So, it's well into 2011. Ok, not necessarily well into it, but enough in that I figured I could make a list of my favorite movies of last year. The awards have already started being handed out and I've seen most of the "big" movies of the year. This list may be amended once I watch The King's Speech and/or The Fighter. So, here you go. My 20 favorite movies of last year....
20. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
19. Solitary Man
I'm not a huge Michael Douglas fan, but he worked towards winning me over with his portrayal of a businessman whose personal and professional lives are thrown for a loop due to some irresponsible choices. Douglas is joined by a stellar supporting cast including Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, and The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg.
18. The Tourist
Panned by the critics and not seen by very many while it was in theaters, The Tourist may go down as last year's biggest mistake. It had two of the most famous people in world running around one of the most beautiful places in the world, in a genre that is pretty well-liked with audiences around the world. The problem with the movie was that the director couldn't really figure out if he was making a clever heist film, an action thriller, or a goofy comedy. But, seeing Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp run around Venice was worth the watch, as well as the stunning visuals. Felt like I was watching a classic Hollywood picture.
This was one of my most-anticipated movies of the year. I'm a big Sofia Coppola fan (Lost in Translation is incredible) and so I had high hopes for this little indie starring Stephen Dorff as a Hollywood actor who has turned to booze and drugs to get him by, until one day when he's forced to take care of his young daughter (played incredibly by Elle Fanning...Dakota's little sister). It's a classic Sofia Coppola piece with scenes that linger long past the awkward point and stinging dialogue that sounds/seems so real. Felt like a backstage pass to Hollywood life.
16. Winter's Bone
Every year has it's little independent film that makes a name for itself during the festival season. Winter's Bone is it for 2010. One of the most-talked-about films of the year, it's a gritty look at a young girl's struggle to save her family. Jennifer Lawrence is perhaps the breakout star of the year for her honest turn as the confident young heroine. Nice camera work makes the movie even easier to watch.
15. 127 Hours
My favorite trailer of the year belonged to this Danny Boyle biopic about Aaron Rolston, the adventurer who had to cut his own arm off to save his life after being trapped under a boulder. James Franco turns in his best work to date and will probably get an Oscar nod (well deserved, I should add). The movie didn't quite live up to the hype foe me (people reportedly passed out during screenings of the film), but the arm-getting-cut-off scene was pretty intense. Boyle's style (think Slumdog Millionaire in the Utah canyons) is clearly seen here making it a little easier to follow.
Probably the most surprisingly good movie of the year, Kick-Ass was hilarious, action-packed, and had more than a handful of WTF moments. The script was ridiculously clever. The cast was perfect (I even liked Nicholas Cage's random cameo....and I'm not a Cage fan). But, most surprisingly of all is that the movie is technically a British film. Wait. They make movies like this over there? Cool.
13. Easy A
I already had a crush on Emma Stone before I saw this movie, but now I might be in love. She's definitely on her way to A-list comedy star, perhaps filling the shoes of, say, Sandra Bullock. The movie is a classic teen comedy, with a clever twist. But, Stone's perfect delivery of the comedic script is what took the movie from your regular teen laugher, to an award's contender (Stone was nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes for Easy A). Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, as her parents, are hilarious, as well. Where Mean Girls was a hit, Easy A is a classic.
12. Rabbit Hole
Nicole Kidman leads an outstanding ensemble cast in this screen adaptation of the play with the same name. While her and husband (played brilliantly by Aaron Eckhart) struggle to come to terms with the recent passing of their young son in a car accident, the couple find their personal lives in shambles, needing more repair than they thought. Kidman is great. Dianne Wiest and newcomer Miles Teller (as the teenager responsible for the accident) both offer some great performances as well.
11. Blue Valentine
The movie's release was overshadowed by it's controversial NC-17 rating (which has since been changed to an R) due to a sex scene in the film. While the movie is pretty graphic as far as relations go, the reason the movie even works is actually because of Ryan Gosling's and Michelle Williams' incredible performances as a married couple over a course of years. The chemistry between the two actors is phenomenal, making it feel more like your peeking into a real relationship, rather than a fictional movie relationship. Best performances of the year.
10. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Banksy is one of my favorite artists. I've been a fan ever since I ran across a copy of his book at an Urban Outfitters. This is his documentary. Or, a documentary put together by him. I'm not really sure how to explain it. One of the more interesting movies I've seen in a while. Hilarious. Insightful. And, a great documentary about an art form many people look past every single day. I know when I drive through Atlanta, I give a little more respect to the drawings on the overpasses.
9. How to Train Your Dragon
If it weren't for Toy Story 3's release last year, this would have been the ultimate animated movie. A unique story about Vikings and dragons, the visuals are stunning and the adventure is edge-of-your-seat.
8. Shutter Island
I have a feeling this movie isn't going to get the awards recognition is deserves because (for some reason) the studio released it in February. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance since Revolutionary Road and Martin Scorcese proves he can make any kind of film. The dark undertones is what made this thriller as scary and exciting as it was. Plus, the smart filmmaking left me asking questions and thinking about it days after watching.
7. Never Let Me Go
A little-seen film about a group of friends growing up in an English boardinghouse. The only difference is that once the kids are old enough, their organs are used for people who have paid for them. Basically, they're grown for transplants. It sounds ridiculous and real "science fiction", but it's not. The science fictiony details are only a small piece of the otherwise purely dramatic story. The cast, led by Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, are perfect. The cinematography is some of the year's best. I couldn't stop watching.
6. The Town
Ben Affleck is quickly proving himself to be a great director. The Town pulls together a stellar ensemble cast in a rough and tough Boston-set story about thieves and getting away with crime. Clever twists and top-notch editing make this the action movie of the year.
5. True Grit
If anyone can remake a classic western it's the Coen brothers. The duo behind Fargo and No Country for Old Men bring together an A-list cast for a remake of the John Wayne classic. Jeff Bridges is the standout star of the film, followed closely by newcomer Hailee Steinfield, as the elusive Mattie Ross, a young spitfire after her father's murderer. Matt Damon is also worthy of a mention.
First, let me clarify that these top 4 are almost interchangeable. They're each so different that it's hard to pick which is better. That being said, Christopher Nolan's summer blockbuster is a masterpiece in original filmmaking. The mind-boggling story and the brain-twisting effects still hurt my head when I try to piece it all together. Leonardo DiCaprio is great as the film's lead, as is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It's hard to get past the incredible sights, though. This is what movies are about, especially in the summer blockbuster realm. It's ok to have a smart story. Nolan proves it.
3. Black Swan
Darron Aronofsky's masterpiece brings thriller to a new level as Natalie Portman turns in the performance of her career as Nina, a ballerina whose struggling with a few insecurities. Shocking. Brutal. Brilliant. I still can't stop thinking about this movie.
1. The Social Network and Toy Story 3
I went back and forth over which movie had to be number one and I ultimately couldn't pick, so it's a tie. The Social Network is the perfect glimpse of what life (especially for young people) is like this day and age. The script is brilliant. The performances are incredible, especially for it being a cast of pretty-much-unknown young actors. David Fincher captures the perfect essence of what it's like trying to fit in in life, while still realizing who you really are. If you haven't seen it yet, just remember the word "refresh". Brilliant. Toy Story 3 is equally as great as the last chapter in the epic story of Woody and Buzz. This movie partly works because almost everyone is familiar with the classic Pixar story by now (with most "new" adults having actually grown up with the characters). It also works because it's just a brilliant story about what it means to grow up and say goodbye. In one scene, when the toys are about to meet their demise and realize they're at least in it together and decide to hold hands, it was a little hard to bare. I didn't want to say goodbye to them, but it was an incredible way of showing true friendship and love. It's definitely one of those moments that kids and adults are equal on, which is why the movie was as successful as it was. And, at the end, when everyone is saying goodbye, it reminded me of a quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. "We're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?"
So, there you have it. What were some of your favorites of the year? Did I miss any? Was I completely wrong?