Adventures in Movie Watching 2010

Right so here's my favourite 20 films of the year, please note this list is from December 2009 to December 2010 as I don't usually go to the cinema in December, so I catch up with these movies during the year. Anyway if you disagreed with my list of favourite albums prepare to be even more perplexed by this list.

20. MacGruber - dir. Jorma Taccone. Right so straight off I've lost a lot of you, but I thought this was great. Don't get me wrong a lot of the humour wasn't subtle in the least, but it made me laugh a lot. The film is actually too good parodying certain action films that there are large parts of the film that drag and are nonsensical, in the action movie tradition of "Did I just see that? Did someone actually think that was a good idea?", but this film also contains the funniest sex scenes of all time.

19. Le Concert - dir. Radu Mihaileanu. An enjoyable comedy centering around a band of Russian musicians pretending to be the Bolshoi orchestra after an unfairly disgraced conductor, now working as a cleaner there, intercepts an invitation from Châtelet Theater in Paris for the Bolshoi to perform and decides to go for it and gather his old band mates and go to Paris himself. Plenty of jokes about the old USSR abound and touching performances from Aleksey Gusov, Dmitri Nazarov (he's a chubby Howard Moon, Boosh fans!) and Melanie Laurent make this an extremably watchable film.

18. Crazy Heart - dir. Scott Cooper. Jeff Bridges' Oscar winning performance and the amazing soundtrack are obviously the most noteworthy things about this movie, however I must say this is only the second time I can ever say that I was genuinely impressed with Colin Farrell's acting after In Bruges.

17. A Prophet - dir. Jacques Audiard. Following on from The Beat My Heart Skipped, Audiard returned with another film about criminals, this time centering on an immigrant who gets mixed up in the French jail system. Powerful performances all round make this a complelling watch, however sequences of a dead person talking to the main character was a little too jarring or theatrical for me considering how gritty the rest of the film was. 

16. A Single Man - dir. Tom Ford. Colin Firth stars as a middle aged academic struggling to come to terms with the death of his lover, played by Matthew Goode (Watchmen, this and Leap Year! what a couple of years). The film is beautifully shot, and looks amazing throughout as do most of the characters, which is why it's slightly annoying when everyone constantly keeps telling Firth he looks terrible. In saying all that though the film is very effective when dealing with a man torn between holding his emotions and feelings in check and wanting to deal with the pain and grief he feels, which he at the time isn't allowed to openly, and it is this that Firth pulls off brilliantly.

15. Kick-Ass - dir. Matthew Vaughn. When I watched this I loved the audience's reactions to it, constantly being shocked at the violence and the presence of an eleven year old girl in most of the action, even though let's face it, there's far worse out there. Loved Nic Cage's Adam West tribute and also good to see to him being funny again. Also liked the fact the main character doesn't make that good a superhero as it turns out that the mentally damaged characters are much much better, don't know if that was what I was meant to take from it though.

14. Gentlemen Broncos - dir.Jared Hess. From the team that brought you Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre was probably enough for this film to get greenlit but not to get people to go see it. Hess creates another odd world of weird quirks but this time sets it in the world of fantasy fiction where a struggling celebrated author Ronald Chevalier steals a kid's novel that he finds while teaching a workshop and passes it off as his own. The scenes from the novel are played out on screen with Sam Rockwell playing the main character with a fair amount of relish and he really looks like he's enjoying it as does Jemaine Clement as Chevalier, but Mike White as the weird neighbour with the snakes nearly steals the whole show. If you hate Wes Anderson's style you should really test yourself against this!

13. Greenberg - dir. Noah Baumbach. Ben Stiller plays a character struggling with himself and the world and looking after his brother's house. He manages to over-think everything in his life to a point where he sees no sense in doing anything, however he does try and reconnect with his old life, friends and girlfriend with mixed and mainly painful results. Hope for him comes in the shape of his brother's nanny played by Greta Gerwig who seems to accept him for who he is, which immediatley scares him. Baumbach and Stiller and Gerwig's character manage to make you feel sympathetic to him by the end of the movie or at least see where he's coming from even if its clear he can't figure out where he's going.

12. Dogtooth - dir. Giorgos Lanthimos. A haunting Greek film that deals with the craziest family ever on screen. The parents seem intent on keeping their children locked away from all the dangers of the world and constantly lie to them and it's this censorship of reality and the rest of the world that leads to more problems than you can ever imagine.

11. Micmacs - dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The first of two films on the list to deal with terrorism in a slightly cartoony way, Jean-Pierre Jeunet returned with an as always fantastically cinematic and visually arresting film. It centres around a man whose father was killed by a mine, and who then in turn is accidentally shot by a bullet while working in a video store one night, who decides to take on the two weapons companies involved, after he meets up with a gang who live in the local dump. Sounds crazy? Well it is, nothing in this film is grounded in reality at all and that's why it works as far as I'm concerned.

