The Best Films of 2010, Part II

It’s that time! I’ve officially watched all the Best Movie nominations, so I feel totally qualified to give my worthless opinion on this nigh-meaningless award show! Seriously, though, there were some pretty good movies this year. If you didn’t read my first entry, check it here. For the record, I saw The Social Network, The Fighter and Winter’s Bone since I wrote that. The Fighter and Winter’s Bone were both very enjoyable movies, though I think TSN edged them out overall (and it probably edged out The Town from my list).

This followup will just be a rundown of my picks for each category (other than a few in which I didn’t see all the entries, like Documentary, etc.). It will be a lot more sparse and less melodramatic than previous post.

Note that my picks are what I think should win, not what I think will win — though I may address that in certain categories. I’ll highlight the things I didn’t actually see in red. Maybe there’s some amazing indie movie out there that blows everything away, so I’m hedging my bets. On with the show!

Best Original Screenplay
Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech

All right, so The Fighter and The King’s Speech are going to be duking it out for a lot of these on who I think will win, but I think King’s Speech is the better movie in most regards. You can certainly see it in the writing. Though it’s hard to fully separate writing from directing from editing, The King’s Speech has a better pacing and overall arc. The Fighter has some really great bits — I particularly enjoyed the subplot about the documentary — but we also see a few events happen over and over again (i.e., a fight between family and his life), and these aren’t always presented in fresh ways. It gets to be a little redundant at times, and I think that’s more of the fault of the script than anything else. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, hits its mark well. The pacing is great, the characters are well written, and it never gets bogged down.

Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

All right, all right, yes — The Social Network is very clearly a Sorkin joint. The characters are very pithy and quick-witted. There aren’t really any strong women to speak of. But it succeeds anyway. It succeeds at making us both like and dislike this irritating, annoying character. It succeeds at making us care about the trials and tribulations of people who, let’s face it, at the end of the day, they’re all multimillionaires. So I have to give Sorkin props for that. It also helps that some of the other scripts were messes, even for good movies. Winter’s Bone was a pretty simple tale, but it really fell apart at the end. The whole thing revolved around people snitching and people finding out about meth labs, but the thing is, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that town ran a meth lab, and every single person knew about it, so the issue seemed forced to generate conflict. True Grit was all right. Maddie was written well, but the rest was ho-hum. Toy Story 3 touched me to my core, but the central conflict wasn’t all that impressive. So Facebook Movie it is!

Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2

The rotating room was brilliant, that’s all I can say. I haven’t been that blown away since The Matrix. It wasn’t even all that original, really, but Inception executed it so well.

This was a category where I was actually really disappointed this year. Iron Man 2? Please. Aside from the fact that the movie sucked, I don’t remember being impressed by anything visual. Alice in Wonderland has to be disqualified for the ridiculous Red Queen with elephantiasis. Harry Potter? It had Dobby, I suppose, and the multiple Harries, but cloning characters on screen isn’t really that impressive anymore. We all saw The Parent Trap.

Sound Mixing
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

I almost didn’t pick a winner for this category because of the lack of Black Swan. Seriously, the fact that Salt got nominated, but Black Swan didn’t is kind of disgusting. Black Swan literally made me gasp at the awesome way it used sound. Inception is the only one who came close to using sound as creatively or masterfully. So I’ll pick that, but don’t be fooled, Black Swan should be the winner.

Sound Editing
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

Same story as above. I still remember the cracking of Nina’s feet in Black Swan. I can’t remember a single sound effect from True Grit.

Best Original Song
“Coming Home” – Country Strong
“I See the Light” – Tangled
“If I Rise” – 127 Hours
“We Belong Together” – Toy Story 3

Ye gods, kill me now, I listened to Gwyneth Paltrow’s country song. You’ll have to at the ceremony. Change the channel. It’s awful.

You know, it’s weird that songs have to be regular 3-minute long vocal songs to be considered in this category. Many songs from 127 Hours could have put up quite a fight, but “If I Rise” isn’t the strongest piece on the soundtrack. So yes, Tangled wins. “I See the Light” is probably the best song from the movie, outside of the simple, short “Let Your Power Shine” motif. It’s not the best Disney song ever, but it’s sweet, catchy, and I hate Randy Newman.

Best Original Score
How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
Inception – Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours – A.R. Rahman
The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

I feel bad because I didn’t really notice the music in The Social Network. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But it doesn’t really matter. Because Black Swan isn’t eligible for this category (it used too much of the music from Swan Lake to be considered “original”), 127 Hours takes it easily. Hell, it might have anyway. Listen to this, specifically the last half, and tell me that’s not fantastic.

