My Top 10 Movies of 2010 – Part 1

Woo, two years running. Here’s last year’s, if you’re keeping score. And if you are, that’s pretty weird, so just back off, okay?! Jesus, let a guy breathe here. Okay, narrowing down a Top 10 was rather hellish, as I’m a big geek who watches the shit out of movies rather than, say, being social, so there are plenty that didn’t make the cut but are worthy of comment for one reason or another. So, before I get to the big ten, here are the films deserving of a few lines that get a ruffle of the hair or a thumb to the eye, but no place on the podium.

I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, although it took me a while to warm up to what was a really overpowering style, both visually, and with the too-cool-for-school dialogue. I’m glad I took to it eventually, because that’d probably have marked me out as old. Stylistically, I think you can only do this sort of movie once before it becomes irritating, but as a one-off, it totally works, although I’d guess I was the prime target audience; gamer, nerd, and someone who only ever liked girls that were so far out of my league that it was embarrassing for everybody involved. As great as Cera was in Scott Pilgrim, he was even better in the very different Youth in Revolt, which was a kind of hipster Fight Club, that I really liked a lot.

One of the biggest and most pleasing surprises of the year was a wildly unnecessary straight to DVD sequel that should have been a disaster – Lost Boys 3: The Thirst – that actually turned out to be a riot, while Daybreakers was another strong vampire flick in a market flooded with tiresome fang shit. Incredibly, when you think there’s nothing vampiric that hasn’t already been done, Daybreakers managed to find new and interesting angles for those blood-glugging fucks. Most notably, an awesome car chase where speeding, swerving vamps had to dodge the shards of sunlight poking through the bullet holes in their windshields.

23 years later, a lone Corey Feldman high-five hangs in the air, never to be completed.

With The Other Guys, either you dig Will Ferrell’s “saying ridiculous things in a serious manner” modus or you don’t, but I happen to love it, so thought this was great, although still not as much as the amazing Step Brothers, or what remains the best comedy film since 1984’s This is Spinal Tap; Anchorman. Down Terrace put a nice kitchen sink via Curb Your Enthusiasm spin on the most tiresome genre of all, Brit gangster flicks. Seriously, nine out of ten movies from the UK seem to consist of shitty failed popstars who’ve decided they’re going to “branch out,” or craggy forgotten TV actors of the 80’s swearing a lot while waving a shooter around. But yeah, this was tremendous, and not a Danny Dyer in sight.

The A-Team and Predators were both a lot better than I think we all dreaded they might be – although The A-Team loses a star for that ludicrous CG finale – while The Expendables was, sadly, not the greatest and most manly action movie ever (that’s still Con Air), but fun all the same. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was another film that believed itself to be a lot more than it actually was, which was merely quite entertaining trash, and I’m indescribably tired of rape as a lazy storytelling device as a means to creating damaged, vengeful female characters, or monstrous male villains. It’s pretty funny hearing people whine about the remake, as though Hollywood is about to destroy a flawless piece of high art, and not just a passable, but cliché ridden thriller. Maybe when I’m fat and fifty, I’ll write a bunch of books where the lead character is clearly based on me, and gets to have sex with the young, trendy, unrealistic male fantasy Mary-Sue female, who just happens to like no-strings doin’ it, like, you know, a bloke would.

"Hello! I am exactly what women are like! (If you've never met or seen one)"

Moving on from Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth to actual believable and non-insulting female heroines, Winter’s Bone was a bleak trudge through familiar chicken wire and rape-barn backwoods living, but with fantastic performances by Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, and Lawrence’s I-am-who-I-am family pride that imbued the unending scenes of utter grimness with a stubbornly beating heart. Consequently, a simple moment near the end, which in any other context would have barely registered, becomes amazingly powerful, like falling head-first into a Glastonbury portaloo and later coughing up a penny. Speaking of bleak, medieval plague-era set Black Death was the cinematic equivalent of a warm noose at the end of a hard day. A brooding mix of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General and Apocalypse Now, this was very, very bleak and slow-moving, but was filled, particularly in the ending, with a lot of brave and unusual choices. It’s funny how much more interesting genre movies instantly become when they step away from the accepted, predictable routes. The similarly gritty Centurion was Neil Marshall’s best film since Dog Soldiers, despite the always unwelcome presence of the dreadful Noel Clarke, who gave a real “some random bloke they picked up off the street” level-performance, even by his standards.

