Carrell's character was just so good. Don't even get me started on the Minions, who are kind of a cross between the little green alien guys from the story films and the Rabbids from the series of Raving Rabbid video games, pretty much every scene with those little guys is hilarious and then the funniest part of the movie, that I've been quoting with everyone I know since I've seen it, "IT'S SO FLUFFY!"
Splice, what to say about Splice. Haha, I'll say that it's a pretty good movie that works most of the way. It loses me a bit in the final part of the film, which I won't spoil here, but the last act of the film didn't really work for me. The part where the movie becomes a horror film, I'll say that and I think I'm safe in spoiling that, because that's what the trailers made it look to be. The trailers also made it look like a Species movie, which it definitely is not. It has some pretty interesting things to say about cloning and genetic manipulation. Can't remember the names, I think maybe Adam and Eve, but the scenes with the little genetically made creatures were pretty interesting and then of course, all of the stuff with Dren was really interesting. Thought the acting was pretty solid all around, Sarah Poley needs to do more work and Adrien Brody was pretty good here as well. Shame about the final bit though, held me back from completely loving this movie!
Again, I'm going to be one of the few people who puts this movie on any kind of favorites list, but what can I say, I dug it. Britt and I watched it in the middle of our unfinished horror movie marathon in October and it was a complete surprise for us. I was just looking for a cheesy vampire movie to add to our list, saw that this one had Jason Mewes in it and added it. I figured it would at least be interesting to see him in a non-Kevin Smith movie and it definitely was. You can see how far he's developed as an actor in this movie and how his comedic chops are pretty good now and I think his chemistry with Erica Cox was pretty great as well. She was another nice surprise, I didn't really know who she was before I sat down to see the movie and I thought she was, like Mewes, genuinely funny. So the humor was all pretty much a hit and I liked how vampirism was related to drug addiction, thought that was a nice, if cliche, little touch to the movie.
10.) How to Train Your Dragon
I didn't quite love this one as much as I wanted, but I loved it enough to put it this high. My one big gripe was that the love story was pretty shoehorned in and didn't fit the characters and their previous motivations at all. That said, I think Chris Sanders and company again knocked a film completely out of the park. The amount of imagination and sheer fun that's involved with anything Chris Sanders is a part of is just crazy. I didn't quite like this one as much as Lilo & Stitch and I'm kind of sad they're expanding on it. Other than that I really dug the friendship that developed between Hiccup and Toothless. So often in animated movies, especially CG ones, everything feels so artificial and here, that relationship feels completely natural and for the lack of a better word, real. Some of the CG work is just amazing. Aside from all of that though, the film just has a really good heart to it.
9.) The House of the Devil
If I was basing this list off of sheer tension and horror in a film, this along with the movie that's actually number one on the list, would be the only two movies on the list. The House of the Devil is a fairly small film where not a lot happens. It's a film with an hour and ten minutes of painful buildup to lead to the tense release of that tension. It's a film that has a couple of characters only, but most of the films running time is dominated by one character and that's Jocelin Donahue's character Samantha. She's pretty great in the film and it's absolutely necessary that she is. Without her being great, the film would fall flat on it's face with cheesiness.
8.) Shutter Island
If you've seen the trailer to Shutter Island and haven't seen the movie, you've probably already guessed what happened in the film. But did you think about it? Did you really? I watched the film and enjoyed it, in spite of knowing what was going to happen. Then something else happened. The last line of the film occurred and said in such a way, that my complete view of the film changed. It's a really subtle line though and you really have to be paying attention to get what it's trying to say and if you get it, it'll change your outlook of the film too. This is probably lesser Scorcese in that I don't think it touches the heights that Goodfellas or The Departed did, but it's still a very good film held together by an amazing performance by Leonardo diCaprio. He's just great in it and this is finally the film where you can look at the Scorcese/diCaprio pairing and really understand why Scorcese continues to return to him over and over again.
So, yeah, maybe my initial thoughts on the film were a tad hyperbolic. I stand by my feeling of the film, that I completely love it. I love how referential the film is to comics, not only comic movies, but comics themselves. Not sure how much of that stems from the graphic novel itself and how much of that Matthew Vaughn added, but there you go. Aaron Johnson was a little overlooked by me, I think, but looking back he puts in a really fun performance, as does Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The real stars of the show though, to me, was the father/daughter dynamic of Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz. This film made two things for me okay again. It made it okay to like Nicolas Cage in films for me again, after a couple years of just ignoring everything the man was doing, just knowing it would utter garbage. And it made it okay that they remade Let the Right One In. I still haven't seen Let Me In, but I was okay with Chloe Moretz getting a chance to tackle that role after I saw Kick-Ass. It's just an all around fun movie though, though maybe
not my favorite comic adaptation.
