Monthly Archives: January 2011

Oscar Nominations!

The list of nominations for the 83rd annual Oscars is finally here.  This is the entire list, along with my personal picks from each category.

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Best Motion Picture

Black Swan

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

My Pick: The Social Network.  I haven’t seen every single film on this list, but out of the ones I have seen, David Fincher’s film is the most entertaining and flat-out well done.  Even beyond the ones on this list, The Social Network was my favorite film of the year, period, without contest.

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Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Jeff Bridges, True Grit

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

James Franco, 127 Hours

My Pick: Jesse Eisenberg.  With The Social Network, Eisenberg moved out of his comfort zone of awkward, Cera-esque teenager and embraced the (somewhat fictionalized) character of Mark Zuckerberg.  Subtle nuances in his character, little ticks, and rapid-fire inner and outer dialog were delivered flawlessly.  Out of any other award on this list, I am really, really pulling for Mr. Eisenberg here.

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Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Fighter

John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner, The Town

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

My Pick: Christian Bale.  I didn’t think The Fighter was an amazing movie, and I don’t care for boxing movies in general, but I love Christian Bale and he always gives intense, deep performances no matter what he’s acting.  The same applies to The Fighter, for which he lost a ton of weight for the role of Mark Wahlberg’s brother.  Bale is one of my favorite actors in the business currently, and I can’t get enough of him.

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Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

My Pick: Natalie Portman.  Given Portman’s acting history, there was a fairly significant amount of doubt over how well she would do in a film with as much weight as Black Swan.  She pulled if off magnificently, however, and in her performance brought a great deal of darkness in her portrayal of an obsessed ballerina’s downward spiral into madness and despair.  After seeing Black Swan, I’m pretty excited for whatever Portman does next.

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Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

My Pick: Hailee Steinfeld.  Though I would personally put Steinfeld in the “Leading Actress” category, as she was a main character in True Grit, this also conveniently allows me to give both her and Portman nods for their acting.  Steinfeld’s portrayal as the whip-smart your girl who recruits Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) on her journey of revenge was powerful indeed for a girl her age.  It’s rare to see a child actress outshine most of her peers, and even more rare to witness such good chemistry as she had with Bridges in True Grit.

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Achievement in Directing

Black Swan–Darren Aronofsky

The Fighter–David O. Russell

The King’s Speech–Tom Hooper

The Social Network–David Fincher

True Grit–Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

My Pick: Boy, was this a hard one.  After almost an entire day of consideration, I finally went with David Fincher, despite my intense admiration for both Aronofsky and the Coen Brothers.  The reason for this is that The Social Network is, as a whole, the most expertly constructed film of the year on every level.  The pacing and the nonlinear story progression are just a couple of the great ideas that went into the creation of this film.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours–Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy

The Social Network–Aaron Sorkin

Toy Story 3–Michael Arndt

True Grit–Joel & Ethan Coen

Winter’s Bone–Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

My Pick: Aaron Sorkin.  I’ll be honest–one of the reasons I was initially interested in The Social Network was because Aaron Sorkin was on board.  The man is an absolute genius of smart, realistic dialog that pulls you in and keeps you engaged and paying attention.  Previously, Sorkin write the script for the brilliantly entertaining Charlie Wilson’s War.  That same style of clever writing carried over into this film.

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Best Original Screenplay

Another Year–Mike Leigh

The Fighter–Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson

Inception–Christopher Nolan

The Kids Are All Right–Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg

The King’s Speech–David Seidler

My Pick: Christopher Nolan.  While some of the other movies on this list might have some better-written dialog, Inception’s script carefully and effectively constructs a detailed dreamscape with its own set of rules and explains everything so well that it’s easy to stay engaged and entertained.

