For the fourth year in a row, I attended AMC's Best Picture Showcase...now a two day (consecutive Saturdays) event to accomodate the expansion to ten nominees. I have to say this year's slate might have been the best I've seen in some time. Not a bad movie among them, but some more deserving than others.
127 Hours - B
James Franco may have seemed stoned throughout the Awards broadcast, but he was pretty riveting as the centerpiece of this docu-drama about Aron Rolston. Splashes of Danny Boyle's last nominee, Slumdog Millionaire, are evident...but Franco sells it by staying engaging and witty. The gruesome amputation scene isn't as horrific as reported (the sounds are the most disturbing part) and the story is rather uplifting.
Black Swan - A-
Oh, Darren Aronofsky, you wonderfully insane bastard. You were brilliant with Requiem for a Dream but The Fountain was terrible (I haven't seen The Wrestler). Black Swan is somewhere in between, but much closer to Requiem in form. Natalie Portman's Oscar was well-deserved as the success of the film rests solely on her shoulders. It's disturbing, sexy, mind-boggling and stirring all at once. Am I the only one that can't wait to see what this guy can do with The Wolverine?
The Fighter - A
Probably the most unexpected pleasure for me was The Fighter. Sharply directed, well-written and cast...this wasn't just a boxing movie, though the boxing scenes were amazingly filmed, realistic and a natural extension of the story. Mark Wahlberg was solid, if not a stretch...but Christian Bale...wow...he earned his trophy by playing completely outside of the box as drug-addled former champ Dicky Eklund.
Inception - A+
I skipped this film this weekend after seeing it in the theatre last summer and already owning it on Blu-ray but it's still my favorite of the nominees. Christopher Nolan was wrongly snubbed (for the second time if you count The Dark Knight) for a Best Director nomination after bringing us his best non-Bat film since Memento. The screenplay is wonderfully twisty, the visual tricks dazzle and any film that leaves so many people asking questions or pissed off because there wasn't an answer is good in my book.
The Kids Are All Right - B-
Probably the weakest of the Best Picture nominees, Kids has good performances and dialogue, but ultimately didn't seem to lead anywhere as a story. The ending was a bit too tidy for my tastes and rather than celebrate the gay relationship at its core, it mostly ignores it. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were great, as usual.
The King's Speech - A
I'm not sure if it truly was the "Best" Picture, but I'm not surprised at the win and I enjoyed this film more than I expected. It's incredibly witty and Colin Firth's winning performance could be the pinnacle of his underappreciated career or the beginning of a long line of such roles. Geoffrey Rush would have been a winner in any other year were it not for Bale.
The Social Network - A
I expected to love the dialogue and characters of this movie. I wasn't planning on the direction being so sharp and tense. David Fincher was also robbed for making a movie about nerds building the future of the internet seem exciting and sexy. Props to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the unconventional soundtrack.
Toy Story 3 - A
The best of the Toy Story movies and also the most guaranteed to tear at your heart.
True Grit - B+
I'm a huge fan of the original John Wayne film and the remake really isn't all that different. The dialogue was near identical and the plot only had minor tweaks. Of course, the Coen's filmed it with loving style and occasional quirk. Jeff Bridges is a gruffer Rooster Cogburn than John Wayne and Hailee Steinfeld could have a long career ahead of her...or end up like Kim Darby.
Winter's Bone - B
The "unknown" entry in the Best Picture race, Bone is a slow-burn, bleak movie about rural Ozark meth-makers and addicts. It's the kind of movie that makes you feel perpetually tense, waiting for something incredibly bad to happen at any second. Nominees Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes were recognized for a reason.
So...with all that finally said, I guess I can finally give my better late than never:
Top 10 Movies of 2010
10. Iron Man 2
9. True Grit
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
7. Black Swan
6. The Fighter
5. The King's Speech
4. The Social Network
3. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
2. Toy Story 3