Every year, pundits tell us that audiences are getting dumber, that studios are producing nothing but lowest-common-denominator drivel, and every year, audiences and artists prove them both right and wrong. For every "Yogi Bear" and "Skyline," there was a "Black Swan" and "The Fighter," movies that showed audiences want to be challenged and moved. No matter how discouraging a year's output might be, there are always movies that make the dreck worthwhile.
To start a yearly tradition at The Projector, we present the Top 10 Movie Humans Of The Year, the 10 people who had the best year, who most affected how we experienced the year. These are people who had success, who broke through, who provided the most lasting memories of 2010. These are people who will always remember 2010, and the reasons we will do the same.
First, our honorable mentions: Ben Affleck, Darren Aronofsky, Banksy, Lisa Cholodenko, Alex Gibney, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Hans Zimmer and "Mark Zuckerberg."
And now, to the top 10 Movie Humans Of 2010.
10. Sylvester Stallone.
"The Expendables" might not have been the best movie in the world -- we more enjoyed Sly's two other recent comeback vehicles, "Rocky Balboa" and "Rambo" -- but it was the biggest hit Stallone has had in 25 years. (That's older than a few people on our list.) We're always told that The Movie Star is dead, but Sly, with an all-star cast of aging action heroes, reminded us that, sometimes, a familiar face is all we want. A familiar face that is preferably punching other, less familiar faces.
9. Michelle Williams
No one will ever think of her as the "Dawson's Creek" actress again, or even as Heath Ledger's ex. She was the beating heart of "Shutter Island" at the beginning of the year but knocked everybody's socks off in "Blue Valentine" at the end of it, a role that's almost certain to earn the second Oscar nomination of her career. And look out: Next year she's playing Marilyn Monroe.
8. Andrew Garfield
In July, Columbia Pictures announced that Garfield would play Spider-Man in Marc Webb's upcoming reboot. Few knew who he was then, but they sure do now. Garfield gave soulful performances in both "Never Let Me Go" and "The Social Network," the latter of which will likely win him an Oscar nomination next month. No one can ever guess how an actor's career will turn out, but it'd be difficult to have a more metoric rise than Garfield had this year.
7. Leonardo DiCaprio
Of the top 20 grossing movies of the year, two of them were smartly made, thoughtful adult thrillers made by serious, visionary directors. Both of them starred DiCaprio. At this point, his very presence assures a certain guarantee of quality; you can argue he hasn't made a truly bad movie in more than a decade.
6. "Woody and Buzz"
had been 11 years since we'd seen Woody and Buzz, and we didn't realize
how much we missed them until they were gone again. The two seem likely
to go down in movie history as one of the great pairings, one
representing the past, one representing the future, together to make
everyon laugh and, oh yes, make everyone cry. There are times that we
wonder, in 60 years, if they'll be thought of the way we think of Mickey
5. James Franco
There wasn't a more fascinating character all year than Franco. Either he was writing novels or directing short films or putting together art shows or guest starring on "General Hospital." And those were all side gigs, with his powerhouse performance in "127 Hours" likely earning him a trip to the Academy Awards as a nominee and a host. The man is busy.
4. Natalie Portman.
Can it really only be 16 years since Natalie Portman charmed us in "The Professional"? The actress, who has spent more than half her life in the public eye, gave the performance of several lifetimes in "Black Swan," Darren Aronofsky's hyperintense, gonzo look at the world of ballet. Now that she's nailed down the acting bonafides -- again -- she's going mainstream, with stoner comedy "Your Highness," rom-com "No Strings Attached" and comic book big-tenter "Thor." We bet she doesn't take her Oscar with her on set.
3. Christopher Nolan
Nolan has mastered something that would seem impossible: Making massively scaled, hugely successive blockbusters that feel both intelligent and personal. Whatever your thoughts on the film, no one film dominated 2010 like "Inception," a project that Nolan had been nursing along for the better part of a decade.
2. Jeff Bridges
At the beginning of the year, he won his first Oscar. At the end of it, he anchored two of the biggest films of December, "Tron: Legacy" and "True Grit." Pretty difficult to own a year more than that. He had such a great year that we're going to do him the favor of not making a "Big Lebowski" reference right now.
1. David Fincher
Brash screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has received most of the surface plaudits, but it's Fincher's cold, exacting eye that makes "The Social Network" so powerful. Fincher was once more of an anarchic director ("Seven," "Fight Club") but has gone more "respectable" in recent years, with mixed results ("The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"), but here, he found the perfect fit of material and approach. It's just a master class in filmmaking from perhaps our most talented director. "The Social Network" might not "define the decade," but it sure did define the year.