10. Exit Through The Gift Shop - dir. Banksy. Speaking of reality this 'documentary' about street art, or is it about Thierry Guetta, a man who compulsively filmed all of the street artists at work, or is it about taking on 'the documentary' itself, what is real or can be made look real, or an attack on the commercial end of art, the power of hype or all of the above? Doesn't really matter, it's as interesting, and even as fun as you could have hoped for when you walked in.

9. Four Lions - dir. Chris Morris. Other than the fact that this is about terrorists you could say this belongs to the blueprint of classic British comedies from the fifties or Ealing era. The film is basically a bunch of bungling idiots trying to pull off a heist, but in this case it's a bombing. I always warm to comedies dealing with people who think they're smart but clearly aren't and in this case every single thing they say and do is so idiotic that you forget that this is actually a dark subject matter. "Fuck mini babybels" as a rally cry against the oppressive capitalist West tells you what you're dealing with!

8. Jackass 3D - dir. Jeff Tremaine. My only 3-D cinema going experience so far and I'm so glad I waited for it to be a film that involves a dildo being shot at the camera. At moments arty, purely scatalogical at others, it never fails to keep you engrossed or just simply grossed out. 

7. Where the Wild Things Are - dir. Spike Jonze. Heartbreaking, a film that manages to captures a moment of everyones youth brilliantly and fantastically, when you have to begin to mature and have to deal with different emotions and the world. With Spike Jonze involved you knew this was going to look great anyway, but as its seen through the eyes of a child the film is weird one to try and connect with, you'll be rewarded if you can.

6. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World - dir. Edgar Wright. A movie based on comic book that looks like a computer game and is a romantic comedy, no wonder people didn't get it. Those who did were in for a treat, everything in this film is both effortlessly cool and geeky at the same time, even the music. While the basic premise of the movie, fighting off seven evil exes, meant the film was going to feel weird and repetitive Wright manages to keep everything going at a breakneck pace. If you take the film as a metaphor for emotional baggage (I did, by him dealing with her evil exes and getting annoyed by her emotional baggage and past, he's in turn creating more for her), then the only problem I have with the film is that Winstead's character doesn't seem that messed up or put out by it all.

5. Cyrus - dir. Jay & Mark Duplass. While clearly not the balls out, belly laugh comedy that its trailer suggested this film is still very very funny. John C. Reilly plays a man who's life is stuck in a rut, but who manages to meet and fall in love with Marissa Tomei's character, however her sheltered clingy son, Jonah Hill doesn't want to share her. What could have been just a strange collection of pychos is actually quite touchingly played out and human.

4. The Kids Are All Right - dir. Lisa Cholodenko. Again another indie film misleadingly advertised as a full on comedy, this little dramedy dealing with the teenage kids of a lesbian couple who track down their biological father, and who by his very presence threatens the life they've built up together. A film that could have been overearnest or melodramatic, or even a really bad culture clash comedy is thankfully heartfelt and perfectly judged. It also features an amazing Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo on top form, the two combining to make one of the cringiest scenes in a long time when Bening's character starts singing Joni Mitchell at the dinner table.

3. The Social Network - dir. David Fincher. With the sheer amount of dialogue and the speed of its delivery you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a screwball comedy from the thirties, but you were indeed watching a modern day morality tale about the birth and development of Facebook, which incidentally was quite funny. Every shot looks amazing, the soundtrack is great, everyone's acting their balls off, and just when you think Fincher seems to be playing it quite straight you find out that the twins aren't twins they're actually played by the same guy, through editing and CGI, mindblowing. The reason the film really works for me though is because there are no bad guys or good guys in it, everyone is kind of a douche and it showcases how everything goes wrong once money and social status get involved.

2. Winter's Bone - dir. Debra Granik. You might need to wear your winter coat watching this film, the cold Missouri locations are so vivid that you may feel a chill. A film that's quite unsettling in its protrayal of a rural, barren, drug riddled outback in America is not for the faint hearted. The films deals with a teenager who looks after her mother and younger siblings, at all costs, is tasked with finding her father who didn't turn up for a court apperance. Let's just say people don't jump to her help and she's met with violence and confrontation at nearly every turn. Featuring outstanding performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes who, if all is right with the world, will need to be picking out their Oscar outfits.

1. Inception - dir. Christopher Nolan. Probably my favourite cinema going experience in many a year, my head spinning from every new bit of information and plot twist and just the sheer cinema making bravado on display. Christopher Nolan delivers the most cerebral heist movie you're ever likely to see which also means you have to watch the movie a number of times. The ability to design worlds and reality parallels moviemaking in general (he seems to use motifs from Bond movies especially) and by setting up such a complex movie and plot within dreams means every plot hole can be brushed under the carpet or ignored (GIVE IT A GO HATERS!)

Previous Winners:
2009 - A Serious Man - dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
2008 - The Dark Knight - dir. Christopher Nolan
2007 - The Darjeeling Limited - dir. Wes Anderson