Well, it’s a new year. That means finishing off this Oscar season (or starting it), looking back one last time, and then getting jacked for a bunch of movies we won’t see for months while sitting through sequels that none of us actually care about.Â This is my attempt to look back one last time. Every year critics complain about what an awful bunch of movies they sat through while the good were few and far between. This year’s half-way remarks seemed worse than ever. But I guess I am a devil’s advocate on that one. To me, 2010 represented one of the best years in recent memory. It was vastly superior to 2009 and on par with the ’07-’08 pairing. I’d be happy if we get just one more year this good within a decade.
This One Goes to Eleven…
Not really, though. It only goes to ten. But in a world where such hypotheticals may have been a reality, the following films would have been in contention for the coveted eleventh spot on the hypothetical list. InÂ alphabetical order, I present to you the ones that were really close but were edged out by a year of tough competition.
Conviction – This was a true story told with heart and guts. Swank gives one of her better performances (earning a shocking SAG nomination) but it is Rockwell who truly shines as an energetic goofball who is unjustly charged. It’s worth the trip just to see their on-screen chemistry.
Exit Through the Gift Shop – I don’t like documentaries in the slightest. It is an embarrasing admission, but it is an art form that rarely resonates with me. Waiting for Superman left me unmoved and Inside Job left me politically indifferent. This one, however, is something special. It introduced me to a world that I had no idea existed. And what a wonderful world it is. This one struck a chord with me, and it has such a damn good title!
Greenberg – This is a film for Woody Allen fans. It is about a neurotic loser trying to find his place in the world. Of course this place is in the arms of a woman, but this uncomfortable movie takes its unique hero on an interesting journey to get there. Ben Stiller gives the bestÂ performance of his career to date.
Inception – After a single viewing,Â I was pretty blown away. But the expositional dialogue and lack of repeat value hindered this film’s ability to make the cut. It has great performances, beautiful cinematography, masterful editing, and a clever concept. But in 2010 it takes more than cleverness to make an end of the year list. It is really good, but not quite brilliant.
Love and Other Drugs – Sure it has its share of problems, but this movie made me laugh quite regularly and gave me enough true emotion to fall in love with the couple falling in love. It also is a great throwback to the power of the movie star. Jake Gylenhaal is truly fantastic.
Toy Story 3 – Pixar is always wonderful and this one is no exception. That said, they rarely produce films that I consider to be favorites. And again, this one is no exception. Their animation has only improved, and they will never lose their emotional power–the last scene in this film is among the most tear-jerking of the year.
Davin’s Top Ten of 2010
This is easily Rob Reiner’s best film in about fifteen years. This irresistably cute love story between two children is among the funniest and most charming films of the year. It takes place in the late fifties and reminds me a lot of the classic Disney films made in that era. But more than Disney, this film reminds me of the cheesiness and heart of Frank Capra. The first twenty minutes are stunning, unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t quite reach those heights. But this is one of the few films that reached those heights in the first place, and that is why it has a place on this list.
9) Easy A
This is a late surprise entry for me. I say this with great hesitation, but I think I like it more than Tina Fey’s glorious Mean Girls. This witty High School sex comedy incorporates elements of The Scarlett Letter and John Hughes in a nostalgic literary blend. The book-like setup and tone of the movie plus the relationship Olive has with her parents (her father is played by Stanley Tucci) elevate Easy A far beyond the typical teenage comedy. One flaw: one of my favorite lines in the film is a two part line about how no one can relate to Huck Finn. However, the first part is said in the narrative webcast which technically occurs at the end of the film whereas the second part is said during the flashback. They are chronologically backwards. Oh well. The screenplay deserves an Oscar nomination and Emma Stone deserves stardom (which she just might get).
8) 127 Hours
This film dropped a bit from when I originally saw it, but I still think it’s great. Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy have created a unique viewing expirience that highlights one of the best performances of the yearÂ by James Franco. The film is life-affirming and uplifting, powerful and beautiful, funny and poignant. And it’s all true. While the film suffers from its natural constraints (the lead character can’t move), the film finds unique ways to overcome this obstacle. It really is one of the most unique films of the year and Boyle has managed to film the unfilmable. It is a highly personal film that is elevated by the intense score from Oscar-winner A. R. Rahman.
7) Leaves of Grass
I’d imagine even this film weren’t treated so unjustly with a tight limited release and basically no advertising, it still would’ve struggled to find a large audience. But it found me, and I love it. Tim Blake Nelson wrote and directed this masterful pothead movie that connects the seemingly juxtaposing lifestyles of an Ivy League professor and pot dealer through the poetry of Walt Whitman. The screenplay would make Nelson’s frequent collaborator’s, the Coen brothers, proud. This is one of the best stoner movies I’ve ever seen and the most underrated film of the year. Edward Norton gives a fantastic performance channeling both the backwoods hick and the elitist professor. Leaves of Grass is already in my DVD collection and I know I’ll watch it for years to come as it only gets better every time.
