villains. [movies, the many lists of 2010.]

So, we’re well into the music lists because we could start those before the year was out. However, movie lists need to wait out Christmas for the final releases. This year, those releases were the notable Tron: Legacy and True Grit. I also got in a few more films from 2010 over the holiday break, like The Other Guys, Salt, Easy A, and the absolutely phenomenal Black Swan.

Alas, now 2010 has come and gone, which means it’s high time to get rolling on 2010’s movie lists too! I had so much fun making last year’s lists, so at the very least, all of those will be back. Maybe more, who knows.

Just like last year, I’m kicking things off with my favorite villains of 2010. The normal disclaimer should be given, in that there were so many great movies I never saw this year. Thus, there are probably all sorts of wonderful villains I’ve yet to encounter from this year’s cinematic offerings. If I left out one of your favorites, sound off in the comments section so I can use some Netflix queue magic to get in on the fun.

The only qualification is that these had to be movies released in 2010.

Anyway, here are the villains of 2010 dearest to my heart.

1. The Bad (a.k.a. Park Chang-yi) – The Good, The Bad, The Weird

This movie was awesome for so many reasons, but #1 may just have been Byung-hun Lee as the the titular “Bad” in the film. As ‘bad guys’ go, they just don’t get better (or badder) than this. A smooth, sexy, well-dressed package wrapped around cold, efficient, murderous rage.

It was cinematic dynamite!


2. Lotso (Lots-o-Huggin) – Toy Story 3

Certainly the year’s most adorable villain.

His tragic story was the dark version of Jesse’s from Toy Story 2. Whereas our rootin’, tootin’ cowgirl was left with a broken heart, leaving her untrusting and afraid. Lotso took a different angle when he was jilted by his kid, he turned into an evil bastard; using his rage as fuel to create his own empire of fear in his daycare version of North Korea.


3. James Coughlin – The Town

As is almost always the case, the best performances make for the best villains. Jeremy Renner was truly fantastic as the primary dark catalyst in the film. Sure, there were bigger harmful forces at work in Doug MacRay’s story, but it was Coughlin who he truly loved enough that it often dragged him down.

Renner’s task was a tall order. Was it possible that he could play such a dark, violent and poisonous character without turning him into a flat “bad guy?” Renner pulls it off, giving a performance that displays the pain, brokenness, and even love that exists at the core of all his violence and rage. The result is a villain who feels like a real human being.


4. Gideon Graves –  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Okay, so the payoff in the movie wasn’t as satisfying to me as the version in the graphic novel. Still, that’s a small concern. The movie was awesome, the books just offered a better conclusion. In both forms, Gideon Graves is one hilariously pretentious dick, and as Rushmore forever made clear, no one plays hilariously pretentious dick better than Jason Schwartzman. It’s funny, because he actually seems to be a sweet, funny guy. Plus, he also plays the hapless loser as well as anyone else, too.

Anyway, if you asked me before the movie was cast “Who should play Gideon Graves?” I wouldn’t have known who to say. In hindsight, no one should have played him but our grown up Max Fischer.


5. Anyone Responsible for the Attempted Film Adaptation of a Video Game – Prince of Persia, Resident Evil: Afterlife, etc.

You would think that, by now, someone would have released a decent film adaptation of a video game. I’m not looking for Citizen Kane here, just an action movie that isn’t painful would be pretty satisfying.

The stories in video games themselves continue to grow more entertaining and complex, offering more than just gameplay. Surely, the law of averages would result in one mediocre movie by now right? Eh, apparently not.

To be honest, I didn’t even see Resident Evil or Prince of Persia, and for the latter, I know a handful of people who turned it off during the movie because it was turning out to be such a waste of time. Not a handful of friends watching the movie together, just random people I know who all separately couldn’t make it through the whole film. Granted, casting a guy whose father descends from SWEDISH nobility as a PERSIAN is pretty fucking stupid.

How long will we have to keep waiting for a video game adaptation that doesn’t suck? Maybe it’s just never meant to be. Mass Effect is supposed to have a movie coming out eventually, and if they fail to make a decent film out of a story/mythology as entertaining as ME, I’ll lose hope altogether.


6. Mother Gothel – Tangled

Wow, I just realized that’s two years in a row that the Disney villain made it into the “Villains” list. They really have made a comeback since the folks from Pixar took over creatively. What wonderful news!

This character was so brilliant as a manifestation of how a domineering, manipulative, narcissistic parent forces a child into enmeshment, and arrests development. In our consumer culture, children are too often an accessory to the complete life, just another thing I add to myself to be complete and see myself as I need to. Thus, the kids can’t be themselves, they have to be molded, guilted and shamed until they reflect back to us our own fabricated self-image. It’s heavy shit, and somehow, Disney nails it without being a downer.

The fact that the Mother Gothel character gets at really deep human psychological themes while never detracting from an entertaining story is what fairy tales were all about to begin with. It’s nice to see Disney kicking ass by getting back to fairy tale style roots.


7. The MPAA – Blue Valentine & The King’s Speech (among others)

I put this on my list a few weeks ago, but then Cinematical put it on their “Lamest of 2010” list. They explained why the MPAA was a villain this year pretty well, so I’ll leave it to them:

We saw the powerful Yael Hersonski documentary ‘A Film Unfinished’ get an R, though similar Holocaust footage from ‘The Last Days’ earned a PG-13 rating. Their appeal failed. ‘Blue Valentine’ was smacked with an NC-17 for some nudity and a clothed scene of Michelle Williams receiving oral sex – luckily their sexist-17 rating was overturned. But ‘The King’s Speech’ lost its appeal and still has an R-rating for use of the F-word, which was used as a “release mechanism” to help the King overcome a stutter; cutting one F-bomb gave ‘How Do You Know’ a PG-13 instead of an R; and ‘The Tillman Story’ lost its appeal for the language used by the soldiers in the film. To top that off, torture porn easily slipped into R ratings, and the ‘Breavement’ poster was banned for a kid holding a weapon, though Hit Girl had no problem with hers on the ‘Kick-Ass’ posters. We love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning!

