Cinema Crazed’s Top 10 of 2010

With Cinema Crazed gaining more and more access in to the newest films every year, we were able to catch so many movies for 2010 and even with our incessant scramble to watch every possible title out there, we still didn’t have enough time to see it all. With our commitment to reviewing indies and cult cinema first and foremost, we don’t really have the material for these lists until November or December, and then it becomes a mad panic to watch as much as possible to compile this annual list.

Nevertheless, we saw more films in 2010 than in previous years, and many movies earned our spots. Others just didn’t. Many other titles just escaped our memory. Some we just didn’t have time to catch (whimper “Tron Legacy” whimper) So yes, these are lists of the best and worst movies that we’ve seen. Odds are there will be a movie from 2010 in mid-2011 we think should have been apart of the list, regretfully. As with every year we have some new categories, and we hope we inspire such rage in you that you’re able to find it in your heart to leave a vicious anonymous passive aggressive comment on Rotten Tomatoes for one of our reviews. That’s all we ask. Or be ballsy and email us. Come on, we dare you. Or if you’re feeling conversational, send us your own Top 10 and Worst 10 of 2010! We can likely begin a conversation that’s human and polite.

Pardon me while I have a strange interlude: “The King’s Speech” isn’t on any of these lists. The studio didn’t send screeners, it’s only playing in two theaters in New York, and we don’t have the time or effort to seek it out and risk being bored senseless. So forgive us for that. We’re sure it’s a fine movie about a stuttering king, honest. But… we didn’t have the time to find out.

On to the show!
10.5. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
Directed by Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch
1428 Films
Released on DVD & Blu-Ray

“Oh please. This is going to be four hours of stuff I already know, time to ready my blanket for a nap.” Boy how wrong I was. This pretentious movie geek was thrown for a loop in October of 2010 when asked to review the documentary on DVD allowed us to slip in to a Nightmare orgy filled four hours of the most informative documentary ever made. While yes, it was never theatrically released, this is one of our yearly cheats for the list and this is our pick of the year that we felt warranted a place on the list.

“Never Sleep Again” isn’t just an hour long feature from some money grubbing company, this is intended to be a masterful ode to horror movies, indie filmmaking, and Freddy Krueger and it works on every conceivable level. While it didn’t have a theatrical release at all, it is worthy of one. Avoid the truncated edited versions playing cable, and check out the DVD in which ever way possible because clocking in at four hours, it will reveal many facts to even the most knowledgeable movie buffs. And the special features (clocking in at almost two hours) are also very crucial to the experience revealing everything from novels, comic books, and posters playing their own roles in the respective mythos. It’s a must see for any horror goon worth their weight. And in a year where we were given an absolutely hackneyed version of Krueger, “Never Sleep Again” gave us the real version as much as it could.

Best of the Best
Recollecting the making of the infamous blood stream scene in “Nightmare.”

10. Red, White & Blue
Directed by: Simon Rumley
IFC Midnight

Director Simon Rumley’s horror thriller is possibly one of the biggest surprises of 2010. Originally a festival runner for After Dark, we took a chance on it based around the rave reviews from our favorite websites, and we were absolutely blown away. True, the film does take a while to build up and it requires some patience, but when it finally dives in to the big twist, “Red White and Blue” is a full on assault on the emotions and senses.

It’s one part drama, one part character study, one part slasher film, and one part revenge film, revolving around three strangers that are bonded by a wicked series of circumstances. Erica is a young woman whose entire life is based around the bare minimum. She’s a woman who wanders in to night clubs, sleeps with a man, and leaves him after one night. Incapable of actually committing to anything in her life, she drifts in and out of photo albums of the men she’s come face to face with, and spends most of her free time in playgrounds making friends with children and giving them gifts. When she meets Nate, she forms a friendship with him and the two garner a bond that’s most unsettling. Nate is a man constantly on the verge of cracking and when he meets Erica, he’s intent on befriending her and touching deep down in to her soul uninterested in actually sleeping with her.

Across town Franki, a young rocker on the cusp of fame and caring for his cancer stricken mother has just received news that he has AIDS thanks to a night stand months before. With this revelation Franki seeks out the woman who gave him the disease and his anger and rage boils down to a kidnapping, murder, and the accidental unleashing of Nate who is a man capable of committing horrific acts without flinching. While the entire cast are superb, Noah Taylor completely consumes the film with his unapologetic madness, providing an anti-hero many will either love or despise by the end of the film. The final half hour makes for some of the most disturbing and compelling acts of vengeance ever depicted in a genre film, and director Simon Rumley composes a truly incredible masterpiece that will appeal to fans of many genres.

