Top 10 in 2010

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Blue Valentine posterAnother year has come and gone, and now that the two of us have had a chance to see most of the releases in Australia, it is a good time to stop and reflect on our favourites from 2010. It is no exaggeration to say that we saw hundreds of films this year. We’ve enjoyed them at cinema, on DVD and Blu-ray (on DVD Bits) and at festivals – including the Sydney Film Festival, the Brisbane International Film Festival, Reel Anime, KOFFIA and the Japanese Film Festival – so the task of whittling down that into a list of 10 films is an impossible task. So we cheated.

We’ve taken our favourite 10 films, listed them, and gone on to tell you about a chunk of other films that we would have put on our lists had we made this a Top 20. It’s our site, we probably could have done that, but Top 10 in 2010 is such a nice title for an article.

Toy Story 32010 was the year that renewed my love of the cinema. Naturally, I’ve always loved movies as far back as I can remember, but as the Editor in Chief of DVD Bits for the better part of the last decade, the home has been more of a cinema that the real kind out there in the ‘reel’ world. Yet a huge amount of must see titles were released this year. As such, it was particularly difficult to draw a Top 10, simply due to the sheer diversity and high quality of films from around the world released in Australia. Rather than pick an objective 10, I’ve gone for some personal favourites in alphabetical order. So we get the devastating highs of Blue Valentine and Winter’s Bone mixing freely with the genre-perfect gems like Machete and The Princess and the Frog. Indeed, so strong was the list that I couldn’t include other favourites Easy AFood IncLebanonThe TownMonsters, The Hedgehog (think of it as #11) and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work in my Top 10.

Yet reviewing favourites for 2010 also highlighted just how much doesn’t get released in Australia, and I hope all the readers of this site – along with my two humble portals – vote with their wallets in 2011. By the way, eagle-eyed readers may notice that the list above differs a little bit from the one I presented on Matt Riviera’s A Life in Film a week or so ago. Due to the deadlines on that blog, I was yet to see the gems Somewhere (another near-miss on this list) and the sublime The King’s Speech, which would easily make a Top 10 list in any year of release. I can cheat here, because it’s my blog this time.

American: The Bill Hicks Story: I reviewed this one in detail as part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival back in September, so I won’t go into too much depth here. The documentary serves as an excellent and timely gateway into the world of Hicks. Sixteen years after his death, Hicks remains as angry and as relevant to modern audiences as he did back in his prime.

Blue Valentine: Another one getting a full review from me, Blue Valentine is a film to savour. The hidden beauty (and horror) of the film will only be revealed the more one contemplates the respective contributions to a relationship breakdown. It is rare that a film dubbed a romance is actually romantic, and a drama is all too often melodramatic. Yet Blue Valentine finds the hidden truths that lie between the moments of falling in and out of love.

Bunny And The Bull: What could have easily been The Mighty Boosh: The Movie is so much more. Touching, hilarious and visually innovative, it is safe to say that you will not see a film like this again in the very near future. For the newspaper world sequence alone, featuring a mad Julian Barrett suckling on the milk of dogs, this deserves to be on every Top 10 list this year.

Exit Through The Gift Shop: Possibly street artist Banksy’s most elaborate hoax to date, one that would have involved the showing and growing of artist Mr. Brainwash around the world (include in Sydney’s Newtown at the time of writing), Exit Through the Gift Shop is undoubtedly an important film. Even if it is all tongue-in-cheek, it gives us a snapshot of the mood of the moment and is a piece of art of its own. Long after all the walls of London have been scrubbed clean, this digital representation of street art will still be around.

The King’s Speech: Who would have thought an Australia speech therapist trained a King to inspire a country? A very late entry onto the 2010 film scene, at least for Australians who receive this film on Boxing Day, this one has perhaps earned the most awards buzz around the world, especially drawing the most nominations from the Golden Globes this year and practically every critic’s circle around the world. An impeccably acted piece from Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth, with a terrific supporting cast in the form of Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter and Derek Jacobi, it is also surprisingly full of humour and touching pathos.

Machete: You may be forced to do a double-take at the inclusion of this exploitation Grindhouse spin-off from cult director Robert Rodriguez. It may not be receiving any advance Oscar buzz, nor likely to win any awards for that matter, it is a pitch-perfect example of how to make a crowd-pleasing genre entry. Aside from the fact that it is the best antidote to an increasingly disappointing series of bloated Michael Bay-style actioners at the cinemas, we may not get a line as good as “Machete don’t text” again this year. Or ever.

The Princess and the Frog: Perhaps easily forgotten in a year that has given us some great digital entries (Toy Story 3, also on this list) or big-scale international efforts (Ponyo), but The Princess and the Frog wins the prize for being the first film I saw in cinemas this year. It set the bar high, with a joyful return to a more traditional way of making animation that audiences had not enjoyed for some years from the House of Mouse. Disney’s 49th animated feature is a winner, from its jazz tunes down to its painted details. Genuinely a classic of the highest order, it is great to have the Disney of old back on board for the twenty-first century.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: Where the key word in The Princess and the Frog was ‘traditional’, Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a celebration of all things ‘retro’. A pop-culture frenzy, some may say overload. From the 8-bit SNES-inspired Universal logo and theme at the start of the film, Scott Pilgrim is filled with wall-to-wall video game references. With visual cues of 1-Ups and fight screens, audiences will not leave without knowing why Pac-Man was named as such for the west. Like the original graphic novels, it is too cool for school. For all of this surface sheen, there is a beating heart to Scott Pilgrim (both the film and the character) and an essential sweetness behind its protestations of apathy. Edgar Wright brings all of his rapid editing superpowers to the table in the action sequences, and the net effect is that while you may not be entirely sure what hit you, it has left you in a good place with a strange desire to hit the video arcades.

Toy Story 3: It had been 11 years since Toy Story 2 hit theatres, so a much older crowd was pushing children aside to see this one. Pixar has rarely faltered in the 15 years following their first film, the original Toy Story, and if this is to be the end of the saga, there couldn’t be a more fitting end to the series. The Toy Story films have always been about mortality, posing the big questions of what use is someone when they are no longer needed for their primary function. Full of gorgeous animation, lively voice acting from all of the original cast members, this is one that will have you reaching for the tissue box and holding your splitting side in equal measure. Cinema audiences may never have to put them on the shelf for good, as we can always revisit them: after 15 years of playing with Woody and Buzz, these are as much our toys as they are Pixar’s.

Winter’s Bone: The seemingly simple story of a young single mother searching for her fugitive father in the physically and emotionally harsh environment of the Ozarks is a gripping and well-crafted tale. Featuring outstanding performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Deadwood‘s John Hawkes, this is definitely one to watch in the awards season. Already appearing in any number of critics lists across the world, the little ‘independent movie that could’ has every possibility of knocking some of the big guns around for six. You may never look at squirrels the same way again!