Indeed it is the time of year when inevitability the lists appear and people pick their favorites of 2010. Some have already done their lists and some, like me, like to wait a bit. That said and since I don’t want to be accused of not following trends, I will also be making a list (or two) of my picks of the best of 2010. However, in the interest of clarity and brevity (or neither), I’m going to pick my top 5 (or so) things in the main categories we cover here at The Flickcast.
Although, as our own John Carle covered the best of 2010 in games so well already, I won’t make much (if any) a list of those and will just mention my two favorites. In case you’re not familiar with those main categories we cover, they are as follows: Movies, TV, Comics, Games, Tech and all things Geek.
So, to that end, here’s my list (or lists really) of my picks of the top stuff of 2010.
Inception – I love smart movies and this one is pretty damn smart. Featuring great performances, a mind-bending plot and twists galore, director Christopher Nolan delivers with one entertaining ride I was talking about for weeks (and months) afterward. And with all the ways I can get distracted by other things, to still be taking about this movie now is a testament to just how great it is.
True Grit – I love Westerns and this one will go down as truly one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and the rest of the cast are superb and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld owns the screen. She is definitely one to watch. Plus, the Coen brothers have a genuine love and reverence for the classic Western conventions, even when they twist and turn them into new and even more compelling shapes.
The Social Network – When I first heard of this movie I was skeptical, as probably most were, about how interesting a movie about Facebook really could be. I had nothing to worry about. This brilliant film, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, delivers on all levels and tells a compelling story of one of the most impressive success stories in history. Along the way it also shows us a little something about the nature of greed, friendship and the real cost of success.
Winter’s Bone - This tale of a real heroes journey to find out what happened to her father before the bank forecloses on her home resonated with me for quite some time after watching this film. Jennifer Lawrence as the young mother and John Hawkes as her meth-snorting uncle really deliver top performances. Part crime movie, part thriller and part coming-of-age-story this film’s stark realism takes you into a world you didn’t know existed and holds you there until the lights come up.
The Fighter – Normally I might stay away from a movie wherein Mark Wahlberg takes his shirt off repeatedly, mostly because I’m intimidated and I don’t look nearly as good. This time, however, I’m glad I went to see director David O. Russell’s tale of welterweight Micky Ward (Wahlberg), the working-class hero of Lowell, Mass. This movies takes the usual sports clichés and somehow makes you interested in them again.
Of course, this is mostly because you’re not really watching a sports movie. Instead, you’re watching the story of a dysfunctional family led by Micky’s brother Dicky (a terrific Christian Bale) as they struggle to keep it together long enough to support Mickey’s bid for boxing stardom. It’s not the outcome that matters, it’s the struggle. And this family struggles like no other.
Special Mention: Monsters - When I first reviewed this film after seeing it at SXSW last year I was struck by how much I enjoyed it even though it hardly featured any “monsters” at all. Turns out that wasn’t really the point anyway. It was about the people, not the spectacle — and that’s just fine by me. Those feelings still hold true after repeated viewings and I still consider this one of the best films of the year.
Terriers - If only enough people had seen what I saw in this witty, fun, intelligent and somewhat sad story of two scruffy-looking detectives who try to solve the world’s problems so they can ignore their own, it might have survived more than one season as it very much deserved to. Exec. Producer Shawn Ryan knows his way around conflicted characters with a dark side and series stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James delivered every week but sadly, it wasn’t enough. And that, my friends, is the biggest disappointment of the 2010 TV season.
The Walking Dead – Zombies? Check. Frank Darabont? Check. Drama? Check. Compelling and complex characters? Check, check. Blood, brains and cool zombie kills? Check times three. Add all that together and you get one of the best and most fun new shows on TV. AMC’s The Walking Dead shows what you get when talented people get together to have some fun with monsters, flawed human beings and the end of the world as we know it. Season two can’t get here soon enough.
Boardwalk Empire – At first I wondered if this new show on HBO could possibly live up to all the hugely talented people (and hype) associated with it. I’m glad my fears were put to rest almost from minute one of the pilot. This show knows what it’s doing and knows exactly how to get there. It would seem the post-Sopranos slot has been filled quite well, thank you.
