Now that 2010 has officially been declared close (by the Oscars), this blog decides to take a look at the top movies of the year. 2010 in retrospect was a year, where one could be forgiven for wanting to kill James Cameron for having unleashed the spectre of 3D on unsuspecting audiences, who were forced to shell out extra rupes, dollars & pounds on movies, hastily & randomly converted to rake in the moolah (Yes, I am looking at you, Alice in Blunderland & Crass of the Titans). Having vented that out & resigned to the fate of watching more movies in that infernal format, here is a look at the top 15 movies of the year. This list is derived from a multitude of parameters including mind bending awesomeness of the movie, entertainment factor, presentation, general cinematic experience, ability to make one think, perfectly leave-your-brain-at-home movies (the last 2 categories are MECE) & last but not the least, strong personal bias from my side (the tipping factor, if one must label it). Without much ado, here goes:
15. Fair Game: Based on the Valerie Plame-gate & with Noami Watts playing Valerie Plame, Fair Game is the story of a couple trying to get justice & their honor back, after a senior Bush Administration official (Dick Cheney’s chief of staff) blows Valerie Plame’s cover as a CIA agent to get back at her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), who countered the US government’s allegation on the proof of the Iraq invasion. Fantastically acted out, both Naomi Watts & Sean Penn do a phenomenal job portraying the couple whose lives are rocked by this incident. The impact of the leak & subsequent fight for truth put much a strain on their personal & professional lives. The screenplay is easy & expositions are helpful allowing one to understand the importance of Valerie’s & Wilson’s work. However, this leads to a slack in the screenplay & sometimes, not much really seems to be happening. Compelling & engrossing, Fair Game does pack a punch, not by angry words or by adopting a tone of righteousness but by presenting facts from the point of view of the Wilsons & also taking a hard cold look at the manner of functioning of the Bush administration. A movie that probably could have been more successful at the box office if it had been publicized well;
14. Conviction: A tale of justice, based on a true story, Conviction probably hooked me in due to the star cast, the very talented Sam Rockwell & Hilary Swank (really, no adjectives required), starring as siblings whose troubled childhood fosters a very close bond between them. When Sam Rockwell is unjustly accused of murder & sent to jail, Hilary Swank vows to fight on & enrolls in law school, to fight for her brother’s acquittal. A performance oriented drama, both Rockwell & Swank are extremely believable & unshakeable in their conviction (all pun intended) of Rockwell’s innocence. Swank as the lawyer who really does not give up, even if it takes a toll on her personal life & Rockwell, as the convict, who goes through a myriad of emotions in jail; simply steal every scene they appear in, without overpowering the frame. A slow pace notwithstanding, one of the very poignant movies of the year
14. The Town: First things first, Ben Affleck should not act. He could give really stiff competition to Keanu Reeves & a block of wood. But he really should continue directing. Town is about a gang of bank robbers, primarily though focusing on 2 members, Ben Affleck & Jeremy Renner. Town is about Ben Affleck developing feelings for a manager (Rebecca Hall) of a previous bank heist, while simultaneously planning the proverbial last bank heist. Into this simmering mix are additional complications arising from Rebecca Hall being the only person who can identify the, if she casts eyes on Jeremy Renner to Jeremy Renner’s increasing unsteadiness to FBI bringing in heat to the town to identify & stop the bank robbers. A slickly shot movie, there is a sense of doom that Affleck manages to capture throughout the movie. Taunting & drawing out certain moments, there is deftness in the handling of the movie. Jeremy Renner deserves credit for his portrayal of the unsteady psychopath-like bank robber. What differentiates this from other heist movies in recent times is the seriousness of the approach. There is no easy bonding, no light moments, no wise cracks. Just serious, hard gritty angles
13. Shutter Island: Martin Scorsese & Leonardo DiCaprio’s combination has to rank among the best director-actor combination over the last few years & is as yummy a combination as cheese on pizza. In Shutter Island, Scorsese & DiCaprio create a vivid, taut psychological thriller based on the premise of a US Marshall visiting Shutter Island, which houses a hospital for the criminally insane, to investigate the disappearance of an inmate. Soon, into the movie, we realize things are not as they seem and there are layers & layers, not the least with Leonardo DiCaprio himself. DiCaprio excels in playing these conflicted characters & makes excellent use of his voice & eyes to get his point across. A moody background score, a desolate island, terrific cinematography does well to allay the almost predictable ending & not-so-well used supporting cast
12. Green Zone: A movie which if it has released 2-3 years back would have had a greater impact than when it did eventually release. Paul Greengrass & Matt Damon reunite after the Bourne series in this movie based on the hunt for WMDs in Iraq. Matt Damon stars as a weapons inspector, who after finding no signs of WMD, goes rogue, hunting for proof of the lie. Filled with fairly smarmy characters, Green Zone exposes some of the fabrications that took place behind the invasion of Iraq. However, the real star of the movie is an Iraqi christened Freddie by the Damon. His demeanor reflects what the Iraqis feel to an extent about the US invasion as well as the deals that were struck. While the ending is not much of a surprise, the movie is hard-hitting and takes a cold look at the manner in which the Bush administration manipulated the press to cover the war in its favor (atleast initially) as well as the role of the private military contractors & the fragile peace process negotiations. Matt Damon deserves special credit as it is impossible to envisage off any other star going through what Damon has done. He basically relegates himself to a supporting character, mainly reacting to events rather than controlling them. Paul Greengrass, again demonstrates the same hyper energy that filled the Bourne series to the proceedings here, shaky cameras and all.
