The most common refrain you'll hear about a year in movies is that it's the worst year ever. And you would think, as movie critics, that we'd agree, since we're all pegged as elitist cranks. But here's the thing: with only a couple of exceptions, every year is exactly the same. They all have maybe 10 great movies, a dozen more good ones, a couple movies that are good but not as good as the hype would suggest (ahem, "The Kids Are All Right"), a generous helping of "crowd pleasers," some of which may also land in the good to great category, and everything else, which is to say the bad stuff. This year fit that mold perfectly.
It didn't start off that way, mind you – our average star rating for everything we saw between January and April was just over two stars – but the market always corrects itself, and while 2010 took its good sweet time giving up the money shot, we eventually got the goods, just in time for awards season, natch. Not that the industry itself suffered as long as the critics did; Disney alone had two movies ("Toy Story 3," "Alice in Wonderland") break the $1 billion mark worldwide before the end of August.
If 2008 was the year of the fanboy, 2010 was the year of the fanboy backlash, or at the very least the year where the studios learned their limits. Sure, "Iron Man 2" made tons of money, but it's viewed more as a "Batman Returns" than a "Spider-Man 2." Meanwhile, the year's best fanboy movies, "Kick-Ass" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," made a combined $79 million at the box office (which is nearly $50 million less than "Iron Man 2" made in its opening weekend), showing that there are limits to what comic book characters will cross over. Sadly, there is much more 3D planned for the future, but after the critical lashing that "Clash of the Titans" and "The Last Airbender" suffered, we should at least be at the end of the phase where 2D movies are retrofitted with cheap 3D effects.
There were reasons to be cheerful, though. Fox Searchlight is still kicking ass, Weinstein put out one of their best movies in years ("The King's Speech"), and a new animation house (Illumination Entertainment) could give Pixar a run for its money. The indie revolution may have stalled, but indie itself is alive and well. But could an indie have made a movie like "Inception"? Hardly. The majors have their good points, too. See you in 2011, hopefully sans 3D glasses.
People like to put down movie critics for being cranky sourpusses, but the truth is most of us want to like the movies we see. 'TRON: Legacy,' 'Salt,' 'Due Date'...I wanted those to be awesome. They weren't.
It might sound a bit contrived to say that a movie can define an entire generation, but in the case of 'The Social Network,' I honestly believe it.