2010 was a pretty good year for movies and television, but as I’ve said before, I was a little busy catching up on last year. Luckily for me, the things I did see during their original airing or theatrical run were reasonably stupendous. Surprising, because they were mostly sequels and comic-book adaptations, but pleasantly true.
My favorite movies and television shows of 2010 were the ones that managed to change how I approached the respective medium, or were able to achieve exciting and far-out goals in their field, or made me smile uncontrollably. I know, my standards are exacting. Here they are, ranked for your judging enjoyment, my five favorite… things-that-are-not-games of 2010.
“The End,” Lost
The appropriately titled series finale of Lost was sort of doomed even before it aired. It had to be conclusive without departing from the intriguing ambiguity that graced the show from the start, and “The End” did just that. While there were many questions still unanswered, and logical reasoning wasn’t in abundance, the show ended with a beautiful emotional resolve that managed to make those pesky mysteries seem somehow less important.
It wasn’t my favorite episode of the series – that would be “LAX,” or “The Constant,” or “The Candidate,” maybe – but it was my favorite experience the series provided. Everyone I knew had plans for the Lost finale. Friends who had watched since day one viewed the day with nervous anticipation, and as I had marathoned the show to catch up, I was a jittery, sleep-deprived mess.
I had about a half-dozen people in my home to watch it, and it was the most silent party I’ve ever thrown. Everyone was respectful of each other’s relationship with the show, and managed to hold off on debates until the final credit aired. As I sat on the edge of my couch, tears freely flowing, in the show’s final minutes, I had the realization that there were millions of people doing the exact same thing. The act of watching television made me feel actively connected to a ton of strangers, and I think a show that can do that is worthy of praise.
I broke my cardinal rule with Kick-Ass: I saw the movie before I read the comic. In retrospect, I’m almost glad I did, because it allowed me to debate the events of the film independently of the source material. The friend with whom I saw this movie experienced a very strong, viscerally negative reaction to it. In discussing the film, he argued that, while Kick-Ass stands up in a world where no one seems to care about the violence all around us, the film managed to promote a voyeurism that belied Kick-Ass’s stated mission.
Mr. Friend found it distasteful that Kick-Ass’s first publicly-witnessed fight was the subject of such excitement from his onlookers. That the brawl was filmed on a cell phone and posted online made Mr. F uneasy, and he argued that the action was an implicit statement that violence is too ingrained in our society, and the voyeurism of such is so accepted, it’s impossible to change.
That just makes me a bad person, I guess, because I thought it was an ass-kicking movie and loved every minute of it. I noticed these parallels as well, but argue that the film wasn’t endorsing them so much as presenting them without comment, to promote discussion and debate. Any film that manages to be both this entertaining and this debatable deserves a place on this list.
Day & Night
Get ready for me to champion this exceptional short film, because everyone I spoke to absolutely hated it. This is a damn shame, because it’s one of the finest shorts to come out of Pixar. Stacked up against such gems as Geri’s Game and Presto, that’s a serious statement to make. The film is almost duplicitous in its simplicity, and provides much deeper insights than its running time should allow.
The technical achievements in Day & Night are nothing short of marvelous. The seamless integration of the 2D and 3D animations are what first made my jaw drop in the theater, and both animations are rendered beautifully. The 3D animation is what we’ve come to expect from Pixar – the very best – and the 2D figures take me back to my childhood days of Saturday morning cartoons. The technicalities of the concept arise when one realizes that these two creatures, being essentially made of specific times, should not really be able to coexist. The use of sound effects as speech is brilliant, Michael Giacchino delivers another miraculously expressive score, and I can’t even describe how amazing the “dancing over Vegas” scene is. These six minutes were six of the best I spent in a theater all year.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
I followed my “read the comic first” rule here, and it paid off so much that it reminded me why I had the rule in the first place. When I finished Bryan Lee O’Malley’s sixth and final Scott Pilgrim installment, I was devastated. I loved the series so much, it nearly broke my heart that there were no more to come. But lo, what to my longing heart should appear than a feature film, the very next month, with Michael Cera. I had originally balked at the casting of Cera as Pilgrim, as my Arrested Development-tinted view of him didn’t vibe with the Pilgrim of the comics. I can happily report that I thought the casting was perfect, and not just his. Almost every character appeared on film exactly as I had wished it, with the minor exception of Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Graves. (Jury’s still out on that one.)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World managed not only to avoid the dreaded “the comic was better” approach from me, but was able to transcend the adaptation enough that I am able to judge them as two separate entities. The film completed the adaptation to near perfection, and added enough charm and excitement, independent of the comic upon which it was based, to merit the second spot on this list. If that rascally Pixar hadn’t meddled in my movie-going affairs, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World would have secured my top spot.
Toy Story 3
Pixar insisted on breaking my heart for the eleventh time, though, and this time I’m not sure it’ll heal. Save Cars, there has not been a Pixar film unable to reduce me to a weepy bundle of person, and Toy Story 3 was the worst offender. Fortunately, it was the best movie of the year, so I guess it evens out in the end.
I have a healthy trepidation when it comes to sequels, and anything with a 3 is bound to make me suspicious at best. Toy Story 3 surpassed these fears with a disarming ease. The story is filled with plot lines established in stories previous, dealing with the toys’ fear of abandonment, the concept of loyalty and ownership between the toys and their children, and the aliens’ respect for The Claw. The horrifying climax and tearful conclusion are well-balanced with scene-stealers such as Mr. Tortilla Head and Trixie the gaming dinosaur. It’s almost impossible for me to deal with this film in an unemotional way, so suffice to say it is the most charming film I saw this year, and easily deserves the top spot on this list. If you were ever a child, it will resonate. Just don’t be surprised when you lose all composure and weep like one.
That’s my list, and that wraps it up for our editorial staff’s top five favorites of 2010. Thanks for reading, and make sure to keep an eye on The Escapist around this time next year, when we’ll do it all over again.