2010 IN REVIEW: Davin’s Top Ten

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.  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. In 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 best performance of his career to date.

Inception – After a single viewing, 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

10) Flipped

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 year  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, but 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, 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 when 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.

Moving On

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!

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  • 5 recurring, films on both our lists: “The Social Network”, “True Grit”, “Black Swan”, “Winter’s Bone”, and “Easy A”.

  • Andrew R.

    First. my comments on your list. Good choices. Easy A is an interesting choice. I have not heard very good things about Flipped or Leaves of Grass. I will check out the Red Riding Trilogy, but it’s ineligible for my list since it’s a series of TV movies that got released theatrically in the US.


    ANIMAL KINGDOM-An Australian crime epic led by a talented cast, particularly Jacki Weaver (great) as the slightly deranged Smurf.
    ANOTHER YEAR-Sadly, Another Year ended up in the 11th slot, just missing my nominees. But there’s no denying the strength of the acting and story as we are absorbed into the character’s world. Oh, and BTW: Manville is indeed Supporting.
    BLUE VALENTINE-This potrait of a dying marriage features great acting. Despite me going through hell to find this (stupid MPAA), it was probably worth it to see the complete lack of chemistry between Gosling and Williams. (The lack of chemistry is a good thing!)
    DOGTOOTH-Yay to Greece for submitting this! This darkly humorous tale of incest, abuse, and deranged parenting shows that Greek cinema is worth checking out.
    FISH TANK-Katie Jarvis gives the performance that supports the film as the untalented, furious, angry teenage girl who lives in a crappy house with a family from hell.
    FOUR LIONS-Dr Strangelove for the Post-9/11 Age, it shows off the stupidity of jihad, America’s paranoia, and that attaching bombs to crows is a bad idea.
    GHOST WRITER-Polanski is back and almost better than ever. It’s not Rosemary’s Baby, Knife in the Water, The Pianist, or especially Chinatown-but it’s great. And a nice “fuck you” to the American legal system.
    GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO-With two underrated sequels and a great performance from Noomi Rapace, this Swedish thriller kicks ass. And hornet’s nests.
    HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART I: It’s almost the end for Harry and friends. This might be only the third best Potter film (behind Half-Blood Prince and Prisoner of Azkaban), but I really don’t think anyone is complaining. Except the Potter haters.
    MICMACS: The maker of Amelie is back with a great commentary on the arms race. It’s fucking hilarious, too. Remember the orgasm scene in Amelie?
    SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD-Evil vegans with magic powers. Nuff said. I lesbian this movie.
    SECRET IN THEIR EYES-I know this movie won the Oscar in 2009, but it came out in 2010. So this is where it goes in all categories but Foreign Film. Anyway, this twisting, turning mystery is a labyrinth-and the best Argentine film since their other Oscar winner, The Official Story.
    SOMEWHERE-After Marie Antoinette and the early reviews came in, I was worried for Sofia Coppola. Not to worry-she’s back. It’s Lost in Translation, but stripped down a little.
    THE TOWN-I’m really starting to appreciate those horrible nun masks.
    THE WAY BACK-Shhhhh…I saw The Way Back on a bootleg which I borrowed. Don’t tell anyone. This haunting epic needs to be rewatched by me, since the first few minutes didn’t work, but I still appreciated the beauty. It better get a Cinematography nomination.


    10. BIUTIFUL-Alejandro Inarritu Gonzalez brings it every time. With this fascinating mix of modern life and the old world of spirits, he makes a biutiful movie. Oh, and Barden and Maricel Alvarez deserve awards attention.

    9. KING’S SPEECH-T-t-t-this is-s-s-s a g-g-g-great m-m-m-movie.

    8. KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT-This movie is more than just “all right.” It’s above that.

    7. WINTER’S BONE-Freezing, emotional, and bleak, this film is a must.

    6. TOY STORY 3-With the best ending of the year, we can finally say goodbye to the gang and look forward to the next Pixar movie. Oh wait…a Cars sequel? Never mind.

    5. 127 HOURS-With the exception of the Toy Story 3 ending, the amputation scene in this movie is the best scene of the year. It’s a study of isolation, and we’re entranced despite being in the same place for a longass time.

    4. INCEPTION-With breathtaking Visual FX and Cinematography, great acting, and an amazing story, Inception is Nolan’s 3rd best after Dark Knight at #1 and Memento at #2.

    3. TRUE GRIT-Revives the Western in a great way. I think this is one of the greatest remakes ever (mostly because quite a few remakes suck, but anyway).

    2. BLACK SWAN-Aronofsky’s best film? Nope, it’s #3 behind Requiem and Wrestler. But it’s got Portman in an Oscar-worthy role, some horrific dream sequences, and a great supporting cast. My one complaint: did they have to summarize Swan Lake for us? Unnecessary.

    1. SOCIAL NETWORK-There’s a reason for all the agreement. Quite a few people are saying this movie won’t hold up. I say, “If you get rid of the titles during the ending scene, yes it will.” Because if FaceBook fails down the line, it will become all the more poignantly tragic. Good luck on Oscar night, David Fincher.

