Thursday, January 6, 2011

Considering 2010: Films

2010 is past and it brings me (like many) to look back over the media I used that year. Rather than blast the media I didn't enjoy, I'm going to briefly consider what I did like about movies in 2010.

AT THE THEATRE The cinemas of 2010 were much more kind to me than those of 2009; although I went to see fewer films, I avoided seeing anything truly terrible. I'm beginning to learn!

The theatrical film I flat-out enjoyed the most last year is a toss-up between How to Train Your Dragon and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Both films had plenty of action and comedy, but affected me in different ways; Dragon was an excellent character-driven story about proving your worth; Pilgrim's most endearing feature was Edgar Wright's direction, as always comprised of hundreds of quick cuts but so perfectly edited that the flow of the story is never lost.

I also went to the theatre for Iron Man 2, Tron: Legacy and Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which were all good.


I'm currently keeping a lengthy list of films I want to see and constantly trying to strike titles off the assembly. Consequently, in 2010 I watched a lot of well-regarded films. I won't bother to delve into the best-known of these movies, but I'll list them:

the Aviator, A Bridge Too Far, Dances With Wolves, the Departed, A Few Good Men, the Godfather, Goodfellas, Grave of the Fireflies, the Killing Fields, Last of the Mohicans, Patton, Rosemary's Baby, the Shawshank Redemption and John Carpenter's the Thing.

There are a few other films I'd like to single out, some of them pictures I watched with my semi-regular "movie night" crowd:

I don't consider myself to be much of an authority on animated films, but I sampled two very different films from the 1980s: the adult and unnerving Plague Dogs and the richly-drawn, kid-friendly Secret of NIMH. Both have my recommendation.

The best documentary I saw was the King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, relating the story of a man who tries to become world champion of Donkey Kong, only to discover the video game judging system is run by an old boys' club with intense suspicions of outsiders. As a video gamer who considers himself something of an outsider, I felt where the protagonist was coming from in his trials.

A few films from the science fiction genres I enjoyed were the gently funny and endearing Brother From Another Planet, the haunting time travel romance of Somewhere in Time, the very 70s eoc-friendly message of Silent Running, the outstanding visual direction and photography of Alex Proyas' the Crow, and two of John Carpenter's cult classics: his off-kilter space invader story They Live and his homage to H.P. Lovecraft, In the Mouth of Madness.

I'm not much of a fan when it comes to the western film genre but I do put in some effort to seek out the westerns which are supposed to be good. I watched two of Jimmy Stewart's films: Broken Arrow and the Naked Spur; the former was interesting mainly because of how tolerant it was of Native Americans for its time, while the latter put Stewart in a challenging role where he was not his usual nice guy persona. The 80s ensemble film Silverado was quite enjoyable and the more recent pictures 3:10 to Yuma and Appaloosa were all right.

Working my way through the filmography of Akira Kurosawa I managed to find Hidden Fortress, his film which helped inspire Star Wars and it turned out to be quite funny. Sanjuro and Yojimbo were a nice back-to-back set of samurai battles which I appreciate all the more now that I'm delving through Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo comics.

I found a few nice mystery films, including Sleuth and Anatomy of a Murder, along with the rarely-lauded In a Lonely Place, where Humphrey Bogart played a film writer suspected of murder and how the suspicion destroys his relationships (much like Hitchcock's Wrong Man). But the best mystery picture I saw was Carol Reed's the Fallen Idol, the story of a boy who tries to cover up a death for his beloved butler, only to put his friend into peril with the police when his lies lead them to their own conclusions.

There were some good fast-paced comedies I enjoyed...which is saying something, because after westerns, comedies are the most challenging sell to me as a filmgoer. So, accolades to True Romance, the Mexican and Snatch, with a special citation to Thank You for Smoking.

In terms of action films, usually its the name Luc Besson which draws me in. In 2010 I finally saw his classic picture Nikita which ultimately surprised me in how its protagonist went from someone I couldn't bear to a character I felt for; Besson's productions District 13: Ultimatum and Taken were also up to his usual standards. Outside of Besson, I tracked down Humphrey Bogart in Sahara which was rather good for a World War II picture which came out during the war itself and was less USA-dominated than most Hollywood pictures of its type.

Beyond these, the World's Fastest Indian was immensely enjoyable, the Caine Mutiny was the best Bogart picture I saw last year, and Infernal Affairs is quite superior to Scorcese's remake (the Departed).

Tomorrow: Comics of 2010.

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