An optimist would argue that the movie industry simply tired of making formulaic crap, which is why it's gravitating toward better stories ("The Fighter" and "The Wrestler") or quirkier, cheaply executed ideas (three good ones from 2009: "Sugar," "Big Fan" and "Damned United"). A pessimist would argue, "Come on, you're giving Hollywood waaaaaaaaaaay too much credit. It's just as formulaic and creatively barren as ever. And if you don't believe me, I have two words for you … 'Little Fockers'!"
Well, sure, “Little Fockers.” But, critically, you don’t have to watch Little Fockers. Even more critically, "Little Fockers" has always been made--they just call it something different every year. I’ve only seen one of the five movies Simmons praises above, but I can tell you “Sugar” really is a top-quality movie filled with some affecting performances and naturalistic storytelling. To me, if a given time period has a decent number of good movies, it’s a good year! I don’t care about the amount of bad movies that are produced because, generally, I avoid them.
So, of the movies I saw this year made this year—2010 featured “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Social Network,” “Un Prophete,” “The Town,” and I’m reasonably confident I’ll think a few of “Inception,” “Easy A,” “The King’s Speech,” “The American,” and “Cats and Dogs 2: The Legend of Kitty Galore” are good. So it was a good year! That’s more than enough entertainment to me. (Admittedly, some amount of mid-tier movies are nice to tide you over on a lazy weekend, etc.: I thought “Death at a Funeral,” “Due Date” and “The Tourist” were all solid from a sheer entertainment perspective although I have no expectation that any of these will be classics.) To me, that’s a good year. Good job movie industry!