True Grimm

Movie reviewer and illustrator Bob and Mike Grimm tell us about last year’s flicks

Illustration by Mike Grimm

The past movie year suffered from a major Avatar hangover. It was like all of the studios drank too much Avatar, got totally wasted, and puked thrown together 3-D efforts onto screens everywhere.

Studios released live action 3-D movies en masse, many of them retrofitted for 3-D after they were shot. So we got dreck like Clash of the Titans 3D, Saw 3D, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, The Giraffe Who Ate Five Cars While Laughing 3D … the list, and the extra taxation on moviegoer wallets, goes on.

If the makers of the latest Harry Potter movie hadn’t pulled the plug on 3-D intentions in the last stage of production, that movie would’ve been 3-D, too. With plenty of shots done with the intention of changing them to 3-D in postproduction—something that never happened—we got a Harry Potter 3-D movie without the 3-D. Does that make sense? Eh, probably not. I’ll move on.

I don’t recall a movie year when the best films were ever quite this clear, meaning most critics overlapped with their top picks. Go ahead, scan the Internet and check out the best movie lists of all the publications and critics organizations. You’ll see many movie names repeated, and more than a few ads for male enhancement and dating sites.

I will say that animation had a banner year, with two animated films making my Top 10, and others (How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, The Illusionist) getting high praise. It’s also worth noting that the 3-D animation in these movies is outstanding, and worth the extra $782, or whatever the hell they charge for tickets these days.

Overall, 2010 was another generally blasé year that had its share of goodness, but mostly fell into the mediocre zone. As for the 3-D phenomena, that sucker is just getting started.

Illustration by Mike Grimm

The Best

1. 127 Hours: Director Danny Boyle delivered his best film yet with this true story of a hiker (James Franco) and his five-day-plus date with a pesky boulder that would eventually take his arm, but not his indomitable spirit. (I just referenced an awesome Mr. Show sketch!) Franco, giving one of the more unique performances in years, is my pick for the Oscar. Yes, the arm amputation business is messy and yucky, but Franco’s mostly solo performance is full of everything from great humor to the unfathomable desperation such a situation no doubt inspired.

2. True Grit: I put the work of Hailee Steinfeld in this Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne classic right alongside Franco as an example of the year’s best performance. As Mattie, the fiercely intelligent 14-year-old seeking revenge for her father’s murder, she is remarkable. She is being promoted as a candidate for Best Supporting Actress this year, but her performance is very much a lead role. When you factor in Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and a supporting cast including Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and Barry Pepper, you have the year’s best ensemble cast.

3. Inception: Man, was I happy when this came out on Blu-ray because I very much wanted to watch this again and catch some of the stuff that admittedly went over my head. Christopher Nolan’s masterwork gets my vote for the year’s best visuals, best screenplay and editing, and one of the year’s best performances from Leonardo DiCaprio. Marion Cotillard is no slouch, either, playing Leo’s dead wife and dream haunter. This one truly stretched the boundaries of moviemaking in a miraculous way.

4. The Social Network: No movie better captured the current state of human interaction than David Fincher’s nasty take on the creation of the mother of all social networks. Jesse Eisenberg excels as Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, and Time Magazine’s recently anointed Man of the Year.

5. Blue Valentine: After a prolonged but successful battle with the MPAA to overturn the dreaded NC-17 rating it initially received, this scathing look at a failing marriage, juxtaposed with the endearing beginning of the same relationship, managed a limited release. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams tear your heart out in this incredibly honest film about a disintegrating union.

6. Toy Story 3: Once again, stupid Pixar made me cry watching an animated movie. Presumably the last in the franchise, Woody and Buzz Lightyear delivered again in heartwarming, rousing fashion. Big Baby actually scared the hell out of me.

7. Shutter Island: Yes, it’s easy to guess what’s going on in the latest thriller from director Martin Scorsese. Who cares? This is one of the year’s best-looking, well-acted films, and while Inception is a little higher on my list, I think this featured the year’s best Leonardo DiCaprio performance, so that makes for two big 2010 salutes to Leo.

8. Louis C.K.: Hilarious: Of all the films released this year, I’ve watched this one the most. Louis C.K. is my pick for all-time greatest stand-up comedian. Better than Carlin, better than Cosby, better than Bill Hicks, better than all of them. And while this film of his latest concert material isn’t a technical wonder, it’s far and away the funniest movie of the year, based on what this man is willing to say in front of a crowded room. He’s unbridled nuts in this movie and just about the most honest comedian on the planet.

