I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I wanted to be respectful of all the theatrically released films that had come out last year and give them the proper amount of consideration, since a lot of them were hard to find in theaters. So, at long last, here are my top ten favorite films of the year 2010.
1. Inception – Inception is the type of film that grows on you. In the film, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) talks about how an idea is the most resilient parasite and how it can spread like a cancer. Well, in the best possible way imaginable, Inception has that very similar effect on you long after you’ve seen the film. I’ve seen the film countless times, analyzed it to death, both to myself and with my peers, and dissected the very essence of the picture, and my mind is still abuzz with meditations on all of the many, many layers the film has to offer. That’s to be expected from a film directed by Christopher Nolan, and in a lot of ways Inception offers explanations and then doesn’t. It creates an immeasurably satisfying story but still manages to leave you guessing right at the very end, and that is masterful storytelling. “It’s never just a dream”, Cobb muses at one point in the film, and despite the basic premise, Inception is not just a movie about dreams. Like many excellent Christopher Nolan movies, the film explores various different ideas and themes. The movie most reminded me of Darren Aronosfky’s The Fountain, which used science-fiction as a filter in which to explore his own meditations on life, death and ultimately grief. Inception, while incredibly tragic, is not as meditative as Aronosfky’s film and instead uses the guise of the heist thriller to push along the narrative of the story, always keeping things exciting and revelatory.Inception has its sights more so on letting go and moving on, and the feeling of guilt over ruminations on life & death. Which is quite frankly a really compelling subject matter, which jives perfectly with the state of dreaming. Dreaming often — according to some people, perhaps even according to your own dreams — challenges you to face something you had either repressed or neglected to deal with. On that level, Inception presents its protagonist with an extremely haunting idea of a repressed memory and through the dream world forces Cobb to deal with this and move on. In that sense, and in the non-traditional heist story that surrounds the film,Inception is a fantastically existential yet rewarding film that is driven by a fascinating emotional epicenter.In fact, I would have to say that Inception is one of the most dense and complex films I’ve seen in a while. While it is relatively straight-forward in its comprehensive explanation of what’s happening, that still doesn’t mean what is going on isn’t dense as fuck. The best possible comparison for Inception is that of an onion: the more layers you pull back, the more in-depth you become. What begins as a relatively simplistic story gets even more and more complex when new ideas and concepts are introduced to supplement what you’re already seeing. However, Nolan is such an incredibly ambitious filmmaker that he never loses sight on what he’s weaving and while Inception is an incredibly tangled web, by the film’s end he untangles everything in such an emotionally, intellectually and viscerally satisfying way that you can only just sit in awe of the filmmaker’s relentless ability to juggle all of these ideas and themes and interweave them into something extraordinary.
2. The Social Network – The Social Network, directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), is one of the best films of the year. It might not be the defining film of the decade that Peter Travers called it, but it does absolutely define our current contemporary society in a way that no other film does or has in a long while. There are certain films that define the time and world we live in, that take our contemporary, modern society and presents it in this reflective prism, and The Social Network is one of them; in ten or twenty years people will look back on The Social Network when they want to know what the world was like right at this very moment. It defines the way our youth culture expressively chooses to deal with emotions, people, and the ability of technology to in some cases enhance or possibly devolve the way we treat one another. It’s an observant look at a certain part of youth culture that has been soaked and drenched in the expansive world of technology – texting, the Internet, blogging, email- and how that has either negatively or positively impacted our way of interacting for good. The Social Network is, if anything, about how we all want to be accepted by the people that seem naturally possessed with gifts far beyond our understanding, comprehension, or grasp. Zuckerberg starts off in the film like mostly any other individual: he doesn’t seem to possess any real talents besides the knack of getting on people’s nerves (and admittedly, some pretty impressive computer programming skills). However, it is that innate, humanistic desire to want to be accepted that propels him to create Facebook in the first place, and that is exactly what the film is truly about- the desire to “fit in”. That is why the film’s introductory scene is so important- it establishes everything you’ll need to know to better understand the proceeding events. After Erica promptly dumps Zuckerberg, he creates a website that compares and contrasts the faces of Harvard students and asks you to determine which is the better looking- by doing this, he effectively hacks into Harvard’s main data-frame and completely shuts it down. This gets him some unwarranted attention- some from the classmates who think Zuckerberg is an asshole who intentionally socially denigrated hundreds of students- but also from the school, who take notice of Zuckerberg’s “talent”. The Social Network is one of the best and most entertaining films of the year- impressive for a film with such a young cast that is essentially dialogue and story driven. Also impressive how this could have been your standard adaptation of some socially relevant moment in history that was ripe for award season consideration, but instead Fincher, Sorkin, and the cast create something that is truly everlasting, unique and really something special that speaks volumes on our young, contemporary, technologically-influenced society. It will be a movie that is remembered for years to come as a pivotal cinematic motion picture for understanding what this pinnacle moment in history was all about.
