2010 IN REVIEW: Alex’s Top Ten

In 2010 I saw a total 63 new films including most of the ones that were on my list of most anticipated at the beginning of each trimester. There are always a large number of films that I missed, but suspected that I would enjoy so I begin my 2010 list with some of those. Overall I would rate 2010 slightly above 2009, but behind 2006 and way behind 2007. It was a good year. There were a lot of movies this year that I liked, and few that I either hated or fell head over heels in love with. We saw some great filmmakers at work and some new ones showing great skill behind the camera. Without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2010.

Films I Did Not See

  • Fish Tank
  • I Am Love
  • Dogtooth
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Carlos
  • The Fighter
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Another Year
  • Blue Valentine
  • Somewhere

Honorable Mention

The American – This carefully paced and beautifully photographed hit man movie is full of subtle cinematic references and an overpowering sense of isolation. [Full Review]

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – One of the greatest cinematic heroines of the year was effortlessly brought to life by Noomi Rapace in this gripping Swedish murder mystery.

Greenberg – This hilariously depressing script give Ben Affleck one of the greatest characters of his career and features phenomenal (and heartbreaking) turns from Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Greta Gerwig.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 – Director David Yates’ sole aim is to please the fans of the books and he does a fantastic job by staying very true to the story and supporting it with amazing visuals and characters that come to glorious life. [Full Review]

Inception – Without a doubt one of the most imaginative films released in the past year that challenges the notion of reality in a world of dreams. The Freud influence was enjoyable. [Full Review]

Ondine – A touching character study that displays one of the best performances of Colin Farrell’s career. It’s fantastical story never gets caught up in demanding answers and instead lets its comedy and tragedy play out in realistic fashion. [Full Review]

Robin Hood A smart action movie that contrary to popular belief is not to be taken seriously. My vote for the most underrated film of 2010. [Full Review]

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – The ultimate geek film that unlike Sex Bob Omb rarely misses a note. Not only does it understand how video game culture affects the young generation, but it smartly employs a metaphor for love as a game. [Full Review]

Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik’s subtle and noir-like film is really about the simplicity of life and how the little things are worth fighting for; no matter how insignificant they might seem to outsiders. [Full Review]

Top 10 Films of 2010

10) Waiting for “Superman”

Good documentaries make the stakes of their subject seem so high that action should not only be suggested, but demanded. Davis Guggenheim does a fine job of making a drastic situation seem even more dire in this insightful look at the American education system. The film not only boldly challenges the teacher’s unions and some practices that are less than efficient, but it also does a nice job of celebrating the great teachers that everyone has had in their life. It stirs up a desire for change not just for our nation’s children, but for those teachers who change lives every single day. [Full Review]

9) Fair Game

No film has captured the chaos and frustration that was felt by Americans during the Bush administration’s bungled war in Iraq than Doug Liman’s Fair Game. Excellently filmed in Washington D.C. the film is steeped with paranoia as national monuments peer at the characters in the background like Big Brother waiting for the opportunity to act. Naomi Watts turns in a subtle performance as the capable spy Valerie Plame and Sean Penn gets the opportunity to be showy as her husband Joe Wilson. The film is as much about a broken relationship as it is about American idealism and what it really means to be a patriot. [Full Review]

8) The Social Network

The film that is taking all of the accolades in the precursor season is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and deserving of much of its acclaim. Upon a second viewing I feel like the film is less about defining a generation or capturing the zeitgeist and more about a class battle. It’s about those with privilege versus those with ambition and Mark Zuckerberg is a great example of an outsider who is desperately trying to make his own way. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin fills each scene with some of the most delightful dialogue of the year and Fincher further proves his mastery behind the camera. [Full Review]

7) The King’s Speech

With its subject matter this film should not be as delightfully funny as it is as Colin Firth masterfully portrays the horrors of having a stutter. With the sense of pure terror behind the eyes his stutter feels like that feeling you get when you try to cry out in a nightmare, but no sound comes. However, the film is far from a nightmare as Firth and Geoffrey Rush make one of the best on screen duos of the year. David Seidler’s screenplay is very witty with excellent tribute paid to the drawing room comedies of his countrymen Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward.