9. I Am Love: Tilda Swinton is unbelievable in one of the more challenging roles to come along for anybody in a long time.

10. Tangled: I love the look of this movie, a wonderful combination of computer animation with classic Disney sensibilities. I think it contains one of the all-time great Disney characters in Maximus the Horse, and Mandy Moore’s voice is the perfect match for the animated Rapunzel. And the music didn’t make me want to puke!

As the great Mark Twain once said, “Ten is never enough when discussing the year’s best movies, so quit screwing around and take this mother to 20! Now let’s get some cocaine and whores!” He was, like, really drunk on Bud when he said that … all belligerent and shit. Mark Twain could be quite the jack-off.

11. Black Swan: Natalie Portman finally gets a chance to fully deliver on the promise she showed all the way back in The Professional. She is hauntingly sad as Nina, the tormented ballerina who can’t quite handle her opportunity to shine in the limelight.

12. Kick-Ass: While I have given funniest-movie-of-the-year honors to Louis C.K., this film’s intro of Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) is the funniest scene of the year. I also think the art direction and cinematography in this movie are outstanding.

13. Winter’s Bone: Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes are both fantastic in this bleak look at life in the Ozark Mountains. Hawkes has been doing fine work for years, but this is the movie that will make some people actually remember his name. Lawrence has a nice future and a role in the upcoming X-Men movie.

14. The King’s Speech: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are simply delightful as King George the VI and his cocky speech therapist. If the Oscar goes to Rush over Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor, that’ll be fine by me.

15. The Kids Are All Right: Another great ensemble film, with Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo and perhaps even Julianne Moore all deserving Oscar consideration.

16. I Love You Phillip Morris: Wow … wow. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor go all out in this crazy-funny story based on real events. If you think Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger broke through barriers in gay cinema with Brokeback Mountain, watch this movie.

17. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage: Even if you hate their music, this documentary about the Canadian rock gods is one of the best rock films ever made. Watching this band in all phases of its career, and the endearing honesty of its members in their interviews, is a music lover’s delight.

18. I’m Still Here: I’ve watched this a couple of times now, and I must applaud the effort Mr. Joaquin Phoenix put into this insane piece of performance art.

19. The Other Guys: Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make for the year’s best comic duo in the latest from frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay. The scene where Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson jump off a building is golden.

20. Enter the Void: In a lot of ways, Gasper Noe’s unconventional ghost story is as much the technical marvel as Christopher Nolan’s Inception. It’s one of the most highly immoral and uncomfortable movies I’ve ever seen … which I just have to respect in a weird sort of way. This is a film where you travel inside a woman’s vagina for a firsthand look at sex in progress, and you take one in the face. Don’t watch this one based solely on my recommendation. It requires pre- and post-movie counseling, and I don’t want to be hit by lawsuits from Bible thumpers after it gives them a stroke.

Illustration by Mike Grimm

The Worst

There are a couple of things remarkable about this year’s worst list. For starters, it features everybody from Robert De Niro to Julia Roberts, Jeff Bridges to Angelina Jolie. Some major, heavy hitters took their big paychecks and did time on seriously bad cinema. Also remarkable is that there were so many atomically bad movies this year that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse got bumped off the list. This is a feat of miraculous proportions because I really hate that tween vampire shit.

1. Sex and the City 2: Let’s see, what are the most painful movie scenes I’ve had to watch during my 15-year stint reviewing films? Well, anything with Pippi Longstocking qualifies, and pretty much the entire Al Pacino performance in 88 Minutes. As torturous as they were, I am going to have to crown the moment Sarah Jessica Parker and her loser cast mates did karaoke in this bloody, neck-crushing car crash the new “Suck” king.

2. Tron Legacy: Sure, I know some of the special effects were spectacular, and the whole young Jeff Bridges trick did impress me. Still, it featured the year’s worst lead actor in Garrett Hedlund, a guy as interesting as rum punch with no rum in it. Having to endure his lifeless performance, coupled with a plot even goofier than the original film, killed this for me.

