And … ACTION!

One of my not-so-secret passions in life is movies. Yes, I dig frozen coffees, pizza, traveling and, oh yeah, my family. But in a year where you’d think my movie going would be severely challenged, I still managed to rack up scores of films by either renting them, going to the early matinees with the fun senior citizens who talk very loudly during the show or through my latest craze of watching them instantly via Netflix.

Each year I like to share my favorite films with the rest of you. When my blood brother Scott texted me with the four words, “What, no Oscar picks?” I realized just how late I am this time around. So here’s the deal: half of the 10 Academy Award nominated movies are my favorites. If I had to rank them in order, I’d say offhand it would look like this:

What else can I say about 2010 movies? Hows about I tell you which other films, beside the nominees, stood out for me? Yeah, I like that idea.

First off is The Other Guys. With wonderful comic acting by Will Ferrell to Mark Wahlberg’s straight man, this would make for a great weekend rental. The utterly insane way supporting actors Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson depart the premises, permanently, still has me baffled. And any movie with Steve Coogan is just naturally going to rise to the top for me.

Next is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Michael Cera plays Michael Cera again for what seems like the 95th time but his schtick works. If you’re at all into graphics, you have to see this movie; critics have said the use of added words — drawn onto the screen — is going to raise the bar many, many levels for years to come. It’s a fun film to watch.

You can still see Another Year in theatres. It’s a small, quiet movie starring Jim Broadbent and what really stuck out for me was its utter reality. I felt like I was just watching people getting together at intimate lunch or dinner gatherings and talking about their lives. One story line however, with the talented Imelda Staunton, (of Harry Potter fame, among many others), was totally abandoned early in the plot. I wish there was more of her plight shown.

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Mr. Katy Perry, Russell Brand, plays an over the top British star in Get Him to the Greek. I know, what a stretch right? But it’s a fun ride with Jonah Hill actually playing the straight man. Here’s a fun fact. Katy Perry had a cameo role in this movie with Brand however it was eventually cut, but that’s where they first met. Yes, I watch too many biography shows on cable!

Who doesn’t like Emma Stone, or as I think of her, Mila Kunis’ twin. Easy A was an intelligent movie about high school relationships with some great surprises thrown in. We just absolutely loved her relationship with parents Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

Jon Hamm shows he’s much more than just a Mad Man in The Town. Ben Affleck directed and starred in this movie about Charlestown, supposedly the city that breeds the most bank thieves in the country. Jeremy Renner, from Hurt Locker, plays an even meaner and mixed up character than the one in last year’s Academy Award winning film.

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I don’t know what it is about Anne Hathaway but she is absolutely riveting in everything she does, even if I don’t like the movie as a whole. Thankfully I liked Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal and she have fantastic chemistry which was infinitely more believable than the last time they paired up in Brokeback Mountain.

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer felt like other mystery movies I’ve seen but it was done well enough that it’s worth a rental. Ewan McGregor is charged with writing a controversial British Prime Minister’s autobiography and really, that’s all you need to know about the movie.

I don’t know if I really recommend Jack Goes Boating. It’s quiet and quirky and stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a guy learning to swim so he can confidently take Amy Ryan, (Steve Carrell’s girlfriend on The Office), out for a rowboat ride. Since I still ask myself whether or not I liked it several months later, I might just as well include it here.

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Speaking of Steve Carell, you should at least see one, if not all three of his 2010 movies: Date Night or Dinner for Schmucks or Despicable Me. I liked each one and would recommend the whole lot of them but if you only dig him in small doses, each one equals the other, unless you’re not into animation.

Here’s where I go off the rails and most of you will scoff and throw peanut butter at me. I truly enjoyed Valentine’s Day. I think every single star in Hollywood had a bit part in the movie and it was just a fun romp of empty calories, exactly like a real Valentine’s Day should be. Plus, it actually does have a few fun and surprising twists. Don’t expect a four star movie and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Zach Galifianakis plays an extremely toned down mental patient to newcomer Keir Gilchrist’s teen angst-ridden soul. They pair up for a week in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and their low key interactions give way to bigger and broader rebellions. The best part of the movie, by far, is the fantasy sequence where the psych ward patients sing a rock-solid rendition of Under Pressure.

I need to say a few things about the Millennium series, the three films based on Swede Stieg Larsson’s books. I call them “The Girl” series. They’re The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. I think only two of the three were released in the U.S. this year. The books and subsequent movies received a lot of media attention, maybe because the author died before any of the films were made. They feature the relationship between a journalist and a computer hacking cyber-chick who kicks butt. The first of the three films features horrific misogyny and isn’t for everyone, me included. But the next two are a bit more toned down. As a sub-titled trilogy, they combine to make a thrilling story in modern day Sweden.

Awards season is pretty much over and done with and the first two months of 2011 have produced some decent films, although I can’t always tell if they’re just holdovers from last year. Feel free to add your favorites in the Comments section or tell me I’m a Philistine because I liked or didn’t mention X,Y or Z.

Remember no talking, texting or tattooing while the movie is playing.

And CUT … that’s a wrap.