3. Black Swan – Darren Aronosfky’s films have always been about obsession. If you look at his filmography, each and every film looks at a certain individual and their obsession, their compulsion, their dedication, to achieve something or to obtain something, whether that be tangible or elusive. Let’s take a look at his debut feature, entitled Pi, which chronicled a man’s obsession over mathematical equations, and in essence, explored the detrimental consequences of his mental obsession. His next film, perhaps the one he is most known for, entitled Requiem for a Dream, is about individuals and their addiction to drugs, but not just the object, but the addiction for acceptance. The Fountain explores the concepts of immortality and grief, and about one man’s obsession to save the woman that he loves and being unwilling or unable to accept the mortality that lies before him. The Wrestler shows an aging man and his dedication to his craft, living a life only he knows, and how his profession dominates and influences even the most mundane aspects of his life. With Black Swan, Aronosfky’s latest foray into self-obsession and arguably his greatest film since Requiem for a Dream, he once more explores the topic of being obsessed and dedicated to one’s craft. It’s an interesting and simultaneously reoccurring theme for Aronosfky, who gives his films such frenetic energy and pacing that you can tell based on his filmography that perhaps Aronosfky, like all great storytellers and geniuses, is a little obsessed himself. You could even call this a companion piece to The Wrestler – Aronosfky certainly does- and you can see why. Both films deal with individuals who strive for perfection and lead their lives with the sole goal of achieving something that literally consumes them and dominates their lives. Out of all Aronosfky’s films, Black Swan is the most horrifying and yet the most beautiful. Really, when you boil the film down to its bare essence, despite the packaging and what you might believe given the subject matter, Black Swan is unequivocally a horror film. The film is like a ticking time bomb, and the more the film pushes forward, the more we unravel the hidden entity that lies within the soft shell that is Nina. She begins the film as this timid and shy creature, but as the pressure of the production weighs on her, with expectations rising, and a fiercely aggressive director forcing her to slowly come out of that shell, tensions begin to gradually rise. Natalie Portman is a revelation in this film, and she literally must perform a metamorphosis similar to the one the White Swan must endure in the production Swan Lake. It’s a tough act to preform and pull off, while still maintaining a sense of believability and emotional truism, but Portman sells you on a character that at the beginning of the film is this shy and fragile character, but toward the end changes so completely and utterly that it is actually quite shocking. You never hesitate for a moment to reconsider the type of dedication and utter commitment that Portman’s character must endure, and what she must sacrifice – and that sheer willingness to sacrifice- but if anything, you feel empathetic toward her plight. What her character achieves at the end of the story is what any performer or artist wishes to achieve- to literally end your career on the highest note possible. Black Swan is probably one of the most intense yet simultaneously engrossing films I’ve seen in 2010, and in that case probably one of the most memorable. It’s a deeply affecting psychological thriller and even more so a greatly involving character study. It’s also a deeply disturbing horror film, but similar to The Silence of the Lambs, has more sophistication and art than you might expect from a film of this ilk. It’s also a really interesting and compelling drama, with fleshed out and multi-faceted characters and strong performances, and you mix all of these incredibly exciting, unpredictable ingredients and you achieve something truly spectacular. That end result is Black Swan, a film that is at once disturbing, beautiful, pulsating, and engrossing all at once. It’s one hell of a film.
