It is Oscar time and another year is gone and while 2010 was being deemed by many to be an awful year for film, I find myself disagreeing. Six of my top ten were released pre-September but most of the top 20 were released after. So sure the end of the year was a bit heavier with great movies, but that is the way the story goes. A lot of the, “Worst. Year. Ever.” talk died down at the end of the road but I found a lot of fun in the first 2/3 of the year. There were a lot of fun action movies that were fun and inventive, more than a couple solid R-rated comedies, and even a few dramatic winners as well. But the final 1/3 of the year really took off and gave us a ton of memorable entries.
Before we get into the lists (Amy, the girlfriend, put one together this year) I will hit on a couple awards that I can’t discuss in my Oscar rundown.
Worst Film of the Year – Alice in Wonderland
The film is a complete waste of talent and a complete abysmal failure on pretty much every front. Where can we start? There is the ridiculous idea that it is actually Wunderland not Wonderland. The fact that Alice, who admits to dreaming about Wonderland repeatedly for years since her forgotten first visit, has no idea who anyone is or what the world is; how does she not know them yet knows she dreaming about them? The silly, LOTR style, rip-off battle finale. The completely uninspired design and look of the movie; feels like Burton lite. Throw in the completely unnecessary CGI body for Crispin Glover and the awful post conversation 3-D and things are even harder to swallow. I mean I could go on. Plus the complete waste of the talent involved, Wasikowska, Depp, Bonham Carter, Hathaway, Sheen, Fry, Rickman? I think How Do You Know might be a worse film, but this is so awful and a complete waste of potential and that is why it finds itself here.
Best Scene of the Year: Creating “FaceMash” – The Social Network
From the script, the camera work, the editing, the music, the direction; everything is perfect. I mean, Fincher and Eisenberg make a bunch of people sitting around computers compelling, exhilarating, and edge of your seat entertainment. Oh yeah, it is also only the third scene of the movie. It is the scene that sucks you and The Social Network never lets you go. Talking about it can barely do the scene justice but it wins out for me as my favorite scene of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Hit Girl doing anything in Kick-Ass, The spinning hallway fight in Inception, Swan Lake in Black Swan, Rooster Cogburn testifies in True Grit, Incinerator in Toy Story 3, Saying Goodbye in Toy Story 3, “We Are Sex Bob-Omb” opening credits in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, At the marathon in Four Lions, The King’s cursing in The King’s Speech, Bathilda Bagshot’s house in Harry Potter, Surviving Sergio in Get Him To The Greek, Getting even in Animal Kingdom.
Amy’s Best of the Year!
So I told Amy, whom I drag to see a lot of these movies even though she isn’t that interested, to write up her own best of list and this is what she came up. I was surprised at how much we agreed on, I didn’t get the vibe she liked a lot of these movies as much as she did on the car rides home.
20. Shutter Island: Though I am the first to admit I will enjoy just about anything involving Leo’s good
looks (going back to my 6th grade Titanic obsession)- this movie is filled with mystery, suspense, and a
great twist. I will say the movie did not play as well the second time through so try to know as little as
possible going in if you haven’t seen this yet.
19. Another Year: A British film rich in character development following Tom and Jerry, a very happily
married couple who attract a motley bunch of mentally unstable friends looking for comfort. To some
this may play slow, but I thoroughly enjoyed the honesty the actors gave each of their characters
(doesn’t hurt that some of my favorite Harry Potter actors showed up).
18. Kick Ass: Completely unexpected awesome. The scene with Hit Girl, kicking ass, and “Bad
Reputation” is one of my favorite from the year. Nicholas Cage is also fantastic as Big Daddy, definitely
worth the rental.
17. Exit Through the Gift Shop: I wasn’t expecting to be drawn into a documentary following street art.
Banksy had me completely mesmerized with this work.
16. Barney’s Version: A flawed non-traditional love story about a completely unlikable guy who
actually manages to make you root for him in the end. This movie caught me off guard with incredible
acting from Paul Giamatti and the beautiful Rosamund Pike, with an additional great supporting cast.