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Best Documentary Feature

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Gasland

Inside Job

Restrepo

Waste Land

My Pick: Exit Through the Gift Shop. This documentary about Bansky, the renowned street artist, is simultaneously extremely engaging and very funny.  Watching Bansky construct his works of art is a sight to behold, just like any other, more “traditional” artist.  There’s something breathtaking about watching any sort of artist work, and this is a front-row seat to one of the most talented names out there.  There are rumors that this documentary is not genuine, and is instead an intricately manufactured farce like the also-excellent Joaquin Phoenix prank I’m Still Here, but like that film, it doesn’t make the experience any less engaging–if anything, it further enriches the experience.

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Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

Toy Story 3

My Pick: Toy Story 3.  Not only is Toy Story 3 one of my favorite animated films, it’s a damn near perfect film altogether.  Pixar has recently been making films with a great deal more emotional weight than in the past, moving beyond light entertainment with the classic Disney message and into children’s films with adult themes.  The resulting emotional complexity is masterful and beautiful.

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Best Foreign Language Film

Buitiful–Mexico

Dogtooth–Greece

In a Better World–Denmark

Incendies–Canada

Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)–Algeria

My Pick: Dogtooth.  The dark psychological framework of Dogtooth is what holds the film together.  The story–children in their late teens who have never been allowed out of their house, and as such only know the world that is their home–is disturbing to watch unfold, particularly as the deception of the parents (such as teaching the children incorrect definitions for words) shapes the psychological constructs of the children.  Their entire way of thinking has been shaped by the world their parents have manufactured for them, and it is a disturbing and engaging story to watch.

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Art Direction

Alice in Wonderland–Robert Stromberg (Production Design), Karen O’Hara (Set Decoration)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1–Stuart Craig (Production Design), Stephanie McMillan (Set Decoration)

Inception–Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration)

The King’s Speech–Eve Stewart (Production Design), Judy Farr (Set Decoration)

True Grit–Jess Gonchor (Production Design), Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration)

My Pick: Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan.  The more recent Harry Potter films have sported a much darker and more mature style, and it is a massive benefit to the darker direction of the story.  It’s always fun to see how the art direction in a film differs from my own visualization of the story when I read it on a page, and the decisions made here are visually exciting and very creative.

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Achievement in Cinematography

Black Swan–Matthew Libatique

Inception–Wally Pfister

The King’s Speech–Danny Cohen

The Social Network–Jeff Cronenweth

True Grit–Roger Deakins

My Pick: Matthew Libatique.  The way Black Swan illustrated its nightmarish imagery and the unfolding of madness was unparalleled by anything else this year.  Black Swan wasn’t quite a psychological horror film, but some of the disturbing and downright terrifying cinematography brought it very close.

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Achievement in Costume Design

Alice in Wonderland–Colleen Atwood

I Am Love–Antonella Connarozzi

The King’s Speech–Jenny Beavan

The Tempest–Sandy Powell

True Grit–Mary Zophres

My Pick: Sandy Powell.  The costume design in The Tempest was colorful and exciting, as a Shakespearean production should be.  While the film itself was flawed, the visual flair of the costumes stood out and made the film worth watching at least on a visual level.

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Achievement in Film Editing

Black Swan–Andrew Weisblum

The Fighter–Pamela Martin

The King’s Speech–Tariq Anwar

127 Hours–Jon Harris

The Social Network–Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

My Pick: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.  The seamless transitions between scenes in the film, and between the film’s past and present, were extremely impressive and immersive.  It is said that the best editing work is when you don’t notice the editing.  Wall and Baxter have done just that.

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Achievement in Makeup

Barney’s Version–Adrien Morot

The Way Back–Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng

The Wolfman–Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

My Pick: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey.  The Wolfman was a very stupid movie and I didn’t care for it, but admittedly the work done on the werewolves was pretty impressive.

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Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture (Original Score)

How to Train Your Dragon–John Powell

Inception–Hans Zimmer

The King’s Speech–Alexandre Desplat

127 Hours–A.R. Rahman

The Social Network–Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

My Pick: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  Every single one of the nominees this year was extremely good, though I lament the travesty that is the omission of Daft Punk’s incredible soundtrack for Tron: Legacy, which I keep on a fairly frequent rotation in my car stereo.  My pick out of the list, however, is the one for The Social Network, in all of its tense, minimalist glory.

