While 2010 has produced more than its fair share of crud, it actually can lay claim to showcasing movies that should not only be Oscar contenders, but Oscar favorites. While most of my choices for the best of 2010 (so far) may not take home any statuettes, they were either really good or really entertaining. Some were even both. So without further ado, here are my top 10 picks listed in alphabetical order and made with an attempt at some genre variety:
News flash: Summertime is over. That's bummer time for children, but a blessing for cineastes as the change in seasons means a change in attitude from Hollywood, which will focus less on money-garnering froth and more on Oscar-garnering depth.
That doesn't mean the year so far has been a total bust. It also doesn't mean that all the movies released from now until December will be masterpieces. After seeing just the previews for "Yogi Bear," I want to grab a pic-i-nic basket and hurl in it.
While 2010 has produced more than its fair share of crud, it actually can lay claim to showcasing movies that should not only be Oscar contenders, but Oscar favorites.
While most of my choices for the best of 2010 (so far) may not take home any statuettes, they were either really good or really entertaining. Some were even both. So without further ado, here are my top 10 picks listed in alphabetical order and made with an attempt at some genre variety:
Jacki Weaver plays Janine with a combination of sweetness and ruthlessness that's chilling to watch. If Weaver doesn't get nominated for best supporting actress, the Oscar folks should be fed to a pack of rabid dingoes.
"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO"/"THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE" -- In the first film, hacker extraordinaire and professional butt-kicker Lisbeth Salander helps a journalist solve a mystery while dealing with some unsavory characters. In the second film, she becomes the target of an unsavory assassin. What can one expect in the third film? I'll bet on more unsavoriness.
If Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth, were an American actress, she would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming American remakes measure up. They usually don't.
"INCEPTION" -- This Christopher Nolan mind-warping extravaganza could garner a best picture nod. Why? First, the film plays with reality with virtuosic skill. Second, the Academy blew it big time by failing to nominate Nolan's "Dark Knight" in 2008. Time for a makeup call.
The movie follows the exploits of Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb, a "dream" thief who gets hired to plant an idea into the target's subconscious instead of stealing one. Problems ensue.
Even if the film's complexity makes you wish it came with Cliff's Notes, just savor the jaw-dropping visuals. At the screening I attended, the audience applauded after the gravity-challenged elevator fight.
This is one film that must be seen on a big screen to be fully appreciated.
"KICK-ASS" -- This film will NOT get any Oscar nods unless the Academy gets taken over by Hell's Angels.
To appreciate (and sit through) this film, you must possess a sick sense of humor, one that enjoys watching a little girl carve up bad guys while uttering words that would embarrass a longshoreman. For the dearly deranged, "Kick-Ass" is easily the funniest film of the year.
Ostensibly, the movie stars Aaron Johnson as a boy who decides to become a superhero even though he doesn't have any superhero powers, but it's Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl who steals the film. Let's just predict stardom for this young actress right now. Playing the lead in the upcoming remake of the Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In" should seal the deal.
"THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT" -- While some people have been turned off by the mind games of "Inception," few have filed any complaints about this film, homophobes excluded. The moves shows that same-sex couples go through many of the same hassles their opposite-sex numbers do.
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple and parents of two teens. When one of the children wants to know who his father is, a search commences and Dad, played by Mark Ruffalo, shows up. Tension ensues.
The film should garner Oscar nominations and, if it does, expect a backlash from bozos complaining that the only reason it's getting any publicity is because of Hollywood's "homosexual agenda." That Bening and Moore give amazing performances might have something more to do with it.
"MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT"/"PUBLIC ENEMY #1" -- Based on the true story of a French gangster with a flair for the dramatic, this film serves as a star vehicle for Vincent Cassel, who plays the title character, Jacques Mesrine, with a bravado worthy of De Niro. Cassel would be a lock for an Oscar nod if he were an American.
The first film contains a little more pop than the second, but they both provide a colorful portrait of a criminal in the body of a showman, albeit one with a vicious streak.
"RESTREPO" -- Filmmakers join Battle Company as it fights the Taliban in an Afghanistan valley called "the most dangerous place in the world." The documentary's title refers to the name of the company's outpost, so named as a tribute to Pfc. Juan Restrepo, who was the first soldier in the company to be killed in action.
To call this movie riveting is an understatement as huge as the task facing Americans in trying to defeat a fanatical foe whom we never see. The soldiers are also shown trying to convince Afghan villagers they're the good guys who could use their help.
Regardless of your opinion of the war, you can't help but be moved by the courage and camaraderie on display in these most inhospitable of circumstances.
"SPLICE" -- It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature, especially when you create a creature who can be both sexy and deadly. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play rebellious scientists who get a little close to their work. Bloodshed ensues.
The film offers an interesting take on the sci-fi monster genre as this experiment doesn't look much like Boris Karloff.
"TOY STORY 3" -- Pixar strikes again. This studio can do wrong and its latest film is clearly the frontrunner for the Oscar as best animated film. If this movie doesn't get your tear ducts moist, your heart needs a defibrillator.
The story follows our favorite toys as they end up in a day-care center where the other toys don't play nice. The film highlights the important role toys play in the imagination of a child. It's that creative spirit that truly goes to infinity and beyond.
"WINTER'S BONE" -- Want some true grit with your grits? This film serves up a heapin' helpin'. Set in an Ozark terrain as welcoming as a badger with a migraine, the movie stars Jennifer Lawrence as a 17-year-old girl forced to take care of her younger brother and sister because of parental issues. Her job is to find her drug-dealing father or else the family loses its home. The mission isn't made any easier by the fact that her father associated with some very nasty people. If there were a White Trash Hall of Fame, most of the cast would be elected on the first ballot.
In an ideal world, Lawrence would also get an Oscar nomination for her gutsy performance. While small-scale films like this are often ignored by the Academy, the Oscar folks did the right thing in 2008 nominating Melissa Leo for best actress in "Frozen River," another film where reality bites.
Honorable mentions go to "Despicable Me," "How to Train Your Dragon," "I Am Love" (because of Tilda Swinton's bravura performance) and "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work." Joining "Kick-Ass" in the guilty pleasure category are "Machete" and "Piranha 3-D."
This girl is a woman now
It's now time for TRIVIA.
Last month's tester: What tearjerker, based on a play, was first turned into a film in the 1930s, remade in the 1940s and remade again, with a different title, in the 1950s? Clue: The three lead actresses were born on three different continents. Name the title of the 1930s and 1940s film, the title of the 1950s film, the lead actresses in each film and the continents where they were born.
Answer: "Waterloo Bridge" and "Gaby." The respective lead actresses were Mae Clarke (born in North America), Vivien Leigh (born in Asia) and Leslie Caron (born in Europe). The play was by Robert Sherwood.
Sal Genovese of Natick, Mass., was the first reader to answer the question correctly. Congratulations! L.H. of Milford also responded correctly.
This month's tester: What actress, who played the daughter in a 1960s horror film, played the matriarch in a family drama almost 50 years later? Clues: The actress is not an American, and the director of the 1960s film began his movie career making documentaries. Name the actress, the director and the two films.
The first reader to answer the trivia question correctly will receive a package of Fruits & Passion products including Cranberry Love eau de toilette and shower gel. For more information about the gift, go to www.fruits-passion.com.
Trivia enthusiasts can call me at 508-626-4409 or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Make sure you leave your name, address and number on my message machine or e-mail so I can contact you if you answered the question correctly. The address is needed so winners can be mailed their prize. Callers should spell out their names slowly and clearly so their names will be spelled correctly in the column. Only one guess per household, please.
Answers will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Good luck!