  • “That’s right, Alex and I actually agree on something.” HOORAY!

    Nice work, Davin. My top 10 list will be up later tonight. We have exactly 2 overlaps. Anybody care to guess what they are?

    @Andrew R. – You are crazy/awesome. I’m assuming you live in Los Angeles or know somebody in the Academy who hooks you up with screeners in order to have seen so many movies. I will also say that I’m jealous.

  • I could not disagree with you more strongly about Pixar. Every year it seems a film of theirs is in my top 5 (and “Finding Nemo” is the best film of the decade, in my opinion). Anyway… I don’t get out to the theater that much, so my list probably won’t be finished until June or July. I’ve only seen eight films, but here’s how I’d rank them.

    1. “The Social Network”
    2. “Inception”
    3. “Toy Story 3”
    4. “True Grit”
    5. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One”
    6. “Winter’s Bone”
    7. “The Kids Are All Right”

    And way below that “Kick-Ass” (which I still very much liked).

  • To take up Alex’s challenge, I’m guessing “True Grit” and “The Social Network”. It seems like those would fit on

  • @Duncan, yeah, if you are going off of his review ratings it has to be those two (and it probably is).

    @Alex, that means no Winter’s Bone or Ghost Writer, with B+s I thought one of those would sneak on. Also, if you count my honorable mentions, I assume Exit Through the Gift Shop and Toy Story 3 will make yours.

    @Andrew R. Yeah I am in a minority with Flipped and Leaves of Grass, but what can I say, I think they’re great!

    Also, I probably should’ve mentioned The Fighter in the honorable mention part, I do like that movie.

  • Great list! So glad to see “Easy A” on there. “Toy Story 3” should be much, much higher. I agree with G1000 about Pixar.

    @Alex – the two overlaps are probably “The Social Network” and True Grit”. Can’t wait for your list.

    I’ll wait for Alex’s Top Ten to say what mine are.

  • Jose

    Is Murtada posting a list?

  • Andrew R.

    @Alex-Actually, I live in the NY area. Seeing 25 movies isn’t THAT hard thanks to DVDs. I did not see all these movies in theaters. Of those 25, I saw quite a few on DVD. And I’m efficient in my movie watching.

    As for The Way Back, I said BOOTLEG, not Academy copy. I borrowed it from a friend who got it from some random Asian woman on the street, apparently. She (the woman, not the friend) also had copies of other movies still in theaters. This is literally the second time ever I’ve bought a bootleg. The first time was Howl’s Moving Castle because Disney took SO FUCKING LONG to release it.

    And no, I’m not giving away info on The Way Back. One, the video quality was a bit…variable. The DVD for HMC was a lot better. Two, as I said above, the first few minutes didn’t work. I saw all 90 or so minutes of HMC. Three, I’m slightly paranoid for me and my friend’s sake. And four, it’s best if you see it in theaters or on a GOOD DVD.

    That’s it. No discussing Way Back with me until it opens worldwide and I can rewatch the ENTIRE movie.

  • I wasn’t just talking ‘The Way Back’, but ‘Somewhere’, ‘Biutiful’ and ‘Four Lions’ as well. None of those films are in the Twin Cities yet.

  • Hey Alex, when tonight will your top ten and Oscar ballot be up?

  • It will be up by 10pm CT! I promise!!!

  • Jose

    Yay! I’m not the only one that loved the score for The Ghost Writer. It’s tied with John Powell’s How To Train Your Dragon as my favorite score of the year (and as much as I disliked the film, the score definitely made the film worth watching).

  • I haven’t seen most of these yet, though I agree that The Social Network was terrific. Easy A was cute. Great list! And I love the This is Spinal Tap reference.

  • Eric M

    With a week to spare before classes start again, I watched enough movies from 2010 to where I wouldn’t need to include Shutter Island on my list… Having seen only 21 movies this year (Including the collection of Nicholas Sparks adaptions my girlfriend brought me to), here’s my top ten full of obvious choices.

    10. True Grit – Apologies to the Coen Brothers, but this was a huge misstep off their streak of greatness since No Country. I wish I could worship the ground these two walk on, so I could join everyone else and see the hype.

    9. Get Him to the Greek

    8. Winter’s Bone

    7. Dogtooth – I’m not exactly sure if this counts as a 2010 movie, but I’ve been seeing it on other lists so I’m including it on mine.

    6. Inception

    5. The Social Network

    4. Exit Through the Gift Shop – This could have easily gone a couple slots in either direction; while bulk of the film isn’t ground breaking, Banksy raises as many questions about the validity of his film as he does concerning the art industry.

    3. Toy Story 3

    2. The Fighter

    1. Black Swan – Having followed the movie for a year, read the script, and obsessed over the movie the weeks before its release, everything was building towards disappointment from the hype put behind it. As if its position on my list wasn’t clear enough of an indicator, I liked Aronofsky’s latest much more than the four people who walked out of my theater’s screening. For me, this deserves best director, best actress, and best picture.

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