Personally, I thought the first year of the new decade to be rather lacklustre as far as cinema goes. The sheer volume of reckless, morally inept comedies and action films was overwhelming. Fellow author Adam Fay said it best last year when, in his piece on Christopher Nolan’s Inception stated, “While there is no doubt that this is a standout film, the over-the-top gushing of praise strikes me to be less about the strength of the actual film and more about the pitiful films it shares multiplex space with.” Such a statement could be applied to many preceding years, but never more pertinent in the light of 2010’s bucket of trash.
It’s a short list, this one. But at the very top is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Yep, a movie ostensibly about ballet – but this was no White Nights, rather a psychological thriller that pushed the boundaries of traditional filmmaking to exhilarating heights. I’m ashamed to say I never thought much of Natalie Portman before I saw both her fragility and strength in this dark masterpiece. One of the greatest films I have ever seen.
Also on the list for the year would be Monsters, a film that divided its audience (those who saw it, anyway) like chocolate and cheese. Of course, anyone expecting to see rampaging monsters would have walked out of the theatre in a serious huff, and the films’ effect lay simply in how much you could invest in the two human leads. Another standout film in 2010 was writer/director Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg. This was a film for the X-Gen; sly and subdued; wonderfully written and acted. Ben Stiller displayed his dramatic cajones years ago as heroin-addicted screenwriter Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight, and it is often said that comedians make excellent performers in drama. Stiller, as Greenberg, showed he can be much more than a funny focker.
I’ll make mention of Inception – an exciting dreamscape heist film with more eye candy than Transformers; Tim Burton’s typically dark yet true telling of Alice In Wonderland; newcomer Adam Green’s Frozen, the story of three people stranded on a chairlift at a ski resort, that apparently had people seriously disturbed when it premiered at Sundance; the ultimately tragic documentary Catfish; the wacky thirty-something comedy Hot Tub Time Machine; the Japanese animated film Redline (due for release in the US this year); Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer; and last but not least (and surprisingly), the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators.
I can’t make claim to have seen every single film that was released last year, and chances are, given the wisdom of movie-watching years, if a film has that unmistakeable stench of trash to it (be it due to the premise, the people involved etc) I simply won’t give it my time. But of all the films I did see in 2010, the clear winner as far as brutal odour was the Brothers Strause’s Skyline. Maybe it’s a case of one brother holding the other back; but whatever the case, Skyline featured half-dimensional characters (yep, not even one-dimensional) and a ridiculous story, and even managed to blatantly steal from at least a half-dozen sci-fi films (probably more, but I lost count together with my interest). And I’m not talkin’ homage here folks – some of the alien drones obviously just arrived from the future (or past) where humankind is enslaved in the Matrix.
But the crap didn’t stop with Skyline – the Kevin Smith-directed Cop-Out came a close second. We can’t blame Kevin entirely for this one, but he better lift his game before I give up on him like I have with M. Night Shyamalan, creator of the third worst film of the year, The Last Airbender. We also had the abominably unfunny ‘comedies’ Valentine’s Day, The Bounty Hunter and Dinner For Schmucks, and the epically tiresome remake of the 80s cheese-fest Clash Of The Titans.
Here in Australia, truly excellent films arrive on the scene maybe once every five years. So, when something half-decent comes along, we are quick to label it an Aussie classic even though it is probably in pale comparison to truly great Australian films like Gallipoli, Newsfront, Wake In Fright, Picnic At Hanging Rock and Ten Canoes. And such was the case with Animal Kingdom. This Aussie crime thriller was the sort of thing not usually seen coming out of this country, but that does not mean it was original. The story, characters, situations have been explored countless times. Animal Kingdom was certainly not a bad film – but definitely not entirely worthy of the global plaudits.
Within David Fincher’s The Social Network there was much to admire. For one, it was a David Fincher film. It featured stellar performances from its entire cast and an impressive soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (although, somewhat curiously out-of-place for the subject matter; yet, even more curiously, it worked). But essentially, The Social Network was a dramatic equivalent of Seinfeld – a movie about nothing. Personally, The Social Network gave me nobody to root for; every character was, on some level, thoroughly dislikeable. And it’s a tough ask for an audience to become involved with a bunch of twats.
There were a few films I was eager to see in 2010 that managed to kick me in the gonads and leave me bitterly disappointed. The early trailers for The Wolfman showed much promise that unfortunately remained unrealised, perhaps making it the greatest source of frustration for the year. Scorsese’s Shutter Island was fabulous to look at and well acted, but how come I worked out what was going on in the first minute? Kinda ruined the enjoyment. I also thought the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street might offer something fresh; however, I was as wrong about that as I was about predicting back in the 90s that Independence Day would be an all-time classic. Lastly, we have the mess that was Iron Man 2. Was that even a film? How could a movie with Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sam Rockwell stink so foul?
Worst Performance By An Actor
I could name a bevy of horrible performances by actors in the year just gone, but the clear winner would be Tracy Morgan in Cop-Out. Even Hoffman and Beatty managed some chemistry in that classic dud Ishtar; but Morgan seemed intent on making Cop-Out a one-man-show, constantly attempting to steal the scenery from Bruce Willis and everyone else with his loud, obnoxious, ADHD performance.
Worst Performance By An Actress
Hmmm, I could probably name as many as I said I could with the Actors. But I’m going with Megan Fox in Jonah Hex. Is it actually written into Megan’s contracts that the very first scene she appears in (in every film she’s in) must showcase her scantily clad body? (But I guess, having all the range of a slingshot made from straw, her body is all she has.)
Oh, I really shouldn’t be so cruel…
by Wadrick Jones