6.) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is the novel that got me back heavily into reading this year. So needless to say I was very excited to see the film adaptation of it and pre-ordered the film on Bluray, which pre-orders is something that I never really do anymore. I think, it's a very good adaptation with some room from improvement that could be done with a better director helming the film. I think that for what it is, it's very good. Re-watching the movie has showed some of the flaws, the direction isn't showy in the least and I think the film needs a little bit of showiness. Anyway, enough of the downers and let me get to the praises. I wasn't sure of Michael Nyqvist going into the film, but definitely by my second re-watch I ended up liking his performance a bit. The real star of the show, however, is Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, who completely nails and inhabits the role. It's rare when you come to an adaptation and literally see what you pictured in your minds eye, but Noomi Rapace was exactly
how I picture Lisbeth, who is the reason you come to these books/movies. The character is so fascinating and the portrayal here is just spot on, could not possibly be any better.
5.) The Social Network
Which leads me to this film, I suppose. I have to admit, that post The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I was a bit worried about David Fincher, who was one of my favorite directors at that point. As a complete outsider, with no inside knowledge, I began to develop this theory that somehow, he had become a populist filmmaker, only wanting to make films that appealed to the masses. Benjamin Button certainly was that, it had a uniquely weird plot that just squandered all of that uniqueness to basically be Forrest Gump 2. Hearing Fincher was making a Facebook movie didn't help matters out any and then making a Facebook movie with Justin Timberlake? Yeah, my theory was looking pretty good. Then I actually watched the film and I'm completely happy to eat some crow here. In terms of interesting drama, I'm not sure there's a better film out there this year. And this isn't the flashy Fincher of Fight Club, it's a very subdued and mature Fincher. He lets the drama and the performances be his secret weapons.
Pretty much all of the main cast is great. Jesse Eisenberg was a revelation to me, I mean he was good in all of his Michael Cera-lite roles. But if he's this
good? He needs to forget about those roles and carve his own path, because if he truly is as good as he is in this film, he's one of the better younger actors. Brief mentions to Rooney Mara, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones and Justin Timberlake, all who were really good in their roles. To me, though, the most important role in the film is Andrew Garfield's and he's the reason I love this movie. I was worried about his pick as Spider-Man, I knew him from other roles (Lions for Lambs and an episode of Doctor Who primarily) and I was pretty unimpressed with him. He's great here. Which is weird, because in some bizarro world you could see Hayden Christensen playing this role. The acting style isn't that different, but Andrew Garfield just pulls it off amazingly well and him, along with Jesse Eisenberg are the reasons to see this movie. No matter what you think of Facebook, those are two power house performances in a movie filled with very good performances. So yeah, Mr. Fincher, you made me eat my words once again. Thanks!
4.) Toy Story 3
Ack, the movie that made me tear up not once, but twice (so glad I was wearing 3D glasses and no one could see). I'm not sure where I rank the film in terms of the series yet, or even in Pixar's filmography, though I know it's not my favorite in either of those two categories. That said, two scenes in this film had more of an impact on me than any other film on this list probably. Those scenes, which I won't spoil, but you know exactly what they are if you've seen the film, along with the fantastic opening callback to the original film (right down to the color of the sky and the shape of the clouds matching Andy's wallpaper). I do hope this is the end for the Toy Story characters, at least in terms of big screen films, I know they're doing the animated shorts. The end of the film is a perfect sendoff for them and I feel that every time they touch it, there's a chance they could drop the ball. They didn't here though, they pulled it off amazingly well and I remain excited about everything Pixar does.
I'm cheating to put this movie on here, because I actually think it came out last year. That said, I couldn't ignore it and any chance I get to pimp the movie out, because it's such a small movie, I take it. Please see this film any way you can if you enjoy movies in any way at all. Ignore the cheesy opening ten or fifteen minutes of the movie, then enjoy one of the most creative movies I've seen in awhile. Seriously and I'll talk about this in the next movie on this list a little bit more, but there's this rush/excited feeling I get when I think of a movie that I love and there's a scene in this film, where everything from the visuals, to the acting to the score collide and I'm just completely enthralled by what I'm watching. It doesn't happen often (though, oddly enough it happened with three films this year), but when it does I will love and defend that movie forever. Anyway, I call that scene the "1 2 3 4" scene which won't make any sense to you reading this if you haven't seen the movie, but seriously, it's pretty amazing.