15. Easy A: One of the funniest movies of the year following Olive’s (Emma Stone) rise to slut status
at her high school due to lies she agrees to portray to help various insecure high school boys raise their
14. The Town: I do love some Ben Affleck, but this movie had the combination of great action and a
good storyline and definitely worth watching (though the creepy masks they use throughout the various
robberies in the film definitely haunted me for a while)
13. The Fighter: I am not usually a fan of boxing movies, but this movie is much more than just a
boxing film. It’s a film about 2 brothers: one of which had previously reached his boxing peak and is
subsequently dealing with a mess of a life focused on drug addiction and the other who’s attempting to
make it in the boxing world. Christian Bale is incredible as Dickey and deserves the Oscar for supporting
actor this year. The supporting cast of Melissa Leo and the ugly sisters are quite convincing as Dickey
and Mickey’s crazy family.
12. How to Train Your Dragon: Toothless is adorable. So cute and the world created for this clan of
Vikings is worth a watch just for the animator’s creativity.
11. True Grit: I could barely understand Jeff Bridges throughout this whole movie, but regardless this
film caught me off guard with how often I laughed at Jeff and Matt Damon’s characters interactions
throughout the film.
10. Rabbit Hole: I would not suggest watching this if you are already feeling a little sad as it is about a
couple losing their child. Perhaps most unexpected about this movie is the mother’s (Nicole Kidman)
relationship with her child’s killer (sounds worse than it plays) and their discussions about parallel
universes or “rabbit holes.”
9. The Kings Speech: A movie your grandmother will love. Colin Firth’s depiction of a stutter is so
convincing that I’d support him winning the Oscar.
8. The Kids Are All Right: This non-traditional family deals with some familiar themes but in a way that
is very different from any other storyline I’ve seen in a movie.
7. Winters Bone: Once again, not a movie to watch if you are feeling sad or stressed out but fantastic
none the less. I was transfixed from start to finish, and makes me think twice about driving through
rural Missouri (ed. And we’re from there).
6. Inception: Obviously this movie is amazing for far more than Leo, and if you haven’t experienced the
mind warp of a dream within a dream than you are missing out! Plus Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s midair
maneuvering and fight scene is awesome to watch.
5. Toy Story 3: Watching our friends, the toys we know and love, go through their near death
experience was one of the most nail-biting movie scenes this year. The ending of this movie is almost so
perfect that I am torn on wanting Pixar to make another sequel.
4. Blue Valentine: Kind of depressing to watch with the boyfriend, but a real yet sad story of a
relationship and marriage forming and being destroyed. One of my favorite scenes of this year is in this
movie: Ryan Gosling singing and playing his ukulele to Michelle Williams dancing.
3. Black Swan: A beautifully filmed portrayal of Nina basically losing her mind attempting to dance the
perfect role in Swan lake: portraying both the white angelic and black crazy scary swan. The ballet is
gorgeous in this film and Natalie Portman deserves the Oscar not only for her acting but her dancing
capabilities displayed in the film.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I: I love the Harry Potter. This was amazing! I can’t wait
for Part II.
1. Never Let Me Go: Know as little as possible going into this movie. Don’t watch it if you are feeling
sad, but watch it none the less.
Worst Movies Of the Year:
10. Sex and the City 2
8. Dear John
7. Charlie St. Cloud
6. Jonah Hex
5. Country Strong
4. When in Rome
3. How do you Know
Honorable Mentions (If you are in the mood for one of the below categories) :
Romantic Comedies: Love and Other Drugs and The Switch
Action: Salt, A-team, Iron Man 2, Next 3 Days
Unique: Babies, The Runaways
OK, Back to Me!
A Word On “A Prophet” Before We Get Started:
Some of you might be wondering where this film is on this list as it has appeared on many Best of lists for 2010. Well it is sitting comfortably on my Best of 2009 list, but not in its proper spot. I think it is currently sitting at 11 or 12 on that list but after seeing it a second time it should have been in the Top 5 of 2009. If it was on this year’s list it would undoubtedly be in the Top 5-6 or six as well; so basically if you haven’t seen it you should already. It is streaming on NetFlix and you can read my glowing review here. Don’t miss this movie!
