Top Ten Movies of 2010

Let me just start by saying that I really couldn’t ask for a better year in film. 2010 offered many beautiful works of art that I shall watch for years to come. That being said, it was all the more difficult to make this list based on that fact. It can always be pretty difficult making a top ten list because you always find yourself second guessing yourself and making my list of my favorite films from this year was a prime example of that occurring often. I finally was able to do it though and here it is:

10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

In all good conscious I couldn’t make this list without putting Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on it. Of course this film isn’t a piece of cinematic artwork that can be considered a “masterpiece”. What it is though, is a blast. Its almost impossible not to just sit down with a couple of friends and have an awesome time watching this movie. Its absolutely hilarious with out the use of vulgarity and it never fails to entertain.

9. Shutter Island

I have a feeling that due to its release date, this film will be overlooked by the Academy, but that doesn’t change the fact that Shutter Island is a spectacular film. There’s not much else you can expect from Martin Scorsese, but this film truly blew me away. Quite honestly, this is one of the greatest depictions of mental instability ever put on screen. Shutter Island is a film that everyone seemed to forget about, but I was never able to.

8. The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech is such a fascinating feel-good film that never lets up and always keeps your full-fledged attention. In a film that could easily fallen flat and felt dry, you get fantastic performances in order to entertain from beginning to heart-wrenching end. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush make a perfect pair and you find that both are performing to the absolute best of their abilities. The King’s Speech is simply a film that will please. I promise.

7. Toy Story 3

The films of pixar have never let me down. I love every last one of them, but I wasn’t sure what I should expect from Toy Story 3. Though I did love Toy Story 2, I would have to say that it was my least favorite of the pixar films so I wasn’t as excited for Toy Story 3 as I was for their future tales of originality. Needless to say, Toy Story 3 blew me away. It is my favorite of the series and one of the few films in history to actually bring me to tears.

6. A Prophet

Technically this film came out last year and was a huge hit at Cannes, but it wasn’t available for popular viewing until this year so I put it into consideration for my list this year. A Prophet is nothing short of a gritty masterpiece and a crime tale that can be held to the caliber of any before it. A Prophet actually finds a way to be perfectly epic, while sticking to the realism and brutality of prison life. The tale of Malik’s rise in a crime-driven french prison is one I will watch and enjoy for many years to come.

5. Black Swan

Black Swan is so brilliantly unique in its substance that it’s almost impossible not to draw interest from it. Black Swan is so relentless in its execution that you truly never want to take your eyes off the screen. While the film pushes the envelope for all the right reasons it still manages to find a way to be breathtakingly beautiful. A film of this caliber is the only thing you could expect when you combine Darren Aronofsky and the brilliant prowess of Natalie Portman. Black Swan is a film that, based on its content, cannot go unnoticed.

4. True Grit

It’s always a breath of fresh air to see good western come out nowadays, but True Grit is more than good. True Grit is a masterpiece and one that I feel should and will breath life into a dying genre. True Grit is a light-hearted and real look into the west. It was a simple enough tale, but a tale that was told to perfection. To put it simply, True Grit is a prime example of every piece of the puzzle that is film, fitting together perfectly. That might be due in part to the fact that it was reinforced by brilliant performances and directed by the greatest minds working in the industry.

3. Inception

I could write a short novel on what makes Inception one of the greatest movies, just in general, but I’ll keep this a little shorter. Inception isn’t a story that would’ve been nearly as good in book form, its not a tale I could’ve retained from a picture or a song. Inception is a movie made specifically for its artistic medium and it is a true example that my favorite art form is not only alive, but always will be because truly amazing films are still being made today. Inception is a gift that I accept with open arms.

Inception is a reminder to the James Cameron’s of the world, and the 3D generation they’re helping to create, that great films are based on soul and passion. They’re not based on how much money you can spend to make your action sequences. They’re based on love for the art of telling a story through a camera. Inception is an example of what an amazing film is. What else could you possibly expect from Christopher Nolan?

2. The Social Network

I know the King’s Speech won the Oscar, but if any one film is remembered from 2010, it will be the always spectacular The Social Network. Like The Godfather, which tells a beautiful tale of family and power while masking its themes beneath a tale of gangsters, The Social Network tells a beautiful tale of friendship, corruption and betrayal, while masking its reverent ideals with plot about facebook. The Social Network is not a film about facebook, it’s a film about humans and their nature and it is absolutely breath-taking.

What makes The Social Network so much greater than so many films before it, and keep in mind I’m not implying just this year, is that there is so much you can get out of this masterfully told tale. You’ve got the obviously topical and fascinating plot, but beneath that you’ve got a relentless character study of the protagonist, Mark Zuckerberg and on top of that, thematically you get a timeless morality tale that has been told many times in the past and will be told many times in the future. It was never this fantastic though and I have my doubts that it ever will.

1. 127 Hours

A common expression when commenting on a film is that “it’s hard to put into words why I love this film so much” or something along those lines. I’m fairly certain I’ve used it myself at some point, but it has never been more true when I say it here. It is hard to put into words, exactly what makes 127 Hours one of the greatest films in history and that’s mostly based solely on the fact that 127 Hours isn’t a film you watch, but one you experience.

