In a year filled with the usual mix of aliens, superheroes, spies and low comedy goofballs gracing the big screen, a few movies stood out in 2010, influencing how we see ourselves and where Hollywood may head next. Each in its own distinct way will have a ripple effect for years.
1. “THE SOCIAL NETWORK”
This complex tale of the founding of Facebook heralded the return of the intricate drama. Audiences had to pay close attention if they were going to follow the story, and pay attention they did, thanks to David Fincher’s intense direction and Aaron Sorkin’s hard-punching script. The movie’s box office success, nearly $200 million worldwide and counting, means that “drama” is no longer quite the dirty word it has been in Hollywood.
The vide game generation declared its time had come with the success of director Christopher Nolan’s multi-level tale. While older audiences found the plot unnecessarily tricky as its characters moved from one level of dreaming to the next, younger audiences who grew up tied to X-Box embraced the storytelling, and recognizing a narrative form as familiar to them as breathing.
3. “INSIDE JOB”
Director Charles Ferguson took the biggest story of the decade, the financial collapse of 2008, and made it understandable to any financial dunderhead in this scathing documentary. With the help of narrator Matt Damon, he built a clear case indicting Wall Street, banks, the government, academic consultants and everyone else responsible for the sorry mess we find ourselves in today. The film disproves the notion that some issues are just too big to take on.
4. “TINY FURNITURE”
Ah, the excitement of seeing the very beginnings of what promises to be a major career blossom on-screen. With this funny-sad coming-of-age tale, 24-year old director, writer and star Lena Dunham, showed that everything old can be new again. Working with a plot as old “The Graduate”–newly-graduated college kid comes home to figure out what’s next–she made a film that was sharp, specific and felt very now. Expect to see more movies like this one, even as Dunham herself goes on to a make an HBO pilot with the current King of Comedy, Judd Apatow, as her producer.
5. “THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT”
Years ago, radio shock jock Howard Stern salaciously pronounced, “Lesbians equal ratings.” He didn’t have in mind the lesbians next door depicted in this indie hit, a comic drama about the messiness of marriage and family that hit common notes with every viewer. On the eve of the end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell years, “Kids” leads the way in opening doors to movies in which gay characters are characters first, gay second. About time.