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Achievement in Music Written For Motion Picture (Original Song)

“Coming Home” from Country Strong–Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey

“I See the Light” from Tangled–Alan Menken and Glenn Slater

“If I Rise” from 127 Hours–A. R. Rahman and Rollo Armstrong

“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3–Randy Newman

My Pick: “We Belong Together”.  Randy Newman bookended a beautifully emotional film with an equally emotional song that perfectly fit with the tone of Toy Story 3 and captured exactly what the theme was encompassing; love, loss, and letting childhood live on.

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Best Animated Short Film

Day & Night

The Gruffalo

Let’s Pollute

The Lost Thing

Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

My Pick: Day & Night.  The preceding short to Toy Story 3 was a delightful and inventive little short that effectively combined the styles of Looney Tunes and the work of Pixar into one piece.  The marriage proved successful and the end result was a joyful little production.

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Achievement in Sound Editing

Inception–Richard King

Toy Story 3–Tom Myers and Michael Silvers

Tron: Legacy–Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague

True Grit–Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey

Unstoppable–Mark P. Stoeckinger

My Pick: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague.  The soundscape of Tron: Legacy was quite masterfully put together, and the way the sounds of the Grid made the world feel so intricately similar to a computer, yet not unlike the real world, was a treat for the ears.

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Achievement in Sound Mixing

Inception–Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick

The King’s Speech–Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley

Salt–Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin

The Social Network–Ryan Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten

True Grit–Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

My Pick: Ryan Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Wringarten.  The way the different sounds of The Social Network (dialog and voice-over, music, and ambient sound) came together was as engaging as David Fincher’s direction.  Different sounds were emphasized at just the right time for the right effect.

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Achievement in Visual Effects

Alice in Wonderland–Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1–Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi

Hereafter–Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell

Inception–Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Iron Man 2–Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

My Pick: Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick.  Easily the best part of Iron Man 2 was the attention to Iron Man’s suit.  Every single little component was lovingly detailed and worked into the suit’s animation.  The rest of the special effects were just as impressive, effectively making the suits appear functional in a real world sense.

Season of the Witch Review

Every year, a studio will make a small handful of films that get shelved for a few months.  Towards the end of the ear, the studio releases the high-profile films that have a shot at the Oscars so that they will be fresh in everyone’s mind by the time the Oscars roll around.  The films the studio does not have much hope for get released in January.  As such, January is generally a “dumping ground” for films of lower quality, though there are exceptions (last year’s Book of Eli, one of my Top 10 for the year, was released in January).  Leading the charge this year is the Nicolas Cage vehicle Season of the Witch, which comes screaming out of the gate with a vengeance.  Toward the end of last year, I and a number of others committed to something called the “Nicolas Cage Promise”: a vow to see every Nicolas Cage movie released this year as soon as possible.  Right off the bat, I have been gravely punished for my decision.

Season of the Witch, directed by Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds), is a medieval story taking place around the time of the Crusades, when the Templars cut across the country in their holy war and witch hunts were an everyday occurrence.  Two soldiers, Behemen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman), come to the realization that along with the countless soldiers that have fallen under their blades, hundreds of women and children have died as well.  They desert their army and return to their own land.  When they arrive, they find a city ravaged by a plague.  The alleged perpetrator?  A young woman (Claire Foy) who remains unnamed, and who is a professed witch.  After some persuasion, Behemen and Felson agree to accompany a monk named Debelzag as he transports the imprisoned girl across the country to an abbey in the north, where she will be tried as a witch and the curse will eventually end.  But is she really a witch?’

As the party continues across the countryside, the story gets into a predictable rhythm where you can predict a character’s death almost down to the second.  Stopping for camp?  Someone’s going to die.  Wolves?  Someone will get eaten.  A cliff with a rickety bridge?  Why not!  Claire Foy actually does a pretty good job as the girl, appropriately switching between menacing and innocent looking even when it doesn’t make any sense in the story.

