The movie line-up this year hasn't been terrific but is 2010 the worst ever for cinema?
I think that's a premature and highly questionable call but one prominent US critic has already written off the year. “In a millennium that has thus far produced precious few motion pictures in the same class as The Godfather, Jurassic Park, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, My Fair Lady and The Matrix, there is a knee-jerk tendency to throw up one's hands and moan that the current year is the worst in the history of motion pictures. But 2010 very possibly is the worst year in the history of motion pictures,” declares the Wall Street Journal's Joe Queenan.
As evidence, Queenan derides Iron Man 2 as insipid, mocks Robin Hood as 'prince of duds' (no argument there), and takes a whack at Grown Ups, Sex and the City 2, Prince of Persia, “anything that positions Jennifer Aniston or John C. Reilly at the top of the marquee,” Legion, Edge of Darkness, The Back-up Plan and Hot Tub Time Machine.
But he ignores or maybe didn't care for a sizable number of other movies that I've enjoyed and would put forward as proof that 2010 isn't as lousy as Joe thinks. Among the stand-outs: Ben Stiller's wonderful turn as a layabout with mental issues in Greenberg; the gripping Israeli drama Lebanon; the ultra-stylish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Michael Caine as a vengeful pensioner in Harry Brown; George Clooney and Vera Farmiga's doomed romance in Up in the Air; and a superb French movie, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.
It's been a reasonable year for Oz cinema so far with Jeremy Sims' Beneath Hill 60 brilliantly evoking an Australian campaign in World War I, and David Michôd's Animal Kingdom now getting rave reviews in the US, hailed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers as a “pulverizing Aussie crime drama that cuts to the dark heart of the killing machine known as family.”
And making a judgement about 2010 when we're yet to see a bunch of movies with promising pedigrees, such as Doug Liman's Fair Game, The Girl Who Played With Fire, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, seems exceedingly rash.
Still, it's hard to disagree with Queenan's assertion that “the age of the bankable, sure-fire matinee idol seems to be over, as the industry has discovered with Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts' most recent films. Freshly minted stars like Clive Owen and Daniel Craig sometimes open big, and sometimes do not open at all.”
Indeed, what does it say about the current crop of wannabe he-men when the No. 1 movie in the US this weekend is The Expendables, directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone alongside other wrinklies in Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li?