Five films that bucked the traditional January to April cinematic left-overture.
Tradition holds that, for Hollywood, the Spring represents the end of ballyhoo - and the business year. During the four month flatline between January and April, every unmarketable mess, every experimental excuse, every contractually obligated star vehicle, and otherwise underdone effort would get a mandatory release -- a few days of bewildering box office glory before fading into home video obscurity. It was always an aesthetic stop-gap, a means of making talent happy, critics cranky, and audiences wary. Summer would come soon enough, and with it, the far more palatable popcorn fare. Yet for over 16 weeks, we had to tolerate some pretty pathetic offerings. All of that changed a few years ago when Hollywood realized it could change the game plan, just a little, by providing a couple less than mediocre movies. The accompanying turnstile twists proved their approach correct.
Now, Spring is a battle between horrendous and highlights. There are still more stumbles than sonnets, but when you consider the crap that used to pour forth, literally nonstop, a few fine films is all one can ask for. Yet oddly enough, 2010 saw December holdover Avatar continue to cast a giant dollar sign shadow over the season. Thanks to its multi-dimensional facets (and the huge amount of money made from upping the per-screening ante) everyone started jumping on the 3D bandwagon. Sometimes, the results were wonderful (How to Train Your Dragon). Sometimes, they begged the need to use such a splashy if inconsistent effect (Clash of the Titans, anyone). Between the endless stream of sad RomComs and the desire to dress almost any story up with attempted depth perception, Spring 2010 did illustrate the huckster manipulation Tinseltown will be taking for the foreseeable future -- and it doesn't paint a pretty picture.
Before we get too cynical, there were a few fine runner's up that deserve their honorable mention: the freak/geek show finery of The Human Centipede; The Good, the Bad, The Weird, a surreal Korean spaghetti western with a wonderful cast; the uneven if still fun Runaways with Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley stealing the story of the seminal '70s all girl rock band; and the stylish if wholly unscary update to The Wolfman. And who could forget Tim Burton's imaginative take on Alice in Wonderland. In addition, the underserved demographic of Florida finally got to see two outstanding foreign films from 2009 - A Prophet and The Secret of Kells - movies that would have made this list had they not already had their moment of glory last year. So here is what SE&L thought were the best Spring flings of 2010, beginning with:
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
4. Hot Tub Time Machine
3. The Book of Eli
2. Shutter Island