11. The Ghost Writer: One of the most under-rated movies of the year & I, for one, was really surprised that such a phenomenal movie did not get its due anywhere. A Roman Polanski movie, Ghost Writer stars Pierce Brosnan as a retired British PM (very heavily modeled on Tony Blair), who hired Ewan McGregor to ghost write his memoirs. Brosnan, who now lives in US, is facing calls from home regarding his role in the US invasion of Iraq, & how he acted as a pawn of the US in authorizing the use of British troops. Also in question is his approval on the torture activities conducted. Further complicating the plot is the murder of the previous ghost writer. Stirring up this decidedly volatile cauldron is Olivia Williams as the former first lady (again heavily modeled on Cherie Blair), who believes that Pierce Brosnan is having an affair with his secretary & drives her own agenda with Ewan McGregor. A movies that unfolds at its own pace, narrative & plotting reign supreme. Bleak landscape, taut & terse dialogs, exemplary character acting from everyone, shadows at every corner, it is indeed a movie densely packed with intrigue & politicking. McGregor truly shines as he does in most roles where he has to be a bit submissive. Olivia Williams steals the show with her acerbic & cynical retorts. But the real scene stealer is Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan as an actor has never really appealed to me. He is more of a showman. But here he literally gets into the skin of the character. Haughty, arrogant, stubborn & proud, he perfectly captures each emotion & spares no one. Cinematography is quite brilliant. In keeping with the mood of the movie, the landscape is quite grey, bleak & somber. Ghost Writer would have been the movie of the year if not for a blotchy abrupt ending which spoils the movie & pushed its ranking down
10. Megamind: In one word, fun with a capital F. Based on the premise on what would a supervillian do once he defeats his arch nemesis, the all popular superhero, this is a fun romp. Megamind has done the inconceivable. He has defeated the superman-esque Metro Man & has conquered Metro City (pronounce similar to atrocity) & finds existence now pointless. Deciding that he needs a superhero to fight, he creates a superhero. But the superhero turns out to be a douche bag of the highest order & its upto Megamind to save the day. A hilarious romp, incorporating elements from Superman stories, easily one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Will Ferrell as Megamind is simply astounding in his voice control & delivery. Tina Fey rocks as the Lois Lane inspired Roxanne Ritchie. With no dull moment & a rocking script with enough tongue-in-cheek moments, Megamind combines snappy dialogs with amazingly goofy & slapstick moments to keep you rolling, long after the movie is done & a villain to side with.
9. The Fighter: Another movie based on a true story, The Fighter traces the story of Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a boxer and the complicated relationship that he has with his drug addicted ex-boxer brother Dickey Edlund (Christian Bale), who also couples as his trainer, on his quest to score victories as a professional boxer. Bale delivers another fantastic performance as the shadow of the boxer he once was before getting into drugs. The entire weight loss, nervous jerky motions, quick darting eyes while at the same time caring for his brother’s career is another tour de force performance in an already chequered career. Mellisa Leo & Amy Adams add their weight to the growing relationships around Wahlberg. The fight scenes are fairly well shot for a boxing movie & you can actually feel the blood. If one has to point out a memorable scene that reminds us about the specialty of the movie, its when Bale tries to run away from the cops, a entire jerky flappy motion of the arms while running. The moment comes when he is caught by the cops, he straightens & delivers an upper-cut reminiscent of a boxer in his prime; in that one moment showing what he was & what he could have become, if he had not been drug addicted & had his brain addled.