Season of the Witch feels like it was written by a high school student with an obsession for fantasy stories.  The horrible names for the characters (there’s another knight named Hagamar), the awful, stilted dialogue (Behemen and Felson bet on how many soldiers they kill and decide who will buy drinks after the battle), and sets and costumes that feel borrowed from the Renaissance Festival, everything about this movie feels cheap and low-grade.  Part of the reason I made the Promise is because I truly enjoy Nic Cage; the man is a genius of bizarre overacting. While this seems like the perfect movie for him to do this, he unfortunately stays very mellow and low key until the climax, where he does a couple of things in his performance that were truly hilarious, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  Ron Perlman seems to be slightly more aware of his situation and hams it up accordingly, though he too is a bit too serious.  In fact, I feel like this whole movie would have been considerably better if it hadn’t been so aggressively grim.  It just doesn’t work, and the scenes that are meant to be scary, serious, or tragic wind up eliciting chuckles.  A scene toward the end involving possessed monks is easily the high point and the low point in the film because of how hilariously awful it is.

It’s even worse that Sena wants his film to be like Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal, though I’d say this has more in common with what might happen if Uwe Boll tried to make a serious, non-musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I truly miss when Cage used to do his more bizarre performances; I know he’s still capable, as he was delightfully insane in the recent Bad Liutenant and The Wicker Man.  This movie would have been perfect for him had he taken advantage of it, but everyone simply plays it too seriously.  As it stands, Season of the Witch is not quite “so bad it’s good”; it’s simply a terrible January movie that needs to be avoided.  Here’s hoping the Promise is more rewarding next time.

For your enjoyment, here is a video montage of Nicolas Cage in some of his better freakout moments.

Score: * (out of 5)

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, violence, and disturbing content

Released: January 7, 2011

Retrospect: 10 Worst Films of 2010

10. Salt


The tagline of the movie Salt is “Who is Salt?”  After two hours, the question is not answered.  The plot twists and turns countless times.  Characters appear and disappear in a matter of minutes, characters are revealed to be Russian spies one minute then be actually working for the good guys another minute.  Most of the plot elements seem to have been thrown in for no other reason than “Why the hell not?”  There is minimal explanation or motivation for most of the characters’ actions.  There are some creative and exciting action sequences, but when coupled with the annoyingly convoluted plot, it turns the entire movie into an unnecessary chore to watch.

9.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief


Chris Columbus churns out another movie annoyingly targeted at the younger generation.  Pop culture references are in abundance here, from Lady Gaga songs to iPods.  The script is cliche and stupid.  And the movie as a whole is incredibly boring.  It’s really sad, because I always jump at the chance to have fun with a good mythology movie.  Some of that mythology is there, but overall it’s pretty watered down and certainly not worth the trudge through such a poorly made film.

8.  The Bounty Hunter


Bounty Hunter‘s gravest sin is that it’s just plain frustrating.  Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston basically play themselves in what amounts to a smug, self-conscious “comedy”.  The poor script is not anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is.  It’s entirely forgettable and simply no fun to watch.

7.  Jonah Hex


Jonah Hex breaks the trend of recent entertaining comic book adaptations with a putrid supernatural western-ish action movie that deviates heavily from the original comic.  It’s truly sad that the movie is from Jimmy Hayward, the director of the delighful Horton Hears a Who! His directing talent seems to be limited to animated films, because his first live-action foray is very, very poor.  Take it from star Josh Brolin, who, during production of the movie, admitted that he was starring in Jonah Hex because he wanted to make one terrible movie.  You know your movie’s in trouble when your main star knows he’s starring in a pile of crap.

6.  Marmaduke


Owen Wilson plays a talking dog based on a one-panel daily comic.  George Lopez plays a talking cat.  There’s also a dance sequence with a bunch of CGI animals involved.  Need I say any more?

