So here’s Simon’s roll of 2010 top ten dice. Does the guy need an introduction by now? (Hint: His posts include an avatar of him dressed up like Hellboy!). He’s been with us for the past two years and I’ve known him for a little longer, still the only OWF Writer who was a personal friend before he wrote his first review for us. And he’s wrote many a great once since, including some of the best feature articles we’ve ever published (More Grit Please We’re British, Inception 101) and although I don’t have the stats to prove it, I’m pretty sure his passion for cinema has resulted in by far the biggest words per article ratio of anyone around here!
Enjoy this top ten from a mainstay of OWF… and oh, it seems like him choosing The Shop Around The Corner as his Best Classic Movie Unseen Until This Year – the same choice as Adam Whyte – is one hell of a spooky coincidence. Incidentally, I myself saw The Shop Around The Corner for the first time around 12 months ago. Anyone else seen it recently also?
10. Due Date
A surprise choice for comedy of the year, for me, but definitely a deserving victor. Todd Phillips proved remarkably that he is more than just The Hangover, by striking another comic hit based mostly on simple human relationships and dotted with a little welcome, but never intrusive slap-stick and surrealism. Excellent lead performances by Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr made the movie, as a tight, funny script lost little in translation onto the big screen (aside from what would have been a very good Alan Arkin cameo).
Incidentally, you can read my script review of Due Date, HERE.
9. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
An equal rather than a sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps managed the unthinkable by simultaneously replacing and re-birthing Michael Douglas’ iconic Gordon Gekko, without ever making the character inappropriate to his new modern environment. While the early marketing suggested the follow-up would be a study in Gekko as an anachronism, and the presence of Josh Brolin as a new breed of villain seemingly announcing his redundancy, Money Never Sleeps was all about the Gekko. Strong supporting work, particularly from Brolin and Carey Mulligan, and a not-terrible Shia LaBeouf also served as a fitting back-drop, but again, this was all about Michael Douglas and the rebirth of that infamous slogan.
8. Scott Pilgrim v The World
Not given the love it deserved in wider circles, Edgar Wright’s first real forray into Hollywood hugeness was brilliant all the same. Who needs subtlety when a project is so obviously an exercise in artistic boldness, in creating an authentic hyperreality that heavily referenced the gaming universe (even if some grumpy older gamers deny the authenticity). Who wants reality when pure escapism is this completely diverting?!
7. The Illusionist
Bittersweet, measured, touching and incredibly beautiful, The Illusionist proved that dialogue can be an entirely over-rated commodity. Like with the exquisite Belleville Rendez-Vous, director Sylvain Chomet managed to pull from his hat a magical animation full of charm and technically pristine, while also simultaneously offering a loving tribute to both French wizard Jacques Tati and the seemingly outdated twin approaches of silent film-making and hand-drawn animation. Just a joy.
6. Shutter Island
Brilliant labyrinthine noirish thrills, pinned on a superlative performance by Leonardo DiCaprio (better, in fact than his Inception turn) and a beautifully measured performance by the occasional king of over-self-indulgence Sir Ben Kingsley. Somewhat typically of a Martin Scorcese flick, everything looked insanely good- particularly the nightmarish, jolting flashbacks- and the grand reveal might not win the vote for least obvious conclusion, but it was handled with such finesse that all is forgiven.
Balls to the wall indeed. I have seen nothing this high-octane and cheerfully ultra-violent that is so successful and yet that still retains an anarchic snarl and a smiling fuck you to the studios that wouldn’t spring the readies to pay for it in a good long while. Okay so its particular brand of super-reality was overtly and self-consciously aimed at comic book fans, but then why should a film be lambasted for being note-perfect for its biggest potential audience? And yes its vulgar, yes it can be silly, but that’s why I read comics and not always just Jane Austen novels.
4. The Social Network
For a film about how Facebook started, David Fincher’s dark, brooding, noirish social thriller did so well in its character-centric approach that few would bat an eye-lid if it were to walk away with the Best Film gong at the Oscars in a few months time. All of that success hunges on an immaculately clever script, and the pitch-perfect performances of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Also gets my vote for film poster of the year. Like.
3. Blue Valentine
Featuring two lead performances that should (I would love to say will but it’s looking unlikely) be nominated for the highest accolades at the Academy Awards, Blue Valentine was a red raw love story, effervescent with emotion and the perfect portrait for the twin sided coin of love. It just doesn’t get much better than the on-screen chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, and the alinear narrative technique that depicts both the explosive beginning and end of their relationship was an inspired choice.
Another maze-like thriller hinged on a very good performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. It was undoubtedly a little too self-important, and the writing paled into insignificance in comparison to the vision and aesthetic accomplishment of the film, but by God it is a good-looking, head-scratcher of a thing. If a film is to be judged by its visual legacy, I challenge anyone to come up with many better-looking scenes than the revolving world fight scene, or the assault on the grand ice fortress: and even if the film was overbalanced by its bias towards surface beauty over real depth, those are some mighty fine clothes its wearing.
1. Toy Story 3
Easily the film of the year, and also the finale to the greatest franchise in animated cinematic history. Thank God it never became the manipulative, simpering mess of sentimentalism that it could so easily have been, and thank God the film-makers chose to advance the franchise before drawing it to a beautiful, emotionally-jarring conclusion. Pixar at their very best, and my choice for the Best Film Oscar.
And one film I saw for the first time this year…
The Shop Around The Corner
I adore Jimmy Stewart films, and had only missed the opportunity to see this precursor to You’ve Got Mail thanks to its unavailability on Region 2 DVD (a problem I circum-navigated with one clever Region Free purchase in November). Needless to say, it did not disappoint- Stewart’s greatest filmic trick is his on-screen humanity, something he played upon incredibly in It’s a Wonderful Life, and his ability to utterly provoke empathy works wonderfully in The Shop Around the Corner. Thanks to his presence, and the chemistry between Stewart and Margaret Sullavan the film is bursting with charm, and may well be the closest thing to romantic movie perfection.