No year in recent memory got off to as slow a start as 2010 did. In the end, it turned out to be a pretty damn good year – especially once I compare this list of movies to my picks from 2008 – but there were some rough patches early on, where nearly every movie we were seeing wasn’t merely mediocre but downright bad. The difference between this year and other years was the event movies; no one expects them to be award-winners, but it makes such a difference when they’re at least good (“Iron Man,” for example). This year, with a couple of exceptions, they were not good (“Iron Man 2,” for example).
People like to put down movie critics for being cranky sourpusses, but the truth is most of us want to like the movies we see. “TRON: Legacy,” “Salt,” “Due Date“… I wanted those to be awesome. They weren’t.
Luckily for me, there were just over 10 movies that were awesome, which means I have enough for a list, yay! And here they are, along some movies that were most decidedly not awesome. Happy new year, everyone. Now let’s all close our eyes and pretend we don’t see the 3D. Maybe, that way, it will go away.
1. Black Swan
The beauty of Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller about a fragile ballet dancer is that there is rarely a point where you know whether you’ve swallowed the blue pill or the red pill. The mirror work alone demands repeat viewings, if you’re brave enough.
2. The Social Network
Where Jesse Eisenberg officially stops being ‘that guy who acts like Michael Cera’ and puts on a showstopping performance as the brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerberg. Rooney Mara, meanwhile, is on screen for about six minutes, but makes every second count. And she’s right about the Internet – everything’s written in ink.
3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The most wildly entertaining movie I saw all year. From the dialogue to the editing to the on-screen sound effects, I had a stupid grin plastered to my face from start to finish. Even better to see Chris Evans and Brandon Routh poke fun at their superhero images. And I want to swim in Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s eyes.
There is a backlash growing against Christopher Nolan. I do not understand why. His movies are well-plotted, well-acted, smart and gorgeous. What’s not to love? Yes, “Inception” was chatty, but pardon the pun, it dared to dream, and I love movies that go for it. And so did a lot of other people, as its $290 million box office take will attest.
5. Toy Story 3
There isn’t a movie out this year that touches the last 10 minutes of “Toy Story 3” in terms of emotional impact. Terrifying one minute, heartbreaking the next, and armed with a bittersweet yet pitch-perfect ending. I still can’t make it through the ending, or even the beginning, without crying.
6. 127 Hours
When I originally heard about this movie, my first thought was, “It’s a real-life ‘Saw’ scenario. Who the hell wants to see that?” But Danny Boyle showed me by giving an unthinkable premise a surprising amount of humor and pathos, and James Franco stepped up big-time as the reckless adventurer Aron Ralston.
7. The King’s Speech
Don’t let the cast of characters fool you – this is no stuffy English period piece. And take it to the bank: Best Actor is Colin Firth’s Oscar to lose. Don’t be surprised if his co-star Geoffrey Rush walks away with one, too. Both are exceptional.
8. Exit Through the Gift Shop
It’s unclear whether a lick of it is true, but unlike the self-indulgent fake doc “I’m Still Here,” street artist Banksy spins his possible lies into something entertaining, a wild tale about how all revolutions ultimately get exploited, sometimes by their biggest supporters.
God help the Academy if Chloe Moretz isn’t nominated for Supporting Actress. She not only stole this movie, but her character Hit Girl was the #1 Halloween costume of the year.
10. The Secret in Their Eyes
Last year’s Oscar winner for Foreign Film, and deservedly so. Think “The Remains of the Day” in a ’70s Argentinean police district, with a jaw-dropping finale and a scene that would make Dirk Diggler blush.
When my daughter grows up, I hope she’s as awesome as Olive Pendergast.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet uses the power of a talented sound department to pull a monster con on the audience, but you won’t mind. Moral of the story: be nice to the little people. You just never know.
How to Train Your Dragon
Terrible title, very good movie. And good for DreamWorks for going against type and casting the roles based on who was the best voice for the part, as opposed to the who was most famous person available.
You know what, forget what I said about Geoffrey Rush possibly getting an Oscar. Christian Bale’s getting it instead.
The victim of a brutal attack – which leaves him with virtually no memory of his life before – seeks solace in building an imaginary town where his alter ego is a WWII hero and women love him. Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.
For the most part, listing these movies is like shooting fish in a barrel. But I’m not the type to list a bunch of more ambitious movies that underperformed just to make examples out of them. “Prince of Persia” may not have been good, but these movies were worse.
1. The Back-Up Plan
So bad it actually made me angry.
2. When in Rome
As a card-carrying member of the Kristen Bell fan club (well, not really, but I did like “Veronica Mars” a lot), watching her non-“Sarah Marshall” movies is just painful. She’s way too funny and smart to be doing swill like this…isn’t she?
3. I’m Still Here
Ha ha, very funny. You made the whole thing up. Fuck you, nobody’s impressed.
4. The Bounty Hunter
I think it’s finally safe for Angelina Jolie to send Jennifer Aniston that two-word text message she’s been sitting on since 2004: “I win.”
5. The Last Airbender
It’s easy to kick M. Night Shyamalan right now, but we still hold out hope that he’ll turn it around. Still, sweet Jesus, was this movie bad. When someone begins a speech to a room of people with “As you know…,” it’s time to pull the plug. And the 3D was the biggest scam of the year.
6. Remember Me
Spoiler alert: they used 9/11 as a twist. It might have meant something if I hadn’t been rooting for Edward Cullen’s character to die from the very beginning.
7. Leap Year
Sigh. I love Amy Adams, but ten bucks says she did this movie so she could hang out in Ireland for a few months. And to be fair, we would have done the movie too if we were in her position. As long as she knows it comes with a price.
8. Clash of the Titans
More bad 3D, with bad CGI to match.
9. The Virginity Hit
At the very least, this movie should serve as a warning to kids everywhere to be wary of doing anything that could go viral. Thank God YouTube didn’t exist when I was in high school. It’s hard enough going through it, but the thought of someone’s most embarrassing moments out there for the world to see for time immemorial is just cruel.
Much like “Leap Year,” if Columbia paid me millions to take a summer vacation with my best friends, I’d do the movie too, critical drubbing be damned. And now I’m critically drubbing it. Lame, lame, lame.
Didn’t see (thank God)…
The Human Centipede
Sex and the City 2
Eat Pray Love
How the hell did this make a billion dollars?
Alice in Wonderland
I love Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, but this movie is a mess. Off with their heads, indeed.
Better luck next year
They released three movies this year, and none of them rated more than two stars, despite featuring some pretty big names (Harrison Ford, Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Lopez). Whoops.
It’s about a couple dealing with the loss of their four-year-old son in a car accident. For the love of God, who would pay money to see that? Are there really that many unhappy people that it’s become a demographic? And do the filmmakers get satisfaction making art for unhappy people? Misery loves company, I suppose, but you can count me out.
Movie Quote of the Year
“You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.” – The Social Network
“Jews invented spark plugs to control global traffic.” – Four Lions
‘Snakes on a Plane’ Movie Title of the Year
Hot Tub Time Machine
Come on, was there any question?