Traditional top ten lists are for excellence in film making, achievement on artistic merit and recognition of special accomplishments. I have a different criteria for my first list on this blog. These were simply the movies that I got the most satisfaction from seeing, usually an emotional response, but easily measured by a simple critical standard-would I pay full price to see it again?
This is my favorite movie of the year. I paid full price to see it three times in theaters and sat through one of those trips twice. I have it on my i-pod and watch part of it every week. Roger Ebert says it is hateful and disgusting, Roger you are further away from the critic I once loved watching every week. I still respect you but you are off on this. Hit Girl is my favorite character in movies in the last five years and Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy is hysterical. The use of music is wonderful and the integration of a comic in the story was excellent. I am not a comic book guy but I appreciated the way this movie gets that culture.
This may be the best movie on the list. The story is wonderful, the actors are perfectly cast, the movie is paced well and it looks terrific. I have three animated movies on my list and Pixar is represented but it was not the best this year. I love Toy Story 3, it will appear momentarily, but it is not as fresh and surprising as this was. I laughed a lot and I cried as well. I even went out looking for the toy. If we are talking about award worthy films, this should be on your list also.
For serious lists of great films this year, you will find this movie. For my list it appears because of the emotional resonance. The story concerns facing your fears, as the world is being confronted by the greatest threat to civilization that ever was. The two leads are amazing, and I expect both will be awarded many honors. Any movie that points out the nobility of those that stood up in World War 2, even this indirectly, has some value to it. I just saw it and expect I will see it a couple more times before it makes it to home video as the Academy Award winning best picture of 2010.
I told you it was coming, Pixar so far has not made a movie that I have not loved. Most third films in a series are weak payoffs and simply designed to generate cash. This movie like it's predecessor, exists for good logical story telling reasons and it brings us back in contact with characters that we have loved for more than fifteen years. It also brings all of us back to the wonders of childhood and the beauty of real imagination. Like Meryl Streep has a permanent place on Oscar lists each year for the quality of her work, Pixar fits the same mold for animation.
You can read a full commentary on this film in the blog on another posting. I am surprised at how much I liked it because I am a huge fan of the original. Jeff Bridges is no John Wayne, but he takes this part in a different direction primarily through actor's choices, and it works. The movie is beautiful to look at as well.
Maybe you don't expect a horror movie to make this kind of a list, but this is a sharp little movie with a lot of things going for it. The story is creepy enough to freak you out, there is a lot of tension and atmosphere. All of the actors do a solid job, but the sheriff and his deputy deserve special praise. I am a sucker for a small budget film that accomplishes everything it sets out to do, this movie meets that criteria.
What else is there to say? Aaron Sorkin writes dialog that actors should kill to do, and he put together a story that gets to the ideas and themes he wants regardless of fidelity to the truth. David Fincher is a great director, who's best film "Zodiac" was ignored a few years ago, and now he is getting appropriate recognition. This movie is entertaining as hell and will make you worry about the future of civilization at the same time.
A movie most of you will never have heard of, featuring the best performance of Andy Garcia's career. He is truly funny and honest in this slice of life comedy set in a odd location in NYC. I can't promise anyone who reads this the same deal, but if you know me, and you rent this movie and do not enjoy it, I will pay for your rental. How is that for a guarantee? The rest of you, check it out, it is not the finest movie ever made but it is a sharp funny and touching two hours that is a better way to spend your time than 95% of the other things you might be doing.
I'm old enough to enjoy the idea of older actors hamming it up just to show that they still have it. This will never win any awards but it will entertain you and make you wish that Bruce Willis never stops playing hard guy characters and that Morgan Freeman was in everything. Stuff explodes, wisecracks get made and John Malkovich goes over the top, what could be better?
This was a movie I knew nothing about, had minimal expectations for and is really not designed for me at this stage of my life. I loved it. I was surprised by the tone of the film, the cleverness of the dialog and the visual images. I saw it in 3-D and enjoyed it despite that. The minions in the movie are worth the price of admission, but there is a warm-hearted story here regardless of what the title implies.
There are other notable films, I will have a couple of more postings for you. I limited myself to movies I actually saw, and this year I was below my annual average. I went to see about 55 films in theaters this year, and on the next posting I'm going to share why that list shoud have been smaller. For now Happy New Year.