A FEW WEEKS AGO, I sat down to put together a "Top 10 Films of 2010" list. I topped out at six or seven.
So: Rather than cranking out an underwhelming top 10, I asked a slew of Portland movie experts—from Mercury movie critics, to freelance film writers, to local theater owners and employees—to send me their top three films of 2010, along with brief explanations why. The below lists, varied as they are, offer an overview of 2010 in film: True, it was a pretty crappy year for movies. But hey, at least everybody liked The Social Network, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Toy Story 3!
A couple of observations, signifying nothing: Several films likely to get Oscar nods (The American, 127 Hours, Please Give, Four Lions, The Fighter, Somewhere, Inside Job) didn't show up on anybody's top three. Everybody stayed away from big-budget letdowns like Iron Man 2 and Tron: Legacy. I'm pretty sure Jackass 3D and Machete aren't going to be this well represented on any other "Best of 2010" lists. And while sexually repressed cat ladies gave over $300 million to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse—compare this to Scott Pilgrim's measly $31 million—it didn't get a single shout-out below. Pfft. Fucking critics, man. So out of touch.
Also, I'm kind of bummed nobody picked How to Train Your Dragon. That totally would have been my number four. ERIK HENRIKSEN
ERIK HENRIKSEN, Mercury senior editor
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—Edgar Wright's goofy, sweet, hilarious mash-up of kung fu, indie rock, comics, videogames, and the precious little lives of hipsters. One of the smartest, coolest films of the year, and undoubtedly the most fun.
The Social Network—Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film about a site that feeds off lonely people reaching out through technology, David Fincher's razor-sharp The Social Network is cold, calculating, and incredibly affecting.
True Grit—A badass western from the Coen Brothers. I don't really need to say anything else, do I?
MARJORIE SKINNER, Mercury managing editor
Easy A—Thanks to the charms of a cast led by Emma Stone, this retelling of The Scarlet Letter came out fresh and smart. It's the most delightful cool-girl-centric high school flick since Mean Girls.
Black Swan—Stop wringing your hands about highbrow and lowbrow cinema and enjoy this for what it is: The best stoner chick-flick horror show of the year.
I Am Love, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (TIE)—The two most thunderous and austere melodramas, respectively, are also the most stylish. Love's transporting opulence is catnip to sensualists of food, mansions, and tailoring alike; Coco's dazzling interiors will surely influence my home décor for life.
ALISON HALLETT, Mercury arts editor
Louie—I received a special dispensation from Mercury Senior Editor Erik Henriksen to include the first season of Louis C.K.'s brilliantly dark, odd TV show on this ostensibly movie-themed list—it was handily the best thing I saw on a screen all year. Plus, I watched it on Netflix Instant, so that's kinda like a movie.
Machete—It says something damning about the state of contemporary mainstream film that one of the most politically relevant films of 2010 featured a machete-wielding Danny Trejo, the elastic properties of the human intestine, and Lindsay Lohan as a slutty nun.
The Kids Are All Right—This talky family drama about upper-class lesbians features sharp writing, admirably complex relationllships, and the outstandingly handsome Mark Ruffalo.
NED LANNAMANN, Mercury Laserdisc
Video Musics II: Sun Wu-Kong—The most amazing thing I watched all year was Alexis Gideon's retelling of the Chinese novel Journey to the West, transformed into a sort of animated opera with music by Gideon and animation by Gideon and a small team of animators.
Animal Kingdom—This dour but gripping Australian film, about a criminal family devouring itself, was the most involved I ever got in a story, perhaps due to its two nasty, unforgettable villains.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—Way, way better than it needed to be—and really fucking funny, too.
COURTNEY FERGUSON, Mercury copy chief
Toy Story 3—Repeated heartfelt sobbings may have occurred.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—My 14-year-old self would have watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a thousand times. My current self really liked it too.
Machete—A sentence that has never been constructed before: Machete is a grindhouse movie that tackled the politics of illegal immigration with rock 'em, sock 'em action and Danny Trejo as a total badass.
ANDREW WRIGHT, Mercury freelancer
A Prophet—An illiterate nobody gets thrown into prison and proceeds to watch. And learn. Jacques Audiard's follow-up to The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an epic, thrillingly seedy character study that runs the other way from any sign of sentiment.
Inception—A galactic mind-frig, the best Bond film in years, and a surprisingly moving study of where artists get their ideas. Plus, you know, that hallway fight.
True Grit—The straightest, most reverential, crowd-pleasing film that the Coens have ever done. Which doesn't mean that it isn't still plumb loco, of course.
DAVE BOW, Mercury freelancer
Blue Valentine (opening in Portland in 2011)—This movie is so thoroughly, quietly devastating that I needed a strong drink after watching it. Now when I see a preview for it I choke up like a trauma victim.
The Social Network—I don't remember what I was expecting when I first heard someone was making a Facebook movie starring Justin Timberlake, but it sure wasn't this.
Piranha 3D—I get this film confused with The Social Network. Which one had the scene where a stray wire from a collapsing waterborne stage cuts a woman's bikini top off, exposing her breasts? And then you realize it actually split her torso in half and she slowly slides apart? Cuz that was a good movie!
BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS, Mercury freelancerToy Story 3—The sweetest, cutest treatise on the acceptance of death since bees killed the shit out of Macaulay Culkin in My Girl. (SPOILERS LOL)
Jackass 3D—If you're gonna gimmick up a theater screen, gimmick it with about 50 metric tons of stereoscopic dildo, then put it in a porta-john and launch that fucker 500 feet skyward.
Inception—You see anything else this year that folded brains and cities together onscreen? Besides, who am I to deny the hypnotic power of the "BWAANGGGGGGG"?
JAMIE S. RICH, film critic for dvdtalk.com
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—Fun, witty, stylish, and emotionally honest, Edgar Wright's adaptation of the Bryan Lee O'Malley comic was more movie than all other movies this year combined.
Black Swan—Darren Aronofsky manages to synthesize whatever influences he began with into something singularly his own: a gonzo metaphor for artistic obsession. I'm a little obsessed with how it all turned out.
Mother—Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho never steps in the same cinematic river twice, and though his latest has some similarities to his breakthrough Memories of Murder, his choice to follow the mom of the accused killer rather than the cops makes for an unexpected, suspenseful drama.
GRANT PETERSON, projectionist, Laurelhurst Theater
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—Guillermo del Toro's statement is quite apt: "Anybody that didn't see this is a motherfucker." A great film that played wonderfully for the six weeks we had it.
Enter the Void—It's not Irreversible (and that's a good thing), but Gaspar Noé's latest is one that demands to be seen on a big screen with the sound turned up.
Repo Men—A weird mix of action, satire, and science fiction. Part frenetic action, part surreal science fiction, with an ending reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
DANNON DRIPPS, manager, Academy Theater
The Social Network—It's brilliantly directed, written, shot, edited, and acted. Oh, and the soundtrack is the best thing Trent Reznor's done since the mid '90s. It deserves everything it's going to win.
Toy Story 3—How dare you make me cry again, Pixar! At least I know I can always count on you to deliver a gem of a movie every year, even in one as filled with dog crap as 2010.
Greenberg—So what if this movie had more walkouts than any other we ran this year? (As one woman put it, "We should have seen Shrek!" She was probably right.) Noah Baumbach's cynical study of socially inept star-crossed lovers was hilarious and endearing.
RICHARD BEER, artistic director, Film Action Oregon and the Hollywood Theatre
Winter's Bone—A teenage girl as the hero of a modern-day film noir set in the Ozarks? Sign me up. I saw this at Sundance and when it ended I almost had to remind myself to breathe. It still haunts me.
Lemmy (opening in Portland in 2011)—Of all the rocker docs out there, this one on Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister oozes with the most honesty and tenderness. The tour of his small Hollywood apartment full of WWII collectibles and rock memorabilia alone is worth the price of admission!
Animal Kingdom, Down Terrace (TIE)—Similar takes on the family gangster film from Australia and England, respectively. Both have off-their-rocker sons, unsettling and unexpected violence against old people or children, and manipulative Lady Macbeth mothers who scared the crap out of me.
SETH SONSTEIN, owner, Clinton Street Theater
Jackass 3D—I hope the Jackass boys continue making studio movies for the next 50 years, just like the Three Stooges. The feel-good hit of the year.
Until the Light Takes Us—A Norwegian black metal documentary that also explores Satan worship, murders, and church burnings. Awesome!
The Social Network—Master director David Fincher takes a topic that seems like it would be boring and turns it into an epic masterpiece. It's a movie that will define a generation.
ADAM ROSKO, employee, Roseway Theater
The Social Network—A time capsule of the Facebook age and attitude, which just so happens to be about Facebook.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—If John Hughes played Street Fighter growing up. Hilarious, touching, and thrilling.
Toy Story 3—The best word I can find to describe this movie is genuine. It's something movies rarely are, but something friendship must always be. Pixar knows that and delivers.
TED HURLIMAN, exhibition programmer, Northwest Film Center
The Square—A slow-burning Australian neo-noir that makes a good case for never bringing a dog to an extramarital affair.
Animal Kingdom—A gritty crime drama crossed with an atypical coming-of-age story that entreats the viewer to never leave your sleeping girlfriend alone with the quiet uncle.
The Art of the Steal—A documentary that demonstrates how corruption can be mistaken for philanthropy. The film details the politically motivated theft of the Barnes Collection (181 paintings by Renoir, 69 by Cézanne, 59 by Matisse, and 46 by Picasso, among other masterpieces) from its rightful owner in the name of civic progress and the almighty tourist dollar.
DAN HALSTED, director, Grindhouse Film Festival
Gone with the Pope—Shot in 1975 by former lounge singer turned guerilla filmmaker Duke Mitchell, who died before it was finished, Gone with the Pope was then edited together over 15 years by Oscar-winner Bob Murawski. It's a gritty and hilarious story of low-level gangsters who kidnap the pope and demand a one-dollar ransom from every Catholic in the world.
Machete—Robert Rodriguez's ultra-violent Mexploitation film with stone-faced Danny Trejo as a day laborer out for brutal revenge.
Jackass 3D—The hardest I've laughed at a movie in years. I've never seen 3D put to more effective use than having a dildo cannon fired directly at the audience.