5.  Alice in Wonderland


It seems like Tim Burton is a one-trick pony.  All of his movies have that dark, strange, off-kilter feel.  After over a dozen movies that exhibit this style, it’s not as exciting anymore.  Not only that, but Burton’s attempt to fashion a pseudo-sequel to the original story by cobbling together elements from multiple Wonderland stories ends up feeling like a hodgepodge of strange elements.  Another element of Burton’s films is the presence of Johnny Depp, and as such his character the Mad Hatter becomes a central character, while Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar are relegated to only a couple of minutes of screen time.  Also, Wonderland is apparently supposed to be called Underland, and there’s a huge battle sequence at the end.  What the hell is going on in this movie?

4.  Legion


At its core, Legion has an interesting idea (God decides humanity is too corrupt and sends His own angels to finish us off) with the potential to be either awesome or just completely stupid and horrible.  Predictably, it fell into the latter category.  Legion is rife with stupidity, missed opportunities, underdeveloped characters, and anemic action sequences.  And why does an entire army of angels choose to attack one by one, every few minutes, instead of all at once?

3.  The Last Airbender


How the mighty have fallen.  M. Night “What a Twist!” Shyamalan (whose name I won’t bother looking up for correctness, because I don’t care) has come a very long way from his Sixth Sense and Unbreakable days.  This time, he takes the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and turns it into a tortuously boring “action” movie.  Probably the worst part about The Last Airbender is that there are actually some pretty well-directed scenes, my favorite being one action sequence that was filmed all in one shot, with the camera spinning around Aang as he blasts enemies away.  Unfortunately, it’s Shymalan’s writing that kills this movie.  Endless exposition still yields little to no coherence in the plot, and the trailer shows just about every action sequence that’s in the movie (which amounts to less than five minutes of extremely tame action in a movie that is almost two hours long).  It’s just boring and doesn’t make any sense, even to fans of the show.

2.  Cop Out


There are two things I found funny about Cop Out: The first is the original title for the film, A Couple of Dicks.  The second is the tagline, “Rock Out With Your Glock Out”.  Even those are mildly amusing at best.  The rest of the movie is a train wreck of bad ideas and poorly conceived jokes.  It does have something of a fondness for old-school buddy cop movie, and its heart is definitely in the right place in that respect, but the execution of its tribute just doesn’t work.  It’s too bad, because Tracy Morgan can be really funny on 30 Rock, and I love me some Bruce Willis.  Kevin Smith needs to stick to directing his own work; even this is below him.

1.  Grown Ups


I can reasonably compare Grown Ups to putting several of my least favorite things in one place and then forcing myself to be subjected to them for an hour and a half.  I’ve never really cared for any of these actors.  The only two Adam Sandler comedies I really like are Happy Gilmore and Anger Management, Kevin James stopped being funny halfway through The King of Queens, and I have only ever enjoyed David Spade and Chris Rock in The Emperor’s New Groove and Head of State, respectively.  Rob Schneider can go die in a fire.  Grown Ups is a travesty of a comedy film.  There is barely a plot.  The humor is an endless stream of lowbrow, juvenile bathroom humor.  It’s insulting that studios put this out and expect me to laugh.

Retrospect: Top 10 Films of 2010

10. The Expendables


More recent action pictures have attempted to deliver a serious story, brooding characters, and realistic issues.  Sylvester Stallone gives those tropes the finger with the The Expendables, an action flick whose balls hit the wall so hard that said balls explode magnificently in a ball of fire.  Critics of The Expendables dock it points for exactly what makes it work: the story only exists to set up the next action scene, and every action scene continues beyond the point of reason for a completely unnecessary finisher.  It’s far from perfect, but it does exactly what it sets out to do; a delightfully testosterone-packed throwback to 90s action movies with a laundry list of the era’s star players.

9.  Book of Eli


I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies, and Book of Eli delivered in spades.  The Hughes brothers showcased some magnificent directorial flair with some very impressive long takes that usually kicked in during the action sequences, which themselves were brutal and visceral.  Gary Oldman was an effectively cold and cruel villain and was a lot of fun to watch.  The Book of Eli also does a fairly good job of straddling the line between Christian and secular film; it is basically a Christian movie but is never to heavy-handed or preachy.  The plot twist is the best kind of twist, in that it immediately demands a second viewing, and doing so enriches the experience.

