Benediction 2010 – A Year in Review

2010 was another year in which I had trouble finding time to keep up with any real trends in film culture. That said, I still got the chance to see some real gems. Here’s my annual look back, with categories paired down to 3 items rather than 5, seeing as I really didn’t see all that much. I apologize for the lack of diversity.

Before I talk movies, I did want to mention that I achieved a bit of a goal this year in my reading, putting down a book a month (on average), including an 800 page biography. I got to cement my Philip K. Dick fandom, and I re-discovered my love for the nonfiction work of C.S. Lewis.

I wanted to point out that, most likely, the greatest movie I watched this year that I hadn’t ever seen before was John Ford’s The Searchers, one of the America’s cinematic milestones. As for 2010 releases, I purposely cut myself off at movies I watched within the calendar year, because last year I dragged my feet until late March to write a 2009 retrospective. Speaking of which, let’s look back a bit…

Top Ten of 2009 (As of 01/01/11): A Serious Man, Star Trek, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Up, Moon, Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Informant!, Inglourious Basterds, The Girlfriend Experience

Most Anticipated of 2010 (As of 01/16/10): Inception, Shutter Island, Robin Hood, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Tree of Life, Tron Legacy, Clash of the Titans/A-Team

I’m pretty impressed by that Most Anticipated list, myself. Maybe I didn’t actually like any movies in 2010, and have just projected quality on what I thought I would like.

Without further ado…

Favorites of 2010

SOUND

3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I
2. Tron Legacy
1. Scott Pilgrim vs The World

VISUAL EFFECTS

3. Tron Legacy
2. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I
1. Inception

EDITING

3. Scott Pilgrim vs The World
2. Inception
1. Shutter Island

ACTION SCENES

3. Club Brawl, Tron Legacy
2. Test Drive, How to Train Your Dragon
1. Joseph Gordon-Levittate, Inception

SCENES & SEQUENCES IN GENERAL

3. “Lawyer up”, The Social Network
2. Tunnel of Time, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done
1. Finale, Inception

SCORE
Hon Noms… Robin Hood (Streitenfeld), The Social Network (Reznor/Ross), Mother (Byeong-woo Lee)

3. John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
2. Hans Zimmer, Inception
1. Daft Punk, Tron Legacy

CINEMATOGRAPHY

3. John Mathieson, Robin Hood
2. Roger Deakins, True Grit
1. Eduardo Serra, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I

OVERALL DESIGN
Hon Noms… Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I, Scott Pilgrim vs The World

3. Shutter Island
2. Robin Hood
1. Inception

SCREENPLAY

3. Toy Story 3
2. Inception
1. The Social Network

DIRECTOR
Hon Noms… David Fincher, David Yates, Bong Joon-Ho, Martin Scorsese

3. Werner Herzog, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done
2. The Coen Brothers, True Grit
1. Christopher Nolan, Inception

SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE

3. Matt Damon, True Grit
2. Bin Won, Mother
1. Barry Pepper, True Grit

MALE PERFORMANCE

3. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
2. Michael Shannon, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done
1. Leonardo Dicaprio, Inception & Shutter Island

FEMALE PERFORMANCE

3. Rooney Mara, The Social Network
2. Hye-ja Kim, Mother
1. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

TOP 10 of 2010

A-

10. Toy Story 3
9. Shutter Island
8. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

A

7. How to Train Your Dragon
6. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I
5. Tron Legacy
4. Mother
3. True Grit
2. The Social Network

A+

1. Inception


In retrospect, it looks like the bulk of my favorites from this year, specifically every film in my top five, seem to deal with a similar through-line.

Last year’s most popular film was Avatar, an exercise in technology that encouraged reckless escapism into a fictional world. Even its hero shrugged off his human shackles to embrace a more “natural” world, the same way droves of audiences visited Pandora to escape cold temperatures and a bleak economic landscape.

What struck me about Christopher Nolan’s Inception, my favorite film of 2010 (and the best film I had the luck to see in a theater since 2008), is how its characters are tempted to escape their unfortunate realities, but struggle with the responsibility of even having that ability.

Yes, we can escape. We’ve built a type of digital frontier, as Kevin Flynn might call it in that underrated “digital fairy tale”. The Social Network‘s Mark Zuckerburg helped. We create our own realities and stories out of our motivations and obsessions, like the leads in True Grit and Mother. Our ability to escape is clear. The question is whether or not we should jump at the opportunity to leave a sinking ship, when there might still be business to attend to, or when the escape might be an abstraction.

Lord knows I’m a fan of escapist entertainment. That much is clear by looking at the type of movies I made time for in 2010. I would argue, though, that escape should cost something, and should face us against ourselves.

Movies I Saw In 2010
(*=Recommended)

The A-Team*
Clash of the Titans
Edge of Darkness
Get Low*
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I*
How to Train Your Dragon*
Inception*
Iron Man 2*
Kick-Ass
Knight & Day
Mother*
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done*
The Other Guys*
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Robin Hood*
Scott Pilgrim vs The World*
Shutter Island*
The Social Network*
Toy Story 3*
True Grit*
Tron Legacy*
Valhalla Rising*

I wish I had seen these titles, and will hopefully catch some of them soon:

The American, Black Swan, Centurion, Easy A, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Fighter, The Kids Are Alright, The King’s Speech, A Prophet, Tangled, The Town, Unstoppable, The Way Back, Winter’s Bone

I’ll probably throw out a remix of my top ten some time around the Oscars.

Most Anticipated of 2011

TIE: 10. Thor / Cold Weather – Mumblecore mystery tied with kitschy Norse epic… naturally.
9. Contagion – Soderbergh’s Outbreak?
8. A Dangerous Method – Viggo and Cronenburg reteam to tackle Freud. The most obvious combo ever.
7. The Adjustment Bureau – Formerly a 2010 release, this has been budged once already. Looks like a slick Philip K. Dick adaptation.
6. Super 8 – JJ Abrams’ take on the Amblin era.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger – Cautiously optimistic… looking forward to a trailer.
4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Herzog explores possibly the oldest artistic canvas… in 3D!
3. Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn / War Horse – Spielberg’s patented one-two punch… a family adventure film, followed by a period war drama.
2. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part II – Has anyone even heard of this movie?
1. Tree of Life – Malick returns.