A Note On The List:
I often get crap for liking a lot of movies, but I don’t understand why that is a bad thing. I hate that so many critics take pleasure in just saying how awful a movie is or going into something with it having to prove itself to be great. A movie has to fail me, I give everything a fair shot, and I hold on to the things I enjoy more than the things that don’t work. I want to like movies, I see 120+ every year and if I leave hating most of them then why do it. So yeah I wrote about a lot of movies, and could easily recommend a few more, but I love movies and I want you to love them to.
As always, I don’t think that my list is the end all and is some weird amalgamation of my favorite/best made films of the year. But above all, I hope it turns you on to a couple movies you might not have known about or not have normally seen.
If you hit the film’s title you can link to my original review (Netflix if I don’t), and I put a Netflix link after each capsule. A lot of these movies are available on Netflix streaming; usually the ones you haven’t heard of. So with out further delay…
The Just Missed:
The Second Tier:
These films below are in some kind of order but really could jump around depending on the mood that I am in. So take that as you will until 20 (And even those can flux).
Salt – The best of a very solid batch of “classic” action films from this past summer had near non-stop action and varied set pieces. The film also kept me on my toes with Angelina Jolie’s title character flipping allegiances so often that you couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Salt could be the next Bourne, even if it owes a lot to that series, if handled properly. NetFlix
Dogtooth – This import from Greece is one of the weirdest movies I have seen in some time but is constantly engaging and quite funny among the more disturbing bits. Revolving around siblings that have never left the confines of their home’s grounds, their parents have created an alternate reality that they live in. From morbid games, cats being evil monsters that killed their brother over the wall and renaming sexual organs with words like “keyboard” the film is obviously not for everybody. But if you are intrigued by this paragraph I encourage you to check it out. NetFlix
Iron Man 2 – The sequel to the break out hit is as fun and playful as the original with better action and a darker tale. Robert Downey Jr. adds the excellent Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell as its pair of villains and I really hope we get more Justin Hammer in future installments. Sure the film had a lot of set up for The Avengers throw into it and it wasn’t strictly an Iron Man film but I didn’t mind that at all as I was having a good time from start to finish. I just hope that IM: 3 finally dives into the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ story; which this film’s most poignant moments give us a taste of. NetFlix
Enter the Void – While the above Dogtooth might be weird, this movie is just flat out insane. I can’t guarantee that you will like this film but I think you will at least find it a marvel of filmmaking even if it offends you. The film is truly unlike anything I have ever seen before and I am so glad I partaked in the experience. I can throw out a seemingly endless stream of warnings on the film as it is very sexually explicit, involves drugs, shows an abortion, reenacts a brutal car accident multiple times, is overly long, and I could continue even further but I keep appreciating the film the more and more I think about it. I am not rushing to see it a second time but I can’t wait to watch it again. Enter the Void is a technical masterpiece that is worth your time if you can handle its excess. NetFlix
Buried – The most experimental film on this list is also one of the most intense and it is all told within the confines of a coffin. Ryan Reynolds stars as a man buried alive in a coffin in Iraq with a cell phone, lighter, and some glow sticks as he is used as a pawn by a group of terrorist to meet their demands. The film is visually interesting and compelling from start to finish and director Rodrigo Cortés owes that to his work and some of the best acting of Reynolds career. I know it sounds like an awful idea for a movie, but it works great, and it will leave you emotionally drained by the end. NetFlix
Easy A – This Emma Stone star vehicle proves that she is a star that is here to stay and also happens to be one of the better high school films in recent memory. A loose retelling of The Scarlet Letter, the film finds Stone’s Olive “slutting it up” with everyone at school by agreeing to say she slept with them in exchange for cash, gift cards, or whatever payment she can get. The film embraces the John Hughes staples of the past and lovingly pays homage and spins those high school conventions in their own way. The film’s cast is also stacked from top to bottom with Oscar nominees with Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci playing some of the coolest parents ever put on film. The smartest and funniest high school comedy since Mean Girls and I think it even tops it. NetFlix
