How to Train Your Dragon – OK, I admit it: I was kind of a weepy mess throughout this whole film. A boy and his dragon made for the sweetest friendship of the year, soaring far above all the other 3D family films.
The Ghost Writer – With this witty thriller about a hapless writer (Ewan MacGregor) getting entangled in the dark secrets of a politician (Pierce Brosnan), director Roman Polanski returns to top form, reminding up what a fabulously entertaining filmmaker he can be, despite his off-screen persona.
Cairo Time – In the sexiest romance of the year, the couple never rips off each other’s clothes, they just talk and stroll through the gorgeously shot backdrop of Cairo, meeting minds, and touching each other’s souls.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil – A couple of dim rednecks come across nubile college students in the woods, and the kids start dying one by one. But it was an accident! I swear! This splatterfest festival hit was easily one of the funniest (and funnest) movies I saw all year.
Me Too (Yo, también) – This Spanish film was my surprise of SIFF, with Pablo Pineda as a 34-year-old man with Down Syndrome who falls in love with his rumored trampy co-worker, played by the fabulous Lola Dueñas. Funny, warm, and wonderfully acted.
The Kids are All Right – Pitch-perfect performances from frazzled Annette Benning and hilariously hippie-ish Julianne Moore, as a long time couple, and sexy Mark Ruffalo, as the biological father of their teens, made for the freshest comedy of the summer.
Marwencol – A fascinating and moving documentary of one man dealing with post-traumatic stress by creating a scale-model WWII town in his backyard, photographing the lives of the “people” in his town—who are all based on folks he knows in real life. Heartbreaking and uplifting.
Kick-Ass – This movie shocked me into disbelieving laughter in the first scene, with it’s astonishingly non-politically-correct violence. Featuring a star-making performance by 12-year-old Chloë Moretz as Hit Girl, this is one super-hero flick that is NOT for the kids.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Through this second-to-last installment, I kept thinking how very scary and good it was! I hope the final movie keeps the momentum and closes on such a quality note for the series.
True Grit – The Coen Brothers unsurprisingly offered the most chewable dialogue of the year, making me walk out of this terrific Western wanting to drop the use of contractions from my every day speech.
Something I do NOT want to see become a film trend:
Repeated scenes of cuticle torture—from the violent clipping of fingernails to the horrifically graphic splitting of a toenail in Black Swan.
Most perfect opening shot:
The drop of menstrual blood hitting the pavement in the story of 1970s teen-girl rockers The Runaways.
Most perfect closing shot:
Marwencol, when it reveals the latest addition to the artist’s miniature town. I totally burst into tears as the credits rolled.
The film series I most looked forward to, even if the movies weren’t perfect:
The Millennium series: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. What a treat to get to see them in the theaters—bam! bam! bam!—three months apart while the Stieg Larsson’s books were at their hottest peak of popularity.
Speaking of new cinematic crushes:
Noomi Rapace came from nowhere and blew me away as Lisbeth Salander, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Though this category has been dominated by men’s pecs in the past few years, I’m pleased to say that the prize has been triumphantly (and violently) wrested back to womankind by… who else? RoboGeisha! In fact, rather than explaining why, I’ll just share the trailer again… a trailer which is, perhaps, one of the greatest movie trailers ever made. Ever? Yes, EVER. (Note: Tengu Milk and Bust Machine gun among her many tricks!)
Despite lots of nekkid Jake Gyllenhaal and lots of nekkid Anne Hathaway, it was still surprisingly not hot:
Love and Other Drugs
Best dumping of a character who is a bonafide prick:
Rooney Mara dumping Jesse Eisenberg’s Facebook boy Mark Zuckerberg in the opening scene of The Social Network.
Best fight scene:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt fighting the bad guys in zero-gravity in Inception.
Best argument against CGI animation replacing real actors:
The creepy “young” Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy.
Best (and only) film (perhaps ever?) that is actually work-related to my day job:
Unstoppable, aka “Runaway Hazmat Train!” How often can I scour a movie screen for the proper placement and placarding of hazardous material shipments via rail?
Dale Dickey and John Hawke haunted me as terrifying Ozark white trash in the bleak and vivid Winter’s Bone.
It may have been called The Fighter, but the real scene stealers were the character actors who played the all-too realistic family.
Michael Shannon was insanely hilarious and completely out of his gourd as The Runaways‘ band manager Kim Fowley.
And it may have been a wordless role by an animated character, but Toothless the Dragon in How to Train Your Dragon was one of the most wonderful characters in any film this year. I wanted to throw a saddle on Toothless and soar on his back through the clouds. Kudos to the animators for creating such a wonderfully expressive beast.
Most fun to be had at the movies, 2010 edition:
… Turned out to be a most fun weekend in Astoria, Oregon for The Goonies 25th Anniversary celebration. And this is coming from someone who never saw the movie before that weekend! I can’t say I’ve been converted into the movie’s #1 fan (that honor can stay with those that grew up loving the film), but I can say I walked away with an absolutely priceless memory of Moviepie Jen and I meeting and chatting up Joey Pantoliano (after Corey Feldman stood us all up by sleeping in instead of showing up to meet fans at the meet-and-greet). “I like that!”