6) Toy Story 3

Only Pixar could take a threequel, which are usually mindless money-grubbing endeavors, and make it a beautiful capstone to one of the greatest film franchises in history. For the second year in a row their film moved me to tears as the team of toys, all with their own unique personalities, struggles for one last shot at relevance. Not only has Pixar mastered the art of CGI animation, but they continue to make their stories character driven which is what continues to make them so magical.

5) A Prophet

French newcomer Tahar Rahim breaks on to the scene with a brilliant tour de force performance as a young criminal who gets brought into and eventually destroyed by the underground crime scene. Jacques Audiard’s epic prison drama challenges the very idea of morality in any society and examines the importance of racial identity through its gripping story.

4) The Secret in Their Eyes

Some of the best cinematography of the year comes from this Argentinian murder mystery, which won the Best Foreign Film Award at this year’s Oscars, but did not get a U.S. theatrical release until later in the year. The film is one of the most thematically rich of the year as it raises more questions than it answers and ends with a twist that challenges the very idea of what constitutes justice. Featuring one of the best scores of the year and probably the most stunning tracking shot, the film was a definite pleasure and deserves to be seen.

3) The Kids Are All Right

Regular readers of this blog may be sick of me praising the performances in this film the entire year, but from top to bottom you will not find a better acted film in 2010. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are in sync in every single shot and combined with a hilarious screenplay and excellent directing from Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right is easily the best comedy of 2010 and one of the best of the past several years. The humor takes no cheap shots and is brilliantly self-aware (“we don’t like lesbian porn because they usually hire two straight porn stars who are inauthentic” says straight actress Julianne Moore). It has great scenes that are intended to make the characters and audiences uncomfortable (most take place at an inescapable dinner table) and it is one of the first successful mainstream movies that features a gay couple and does not treat them like victims. [Full Review]

2) Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy’s attempt to make a documentary about the underground street art movement turns into one of the most important films about art made in the last decade. The peculiar and almost surreal story is a slap across the face to anybody who subscribes to the groupthink mentality in art, where its no longer the actual work that determines it’s own quality, but the trends. This is something that is unfortunately ever-present in the movie blogging world (I’m sure I have been guilty of it) and it is part of the reason why I have become disenfranchised with the Oscar season. Most importantly the film challenges the very idea of what can even be considered art and how taste can be accounted for.

1) True Grit

For the second year in a row a Coen brothers film is my favorite of the year. True Grit is the tragically funny story about the consequences of our decisions – how choosing violence may lead to dire consequences both personally and as a society. Jeff Bridges is brilliant as the dubious Rooster Cogburn, a cinematic icon reborn with a more quietly commanding presence than John Wayne’s original interpretation. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is 2010’s greatest discovery and the excellent writing of the Coen brothers and novelist Charles Portis makes for some of the most perfect dialogue of the year. True Grit is a film that I will happily be quick to revisit and it makes for a wonderful addition to the canon of the greatest filmmaking duo of all-time. [Full Review]

I will be compiling a revamped list in the summer once I’ve caught up with all of the films I missed. What are your favorite films of 2010?

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  • I had a feeling you would at least mention Greenberg (Ben Stiller not Ben Affleck :P). I have to admit, despite our disagreements, it is a pretty awesome list. I almost went with True Grit myself, it was only last night that I determined conclusively.

    Oddly enough, this is the second year the Coens have taken the number one spot on your list and it is the second year the Coens have taken the seconds spot on mine. Weird.

  • Jose

    Here’s mine it only has 9 though and one is not a film but deserves a shout out for being so awesome:

    8)Kick Ass
    9)Easy A
    7)Lost: The End (Series Finale)
    6)How to Train your Dragon
    5)True Grit
    4)Toy Story 3
    3)The Social Network
    2)Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
    1)Black Swan

  • julian

    three movies stood out for me this year: A Prophet, Social Network and Winter’s Bone.
    I cannot for the life of me understand the praise for Kids Are All Right and The Secret in Their Eyes…both movies are blatantly mediocre except for two things (Anette Bening stealing two scenes in TKAAR: the dinner table scene and the bathroom scene plus the football stadium sequence of TSITE)

  • Wow. “The Social Network” is low. “The Kids Are All Right” is way too high, in my opinion. That big speech by Moore is just too bothersome for me to ignore.

