2 January 2011

The Mad Prophet's Top 25 Films of 2010- #10-1

"Them bad films can't hurt you no more..."

We are now in Flavour Country. Here come my top ten favourite films of 2010, and you can see what they are, after the jump...

Let's clear up, as ever, these are the films I consider to be the best of the year, but they're tempered by my personal favouritism as well. If you can see many appreciable flaws in, let's say, Buried, that I haven't mentioned, it doesn't mean I didn't notice them, just that I liked the film irrespective of any reasons why you didn't like it. And anyway, snark about my choices when YOU'VE watched 150 films. I even watched The Last Airbender! Twice!

In the interest of diversifying, you now have the choice of watching the video highlights reel that counts down my top 10 films, or scrolling down and reading why I liked them so much. Or both. Like last year's post then, really.

So as you all get to thinking you prefer my reviews when you didn't have to look at me, let's rationalise some of these picks, starting with number 10...

10. Buried (dir. Rodrigo Cortes) 

Buried is the film where you spend 90 minutes in a coffin with Ryan Reynolds, and that's much better than I ever would have anticipated. Cortes makes phenomenal use of the 6 by 3 space in which his movie is located, even managing to execute something of an action sequence in one particularly tense moment. He doesn't just rely on his surprisingly excellent leading man to carry the film, and he really got points from me for getting Stephen Tobolowsky on the phone for a skin-crawling supporting role.

On-screen for the whole film however, Reynolds gives the performance of his career to date by making you want to stay with him even in a consummately constructed nightmare scenario that leaves you gasping for air throughout.

9. Cemetery Junction (dir. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant)

An unexpected turn from the creators of The Office and Extras, the slightly more sober Cemetery Junction is an overlooked British gem this year. It's a sunny and nostalgic look at coming of age in 1970s Britain that also has some very profound romantic themes. It's not that there aren't touching moments of sentiment their other work, but this one is still more cinematic and perhaps more heartfelt than anything they've done before, without ever being totally deadpan.

A terrific ensemble cast and a script that's as moving as it is funny make Cemetery Junction worth seeking out on DVD, where I suspect it will do much better than it did in cinemas. It might be more something more restrained than fans of Ricky Gervais are accustomed to seeing, but it balances realism with nostalgia and once again casts Ralph “I Am Lord Voldemort” Fiennes as a magnificent bastard. Seek it out.

8. Rare Exports (dir. Jalmari Helander)

Christmas may have been and gone for another year, but if you didn't see Rare Exports, add it to your New Years resolutions- “watch Rare Exports at Christmas”. It's a darkly hilarious Finnish film that pulls apart the image of the Coca Cola Santa Claus piece by piece, instead setting loose the more monstrous legend behind the image in his native Lapland.

The cast are just what they need to be, and it pulls you into the thing nicely. It's a bit like Gremlins, in tone and in subject, but it finds time for references to The Thing and Raiders of the Lost Ark too. It's not an exploitation film like some might expect, and it left me feeling very Christmassy indeed. Rare Exports is a festive pleasure I'm definitely going to be revisiting in years to come.

7. Shutter Island (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have gone together very well over the last eight years of collaborations together, and Shutter Island keeps that going. It's a psychological thriller that hearkens back to the paranoia of certain Alfred Hitchcock films, but it's bolstered by its more contemporary mode of filmmaking to make for a very involving prestige horror film.

The elephant in the room is the allegedly predictable twist, but I defy anyone to have figured out the exact terms on which the film ends before we actually see it. Shutter Island even becomes accountable for its own contrivances, and Scorsese clearly appreciates that pulling the rug out from underneath the audience in a film that's largely grounded in reality is often more scary than the more popular supernatural strata of horror.

6. Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn)

All I initially had to say when I came out of this was bloody fuckin' yeah, and that's still a sentiment that captures the experience of the film very well. Of course we also must look upon it as the British independent success story of the year, in exactly the same way that Monsters isn't. This is a big budget film that more than holds its own against less interesting comic book films that got their money handed out from studios.

It's irreverent, but still quite sweet in places, and in that much, it supersedes the Mark Millar series that it's based on. Most importantly, it's buckets of fun, with excellent performances from all of the cast and the gumption to go all out without being wilfully offensive or alienating. Bloody fuckin' yeah, ladies and gents. Bloody fuckin' yeah.

5. The Secret in Their Eyes (dir. Juan José Campanella)

While the critics' golden boys A Prophet and The White Ribbon set out to repulse and dehumanise, The Secret In Their Eyes is inclusive and sympathetic. Those critics used this film's much deserved Best Foreign Language Film Oscar as a stick to beat it with, never stopping to realise this is actually a much better film. The Secret In Their Eyes is a deeply romantic and thoughtful film that also has the capacity to shock and grip its audience with its powerful murder mystery.

