Hello there, my name is Richard and if over the last four or so months you’ve read some of the reviews on Fanboy Confidential, odds are you’ll have read some of mine. Why does this qualify me to be the person that writes a ‘best films of 2010’ list for the site? Well, it really doesn’t, it’s purely opinion based, but I love the exercise because it always sparks debate and sometimes creates a bit more awareness for films that may have gone unnoticed. So here we go, my top twenty films of 2010, in the order I saw them, and an overview of my selection.
How To Train Your Dragon
Iron Man 2
The Karate Kid
Scott Pilgrim vs The World
The Social Network
We are What We Are
My year really kicked off with The Road, a bleak, pull no punches, grown up, post-apocalyptic drama. Here there are no cures to the end of the world, no civilization reboots, you learn to live in the dead world, you get killed or you kill yourself. How can a film like this end? I hear you ask. How indeed. The Road wasn’t watched by anywhere near the number of people it should have been, but I guess a lot of people aren’t willing to brave such a stark, bleak outing, no matter how rewarding.
The same excuses can’t be applied to a few other films that were unforgivably ignored at the box office, namely Centurion, The Losers and Splice. Centurion, an action adventure movie with a fun premise, brutal action and a great cast, represented a rare thing, a British film of reasonable(ish) budget that dared to go beyond the usual, boring genres we’re so compliant with making our films in. It was rewarded, of course, by getting next to no publicity and being screened at a depressingly poor amount of screens. The Losers had a similar problem with publicity, plus it was overshadowed by bigger military team films The Expendables and The A Team, both vastly inferior films in every respect. The Losers is perhaps one of the most fun films of the year. The action, character interplay and slick visuals pleased me to no end and I can’t for the life of me understand why it was garnering two star reviews almost universally. Splice received splendid reviews, everyone I know who saw it loved it but it simply didn’t run on enough screens. Unlike the other two films mentioned here though, I’m pretty sure it’ll find it’s audience on home video, like all great horror films do, and it surely deserves to as it’s chilling, serious, and left me with a sense of sickening unease that I still have when thinking of the climax of the movie, eek.
On to the trailblazers, the films that did something completely new. It’s rare these days to have even one trailblazing film in a year, but this year we had three. Who’d’a thunk it. The big obvious one is Inception, just when you think Nolan can’t possibly have anything else up his sleeve to change cinema he goes and creates a final act that turns his single film into four different films, and back again, seamlessly. Amazing. Scott Pilgrim… presented itself, narratively and visually in a fashion I’ve never seen before. It held to no conventional rules of cinema storytelling, but rather than ending up as a mess of unformed ideas, it ended up as pure cinematic joy. In all fairness you’ll either ‘get’ Scott Pilgrim or you wont, I know plenty of folk that don’t, and there’s no explaining it to them, ’cause there’s nothing to really get, it’s just weird for weirds sake, which is one of the reasons why it’s so great. The final trailblazer is Buried, an entire film set in the confines of a coffin. I can’t even think of a more simplified setting for a film… unless someone makes a film that is just one long close up of a dudes face. Any filmmaker understands the nightmarish technical logistics of putting a film like Buried together, but to then add a genuinely gripping story, a smooth pace and a very unhollywood, logical story direction, made it not only a technical marvel, but also a damn fine piece of cinema.
The Wolfman and Iron Man 2 got a lot of stick from most corners, but I really enjoyed them. Live with it.
My obligatory (not really) British entrees this year are of a very high standard. What I said about the aforementioned Centurion also holds true for the spectacular film Monsters, the difference being that Monsters got great reviews and found its audience, which it certainly deserved to. Not too shabby for a core crew of six people and an FX department that consisted of the director and his home computer. More British filmmakers should think big. Four Lions was always a tough sell, a comedy about Muslim extremist suicide bombers, seems, on the surface at least, controversial and not terribly funny, but from the outset it is clear that tasteless humour is not being derived from race and religious issues, but from human buffoonery on all sides, a classic staple of Chris Morris’ TV output. In fact, the only real ‘controversial’ aspect of Four Lions is that it dares to humanise suicide bombers. All you really need to know is that it’s funny as hell.
Yet again I found myself enjoying DreamWorks output (in one case at least) over Pixar and Ghibli. Everyone in the press went crazy for Toy Story 3, and though I enjoyed it, I was hard pressed to see what all the über-fuss was about, I thought it paled in comparison to the magnificent How To Train Your Dragon. Fun, adventure, romance, underdogs, all you could ever want out of a cinema trip and then some. Also the best 3D all year.
A quick nod to the non-English language entrees you may not have heard of. Mother is a weird Korean whodunit that’ll keep you guessing till the very end. The Illusionist is fantastic but sad French animated film about the declining career of an ageing stage magician. Dream Home is a joyfully sick Hong Kong horror flick that was most welcome in a year of mostly crap horror. And finally, We Are What We Are is a Mexican cannibal family drama, which may sound odd and original, and actually is.
There have been some pretty terrible movies this year too, as with every year, and the obvious choices have been well publicised. The Last Air Bender was a big one, and yes, it is horribly written, and horribly acted, and coldly directed, but it looked kinda nice I think. Jonah Hex is, in every sense of the term, a car wreck of a film, but the films I really hold a dislike for are films that see themselves as being some form or high brow reflection of bohemian thinking, a soapbox, if you will, of importance, but actually saying NOTHING (as with last years Bronson). So it is in this spirit that this years dishonourable mentions go to the Ben Stiller ‘indie’ film Greenberg, a film chock full of horrid characters that obsess over themselves to no ends that I can fathom, and Amer, a European arthouse horror which consists almost entirely of directionless imagery that is dragged out seemingly forever, I can’t even really be bothered to even describe it. Awful.