The Switch – A sweet family/romantic comedy staring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston that was murdered by critics is one of the most unfairly treated films of the year. Sure it has a couple of convenient plot conventions thrown in there but at its heart it’s an endearing story between a man and his unknown son. Bateman and Aniston have fine chemistry and Thomas Robinson is just adorably fantastic as the boy Sebastian. The characters are realistic and act like you expect them to in this awkward situation and everyone has fears that boil below the surface. Seek it out; I don’t think you will be disappointed. NetFlix
Greenberg – Another odd tale from Noah Baumbach is welcome addition to his filmography and features some great work by its three leads. Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, and Rhys Ifans all create the wonderfully deep, solemn, and interesting characters that all get caught up in each others lives as the title character takes a bit of a sabbatical to Los Angeles. Stiller’s Greenberg is such a bizarre and hilarious character that you can’t help but get behind even after he fucks up. The film is an excellent character study that fans of the actors or director will surely enjoy. NetFlix
The Oath – This little seen documentary on the players surrounding the trial of Osama Bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, is an incredible and humanizing look into the world of terrorism. The films main subject is Abu Jandal who was a former body guard of Osama Bin Laden who now resides in Yemen and is very open the line of thinking in a Taliban world. Jandal is likable, charismatic, and makes plenty of good points through out the film and will have you questioning how American society paints the picture of these individuals. The other half of the film focuses on the trial of Hamdan and points out some of the glaring injustices of the way the U.S. is handling its prisoner system when it comes to terrorism. The right would say that this film is bullshit but sometimes the truth hurts and opens your eyes to the wool being pulled over it. NetFlix
Barney’s Version – Paul Giamatti gives one of his finest performances to date as Barney, a TV producer that has had three marriages and is accused of having murdered his best friend. The film slowly evolves from a sort of rude guy comedy into a touching tale of love as Barney’s life goes through a number of ups and downs. Giamatti’s performance would be worth watching if the film was awful but luckily we get a fine drama to go with it. Also featuring great work from Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, and Minnie Driver, the cast is great and only further helps sell you on this interesting “biography” of Barney. The film’s final act will pull at your emotional heartstrings, even over a son of a bitch like Barney. NetFlix
Youth in Revolt – A showcase for the untapped potential of Michael Cera, the film is an imaginative and smart look at teen love told with pretentious wit. The film follows Nick Twisp as he tries to woo over Sheeni Saunders, only he has to create an alternate personality, Francois Dillinger, to have the confidence to do it. Dillinger is the highlight of the film but Cera is just as good as Twisp as he awkwardly molds into a man that can take action into his own hands. The cast is littered with friendly and funny faces to accompany Cera in what is one of the hidden comedy gems of the year. NetFlix
I Am Love – This Italian film is a beautiful film cinematically and has an odd and unique family drama to capture with the magnificent camera work. Following a very well to do family, the focus is on a mother and her son and how their two lives become intertwined. The film examines love in a number of ways, between people, family, the food they eat but the film is most memorable for its fantastic technical prowess. From amazing camera moves, beautifully framed shots, a film stock that feels lived in, a fantastic pace, and an endlessly interesting score, Luca Guadagnino’s film is a marvel to experience. The third act has an unnecessary dark turn and the film as a whole could have used a tad more substance but all is forgivable for the films other many merits. Netflix
The Virginity Hit – What might be the least seen film on this list had me quite possibly laughing the hardest. Low budget and with no recognizable actors, The Virginity Hit, feels exactly like it is supposed to which is made by an extremely close group of friends on their home video equipment that they threw together and submitted to a film festival. The film is crude and a bit over the top but it had me laughing over and over again as they step up the gags one after another. I feel like this is bound to find an audience sooner or later so I might as well help to start it now. NetFlix
jackass 3D – This is the other contender with the above film for funniest of the year and it is really a coin flip. The film’s use of 3D is at time brilliant and very inventive in the way that this feels like this was the way these film were always meant to be seen. The gags are still raunchy, though maybe a tad less extreme, and the formula is the same as it ever was; if it’s not broke why fix it. If you weren’t a fan then, than you won’t be now, but Knoxville and friends still make me laugh whole heartedly and I can’t imagine many more fun experiences in theaters than this one. NetFlix