4. The King’s Speech – One of the best films of 2010 is a delightfully intimate, small-scale but heart-warming film about King George IV (played immaculately by Colin Firth, who should have won a Best Actor Oscar by now, and will after his performance in this film), whose speech impediment renders him nearly incapable of delivering a proper speech to his country. His wife, the future Queen Elizabeth (played by Helena Bonham Carter; who finally plays a character that isn’t morose and creepy nor in a Tim Burton movie) attempts to find a solution for his stutter and seeks out Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush, in a wonderful performance full of confidence and charm). King George, or “Berty” as Lionel will henceforth call him, is very resistent at first to even engage the problem at all. His first encounter with Lionel is troublesome to say the least, but after that hurdle, Berty decides to enlist the services and assistance of Lionel and the film’s story is in full motion. The King’s Speech is a wonderfully charming little movie, and the film is surprisingly sparse on a tight narrative structure and more so relies on strong character interaction and development. It’s a pleasant surprise, and often times is loose with historical fact, which is so brazen since stereotypically films of this ilk are beholden to historical accuracy which often times bogs the film down in unnecessary exposition and plot contrivances. You will find none such trivialities in this film, which moves at such a brisk pace that you can’t help but get swept up in the charming and delightful character interaction. The film excels and works so well because of the relationship dynamic between Berty and Lionel, and the film is above all about friendship, and the unique kinds of friendship that fill our lives in ways we hardly suspect or expect at the time. While The King’s Speech is hardly the best film of 2010 as most people would like to proclaim, it is a fantastically well-made film that has a true emotional core that is incredibly vibrant and alive. It’s a truly enjoyable and remarkable film.
5. The Fighter – The boxing movie genre is almost a tired genre by now, and has developed a formula onto itself, with the standard cliches and stereotypes. However, The Fighter is not a traditionalist boxing movie. Directed by David O. Russell, who has an ecletric career full of idiosyncratic films like I Heart Huckabees and standard but stylish action movies like Three Kings. This movie is probably more traditional and normal than most of the films on Russell’s filmography, but what makesThe Fighter stand out are the little eccentricities. The film is about a boxer, Mickey Ward (played straight by Mark Wahlberg, who admittedly gives the least interesting performance in the film, even though it’s his performance that grounds everything else), who is seen as a “stepping stone” by everybody in his community including his family. Ward decides to make something for himself, but in order to do that he must distance himself from his family, represented by his headstrong and domineering mother (Melissa Leo) and his drug-addicted brother (Christian Bale, the film’s true revelatory performance). It’s that strange and often crippling family dynamic which is the core and heart of The Fighter and it’s that dynamic which makes the film so interesting, engaging, and involving. The boxing sequences aren’t even the true appeal of the film. It’s the quiet scenes between Mickey Ward and his brother, Dickie (Bale), or the confrontations between Ward and his family that pack the most punch. It’s a true inspirational story that doesn’t rely on the stereotypes of the genre but on the heart-felt dynamic of the characters, and that’s where the film excels. It’s certainly not a perfect film, nor is it the most original, but it’s done in such an emotionally gripping and weirdly involving way that keeps you interested all the way through. There has been a lot said about Christian Bale’s performance, and all of it is well-deserved and true. Despite what some might think of Bale, he’s an extraordinary actor who delivers a knock-out performance in this film. He deserves all the accolades and recognition that he gets from his performance in this film, because it’s one of the best of the year. Unlike most of his roles, where he plays dark and brooding characters, Bale finally plays someone who is cheerful and can smile and has a lot of heart and energy. It’s such a fantastic role for Bale and he absolutely takes advantage of it. His performance is the true heart of The Fighter.