Like The Lord of the Rings, which takes you on an incredible journey with Sam, Frodo and all kinds of memorable characters, 127 Hours also takes you on a journey, but a very different kind. 127 Hours takes you on an emotional journey, arguably the greatest ever, with climber Aron Ralston. There are few films in history that touch on an emotional level to the caliber that 127 hours is able to because it honestly makes you feel every emotion you could think of at all the right times. With brilliant direction by Danny Boyle and the greatest performance of the year by James Franco you get  a truly phenomenal look into sheer pain, imminent death and an eventual feeling of pure solace.

127 Hours shows the power of truly flawless filmmaking and exactly what a movie can do to you. It’s a testament to human will and shows us that just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean that you’re living. It is able to establish perfectly, that life is fragile and precious, so live it up today because you never know what could happen tomorrow. 127 Hours is a true example of a masterpiece in every sense.

True Grit Review

True Grit was a film that I walked out a bit disappointed with to say the least. It was a film I saw at the midnight premiere and walked out a bit downtrodden because what I saw wasn’t the movie I expected to see at all. Looking back over True Grit I began to do what all of the Coen Brother’s movies force me to do. I began to think. In my pondering over the past few days after seeing what was for me the most anticipated movie of the year, I realized yes, True Grit wasn’t the movie I was expecting to see, it was better.

Before delving deep into that conundrum and my review I’d like to state that I’ve never seen the original True Grit nor have I read the original book. I went in completely blind and will review this movie based on the movie it was not how well it followed the book or original John Wayne movie. That being said, True Grit, like almost all Coen Bros. films, was a masterpiece. I just didn’t quite realize it at first.

Now when I said, I went in expecting something different, that obviously begs the question, what did I expect? What I thought True Grit would be, was some kind of guns blazing, dark look into the west. A movie that would kind of mirror the themes of No Country for Old Men, but in the west. A western that might even surpass my favorite western, Unforgiven. What True Grit was, was actually one of the most light-hearted of the Coen Bros. films and on top of that, one of the most light hearted westerns I’ve seen.

Sure there was some gunplay, but for the most part, it was dialogue driven. It was a film that cared not about its action, but its story. We get to know these characters well and join them on their journey of “retribution”. Maybe True Grit isn’t the greatest western or all time and maybe its not the most enjoying, but it is undoubtedly the most real. Its not a western that’s looking to tell of a journey through the west complete with different villains, escapades and epic showdowns. It’s a film that makes you feel as if you’re right there on a horse having a whiskey with good ol’ “Rooster” Cogburn.

It was a film written and directed as well as a movie can get. I can’t expect much else from my favorite filmmakers in existence. Jeff Bridges was downright brilliant in what might just be my favorite role of his. The main character though was newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, there’s nothing profound about her performance that I’m sure you haven’t read anywhere else suffice it to say, from what I was reading, I expected a lot and she blew me away.

Early I stated that it was “better” than what I was expecting it to be. I’d like to jump into that comment a little more. I explained that what I expected was kind of a combination of my favorite western, Unforgiven and my favorite Coen Bros. film, No Country for Old Men. That’s a lot to expect out of a film. No I’m not saying that True Grit is “better” than either of those films. I am merely saying that it’s “better” that True Grit was the movie that it was.

I realized in my pondering that I don’t want True Grit to be No Country for Old Men because if I want to watch No Country for Old Men, I’ll just watch No Country for Old Men and I realized that no western will ever come out that will be better than Unforgiven. Of course better movies might come out, but no other western will because Unforgiven is a brilliant commentary on the entire idea of the west and the western genre. That being said, True Grit isn’t No Country for Old Men and its not Unforgiven, its just True Grit and what True Grit was, was a masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Top Ten Westerns

This is a list I’ve truly been prepping for, for about a year now. About a year ago I had only seen a couple westerns that I had actually enjoyed (a few of those made this list), and I realized as a lover of movies I have not seen nearly enough westerns. So, I filled my netflix queue and got to watching and enjoying. I realized two things while watching the many westerns I did.

First of all, I’m quite sorry to say and I know many won’t agree with this statement and might even just X out of this page as soon as they read it, but an opinion’s an opinion and I’m not gonna lie to agree with society. I found John Wayne to be overrated. I’m just not a fan. I liked a few of his movies, such as The Searchers and The Shootist, and my favorite would probably have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but that didn’t even make the list. It probably would be 11 or 12 though if I were to add on to this list.

Secondly, and much more importantly, I realized that the Western genre is one of my favorites and this list would be harder to make than I thought. I was very right. Through watching this dying genre I found not only fantastic westerns, but also some of the greatest movies I’ve seen of all time. Well, I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time now. Here are my top ten favorite westerns.

10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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At the heart of this classic lies what may be the most iconic duo of all time. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play so impeccably well off each other that every scene is made real and memorable. The timing of every witty crack is absolutely perfect, the action sequences are highly entertaining, while sticking to realism and the finale is breathtaking.