Best of the Best
Choosing between life and death is tough. Even at knife point.

9. Frozen
Directed by: Adam Green
Anchor Bay Entertainment

Adam Green deflated in 2010 with the groundbreaking but absolutely tedious “Hatchet 2,” but this survival thriller is magnificent in performances, terror, and a bleak ending that will not send anyone off to bed pondering on the glory of life and love. Imagine being stuck on a chair lift on a ski resort. Imagine if you’re acrophobic and easily rattled. Imagine if, during a string of disastrous consequences, you were forced to stay on a chair life for an entire week in the freezing snow. No food. No water. No cell phone. No one can help you, and you’re so high up from the ground you can’t even climb down to look for help. Very reminiscent of films like “Gerry” and “Open Water,” Green shows he’s capable of constructing very competent and compelling genre outings with a film that is quite disturbing and gory but more angled toward the dramatic genre.

“Frozen” is a film that affected much of the audience that was able to see it, mainly because director and writer Adam Green is never above putting his characters through the ringer. Time and time again our three main characters are put in to harrowing situations that will leave viewers wondering when he’s going to let them have one moment of peace and find a way out of this horrific incident. Hypothermia, starvation, isolation, and dehydration take its toll eventually on the three individuals, all of whom struggle to find a way down and out of the wilderness al the while fighting to stay alive against a snow storm, and a pack of hungry wolves waiting in the trees to pounce at any moment. The finest and most gripping moments are the smallest where Green zeroes in on the character’s desperation. At one moment our female protagonist Parker is so desperate to use the bathroom she is reduced to peeing on herself in shame, and after falling asleep, she awakens to her hand frozen and bound to the guard railing. The obstacles are endless, and “Frozen” is a gripping bit of survivalist thriller that will compel greatly.

Best of the Best
“Don’t you fucking let her look down!!”

8. The Social Network
Directed by: David Fincher
Columbia Pictures

We’re convinced when the Oscars arrive in 2011, that David Fincher’s picture of the beginning of social networking and a cultural revolution, this film will take away every single trophy. A film that defines this generation with pinpoint accuracy, “The Social Network” is the sensationalized exploration of the beginnings of Facebook, and how its wunderkind creator Mark Zuckerberg created a potentially groundbreaking program and used it as a means of dominating the world, taking the internet all for himself, and getting back at all of his alleged friends whom he longed to be apart of during his college years.

While Fincher’s film is obviously fictionalized in many regards with a female base of characters that are insanely sexist, “The Social Network” is the film that defines our modern mindset, and makes a statement on how social networking has become a way to connect people by distancing them as much as possible. This is all emphasized by the speedy banter by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin whose own style of dialogue lends to the commentary of how this operates on new levels of speed and brevity. Facebook is an empire bred on passive aggressiveness and complacency all led by a man who himself is an individual incapable of communicating with anyone beyond the means of a piece of paper or computer. Jessie Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is marvelous with his quick wit rapid fire delivery of dialogue proving an asset to the film’s dramatic dynamic told through flashbacks while Zuckerberg is embroiled in three separate lawsuits threatening to take down his website. “The Social Network” is an important film, and on that has something to say about us and our current obsession with communicating through text.

Best of the Best
“A guy who makes a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair.”

7. Toy Story 3
Directed by: Lee Unrick
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Doomed to be cheapened by an inevitable reboot or spin off, this “final” film of the trilogy is a heartbreaking and gut-wrenching farewell to the toys we all know and love. While the movie is essentially one final goodbye to Woody, Buzz and their pals, it’s also a statement about letting go of childish things and moving on with our lives. Originally we were not elated with the teaser trailers and posters for this sequel, but after sitting through it we could barely keep from crying in to our sodas. “Toy Story 3” is a sign that all things must come to an end, no matter how much we’d love to freeze time and revel in its glory. No matter what we do we have to grow up and we have to move on, because life will not wait for us. “Toy Story 3” views the gang at their lowest. Bo Peep is gone. Most of the other toys have been given away or sold.

The toy soldiers have humbly bid their farewell, and now the toys are being given away by their beloved owner Andy. Now heading off to college, he has to decide if he wants to throw the toys away, put them in the attic, take them all with him and hold on to his childhood where he has no space, or pick one over the other, which will invariably hurt the feelings of the other prized possessions. An exploration in to the deeper realms of these toys, “Toy Story 3” dabbles in the concepts of heaven, hell, belief, cults, fanaticism, the dangers of misguided idolatry, faith in a higher power, and the power that love can instill in everything we touch. Never have we seen these characters in such harrowing situations, and by the time the movie has drawn to a close it’s a final scene that you’ll be smiling with and crying to in the same vein. Yes, Pixar is one of the juggernauts of animation right now, and we’re just as sick of hearing about them as others are, but… a masterpiece is a masterpiece, no matter who or what is behind it. And “Toy Story 3” is a masterpiece. Hopefully Disney and Pixar will find it in their hears to leave this series along for a very long time, or perhaps let it rest in peace and dignity.

