For the Procastionators, the Shut-Ins, and Me
When Dustin asked all the writers to put together their top ten films of 2010, I was a bit hesitant.
"Should they be films released in theaters in 2010?" I asked.
"Of course, you ignorant carbuncle," Dustin said.
"Well that gets me seven, but what should I do about the last three?"
(Actually this conversation never occurred in this manner. It was far more abbreviated, less eloquent, and via email. But it's far more dramatic when recounted this way, don't you think?)
I watch a decent number of films each year, though nowhere near the prodigious input of Dan, Brian, and Dustin. A hundred and fifty films each! Two hundred! They went to the theater more times than I went to the bathroom. See, part of the problem is that theaters have some truly loathsome qualities. They are expensive, frequently contain people, and are outrageously hostile to a cup of coffee. Top off those negatives with the ease of the little red envelope in the mailbox, and the end result is that I rarely find myself in a theater unless I get to review one of the new releases for the week. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the movies and writing reviews, but if I'm not going to write a review I'm just stubborn enough to wait for the DVD in the mail. My reaction was reflected in a lot of the comments in the Top Ten of 2010 post that the list made an excellent Netflix list for the coming year.
So after Dustin finished beating me - and this wasn't just because I said I hadn't seen enough movies to make a top ten list, Dustin believes in beating all of his writers regularly because "blood in the urine puts fire in the writin'" - I jokingly noted that due to my Netflix dependency I could give a great and monumentally late "Top Ten Films of 2009" list. He loved the idea. He also said that if the post didn't get at least a hundred comments, he'd pipe the talking Lysol ad into my third dream level.
10. Avatar - I've come to terms with liking this film despite the perfectly fair criticisms leveled against it. And its inclusion alone is probably good for fifty pissed off comments.
9. Up in the Air - Fly here, fly there. At some point the means become the ends. And then you watch this film on your second cross country flight in three days and it slaps you right upside your head with the 200,000 miles you've flown over the last three years. And then you realize it's not changing anytime soon, and that you saw five of the ten films on this list in the sterling comfort of leg cramp economy class. Of course, like George Clooney's character, I am comforted by the fact that I look like George Clooney.
8. The Boys are Back - Grief fucks us up something fierce, and usually films don't get it even remotely right. It's not about the big cathartic cry or breakdown. There's usually not a shouting match between loved ones in which one suddenly screams the truth and the finally the healing happens. Hollywood loves to parrot the line that goes something like "it never really gets better, the hole is always there, but it gets easier..." but it's always said, never shown. This film shows it. It shows how loss changes things permanently, that it knocks us from our perch and we end up eventually in a new equilibrium but never the same one. It gets that things never get better, they just get different.
7. The Brothers Bloom - Con artists have a special place in the imagination sort of like genteel versions of pirates. Their every word a lie, their every action a convoluted scheme within a scheme. There's the sense that it's never about the money, it's about the freedom of the tightrope act.
6. Star Trek - It's not without its plot holes, and it is more action than the thinking science fiction that is what really gave Star Trek its staying power in all its incarnations, but it feels like it sets up a new series the right way. It reminds me of Batman Begins, or Star Wars, in that it's certainly not perfect, but sets up the playing board for the perfect gut punch of a sequel. If the sequel doesn't live up to that, then my guess is that this film is going to slip quite a bit over time, but as it stands now it's a beautiful teaser for the summer of 2012.
5. Hurt Locker - I did notice that the Academy got my note, which pleased me as I will not have to liquidate them this year.
4. (500) Days of Summer - I understand where the criticisms of this film are coming from. I can sympathize with the point of view that insists that Tom is not sympathetic, that he has no right to want something more than Summer ever promised. But where I think this film is brilliant is that it turns romantic comedies on their head. In every boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl back there is that one poor bastard of a character in the background: the other boy that the girl dates when the protagonist loses her. The one she abandons when she realizes what true love is. The one who is variously portrayed in the background as either an asshole deserving of the dump or the saint who spouts some sacrificial cliché like "if you love him, go to him." (500) Days of Summer tells the story of that guy.
3. Zombieland - I normally watch movies alone. Other people tend to talk, interrupt, pause it when they want to go to the bathroom instead of when you want to go to the bathroom, and usually insist that you wear pants. Zombieland is one of those films that is even better when you watch it the fourth time with other people.
2. Moon - When I wrote about how all the 2010 science fiction seemed to be dystopian and very rarely ventured into any classic science fiction territory, this film was in the back of my mind. It's anything but a happy ending, yet it's not dystopian. It's a classic science fiction tale that I'd imagine reading in some half moldy paperback of sci-fi short stories that I dug out of the back of a used book store.
1. District 9 - Okay I'm cheating. I saw this one in theaters in 2009. But to be fair, I also watched it on DVD in 2010. It hits the perfect balance between ideas and entertainment. In that sense it reminds me a lot of Aliens, it's got patches of gallows humor, brutal horror, provokes thought without taking timeouts to have very serious conversations, and tops it off with power armor. Everything is better with power armor. (500) Days of Summer would have jumped to number 2 easily if Tom had just gotten some power armor.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.
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