30 Rock – Even though this veteran comedy has been on the air for several seasons the team behind this show still finds new and interesting ways to make me laugh. The show’s ability to find new ways to spin the sweet, complex Liz-and-Jack friendship has really driven the show this season. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are a great team and a comedic force to be reckoned with. My only hope is that they can maintain it for ten or elven more seasons so I can keep enjoying it each and every week.
Fringe - At first you may have been able to chock this show up as just another in a series of X-Files derivatives but then something changed. Somewhere along the line the show developed a deep emotional core and you started to really care about these characters. From Olivia to Peter to Walter and the rest, each week this show delivers the weird, the humor and the emotional depth that keep me coming back for more.
Good Sci-Fi is supposed to make us think, to question and to wonder “What if?” while also allowing us time to consider the larger questions of who we are and what we’re doing here. Fringe accomplishes all that, and more.
Community – What can I say about a show that features one of the the strongest ensemble cast of any show on TV, a brilliant writing staff able to dole out slapstick zingers one minute and crushing heartbreak the next and some of the greatest moments seen on TV in recent memory. To understand this show and its greatness, go forth and watch the episode entitled “Modern Warfare” and you will begin to understand its complete and utter brilliance.
I didn’t find as many comics to love in 2010 but I did look and I did enjoy a few including Blackest Night. Besides that, here’s some you should be reading.
Grant Morrison’s Batman Comics – Dark, witty, mysterious, thrilling and fun to read, Grant Morrison’s Batman books — “Batman and Robin,” his three issues of “Batman”, “The Return of Bruce Wayne,” “Batman: The Return” and “Batman Incorporated” are exactly why I read superhero comics. They are what comics are supposed to be and feature one of the most iconic characters of all time. In the hands of Morrison and his mastery, it doesn’t really get any better than this.
Scalped - A complex and compelling character study with some really interesting artwork, Scalped is one of the best ongoing comic series out there. I’m hooked and will sad when this one ends for sure.
American Vampire – I admit I was skeptical at first (as I often am these days) especially considering this is could have been just another lame vampire story. However, as soon as I got a chance to read it, I realized it was so much more. Dark, sinister, edgy but with a bit of humor, American Vampire slaps the face of Twilight and all that “sparkle” crap and brings us vampires the way they are meant to be.
Call of Duty: Black Ops – I could not wait for this to come out and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a complex game featuring a story I actually watched to see what was happening. Plus, lots of opportunities for first person mayhem. Great job to all involved.
Red Dead Redemption – As I love westerns, this game was a natural for me. I enjoyed every minute of its story and kept finding new and interesting things to do in the game. As John Carle put it when he called this the Game of the Year: “Red Dead Redemption isn’t just a game, it is an experience.”
Tech / Geek
HTC Droid Incredible - It’s a close as I’ve come to replacing my iPhone with a non-Apple product and in almost all ways the Incredible doesn’t disappoint. Powered by Android it’s a great device with all the bells and whistles one could want in a smartphone. It’s one great device and will definitely hold me over until Verizon gets the iPhone. Although, I do wish that would hurry up and happen.
Apple TV 2.0 – I didn’t know I needed a new Apple Tv until I got this one home. Featuring a great user interface combined with content from iTunes and streaming from Netflix, this has become an essential piece of my entertainment gear. Plus, the 99 dollar price doesn’t hurt either.
Apple iPad - Yet another Apple product that’s become an indispensable part of my everyday life. It pretty much does everything you need and features Apple’s very versatile iOS which, among other things, allowing access to thousands of useful and fun applications. From browsing the web to answering email to writing a book to reading one, the iPad does it all with style.
Netflix – Like I mentioned above, Netflix is a big part of the appeal of the Apple TV and a big part of my daily entertainment. With physical media on the way out (eventually) Netflix is on the cutting edge with its awesome streaming service. I can only imagine where the company can go from here and I plan on being a part of that experience.
Amazon Kindle (3rd Generation) – Even with something as great and versatile as the iPad in the marketplace (and in my living room), there’s something to be said for a device that pretty much does just one thing but does it very, very, very well. Amazon’s Kindle is such a device.
It’s a book reader that makes reading a book even more of a pleasure. It’s lightweight, very easy on the eyes and you can download books all you want from Amazon’s store. Sometimes, simplicity is good — especially when done this well.