I also have a great deal of admiration for Campanella, not only for his stunning direction, which integrates dazzling flourishes into a piece that's very subtle over all, but for his jubilant approach at the Academy Award podium, smiling even as the fucking rude orchestra played him off so Mo'Nique would have time to blather on later as she accepted a statuette. Campanella has made a stunning thriller about justice, love and a broken typewriter- unmissable and unforgettable.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (dir. Edgar Wright)

Simultaneously a homage to many different mediums, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film destined for cult greatness in the way that most films considered to be comic book flops definitely won't. Edgar Wright scores a near flawless victory with a film that's a romantic comedy at heart, crossing over the dynamic of John Hughes teen movies with the visual style of Mortal Kombat, and a banging soundtrack to boot.

To tell people about it is to do it a disservice when it's really much better when experienced. The studio didn't know how to market it because it's got so much going on, and even if it threatens to overbalance, it's remarkably composed for a film whose characters explode into coins in defeat. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fun and subversive romcom that will soon find its wider audience in a big way.

3. The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)

Here's where that best vs. favourite thing comes into play, because The Social Network is probably the best film of the year, but it's not my favourite. It's not through any lack of emotional attachment on my part- there were just three films I liked more than this. It's definitely not to say that I don't like The Social Network a lot, because it's fantastic and unflinching, and it builds in your estimation for days after you first see it.

Aaron Sorkin's masterful script sits at the centre of a consummate construction that comprises David Fincher's artful direction and the terrific roles played by all of the cast, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerburg and more surprisingly, Justin Timberlake as the obsessive Sean Parker. It's a seminal film, defining an epoch without ever judging it, and making it accessible even for people who've never even touched Facebook.

2. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Leonardo DiCaprio mourning his dead wife in an altered state of mind? No, it's not Shutter Island 2, it's Christopher Nolan's follow-up The Dark Knight- a risky statement in favour of smart blockbuster cinema. It's not perfect, but it's at least as close to smart cinema as you could ever hope to get from a film that costs $180 million to make. As with his other films, it's weathered the backlash and for me at least, that South Park episode actually enhanced my enjoyment of the film thereafter.

Just as he did for his Batman films, Nolan assembles a very talented cast, and no single one of them is bigger than the plot, which is rare enough in itself for a blockbuster film on this scale. And as a great lover of practical effects, was there a single frame of that corridor fight that I wasn't going to like? From the effects to the cast, via the lovely honking soundtrack, Inception is a dazzling effort that's meant to get you thinking rather than lull your brain into submission.

1. Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)

You can count the number of great third instalments on one hand, and Toy Story 3 takes pride of place on one of my fingers at the very top of the pile in 2010. Some will speculate that Pixar is due to end their stunning run of great films with upcoming sequels to Cars and Monsters Inc, but if this is the standard of sequel they turn out, there's no reason to suspect those films won't be fantastic too.

Compelling storytelling and genuine affection for the most-loved characters of a young generation make it a worthy sequel to its predecessors, and pitches to grown-ups without ever shutting the door on an adoring younger audience. The ending to this film had me shaking with emotion, and it continues to get me on repeat viewings- join in if you know the words, kids- Pixar can do no wrong. They pull out all the stops to make Toy Story 3 the cap on a pretty much perfect trilogy.

Revisit Toy Story 3 Week
Related reading- #25-11 and the Bottom 10.
There we have it then. To agree or disagree, or talk about my choices in general, leave a comment below! For me, the New Year in filmgoing begins this evening, when I catch The King's Speech (reviewed later in the week). It's pretty exhausting, racing to do all this end-of-year coverage in the last week of the year. 2011 requires more planning, I suspect.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


Tin said...

Hello Mark! I am reading your blog and thought I would let you know that I wanted to die during Scott Pilgrim. And where is the new Harry Potter?! For comedy value it should totally be there. Anyway, I will now go away and watch the Social Network as I wanted to see it but then didn't and now will...lalala goodbye! Martina

ps - it's a nice blog mate.

Mark said...

Hey, Martina!
Social Network's definitely worth a look, and Harry Potter fell somewhere outside the top 10.
And you're still wrong about Scott Pilgrim. :P


Nick Lyons said...

Wonderful list! I really want to see The Secret in their Eyes. But I disagree with #4 being Scott Pilgrim. The story and characters really fell flat for me, though the movie was visually dazzling and quite funny.