Movies of 2010

These are the movies I saw in the theatre in 2010:

Cop Out
Hot Tub Time Machine
Date Night
Death at a Funeral (US)
The Losers
Iron Man 2
Robin Hood
The A-Team
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
The Expendables
Scott Pilgrim vs the World
The Town
The King’s Speech

When I looked at the entire list of movies that were released in 2010, I found myself wishing I’d made more time to see some of those movies that aren’t on my list. Winter’s Bone, Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Hereafter and The Next Three Days, to name a few. I remember planning to see them, but time slips on by and soon enough, it’s too late to do anything but sigh and add them to my Netflix queue.

The ones I did see certainly ran the gamut from ridiculous (yes, Hot Tub Time Machine, that’s you) to amazing (oh, hello there, Inception), but I enjoyed something about all of them. And at the end of the reel, that’s all I care about.

Takers is never going to make my ever-changing list of Top 10 Favorites, but it had some great action sequences. It also had Idris Elba and Marianne Jean-Baptiste and every scene they had together put the rest of the movie to shame.

The A-Team and The Losers were my favorite popcorn movies of the summer, which explains why I saw both multiple times. Great casts, great action, lots of explosions and humor. These things make me happy.

RED was a blast from beginning to end and it’s one I know I’ll end up owning on DVD. That goes for Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood as well. The Expendables wishes it were RED, but wasn’t. Unstoppable wasn’t a very big movie, but it had heart and if somebody wanted to team Denzel and Chris Pine up again in a movie that actually had dialogue that did them justice, I’d be first in line.

But my favorite movie of 2010 may come down to a tie between Inception and The Town. After Inception blew my mind, I wouldn’t have thought any other movie this year could have beaten it, but there was something about The Town that stuck with me long after I left the theatre. Inception was slick and perfect and unlike other movies with epic plot twists and reveals (including some by the same director), it’s a movie I can see myself re-watching. The Town was gritty and uncomfortable and you watch it with a pit in your stomach, knowing it’s all going to go horribly wrong. So strong is my spoiler fear that I didn’t even know Affleck was directing before I saw it and when his name came up in the credits, I was pleasantly surprised. I think he did an excellent job and as much as I like seeing him on the screen (bust my chops all you like, but I do), I think he’s found his place behind the camera.

Good on you, 2010. Bring on the new year!


Inglourious Basterds (2009)

The first time I saw the trailer for Inglourious Basterds, I found it pretty upsetting. My initial impression was that Tarantino wanted to make another movie full of violence and gore and made a period piece so that when people inevitably squawked about how bloody and violent it was, he could say, “Yeah, but it’s Nazis! Who doesn’t like killing Nazis?”

Despite this admittedly presumptive feeling, I stood in line and paid my money to see it Friday night. Reviewers had been throwing out words like “brilliant” and “inspired” and “visionary” and I’m not a person to bitch about a movie I haven’t seen, because… well, because that would make me no better than a sign-toting soccer mom who hasn’t seen Harry Potter but is still pretty sure it’s turning twelve-year-olds to devil worship.

(Spoilers from here on in, so consider yourself warned.)

Verdict? I didn’t love it and I still feel like the violence was over the top, but there was a lot to like. Honestly, if the titular Basterds hadn’t been in it at all and it had just been the story of Shosanna and the Nazi colonel Hans Landa, I probably would have come out singing its praises, because Shosanna’s story was the one that spoke to me. A judicious edit would have shaved a good 45 minutes off the movie, which wouldn’t have hurt it and would have kept me from slouching down in my seat two hours in, wishing I’d brought a camelbak.

Tarantino knows how to craft a scene, there’s no arguing with that. The first chapter is like a short film all on its own and it’s truly breathtaking and heartbreaking. There are two more of these suspense-building scenes in the movie and I don’t think it’s a leap to wonder if Tarantino came up with these first and then built the rest of the movie around them.

The Basterds themselves just aren’t very fleshed out. Their story sort of weaves in and out and they certainly supply the bulk of the gore, happily bashing in Nazi skulls and carving swastikas in foreheads. But their scenes seem dropped in so that when they’re needed for the climax, we know who they are, but no more. They’re charicatures – the hardass Southern Lt., the hothead from Boston, the silent psychotic German – and not much more.

As it is, I’m not sure what Tarantino’s point is supposed to be here. Is it just a bit of testosterone-heavy American fantasy? Or is he trying to make a deeper statement and I’m just missing it? I appreciated Zoller’s angst at seeing himself a glorified murderer on the big screen (OMG, Nazis had FEELINGS?!), but it was completely wiped away by the climax where it wasn’t good enough to lock the bad guys in and burn them to death. That wasn’t horrific enough, so we had to have our Jewish-American Basterds hosing the Nazis (and their dates, guilty by association, I guess) down with bullets as they crawled all over themselves trying to escape. Lovely.

I was also dissatisfied by the storyline wrap-up for both Shosanna and Bridget von Hammersmark. One was grossly out of character from what we’d seen throughout the movie and the other was just gross.

As for performances, I’ll echo the sentiment of literally every person I’ve talked to and say that Christoph Waltz is a gem and steals the entire movie. He brings charm and charisma to a role that could have been a cardboard cutout and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance.  Also impressive were Melanie Laurent as Shosanna and Til Schweiger’s Sgt Stiglitz, the crazy Nazi-killing German the Basterds bust out of prison.

Once the hype dies down I’ll watch it again, and maybe I’ll find the brilliance in the story.

Batman (1989)

Written 6/26/09:

The Huffington Post has a great article by Scott Mendelson about Batman and how it changed the summer movie landscape. The thing that hit me most was this:

The year’s highest grossing film was arguably the most important. Not in terms of quality of course; it remains one of my favorite films but I’m not going to pretend that it was robbed at the Oscars. It left an indelible mark on the industry for the next twenty-years, in ways both very good and very bad. In the truest sense, Batman was a game-changer.

I was just telling someone this weekend how much of an impact Batman had on me as a kid, but not necessarily for the reasons Mendelson mentions in the article. I did love the action and Keaton’s anti-hero and Jack, of course. I loved everything about it. But it was the first time I walked out of a movie and wanted to just get right back in line for the next showing. I literally bounced out of that movie. I saw it with my best friend and I remember standing outside the theatre on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up, talking about my favorite scenes, punctuated with dramatic gestures and flappy hands of joy and I remember the moment I realized that my friend thought it had been “okay”. WHAT. OKAY? I was blown away that the movie didn’t make her feel the way I did. How could she not love it? I could have flown home, I was so excited, but to her it was just a movie. I don’t know if that was the moment that I figured out how much I loved the movies, but it was certainly the first time I realized that I experienced them in a radically different way than most of the people around me.

One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

The summer Batman came out, I was 14 and my brother was just shy of 20. He was home from his first year away at school in Illinois and we used to stay up late watching MTV and eating chips and he’d tell me stories about college. I don’t remember which one of us brought up Batman or in what context or even what exactly we talked about. But I remember the moment itself vividly because he GOT it. He got that feeling of excitement, that sense of giddy joy. Most importantly, he got ME. I wasn’t alone in my geekhood. Even if nobody else understood, he did.

Of course, a couple of years later, I found the internet and all of you and I really truly knew that it wasn’t just me. But that summer, that conversation was when John wasn’t just my big brother anymore, he was one of my best friends.

Talk about your game-changers.

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