The Austin Alamo Programmers’ Top 10s of 2010
In the Alamo programming office, movies are sort of our thing. We watch 'em, we fight about 'em, and sometimes we even book 'em for our theatres. We bring you the greatest and most bizarre movies from the past 100 years, and also highlight some of the greatest achievements in new cinema, too.
It’s a tough job…especially when it comes time to narrow down our favorites at the end of each year. But we do it all for you.
The lists below represent the most powerful and/or entertaining films of 2010, according to Alamo programmers Tim League, Lars Nilsen, Zack Carlson, Henri Mazza, Kayla Williams, Daniel Metz, Bret Neuman, George Bragdon, and Caitlin Stevens. We hope you have some time on your hands, because you're going to want to read everything.
In case you're interested, you can see our combined list as a group on Badass Digest. And if you're really feeling fiesty, compare our lists to the top grossing films of 2010 nationally and at the Alamo.
Now, to the lists:
1. BLACK SWAN - I thought THE FIGHTER was a lock, and then BLACK SWAN shattered everything. Amazing film, hopefully there are enough voters in the academy with the stomach for repeated fingernail trauma.
2. THE FIGHTER - Christian Bale has a lock on best supporting actor in my book. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that he developed a desperate crack addiction to better understand the role.
3. THE SOCIAL NETWORK - Like a lot of people, I was really surprised how great a story Fincher managed to packed into a concept that at first blush seemed something akin to paint drying. Although, when I try to argue that the portrayal Zuckerberg wasn't ALL bad, some people want to carve out my liver.
4. MOTHER - I chose this one as my top film of 2009, but as it was released in 2010 in the states, I wanted to give it a little more love. Great film, nay perhaps a perfect film. Check it out on DVD.
5. FOUR LIONS - Conflict of interest? Maybe. All I can say is that I have purchased exactly one film to distribute in the states. Four Lions is it. Surely that speaks to my love of this film. Brash, bold, fresh, intelligent. I love this film.
6. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP - Magic caught on film or Banksy's biggest prank yet... I don't care, he's my hero. I love it either way. Fabulous commentary on the commerce of fine art and an excellent primer on the street art scene.
7. KING'S SPEECH - I didn't expect to love King's Speech to captivate me as much as it did. I actually thought Black Swan and King's Speech have a similar core theme: horrible parenting can create some severely insecure kids.
8. TRUE GRIT - Simple, straight-forward, but damned entertaining. The Coen boys smack it out the park again. I'm championing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld for best supporting actress at the Oscars
9. BURIED - I watched 127 HOURS a few days ago and as much as I liked it (in particular the nerve-plucking sound effect), I think the suspense of BURIED carries it over the top to be my favorite "guy trapped in a really crappy situation" movie of the year. Ryan Reynolds didn't get nearly enough praise for a very bold performance.
10. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD - The hands-down funniest time at the cinema in 2010 goes to the pure and delightful SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. Get everyone you know to see it. Your mom, your kid sister, despite the pigeon-holing this movie received, it ain't JUST for nerdy white boys.
1. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- Continually astounding and surprising throughout. If this is fake, it's superbly well done. If it's not, the reality of it buckles the mind. I didn't know anything about Banksy other than I hated his dumb name but now I think he's an OK dude.
2. THUNDER SOUL
- I can't remember liking any group of people more than I like the members of the Houston-area high school band at the center of THUNDER SOUL. It's all about the continuity of culture and the power of love and music. That probably sounds a little mawkish, but THUNDER SOUL is for real in every way.
- As a documentary, it's a little slapdash at times, but the story it documents is so fascinating that it's all worthwhile. Surprising insight blooms from surprising insight and the whole nature of thought, personality and creativity is ripped open and investigated.
4. THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA
- Who could have imagined that Dancing Outlaw Jesco White was the least interesting member of his family. If the Whites had lived 3,000 years ago, epic sagas would have been composed about them, as it is they are a more than suitable subject for folklore. This is a very funny movie but the tragedy of the family - the blood curse continually alluded to seems very plausible - is downright biblical.
5. GONE WITH THE POPE
- One man's totally uncompromising religious vision, cast in the form of a movie about small-time hoods. I wish the late Duke Mitchell were here to see it.
