The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


By no means was 2010 a bad year for movies, but neither was it a great year. For the past several years, making a ten best list has been torture for me; I was so pained to leave any excellent movies off my list that I ended up expanding it to a “fifteen best” or an “eighteen best” list. This year, even though some terrific stuff lies just outside the top ten, I didn't have to make any painful cuts. Don't take that as a complaint, though. The ten films I am about to name are all movies about which I feel passionately. They are the ones that most rocked my world in 2010 – and I'm grateful for all of them.

Here are my choices for the Ten Best Films of 2010:

10. Tangled - I know it may be the head-scratcher of my list, but let me tell you what I liked about this computer-animated version of “Rapunzel.” I grew up on Disney movies, and the best ones have a certain magic that comes from the way they re-tell classic stories in imaginative and wondrous ways. Tangled got that exactly right. In fact, it's the first film in many years to capture the classic Disney spirit. Just when I thought the studio had forgotten how to “make 'em like they used to,” along comes a picture that feels in line with Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, or any of the greats. Witty, funny, and genuinely romantic, Tangled caught me off guard, and I love it for that.

9. The Kids Are All Right - I'll admit it: I underrated Lisa Cholodenko's domestic comedy/drama when I initially reviewed it last summer. My original rating was still pretty high: three-and-a-half stars. A second viewing on DVD made me realize that this is four-star work all the way. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a longtime couple whose lives are thrown into turmoil when their children make contact with the man (Mark Ruffalo) whose sperm was used in their inception. The Kids Are All Right has been controversial in some circles of the gay community for a subplot in which Moore begins a torrid sexual affair with Ruffalo. While I understand how this might bother some viewers, I think you have to see the story through to its conclusion. Cholodenko is ultimately making a heartfelt and passionate statement about how families with same-sex parents are every bit as valid and loving as the more “traditional” concept of families. She does this without ever becoming preachy or sacrificing entertainment value. This is a great film about everyday people.

8. Toy Story 3 - Pixar's trilogy began in 1995 and still felt vital fifteen years later. This wrap-up to the Woody/Buzz Lightyear story deals with tough themes, including abandonment and loss, in a way that kids can understand. It also has something touching to say about the legacy we leave future generations, especially when it comes to play. Overall, a perfect end to a perfect series.

7. Rabbit Hole - You'd be hard-pressed to find a movie that was more profound about the grieving process than this drama. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a married couple trying to find their way back to some semblance of emotional normalcy after the death of their four year-old son. That sounds depressing, but the beauty of Rabbit Hole is that it's a life-affirming story about people who discover that they can go on, even when it doesn't feel like it. I know movies about death – real death – are a tough sell, but believe me when I say that you walk out of this picture feeling uplifted.

6. The Fighter - The best sports movies are never solely about sports, and that's true here. The true story of world champion boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward is a great movie about boxing but an even better movie about family. Mark Wahlberg shines as Ward who, with the prodding of girlfriend Amy Adams, realizes that he'll only ever be able to “make it” once he stops letting his overbearing manager mother (Melissa Leo) and crack-addicted trainer brother (Christian Bale) drag him down. Director David O. Russell beautifully explores the family dysfunctions at play, in the process creating a gripping film about the at-all-costs determination one needs to reach the top of any sport.

5. True Grit - I love walking into a Joel and Ethan Coen movie because they hit the brilliance bullseye with more regularity than anyone else making motion pictures today. Their adaptation of the Charles Portis novel (which was, of course, turned into a successful John Wayne movie) is everything you'd expect from a Coen production: smart, funny, inventive, idiosyncratic, and thoroughly unique. Jeff Bridges delivers yet another career-high performance, while newcomer Hailee Steinfeld marches onscreen and commands it against some heavyweight co-stars. This may be my favorite western of all time.

4. Black Swan - I've loved every film Darren Aronofsky has made so far, and that includes The Fountain. This is one of his best. A movie about ballet may not seem particularly exciting, yet Aronofsky essentially retells the story of “Swan Lake” as an ingenious psycho-sexual thriller. Natalie Portman stars as a ballerina whose grip on sanity slowly seems to be loosening the closer she gets to opening night. Marvelously acted and incessantly creepy, Black Swan is a total original – a movie that not only walks the high wire but jumps up and down on it.

3. 127 Hours - Calling Danny Boyle's survival drama a “guy cutting off his arm movie” is like calling Brokeback Mountain a “gay cowboy movie” or calling Titanic “a sinking boat movie.” It undermines the enormous achievement. Yes James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a real-life thrill-seeker who was pinned by a boulder after falling down a crevasse and who cut his own arm off in order to escape. However, 127 Hours is about so much more than what Ralston physically did. The film is about the psychological process he went through in order to be able to do the unthinkable. Five gory minutes aside, this is a celebration of what it means to embrace life and to envision a future for oneself.

2. The Social Network - If this drama was just about the creation of Facebook, it would still be a 4-star piece of entertainment. What makes it one of the year's best is that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher have also made a movie about why business and friendship don't mix. The intricately plotted film explores the way desire to get ahead in business often clashes with the requirements of a personal relationship. In other words, if your business partner is also your friend, you can't screw one without inherently screwing the other. The Social Network is additionally a thoughtful examination of intellectual property and how the genesis of ideas can be impossible to decipher. That's a lot for a two-hour movie to chew on, but this one is just as entertaining as it is provocative.

And my choice for the Best Film of 2010 is:

1. Inception - In my original review, I called Christopher Nolan's dream-thriller “one of the coolest movies I've seen in a decade,” and I meant it. No other picture in 2010 blew me away like Inception did. This is one of those films that takes you to another place, so fully does it engross and engage. Diving into the deepest recesses of the human mind, Nolan has created a tale that thrills you as much with ideas as it does with action. That combination keeps you riveted from start to finish. The visual effects are breathtakingly imaginative, yet the cool settings and pretzel logic don't rob the film of an emotional center. Inception is a movie I will certainly watch again and again, and I strongly suspect new details and themes will emerge each time. This is, quite simply, a masterpiece.

Runners up (in alphabetical order): Best Worst Movie, Conviction, How to Train Your Dragon, Let Me In, Like Dandelion Dust, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shutter Island, Somewhere, The Town, Winter's Bone