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December 30, 2010

Tom's Top 5 Movies of 2010

2010 was quite a year for me. I have a select few directors that I follow with great passion and it seems that the fates conspired to give me a film from each of them this year. I can be quite biased, and have no problem admitting this, so these directors tend to get glowing reviews from me despite any faults. They have yet to make a movie that I consider less than stellar but that is mostly because everything they do has an affect on me. Here is my (slightly spoilerish) list of totally biased favorites.

5. The Kids Are All Right

In an age where movies prefer dysfunctional families over a cohesive household, it was refreshing to see a movie about a family that loves each other and gets along just fine. Sure, there's an affair here, a bit of alcoholism there and more than a few white lies but when it's all said and done, the clan in The Kids Are All Right come out ok.

It's been mentioned before that this is a more important accomplishment since the parents are a lesbian couple but I think it really just helps to underline that there are real families like this in the world. It's far from a Brady Bunch-style happy-go-lucky brood but the interactions between the mothers and their children show a genuine warmth. These ladies are going through a similar rut most traditional families do but the film never makes a grandstanding "message" out of the whole deal. They're lesbians with a family and they work through their troubles with humor and honesty.

It's no small accomplishment that this was given a wide release, don't get me wrong. The sheer quality of the acting, writing and directing are what let the movie stand on its own feet. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

4. Inception

Anybody who has followed Christopher Nolan's work since Memento (if you're a fan of Following, more power to you) has known what he's capable of. He's intelligent and has big ideas for the way a movie can work. He seems to revel in the challenge of putting the usual conventions to pasture and trying things in a new way. An action blockbuster about thieves in your mind? Sign me up!

A lot of people complained that the movie was too literal, that there was too much exposition, that he eschewed conventional stereotypes in some places only to rely on them too heavily in others. While this is all certainly true it can all be forgiven for the ideas underneath. It might have been nice to let the audience figure out the rules of the world Nolan created but it might have just translated into a more confused audience, with more nitpicking online than there already was.

Overall, we got an awesome action picture with big ideas if you cared to look for them. Whether or not the dream stopped at the end or kept going was not the point. We as the audience were treated to a wonderful dream come true when Nolan pulled off this nifty miracle of a movie.

3. The Social Network

When it was announced that David Fincher was set to direct a movie about Facebook, I almost couldn't believe it. I had been supremely entertained by everything he'd directed up to that point and the thought of a movie being made about a website just seemed absurd. Somehow, beyond all logic, it wasn't.

Computer programmers, legal depositions and lengthy monologues shouldn't sound like riveting stuff but Fincher and Aaron Sorkin pulled it off. They set out to showcase the personalities of competing geniuses, the people responsible for doing incredible things yet held back by the petty problems of us mere mortals. To think that someone as rich, powerful and cyber-popular as Mark Zuckerberg is insecure enough to want validation from an ex-girlfriend is almost touching.

Much was made in the media about how much of this story was true or imagined for dramatic purposes. This movie could be about completely fictional people and it would hold up. It's a fantastic drama that, quite frankly, doesn't get made too often these days.

2. Black Swan

I cannot emphasize enough how much Black Swan affected me emotionally. Aronofsky has always seen fit to attack the emotional core of his audience with a sledgehammer when getting his points across. Some people can see this coming and deftly avoid it. I tend to stand like a lump and get my heart obliterated every time. It's like the man is reaching out and squeezing the tears out of me himself.

Nina Sayers isn't the most likable protagonist but Aronofsky never actually labels her as one. He just centers his movie on her and lets her exist in an increasingly fractured world. I have only ever seen one ballet in my life and this movie did more to showcase the dedication and stress that it requires than anything I've seen before. Nina seems to be tortured by her very mind until she embraces her madness and we're given a rousing, whiteout finale of peace and excitement. No small task, that.

Maybe Aronofsky is too obvious for some. You could certainly treat his films like a sort of demented MadLibs for damaged main characters. I can't fault him for this as he makes his movies work. The fact that he's signed on to do the next Wolverine movie should be a sign that he'll move on from the dreary drama of tragic figures. Knowing Wolverine's backstory, though, maybe not.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Anybody who knows me could tell you that this was inevitable. I stood for hours to see the world premier at this year's Comic Con. I bought over 26 tickets when it was finally released. 6 of those tickets were for me, the rest were for others. I could not get enough of this movie and it will be one that I cherish for years.

Edgar Wright has done some amazing work in his time but this is just ridiculous. He brought us Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Out of absolutely nowhere he then rips the rules of traditional comic book adaptations to shreds. He incorporates all of the video game and pop culture references that my generation has grown up with and makes a kickass action movie about a nerd who falls in love. It certainly sounds impossible but he makes it look easy.

It is a true testament to this film's quality when I say that everyone I have recommended this to has come away loving it. You don't have to have read the books (though it helps a little) and you certainly don't have to have played a lot of video games (it would probably help more) because Scott seems to be someone that we all know. Sure, maybe he cheated a little without thinking of the consequences first. He ends up learning his lesson about maturing enough to own up to your mistakes in the pursuit of the affection of others.

This is a monumental achievement for Edgar Wright and everyone else involved in bringing Scott Pilgrim to the screen. I could not thank them enough for their hard work but the least I can do is honestly say that this film is my favorite of the year. Probably of the last 5 years. I'll love it into the far future. Especially a future with jetpacks.