Best of the Decade: 2010

As the decade draws to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! will be honouring the greatest films of the past ten years. This week, the year 2010 is in focus.

As the first post in this Best of the Decade series, it only makes sense to begin with the first year of this decade. Back then, Barack Obama was in his first term as President, Greece was declared next-to bankrupt, Australia gained its first female Prime Minister in Julia Gillard, and an Icelandic volcano grounded aircraft across the entire European airspace.

On a more personal level, 2010 saw this author in the throes of adolescence. Having finally found a close circle of friends after years of social isolation, he entered secondary school with his confidence and grades high, ready to tackle whatever obstacles life would lob at him. Little did he know that cinema was about to change his life in a very big way.

In the film world, Disney’s animation arm began its second renaissance with Tangled, but saw some competition from a little-known studio called Illumination Entertainment and its release, Despicable Me. Elsewhere, Easy A demonstrated Emma Stone’s skills as a lead actress, while a teenager named Jennifer Lawrence amazed audiences with her performance in Winter’s Bone.

Listed below are the four of the most significant releases from 2010.

How to Train Your Dragon

Dragon 1 poster

Though it lacks the storytelling excellence of some other DreamWorks features, this adaptation of the children’s book series is easily one of the best animated films of the decade. Our hero is Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a socially-awkward introvert living in the Viking-inhabited land of Berk. After befriending a deadly dragon – which he christens Toothless – Hiccup is convinced that he can change the dragon-fearing attitudes of his village.

How to Train Your Dragon uses of a number of family-film clichés, such as a “black sheep” protagonist, a father struggling to connect with his son, and a tomboyish love interest who is won-over by the hero. Yet all that is forgiven when one sees the beautiful animation, particularly those soaring shots of Toothless in the upper atmosphere. On top of that, the picture has a magnificent John Powell-penned soundtrack which was nominated for an Academy Award.

A surprise success for DreamWorks, How to Train Your Dragon spawned a franchise which includes two theatrical sequels (one of which was released just months ago) and multiple television series. It was one of just three nominees for Best Animated Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards, losing to the film below. The film currently has an IMDb rating of 8.1, placing it inside the prestigious Top 250 list.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 poster.jpgTwo hit films and a revolution in the animation industry just weren’t enough for the Toy Story franchise. The third feature-length movie in the series (but not the last) sees Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the others left in owner Andy’s (John Morris) toy collection at a very difficult time in their lives – deciding what happens to them now that Andy is heading to college.

With the release of this sequel coming ten years after Toy Story 2, animators were required to build all of the characters and locations from scratch to accommodate for Pixar’s latest technology. Naturally, this made it the most detailed and most superbly animated film of the series… at the time. As well as that, the story is poignant, especially so during the film’s resolution, and the entire voice cast is excellent.

Toy Story 3 has received an extraordinary amount of praise, with a near-perfect 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As an acknowledgement of its universal appeal, the movie became only the third animated feature in history to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also the third-highest rating Pixar film on IMDb (behind Coco and Wall-E) with an average rating of 8.3 out of 10.


Inception cast

Having already blown minds with Memento and The Dark Knight, expectations were high for Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster, yet Inception still managed to leave audiences spellbound. Following the exploits of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of dream extractors, the plot sees businessman Mr Saito (Ken Watanabe) employ Cobb to plant an idea into someone’s dreams, rather than steal them.

Often compared with The Matrix, Nolan’s film has an A-list cast, intelligent screenplay and many creative action sequences. Unlike The Matrix though, Inception has a great heart, with its characters possessing motivations, backstories and, most importantly, personality. The fast pacing is an issue, making it challenging to keep with the film’s bold ideas, though it does become easier to follow with repeat viewings.

Warmly welcomed upon its initial release, Inception is considered by some to be Christopher Nolan’s best film, yet is often overshadowed by the ever-popular Dark Knight. At the 83rd Academy Awards, the movie won four Oscars in the technical categories – Visual Effects, Cinematography, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. On IMDb, the film has an average score of 8.8, placing it within the top 20 highest-rating films on the site.

The King’s Speech

King's Speech posterAn initial glance at Tom Hooper’s royal biopic would have one believe that its story is one of tabloid melodrama. A stammering prince who fears the public eye; his long-suffering wife, seemingly powerless to help; an eccentric Australian doctor with the most unorthodox character; the future King feuding with his younger brother. But trashy the story is not, instead being heartfelt and gracious.

Going against typecasting, Colin Firth gives a raw performance as the otherwise civil Prince Albert, presenting him with a humanity most don’t often see in the royal family – every time he stutters, there’s a pain in his voice and expression that makes it difficult not to be drawn to his character. As therapist Lionel Logue, Geoffrey Rush complements Firth with his sharp one-liners and unusual antics.

Winner of Best Picture at the 83rd Academy Awards, The King’s Speech also took home Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor for Firth’s depiction of Prince Albert; Firth self-deprecatingly said upon accepting the honour, “I think my career may have just peaked”. Thankfully, Firth’s statement didn’t turn out to be accurate, for he later found success as Harry Hart in the Kingsman movies.

Other notable releases: Ben Affleck’s The Town, which boasted an A-list cast and considerable awards buzz; David Michod’s Animal Kingdom, proof that Australia could match it with the world’s best; The Secret Life of Arrietty, yet another beautiful release from Japan’s Studio Ghibli; David Fincher’s The Social Network, inspired by the machinations behind a social media giant; The Fighter, which began David O. Russell’s brief love-affair with the Oscars; Tron: Legacy, a belated sequel that was visually and aurally phenomenal; and Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, a Franco-Scottish watercoloured delight.

Do you agree with this list? What films have been missed? Be sure to comment below with your thoughts!

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