Two Cranky Guys Pick 2010′s Best Movies (Really!)
Bret Watson: Hard to believe, but amidst all the dross we forced ourselves to watch in 2010, there were actually a few films we liked. Bruce, we’ve ranked the worst, now let’s count down our top five. What movies managed to make you a little less of a Crankenstein?
Bruce Fretts: If you read my bottom “five” list (actually, nine movies), you won’t be surprised that I lead off with a tie—the only one on this list. In the No. 5 slot are a pair of exploitation films that rose above their genre with devilishly clever execution: Piranha 3-D and Machete. We saw so many bad 3D movies this year (Owls of Ga’hoole, anyone?) that it was refreshing to see a horror movie that used the technology to great comic effect. The floating severed penis of Jerry O’Connell wouldn’t be the same in 2D. And Robert Rodriguez’s Machete masked a serious political message about immigration in a wildly over-the-top grindhouse flick with a fantastic cast including Danny Trejo, deservingly getting star billing, and Jessica Alba and Robert De Niro having a lot more fun than they did in Little Fockers. Plus, Lindsay Lohan’s best work ever as a topless druggie/nun with a gun (above). Did you catch either one, Bret?
Bret: Did I catch the floating penis? No, I believe I ducked. Leave it to you to recommend a movie with a 3D dismembered member.
Bruce: There were a lot of 3D topless and bottomless women in Piranha, too. Sadly, Machete was in 2D. Or 2DD in the cases of Alba and Lohan. What was your No. 5 film?
Bret: First of all, let me emphasize that these are the best five movies I actually saw. I didn’t see 66 movies this year like you did. I was busy having a life. Anyway, after my No. 1 movie, they are all sort of a toss-up—ask me again in an hour and I’ll change the order. But for now, at No. 5: True Grit. Classy craftsmanship by the Coens rebooting the western genre, great performances, especially from young Hailee Steinfeld. Just a good time. By the way, my list of overused movie phrases has “reboot” at No. 1.
Bruce: Yes, that phrase needs to be given the boot. True Grit made my list at No. 3. It’s the only film this year I saw twice—the second time with my kids, who enjoyed it just as much as I did. If Jeff Bridges hadn’t won the Oscar for Crazy Heart this year, I’d suggest he get it for reinventing Rooster Cogburn. (See, I didn’t use “reboot”!)
Bret: You could’ve said he cowboy-booted the role. On second thought, better that you didn’t. So what do you have at No. 4?
Bruce: An unfairly maligned movie: Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. A lot of people felt the twist ending (which I won’t give away) was cheap, but it caught me by surprise. And I loved the cast, from Leo DiCaprio (better here than in Inception) and Mark Ruffalo (who was also great in The Kids Are All Right, which just missed my list) to personal faves like Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow and Jackie Earle Haley. The cinematography, music and editing were all top-notch, too. I don’t know why it was released so early in the year—otherwise, I’d expect it to be a serious Oscar contender. Did you see it?
Bret: I did not. Did you tell me about it at the time? I must’ve not been listening, as usual. I didn’t hear anyone say, “You have to see Shutter Island!” But now I’ll give it a chance. My suspicion is that the twist is going to be like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but I’ll suspend crankiness.
Bruce: Dr. Caligari—timely reference! Have you seen any movies in the last 90 years?
Bret: I’m sorry if you can’t handle movie references that go back father than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. On to my No. 4 film: You’re going to hate this one. Get your cranky pants on.
Bruce: Will I be seeing…RED?
Bret: No: How to Train Your Dragon. You hate all animation, right? But this movie is thoroughly charming, about a misfit Viking boy who befriends a dragon when all the other Vikings just want him to kill dragons. It’s from Dreamworks, which gave us the excellent Kung Fu Panda, and they are just as adept as Pixar in capturing humorous nuances of gesture and expression, even if their visual panache isn’t always Pixar level. But the movie is funny and heart-warming. Plus it was my wife’s favorite movie of 2010, and my back hurts if I sleep on the couch.
Bruce: I don’t hate all animation—just bad animation. I liked How to Train Your Dragon. Not Top Five material, but I enjoyed it more than the overrated, overly frenetic Toy Story 3 and Megamind. Dragon and Despicable Me (Steve Carell’s sole good film of 2010) were superior because at least they were original and made some attempt at character development.
Bret: I suspect I would have put Toy Story 3 at the top of my list, since I liked the first two so much and am a Pixar fan in general (barring Cars, a non-starter on my track).
Bruce: I usually like Pixar, but Cars ran out gas for me, too. You didn’t see Toy Story 3? What are you, un-American?
Bret: I bought it on iTunes to watch on the plane ride to Italy, but then didn’t get to it. I’m saving it up as an antidote to some unbearable film you want us to see. Almost broke it out after Tron: Legacy. Anyway, my third spot goes to The Kids Are All Right.