6. WHO IS HARRY NILSSON AND WHY IS EVERYBODY TALKIN’ ABOUT HIM
- Maybe you have to watch a lot of music docs to truly appreciate the superiority of this. Whereas many take a facile, snap-together approach to combining talking head interviews and performance footage, this movie is clearly thought out and the narrative proceeds organically, like a round of stories about a legendary character from the past. Very funny and sad.
7. THE GHOST WRITER
- It's fully apparent in every scene of THE GHOST WRITER that a master is behind the camera. A disposable thriller at base, but the elements of paranoia, unreality and distrust are manipulated with such ease by Polanski that it feels worth the viewer's time.
8. TRUE GRIT
- I've read the book but haven't seen the earlier version of TRUE GRIT. As a translation of the book it's a hell of an accomplishment. It gets the sneaky rhythm of Charles Portis' first-person prose down and the only way you can say anything bad about Jeff Bridges' performance is by digging up John Wayne to do it for you, which plenty of people have done.
9. FOUR LIONS
- I didn't even think this was all that funny actually - British comedy abounds with references to things like place names and British pop culture that are doubtless hilarious to Londoners but baffling and alienating to everyone else - but I though the human material was very well handled. The relationship between Omar and Waj is actually really touching and the scene where Omar says goodbye to his wife is like nothing I've seen before.
10. FINAL FLESH
- This serves notice to real artists and creative types everywhere: you have a duty to push it as far as you can.
1. GONE WITH THE POPE
- An incredible crime epic shot in the '70s, only to be edited and finally released this year, long after the death of its writer/director/producer/star. Duke Mitchell plays Paul, a self-destructive ex-con who hatches a plan: hold the Pope hostage until every Catholic in the world pays $1. As brilliant as that is (and it really is, if you think about it), the movie's real power comes from Mitchell's performance, which -- deliberately or not -- reveals his loathing for mankind and an immeasurable sadness, veiled under racist jabs and remorseless gunfire. For me, this would be the most important rediscovery of the past decade, if not for...
Honorable Mention: NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
- Though its 1984 release date keeps this studio-suppressed masterpiece from being applicable for a Best of 2010 list, this is one of the greatest and most unique movies I've ever seen. A hilarious, society-condemning, hobo-empowering, grandparent-respecting, space-traveling ode to living life properly. Completed in 1984, it was never distributed; instead, it played one festival, was barred from Cannes by its own studio and broadcast a handful of times on late-night Eastern European TV. It's never even been released on video. Earlier this year, Bill Murray requested that it screen as part of a retrospective of his work, saying it was one of the best films he'd ever been part of. He's right. Since then, its writer/director Tom Schiller has begun hosting 35mm screenings in various cities, changing the lives of anyone who watches it. It really is that good. Officially one of my Top Five Ever, for whatever that's worth.
- Two sad-eyed losers irritate a prostitute, eat some clown-shaped cake with a man named "The King of the Pimps" and are handed a gun by a spazzed-out sailor. Errors ensue. The funniest short film I've ever seen, from secret weapon Jim Hosking. It's easy to say that nothing original comes outta Hollywood, but this guy lives there and his movies could/should/will destroy the world if someone would just write him a check for a couple billion dollars.
3. FINAL FLESH
- The best sci-fi epic of the year wasn't TRON II or INCEPTION; it's a post-apocalyptic meltdown shot by unwitting amateur porn actors on a budget of $400. WONDERSHOWZEN creator Vernon Chatman penned the script, then chopped it into quarters and sent each portion to a different no-budget adult video producer to create using whatever means they had (usually very few). Largely sexless, absolutely shameless and quite literally insane.
4. A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN
- Stellan Skarsgard is all eyebags and self-loathing in this evenly understated loser comedy. Norway proves that you don't need college students, banana peels or farts to make a truly funny movie about a wash-out. Which isn't to say that this film always aims above the gutter. If you're in the market for tragic nudity, here be the treasure trove.
5. THE WILD & WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA
- This is a true life exploration into America's most gnarled family tree: the Whites. Though famed folk dancer Jesco White has been the subject of various docs in the past, his kin are no less fascinating. Traveling the Whites' bloodlines, we encounter violence, regret, hilarity, narcotics, infidelity, heavy metal and -- when we least expect it -- a tremendous amount of familial devotion. I watched this with a packed crowd, many of whom came to point and laugh, but left shaken. The best doc of the year, says me.