Best Film Editing
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

This, along with director, was one of the hardest categories to decide. I feel like all of these films are edited extremely well. The King’s Speech was paced well, but I feel like that was mostly scripting, so I crossed off that one. 127 Hours did a great job making this confined subject interesting, but I can’t shake off the weird, over-the-top camera angles in the first half-hour or so. It was likely a directorial choice, but it’s an editing one as well. The main reason I gave it to The Social Network is how flawlessly it combined scenes taking place at different times to intensify certain themes. Once the movie shows you that this isn’t going to be a step-by-step, day-by-day type of movie, you never really question it. It’s clean and unambiguous, even though it’s untraditional

Best Cinematography
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
True Grit
The Social Network

Social Network and The King’s Speech both had some great shots (the school board room, and the physical therapy respectively), but I thought Black Swan just outclassed them. A lot of the scenes in that movie truly impressed me. Powerful, but subtle. Also, it’s kind of funny that 127 Hours didn’t get nominated for their crazy angles. I figured it would have just because it was unusual. I guess the Academy disliked them as much as I did.

Best Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter
The King’s Speech
True Grit

This award always mystified me, because it seems like more of an administrative thing. I guess it’s an award for the overall Art Design, so in that sense, I think Inception should win (and Alice in Wonderland should lose horribly). But it’s not a category I have a lot of insight into.

Best Animated Film
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

I refuse to pick a winner for this film out of protest, because Tangled wasn’t nominated. I’m not saying it should have won, but it should have absolutely been on there.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

I still think Steinfeld deserves to be nominated for Best Actress, but since she wasn’t, she certainly deserves to win the award here. Adams and Carter did exceptional work as well, but Steinfeld held the weight of the entire movie on her shoulders.

Best Actress
Annette Benning, The Kids are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Jennifer Lawrence nearly stole it. Seriously. I would not be surprised, or all that disappointed, if she won it. I was really blown away by her performance. But I was also blown away by Portman’s performance, as I outlined in Part I, and I think she edged out Lawrence just barely. Both actresses were by far the most interesting parts of their respective movies, but Portman gave more nuance. It may be because Lawrence had less to work with (I wasn’t really impressed with Winter’s Bone, other than by her performance).

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Christian Bale, no question. This might be the most obvious pick of the night. He simply became that character. It was spot-on perfection. Geoffrey Rush was good in a charming sort of way, but Bale was better. I’m pissed off Andrew Garfield (Eduardo from The Social Network) didn’t get nominated, as I thought he did a fantastic job, much better than Ruffalo, even. He deserves recognition for that part.

Best Actor
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Again, this is sort of an obvious one. Franco was decent. Bridges brought it, as usual. Eisenberg did a great job, and this role is certainly going to catapult him to mainstream stardom instead of being a poor man’s Michael Cera. But Colin Firth was incredible. He showed frustration, sadness, vulnerability, without overdoing it. And of course, the voice was brilliant. Listen to recordings, and it’s pretty eerie how close he sounds to King George.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David O. Russel, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
The Coens, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network

Aaaagh. Best Director is really hard, because, as I’ve said, it’s really hard to separate it from editing and writing. I don’t think True Grit or The King’s Speech did enough for me to justify awarding those directors. The other three are tough. Really tough. I decided against Russell because of the aforementioned redundancy that pops up in a few places in The Fighter. Deciding between Fincher and Aronofsky is a toss-up, honestly. I gave it to Aronofsky because of one thing: a weird scene in The Social Network where we see the Winklevoss Twins come in second place in a race. It’s a very wink-wink, nudge-nudge type of moment, and it pulled me out of the movie. So Black Swan gets the trophy.

Best Film
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

I think I said all I need to say on this topic previously. Toy Story 3 is a masterpiece on multiple levels. It touched me, and was memorable on a level that none of the rest of the movies on the list will achieve (all right, I’ll probably remember the amputation scene from 127 Hours). It won’t win, of course. If I had to bet, I’d bet on The King’s Speech. But I wish the Academy would not discount films just because they’re animated. Pixar has been released what should have been Best Film contenders pretty much every year now. This time, they should win.

The Best Films of 2010, Part I

Okay, so this is a writing blog. Technically, I shouldn’t even be mentioning films. Es ist verboten. VERBOTEN!

