It’s that time of year again where everyone wants to know what the best and worst of the year were, so naturally, to keep up with the demand, I am forced to whittle down the year’s movies into the ten best in my eyes.
I’ll be honest — I like the retrospective take, but this process sucks. I haven’t seen every film this year and I never will any year. I’ve missed handfuls of independent films and have yet to see two that could very well have landed in this list: “True Grit” and “The King’s Speech.” And I’m an amateur critic at best. The top two films on this list had me flip-flopping the last 24 hours, but I had to decide. There can only be one.
Basically, I look at every film I’ve ranked 4.5/5 or 5/5 (I’m ever hesitant to give a film a perfect score) and then must decide which is really a 4.8 or which might be more like an 4.3 repeating.
This year I had to plug in a couple 4/5s because frankly, 2010 came up a bit lame. Next year I’ll be banging my head into a wall figuring this out (more on that later), but 2010’s pretty simple. I didn’t completely disagree with general popular opinion in any way this year like not having “Inglourious Basterds” anywhere near my 2009 Top 10. I’m sure some of you will wonder why certain indisputably great films came before others this year, but I’ll try and explain it.
And here we go …
My Top 10 Films of 2010
10. Easy A
Amidst a sea of films I rated 4/5 stars, “Easy A” jumped right out at me as deserving a place in my top 10. For one, it serves as an effective homage to John Hughes while flat-out being a very Hughesian teen comedy (with a modern twist). For another, it features prominently the comedic talents of a female lead and while I am not nor ever have been a feminist, it was damn refreshing and encouraging to see. Emma Stone simply rocks this movie inside and out and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson easily rank among the best movie parents of all time. (Read my review)
9. The Town
Considering the number of action films that try to bleed into the comedy genre these days, it’s a pleasure when the focus stays on character and inter-character drama and the comedy comes naturally. Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort solidified him as one of the more promising directors of the future. The characters were real and the action satisfying in every way, culminating in an unforgettable climactic sequence at Fenway Paahk. Although not as groundbreaking as some of the films on this list or that I could’ve substituted it for, it delivers solid (and not cliché) results in all facets of filmmaking, which a shocking number of films didn’t this year. (Read my review)
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
Aside from not being a complete film, “Deathly Hallows” emerged as the most mature and exciting film in the series (so far, I suppose), reminding us just how impressive this juggernaut of a movie franchise really has been. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson proved beyond a doubt that they were more than just lucky child actors cast in the roles of a lifetime and David Yates has grown into a blockbuster-caliber directing talent. When you get down to it, these adaptations finally feel more like movies and not only that, but “Hallows Pt. 1” has a real epic feel to it. If the conclusion is anywhere near as good, it will be one of the best finales of all time. (Read my review)
7. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle had everyone’s attention after winning the Oscar for directing “Slumdog Millionaire and he decided of all films to focus on one much more narrow in scope and infinitely more challenging to film, especially in an engaging manner. “127 Hours” turns a man with his arm caught under a boulder into a thrilling and even stomach-churning story with a powerful message about survival. Only Boyle could dream up the techniques to keep such a film engaging and James Franco fully emerges as the star many expected he could be. (Read my review)
6. The Fighter
I love when a film poses as predictable but ends up defiantly original. Many heard (and still hear) of the accolades for “The Fighter” and figure(d) no rush to see another award-worthy boxing movie, but David O. Russell’s film tells more so of the fighting outside the ring, letting its leads and supporting actors shine as everyone thinks they know what’s best for boxer Micky Ward. Bale practically reinvents himself as an actor and Melissa Leo and Amy Adams exert more influence over the film than expected. Congrats to this cast and crew for knocking out expectation. (Read my review)
5. The Kids Are All Right
Most family drama/comedies feature typical family structures, and breaking that trend is half of what’s so great about “Kids.” Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are excellent (and realistic) as a lesbian couple and the mothers of two kids. The humor and the struggles and the family tensions that arise as the kids’ sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo in his best performance yet) aka “father” comes into their lives are fascinating and entirely understandable despite all the melodrama. Of all the best films of 2010 and many on this list, “Kids” remains one of the only to not use true events or pre-existing material or any kind of “grabber” to hook in audiences, yet it does as great a job. (Read my review)
“Inception” delivered what we only dreamed (no pun intended) Hollywood would one day start to give us: an intelligent blockbuster. Despite being a bit ambitious at times resulting in a ton of explanatory dialogue, Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi thriller was nothing short of a creative masterpiece. As if “The Dark Knight” wasn’t enough of a legacy to leave, the man has become something of a living legend. People would pay millions to go inside his brain. “Inception” was also equipped with 2010’s most memorable fight sequence in the zero-gravity hallway scene, proving style and brains are not mutually exclusive. To cap it all off, no movie left people talking like “Inception.” (Read my review)
3. Toy Story 3
I don’t cry during movies, but if Pixar didn’t exist as a company, I could be qualified to say “I haven’t even come close to crying during a movie,” but that’s not possible and it wasn’t in 2010 because of this heartwarming and joyful animated adventure. I was as skeptical as anyone of a return to our favorite talking toys, but “Toy Story 3” turned out as good if not better than the previous films with a message that summed up why we fell in love with these characters in the first place. Full of some of the funniest and most touching movie moments of 2010, this finale was the complete package and on par with some of the greatest films of all time. (Read my review)
2. The Social Network
“The Social Network” took most people by surprise, but considering the talent behind it, I had my eye on it all year, only growing more sure of it being a very good film with every promotional material put out there (not shocking considering this film had maybe the best trailer of the year). Man did it deliver. Aaron Sorkin’s script was tight and sucked us into the story, which was already made interesting considering its relevance to current times/trends. No film spoke more clearly about the society we live in, where ideas are invaluable pieces of property and the American dream is more tangible than ever. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield look like veterans on screen and really bring out the drama of their relationship, helping director David Fincher to remind us how damn good he is at filmmaking. (Read my review)
1. Black Swan
I almost slid this film behind “Network” only because it led to Natalie Portman’s recent engagement and pregnancy and jealousy is a sly beast. But honestly, what put “Black Swan” on top for me was the impressiveness of all the other pieces of this production that make it the most visually interesting film of the year. The cinematography, Clint Mansell’s score, the art direction — these are a few of those intangibles that gave this story of a ballerina driving herself to madness in pursuit of perfection a leg up on the other films of this year. I’m a sucker for magical realism and love films that blur the line between what’s real and not and Darren Aronofsky’s film remains the best example. Not only that, but his direction is graceful, haunting, exhilarating and more, utilizing the artistry of ballet to create a myriad of emotions and tensions. Capped off with an excellent performance from Natalie Portman and strong supporting roles, “Black Swan” left the most dazzling impression on me when the credits rolled. (Read my review)