I do this every year…and every year, I get more hate mail than support. And yet, I come back for more. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. Well, for what its worth (not much, I know), here we go…
Honorable Mentions: Millenium Trilogy, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Shutter Island, Splice, Let Me In, How To Train Your Dragon.
Tangled is the first non-Pixar movie in a long time that really captured the Disney spirit. First and foremost, the main character was Rapunzel, a princess…a character that obviously appeals to all those little girls out there. Mix that with a tried and true storyline that Disney has perfected over the decades, along with a beautiful cinematography, and Disney had an obvious hit on their hands. This is a film that every little girl should be taken to.
9. True Grit
It is a rarity when a movie remake is better than the original…but this is a prime example. The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men) took the Charles Portis novel, and renewed the story with a beautiful cast and artistry. The original, the 1969 film that gave John Wayne his only Oscar, is considered by many Western film afficionados as a classic…I still think this movie is better. It has a deeper artistry and reality about it. And in this time and age, when Westerns simply are not in vogue anymore, the ability of the Coen brothers to time and again make films such as these is remarkable.
8. Winter’s Bone
You want a real, unflinching view of where the dark side of America exists? This is it. From Daniel Woodrell’s novel from which the story is adapted, the movie is set in Missouri’s secretive Ozarks, where families deal with their own problems, for good or ill. Ree Dally (Jennifer Lawrence) is taking care of her two younger siblings, as well as her virtually mentally incompetent mother, while her father, a crystal meth dealer, is MIA. The movie follows Ree as she searches for her father, and tries to keep her family together, all at the same time.
7. Waiting For Superman
Davis Guggenheim also directed and produced An Inconvenient Truth…an excellent reason to ignore him. But don’t ignore this movie. Really. The prior movie was a travesty…Waiting For Superman was a necessity. Guggenheim weaves an emotional story of students fighting for spots in an elite school. He doesn’t pull punches, going after traditional liberal third rails such as the public education system and the teachers union. You think America needs to reform? It all starts with education, and Guggenheim shows us why reform needs to start now.
6. The Social Network
I, like many of you, are Facebook fanatics. So, it is definitely fascinating to see this documentary on the partially factual tale of how Jeffrey Zutterberg and friends created the largest and most powerful social network on the internet…and in turn, created a world wide phenomenon.
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
J.K. Rowling’s saga of the magical world takes a turn to the dark side, as we see the forces of good and evil battling to the death. We see destruction, murder, and mayhem. And all that stands between the totalitarian magical takeover and peace in our time is…three teenagers, led by Harry Potter. This movie is nothing like those that came before it in the series…this is a war film, a film about rebellion and jungle warfare. I know people think that I am taking that too far, but that is what I believe. This movie sets up beautifully for the climactic battle in part 2, arriving next summer. I can’t wait.
This is a violent and dirty look at what happens when an ordinary kid is dumb enough to think he can be a Superhero. In a movie that is certainly NOT for children, this movie does not show any of the glory or heroism you see in most superhero flicks. It is bloody, gory, and downright disturbing at times. But if you don’t think HitGirl is one of the best new characters this year…you simply are missing something.
3. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
This is a movie that most of you won’t get. I know that, and accept that. This is a very, very geeky movie. Basically, if you were born before 1970 or after 1990, you don’t have a real chance of getting this movie. But it is a novel way of showing what is, at its heart, a simple concept: boy is geek, boy falls for girl, girl has baggage, boy has to deal with the baggage. Now mix in ninja fighting, video game type artistry, a very gay roommate…and you have what I considered one of the more entertaining movies of the year. But beyond those superficial things, this is a movie about all the difficulty that comes with being in a relationship. We all enter relationships with a lot of baggage, and figuratively have to fight through the ‘Evil Exes’ of our past to really stay with the one we love.
2. Toy Story 3
A top 10 list is not complete without a Pixar movie…and Pixar didn’t disappoint. Toy Story 3 may be the best of the ‘trilogy’, a movie where men cried, children relearned the joy of ordinary toys, and we all continue to be amazed at the magic of Disney/Pixar. May it never end.
Inception is one of those unique films that blend visual artistry, a fundamentally unique story, and superb acting, and puts it all together into a beautiful story. Christopher Nolan is turning into one of the great Directors of our time, with this coming after maybe the best superhero movie of all time, The Dark Knight. Nolan’s view of dreams, with the futuristic prospect of invasion of those most protected spaces of our minds, is a movie like no other…and I believe, by far the best movie of the year.