So, here we are again, reviewing the movies I saw in the past year and seeing what stuck out and what faded away. My list of movies was quite a bit shorter this year (I finally went and got myself a life; didn’t see that one coming). But while the quantity was small, the quality was remarkable.
Or maybe I’ve just gotten more forgiving. Anyway, here’s my list, in alphabetical order.
I didn’t expect a whole lot from this little film about the first summer after college, but the story rings so true for (I suspect) all adults who have graduated with a degree and have no idea what to do next. And Kristen Stewart (“Twilight” haters be damned) proves that she has the acting chops to outlast her iconic role.
The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (2008)
End of the day, this probably isn’t going to live on as a great film in my mind; it will just have to settle for being the most fun I had at the movies this year. It’s silly but smart, and it knows how to poke fun at role playing game conventions without belittling the people who love them (and it even inspired me to try out D&D). Who needs greatness?
Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows, Part 1 (2010)
It’s been four years since the last HP book came out, and now we finally get a chance to see it on the big screen, and once again, David Yates did not let this fan down. It manages to stick pretty close to the source without being boring, and it even offers some surprises for the super fans like me. Now I just have to wait until part two. Dammit.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
It was a good year for children’s movies (see below), and while this one is for slightly older kids, it’s a rousing adventure that demonstrates good lessons for the oddball kids without being preachy and/or dull.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Last year’s Best Picture winner lived up to the hype. Kathryn Bigelow delivered an action movie that doesn’t forget about its soul, and the trio of actors completely convey just how war messes with your head.
I’ve liked Sam Rockwell for a while now, but I’ve never seen him like this; he plays variations of the same character who doesn’t quite understand his place in the world. It’s a heartbreaker of a film that also manages to squeeze in some compelling sci-fi.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Sure, it’s a cartoon, but it’s such a realistic portrait of family life that you won’t notice (that is until the magical creatures get active). It’s also a moving tale of sisterly bonds that is hard to forget.
It’s a more optimistic (not to mention weird) version of “The Little Mermaid,” but the story of this little fish-girl becoming human is quite the charmer (not to mention one fine example of Japanese animation). It’s a bit crazy, but the beating heart shines through a story about first love and loss.
This one’s a bit of a left-field choice; it’s an odd little movie about the horror show called parenting, and the strong performances from Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody completely sell a rather goofy concept. It’s also a deeply flawed movie (with one plot twist that is not quite believable), but it’s a small quibble in a movie that aims big.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Hands down, my film of the year. Pixar is one company that can (and did) defy the odds to increase a story’s quality as the films stack up. I laughed, and I cried, and I cried some more, even on the second viewing. It’s emotional terrorism, and it’s frakking brilliant.
At the end of the list is this brainy but haunting flick about a murder investigation. It’s on the slow side no doubt, but director David Fincher keeps the tension and fear high while the characters scramble to track down a killer who will never be found.
Honorable Mention – Strange Days (1995)
Here’s the other Kathryn Bigelow film I saw this year, and while “Hurt Locker” is the superior film, right here we can see Bigelow finding what works and twisting a basic story (murder, conspiracy, paranoia) into something flawed but unique nonetheless. It ain’t great, but it sticks with you.