8.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a Canadian graphic novel.  Knowing that will help when viewing the movie, which is an absolute assault on the senses.  Bright lights, video-game sounds, comic-book-style visual sound effects, and bizarre, silly dialog dominates every second of the film.  The characters are all crazy and most of them have some kind of superpower.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is pure, unfiltered joy for two hours.

7.  Shutter Island


Martin Scorsese’s newest and most unconventional film is a fairly obvious love letter to Hitchcock, though such a distinction makes for a very exciting ride.  Scorsese’s direction is designed to cause discomfort and upset; the sights and sounds mess with the senses and disorient the viewer to move them out of their comfort zone.  The licensed soundtrack is composed mostly of classic contemporary pieces, and the piece chosen for the main theme, Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia, by Antonio Wit, is incredibly ominous.  The occasional heavy handedness of the tone only serves to increase the tension.  Like Book of Eli, a second viewing yields subtle hints and secrets to help decipher the film’s conclusion.

6.  The American


The American is dominated by an air of depressing finality; its central character is a man who has outgrown the world around him and seems to inhabit an empty and lonely space with only his paranoia to keep him company.  The extremely small cast of supporting characters are merely window dressings to what feels like the final weeks of the life of George Clooney’s aging, lonely, and remorseful assassin.  Clooney’s performance is mesmerizing and the tragic music score fits perfectly with the film.  The American is the perfect kind of slow burn and an outstanding psychological drama.

5.   Inception


Chris Nolan had the idea for Inception long before he started directing movies, and had been tweaking the script ever since he took an interest in lucid dreaming.  All of that care shows in Inception, a thrillingly original and creative action picture.  The most impressive aspect of Inception is the scope of the world Nolan has constructed; his universe has its own rules and strikes the perfect balance between being similar enough to our own and having those fantastical qualities that make it a joy to explore.  Nolan’s logic in explaining the rules of his world are fascinating.  And how about that hallway fight scene?

4.  Toy Story 3


Toy Story 3 brought forth waves of nostalgia, joy, sorrow, and childish delight from every corner of my heart.  More than any film of the year, Pixar’s newest opus really plays with emotions and tugs at the heartstrings.  The last ten minutes may bring tears to your eyes.  Like Up and Wall-E, the movie is simultaneously tragic and joyous, and it’s cruel how easily Pixar can mess with the emotions of their audiences.

3.  Black Swan


Equal parts ballerina drama, cautionary tale of obsession, and psychological horror film, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a parade of shocking and disturbing images and mesmerizing ballet performances.  It juxtaposes beauty and ugliness like only an Aronofsky film can.  Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have remarkable depth and darkness in their roles and have intoxicating chemistry.  Nina’s (Portman) transformation into the Black Swan during the final tragic act to the Swan Lake ballet is one of the best scenes in any movie this year.  This may very well be Aronofsky’s best film to date.

2.  Tron: Legacy


Tron: Legacy was my most anticipated film of the year, all year long.  It turned out even better than I hoped.  It’s hard to describe exactly what makes this sequel so entertaining.  The movie has some beautiful visuals that are a true treat for the eyes.  Daft Punk’s brilliant score is the year’s best by a long shot.  The action is spectacular and thrilling.  Jeff Bridges is in the movie.  Despite some minor story issues, it’s incredibly entertaining and the most fun I had all year.

1.  The Social Network


The Social Network packs so much talent per square inch it’s almost overwhelming.  David Fincher’s creative and breathtaking direction, star-making performances from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg (the year’s best without contest) and Andrew Garfield as former friend Eduardo Saverin,  Aaron Sorkin’s incredibly tight script, and Trent Reznor’s tense, brooding score together are a powerhouse. The Social Network pulls you in and commands your attention like no other film this year.  Profoundly fascinating and masterfully executed across the board, nothing else measures up.