Any talk of moving beyond genre clichés cannot be applied to Human Centipede, which was essentially a funny pitch stretched over an entire movie, and a metaphorical chugging locomotive where the carriages may well be joined mouth to anus, but they’re barrelling down a track already laid down by every slasher movie ever all the same. After the initial thrill of giggling and dry heaving at the synopsis was over, general consensus was that people hated it, but really it was no worse executed or less enjoyable than most B-Grade horrors. A2M Gimmick aside, the one noteworthy aspect was the sensationally grotesque performance of the demented German doctor, who will surely find his way onto the shelves of nerds everywhere as a collectable action figure at some point. Plus, it did throw up a 21st century update on the dinner party game Fuck-Marry-Kill, with the question of “Who would you be in a Human Centipede with? And you have to be #2…” (My personal picks are Ellen Page as #1 with Robbie Williams at the back end, chowing down on both our plops)

All aboard the Poo-Poo Train!

Gentleman Broncos (2009 in the US, but out this year over here) got terrible reviews, but I adored it. As with Napoleon Dynamite, Hess created a strange world populated with freakish characters, with his trademark visual and tonal style that might be best described as a retarded Wes Anderson. I can see why people might not take to it, as it’s such an doggedly kooky style that you can either go with that or not, but that’s unfortunate for people who don’t dig Hess, because Gentleman Broncos is a great movie. It’s a lot cleverer than it got credit for, as things get very meta by the end, with various visual representations of the same story as told by different people, like that mythical snake that sucks itself off. In a film filled with bizarre, out-there performances, Nacho Libre’s Héctor Jiménez gives one of the weirdest ever, and I really do mean that in a good way. Even Mike White, who does a great creepy, was off-the-charts bizarre in this one. It’s really a shame that this didn’t take in the way Napoleon Dynamite did, but being that at some points, it’s almost like Dynamite as directed Alejandro Jodorowsky, maybe it was just too much crazy for regular folks.

Kick Ass is a strange one. I did enjoy it at the time, although I wasn’t blown out of my seat, but after it came out, for a while – months, really – a lot of people were acting like it was the greatest movie ever made. It’ll be interesting to see if it shows up on any other yearly favourite lists to figure out if everyone just got overexcited at the time, because I’m not hearing a lot of talk as the year winds down. There was plenty of nice stuff in it, and some great action sequences, but I’m in no rush to ever see it again, and I think my view has been retroactively tainted by reading some of the horrible Daily Mail-style right wing opinions of the director, who bizarrely seems to view Kick Ass as some kind of powerful statement about Broken Britain.

"Your argument is invalid. I am a meme."

Before I get to the really, really good, I should address the bad. I generally don’t see a lot of movies I hate, because I know in advance not to go and see, say, the latest Friedberg and Seltzer, but sometimes the odd turd slips through.

I’m a big fan of biblical realism as a base for horror or action, but all the best bits of Legion were in the trailer. What a waste. Meanwhile, The Losers was the flashiest dull movie ever made. If you want a quote for the poster, I’d suggest, “The Zzzzzzz-Team.” The best part of that film was this amazing hat, which I’m considering buying and adopting for 2011 as a new look. Think I could pull that off?

I expect Clash of the Titans to show up in a lot of Worst Of lists this year, and it’d be thoroughly deserved. Sam Worthington has the screen presence of an old brick resting in a muddy puddle. A lot of stuff happened, I guess, and there were monsters and noises and shouting, and that’s exactly how it stuck in my brain. It’s all just swirling around in some dark, rarely visited corner of my memory, like the detritus after a flood in a village hall. A half-deflated netball; one of those folding tables that indie pro wrestlers dive through; a pinboard with painted handprints of children and a flyer for an amateur production of Sweeney Todd; Liam Neeson in a hobo beard and glowing armour – there it all bobs on the swill, no impact, no emotion. I like to imagine that the studio head who greenlit Clash of the Titans was a Yorkshireman who stood on his chair in a meeting and yelled “Release the cack ‘un!”