Best of the Best
It was a real treat seeing Totoro with all of his fellow toys.

6. 127 Hours
Directed by: Danny Boyle
FOX Searchlight Pictures

Many people naturally assumed “127 Hours” would be a ninety minute exercise in pain and torture (especially with reports of a woman fainting during the dreaded final scenes that were incredibly overblown), but with director Danny Boyle you can always expect something beyond a cinematic experience. The man turned “28 Days Later” in to a horror film above a normal genre outing and “Trainspotting” in to an unabashed demented trip in to anarchy and a drug fueled life led by many. “127 Hours” takes what is a very interesting story and turns it in to something more compelling and rich in characterization and tone.

Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s interesting, but Danny Boyle makes the journey of Aron Ralston in to a life defining exploration in to a man’s soul and makes a declaration that just because fate decided to intervene in one’s life, it doesn’t mean they have to stand by and accept it. Boyle turns Ralston’s battle with hypothermia, isolation, starvation, and dehydration in to a life changing endeavor where Ralston uses this time to come to grips with the prospect of a slow and gradual death greeting him with every passing hour. With his hand pinned under a rock and no one aware of his location, he has to survive as long as he can before he realizes that his time has come to die. Through these painful hours he copes with loneliness, thinks back to his life filled with regrets and personal demons, and misses a family he never took the time to really know before his accident. Boyle directs “127 Hours” with a palette of off the wall humor, bittersweet recollections, and ends the film on the preciousness of life and how some of us take it for granted, even when we think we’re living it to the fullest.

Best of the Best
Aron’s one man interview. Demented, but heartbreaking.

5. Inception
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Warner Bros. Pictures

True it didn’t change the way we looked at life like many Nolan fans originally declared it would upon its release in theaters, but “Inception” did live up to every bit of hype it received upon its theatrical introduction. Director and writer Christopher Nolan spent ten years finely tuning this absolutely mind-blowing science fiction thriller that is all at once a blockbuster for action fans, and a thought provoking study on reality for the thinking crowds. And if you happen to be in both camps, you were in luck. While the delving in to dreams not at all original stomping grounds for the fantasy genre, Christopher Nolan lends a distinct voice to the premise of delving in to the psyche by meshing in a wonderfully stylish heist film all the while assembling a group of top notch actors from Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy.

All of whom play their own specific roles in the attempt to uncover the secrets of their clients that could mean the fate of a business empire. Expounding on the concept of dreams and the sub-conscious, Nolan builds a world within dreams, and then builds worlds within worlds eventually pushing away our grasp of what’s reality, and dropping us in to a plain where the professionals are so embroiled in completing their mission while getting their leader Cobb out from the depths of regret from his world that he created to house his beloved wife, that one concept expands in to numerous scenarios and potential outcomes, all of which are never quite fact and blurred within the depths of shared dream realms. Soon “Inception” becomes about finishing this job and saving their friend Cobb, whose memories keep trickling in to the central premise to undo everything he hopes to accomplish. By the end Nolan has dug so deep in to plateaus of consciousness, sub-consciousness, and our own lucid dream states, we’re not sure if the final scene is the end or… just what the main character perceives to be the end in his nightmares.

Best of the Best
Paradox.

4. Winter’s Bone
Directed by: Debra Granik
Roadside Attractions

A festival and indie darling, and a bonafide gem destined to clean up with some awards before its trek to DVD and Blu-Ray, “Winter’s Bone” is a dramatic thriller that definitely snuck up on us when it premiered. There are so many movies out there that something like this film can get lost in the shuffle, and it’s a good thing it’s being so appreciated and praised by the majority of critics. “Winter’s Bone” is simultaneously a modern western, a depiction of the plight of the impoverished, and the picture of a new generation of feminist heroine whose entire morality and goals for her life is not based around falling in love, or finding the right guy to sleep with. No, this is a story centered around a young girl who is hopelessly stuck in a life of poverty and hunger, but ventures out against constant threats and imminent death for the sake of her family.

