Monday, February 21, 2011

Geek Lantern's Favorite Films of 2010

This is one post I have been promising for quite a while. Being the cinephile that I am, I really enjoy making a list of my favorite movies from the previous year. Not only does it help one's self to evaluate their "film year" but it's also a helpful tool in sharing the awesome films you enjoy with others. In recent years, I've tried to get it done by the end of the year to liken myself to every critic out there who release a top ten list; This year, however, I decided to give my self an extra month (which turned into a month and 3/4ths) to catch some films on DVD that never made a theater appearance around me (or I didn't know about it when they did.) As it turns out, this was extremely helpful as a few of the films on here were viewed in that time but I still managed to miss a few (I'm looking at you Somewhere and Blue Valentine.) So here are my favorite films that were released in 2010 starting with five honorable mentions (in alphabetical order) followed by the top ten. Also, for your added benefit I am linking all the movie titles to their IMDB page so you can check into them further if your interested.

The American

Despite being hated by many of my fellow Americans, I really enjoyed this Spy/Drama directed by Anton Corbijn. Abandoning many of the typical thriller elements associated with a "spy" film, we instead are treated to a dramatic tale of an aging agent who no longer has his heart in this line of work. That isn't to say the film contains no action scenes, as the ones it does have pretty thrilling, but they are built on a quite tension and not grandeur or explosions. Also worth mentioning is George Clooney's performance which is quite a bit more reserved than his usual fair perfectly fitting the role of the title character. Give this one a chance if your a fan of spy films, just don't go in expecting the James Bond or Jason Bourne.

One Too Many Mornings is a film I blogged about once before (you can find that here) and just barely made the front end time restrictions of this list premiering at last year's Sundance Film Festival. It has best been described as "a coming of age comedy about two guys who are way too old to be coming of age" and despite being a really well made dramedy, it has flow under the radar for most due to the lack of wide release in theaters. I think one of my favorite elements of the film (and possible selling point) is the way it blends its comedy naturally into the heart of its story, rather than injecting it with pop-culture references for cheap laughs like many modern comedies. Hopefully this quiet little indie film will make its way into the hands of all those slackers out there that will enjoy it just as much as I do.

The first of three Oscilloscope Laboratories distributed films to make this list, Rare Exports is a Finnish gem that examines the "true" origins of Santa Claus. Filled with laughs and fun for most of the family (might want to keep the younger ones away) this is my favorite holiday film to come out in quite a while. Since its a little late to check it out for Christmas 2010 make sure you pick up a copy before December 25th this year, it's not out on DVD yet but should be in the next few months.

This is one that just barely made the list due to me delaying, as I watched it just last week. Restrepo is a war-documentary that follows one platoon's year-long tour in Afghanistan's deadliest valley. The thing that sets it apart from so many other war films or docs from the past few years is the directors' (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger) not pushing any agenda and the candor with which the soldiers speak to the camera. No matter your political alignment or thoughts on the war, this is one film you should see if only to get some small idea of what our nation's front line troops go through.

Another documentary that I really enjoyed, somewhat for its impartiality in a hot button geek issue but also for its high entertainment value; The People vs. George Lucas examines the relationship between the famed Star Wars creator and his fans in a post-prequels world. Consisting of interviews, fan footage from across the world, and maybe even a scene or two from Lucas' films this doc covers all its bases and will keep you laughing all the way through. The documentary will mostly be enjoyed by Star Wars fans world-wide, when it goes into wider release and maybe DVD this year, but non-star wars fans (do those exists?) might find it interesting to see the effect one man has had on generations now and how quick the winds of favor can change.

Have to admit, I passed on this one in theaters assuming it wouldn't be as good as most reviews were saying. I did, however, throw it in the netflix queue and was proved wrong when it eventually made its way to me. Toy Story 3 hits some emotional scenes out of the park while still managing to be a fun, family-friendly film. I'm not sure, since it's been a while since I watched the first one or The Incredibles, but this may be my favorite Pixar film. So if you made the same assumption I did originally, make sure to rectify that soon.

Almost every year I see one film that stands apart from other theater viewing experiences, Buried is that film this year. Telling the tale of a kidnapped and (suprise!) buried U.S. contractor in Iraq, played by Ryan Reynolds, this entire movie takes place in a coffin! While it may initially seem like a gimmick; Reynolds performance, great cinematography, and well done confined lighting keep your eyes glued to the screen for its entire 95 minute running time. You would be hard pressed to find Buried still in a theater but it came out on DVD about a month ago, so make sure to check it out next time your in the mood for a solid thriller.