6) Red Riding Trilogy
I suppose maybe this one should be higher on the list, butÂ it isn’t really a movie and it didn’t really come out this year and it doesn’t really make all that much sense unless you’ve read the books. But I am content to just sit back and enjoy the bafflement of this dark, haunting, three-hundred minute crime epic. Roger Ebert made a great point by describing how it is really about tone, not events, and I whole-heartedly agree. It is about a time and a place, not the specifics of the events that unfold. It is about innocence in the face of corruption and the brutal consequences of trying to defy it. What a great film.
5) Winter’s Bone
Again,Â I feel like this one should be higher, but it is a year of tough competition. Here is a film that I liked but didn’t love whenÂ I first saw it. But because it is so focused on the characters and the place that they occupy, it grows with each viewing. It feels like you’ve known the characters for years, even lived with them in the precious house that they are fighting for. Each frame is packed with nostalgia. After three viewings, it is clear that this one deserves a place on my shelves and on this list. The sense of familiarity does not tire the film, it enhances its power. Jennifer Lawrence gives a powerful performance as a seventeen year-old fighting to keep a roof over her two younger sibling’s heads. In a word: powerful.
4) Black Swan
A psychotic and paranoid dancer played by Natalie Portman and directed by Darren Aronofsky. It delivers to the potential of that premise. It is a powerful tale of the dangers of obsession and the darkness of humanity that beautifully paralells the actual story of the Swan Lake ballet in which they are performing. The first half is narratively flawed, or more accurately, structually flawed. But starting with a lesbian sex scene and continuing through the chaotic frenzy of a conclusion, the film is masterful. The final, perfect scene is in my opinion, the finest individual scene of the year. It left me speechless. Natalie Portman gives a relatable, and tragic performance that allows her to exhibit a frailty unlike any of her previous roles. This is a masterful film from a talented director.
3) The Ghost Writer
Roman Polanski’s latest film is one of the best he has made in years. It is a true Hitchcockian political thriller. But it is also a film that connects closely to his personal life and his extradition. It tells the story of a ghost writer who is assigned to do an autobiography for a british politician who begins to appear corrupt. It has excellent performances from Ewan Mcgregor and Peirce Brosnan. Alexandre Desplat’s score is my favorite of the year. The film expertly crafts a paranoia that is very realy and unfortunate. It is an excellent example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is the finest thriller of the year, and another one that I think gets better with each viewing.
2) True Grit
That’s right, Alex and I actually agree on something. I went into this film with very low expectations having read that it is nothing like other Coen brothers films. While it may lack their normal cynicism; their wit, dialogue, and quirky personality is ever present. Applying their usual game to a heartwarming adventure turned out to be a great idea. This is a western done in a style that hasn’t been seen in about forty years. Jeff Bridges creates a more interesting Cogburn that Wayne, while the Coens outdo Hathaway by a long shot. Steinfeld creates a confident but true to the times fourteen year-old who narrates the story with great dignity. I never thought that I’d be moved by a Coen brothers movie, but this isn’t the first time they’ve surprised me. Deakins and Burwell also are at the top of their game. Here is a film that is good in pretty much every way a film can be good. What more can you ask for?
1) The Social Network
I know I’m not exactly going out on a limb with this one, but it is my honest choice. The Social Network is a socially provocative film that isn’t really about facebook; it is about a generation. A generation that is obsessed with globalized communication but has forgotten how to personally communicate. This is a subject very personal to me. There is something dangerously wrong with the fact that social gatherings often involve more texting than talking. My generation is even becoming uncomfortable with holding what should be perceived as an ordinary conversation. That is what this film is about. Beginning with the first scene in the bar, it is clear that, while Mark is a genius, he completely misses obvious social cues. It is a film about dehumanization. David Fincher masterfully directed his epic cast through the best screenplay of the year (if not the millenium). Together, they created the best film of 2010.
Well that’s a wrap for me. First, a few notes on that list. Nothing is written in stone and each movie changes with every viewing. Often movies change by just resting in the back of your mind. But, as for today, that is my top ten. Secondly, as you may have noticed there are no foreign films. The reason for this is that I created my 2009 list in about April having seen most of the ’09 foreign films and therefor consider them to be inelegible for this list. Most of the 2010 foreign films have 2011 release dates in America. That creates a very small window of eligible films that really weren’t all that great (i.e. I am Love).
On to 2011! As I said, I consider 2010 to be a fantastic year, if this year proves half as good I will be greatly satisfied. That said, here are some of the films I am looking forward to. First up is Jane Eyre, a book I am currently in the middle of. The trailer looks like it has good things in it, but was poorly put together. It could be good. The blockbusters this year are a pile of sequels. We have Harry Potter 7, Cars 2, and Pirates 4. I could care less for any of them. David Fincher returns with The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, I’m jacked. But most exciting to me is the promise of a 3-d adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret from Martin Scorsese. The director of The Departed, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull is giving us a childrens movie. How awesome is that?
Well that’s enough ranting for me. Thank you all for reading and making this website what it is. Every comment and opinion is greatly appreciated. Let’s hope for another great year!