Bruce: Ah yes, the aforementioned Mark Ruffalo flick. Although I suspect you liked it for the lesbian action between Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Much hotter than Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in the ridiculous Black Swan.
Bret: And yet the sex in the movie is between…well, I don’t want to give it away. It’s an insightful, witty, unusual movie, looking at a longtime lesbian couple who have adopted and raised two kids. The tale is about the turmoil that ensued when the kids find their biological father. When so much of what Hollywood coughs out is reboots and retreads and sequels, this movie had something fresh to show us, an unconventional family much more fun to watch than those Little Fockers.
Bruce: I enjoyed The Kids Are All Right as well. If Kathryn Bigelow hadn’t won Best Director for The Hurt Locker last year, I think Kids‘ Lisa Cholodenko could’ve become the first female to win in that category this year. My No. 2 is another film directed by a woman: Winter’s Bone, made by Debra Granik. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a star-making turn as a backwoods young woman who’s forced to grow up fast when her meth-head dad disappears. She deserves an Oscar nomination, as does John Hawkes as her scary yet sympathetic uncle, Teardrop. You liked it too, as I recall, right?
Bret: We agree on this one, and I liked it in part for the same reason I liked The Kids Are All Right: It’s fresh. It’s different. It takes you into a world you haven’t seen before—as opposed to, say, the tired Venice backdrop for The Tourist. And great performances by newcomers. Good pick, BF.
Bruce: So it’s your No. 2, too?
Bret: Indeed. I can’t guess what you have at No. 1. Not your home movies again, I hope.
Bruce: I bet I can guess your No. 1. Does it rhyme with The Schmocial Schmetwork?
Bret: No, it rhymes with The Boshal Fretwork. Yes, my favorite movie was The Social Network. It’s a fascinating story that raises interesting issues, with snappy dialogue and great performances. Finally, a movie that made us think for a change. So what if it’s not 100 percent faithful to the facts? Neither was Shakespeare with his history plays. The play’s the thing.
Bruce: I liked it too but it just missed my list, along with another Oscar favorite, 127 Hours. Maybe I didn’t identify with Social Network‘s bitter, megalomaniacal main character like you did…
Bret: Well, I am a brilliant entrepreneur like him. Just haven’t made my billions yet…
Bruce: I predict Two Cranky Guys will be bigger than Facebook in 2011!
Bret: While we’re dishing out honorable mentions, I tip my hat to Temple Grandin, a made-for-HBO biopic starring the outstanding Claire Danes as a woman whose autism gives her amazing empathy for animals, which leads to a remarkable career.
Bruce: HBO doesn’t count. It’s TV, no matter what their ad campaign says.
Bret: Hence honorable mention.
Bruce: I protesteth.
Bret: I’m sure it’s better than whatever loony choice you put at No. 1. Go ahead, lay it on us. If it’s Hot Tub Time Machine, I quit.
Bruce: Drumroll please…. Get Low. A completely original, based-on-a-semitrue-story about a 1930′s hermit who decides to stage his own funeral and invites all the townsfolk to tell the tall tales they’ve heard about him. Robert Duvall is phenomenal—it’s a career-capping performance, bringing him full circle from his debut role as Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird—yet he was passed over by the Independent Spirit Awards in favor of the awful Ben Stiller of Greenberg and John C. Reilly of Cyrus. At least he got a SAG nom, and he deserves an Oscar nod, as does first writer-director Aaron Schneider and supporting actors Bill Murray, Bill Cobbs, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black, the Sling Blade kid who’s grown into a fine adult actor. I suppose you didn’t see it, eh? Even heard of it?
Bret: An interesting choice, more popular with critics than audiences. I remember the trailer was unusual. Color me intrigued. But don’t use an indelible Sharpie this time.
Bruce: Well, that wraps up the Best Movies We Saw in 2010. Now onto 2011—are you ready for Hugh Jackman and a bunch of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots in Real Steel? Or Seth Rogen as the Green Hornet? Not to be confused with Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern. We’ve got our Cranky work cut out for us.
Bret: I’ll be lucky if you allow me time to see five good movies next year. My list might come up short.
Bruce: Which reminds me: I already bought you a ticket for Justin Bieber’s 3D concert film, Never Say Never.
Bret: Can you also buy me a gun and one bullet?
Bruce: I’ll make it two.
Bruce Fretts’ Top Five Movies (That I Saw) of 2010
1. Get Low
2. Winter’s Bone
3. True Grit
4. Shutter Island
5. Piranha 3D/Machete (tie)
Bret Watson’s Top Five Movies (That I Saw) of 2010*
1. The Social Network
2. Winter’s Bone
3. The Kids Are All Right
4. How to Train Your Dragon
5. True Grit
*Postscript: Subsequent to posting this, we saw The King’s Speech, which I would now put in the No. 2 slot. Everything else moves down a notch. Sorry, True Grit! —Bret
What were the best movies you saw in 2010? Post a comment and Two Cranky Guys will respond!