Let's get the obvious out of the way? Is Inception (pronounced insheption) perfect? No. There are probably a million holes that people can point out and a million things that people on the internet will nitpick and I don't care about a single one of them. That feeling I talked about for Ink, that excited rush I get when I think of a movie, was so present when I think of this film. Everything about the movie just comes together perfectly for me. It has an amazing
score, that alone gets me excited about the film. The directing is really great and you can see Christopher Nolan getting better, especially with action, with each passing film. The world building and imagination that went into that world building, just completely incredible. Again, like The Social Network, the acting is where this movie shines. The entirety of the main cast is great, so I'll have to short change some of them, because I really want to talk about two performances that are just amazing to me. The first is probably the unsung hero of this movie and a performance that gets overlooked by the more showy Eames or Arthur, but I think Marion Cotillard as Mal is incredible. I've seen her in other movies (though sadly, I have yet to see La Vie en Rose) but she was a complete revelation here. She's menacing when she needs to be menacing and she's completely heartbreaking in other scenes. A scene toward the end, it's crazy how she touches so many emotions within a few minutes, where you don't know if you want to happen to her character. She was hands down one of my favorite performances of the year.
Then of course, there's Leonardo diCaprio for the second time on this list for me. I think his performance in Shutter Island is better, but I also think it needs to better in that film. That's not slouch on his performance in this movie though, he's amazing. The scene with Cobb and Mal and they're, uh, talking to each other from across two windows, is just incredible performances from the two of them and you can feel Cobb's pain and anguish in that scene. Cobb is the heart of the film though and it's about his journey and Leo definitely rises to the occasion. So yeah, I have my theories on what's real and what's not, nothing you haven't heard already probably, so I'll keep them to myself for now, but I think they fit really well and overall, make me completely satisfied with the journey and the story of this film. I definitely have liked Christopher Nolan's non-Batman films more than his Batman films, The Prestige and now Inception are just two pieces of amazing cinema, in my opinion (though again, I love the Batman movies too!) and I'm excited to see what Nolan has next, he's quickly becoming one of my favorite filmmakers!
1.) Black Swan
Which leads us to my favorite film of the year and really, had it been anything less, would have been a bit of a disappointment to me. Darren Aronofsky, the director of Black Swan, is my current favorite filmmaker (not of all time, I mean filmmaker working today). π is the only film in his filmography that really didn't work for me and even then, I thought there were interesting things about it. I told this to Britt the other day, but I was thinking about it and if you think over Aronofsky's very short career, he's had actors who have turned out their very best work in any film. In Requiem you had Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn all turning out the best work of their careers and saying that, especially for Connelly and Burstyn is really saying something. In The Fountain you have an incredible performance from Hugh Jackman, a guy who turns out pretty great performances quite a bit. In The Wrestler, you had a performance so good, it revived a dying career in Mickey Rourke, but also Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood were really good in that movie. Here, again, you have multiple people turning out really good work. From Winona Ryder, who I like, but would never consider a serious actress, to Mila Kunis who again, I like, but I've never taken seriously. To the powerhouse performance from Natalie Portman, again, someone I've liked but have never loved in a movie before.
She's amazing and nearly unrecognizable at times here and I hope that she is rewarded by the Academy for her work. It's really Aronofsky's vision that makes this movie so great. It's got shades of all of his other works, from the grueling nature of ballerina's resembling what wrestlers go through, from the want of Natalie Portman's character Nina's desire to be perfect, mirroring Ellen Burstyn's character from Requiem. Then there's shades of, as many had pointed out, Repulsion. The movie is his though and no other filmmaker could have pulled it off in quite the same way. There's a twenty minute sequence where I was just on the edge of my seat with fear, which is something I did not expect and I never knew what was going to be around the corner. Then the scenes of Swan Lake being performed are just amazing. I've only seen this movie once, but it was so powerful (and I had amazing things going on in my personal life at the time and saw it when it was only in eighteen theaters in the country in limited release) that, you know, it could become my favorite Aronofsky movie. Which is saying a lot, because The Fountain is currently my favorite movie!