3. Little Fockers: Come on, Ben Stiller! Knock it off with these demeaning, useless forays into simplistic commercial swill for big money. You are officially embarrassing yourself and your fans. Hey, I’m not a fair-weather fan that abandons his film heroes after a stinky movie or two. You’ve made a lot of bad movies, and this one, costarring Robert De Niro—another fading hero—is your worst. You are rich now! Please commence making nothing but films worthy of your talents. Please! No more movies where kids barf on you, unless that kid is Hailee Steinfeld or Chloe Moretz and Wes Anderson is directing!

4. How Do You Know: Reese Witherspoon’s befuddled performance is a big reason this one fails to float, but you have to put plenty of blame on the woefully out-of-touch writer/director James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets), who is rapidly losing his mojo.

5. Eat Pray Love: I’ve had a lot of people yell at me for hating this one because they loved the book so, so much. Listen, great books don’t always make good movies (Bonfire of the Vanities, anyone?). I can think of at least 187,328 things I’d rather do than watch Julia Roberts in vapid mode stuffing pizza into her face while whining about her hot boyfriends.

6. Robin Hood: Russell Crowe, perhaps realizing his career is officially faltering, got back together with his Gladiator director (Ridley Scott) and hairdresser for this historical drama that proves, once and for all, that Robin Hood was a boring dickhead.

7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: I loved Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and continued to like her and the Lisbeth Salander character through the inferior first sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. By the time Lisbeth got to this last part of the trilogy, all hope was lost for a decent finale. It’s almost more boring than Tron Legacy. Not quite, but almost.

8. The Tourist: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie sleepwalk through this romantic adventure flick, seemingly determined to show you their rise to respected performer status was some kind of fluke. Seriously, were we all drunk? According to this film, Depp and Jolie totally suck ass! Neither one of them knows how to act! It’s all a big ruse!

9. Grown Ups: Adam Sandler made the very good Funny People, a comedy with brains that failed to ignite the box office in that Sandler sort of way. So he went right back to director Dennis Dugan, got a bunch of his unfunny friends together, and they defecated this thing.

10. Clash of the Titans: While they were in production on this one, somebody got the bright idea to make it a 3-D movie because Avatar made so much money. So they altered the already stupid movie and made it hard to look at, as well. The YouTube “Release the Kraken!” video was pretty badass though, so not a total loss.

The coming movie year looks kind of weird. There are a lot of remakes (Straw Dogs, Footloose, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night), a lot of sequels (Transformers, Harry Potter, Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean) and a lot of second tier superheroes (Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America) on the way.

I am looking forward to David Gordon Green’s Your Highness starring James Franco and Danny McBride, the next Terrence Malick film (Tree of Life) and this summer’s old school Winnie the Pooh animated movie. There’s also Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Sam Rockwell.

However, the 2011 film I am most looking forward to would be The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1, because its arrival will mean there is only one movie left in that miserable franchise.

2010 Grimmy Awards

Best Actors: James Franco (127 Hours), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)

Best Actresses: Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Tilda Swinton (I Am Love), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)

Best Supporting Actors: Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Matt Damon (True Grit), Christian Bale (The Fighter), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)

Supporting Actresses: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy), Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass and Let Me In), Naomi Watts (Mother and Child)

Worst Actor: Tie: Garrett Hedlund and Michael Sheen (Tron Legacy)

Worst Actress: Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray Love)

Best Actor in a Bad Movie: Paul Rudd (How Do You Know)

Best Actress in a Bad Movie: Madeline Carroll (Flipped)

Worst Actor in a Good Movie: Patrick Wilson (Morning Glory)

Worst Actress in a Good Movie: Kim Cattrall (The Ghost Writer)

Worst Way to Impress Your Boss: Punching them in the face and calling them silly.

Best Director: Danny Boyle (127 Hours)

Best Documentary: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Best Use of Jeff Bridges: True Grit

Worst Use of Jeff Bridges: Tron Legacy

Most Shameful Product Placement: Ducati motorcycles in Tron Legacy

Most Shameful Jeff Bridges Placement: His acting like “The Dude” in Tron Legacy

Best Original Song: “Sticks and Stones” by Jonsi (How to Train Your Dragon)

Best Cameo … Possibly Ever!: Richard Dreyfuss in Piranha 3D

Underrated: Morning Glory, Frozen, Splice

Overrated: Secretariat, Hereafter, Alice in Wonderland

Most Underrated Snack: Parmesan Pita Chips (They are positively scrumptious!)