6. TRUE GRIT
- For the sake of their own sanity, many movie fans follow a strident No Remakes rule, and 99% of the time that's a good idea. But the Coen Brothers have performed the rare miracle of improving on the original film, and producing a movie that is as strong as the 1968 story it was adapted from. No smirk, no irony; just a smart, absorbing Western.
7. THUNDER SOUL
- For some reason, I wasn't expecting too much from this documentary, which caused me to be more decimated by it than anything else I saw at SXSW Film Festival. It's a decades-spanning story about a high school band who -- under the mentorship of a superhuman teacher -- become one of the leading funk acts in the world. The filmmaker picks up as the band is reforming to play a 2008 tribute show to the instructor who changed their lives. Really, REALLY good, even if you hate music.
- A completely uncategorizable Greek movie about three adult siblings who have never set foot beyond their parents' property. The quasi-children are completely unaware of everything from airplanes to television to cats, and are taught that "outside" is a toxic wasteland. Mom and Pop maintain the ruse while conducting unspeakable emotional experiments, but this is in no way a horror film. Instead, all of DOGTOOTH's ugliness seems sadly feasible.
- The most heartwarming film you'll ever see about knocking peoples' teeth out. GALLANTS follows a group of retiree-age ass-kickers at a failing kung fu academy. When the local thugs start leaning on them, they lean back with crippled fists of geriatric rage. Of particular note is the fellas' charmingly delusional master, played by 4'10" Hong Kong film composer/granddad Teddy Robin Kwan. He loves the ladies and they love him back, even though he looks like a goddamned muppet.
10. MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED
- Documentarian Mark Hartley's follow-up to his ultra-explosive Aussie exploitation doc NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. This time, Hartley turns his lens on the masochistic mayhem of Filipino/American exploitation filmmaking of the '70s, where nubile starlets were menaced by dog-sized rats, and body parts hung from trees. And that was just what was taking place off-camera. A deeply satisfying compendium of no-budget real life horror stories told by living legends like Roger Corman and Joe Dante.
1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
- This was a year for movies that made people wonder just what was real. From documentaries to action flicks about dreams, almost all of the best works in 2010 were about the fine line between our world and the one we see on the screen. Aaron Sorkin had to have dozens of legal teams scour the script of THE SOCIAL NETWORK to make sure that the man who Time Magazine would finally notice this year didn't use his considerable billions to sue the crap out of Sorkin, the studio, and everyone who watched the movie. And the movie passed all of that research, there was no law suit, and we know that one of the sources who informed the writers was able to definitively say that Zuckerberg was in fact drinking Beck's beer, not a screwdriver, on the night when he made that first Hot or Not site.
Still, it's hard to walk away from the movie with any sure feeling that we know Zuckerberg any better. How much is fiction, and how much of a dick is the real man? In the end, it doesn't matter. The film is inspiring, exciting, and says more about the times we live in during its release than any movie has since BACK TO THE FUTURE definitively defined the 1980s.
2. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- Is it real? Is it a hoax? It doesn't matter. Banksy's portrayal of the art world as it relates to street art and the contemporary scene is art either way, and makes you realize that any idiot can become awesome for a few days if they can get enough hype behind them. That gives me hope... now if only I could find the hype.
3. PIRANHA 3-D
- YES! The fact that the movie is so cheesy but actually works sooo well... wow. Also, the boobs that start in the air and then go under water - probably the best boobs in cinema since Jackie Treehorn's introduction scene in THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Sure, it's formulaic, cheap, and full of wooden performances. But even though it actually is aware of what it is, it doesn't feel like it is when you're watching it. It's also the only reason I might buy a 3D television ever in my life. Fuck you, AVATAR.
4. TRUE GRIT
- This Coen brothers masterpiece paired with the release of RED DEAD REDEMPTION made this the best year for the wild wild west since HBO killed Deadwood.
5. THE KING'S SPEECH
- How can you not love Colin Firth? And thank god someone made Helena Bonham Carter play a nice lady in a period piece again instead of showing off how crazy she can be when she's hanging out with her husband. Was it real? Was it staged? Fortunately it doesn't matter because that all happened a long time ago. But when it ended I started fantasizing about putting together a series of showings from the theater that takes us on a journey through the 20th century. I would have loved to go straight into SAVING PRIVATE RYAN after that...
