It is that time of year when people reflect on the year that has just gone. So I thought I would reflect on the films that were released in 2010. To qualify a film must have been released theatrically in Australia in 2010. I am not the sort of person who goes out and sees every single new film and I have not seen a number of films regarded by many people as the best (or worst) of the year. Throughout this process I was tempted to expand my initial idea for a top and bottom five, so I could fit in more films. But I have stuck fast and these are my absolute favourite, and absolute least favourite for the year (with a couple of honourable mentions in each category). Would love to hear your thoughts on any of these films and especially any films from 2010 not on these two lists which you think should have been. Even you’re feeling really motivated hit me with your top and bottom 5s of the year below.
Bottom 5: These are my five least favourite films released in 2010. Some of these films were quite well reviewed and/or quite popular this year, so I will emphasise the point that these are my personal opinions. The films are rated according to how I personally reacted to them, nothing else. (Dis)honourable mentions for 2010 go to Iron Man 2, The Expendables and Jackass 3D.
#5. The Ghost Writer – But it’s a Polanski film they’ll all scream. That in itself does not make it enjoyable. Good performances from Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan can’t overcome the fact that this is a tired, bland script. I think it’s meant to be a thriller but there was very little tension created. Rain and grey skies do not automatically create atmosphere, and even a nice late twist cannot elevate proceedings above the mundane.
#4. The American – When a film relies totally on its central character, that character should be interesting, and even more importantly believable. Clooney’s character in this was neither. The film is bookended by two spurts of action, in between which very little happens. I think that’s meant to be ‘arthouse’ or something. It’s not, it’s just bloody boring. I’m not the sort of viewer who generally picks the ending that often, but even I saw the conclusion to this coming a mile off.
#3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – This is a really nasty film. Sexual assault of and violence towards women is an unfortunate reality of our society, and I think is probably the greatest, most disgusting scourge in it. This film contains totally unnecessary depictions of both. These things should not be shown willy-nilly to show that a character has a ‘disturbed’ past. In fact this had already been established reasonably well before the gratuitous scenes depicting these things appear. Even discounting my revulsion, which some may think is misguided, this was an average thriller at best. The two lead performances were uninspired (based on this performance I struggle to see the hype regarding Noomi Rapace) and the plot held no interest for me. This is the “Da Vinci Code” all over again. Slick, pulp thrillers that for some reason become publishing phenomenon and are then turned into middle of the road films.
#2. The Prince of Persia – This was such a bad experience, it bordered on being physically painful. One of the few films I have seen with no redeeming factors. A slick, totally soulless video game inspired Indiana Jones rip-off. At times the special effects were so dominant this looked more like a game than a film. It would appear every time the director was stuck for something to show he went for a bigger, more meaningless effects shot. If all that and some inept acting from people who should know better (Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton & Ben Kingsley) was not enough, they throw in some woeful political references to the Iraq War, Guantanamo Bay and taxation.
The First Ever Scott Pilgrim vs the World Award for Least Favourite Film of the Year:
Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Whilst some films, such as #2 on this list are open about their lowest common denominator, something for everyone approach to filmmaking; this film seemed to think it was so much more. However it wasn’t very original, all it was was self-important and oh so repetitive. The whole ok concept, our everyday hero having to defeat an evil ex-boyfriend with superpowers, was repeated over and over and over again. Some of the ideas sound cool on paper – comic book stylings on screen, novelty weapons in fights, video game health bars for characters – but there is no connection to the narrative. They are just slapped on there because they should be cool, and the audience is expected to get that. If you want to watch a cool, self-aware comic book film then watch Kick-Ass. If you want to watch a second, watch Kick-Ass again. I just hated this film, it’s attitude, the dialogue , the performances. Makes me angry thinking about it, and the fact I spent money to see it.
Top 5: There were some absolutely crackerjack films released in 2010. Contemporary film gets a lot of bagging due to the number of sequels and remakes getting released. I think this is misguided – I don’t care the source of a film, if it is a remake or the fourth sequel in a franchise, I just want something original and enjoyable. I don’t see too many film fans complaining that the Coen Brothers are remaking the John Wayne Western True Grit. I think the common factor in all these five films was that they are original, they all offer something new and surprising whether it be an exciting new actor, script or director. If you have not seen any of the films listed here, then I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. Big, big honourable mentions go to The King’s Speech, A Single Man, Toy Story 3, Brand Nue Day and The Last Station.
#5. Animal Kingdom – One hell of a crime flick, Australian or otherwise. This was gritty, violent and featured one of the scripts of the year. Also one of the ensemble casts of the year, everyone is great in it, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver (who is getting the plaudits at the moment), Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton and newcomer James Frecheville. I cannot wait to see what young director David Michod does next.
#4. The Green Zone – This was sold as ‘Bourne in Iraq’ but is much more than that. Greengrass and Damon delivered what I think is the best film on the Iraq conflict yet made. It doesn’t dodge the politics, the plot is concerned with the intelligence re WMDs in Iraq. Whilst all this is nothing new, it feels fresh because it has rarely if ever been presented in an entertaining way on screen. Don’t like politics in your films? Never fear because this stands up as a crackerjack war thriller aside from all of that. Damon’s character starts out as a man totally committed to the cause he has been sold and gradually begins to question all of that as the narrative unfolds. As good as mainstream ‘Hollywood’ filmmaking gets.
#3. Monsters – Probably the big surprise for me this year. A low budget sci-fi flick that is actually a reserved, wonderful romance film. The two leads are good, and the direction is interesting without being intrusive. The couple of big, monster-driven special effects sequences are also awesome and the fact they manage not to jar with the low-key romance narrative is a testament to the quality of the script. If you were put off by the woeful (and misleading) title of this film then I urge you to give it a look. The whole, really enjoyable experience is topped off by a great central premise (Mexico is off limits because of an alien contamination) and some beautiful Central American scenery.
#2. The Town – From the low of ‘Bennifer’, Ben Affleck has made quite the comeback in recent years, Which is good because he has always come across as one of the system’s more interesting and thoughtful actors (and now director). Judging by this film he could be set for a long Clint Eastwood style career as a director. This Boston set flick is the most authentic feeling film of the year, perhaps stemming from the fact it is Affleck’s home town. It creates a real sense of place, and conveys perfectly what it is to be stuck in a situation that you desperately do not want to be in. Reminds me of Animal Kingdom in terms of violence and grit. But this is filmmaking on a grander stage than the Australian effort and the budget and star power make it a slightly more enjoyable film for me (both are incredible, and could be viewed as companion pieces).
The First Ever Kick-Ass Award for Favourite Film of the Year:
Kick-Ass – Another film with one of the standout scripts of the year. Much is made of the violence and profanity in this film, but I think that both are used well. Has three or four of the best performances of the year as well. This film packs a hell of a punch. Manages somehow to be one of the funniest films of the year whilst also packing in some incredible over the top action sequences. I really think that both this film and Scott Pilgrim were aiming to achieve the same things and please the same core audience. Pilgrim got it wrong by trying to be too clever and witty. This film is both clever and witty, but it does not force it. The result is laid-back hilarity, winking nods to comic book convention and in my opinion the most enjoyable film of the year.