6. Buried – The great thing about Buried is that this is a film that reminds me why sometimes independent filmmaking is the place to go for stories that liven and excite. The story is at once utterly simplistic and yet completely innovative: We open up on Paul Conroy (Reynolds), who awakens alive in a casket with only a few items logged inside with him… a flashlight that flickers on and off every few seconds, a Zippo lighter that is incredibly difficult to maintain and manage, a cell phone with draining battery, a small container of water and that’s about it. Here’s the kicker: The film never leaves the casket. I don’t feel that this is a spoiler since if you watch the trailer or if you read any interviews or any articles on the film this tidbit of information will likely be pretty prevalent, and honestly, while the idea just oozes with dramatic potential (and the film definitively utilizes that potential brilliantly), the film has much more interesting things to say and is an incredibly effective thriller despite its claustrophobic setting. One thing I need to talk about is the sole star in this movie that I hope receives the accolades and acclaim that he will so rightfully deserve: Ryan Reynolds. A lot of people dismiss this guy because he does a lot of films with the same cocky swagger, but he absolutely shatters those mannerisms and characteristic traits with his portrayal as Paul Conroy. Reynolds is the entire foundation, and if for some reason his performance was at all anything short of amazing, the entire film would collapse. Fortunately for the film and for the viewers, Reynolds is mesmerizing as Paul. While there are slight fragments of his trademark persona, they only come in piecemeal amounts and they are actually quite essential to the character. The film is so tense and nerve-wracking and the film literally puts Paul through the ringer that without moments of levity the audience might be slightly drained emotionally speaking, and it’s those twisted moments of humor that calls back to Hitchcock the most. There’s really nothing much else I can say without ruining Buried, so all I’ll say is that if you haven’t seen this film, you are horribly missing out. This is what filmmaking is suppose to do: It’s suppose to achieve something rare and original and fresh. Watching Buried is hard. It’s not really a movie where you just simply sit down and watch, but something you must experience. The director, Rodrigo Cortes, literally brings you into the mindset of Paul, allowing you to share his desperation, his paranoia, but most importantly his willpower to survive. Where many films focus on so many characters that never feel fleshed out or real, Buried creates a living, breathing person with Paul, someone who you end up liking and you want to see survive. He feels like a full-fledged human being, and there are moments where you are squinting your eyes in horror, or yelling at the screen, telling Paul to do things, or wishing help would come and rescue Paul from his constant misery. It’s that type of involvement that makes Buried such an incredible film. You are with the character every step of the way, and it’s that rare experience that will likely shake you down to your core. It was minutes before I could stop shaking after witnessing the final frame, and the film has already stayed with me for a very long time, and will likely continue to stay with me.
7. The Ghost Writer – The Ghost Writer is an almost perfect thriller, one where you can immediately tell is incredibly sharp and focused. It’s a different kind of thriller than one audiences might be more accustom to. Thanks to such contemporary efforts like the Bourne films or something along that ilk, audiences might be more familiar with the kind of thriller that moves at a breakneck pace, never letting up, with such frenetic photography that almost confuses the viewer as to what they are actually seeing. It is the definition of a “thriller” in the most literal sense, but fortunately Roman Polanski’s latest harkens back to a more classical time when thrillers were deliberate and tightly wound, such asCharade starring Cary Grant or The French Connection starring Gene Hackman. The Ghost Writerfollows Ewan McGregor, who is never named in the film (a clever choice by the writers, Polanski himself along with Robert Harris, adapting his own novel) instead being listed as “The Ghost” in the credits. That’s an apt name, considering that McGregor’s character in the film is a ghost writer, which is defined by someone who comes in and revises a work of writing without ever receiving credit or acknowledgment. He is being coaxed by his agent to ghost write a novel… but not just any ‘ole novel, this one comes in the form of Adam Lang‘s memoirs. Lang is the newly retired British prime minister, played flawlessly and even empathetically by Piece Brosnan. The magnitude of the situation doesn’t quite come into fold until McGregor’s “Ghost”, having already agreed to take the job (for a hefty sum of money), finds out that Adam Lang is being investigated for war crimes.The film is a slow burn type of thriller, and we follow the story