- I feel so much better about having a good relationship with my mother, because at least I'm not crazy!
7. WINNEBAGO MAN - This was one of those, "Why didn't I think of it???" movies. Because I remember when I first saw the viral video late one night after a shift at the original Alamo when tape traders were bringing it around. Immediately we all thought, "Wow! Who is this guy?" Ben Steinbauer didn't just go find out, he crafted a loving feature film portrait of Jack Rebney and showed us what it's like to be a viewer.
8. THE AMERICAN
- Most of the people with me didn't care for this one too much, and I haven't seen it pop up on a lot of other lists. But I thought the spy portrayal of an American James Bond and his ultimate undoing was both a lot of fun and artfully done.
9. BLACK SWAN
- I hate putting this on my list, just like I hate putting my number 10 choice. The whole "what's real? what's in the character's mind?" thing is soooo tired to me, and every time there's a "reveal" that something we've been shown wasn't actually reality but really just our way of seeing the world through the mind of a person who's losing it (even though we're watching that person in the third person) I immediately get angry. That should have died with the Who Shot JR? episode of Dallas, and I don't think it's worked well for anyone since THE WIZARD OF OZ. That said, the direction inside each scene was amazing. Natalie Portman's performance was perfectly nuanced. And the struggle of an artist fighting to get past those parts of our minds that make us study to where things can just become natural is always one of my favorites. I just could have done without the stupid mirror fight.
- Again. UG to the end. UG to the endless debates. I hate hate hate this movie and will never rewatch it. But that said, I can't deny the fact that it's one of the best films of the year. It had people talking. It had a cool fight in a gravity-free dream. If it had had a real ending instead of a stupid "gotcha!" that seemed to exist only to inspire College Humor to release a "how the movie really ended" sketch it would be an actually good movie. Oh, that and if they'd cast someone other than Ellen Page to play the most stereotypical grad student ever committed to film. Someone should take away her SAG card so I don't have to see her anymore.
- I was so pumped to go see this when we ran it for a short time at the Ritz. As excited as I was and even though I had impossibly high expectations, this doc blew that all out of the water and easily took the top spot for my favorite movie of 2010. Mark Hogancamp's meticulously designed village of MARWENCOL is presented largely by the use of gorgeous still photos of the inhabitants of his stunningly life-like and violent military town.
2. GET LOW
- Every once in a while you see a movie expecting it to be pretty good and then your jaw drops as the credits roll and you realize you have just seen one of the best movies of the year. Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Cobbs deliver stunning performances as expected, but the real pay off was that despite its deliberate pace, GET LOW offered a building suspense that will you have you positively squirming to know the secret behind the old man's long-term seclusion.
3. NEVER LET ME GO
- This movie was absolutely the most unforgiving, gut-wrenching heartbreak of the year and by that right, was beautifully executed with breathtaking performances by the somber, capable actors that played the parts of the doomed and lovable characters. There is no relief from the unrelenting dark cloud that parks right over the head of any audience member that dares to see this movie, but it's worth it every moment that Carey Mulligan is on screen offering her totally understated performance.
4. THE KING'S SPEECH
- This movie is just as complete as its impeccable cast. You get exactly what you expect the instant you realize there's a new movie about the royal family that stars Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce. There may not be any surprises, but the movie leaves you with an overwhelming sense of warm and fuzzy satisfaction that may is hard to beat.
5. 127 HOURS
- Everybody who wimped out watching this movie because they were too afraid to watch James Franco saw his arm off with a dull pocket knife, well shame on you! You missed the combination of some of the most exquisite talents of our time. James Franco's energetic performance and Danny Boyle's highly recognizable signature style of film making are an ideal team.
6. WAITING FOR SUPERMAN
- Thank you, Davis Guggenheim for putting 5 adorable and easy to love faces to the all the statistics associated with the failings of the American public education system. And thank you for then bringing in some really progressive forward thinking educators who have dedicated their lives to offering a solution. Also, thanks for the purposefully slanted and non-scientific representation of real statistics through the use of animation. That is much more interesting than any boring old pie graph. Does this film ride the fence between informative documentary and blatant propaganda? Yes! But damn it, it's effective and it's for a good cause.
7. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- What even happened in this movie? Did Thierrey trick Banksy and disrespect the street artists? Was it the plan from the beginning that Banksy would turn the camera on Tierrey? Did Banksy make another piece of art out the pudgy, pompous Frenchman? It really doesn't matter because as a viewer you become so engrossed with the art and the characters that you want to believe everything you're seeing.
8. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
- Made up of the usual and crucial themes present in kids' movies, this story of a scrawny kid who doesn't fit in and can't please his burly Viking father doesn't really seem like anything special. But it is extremely special in that DreamWorks actually made a movie that doesn't indulge in the terribly placed pop culture references, terrible top forty songs and butt jokes that make so many recent kids' movies lack sincerity. The film is bold enough to take itself seriously and it pays off with an overwhelming sense of having watched a solid movie that may not rot kids' brains.
9. I'M STILL HERE
- Even though we were all crossing our fingers that Joaquin Phoenix was really crazy and that he would soon be pumping out hip-hop albums for our scrutiny, I'm glad he hasn't lost it. I am also really glad that he and Casey Affleck made this film.
10. TRUE GRIT
- It's really no surprise that the Coen Brothers have managed to turn out yet another movie that plays as if making a perfectly whole, pithy, timely instant classic that's near and dear to the American heart is the most natural thing in the world.
- The greatest film of this year, DOGTOOTH is a brilliant Greek allegory portraying a set of parents that intentionally shelter their offspring from the outside world, forbidding them from leaving their home with lies and the threat of danger. So deep is their shielded life that even vocabulary is changed to continue the illusion of isolation (“Zombie” is a yellow flower, “Pussy” a big light, “Telephone” a salt shaker). This project of ignorance seems like a deranged social experiment, but plays as a profound indictment against civilization and its need to condemn itself.
2. DADDY LONGLEGS
- This film by brothers/writers/directors Josh and Benny Safdie is an unflinching portrait of a well-meaning but destructive father. Filmed on a low-budget and in a Cassavetes camera style, DADDY LONGLEGS is a new kind of a film with a sense of urgency and realism reminiscent of the impulses of the French New Wave. The Safdie brothers are able to capture a dream-like portrait of New York, endlessly nostalgic and yet somehow also of our time. The father, played by filmmaker Ronald Bronstein (FROWNLAND) is unforgettable.
3. FINAL FLESH
- Vernon Chatman, the bizarre mind behind cult-sensation WONDERSHOWZEN, created the strongest comedy of the year with a stable of poorly paid porn actors reading a script they could never comprehend. FINAL FLESH paints a picture of the apocalypse with the perfect balance of surrealism, absurdity and just plain weirdness, and in the end the joke is on everyone. Chatman premiered the film at the Alamo and after the screening suggested there was nothing left to do but to burn the theatre down. That's about right.
4. THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA
- The documentary genre had a great year - some real (PRODIGAL SONS), some questionable (EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, CATFISH), some phony (I'M STILL HERE) - but none tops this unbelievable film from the a land where "class" and "elegance" are not included in the local dictionaries. The White clan, led by patriarch Jesco, is a pack of druggin', drinkin' brawlin', murderin', cussin', reproducin' do-nothings, but their devil-doesn't-even-care lifestyle is as fascinating as it is lamentable. Think Jersey Shore with more Klonopins, less money, and instead of in a beach house in Seaside Heights they live in Hell. With brilliant execution that teeters between unabashed depravity and intense desolation, this presents the most captivating subject of the year.
- While I may be alone on this, I see greatness in GREENBERG that others may easily dismiss. Ben Stiller, contrary to what he'd like you to think, is capable of acting well, and does so as the titular schmuck, a New Yorker staying in Los Angeles as he tries to get control of himself. He is an unlikeable character, but never villainous, and embodies a maturity problem that should make us all look inward. Hipster sex bomb Greta Gerwig broke out of the ultra-indie world with this film, and lights up a film of immense beauty. A cunnilingus scene involving her is the most striking sex scene in film this year.
6. SHUTTER ISLAND
- This underrated gem from Martin Scorsese is a haunting and engaging thriller, a genre picture in the company of THE SHINING and ROSEMARY'S BABY. Beautifully shot, with a tremendous supporting cast, the film shows its artifice while making you excited for every second. SHUTTER ISLAND'S power lies in its execution. Each line of dialogue, plot-point reveal, character flaw, and camera movement is done with the deliberation of an artist painting a beautiful if horrifying portrait.