In the vein of The Great Dictator, (writer/director) Chris Morris' Four Lions takes the most prominent world threat and mocks it hilariously. Not only does this film have the stones to broach a topic most filmmakers or studios wouldn't touch (a slap-stick comedy about suicide bombers) but it's also one of the funniest comedies I've seen in quite a while. You need to watch and laugh at this film, or the terrorists have already won!

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a rare film that has so much to say, while at the same time you're still not entirely sure what it is. Examining the world of graffiti art and parlaying that into a critique of the business side of art, the film presents its self as a documentary but with the message its saying one wonders if mockumentary might fit it better in the end. Hopefully we never get a straight answer from those involved, which is entirely possible, leaving the viewer to make their own judgment. The only bad thing about the film, it's pretty much cause internet fiends everywhere to credit all street art to the film's mysterious director Banksy.

Monsters would have probably been lower on this list if I had only seen it once but with each viewing I find some new shot or part of a scene that amazes me. Writer, director, and visual effects artist of the film Gareth Edwards presents the viewer with a fully realized world of alien monsters living at our border. Drawing many comparisons to District 9, from critics and fans alike, I feel that Monsters handles every thing from it's drama and effects to not force feeding the audience it's message a lot better (Note: I didn't like District 9 that much.) So if you are in the mood for a relationship drama with spectacular effects, make sure to check this film out. Afterward, be sure to give the bonus features on the Blu-ray or DVD a look, I was blown away by them.

5) Enter The Void

The first time I heard of this film was catching a glimpse of it's bright neon poster and from there, the rabbit hole just gets deeper. Director Gaspar Noe presents the viewer with a movie not quite like anything they've seen before with some very creative and purposeful cinematography. I'm hesitant to tell anyone too much about this film because going into it cold was such an awesome experience for me, but essentially it's the longest drug trip/spiritual experience you will ever see on film. I'm looking forward to checking out the longer, director's cut when I get a chance but for those of you ready to dive in now it's currently streaming on Netflix Instant.

A strikingly dark look at a quest for perfection; Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan not only mesmerizes through it well choreographed dancing and stylish scenery (as pictured above) but through it's protagonist's (Nina Sayers played by Natalie Portman) journey into stress-induced madness. While the film is definitely Oscar-bait, it strikes me as more original than most in that category and certainly a film I could find myself watching again and again. Definitely check this one out if you enjoyed Aronofsky's The Wrestler or Powel and Pressburger's The Red Shoes, a film it draws a lot of inspiration from.

3) Inception

The only surprise about this one being on my list is that it's not number one. Being a huge fan of Nolan and a lot of the cast, the bar was set pretty high for this one and it definitely went over it. From one fantastical dream world to the next, the film kept me engaged all the way through. Don't plan on going to in-depth here but if you want to read more of what I thought of it you can check out the my review here. I don't know many who haven't seen this yet but if you are one of those few you should correct that soon.

A love letter to nerd culture, director Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may have underperformed at the box office but it has certainly turned into a classic/must own for lovers of comics and video games everywhere. Even if your not a fan of such things (in which case you're crazy), it stands as a well made comedy with sweet visual effects. I'm a fan of Wright's other work (Spaced, Shawn of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) but this is by far my favorite, as it puts a big smile on my face every time I watch it.

1) Howl

Number one comes as a real surprise this year as it wasn't even on my radar until a few weeks before I saw it. While I have already gone in depth about my love for this film twice before on here (Review & Circle of Trust piece), I really can't say enough about in hopes that more people will check it out. Not only does this film spectacularly adapt Allen Ginsberg's famous poem Howl into animated sequences, it adds in a bio-pic flavor looking at his life and the obscenity trial that helped propel the poem into the masses. All of this comes together in a spectacular blend of documentary, animation, poetry, and wonderful acting from James Franco. I know I've said you should see all these films, but this is the one of the least seen that more really need to check out.

Ok, well that is it for my favorite films of 2010. Let me know your thoughts on the list or your own favorite below and thanks for reading this but now get off your butt and go watch one of these movies.


  1. Shouldn't this end with, get off your butt then get back on your butt and watch these movies?

    Good picks man, I need to catch up on a few of these myself.

    Also, I stole this from Bill Maher but still; "guess that puts an end to the cliche that ballerinas don't eat."

  2. no 127 hours? and what did you think of the kings speech?

  3. Thanks man. Also I can't believe Bill Maher manages to fit jokes in between his smug tirades, maybe I should give him another chance... Na.

  4. @Tommy

    I liked 127 hours but not as much as any of these films. Still haven't checked out The King's Speech.