However, since I don’t really have a dedicated cadre of readers expecting any certain subject, I am allowed the freedom to do whatever the fuck I want (like speak in German). With that said, let me introduce part eins of a two part series concerning films. Specifically, films released in 2010 (a year that seems universally reviled, but which I didn’t really mind).

In the first part, I’m going to lay out my picks for the best movies of the year. Unlike the Academy, I’m going to keep it to five. Ten starts to border on ridiculous, and to be honest, I’m not sure there were 10 films that truly deserve the honor. Look at the Golden Globes. When you have to nominate god damned Burlesque and The motherfucking Tourist, you have too many slots. Note that I’m not a movie buff, per se — there’s still a few big name films from 2010 I haven’t seen yet (127 Hours, The Fighter, and probably most egregious, The Social Network, which I’ll discuss at the bottom). With that said, let’s begin, in no special order.

1 – Black Swan 

Girl on girl action lolz! Nina is not amused.
First off, can I say how fucking stupid and dismissive it is when every single talk show host has to introduce this movie with “Any movie that can get guys to see a movie about ballet has got to be good! Derp derp! Girl on girl!” Black Swan is not about ballet any more than Fargo is about a city. It is the story of an artist struggling with perfection. It is the story of a family plagued by mental issues. It is the story of a girl forced to be sexual with no guide, no preparation. Black Swan is about a lot of things. It’s not about ballet.

Now, I’m a sucker for weird movies, so Black Swan already has a leg up on the competition. My imagination tends to run wild with interpretation, and the director, Darren Aronofsky (who looks kind of like a chubby David Arquette), certainly invites that. If you’re the kind of person who likes a straightforward story (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you’ll hate this. There’s no two ways about it.

But beyond the surreal plot, there is much in the film to objectively enjoy. Black Swan is truly a movie where each aspect hits the mark and contributes to the overall effect. The score is spot-on. It blends Tchaikovsky’s compositions with modern discernment to create a sound setting that is simultaneously chilling and heartbreaking. Portman’s performance as coddled and confused Nina Sayers is magnificent. Not being nominated for Best Actress would be a travesty. I don’t want to say that she can’t top it, because I’m hoping she has a long and illustrious career in front of her, but I truly think she could retire tomorrow and still be counted among history’s great performers solely for her job in this film. It’s that brilliant. The symbolism is layered and complex. I find myself discovering new little motifs just replaying it in my mind, and I’ve only seen it once. For instance, did anyone notice the implication of Nina injuring herself with a mirror, of all things? Very interesting.

There are missteps — Aronofsky relies too heavily on cheesy thriller tropes and unnecessary cheap scares. The characters and plot provide enough tension on their own. And I think it’s fair to say that this is a love-it-or-hate-it film. I can absolutely understand some people not connecting. But in pure impact, Black Swan was without equal this year.

Long hair is looooooooooong

2 – Tangled 

Okay, if I’m a sucker for weird movies, I’m a god damned fool for musicals. Disney musicals? Forget about it. Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King. Love ’em. The Princess and the Frog wasn’t up to the level of those golden-age classics, but it was a step in the right direction. So I was cautiously optimistic walking in to Tangled. I expected to like it. I didn’t expect to love it.

You know the basics. Rapunzel has really long hair. She’s kept in a high tower by a wicked witch. She’s rescued my a handsome prince. Roll credits. Of course, with John Lasseter in charge, we’re spared that formula. Tangled’s Rapunzel is a bright young girl whose kept in her tower not by any otherworldly power or feminine weakness. She’s kept there by a jealous mother. Mommy dearest preys on her daughter’s self-confidence to bolster her own. It’s probably the best and most relatable theme in any movie I’ve seen this year, and it comes from a fairy tale. Imagine that.

Tangled is simply the best non-Pixar Disney animated film I’ve seen in ages, probably since Mulan (that’s twelve years, if you’re counting). And it’s got probably the best female lead in their entire history. She’s smart (and not just in a inconsequential way like Belle), she’s capable, she’s cute and she shirks the Princess Complex from the beginning. It’s weird to say that, because in the end, Rapunzel is a princess. But unlike Ariel, unlike Jasmine, unlike Snow White, that fact doesn’t really inform her character. She doesn’t find out until the end of the movie, and truthfully, it doesn’t matter. It’s more important that she has a family that loves her and a partner who bolsters her confidence instead of stomping on it. Her royal lineage is beside the point.