7. I'M STILL HERE
- Was there any other film this year that featured an actor doing cocaine, groping prostitutes, fighting strangers, vomiting, and crying with the weight of fame on his shoulders? This film's got all of the descending-into-madness benchmarks that I look for in my celebrity gossip, and a bizarre plot about someone following their dream when they really shouldn't. That it was a ruse is but buttercream on this already delicious biscuit au beurre - I love that this "performance" broke out into the real world (and an unforgettable David Letterman appearance) for so long. That's commitment.
8. BLUE VALENTINE
- Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in the amazing story of a young married couple’s tumultuous demise. Poor, bitter, and always on the verge of eruption, Williams and Gosling embody a working-class dilemma with a rawness and ire unmatched by any film this year. Gosling is a monster, transforming from endearing joker to abusive maniac in a pitch-perfect performance. Williams is the saintly mother with deep-seated and bubbling frustration. Writer/director Cianfrance masterfully blends flashback and memory in a fresh and sincere way, presenting the most intense and potent film about matrimonial hardship in a long time.
9. PLEASE GIVE
- PLEASE GIVE is an excellent movie, the kind of thoughtful and insightful picture that Woody Allen used to make. A cast of some of the most expressive and talented actresses present a film about guilt so strong it's like living between my grandma's two clip-on earrings. One of the leads, Rebecca Hall, is a miracle, and I'm going to say that every year until she gets paid more than Reese Witherspoon.
10. BLACK SWAN
- I'm someone who does not care for director Darren Aronofsky's work, with the sole exception of his debut picture PI. That said, BLACK SWAN is a brilliant hallucination, shot incredibly and performed with great courage by Natalie Portman and great carnality by Mila Kunis. A genre/exploitation film that works the formula to the bone. Sometimes, like this time, that's a good thing.
- If you would have told me pre-DARK KNIGHT that Christopher Nolan could get away with making a movie of this scope in the current Hollywood system, I would have punched you in the face and called you a dirty rotten liar.
2. WINTER'S BONE
- WINTER'S BONE paints a brutally earnest portrayal of hard-scrabble living in the Missouri Ozarks as a young woman comes to grips with her familial ties and responsibilities. WINTER'S BONE is a superb dramatic thriller that relies heavily on a fantastic performance from Jennifer Lawrence. This is redneck film-noir at its finest.
3. BLACK SWAN
- Natalie Portman gives a truly memorable performance in Darren Aronofsky's psycho-sexual thriller. Her performance, as well as those of the supporting cast of actors builds towards a crescendo that is equal parts brilliant and insane.
4. TRUE GRIT
- The Coen brothers can do no wrong in my book. Hell, I even loved THE LADYKILLERS (don't hold it against me). TRUE GRIT pays homage to the original while injecting the film with a fresh perspective and approximately 100% more creepy-amateur-doctor-in-a-bear-suit awesomeness.
5. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- Covering over a decade of the street art movement, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP could also be described as a "prankumentary." Thierry Guetta begins as documentarian, then becomes the documentary subject as Banksy turns the tables to cover Thierry's transformation from passive bystander to cut-and-paste street art co-opter.
6. FOUR LIONS
- Let the record show that I was on the FOUR LIONS bandwagon well before the advent of Drafthouse Films. Right after I first saw Christopher Morris' tongue in cheek send-up of four bumbling British jihadists, I was on the horn trying to book a print at the Drafthouse. Luckily, the film finally has some U.S. distribution.
7. NEVER LET ME GO
- While some have taken issue with the subtleness of NEVER LET ME GO, I found that very fact to be what I liked most. Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed novel takes sci-fi dystopia to a level that feels natural, almost hum-drum, allowing the characters and their nuanced relationships to carry the film.
8. THE KING'S SPEECH
- Historical dramas are typically the kind of Oscar bait that I pretend not to care about. But, as the critics have uniformly sung the praises of THE KING'S SPEECH, I cannot muster a counterpoint to their assertions. Colin Firth really nailed this one, and you can never discount a film featuring the incomparable Geoffrey Rush.
- I don't know if it was the rowdy festival crowd during SxSw, or the copious amount of drinks I consumed before the show, but KICK-ASS will stand as possibly the most fun I've ever had attending a film's premiere.
