TMBF's Top 10 Movies of 2010 ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Friday, January 7, 2011

TMBF's Top 10 Movies of 2010

Sigh, I know, I know, most movie critics publish their top 10 movies of the year during the last few days of that year. But lateness is par for the course here at Casa TMBF, and my only excuse was that the last couple of reviews I took forever had to write were for films that I knew were getting a place on the list.

Unlike 2009, this year there were no films I gave 5 stars to, and the lower end of the Top 10 consists of 4-starrers. Does that mean 2010 was a particularly bad year for cinematic quality? James Berardinelli thinks so - but allow me a little navel-gazing self-reflectiveness. See, I think I'm still kinda new to this, this film critic business. This time last year, I was already doubting the ratings I had given to a few movies ((500) Days of Summer was good, but not really that good), and even now I'm wishing I could go back to a few reviews and knock a half-star off, or even add one on.

But maybe I'm just thinking too much about it. Film criticism is an inherently subjective business anyhow, and the whole point of a year-end list is to look back on the year's movies with a little more perspective. I can't really say that 2010 was a worse year than any other, and perhaps when I've got a couple more movie-reviewing years under my belt I can be a little more insightful about cinematic trends and portents. For now, these are what I thought were the best films of 2010, ranked in ascending order of bestness:

10. Let Me In - There are only two reasons why this film isn't higher on the list. One is the chattering teenagers in my cinema, which really isn't the movie's fault; and the other is the cartoony CGI Abby, which kinda is. But you'll not find a moodier, more disturbing and more shockingly daring horror movie this year - and yes, it is better than the original.

9. Up in the Air - I wasn't sure if it belonged here, since it's a 2009 release everywhere else in the world. But since it didn't get into last year's list, here it is, because it is that good. You can criticize it for being essentially a modern-day Scrooge story, which it is - but it is adapted to the modern day with wit, intelligence, timeliness, and three flawless lead performances.

8. Buried - A devilishly clever premise, brought to life in all its nightmarish horror, that still manages to sneak in some timely satire. I still wonder about the people (*coughLowyatposterscough*) who thought it was boring, and I think it's because they watch movies at an emotional distance; they can't imagine themselves trapped in that coffin along with Paul Conroy. Their loss.

7. Paranormal Activity - Another strictly-speaking 2009 movie that deserves a place in a best-of list, regardless of the year. A testament to simplicity, both in its miniscule budget as well as how its brand of horror gets under your skin without gore or cheap jump-scares. (Well, maybe a couple.) Also the perfect rejoinder to local filmmakers who whine "jangan bandingkan filem kita dengan filem barat yang memakan belanja berjuta dolar."

6. How to Train Your Dragon - There's virtually nothing fresh or original about this story, but there's virtually not a single misstep it takes in telling it. This is popcorn blockbuster filmmaking done right - nay, done perfectly, that puts as much care into the characters and their relationships as it does the (awesome) action scenes. And if I were compiling a list of top 10 soundtracks of 2010, John Powell's work on this would be right at the top.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Okay, maybe it's getting a slightly unfair boost because it's still fresh in my mind. But I was ready to give it 4 stars, and maybe a spot at #7 or #8, before I watched it a second time, and I decided to revise my rating upward. This is a film with a great deal to say about the messy tangle of human relationships - oh, and it also has videogame battles and comicbook-style "Biffs" and "Pows". Never thought the two could work together, much less complement each other? They do.

4. The Social Network - Ah, the pleasures of deliciously quotable dialogue. But for the pleasures of a penetrating character study, a slightly more refined palate is in order. This movie could've been many things: it could've been an examination of how Facebook changed the nature of social interaction; it could've been a tribute to technological ingenuity; it could've been a strictly factual account of the development of Facebook. Instead, it's the story of the human drives and weaknesses behind how Facebook came to be, and it's terrific for what it is.

Fair Game - Another film whose place in this list probably benefits from my having recently watched it. Maybe it's me; I really really like movies about extremely intelligent, exceptionally capable people facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. This movie is that, plus it is a love story, plus it is timely and relevant, plus it is a genuinely suspenseful thriller. It may not be on many critics' best-of-year lists, but it's got pride of place on mine.

2. Inception - This list includes both films that introduce new ideas, as well as films that tell old stories well. But in terms of fresh, original, and sheer frickin' brilliant, nothing else beats Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. No other movie sparked off as many discussions and debates. No other movie hooked its audience, consisting of everyday undiscerning Malaysian moviegoers, not with special effects but with ideas. No other movie introduced them to the idea that a movie that makes them think could actually be enjoyable.

1. Toy Story 3 - Again, no apologies for the fact that this is the second Pixar movie in a row to top my list. This is the single most ambitious film of the year - yes, more so than Inception - because it deals with mortality, loss, heartbreak and the nature of love in an animated film for kids. And it's a second sequel, carrying on storylines and themes from two previous installments, and it works on every single level. Like Scott Pilgrim, it's incredibly fun on the surface but has a huge depth of meaning under it - like a sinfully sweet dessert that is also a super-nutritious meal. That may be a culinary impossibility, but Toy Story 3 proved it can be done cinematically. I was far too stingy in my initial rating - it is a well-deserved 5-star film.

Honourable Mentions: Rapunzel: A Tangled Tale, Shutter Island, Little Big Soldier, Merantau Warrior

Best Malaysian Film: Ice Kacang Puppy Love - Yes, pickings were slim amongst homegrown movies this year - not that it's ever been much better any year - but I never had any doubt that I would end up naming Aniu's directorial debut as the best of 2010. Other filem tempatan may have been more consistently enjoyable, but this one had something to say, a life lesson to impart. It wasn't imparted as well as it could've been, but this was the only local production that even made an attempt at telling an insightful and meaningful story. I'm still waiting for Aniu's next.

The same caveat from last year applies; this list only comprises films that were released in cinemas in Malaysia (with one exception), which means it doesn't include a lot of the real best films of 2010 - or at least, the ones that are on most critics' lists. But I certainly hope I'll find time to watch the likes of Black Swan, The King's Speech, Winter's Bone, 127 Hours, Never Let Me Go, True Grit - and you just know some of those didn't make it here due to cinema distributors rather than the censors - and possibly maybe please-don't-hold-me-to-it review them here. Although if they do make it to our screens, I'll review 'em for sure. Hopefully.

So, goodbye to 2010, and yay to 2011, which will be bringing us Thor, The Green Lantern, Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom, Cowboys and Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, and perhaps even a few movies with concise titles. It's easy to tell which are the ones that are sure to make it to local cinemas, because hey, this is Malaysia. Gotta take what we get.


Ken Wooi said...

i think inception should be at no 1.. haha :)

fadz said...

inception in this list is def my no.1