Of course, Alan Menken’s songs don’t hurt. The man who composed The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horros, among others, is used to great effect here. The recurring healing incantation (“Flower gleam and glow/Let your power shine”) is as memorable and head-sticking as any Disney tune, and I See The Light joins Can You Feel the Love Tonight and A Whole New World in the list of great musical love themes. I won’t say this is Menken’s best work (that probably belongs to Aladdin), and there are fewer songs than I’d like, but it’s enjoyable nontheless.

The actors work great. I’m not a huge Chuck fan, but Zachary Levi is charming as fuck, if you’ll excuse my French. And of course, Mandy Moore is as cute as cute can be. She’s one of those actresses who doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but generally gives a great performance in whatever she chooses to do. At the end of the movie, I asked myself “Who voiced Rapunzel? She was really good. Oh … oh wow! I didn’t even realize!” That’s just the kind of actress she is. But yeah, the two have chemistry. It just works.

Criticisms? A few. The movie felt short, was is probably a necessity for it to work as a family film, but it leads to the pace being a little too rushed. Specifically, the love story between the male and female lead kind of pops up out of nowhere, as if the writers realized “Crap, we need them to be in love now. Aaaaand BE IN LOVE!” And, as I said, I wished we got a bit more music (thought that’s a criticism I can levy at other Disney films as well — they seem to be afraid to go full musical). But all in all, this is one of those movies that makes me want to have a kid, just so I can show them that there are strong positive messages in this world.

3 – Toy Story 3

The darkest movie about small plastic
objects you’ll see this year

Seriously? Another animated movie?

First off, fuck you, guy. Who the fuck do you think you are? Did you not read the part of this being MY BLOG? The stuff about the German words?
Second off, it should go without saying that there are animated films, and then there are Pixar films. I shouldn’t even have to do a writeup for this. Just those two syllables — Picks Czar — tell you all you need to know. Yes, this movie is funny. Yes, it’s poignant. Yeah, you’re probably going to tear up. Yes, it’s got John Ratzenberger. At this point, I’m almost not even excited to go see a Pixar movie anymore, because I just know it’s going to be great. How fucked up is that? I’m actually disappointed because I know I’m not going to be surprised. It’s like they made Cars solely for me to maintain a modicum of doubt.
It has this man.

Okay, enough fanboy gushing. Why does another animated film deserve to be counted among the best of the year? Because it’s a masterful end (likely the end — it should be) to a wonderful series. Because it tears at your heart without using cheap shots like Toy Story 2 or even, it could be argued, Up. The melancholy in Toy Story 3 is directly relevant to the journey of the characters. Not just the journey in this movie, though it certainly stands on its own, but the journey from the beginning of the series. 

When Toy Story 1 was released in 1995, I was the target audience. I was 8 years old. That’s not to say it doesn’t stand up, or that adults can’t enjoy it just as much. Both of those are true. But Andy is and always has been the character whose life the events of the movie revolve around. Like Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh, Andy is the lens through which we view these persistent toys.
When Toy Story 3 was released in 2010, I was the target audience. What? This is still a kid’s movie, right? True. And you’re no longer a kid, you’re a 23. You’re a grown-ass man. True, too. But so is Andy. He’s moved on. His childhood, like mine, is gone. It’s never coming back. If the biggest misconception about Black Swan is that it’s about ballet, the misconception about Toy Story is that it’s about toys. It’s not. It’s about childhood. Always has been. Toy Story was about what it means to be a child. Toy Story 3 is about what it means to no longer be a child. That’s why we cry. Not because we’re afraid these toys are going to die, but because we fear the kid inside us already has.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Toy Story 3 deserves this honor. I could go in depth about the acting, the animation, Randy Newman’s classic quirky soundtrack, etc., etc. But that’s not why this movie is great. It’s great because Pixar understands how to make a film meaningful to every single person who watches it. My nieces and nephews aren’t going to understand these films the way I do, but they don’t enjoy them any less. My parents aren’t going to connect to them the same way I do. But they’re going to see it through Andy’s mother — they’ve sent a kid to college. They’ve been through the process of packing away those action figures that seemed oh-so-important just a few years ago. In some ways, this is my most hoped-for film of 2010. I think we can all be pretty sure that Tangled isn’t going to be nominated for Best Film. Even in a field of 10, the Academy isn’t a big fan of animation. We all know The Social Network and The Kids are All Right will be on the list. Regardless of their merit, they’re just the sort of films that appeal to critics. But Toy Story 3 transcends that. It truly deserves to be considered just as much as any live action film released this year.

