POSTED ON JANUARY 5, 2011:
An eccentric art doc wins big, The Expendables proves disposable
Can They Ever Do Wrong? Toy Story 3 is another epic piece of animated entertainment that will please kids and adults alike.
1. Exit Through the Gift Shop: I saw this documentary by English street artist Banksy in May and it's never wavered as my favorite movie of 2010. I love to go on unexpected journeys in a theater and Banksy delivers some genuine left turns as he documents the history of graffiti in various cities around the world. Is this even a real documentary or a hoax perpetrated by a man known for zestfully sending up the art world? Who cares? It's an informative, eccentric, riveting look into the dark hours of the urban night and the people obsessed with leaving their mark on public spaces while also veering into an unexpected and savage attack on the entire culture of art.
2. The Social Network: Director David Fincher is hitting on every cylinder with a story of the brief history of the phenomenon that is Facebook. What makes this such a special movie is the sheer amount of detail that Fincher brings to The Social Network, yet it is so well-crafted it never feels loaded down by content. The film zips by and is completely absorbing from the first moment until the last. There're villains, friendships, betrayals, sex, unsympathetic protagonists and geeks making billions on display in an amazingly rich script from Aaron Sorkin.
3. Dogtooth: Hands-down the most haunting, disturbing and strangest film I saw all year was this warped family drama from Greece and director Giorgos Lanthimos. Eight months after I saw Dogtooth, I still keep thinking about its story of parents isolating their three teenagers from the outside world. They create a fantasy universe, tightly controlled by their made-up words, rules, dangers and social codes. Not for everyone, but highly recommended for adventurous filmgoers.
4. The Fighter: David O. Russell's take on the rough-and-tumble rise of boxer Micky Ward is blessed with my favorite ensemble cast of the year. Some films need a sort of "regional" casting and The Fighter nails it with its collection of performers who sound and look like they stepped out of a hardscrabble Lowell, Mass. corner dive bar. This isn't your usual uplifting sports movie from Disney, it's gritty, R-rated and punches you right in the ribs. Those are good things.
5. Toy Story 3: Damn you Pixar! Can they ever do wrong? Toy Story 3 is another epic piece of animated entertainment that will please kids and adults alike. Ned Beatty, as the voice of "Lotso," should be considered for best supporting actor awards. One of many things that make this magical is it is drenched in nostalgia, but never gets overly sentimental. Sure, I laughed a lot, but I was glad I wore 3D glasses to disguise my teary red eyes when it ended.
6. A Prophet: Seek this out on DVD if you like films about criminals or prison life. I couldn't take my eyes away from the performances of Tahar Rihim and Niels Arestrup, who play a couple of inmates on different social and power levels in a French prison. At times brutal, at times compassionate, A Prophet digs deep into the machinations of what it takes to survive in this world. The film ends up being extremely enjoyable despite the bleak nature of the story and setting.
7. Winter's Bone: Like The Fighter, Winter's Bone excels in the art of regional casting to help tell its story about a teenage girl looking for her father in the desolate Ozark mountain area of Missouri. So authentic was living in the midst of poverty and desperation, I'm not even sure some of these people were acting. Perhaps director Debra Granik swooped in, pulled them off some rural tract of land and starting filming rather than give them scripted lines to "act" out. I'm a character actor junkie and loved John Hawkes' performance most of all.
8. True Grit: When you combine two of my favorite cinematic things -- the Coen Brothers and the western -- how can the result not be wonderful? Not so much a re-make of the 1969 film starring John Wayne, but a deeper look at the source material from a Charles Portis novel. I hate these remakes probably more than anyone else on earth, but I must admit the 2010 version is better than the 1969 one. Sorry Duke fans. The 2010 True Grit is more literate, severe, dangerous, better acted and full of more, well, "grit" and another fine picture from Joel and Ethan Coen. They are on quite a roll.
9. 127 Hours: Danny Boyle follows the global success of Slumdog Millionaire with something totally different and scores another winner with 127 Hours. Essentially the story of Aron Ralston's battle with himself as he's stuck in a remote Utah canyon, a boulder wedged against his arm preventing his escape. After 127 hours elapse, it's a question of what is more important, survival or an arm. James Franco gives the best performance of his career while playing the gutsy Ralston.
10. Easy A: I always like to throw a wild card in at number ten and Easy A, a teen-centered romantic comedy was probably the most fun I had watching a new film all year. Emma Stone is delightful as an attractive, smart and off-the-wall high school student whose reputation goes into free fall. Any teen comedy with significant nods to Hester Prynne and John Hughes is doing something right in my book and Easy A is a charming piece of pure genre entertainment.
I hated The Expendables far more than anything else I saw in 2010. It's just a dumbed down, soulless, nostalgic ode to 1980s vacuousness weapon-porn. It's full of roided out ex-action movie stars, cliché plots and stupid one-liners. Seeing this might up your testosterone, but it will also take out a few of your brain cells. Avoid at all costs.
Dear John/The Last Song is a double dip of misery from the pen of that devil himself -- Nicholas Sparks. Imagine every sort of device that a writer can stuff into a story to make the audience cry and that's what you get with these manipulative bits of melodramatic tripe. They didn't touch my heartstrings; they made me want to burn down the studios that foisted this garbage on me.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief scored some negative points for its title alone. It got worse when I had to watch it. The plot for this is so silly and absurd that it should have been more fun, in a campy, kitschy way. But, it takes itself way too seriously, loads up the film with horrible, cheap CGI and basically makes the equally awful Clash of the Titans look like Shakespeare.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A34710