How to Train Your Dragon – This animated adventure from DreamWorks is their best since Kung Fu Panda but some of the studios conventional tropes hold this back from being a Pixar caliber film. The flying scenes, Hiccup & Toothless, the final 15 minutes or so, everything involved with these moments are breathtaking and incredible. Unfortunately there is some other business thrown into the mix and that is just about everything that happens back at the Viking town. The kids, Gobber, and the training sequences are just so dull in comparison to the aforementioned elements that I get almost upset that we aren’t spending more time with the things that work. Luckily the things that work are the majority of the film and are amazing making the film still an easy recommendation. NetFlix
Catfish – This documentary is an unlikely source of such raw and emotional character study that is best enjoyed unspoiled to its secrets. Sold as a thriller of sorts, that couldn’t be further from the truth, but the film does have a level of mystery and oddness that unfolds as the film plays out that you can’t find in most narrative features. The film’s guides are interesting people to experience this chain of events with and we are able to use them as proxies for how we would react in this interesting situation. I might have already said too much, but check this film out as it is a story for our times and the way that digital culture can shape who we are. NetFlix
The Secret in Their Eyes – The 2010 winner of Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards is an engaging murder mystery being retold as an aging detective decides to reopen the case that has haunted him for years. The film is quick, has a number of twists, and features one of the most amazing single takes (even if it was stitched together digitally) I have ever seen. Full of likable and real characters there are also a number of layers that the film is operating on as you will find suspense, humor, and romance woven into this plot. The Secret in Their Eyes is a real delight and a deserving winner, even if I would have taken A Prophet over it at the awards last year. NetFlix
Cyrus – This comedy from the Duplass Brothers is their biggest budgeted film yet and I can’t wait to see what they continue to do with the talent that they can pull in now. John C. Reilly stars as a divorced and lonely man who finds love again in Molly (Marisa Tomei), but that might be soiled by her relationship with her son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). The creepy and awkward nature of Cyrus is only heightened when Reilly’s John discovers that Cyrus intentions are far more intentional than it might have seemed. The film is as sweet and sad as it is funny with great work from the cast. Another under seen gem from 2010, seek this one out as the Duplass Bros. continue to be a pair to watch. NetFlix
Carlos – Yes it’s a five hour plus mini-series but it is extremely cinematic and was given a truncated theatrical release so I am counting it. Following the revolutionary Carlos from his beginnings in the Israeli/Palestinian conflicts all the way through his later years out of the game is an epic tale told with multiple languages, over multiple continents, and wrapped up in a lot of significant history. Carlos had his hands in a lot of the terrorist activity of the 70’s on through the 80’s. Édgar Ramírez plays the man wonderfully, with a swagger and sense of celebrity that is astonishing by today’s standards. He was a star, he bed beautiful women, and lived a life of excess at times while still being a pragmatic and excellent leader. Ramírez captures every element of the man. The film is a excellent companion piece to Che and The Baader Meinhof Complex but blazes forward faster than both of them. The film runs out of steam a bit in the end, but Ramírez’s Carlos does not. NetFlix
MacGruber – Another film that was undeservingly slaughtered by the critics circle was actually a quite fantastic lampooning of 80-90’s action movies that had me laughing non-stop. The film was written off by many as just another SNL film but those that are giving it a chance are quietly creating a legion of comedy fans that adore the film. Will Forte’s title character is so silly and absurd that you can’t help but laugh at his child like outlook on life. With everyone playing it straight around him, with the exception of Val Kilmer who delightfully hams it up as Cunth, it only accentuates the silliness of everything making it even more enjoyable. I am a big fan of this comedy that skewers action films as good as anyone has just about ever. NetFlix
The Illusionist – This animated gem from Sylvain Chomet is a kind of funny, kind of sad, tale that tells the story of an Illusionist whose talents are quickly becoming less and less needed in an era of booming electricity. The film has pretty much no dialogue but Chomet is able to tell his story so beautifully with his amazing animation and breathtaking visuals. The story does cause you to curiously question why the Illusionist takes the young Alice under his wing but I feel like he was just getting lonely and wanted to help someone out while he still can. Beyond the title character, the world around him is full of other vaudeville artists who are desperately dealing with the changing entertainment scene around them as well and they allow for an even deeper look into the effect technology had on these showmen. The Illusionist is a marvelous and beautiful film that will only be enriched on future viewings. NetFlix