Criticisms? Not really. The central conflict (toys shipped off to a kindergarten and have to escape) isn’t the most memorable or original, I guess. But who cares? 

!!Spoiler Alert!!
Before I leave the subject, a bit more on the death of the child inside us. That theme is one of the most gutwrenching ideas in any movie I’ve seen in a long time, because it hits close to home for all of us. But the filmmakers know that. And so they give us the perfect ending. Andy sits down and plays with his old toys with a new friend, a little girl named Bonnie. He plays in the same way that I play when my 3-year-old niece hands me a bowl full of plastic vegetables and tells me it’s my lunch. He plays in the same way I play when my 6-year-old nephew lays out a Nerf armory in front of me and tells me that I’m on his team. My inner child isn’t dead. He’s just finding new toys to play with.

4 – The Town

“And why do you think you deserve to
join The League of Handsome Men?”

Huh? No. Stop. Just stop. The Fucking Town? You’re nominating A Ben Affleck Joint? No Inception, no Blue Valentine, no King’s Speech, but you put a Bostonian heist film on here? That’s retahdid, you fuckin’ queeah.

Yeah, yeah, so it’s Ben Affleck. Yeah, he’s can be kind of silly. He was in Daredevil. He was in Gigli. GIGLI.

You know who else has been in some terrible movies and is kind of silly? Marky Mark Wahlberg. Oh, excuse me. ACADEMY AWARD WINNER Marky Mark Wahlberg.

So I try not to discount an actor solely because of some missteps, or some personal weirdness. If Robert Pattinson made a movie as entertaining as The Town, I’d get on my knees and receive his greasy glittering man-juice.

Obligatory. Say hi to your mother, plant.

Speaking of Marky Mark, I’d say The Town reminds me heavily of The Departed (a good thing!). The Boston setting and crime-focus is obviously a part of this, but they employ similar structures of unrelated characters and events winding into each other. The characters are forced into situations with no good options. It forces us to face what we would do these situations. But surely, you say, I’d never get involved with organized crime. But that’s the thing. Affleck’s character didn’t really choose this path either. These people are often times born into crime. That’s not to minimize personal responsibility — I feel like the movie does a decent job of keeping Affleck’s character real and imperfect — but the whole point of the film is to paint a picture of a world many of those of us born into privilege (and yes, I consider myself privileged just in the fact that I had a stable home, love and support) can never truly understand.
Of course, the acting is where The Town truly shines. Affleck is very good. Jeremy Renner is very good. John Hamm is great. Of course he is. He’s John Hamm. Brilliant casting. You want a flawed antagonist that the audience can’t help but find charming anyway? Cast John Hamm. Also, I hear he’s popular with the ladies.
The Town is not perfect. It treats its female characters as disposable. The lead character, Claire, is so forgettable that the writers literally forget about her in the second half of the movie. She’s used as motivation for Affleck’s character, and not much else. Blake Lively’s (bleh) character is pretty much a drugged up version of the same thing. The message regarding her seems to be “Don’t neglect your old lovers, or your rival will use them against you!” The females are pretty much just there for the males to use as leverage. It’s unfortunate. And yet, the rest of the film is good enough for me not to care. Not an easy thing to do. So yes, there always has to be a Dark Horse pick, and The Town is mine.

5 – True Grit

Aw, do we have to bring Matt Damon with us?

You’ll notice in the Black Swan entry that I didn’t quite say that Natalie Portman should win Best Actress. Why? 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. She’s so talented that she shared this year with Annette Benning, Marion Cotillard, and the best performance Natalie Portman has ever given, and I’m not really sure who should win the oscar. My biggest achievement at 14 was deciphering Metal Gear Solid 2.

Yeah, let’s see Little Miss Thing fit THIS into canon!

Ms. Steinfeld’s acting, and the handling of her character, the headstrong ahead-of-her-time Mattie Ross, is the sole reason True Grit is on the list. It might be the reason it’s on everybody’s list. Seriously. I struggled. It barely made the cut. True Grit is a pretty good movie. It’s not out of this world amazing. Jeff Bridges is funny. Matt Damon is good. The pace is perfect. It’s a Coen movie. Like Pixar, that name brings with it a certain quality of expectation. But, it must be said, it sometimes carries a nagging “So What?” True Grit brought the “So What?” It brought it, it unwrapped it, and it took a picture with it wearing a fake smile for grandma. It simply wasn’t that memorable. A cool adolescent girl tags along with a loose cannon US Marshal and a by-the-book Texas Ranger. She’s looking for the man who killed her father. She finds him. Thirty or so years later, she’s still smart, she doesn’t need a man and she never really saw either of the two men again. Roll credits.

