We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
It's halfway over. Most of the big movies are yet to hit the big screen, but I've managed to come up with my list of seven great films without having to include Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It's the "little movies that could" that are leading the way for me. Focus Features and Fox Searchlight can pat themselves on the back. It's always interesting to make this movie list (of films released January to June) and then take a look back at the end of the year. Last year, only Shutter Island and Toy Story 3 made it to my final BEST OF 2010.
7. The Adjustment Bureau
Recap: David (Matt Damon) is guided and groomed for a Senate position, but once he falls in love with Elise (Emily Blunt), a secret group tries to stop the relationship. Reason: The Adjustment Bureau gets the right kind of combination of action, thrills, and most importantly romance. In fact, it's a nicely disguised romance at its core. David is hooked. Blindsided by love. Hopefully we've all been there. If not, at least you can with this film. Fate. Hope. Chance. Free will. The concepts should sit well with you no matter what your beliefs. It'd be nice if the world worked this way, especially the hats.
6. Midnight in Paris
Recap: Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) travel to Paris. Gil loves the allure of the city and on once magical night he travels back to classic Paris in the 1920s. Reason: Woody Allen doesn't do time travel like others. It's more of a slight of hand. Wilson does a great job capturing the confusion of it all. Gil's disbelief eventually turns to "screw it, I want to be here." Wilson isn't just doing an impression of Woody Allen, he brings more boyish charm to the role.
Midnight in Paris is a dream. It's one that I thought I didn't want to wake from. Eventually, Woody Allen shows us why you need to live in the present. It's a nice touch in a film I was truly curious with how it would end. Gil falls in love with exactly what he is supposed to.
5. The Tree of Life
Recap: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. Tragedy strikes the parents, and the oldest brother look back on their lives and how it intertwines with God and the universe. Reason: The Tree of Life is about looking back after a family is struck down by the death of a son, and how that may or may not connect with the larger cosmos of God and the universe. It’s a film that demands you bring your personal beliefs right along with you. If you’re thinking, “What the hell does that mean?” Films like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides don’t require any heavy lifting, this film does.
4. Super 8
Recap: In 1979, kids spend their summer making a movie with a Super 8 camera. When they witness a mysterious train crash, they begin noticing strange happenings and investigate. Reason: It feels like I’m watching history. After all, the film is set in 1979. I’m also talking about movie making history. The intelligent, adult sensibilities of Abrams are melded beautifully with the childlike wonder of Spielberg. It’s like what we wanted to happen when George Lucas re-teamed with Spielberg for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Recap: A chameleon (voiced by Depp) who wants to be a hero finds himself in a Western town desperate for water, and he’s forced to play the role to protect them. Reason: I'd like to say Rango has stumbled onto something new, but with Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp and Industry Light & Magic there's no stumbling. This is a group of professionals tapping into core cinematic elements and hitting them out of the park. The underdog, the Old West, a hero, a villain and finding a moment to rise up and become "the guy who goes back."
Recap: Oliver’s (Ewan McGregor) life takes a big swing when his father (Christopher Plummer) makes two announcements: he has terminal cancer, and that he is gay. Reason: Beginners is about starting something new whether you think you’re ready or not. Hal has been dealing with external societal issues, and has stayed a closeted gay man until late in his life. Oliver has internal issues (partly from watching his parents) that have kept him stunted in his professional and personal life. Then love comes along. Happy sigh.
1. Win Win
Recap: A lawyer and wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) is struggling with money. While trying to support his family, he makes a questionable business decision and suddenly there is a troubled highschooler (Alex Shaffer) on his doorstep. Reason: Sometimes the hardest thing to capture on the big screen is what we think should be the easiest … authentic life. Win Win nails it. The relationship between Mike and Jackie is one of the more realistic, loving friendship/partnership/marriages I’ve seen in recent memory. Watching Mike and Terry find passion in wrestling is addictive whether you care about the sport or not. And Shaffer. My goodness. This kid is a force. He absolutely nails what it is to be a teenager with angst. I loved his performance and directors and kid actors out there should try to realize less is more with kids, and Win Win gets that right.