[via Cinematical]


8. Christians in Movies – Easy A

Hollywood really needs to grow up in its depiction of Christians. Especially Christian teens. Now, far be it from me to apologize for the religious right, or fundamentalism. Those fucking lunatics drive me as crazy as they drive the next guy. The thing is, why are ALL Christian teens in movies in that category?

Sure, the social dynamic of Easy A surrounding the Christian nutjobs was a familiar one in our current cultural milieu, but where were the religious people who were human beings? The lunatic religious extremists, while they represent the loudest section of the religious, are actually a tiny fraction. I knew tons of Christian teens in high school who were friendly, and accepting, and forgiving, and decent, just like… hmm, Jesus. Sure, there were the assholes who just wanted to judge others from their high horse, but my assumption was that they did that because they were insecure, weak-minded douche-bags, and if it weren’t religion they would have found something else to be dicks about.

My biggest pet peeve with this continual portrayal is that it’s just lazy storytelling. It’s like a George W. Bush joke: it’s most probably true, but it’s been done to death and amounts to a cheap, easy laugh with zero effort. It’s like when a band gets a cheap cheer by saying “This city is always our favorite one to play, you guys are amazing.” Stop buttering up the crowd and show us why we should cheer for you with an actual performance!

I say this because I enjoyed parts of Easy A. It was a fairly enjoyable ode to 80’s teen comedy. Emma Stone was pretty great as the heroine. And the messages the film sends out to young viewers is a far better than most. Granted, as one blogger put it (I’m paraphrasing), all of the characters in the film were more caricatures than actual people, so it’s not like the Christians were the only cartoonish characters. For me, it’s just that this is a gag that is really getting old.

We get it, judgmental fundamentalists are crazy and annoying. What else is new?


9. Moriarty – Sherlock

I know, this is a movie list. Technically, Moriarty shouldn’t qualify, being that he is a character in a BBC television series (Series 2 doesn’t come out until next fall!!! Grrr). Yet, with episodes clocking in at 90 minutes a piece, with wonderful production quality, I’m counting him. Fortunately, I have run this decision past the approval board (namely, myself) and it got the green light.

While he was ever in the background, this guy was only onscreen for like seven total minutes of the third and final episode of Series One. That was enough to get him listed. Andrew Scott played the perfect onscreen foil for Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern Sherlock Holmes. Their brief time on screen together was electric, Moriarty stole the scene, as well he should have. Also, cliffhanger!

Now, comes the waiting.


**The last entry has spoilerish content for Shutter Island and Inception.**

10. Dead Women (who now exist as dark figments in Leonardo DiCaprio’s subconscious) – Shutter Island and Inception

Mr. DiCaprio had a banner year in an already sparkling acting career.

I was 15 when Titanic came out, and at the time I lived in a house with four women. Thus, I was forced to deal with all sorts of annoying gushing and swooning over what is quite possibly the most overrated love story in cinematic history. I had a pretty low opinion of Leo for some time afterward. In my mind, he had some making up to do. Well, somehow, he’s not only managed to cover all that ground, he’s actually firmly positioned himself as one of my favorite actors, perhaps my favorite.

This year, DiCaprio’s roles were both similar in that each character was haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. The reasons and consequences were quite different, but the concept of a dead lady whispering Leo towards madness was rife with parallels between the two films. I’m not complaining, Inception and Shutter Island were hands down two of my favorite films this year. I just know that Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard made it quite clear to me that I never want any dead people lurking around in my brain, representing my internal demons and closeted skeletons.

4 Responses to “ villains. [movies, the many lists of 2010.] ”

  1. This year I know more about these villains because I saw these movies or know what you’re talking about! I think that Bad from “The Good, the bad…” is probably the best villain of the year.
    As the individual who watched “Sherlock” with you, I more than agree that Moriarty should be part of the list. His brief on camera appearance is extraordinary.

  2. towardeverywind

    The Bad. Wow. He made an already badass character even more badass. Lee Van Cleef would be proud. He had better be. I’m pretty sure this bad could kick his version’s ass.

    I’ll admit … there are times when I get too drawn into certain aspects of story that I don’t pick up on cues as quickly as some. Enter Lotso. When first introduced to him, I had a few suspicions, but had no idea he’d be one of the best (read: most evil) villians from cinema this year. He lulls into false security with his cuddliness and his pleasant, baritone voice.

    “The Town” was awesome. Far exceeded my expectations for a film starring Ben Affleck. Scott is right, Renner’s portrayal of the dark, troubled catalyst was pretty epic.

    Jason Schwartzman plays the best pretentious dick the silver screen has ever seen.

    Everything Scott said about casting a white dude to play a middle eastern character, and trying to make movies from video games, was spot on. When will these pricks learn to make a decent film adaptation?

    I didn’t see “Tangled”, but love Scott’s assessment. Now to try to see it.

    • towardeverywind

      We have Sarah Palin [among a myriad of others who have come before her (I’m looking at you Pat Robertson)] to thank for Hollywood’s portrayal of Christians.

      • Filmmakers should be smart enough to realize that Palin and Robertson are cartoons, not real people.