The problem I have with True Grit is the problem I have with a lot of Coen movies. I’m not asking for a “save the world” plot. But I frequently feel like there’s some greater point, some deeper mystery that I’m missing. As you can tell from my Black Swan review, I am not opposed to finding my own meaning. But many Coen movies seem like simple, surface stories with just enough subtlety to make you think something else is going on. But damned if you’re going to figure it out unless you have a Ph.D. in Film Studies. 
So if it’s that flawed, why put True Grit on here at all? Because, simply, the character of Mattie Ross is that awesome. And I will fully admit to sometimes using that word inappropriately, but Mattie is truly awesome. When she speaks, you can’t help but be transfixed. When the “responsible” men leave her behind, and she fords the river, emerging on the other side, sopping but dignified, you can’t take the unconscious grin off your face. Some of it is due, no doubt, to the character in the original book. I can’t comment too much on that; I haven’t read it. Some of the credit has to be laid on the Coens. They coaxed a powerful performance from their child actress. And, of course, we can’t forget young Hailee. She brings Mattie to life. I can’t remember when I rooted for a character as much as I rooted for Mattie. You want her to succeed, even though the stakes seem fairly trivial, as far as conflicts go. If True Grit succeeds in any way, I think it’s that. It is a simple story, but Mattie makes you care about it anyway.
I wouldn’t be surprised if True Grit wins Best Film. The Academy loves the Coens, and it’s generally deserved. I have grievances with some of their films, but it can’t be denied that, objectively, they are fantastic filmmakers. This isn’t their best film (Fargo), and it’s not their worst (Burn After Reading). It is, as great movies go, completely middle of the road. And yet, if someone forced me to pick only 5 movies from 2010 for them to watch, I couldn’t not choose it. Damn you Joel. Damn you Ethan. You frustrate me to no end, but I love you anyway.

Honorable Mentions

The King’s Speech

Seriously, aren’t there any other
actresses in that country?

The King’s Speech breaks the mold of a traditional period piece. Colin Firth is fantastic, and is probably a shoe-in for best actor. The chemistry between Firth and Geoffry Rush is among the best I’ve seen in a long while. I particularly enjoyed the subtle focus on how technology changed both the world at large, and the lives of a royal family straddling two distinct periods. The story, untraditional as it may be, is pure charm. It’s not quite lifechanging enough to make the top five but I’m certain it’ll make the Academy’s top ten, and rightff …. rightffffuuu …. deservedly so.


The finest spintop-based film since  Beyblade The Movie
What can I say? It’s Inception. The acting is great, the gimmick is fascinating, and that action is superb. The rotating room is the most inventive fight scene since The Matrix. There are some plot holes here and there, and the pace falters in the third act (a snow level, Nolan? Really?), but it’s destined to be a genre classic.
I greatly enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Easy A, Kick Ass, Harry Potter and the Adverb Macguffins: Part One, though none of those really deserve to be Best Film. They are just very entertaining. 
If there were a category for Best New Actress, it should go to Mia Wasikowska. She starred in Alice in wonderland and The Kids are All Right, the former of which I liked more than I had expected, and the latter of which I liked less than I had hoped.

Is she the third Wasikowska Brother?

All right. Moving on.

But wait, what about … 

…The Social Network. Yeah, I know. It’s the odds-on favorite to sweep the biggies. Best Film, Best Director, Best Writer. Maybe even Best Actor. Does it deserve it? I don’t know, maybe. I haven’t seen it. Shoot me.
I’ll be rectifying this tomorrow, but I wanted to get this out there before the nominations were announced. I’ll be considering Fincher’s film when I pick my favorites from the official nomination. I’ll let you know what I thought of it then. If you simply must know which of the above 5 I’d bump off to include The Social Network, assuming I love it, it’d probably be True Grit or The Town. Gun to my head, True Grit might fall to a very close #6.

I’ll be writing up Part II in the next few days, after the nods are announced. It’ll be the traditional rundown, selecting my favorites (note that word — it won’t be who I think will win, rather who I think should win). See you soon!