9. Tombstone

Tombstone is a fantastic film that  was a shoe in for this list. Tombstone is the greatest telling of the now classic tale of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. There are many memorable parts, from the classic OK coral shoot-out, to Holiday’s tricks with a tea cup in a bar. There’s something for everyone in this flick because even if you don’t find solace in the fantastic scenes, you will certainly find enjoyment out of Val Kilmer’s masterful performance as Doc Holiday.

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is one of the newest westerns to be placed on this list and in my eyes this movie is a breath of fresh air because it showed that great westerns can still be made today. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are phenomenal. A brilliant cast and script was combined to tell the very true and quite epic tale of the assassination of one of the most famous western outlaws there ever was.

7. For A Few Dollars More

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For A Few Dollars More is a fascinating character study of bounty hunters in the old west. It’s the second film in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy, but as with every movie in the Dollars trilogy, it stands alone as its own fantastic story. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef make for a very interesting and entertaining pair in the old west. Leone builds tension, keeps you guessing, and in the end he most certainly does not disappoint.

6. The Proposition

The Proposition is another western that is relatively new. It was made only a few years ago and I believe it is one of the greatest westerns of all time, only surpassed by some of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. The plot of The Proposition is genuinely simple, yet superbly poetic. In the Australian Outback, a man is hired to kill his older brother in order to save his younger one from the noose. It’s the most brutal western I’ve seen and it never lets up till its pitch-perfect ending.

5. True Grit

The Coen Brother’s never cease to amaze and with their remake of the now classic John Wayne movie, they do more than that. True Grit is undoubtedly the most light-hearted of their films I’ve seen and the most light-hearted western. It’s also the one that feels the most real. Like almost all westerns, True Grit tells a simple tale, but because of the people who are telling the tale, what you get is something unbelievably moving.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone’s complex, gritty, western tale of revenge and mayhem is so amazing that it was hard to even put it at just number three. I’m going to say this right now, Sergio Leone builds tension better than Hitchcock does. Every single scene from the (waiting for the train) opening to the final showdown, your always on edge. I’d also like to say that Ennio Morricone is probably the greatest film composer in history. Westerns almost always have fantastic scores, but this is my favorite of any western score.

Last, but certainly not least I have to mention Henry Fonda’s flawless performance as the ruthless western gunslinger Frank, certainly out of character for him; his best work. This is some of Sergio Leone’s best work. A film that builds and builds with a well thought out, detailed and at times even complex plot that ends up being a very simple tale of good vs. evil. Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the third greatest western I’ve seen.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Most commonly called the classic western and for good reason. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nothing and I repeat nothing short of a masterpiece. If I’m not mistaken I think the Man With No Name trilogy is the only trilogy that truly gets greater with each film. Leone’s skill for building tension, which has been attempted, but never matched, was never greater than in every single, intricately plotted, scene of this movie.

What Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood (Blondie-The Good) , Lee Van Cleef (Angel Eyes-The Bad) and Eli Wallach (Tuco- The Ugly) have given us is masterful look at the west, the adventures, and the subsequent stories that were inspired. A story full of depth and characters, whether that be the good guys, the bad guys, and the ones in between. A timeless epic that savors my hunger for excellence with each passing scene eventually leading to what is probably the most iconic and greatest western showdown/ending ever put on screen. And for this, from the bottom of my heart, I thank them.

2. Django Unchained

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Django Unchained is about a hero of mythical proportions on a quest for love. It’s a tale of friendship and taking a stand against the savagery of slavery. It’s a spaghetti western and an epic legend with all the blood and violence of the west and the heroes and villains you find in legends. It’s finds a balance between the intense drama that’s playing out and the rollicking good time that it is. It’s a magnificent story as only Quentin Tarantino could’ve told.

It’s hard not to root for Django in his vengeful and loving journey. It’s hard to to jump up and cheer when the whip or gun is turned back on the slaver. Dr. King Schultz can see slavery for what it is and he sees Django as a man and a friend in need. Only together can they attempt to conquer the Candyland and the ignorant villainy that lies within. Django Unchanged is ridiculously entertaining and unbelievably powerful.

1. Unforgiven

As I said in the past, this was a difficult list to make, but there is not a doubt in my mind when it comes to number one. Clint Eastwood starred in many classic westerns including Sergio Leone’s classic Man With No Name Trilogy. Then he directed some of his own great westerns. His knowledge on the genre grew over years of experience and he eventually gave us the greatest western of all time. Unforgiven is the western that was able to do what no other western was able to. It showed us what the west really was. Unforgiven showed us that a ruthless killer could fall off his horse or miss a shot.

Unforgiven shows the realistic West where no one could really be considered the good guy, not even the guy your rooting for (William Munny- Clint Eastood in an Oscar nominated performance) ,  and especially not the sheriff (Little Bill Dagget- Gene Hackman in an Oscar winning performance). Unforgiven was a masterful look into a world we’ve never seen. We thought we had, but we realize now that was all just fantasy. Unforgiven mixes dark realism with the  fantasy Western genre. Add brilliant acting and characters, fantastic writing and direction and the result is not only the greatest western of all time, but one of the greatest movies ever made. A true masterpiece of our time worthy of recognition and praise.