More dynamic leading men than this chap: Carrot Top, Otzi the Iceman, a bag of discarded human hair.

Exam took what could have been an interesting premise into utterly needless sci-fi territory, seemingly because they weren’t skilled enough to write themselves out of, potentially, an interesting corner. Exam was garbage, and the worst kind of garbage, the kind that swans around with its nose in the air, convinced that it’s really clever and insightful, asking profound questions about the modern world that the audience will really have to think about. I could tell within the opening ten minutes how Exam was going to end – with that stolen-from-Saw cliché where creepily building music plays over flash-cuts of previous lines that, in hindsight, take on another meaning. A prostate exam > the film Exam.

The Experiment was a massive disappointment. This was one of those films that had been listed on imdb as ‘in development’ for years, with various exciting looking potential casts, and then suddenly it just showed up on DVD in 2010 with no fanfare at all. One suspects, because it was shit. Seemingly they based it on the fantastic German original, Das Experiment, and with the actual Stanford Prison Experiment as background, it’s not like there was a lack of interesting places to go with the story when they decided to deviate. The original was a bit wacky in places, but had some incredibly powerful scenes – particularly with the lonely news-vendor – and character turns that pushed regular people into the absolute extremes of human behaviour, while still feeling believable. Not so here. Everything’s so quick and pointless; a crib-notes version, with character arcs so woefully inept that nothing matters because they’ll all go crazy at the drop of a hat. It’s not like there’s a bad cast to blame, either. The buttoned-down prison officer who goes psycho when he gets a taste of power is played by noted pretty-good-at-acting guy, Forest Whitaker. Unfortunately, he’s working with a script of such hammer-blunt subtleties, that the scene where he gets his first rush of authority consists of Forest literally staring aghast at the boner poking out against the fabric of his trousers. Oh, and there’s another lazy bunch of “look, this guy’s bad, he’s doing a rape!” garbage too. The one redeeming feature, although it isn’t really, because she’s underutilised as always, is the casting of Maggie Grace, who’s so unbelievably hot she’s like a living airbrush painting by some crazy guy who just wanks all day. If I ever get famous enough to adapt Preacher into an HBO mini-series, she’s totally my Tulip.

"Until the end of the world, Jesse..."

Alright, now you all get to digesting that, and prepare yourselves, because coming soon are the Top 10 Movies of 2010. Having seen what didn’t make my Top 10, any guesses as to what did? Leave a comment, yo.

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~ by Stuart on December 14, 2010.

18 Responses to “My Top 10 Movies of 2010 – Part 1”

  1. I have seen almost none of those movies, I think. Pretty rare I find a list like that, so nice work! Looking forward to the Top 10!

    • Thanks 🙂

      And wow, almost none?! Beware, I plan on mining you for recommendations in 2011, seeing as we both seem to watch an awful lot of movies, but mostly very different ones.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stuart Millard, Stuart Millard. Stuart Millard said: Hold on to your hats, insomniacs and Americans, Part 1 of my 2010 movie round-up is here. Rejoice, read, comment.: […]

  3. Good opening salvo to what’s sure to be an impressive monster of a list. I don’t really have much to nitpick (because I’m saving it for when you start calling things I don’t like awesome 😉 ) but I do have a few points.

    – Glad your old man sensibilities came around on Scott Pilgrim. I love that movie unabashedly. It was criminal how ignored it was.

    – You are right about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and people are stupid. I expect I’ll be getting into fistfights when people start talking about not seeing it due to it being a remake. I think if anyone could elevate the pulpy source material, it’s Fincher.

    – I ended up completely unmoved by Winter’s Bone. Maybe because I’ve known people very much like those in the film, and they rarely engender any sort of sympathy. I felt that Jennifer Lawrence’s character was far too perfect to connect with in this world.