In a world where we have “heroines” like Bella Swan, it’s refreshing to see a young girl who is fighting for what’s right to protect her family and keep them from being homeless and starving in the wilderness of the Ozarks. Even in the face of hunger and frostbite, she refuses to abandon her brother and sister, both of whom depend on main character Ree Dolly for food, shelter, and moral support. When Ree Dolly’s drug abusing father goes on the lam from a bail bondsman, the bondsman and his group of cronies tell Ree that unless her father shows up to court for his appeal, Ree and her family will go homeless. Intent on keeping her shelter preserved Ree journeys out in to the Ozarks to hunt him down, coming across shadowy figures, a family of criminals, abusive uncles and the like, all of whom will lead Ree in to her ultimate fate that can make or break her family’s comfort, however minimal. In a world where feminine heroines are either reduced to sex objects or damsels in distress, it’s nice to know there’s still a place for down to Earth morally straight selfless women who fight against impossible odds fearlessly, all for the sake of living day by day and preserving their family’s comfort and health.

Best of the Best
A battered Ree’s devoted little brother and sister lying beside her in bed.

3. True Grit
Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Paramount Pictures

Before the Coens version of the classic Western we’d admittedly never sat down to see the original film with John Wayne. There was much backlash behind this production, particularly in the boldness of the Coens to take a John Wayne picture and remake it for modern audiences. Thankfully the Coens are not about providing us with a routine remake drastically re-thinking the source material and reportedly sticking to the original novel more than the Duke Wayne movie. While it’s still a controversial remake, “True Grit” is without a doubt one of the best films of 2010 for the simple fact that it’s a revenge western but unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The Coens drop us in to situations of sardonically humorous tones with main character Mattie Ross rapidly bartering with a horse owner, Matt Damon’s awkward admittance that he considered kissing the teen Mattie in her sleep, and the inevitable moment where he drops Mattie over his knee and spanks her silly for mouthing off at Rooster Cogburn.

While true no one will ever replace Duke Wayne, Jeff Bridges makes a damn good case for portraying the new Rooster Cogburn offering a cold, sullen, and apathetic character who is prone to getting drunk and stumbling off his horse instead of tracking the men who viciously killed Mattie Ross’ father. The film is filled with plays on heaven and hell, life and death, and the fate that awaits Mattie and Rooster once confronted with her father’s killer, and it’s absolutely incredible how the Coens are able to deliver a remake that’s very unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Some moments will cause viewers to scratch their heads in confusion while rooting for Rooster and Mattie to see the end of their journey. After “No Country” and now “True Grit,” I’m up for anything the Coens will dish up next. Especially after showing that Western sub-genre isn’t dead.

Best of the Best
Is it us, or was that the most intense bartering scene we’ve ever witnessed?

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Universal Studios

Damn it, I stressed this point in our review and our lengthy essay that while many people are still convinced that Edgar Wright’s American debut is a celebration of pop culture, and a modern love story, we still think it’s one of the most cynical movies ever made. Many of the folks we’ve spoken to almost refuse to see this on the basis that it’s an ode to the hipsters, but we’re persistent in our view of Wright’s adaptation of the Ryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels. Gathering a massive array of excellent young actors from Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, Ellen Wong, Mae Whitman, Allison Pill, et al, Wright completely brings to life the graphic novel. And in many regards this movie is better than the graphic novels. We’ve read the graphic novels before, and let me tell you, they’re snore fests.

But Wright manages to take that hyperkinetic nostalgia orgy from the pages and turns it in to a colorful assault on the senses. Scott Pilgrim lives in a world where romance and sexuality is reduced to nothing but one-liners and clich├ęs, and he is in the midst of possibly experiencing his first true love. He has met Ramona Flowers, and she is a woman who is so cool, she is unimpressed by him. In an effort to win her heart, he fights seven evil exes she once dated, and Edgar Wright makes every effort to including one or two pop culture references in every single frame of film. Whether it’s a T-shirt, or a poster, or a television blaring in the background, the odds are it’s from another pop culture deity and you may miss it. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” did poorly in the box office, but it’s rightfully earned its place as a cult classic that succeeds with multiple viewings. It’s a laugh out loud, exciting film that’s also a slickly sarcastic piece of revisionist romance that I continue to watch whenever I need to be distracted, and leave it with a wide smile on my face thanks to the top notch performances and incredible soundtrack. While not a hipster love letter many feared it would be, it will definitely live on in the hearts of hipsters everywhere. Even if they’re oblivious the director is laughing at them and not with them.

Best of the Best
If there were an award for best cameo of the year, Thomas Jane would get it. Milk and eggs, bitch!