    And I loved “True Grit”, but #1? That seems a bit much. Need to see “A Prophet” and “The Secret in Their Eyes”.

  • Nice job going your own way Alex! My list is a tad more predictable, but whatever. It’s nice to know that we agree on the best film of the year!

    10. Winter’s Bone
    9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
    8. Easy A
    7. The King’s Speech
    6. Inception
    5. Toy Story 3
    4. The Social Network
    3. Black Swan
    2. The Kids Are All Right
    1. True Grit

  • I finally saw The Kids Are All Right last week, and now I see what all the critics have been raving about. :-) Outstanding!

  • Andrew R.

    Good list. A Prophet is technically an ’09 film, though, because it did get a 2009 release in the US.

    On the list of films that you didn’t see, skip Never Let Me Go. I haven’t seen Carlos either.

  • @Andrew R. – I go based on the IMDb and Box Office Mojo Release Date calendars and both say the film’s first U.S. non-festival release was February of this year.

  • Finally saw “Exit Through the Gift Shop” this morning. Fascinating and gritty film, and probably would’ve come in at #6 on my list had I seen it before I posted mine on Monday.

  • Great List! I really need to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, “The King’s Speech” and “Fair Game”

    Here’s my top ten (so far):

    10. “Easy A”
    9. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
    8. “The Kids Are Alright””
    7. “True Grit”
    6. “Black Swan”
    5. “The Town”
    4. “The Fighter”
    3. “The Social Network”
    2. “Inception”
    1. “Toy Story 3”

    There are still films I haven’t seen, and my list will probably change a lot by the time it is posted on my blog, but as for now, this is my top ten.

  • Brandon Cooley

    Top 8 so far (I’ve been watching a lot of old movies instead):

    8. Shutter Island
    7. Green Zone (this is one the year’s “forgotten” movies)
    6. Toy Story 3
    5. Harry Potter 7
    4. Inception
    3. True Grit
    2. The Social Network
    1. The Kids Are All Right

    Top 10 Movies that I haven’t seen and that I’m looking forward to:

    10. The Ghost Writer
    9. Winter’s Bone
    8. Waiting for Superman
    7. Somewhere
    6. The Secret in the Their Eyes
    5. The Fighter
    4. Blue Valentine
    3. The King’s Speech
    2. Black Swan
    1. Carlos

    The reason why Carlos is number is because I read The Bourne Identity (novel) and a week later after I finished it I heard about Carlos. In the novel Carlos the Jackal is the villain instead of the Treadstone people in the movie.

  • Quinn

    Hey Alex, when will you Oscar Ballot be up?

  • Tomorrow. I’m pushing everything back a day from what I originally said.

  • Andrew R.

    @Alex-I just checked, apparently A Prophet was neither eligible for the 2009 awards or the 2010 awards. Hmmmmmmm. Stick it wherever.

  • I made mine a week ago on my blogsite, however I think i’ll revamp it because I made it without seeing The Kings Speech, Another Year, and Blue Valentine. Finally saw King’s Speech last night

    so far it is

    10- True Grit
    9- The Fighter
    8- Kick-Ass
    7- Enter the Void
    6- The King’s Speech
    5- How to Train Your Dragon
    4- Toy Story 3
    3- Inception
    2- The Social Network
    1- Black Swan

  • Honorable Mentions being: Greenberg, Winter’s Bone, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Cyrus, and 127 Hours

  • Andrew R. That’s because without an American release the film is only eligible for the Foreign Language Oscar. Once a film has been nominated one year, it can’t be nominated a second year. However, if it were not nominated for Foreign Language Oscar, despite its 2009 release date, it would have been eligible. It is a stupid combination of rules.

  • Just saw “The Secret in Their Eyes” this morning. It’s beautifully shot and acted, and I half appreciated the makeup work. The problem for me is that for all the intrigue, the tone is somewhat plain, the mystery is a tad too easy, and it lacks a bit of realism. It slides just below “The Ghost Writer” for me, and lands somewhere around #14 for me right now.

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