- The Duplass brothers take mumble-core to the masses with their first foray into big-budget filmmaking. Luckily, the a-list cast handles the genre with aplomb. Personally, I could watch John C. Reily and Jonah Hill have awkward conversations all day long.
1. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- I caught this film late in its run so I was pretty well saturated with all the buzz about it -- and kind of bored by it, to be honest. And yet, when I did finally see this documentary, I was still surprised, fascinated, and highly entertained. In a perfect world Banksy would be brought in to "fix" all documentaries.
2. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
- "A movie about Facebook?," I heard somebody scoff while looking at Jesse Eisenberg's mug on the poster back this summer, "what's that going to be about and who the hell wants to watch it?" Well, turned out -- thanks to being in the right hands -- it was about a lot more than status updates... and everybody wanted watch it. By far the best movie about nerds screwing other nerds (in the business sense).
3. THE KING'S SPEECH
- While I do love me some Potter and the Brits in general, I'm not a big fan of Anglo period dramas (zzzz....) or stories about the royals (I loathed The Queen), but this film charmed my trousers off and had me sincerely rooting for the stuttering King by its swelling conclusion. Mr. Firth will likely score an Oscar this year. The equally awesome Mr. Rush and Ms. Bonham Carter will go back to playing a pirate and a crazy-ass witch, respectively, and making great gobs of money doing so.
4. TRUE GRIT
- I hereby nominate the Great Brothers Coen to single-handly revive the Western genre... as long as they churn them out as dark and rich as this one, like a cup of whiskey-infused chicory coffee.
5. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
- With every frame so completely jam-packed with action and information, it's amazing this film didn't come with a "may induce seizures" warning. Edgar Wright really went b-b-balls out with this graphic novel adaptation and, since it's hard to take it all in with just one viewing, it's likely only going to be appreciated more in years to come when the world has fully digested it. And while it may only be #5 on my list of films this year, being at the premiere screening where the entire audience punked the cast during the Q&A is #1 on my list of awesome things that I've experienced at the Drafthouse so far.
- While the basic subject of this documentary is compelling enough on its own -- Mark Hogancamp, a man brutally beaten to near death finds his way back to life through building a miniature WWII fantasy world and captures the complex storylines he dreams up through vivid, life-like photographs only to have his work "discovered" by New York artsy types -- the film would have been at least interesting even if it was made hack director. But, thankfully, director Jeff Malmberg is no hack. Wisely, he just let the cameras roll and allowed Mark to speak largely for himself while still creating a great story arc and thoughtfully revealing the surprising details of Mark's life both before and after beating.
7. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1
- It is flat out ridiculous there are SEVEN Harry Potter movies. By the time we reach that EIGHTH and final installment, they will have been releasing these movies for 10 years! And What's even more ridiculous is that they keep getting better. Really. While this one is not my absolute favorite of the series (that'd be Prisoner of Azkaban), HP 7.1 really impressed me by 1) making all that camping seem to fly by in an interesting way, 2) upping the gore and darkness, and 3) totally surprising me with the telling of the Deathly Hallows in gorgeous, Prince Achmed-esque animation.
- Here's a movie that brought smarts to a stupid, bloated genre: the Hollywood summer action blockbuster. Complex heists made even more complicated by being inside dreams (within dreams (within dreams...)), visuals like Escher etchings come to life, masterful choreography, and awesome dudes acting awesome and looking awesome in suits (esp. Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt). That hallway fight sequence with Joey Levitt is worth the price of admission alone. Although, deep within my dream (within a dream...), the director's cut features Ellen Page digitally replaced by a less annoying actress... That, or an alternate ending where Marion Cotillard stabs her in the neck.
9. PIRANHA 3-D
- Since Hollywood just can't stop abusing audiences with useless crappy remakes and re-boots, the very least studios can do is watch this movie and take notes -- 'cause this one gets it right. It knew exactly what kind of movie it was and went everywhere it should have. At the screening I attended Eli Roth happened to be there and he gave an impromptu introduction where he recounted the story of how director Alexandre Aja pitched the film to him and Tarantino, saying (with his French accent) it would be the "guiltiest of guilty pleasures." And so it is.
10. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
- Ok, snobs. I'm sure closing up my list of picks for 2010 with this title just dropped my credibility to a big fat zero, but whatever. Sure, this was a stupid movie based on a stupid premise and, presumably, meant for stupid people. But it was just the right kind of stupid. And... I shamelessly laughed at all the '80s pop culture references and gross out bro humor, loved the Crispin Glover losing his arm subplot, and completely ate up every mother-loving line of dialogue that came out of Craig Robinson's mouth. Like I said, stupid, but the the right kind of stupid.
Bonus: FOUR LIONS
- Since we all work for the Drafthouse we are required to put this, the first theatrical release from Drafthouse Film, on our year-end best of list, right? But, the truth is even if the Drafthouse didn't help me pay my rent and fend off student loan collection agencies by giving me a paycheck, I'd include this dark farce from Chris Morris that completely captures the absurdity of both religious extremism and our modern, Terrorist-obsessed world. Three words: Rubber Dinghy Rapids.
1. TOY STORY 3
- I love Pixar. I love everything that comes out of that studio (well.. except CARS.. I never saw that). They know exactly how to pull on my heartstrings and make me fall in love with animated characters. TOY STORY 3 was so beautifully done, so visually lovely, and was exactly what I hoped it would be and more. They used 3D subtly and added depth to the screen instead of over exaggerating it. They made me laugh in a silly Potato-Head-to-tortilla scene, and made me clutch my chest and cry when they were all nearly incinerated. Yes, I’m a huge baby. Loved this film.
- I don’t give a damn if you thought this film was overrated. I thought it was amazing! It also made me have crazy lucid dreams for about a month (they’ve since stopped now.. I guess I stopped thinking about it so much?). Leonardo DiCaprio is always a badass, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt won me over after he pissed me off in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. Christopher Nolan is a mastermind, this movie is gorgeous, anti-gravity fight scenes are the coolest. Also, please put Tom Hardy in everything from now on.
3. TRUE GRIT
One of the more recent movies I saw, so it sticks out heavily in my mind. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things come from the Coen Bros, but this tops them all. Jeff Bridges was an incredible Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon’s ‘tude and Texan accent were both charmingly funny and surprisingly good - but above all, Hailee Steinfeld - what the what?! Cheers to finding the perfect actress for this role. A young girl who can keep up toe-to-toe with Bridges and Damon in a Coen Bros film? Win.
4. BLACK SWAN
- I finally just saw this this weekend. Aronofsky has freaked me out several times in the past, but this took the cake. To turn one of my favorite sweetheart actresses into a deranged and distraught ballerina with one hell of a stress disorder is no easy feat. Sexy, scary and lovely all at the same time. I’ll definitely be watching this again soon.
5. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
- My god, this movie did not get enough love this year! And it was just so sweet and wonderful, I really don’t understand. The screening we had of this film was so epic with the cast and the surprise Q&A, but what really got me was Edgar Wright throwing in “Anthems of a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” out of nowhere when Knives Chau sees Scott with Ramona - oof - again, I’m a baby, and I almost lost my shit. So well done!
6. WINNEBAGO MAN
- Do me a kindness and see this film if you haven’t already. It took over the theater for a few weeks of assorted showtimes, and for good reason. Jack Rebney is the cutest, and he has a great dog named Buda and that’s even cuter. Pair that with a charming director and documentarian (Ben Steinbauer) and the best thesis film I’ve ever seen was made. It’s amazing what can come from viral videos these days.
7. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1
- So this isn’t really a complete film, but I’m including it anyway. I’ve been a Harry Potter nerd since the 3rd book came out, and I totally grew up with these kids as I watched the films. This was by far the best film, and the actors are SO much better than they used to be. I watched it twice and then ate the feast and loved it all over again.
8. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
- This should probably be higher on my list, but the important part is that it’s here! Banksy is a badass, and the fact that he still has never been arrested or identified publicly is incredible. Here was a film that everyone thought was going to be about Banksy, and Banksy influence, but instead became a total criticism of the art world at large. Such an amazing documentary!
9. EASY A
- I’m a girl. I like a good rom com. EASY A was a great one. If you’re looking for something cute that
will leave you smiley and happy, watch this. Emma Stone is adorable, and her parents are played by the lovely, quirky Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. Also, a self-referential rom com that references classic John Hughes films - definitely swoon worthy.
10. GOING THE DISTANCE
- This will probably be the one that nobody saw or cares about, but I loved it! Another rom-com type starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. Every character in this film is funny. The writing is clever and vulgar and sweet. I can watch this movie all day long. Shut up.