One of Blast’s resident film critics weighs in on the top 10 movies of last year.
10. Funny People: While many didn’t connect with Judd Apatow’s third film, I found it to be his most complete and satisfying feature to date. Boasting an honest and emotionally unguarded performance from Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a famous comedian who finds out he is dying- and then that he isn’t. While the film proves a bit ungainly at times, it’s both sweet and wickedly funny.
9. District 9: Along with "Star Trek" and "Avatar,” “District 9” proved that Sci-Fi can be both smart and tons of fun. Neil Blomkamp’s first feature is exciting, thrilling, brutal and packs a surprising and rather emotional punch at the end. First time actor Sharlto Copley makes a great unlikely hero as Wikus and Blomkamp is definitely a director to watch.
8. Up: Yet another classic from Pixar. As gorgeous and intelligent as you would expect from Pixar, which can seemingly do no wrong. And "Up’s" opening, which tells a couple’s 60 year story in 10 minutes, is as emotionally affecting as anything I saw all year.
7. The Road: John Hillcoat’s second feature is as unflinching as his first. An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of a man protecting his young son as they journey across a post-apocalyptic U.S., rife with cannibalism and haunting reminders of an entire culture lost. Viggo Mortensen gives yet another fine performance as the desperate father and strengthens his status as one of the finest actors working. The film doesn’t shy away from the dark nature of the subject matter, but still earns its somewhat hopeful ending.
6. An Education: Director Lone Scherfig’s delicately told story about Jenny, a London teen in the 1960’s, who falls for the wrong man. Nick Hornby’s script is beautifully constructed and heartbreakingly honest. And Carey Mulligan is sensational as Jenny, embodying innocence and a woman’s maturity in equal measure. Mulligan easily earns the comparisons she has been getting to Audrey Hepburn. While she has been somewhat overshadowed by Meryl Streep so far this awards season, Mulligan’s performance was the best by an actress I saw all year.
5. Avatar: The year’s most singular cinematic experience. James Cameron’s first film in 12 years is a visual triumph and demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Using newly designed Performance Capture technology Cameron creates an entire world and a new species, the Na’vi who feel like living, breathing and most importantly, feeling creatures.
4. The Hurt Locker: Katherine Bigelow’s visceral and thrilling tale follows William James, a bomb unit member serving in Iraq. The action is fierce and genuinely exciting and Jeremy Renner turns in a star-making and award-worthy performance as James, an adrenaline junky who only feels alive when he is deciding which wires to cut to defuse a bomb. "The Hurt Locker" keeps the tension dialed up to the max and brilliantly captures the violence and destruction that follows an explosion. Bigelow, who has a real chance to be the first female director to win an Oscar, delivers the best and most muscular action film in years.
3. 500 Days of Summer: Along with "Up in the Air" proves that romantic comedies don’t have to be mind-numbingly predictable. Director Marc Webb and a smart script make this tale of love found and lost wholly original. "(500) Of Summer" shows that a love story does not have to have a happy ending to be funny and romantic.
2. Inglorious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino’s ode to cinema and Nazi killing is a delight from start to finish. While Brad Pitt is fun as Aldo Raine, the hillbilly leader of the Basterds, it’s Christophe Waltz who walks away with the movie. Waltz’s turn as "Jew Hunter" Hans Landa is the year’s finest performance and Landa proves to be an instant classic screen villain. "Inglorious Basterds" is Tarantino’s ode to the power of cinema, which he proves by rewriting history in grand fashion. When Aldo Raine looks into the camera at the end of the film and says "I Think this might be my masterpiece" it is hard not to agree with him.
1. Up In the Air: Jason Reitman continues his ridiculously hot start to his directing career with his third and finest film. "Up in the Air" takes flight thanks to three fine performances from George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anne Kendrick and a funny and perceptive script by Reitman- seriously the guy is ridiculously talented. The film is smart, funny, thoughtful and engaging. Clooney is better than ever as Ryan Bingham, a man who slowly comes to question his entire way of life. Not much to say that hasn’t been already, but in this case the hype is well deserved. "Up in the Air" is as good as advertised.