Well, the year’s almost over, so why not look at what I think are the best five films of the year.5) Iron Man 2: No, it wasn’t as good as the first, but that’s mostly because it lacked the surprise of Downey’s Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 was an excellent super-hero film that surpassed the original in some ways. As much as I like Jeff Daniels, he was a rather predictable villain in the first, and the combined weirdness of Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke bounced off Downey better. Plus they let Sam Jackson be Sam Jackson and had Scarlett Johansson wearing a catsuit and beating people up with techno music playing in the background. Add in John Slattery’s mad scientist Walt Disney schtick and you get a fun summer film.
4) A-Team: One of the great frustrations to me this year is The Expendables pulled in 274 million in worldwide revenue, while the A-Team only managed 177 million. Expendables was a terrible movie, A-Team was not. Yes, the A-Team was loaded with ridiculous moments that are sure to wind up on Mythbusters — flying a tank?!? — but they were fun, and that was the point. The movie rather blatantly sets up sequels, which I would happily welcome, but I worry the lukewarm box office response might preclude that.
3) True Grit: A real powerhouse of a movie. Stark, hard, and filled with dynamite performances. I’m not sure which is more remarkable, that Jeff Daniels never once made me think of John Wayne, or that Hailee Steinfeld utterly dominated the film. No, it wasn’t a “Coen Brothers film” but I think playing it straight was the quirkiest thing they could do. Especially since for most people the name True Grit is wrapped up in John Wayne’s considerable baggage.
2) Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The other reason I don’t look on The Expendables fondly is because it buried another worthy film. Scott Pilgrim was the second most inventive film I saw all year. I’ll admit I am grading on a curve here because there were elements to the adaptation I was not fond of — particularly the way Ramona was de-emphasized in favor of Knives. Plus the movie felt overstuffed, it would have worked better split across two movies. Having said all that the brilliant visuals and breakneck pace overcame the limitations of the film.
1) Inception: Just a brilliant piece of filmmaking. An original story. Inventive and jaw-dropping visuals. A genuinely tense caper with an ambiguous ending. Inception had everything we say we want in movies. The fact that it was also an enormous hit was enormously gratifying. My only regret with Inception was that I never found the time to see the movie in the theaters. Though I did watch it on an enormous LED LCD in gorgeous 1080p, I’m sure it was even more impressive on a proper big screen. I also inadvertently read something that I thought was a spoiler for the film, but really wasn’t, and that hampered my appreciation for what I was watching. I’m not sure the ending is quite as ambiguous as Nolan would like it to be — both interpretations are problematic. None of that though diminishes just how good a movie Inception is.