AND THE NUMBER ONE FILM OF 2010 IS…
Black Swan
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel
FOX Searchlight Pictures

An often moving raw work of art and the pursuit of perfection that can drive us mad, Darren Aronofsky is a film that will continue to be dissected well beyond the life of the physical medium of Blu-Ray and online. Grabbing us from minute one where Aronofsky perfectly establishes ill-fated protagonist Nina Sayers dilemma being pulled and pushed from all sides of her world both personal and professionally, it’s a film filled with so many undertones and explorations in to sanity, the dangers of coddling from parents, unattainable goals that society pushes on us, and the like, all the while depicting a young woman who is completely unhinged from the minute we see her struggling to fit in to the mold of the ballerina in her music box. Paralleled with Swan Lake, Aronofsky truly paints this maddening and harrowing breakdown of sanity and our mental well being channeling films like “Perfect Blue” (which Aronofsky owns the rights to), and Polanski’s “Repulsion.” Nina Sayers is one of the most moving characters I’ve seen in years mired in emotional baggage and secrets that she can never expose because she is in a world where she has no one to confide in.

She competes with her friends in ballet, her mother keeps her preserved and finely fitted in a house that resembles a mausoleum with every bit of her life past and present pushed on her, all the while the mother (as played by Barbara Hershey who is absolutely despicable) who purports to love her also resents her for her perfection and constantly reminds her that she was never a wanted element of her life anyway. Thus Nina is in a constant journey to win her heart, adding to the pressure. Nina is a character who may very well have been a lesbian, and should have been contained in a mental asylum, but her journey for perfection both in the eyes of her contemporaries and in her mother’s ultimately destroys every bit of grasp she has on reality, her own physical well being, and her own perception of perfection. If she could only embrace the imperfections like Lily, she could be perfect in her own eyes, but by the end she’s too far gone to even realize that. Aronofsky is a marvelous director and every bit of “Black Swan” is finely tuned to feel like a moving work of art, and one that I think is so utterly compelling it’s impossible not to ponder on its deeper meanings while being utterly entertained by the visuals and pitch perfect synchronization of score, editing, and performance.

Best of the Best
The final transformation blending CGI seamlessly.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Day and Night, Splice, Survival of the Dead, The Fighter, The Kids are All Right, The Final

YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T SEE IT, BUT YOU SHOULD, YOU REALLY SHOULD:

“The Loved Ones” – Are you uncertain if you want to see “Misery” or “Pretty in Pink”? I mean sure, the former has a psychotic woman lording over a man and torturing him mercilessly. The other has a sweet romance and a love story you can get behind. So, why not watch “The Loved Ones”? What’s “The Loved Ones,” You ask? Well, it’s all the rage with horror buffs lately. This Australian horror film may not be a masterpiece, but it’s almost there with the story of a young man named Brent who is struggling with his current girlfriend after years of coping with the death of his father. Before the big prom he’s asked out by a meek young classmate in pink. He politely turns her down.

Little does he know that she’s not taking “no” for an answer. She’s intent on having the perfect prom night. She’s so determined she encourages her father to kidnap Brent, and she invites him over for some fun. Some nice music, a good dinner, some nice ice cream, spikes through the feet, the threat of biting his penis off, a drill through his forehead, you know how dates go down. Paralleled with yet another demented love story and garnering an out of this world performance from Robin McLeavy, “The Loved Ones” has become all the rage as the horror gem that never saw a theatrical release. But we’re suggesting it anyway. You’re not the boss of us.

MOST OVERRATED OF THE YEAR is… “Let Me In”
I mean… it was average. It was. It was watchable, and entertaining to some degree in minor instance, and the juiced up finale with the torn limbs was so intense it made us flinch a bit, but… come on people, it’s not a masterpiece! Really, Stephen King? Your top ten of the year? The best horror movie of the decade? Is there anyone home in there anymore, Mr. King? It was a serviceable dramatic horror film and a okay remake, let’s cease in pretending it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time. Let’s stop being little kids who are easily pleased, what do you say? It brought nothing new to the source material or to the sub-genre.

OUR GUILTY PLEASURE OF 2010 is… “The Losers”
“The Losers” ended up being one of my favorite guilty pleasures in a year filled with let downs and guy films. While The Expendables was all out balls to the wall mantertainment, it really isn’t that guilty a pleasure, and A-Team was just sub-par, but “The Losers” was a stylish and exciting action bonanza with a great cast, hilarious dialogue, and an ending that will leave you thinking “Fat chance!” to their hopes of a sequel in the closing credits. We still insist Jeffrey Dean Morgan is an actor who deserves to be propped up as an action star, while Idris Elba is capable of being the most slimy individual and we’ll love him just the same every damn time. “The Losers” was like a cold smoothie on a hot day. Not filling but light, satisfying and it makes you feel good when you’ve finished it.