I feel as if 2010 marked a turning point in movies. Sure, we had our share of blockbusters with Alice in Wonderland crossing $1 billion worldwide and Iron Man 2 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse joining it as the three lone live-action films to cross $300 million. However, after Inception and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, the only other films to cross the $200 million mark domestically were animated features -- Toy Story 3, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After and How to Train Your Dragon. What does that say about this year's crop of films?
Well, first off, I think we all know a film doesn't need to make over $200 million at the box-office for it to be deemed "good." And this year it wasn't as much about the big blockbuster films as much as it was about the little guy that could, and smaller, indie films hit quite a stride. Adding up the reported budgets for six of the films that made my top ten the total comes to only $99.5 million, and only three of the films were made for over $100 million. What's even more surprising about this is the six films I'm referring to aren't obscure art house features or foreign language films you've never heard of. They're films we've been talking about all year long.
However, before I get to my list of ten, let me address a few that didn't make the cut for one reason or another, because to simply diminish a year down to ten films is simply wrong, especially when the gems left on the cutting room floor may become the films that manage to stand the test of time even better than the films that currently reside on top.
My list of Honorable Mentions begins with Anton Corbijn's The American and Sofia Coppola's Somewhere. One is slow and methodical just like its character and the other is slow and meditative just like its director. Both are certain to disappoint and confuse viewers looking for something more while both will also charm, enlighten and enthuse other viewers interested in looking beneath the surface.
Two films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival that missed this list, due to the fact neither has an official 2011 release date as of yet (which made it seem weird to include them on this list even though I saw them in 2010), are Susanne Bier's In a Better World and Massy Tadjedin's Last Night, the latter of which would have actually made my top ten had I been sure it would be getting a 2011 release through Miramax, but the issues with that studio at the moment aren't clear. Nevertheless, you can read my review of Last Night here and my review of In a Better World here for a greater idea of what I loved about each and what to look forward to in 2011.
Here are a few others that didn't make the cut:
- Certified Copy [my review]: This film won Juliette Binoche the Best Actress award at Cannes and will be hitting theaters in March. Be on the lookout, it's a fascinating film that will leave your head spinning.
- The Crazies [my review]: Easily the best horror film I saw this year.
- Despicable Me [my review]: A solid animated movie.
- Dogtooth [my review]: A film that would in no way have caught on with mainstream audiences, but fans of art house features need to seek this one out.
- Get Him to the Greek [my review]: One of the best comedies of the year, though I did find it doesn't necessarily hold up as well to a second viewing. P. Diddy, however, is hilarious no matter how many times you watch it.
- The Ghost Writer [my review]: Solid suspense from Roman Polanski, enticing folks to explore his backlog.
- How to Train Your Dragon [my review]: Another great animated film though I wasn't quite as moved the second time as I was the first.
- Howl [my review]: Did I say art house earlier? This is an ultimate art house film and could probably best be defined as a piece of art itself, more so that pretty much any other film this year.
- The Other Guys [my review]: The second best comedy of the year and the film that showed Kevin Smith how an homage is actually done.
- Remember Me [my review]: Perhaps the most misunderstood film of the year. People called the ending a "twist" which I guess means any time you're walking around your house and you stub your toe it's a twist because you didn't expect to do it. This movie presented events in a way no other film has dared to try, the same way we lived it, without knowing and without warning. And I applaud it for having the guts to do so.
- The Social Network [my review]: It's probably going to win the Best Picture Oscar, but after seeing it twice I was still left thinking that was pretty good, but in no way was I bowled over like the rest of society. Good movie, not great.
- A Town Called Panic [my review]: It technically hit theaters in 2009, but I didn't see it until 2010 and I wanted to add it to the top ten, but I just couldn't find the place for it. So here it sits, one of the oddly most entertaining animated features I have ever seen.
Finally, three films that didn't make my top ten, but dawdled on the outskirts are Biutiful, Rabbit Hole and Winter's Bone. All three of these films feature some of the best performances of the year including Javier Bardem, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Lawrence, Dale Dickey and John Hawkes. However, all three of these films are down in the dumps, emotional train wrecks and when I tend to not be interested in seeing a film again I tend to leave them off my top ten. My lack of interest in seeing these three films again is not a knock against their quality, but a statement regarding their effective use of melancholic drama. Great films all three, but I like to reserve my top ten for those films I will want to watch again and again.
All that said, it's time to break down my ten favorite films of 2010.