Easy A (dir. Will Gluck)
Yes, it's often uneven and spotty, but wouldn't Easy A have made a better choice than any of the other films nominated for Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes (save The Kids Are All Right)? I don't begrudge Jennifer Lawrence the many breakthrough awards she's won this year for Winter's Bone, but I would have loved to see some love for Emma Stone, whose starmaking performance in Easy A elevates what could have been forgettable fare (which if often is) into something worth watching by virtue of her own comedic talents. Extra points to Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci who play Olive's (Stone) parents in delightful supporting performances. Despite its lack of true greatness, in many ways Easy A is everything a mainstream high school comedy should be--funny, sweet, quotable and helmed by a performer who makes you unable to imagine anyone else doing it better.
Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)
For sheer tearjerking and tugging at the emotional heartstrings, few films this year touched Toy Story 3. I enjoyed it immensely and, like many, was reduced to a mess of tears by last frame. But if pressed, I have to confess a certain lack of true passion and enthusiasm about it. When I first saw the film a couple of months ago, I was convinced it would be in my year end top ten. And yet, it's a just miss. Ironic, considering that Up was on my top ten list last year and I seldom think about that film now. I found myself wondering if this film truly stands on its own as a narrative, without taking into account the previous chapters. Or should it, even? It is, despite its exceptional crafting, still a sequel. It does feel remarkably contained for the third installment of a franchise. Pixar has, after all, had very few missteps over the years (though they have misstepped) and in a lot of ways, the Toy Story series is the best thing they've ever done. There's so much to love here. The one-two punch of the ending (and I hope it's an ending. No sequels, please) is deeply felt and resonates deeply with the generation who were indeed kids when the first Toy Story was released in 1995. Furthermore, there's a universality to Toy Story 3 that I related to as an adult who came late to the franchise. I remember, almost distinctly, the day I, as a child, went to play with my large collection of action figures after a couple months' absence and realized I had outgrown this phase. And, like I said, I blubbered like a baby when Andy drove off contemplatively into the computer animated horizon at the end. So, in summation, it's a solid homerun for Pixar, but not on my top ten list. Call me heartless if you wish.
Going the Distance (dir. Nanette Burstein)
Like Easy A, what Going the Distance lacks in true cinematic greatness or memorability, it more than makes up for with the charm and likability of its actors. Let it be known that Drew Barrymore and Justin Long have charm in spades, but I'm partial (I kind of love both of them, unashamedly). The film charts two thirty-somethings who meet cute and fall in love in New York shortly before one of them (Barrymore) has to move to San Francisco. What ensues is a formulaic, slightly uneven, clearly working with limitations, but nevertheless, sweet and endearing romantic comedy. If Hollywood must make tired retreads (and it's clear at this point that they must, for whatever reason), they could certainly do a lot worse than this one.