Somewhere – The latest film from Sophia Coppola is an interesting and humorous character study on the lives of actors when they aren’t on the movie set. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a superstar that is bored and trying to find anything to put meaning back in his life as he lives at the Chateau Marmont. When his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), reenters his life the two begin to bond and end up on a mini-adventure of sorts along the way. The film is going to be a challenge for some in that nothing really happens, there is no plot, and it is deliberately paced but I was endlessly engaged by these characters’ lives and the things that Johnny has to do to carry some sort of resemblance of happiness in his life. Somewhere is an interesting, and sadly, probably accurate look at the world of Hollywood that few films begin to remotely show us. NetFlix
Biutiful – Javier Bardem is magnificent in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film that looks at the lives of those around Bardem’s Uxbal. The film’s subtlety is its finest asset, letting the viewer figure things out and never once pandering to our intelligence. Iñárritu’s camera is perfect and the way he slowly peals back the connections in this world is just fantastic. The film is not as nearly as epic as his last, Babel, but this allows for a deeper examination of his lead, Uxbal, and his relationships as he tries, by any means necessary, to secure the lives of the ones he loves. Biutiful is fantastic filmmaking and I am happy to see that it is getting some notice with the general masses with its Academy Award nominations. Now go see it. NetFlix
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Pt. 1 – Though it might only be half a movie, Hallows Pt. 1 worked on its own as a compelling narrative and has everything lined up for the mayhem of Pt. 2 to follow this summer. The effects and cast have never been better. There used to be a discernable line between Watson and the boys acting abilities but she has clearly caught up and turns in her best work to date. Sure there were a couple omissions from the book we would have liked to see, Kreacher at the caves anyone, but the splitting of the film has allowed them to squeeze in just about every other bit. We can’t say yet since we have only seen half of the film, but Hallows is set to be the best film in the franchise if Pt. 2 is as good as this one. NetFlix
The Top 20:
20. I Love You Phillip Morris – This comedy about a con-artist’s attempts to stay with the man he loves has been on a shelf for years and was finally released this past winter; why did it take so long? Staring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as the said lovers, both are great with Carrey turning in one of his funniest/best performances of his career. Beyond the acting, this true story is really remarkable and almost unbelievable. The two lovers met in jail and when Morris (McGregor) is released, Steven Russell (Carrey) is able to finagle his way to him in a series of imaginative ways; it’s truly astonishing what he was capable of. To spoil more would be a disservice, but do checkout this under seen film that was barely given a chance to find an audience. NetFlix
19. The Kids Are All Right – This family dramedy about lesbian partners and their two kids connecting with their sperm donor is full of both laughs and heart. The film is full of great performances; Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore especially shine, as do Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the title kids. Watching the relationships form among the five intertwined “family” members is a joy as allegiances fall where you least expect them and the humor naturally arises from these predicaments. My only complaint is the unfair treatment to Ruffalo’s character when it’s all said and done, but other than that the film is what you hope for out a the dramedy genre. NetFlix
18. Kick-Ass – Matthew Vaughn’s comic adaptation feels like a 21st century extension of Watchmen (written in 80’s) but played through a comedic lens and embracing the violence of film today. After originally seeing the film I said I wish it had been titled Hit Girl as she was clearly the star of the show. While I still feel that is the case, the Kick-Ass scenes play much better the second time through which helps the film improve as a whole. Hit Girl is worth the price of admission alone though and Chloe Moretz is incredible here. She is a bad ass and spouts off some of the foulest language in films this year while she shoots and slashes her way through the film. Nic Cage is wonderful as well as her father Big Daddy in a role that lets him have fun and go over the top. Kick-Ass is sure to offend but just as many well gladly enjoy what it serves up. NetFlix
