PopMatters Picks: The Best TV, Film, and DVD of 2010

The lack of clear consensus and the more personal nature of the picks makes PopMatters Picks for 2010's media best both scattered... and decidedly personal.

Edited and Produced by Bill Gibron and Sarah Zupko

It's been called the worst year in the history of cinema (a bit strong). It's been heralded as the Year of the Mother (are you paying attention, Melissa Leo and Kim Hye-ja?), the year of Geek blowback (sorry, Scott Pilgrim), the year of the mainstream mindf*ck (Inception?, Black Swan? ) and the year of the nu-auteur (hmmm...). For many, the backloading of awards season material meant that January through November felt underwhelming at best, while mega-monster hits like Iron Man 2 and Toy Story 3 seemed to monopolize most of the Summer season discussion. To be fair, 2010 was kind of a letdown, a less than stellar motion picture year which needed the last four weeks to lighten its lame reputation. Granted, with greatness like The King's Speech, True Grit, Rabbit Hole, and The Fighter, it's hard to argue with such a strategy.

Of course, the bigger question surrounds the media in general. As the web takes over the distribution discussion, as iPads and laptops become the delivery system of choice for millions of moviegoers/TV fans, where does that leave the so-called "traditional" market? Will there be a time when shows like 30 Rock and Breaking Bad only exist as a download, when the latest celluloid release will actually be simultaneously available for instant streaming on Netflix while playing at your local Cineplex? Rumor has it that one company is about to introduce a home theater system that will allow you to see first run films as they are playing as part of a wide release. The cost? A mere $20,000. You just know that somewhere, some rich idiot with too much money and moxie on their hands is signing up.

One really shouldn't worry about the temptation of technology. Movies and TV has been decrying each other since Ricky loved Lucy, and both have managed to survive with their aesthetic (and their bulging bank accounts) intact. Sure, the science may be different, but the communal confusion caused by the final shot of Christopher Nolan's dreamscape thriller or the equally enigmatic finale to Darren Aronofksy's ballet brain-buster require audience groupthink to work. Indeed, shows like The Walking Dead, Community, and Fringe feed the Web den fascination, merging the various formats in a way that signals the true shape of things to come. Forget 3D and its increased ticket price passivity. Like the baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, if you build a better movie or TV show, the masses will definitely come.

None of this makes rating the final results any easier, however. PopMatters' staff were often split on where the accolades should go. From a boob tube perspective, there is as much broadcast as cable. Similarly, the film faction bounced around incessantly, celebrating titles both indie and obvious, obscure and as recognizable as a flaunted Facebook application. In the end, it's safe to say that any of the many choices championed here could be sitting in the top spot. While consensus was close on a few of the efforts, the general feeling was one of personal, not public appreciation. So maybe it wasn't the worst year in the entire 100 years of the artform (TV never seems to get such a strong sentiment). Maybe it would be best to call it 365 days of differing opinions and be done with it. It would definitely be more acceptable... and accurate.

-- Bill Gibron

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