completely from the Ghost’s perspective. The deeper he gets into the world of Lang, the deeper we get, and the more he finds out, the more we find out. It’s a deft storytelling tactic which really allows us to discover the inner intricacies of the plot and story just as they unfold for McGregor’s character. He slowly and gradually begins to realize just what exactly he got himself into, and as he learns more the tangled web of lies and deception begin to unfold themselves as McGregor’s character gets deeper into the mysteries that surround Lang’s charges. The film has been talked about for loosely adapting the life of real former prime minister Tony Blair, but Brosnan doesn’t play Lang like a Blair-doppelganger, and instead imbues him as this constantly frustrated, very flawed and human politician who we slowly learn is less of a political idealist and more of someone who stumbled — either by accident or by intention — upon his political life. Even though Lang is accused in the film of some pretty horrendous things, you end up at the end emphasizing and even sympathizing for Lang, which is strongly due to Brosnan’s multi-faceted performance. At the end of the day, the film is surprisingly simple for such a fantastic thriller, but that’s because the plot is not overbearing with needlessly convoluted plot contrivances. Roman Polanski is one of the best filmmakers of his generation, and with that experience comes a great knowledge on how to properly stage a thriller. Sure, those Bourne films are great fun, but there’s nothing more satisfying than having the patience to watch a brilliantly constructed story unfold right before your eyes. With excellent performances from the entire cast (with a particular shout out to Olivia Williams, who does a splendid job as Lang’s unhappy wife), an incredibly tight and focused script, and some stellar direction once again from Polanski, The Ghost Writer is unequivocally one of this year’s best films. Also, the fact that Alexandre Desplat did not receive an Oscar nomination for his score for this film, only proves there is truly something wrong with the Academy.
8. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World isn’t going to be a movie for everybody. In fact, I think that is the entire point of the film. I say this because when I saw the movie it was with a bunch of 20 year-old kids and younger like myself. I saw the film in particular with my friend who was much older. The entire audience was roaring throughout the entire film — laughing at things like all of the homages to video games as well as when Young Neil (played by Johnny Simmons) plays the Final Fantasy theme on his guitar — all of which was lost on my friend. There were certain moments that my friend enjoyed and laughed at, but for the most part when we left the theater he said it was one of the worst films he’s ever seen. I argued that it was a generational divide and that it just didn’t appeal to his cultural generational upbringing, but he argued that even though he didn’t get or understand half of the references the movie made, he still felt like he was watching a comic-book turned into a movie turned into a video game, and he said he has no desire to see a video game. Well, I think that’s a valid criticism, and while I don’t think the movie in itself was a literal video game, I think it was definitely inspired by the visual and auditory motifs of playing a video game. I think honestly Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is an amalgamation of different aspects of a certain youth culture that was never meant to appeal beyond anybody who has ever played a game of Tetris or Dance Dance Revolution. Or for anyone who hasn’t read a comic-book or been exposed to how texting can complicate things. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a very specific type of movie. What I mean by that is that it should never have been marketed to a mainstream audience, which of course is a idiotic statement since it had to have been in order to do any business. I guess then expectations would have needed to be significantly lowered. For those wondering, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is based on the comic-book series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Like Kick-Ass, in which the movie version was developed simultaneously as the comic-book was still being written, Scott Pilgrim is another example of a comic-book movie that comes out capturing the zeitgeist of the moment, adapting something from a comic-book that is just making waves verses adapting a character that has been around for decades like Captain America or Thor. It’s about 22 year-old hipster Scott Pilgrim, a video game loving affectionate nerd who plays in his own band, called “Sex Bob-omb”. He falls in love with the girl of his dreams — literally — in Ramona Flowers, played sternly and resolutely by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. However, in order to win over Ramona and keep her as his girlfriend, he must — drum roll please — fight and defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. The saying “love is a battlefield” comes to mind. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World explores love as almost a literal battlefield — Scott fights each and every one of the evil ex-boyfriends in increasingly visually imaginative fight sequences that seemed ripped right out of a video game like The Legend for Zelda or Donkey Kong or Super Mario Bros. In fact, when Scott defeats an evil ex-boyfriend, they turn into coins for Scott to collect. It’s all incredibly hyper-stylized and hyper-realistic, and the characters sort of co-exist in this witty, pop culture influenced world where such things are the norm and almost expected everyday occurrences. It’s part of the inventiveness of the film, which is why it is so refreshing and so original, and understandably probably a reason why older audiences have been turned off from the film. If you haven’t played a video game in your life, then half if not more of the references will likely be lost on you, and if you aren’t inundated by texting or pop culture in general, like comic-books and TV shows, then Scott Pilgrim is probably not for you. The thing about Scott Pilgrim — at least the movie adaptation — is that it is very much made by a niche audience with a niche audience in mind. It’s about the young narcissistic hipster that grew up playing Final Fantasy, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. It’s also about a very specific generation that was raised and dosed in pop culture. Comic-books, popular TV show’s, and video games. The film is also about growing up, and I think my favorite moment of the entire film is when Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera) and his love interest Ramona (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are walking together and Scott says, to paraphrase, “I don’t know if you’re into drugs — I’m not — but if you are then I totally am” and that really summarized a lot of my growing up for me. It was trying to do whatever it took to please a girl, even if it meant compromising yourself. So naturally it only makes sense for the film to be about growing up and standing up for yourself, because with the outlets today for contemporary kids like texting, the Internet — all of the stuff the film covers — it adds to the whole generational divide I think the film had for certain moviegoers. However, disregarding the pop culture and video game mentality that drives the very soul that is the film, if you removed all of those layers, you’d have a film that is genuinely about growing up. That is the one constant that keeps it from being just another video game or even comic-book movie. Video games are normally deliberately superficial, and you don’t learn anything either about yourself or about anything in general besides to defeat the next boss to get to the next level. Similarly, comic-books and consequently comic-book movies have a tendency to be emotionless and even somewhat grating. What makes Scott Pilgrim so unique as a movie going experience is that at the heart of the film you have the main character, Scott, who is a flawed, narcissistic character that actually does a little growing up in the film. It reminds me of a quote from Roger Ebert, who was reviewing the movieBoyfriends and Girlfriends on At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert, and Ebert said that when he was in high school his girlfriend broke up with him. He was crushed until his now ex-girlfriend told him that someone else liked him, and he immediately felt better and moved onto the next girl because someone liked him and when you’re growing up — with all of the complexities and insecurities of youth — having someone like you is the greatest thing of all. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World captures that brilliantly and that is why it works as a film. Even if you removed the clever visual and auditory motifs that director Edgar Wright and his sound design team have sprinkled throughout the film. Even if you removed the clever performances by Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, or anyone in this impressive ensemble cast. Even if you removed the inventively witty script. Despite all of these pop culture references, video game inspirations, and generational specific influences, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is actually a simple movie about growing up and standing up for yourself. About finding your voice and who you are as a person, given that awkward time as a teenager when you are so prone to peer pressure and doing things not because you want to but because you just want to impress the girl. I read somewhere that someone was confused as to why Scott fights the evil ex-boyfriends in the first place. Disregard the fact that he was “in love”, because that’s a pretty corny reason and I don’t even think as kids we know what love really means — Scott was fighting because he was doing whatever it took to win Ramona over, just like anyone of us would do when we like someone. If that means changing the way you look or your interests or even a part of yourself — at the end of the day, we just want to be liked, and that’s what Scott Pilgrim as a film is all about.