    – The Human Centipede is destined for midnight movie greatness, which was where I first saw it. A full theater full of people who know what kind of garbage they’re about to see makes that movie a laugh riot, as it should be.

    – Kick Ass is weird, because I feel the main plot stuff is kind of awful. But Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz sell their hyperviolent fantasy as something surprisingly more vicious and more touching that I expected. Things go real bad for both of them, as they should. I appreciate that. Also, Nic Cage is the crazy Frank Miller Batman we sadly never saw put on film.

    – Clash of the Titans is a steaming pile. Sam Worthington is an even bigger steaming pile. These are not opinions, but facts of life.

    That’s all for now. Sorry about the length.

    • It will be interesting to see what Fincher does with Dragon Tattoo. You’re definitely right that he has the potential to elevate it beyond its roots.

      Winter’s Bone took me a while to get into. I really wasn’t feeling it for the first half, because it’s so subdued, but the main character just kinda clicked, and once I could identify with her and her relationship to her family, I totally got into it.

      Human Centipede sounds amazing as a midnight movie. It’s a Freddy Got Fingered for the 21st century!

      Cage – as he always is – was the best thing about Kick Ass. I found the main character pretty obnoxious, and for a movie that seemed to revel in pushing beyond comic book cliches, the nerdy guy was way too quick to get the girl. I was waiting for a rejection punchline to that scene where they kiss, but when that didn’t happen, I soured a bit on the rest of the movie and its intentions.The thought of a Dark Knight Returns adaptation in ten years with Nic Cage is sending me into nerd apoplexy, though.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and no need to apologize for length when replying to a post that you could beat someone to death with if you printed it out.

      • The fact that he got the girl was definitely the biggest thing that killed that film a bit for me.

  4. The film of Dragon Tattoo suffers from the usual things that plague book-to-film translations: cramming in the scenes you like and plonking it up on screen. There’s so much that goes on in Lisbeth’s head in the books, and surprisingly it never traversed on to the film version. The sex-only relationship netween Salander and Blomqvist is also explored with much more intrigue, and it’s plain that there’s only a sexual fascination between them and little else.

    • I must admit, I haven’t actually read the books, so maybe I’m being unfairly snarky. Perhaps Fincher will get some of that stuff across better. It just makes me scratch my head at how highly regarded the films, particularly the first one, are, and your comments aside, totally without the usual “Oh, the book was SO much better…” to counter how lacklustre they are.

      • Never doubt people’s tendency towards giving foreign movies a lot more leeway. Especially if they don’t watch a lot of foreign movies. But even critics are prone to giving things a pass that would never fly if it was an English movie.

      • The film is an excellent translation of page to screen in terms of getting a lot of stuff over and ditching a lot of fluff, but obviously that internal dialogue is gone. I suspect this is what’s grating you.

        I’m not claiming it’s a masterpiece or anything, but the film is markedly improved when viewed as a companion to the book. (Matt makes a good point too).

      • Yeah, good call. There’s definitely a tendency to miss the emperor’s genitals if he’s got a foreign accent.

  5. The only one I’ve seen out of all these is Daybreakers. Fuck, I’m a lazy, bad excuse for a film watching person. I did see The Final Destination 3D where I saw a man being crushed against a criss-cross metal gate by a truck and his back guts came out through the criss-cross metal gate like a mincing machine. In 3D. Or was that last year? Fuck it.

    I refuse to watch any Matthew Vaughn films on principle. He’s partly responsible for Guy Ritchie’s career and filmed David Cameron’s first party political shitcast. In his article for The Sun in praise of the Tories, he stated that “Gordon Brown is VHS, David Cameron is DVD”… I’m burning and weeing on all my DVDs right now.

    • I have shamefully seen Final Destination 3D too, although not in 3D. That may be the weakest admission ever.

      All that Vaughn stuff is pretty awful. One of those cases where I have a really hard time separating the artist from their views/behaviour.

  6. […] My Top 10 Movies of 2010 – Part 1 […]

  7. […] Preamble, Top […]

  8. […] The Preamble — Top […]

  9. […] The Preamble — Top […]

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