Okay. I know I’m a little behind on posting this, but I needed some time to reflect. This was not an easy list to come up with. I wrote and re-wrote the list. Which is a great thing. Because in October 2010 I had been claiming that this had been a truly poor year for movies. And I didn’t see much on the horizon to change that.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t think there has been a better year for movies in at least a decade. So yeah, basically, this was a hard list to make.
10. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese’s in-depth character study about a man struggling to uncover the truth was the first impressive film to come out in 2010. I was pinned to my seat, wholly absorbed by Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance and the slightly off-kilter world he finds himself in when he steps on to the shores of Ashecliff insane asylum. Unfortunately, this film was marketed as one of those thrillers with a twist, but it’s not. Is there a twist? Yes. But that is not what this movie is about. It’s about exploring one man and the emotional truth of his experience not orchestrating a plot twist to play with audience.
9. The King’s Speech
I had expected this film to be a much more staid film. I thought it was going to a film like The Queen, which is a decent movie that is carried by a phenomenal performance. But The King’s Speech is a phenomenal movie supported by an array of phenomenal performances. Which is not surprising when Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter are in your cast. What is surprising is how much fun and humor there is in the film.
8. How To Train Your Dragon
I had not been to the theatres to see an animated film since The Incredibles, but something about this film just grabbed me. So not only did I go see it, I went to see it in 3D IMAX. Holy crap. This film is magical. The relationship between Hiccup and the dragon, Toothless, is so touching and sweet. The film has got plenty of laughs and one of the best scores of the year. There are also some very surprising moments that you would not expect to see in a film like this. I was very impressed with the daring of directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders to include these moments. And the flight sequences are shot in such away that you actually feel like flying. It’s….well, it’s magical.
7. Waiting for “Superman”
Davis Guggenheim’s documentary is one that is so important to see. He outlines the problems that exist in our education system and how it is hurting our kids. But he goes beyond that, showing why these problems exist and possible ways they can be fixed. I took an emotional beating when I saw the film, but I left feeling hopeful and inspired and ready to help.
6. Winter’s Bone
This film features an impressive performance by the 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence. She carries this entire film. Lawrence plays Ree, a girl from the Ozarks. She has to track down her father who has disappeared and make sure he doesn’t skip his court date. Because if he does, the bail bond company can take their house. The film is a great blend of mountain culture and film noir style. However, the reason this film is so great is that the story is told in such a simple and graceful way, unadorned and very well-crafted.
5. Black Swan
This film is not a movie. It is a visceral experience. The film is put together so well and so relentless in exploring its story of madness that walking out of the theatre I felt battered and exhausted and wired and completely on edge. Black Swan is an experience unto itself. It is a great film with the best performance Natalie Portman has ever given.
What is there to say about Christopher Nolan’s film that hasn’t already been said? It seems like everyone in the world has seen this movie. Which is the genius of this film. It’s one thing to make a complex intellectual sci-fi action movie. It’s another thing to make it so well that it becomes the blockbuster film of the year. While flawed, this film is a remarkable achievement in originality and ambition. But the best thing about Inception is the the amount of discussion it has inspired. It’s a wonderful thing to see people spend so much time discussing film.
3. The Social Network
I. like most people, scoffed when The Facebook Movie was announced. However, I shut up when I saw that Aaron Sorkin was writing the script. When David Fincher came on to direct, I got downright excited for the film. With the involvement of those two, I knew this film would be good. I didn’t know it would be this good. Not only is this movie smart and tightly put together, it is just damn fun to watch.
2. Never Let Me Go
Sadly, this film has been overlooked by most people. Mark Romanek’s film is such a wonderful, elegant portrait of love and life. It’s a beautiful film with inspired performances and one of the best scores of the year, if not the best. It’s a film that I still find myself thinking about regularly, months after I have seen it. It is sublime.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs the World
This film is so good. So good. Now it may not be the best film of the year, but it hands-down, irrefutably, the most fun film of 2010. I saw this film seven times in theatres. What Edgar Wright has done is found the essence of joy and paint it all over the screen. Throw in an incredible soundtrack with original music by Beck, Broken Social Scene, and Metric and that would have been enough to make this movie great. But the cinematography and editing is some of the most impressive that I have ever seen. Even now, just thinking about the film, I have a grin on my face.
These are a few films that I enjoyed but couldn’t find room for on my final list. Many of them in fact were on the list in one iteration or another.
Exit Through The Gift Shop
Banksy’s film about street art, not only provides information about the foundations and philosophies about the street art movement, it deconstructs it. The film pushes deeper still and asks questions about the value of art and what makes good art versus bad. Riveting.
This film is a solidly made western with the Coens’ unique spin on it. This is a really fun movie with some great writing and performances, none more impressive than newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
Toy Story 3
Pixar’s close to the Toy Story legacy is an emotional one that goes to some surprising places. While this film is very well done, I do feel that it treaded over some familiar territory from Toy Story 2.
This gripping documentary is an exploration into our modern world of Facebook interaction. If The Social Network shows the creation of Mark Zuckerberg’s world, this film shows the consequences of that creation. Funny, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and triumphant. A definite must see by anyone and everyone.
Danny Boyle’s film is an improbable success. It’s a movie about a man standing in one place for two hours, trying to figure out how to get out of that place. It should have failed. It should have been boring. But thanks to Danny Boyle’s kinetic style of filmmaking and James Franco’s incredible performance, this is a film of relentless energy that is endlessly engaging.
So what do you think? Did I miss anything? What are your top ten of the year?