9. The American – There have been many films made about assassins, and most of them rarely attempt to even delve into the psychological nature of what these characters do and how they go about their daily lives. The American is an extremely minimalist film, which would seem strange for a movie about someone who perpetuates violence, but The American is not concerned about flashy visual spectacle or high-octane car chases or shoot-outs. Even though the film has those, they are done in such a restrained, controlled style that it might upset some viewers who would watch this film expecting a big action movie, especially with its star being George Clooney. However, Clooney is a really smart actor, and might be this genration’s Steve McQueen (in fact, after seeing this film, I could imagine McQueen playing a character like this). Even though Clooney is probably most famously known for his big Hollywood films like the Ocean’s Eleven movies, sometimes Clooney does an independent film like Michael Clayton and truly shows the wide range of his immeasurable talent. This film is made as if it was still the 1970’s, and has that sort of gentle but precise craftsmanship that we rarely see in movies anymore. Clooney plays a hitman, or an assassin, named Jack, who is on the verge of retirement and must do one last job before he can call it quits. He is stationed in some quaint town in Italy, where he must complete his final assignment. The plot is standard and simplistic enough, and you’ve proabably seen it a million times before, but what distinguishes The American from most standard movies of this ilk is how internalized and quiet and meditative the film actually is. It subverts expectations and just when you think something might happen, the story takes another turn and surprises you. It’s a refreshingly restrained movie, similar to The Ghost Writer, and it’s these films that really show that you don’t need a shaky cam or big explosions or quick car chases to effectively thrill an audience. The American is an elegant, sophisticated, sleek and smart thriller and we need more films like this.
10. Let Me In – Let Me In is a remake of the very successful and highly acclaimed Swedish film Let The Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson. It is also an adaptation of the novel of the same name by author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Many people will come into this film with biased expectations. They might say to themselves, “There’s no way the remake will be better”, or “The remake is a classic” or most prominently, “There’s no need for this film”. The director of the original, the aforementioned Tomas Alfredson, even stated that the remake should not exist merely because he feels a remake is only made because the original film is inferior, and he does not feel his film is such. Well, in this contemporary cinematic climate, Hollywood seems predisposed to remake anything, good or bad. Alfredson should not view Let Me In as a statement that his film is bad. In fact, he should, like the author, consider this a compliment. A remake would only get made based on the admittedly stellar success of the original. Let The Right One In was a resoundingly terrific film, and Matt Reeves’ Let Me In is equally terrific, if not, dare I say, even better.I was a big fan of the original but I think complaints leveled toward Reeves’ version, that it didn’t have its own identity, I don’t think I agree with those points. I think the film establishes its own identity and its own mood, which is darker and a bit more sinister than the original. However, the innocence of the original and the book is still present in this adaptation, which makes it so compelling and complex. It was fascinating to see a different side to director Matt Reeves here, who did the choppily edited and shakily shot Cloverfield and Let Me In is the exact opposite. He really creates this world of loneliness, alienation and silent, building sense of dread. The film is gorgeously shot with a beautiful sense of shot composition. I was also really impressed by Michael Giacchino’s dark, pulsating score. It really helped create a darker, creepier mood that worked really well. It’s a fantastically slow-paced film, with tender moments filled with scenes of slow approaching dread and menace. The performances all across the board are very solid, and I agree that Chloe Grace Moretz gives the role of Abbey a much more feminine touch than the actress in the original, and in that sense, the ambiguity over her orientation is a bit lost but that’s only a minor quibble. We still have enough ambiguity to suggest different scenarios, and I think cutting the sequence where we find out how she became a vampire was a good idea. I like that we get hints at the cycle of her manipulating a new guardian, and the fact that we know little about Abbey’s origins gives her that much more mysterious allure that only adds to the innocent menace of her character. The original was much more innocent and minimalist, and Reeves’ version is much darker and more overt in its menacing nature. However, like others have said, the remake flows a lot better thanks to the exclusion of unnecessary sub-plots involving the other minor supporting characters of the building. I remember Let the Right One In taking its time to really get going, however I feel like even with its slow pace, Let Me In flows much better and consequently as a result feels like a much more confident film. Still, Let Me In is one of the better remakes that I’ve seen and instills in me confidence in Matt Reeves as a director. I’ll definitely look forward to whatever he does next. I’ll probably see Let Me Inagain, if anything because for some reason it makes me want to explore the film more and more. I’ll have to check out the original again as well, and compare and contrast and finalize my thoughts on the original and the remake. If anything, it only proves the strength of the original story and just how powerful and ultimately, much like Abbey herself, just how seductive and sweetly manipulative this story really is.
Honorable mentions: Winter’s Bone, Blue Valentine, True Grit, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours,and Toy Story 3.