17. Let Me In – Another Chloe Moretz film and one that cements her as one of the actresses to watch while she becomes a woman. A remake of the brilliant Let the Right One In, Let Me In is capable of making the story feel like its own and even improves in a couple spots along the way. Matt Reeves follow up to Cloverfield was sadly ignored in cinemas and hopefully will find an audience through DVD. This vampire tale is not what you would expect based on most of the vampire drama currently playing on our TV’s but can easily say it’s better than all of it. Focusing on a budding friendship between two children, and the haunting consequences of that bond, this film isn’t about being sexy it’s about necessity and doesn’t marginalize the sacrifice it takes to be a vampire. You missed Let the Right One In, and now this, its time you give one, if not both, a shot. NetFlix
16. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik’s Ozark Mountain meth tale features a wonderful turn by Jennifer Lawrence as she tries to track down her father while taking care of the family he left a long time ago. Lawrence plays Ree who has to track down her father by diving into the underbelly of the meth world in the hills of Missouri or lose the house over her families head. Beyond Lawrence’s great work is John Hawkes turning in some incredible work as Teardrop, Ree’s uncle and thorn in the side of the meth producers, and it is a performance you will not forget. Granik’s ability to create such a lived in and dark world is where the film really shines, creating an atmosphere that is haunting and intimidating for us and Ree to dive into. This being nominated for Best Picture was no fluke. NetFlix
15. True Grit – The Coen Brothers have done no wrong in my eyes and they continue to shine with this classic western tale featuring three of the finest acting performances of the year. Matt Damon turns in one of his finest roles to date as LaBoeuf, “I’m a Texas Ranger,” and plays off the marvelous Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn is foul, drunk, silver tongued, and I loved every minute of it. Bridges work here is better than his academy award winning turn in Crazy Heart, too bad he isn’t even the best in the film. Hailee Steinfeld is phenomenal in this film and has made herself someone to watch in her first performance. Her grit is as sharp as anyone else in her party and watching her outwit everyone around her as Mattie Ross is a sight to be seen. Throw in a surprisingly funny script and a nice batch of quirky oddities and you have a western that could only be told by the Coens. NetFlix
14. Blue Valentine – This film is about love, both the good and the bad parts of it, as we watch a relationship’s genesis and crumbling juxtaposed against one another. Being introduced to Cindy and Dean at their worst makes watching them find each other so much more powerful and heartbreaking as we see what they had and where we hope it doesn’t end up. Even the good parts reveal more and more as to how they got to where they are when the film starts, constantly broadening their relationship. A couple hasn’t been this well examined in a film in some time and while it is tough to watch it is a fantastic film nonetheless. Ryan Gosling is just phenomenal here and Michelle Williams isn’t far behind. Derek Cianfrance has a winner in Blue Valentine; you should discover it for yourself. NetFlix
13. 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and James Franco have teamed up to bring us the incredible tale of Aaron Ralston who…, well if you don’t know yet, I won’t spoil it for you. Regardless of whether you know the film’s story or not the film is a must see as it features an incredible performance by James Franco. The only face on the screen for 90% of the movie, contained to one location, Franco somehow makes the film endlessly engaging as we dive into the psyche of Ralston as he deals with his predicament. Boyle uses every trick in his bag to create new and interesting ways to tell this story and the inventiveness is as entertaining as Franco’s performances. And when you get to “the moment” Boyle is able to ramp up the intensity without resorting to gore and shock value, he uses all the elements of making a film to bombard your senses to create a scene you will never forget. NetFlix
12. Four Lions – A comedy about Jihadism, sounds like a winner right? Well it really is, a damn funny one actually, that constantly builds upon the joke that you can’t believe Christopher Morris is making. Following three Arabic, and one white, Muslims as they plot their suicide attack on London doesn’t even resemble humor but Morris makes it work alarmingly well. Whether we are following a pair of them at a training camp, recording their suicide tape, or actually carrying out the attack the humor gets stronger and stronger all the way through to the end. The film has to be seen to believe and is actually possibly a truer representation of what some of these terrorists’ cells are really like; look at all the failed attempts as of late by fundamentalist. If you are still reading this then you should give Four Lions a shot, it doesn’t disappoint. NetFlix
11. The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper’s period drama is full of fantastic acting from its two leads, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, to go along with this fantastic story of triumph over the walls that get in our way. The relationship between King George (Firth) and Lionel Logue (Rush) is one of the more powerful ones to be put on screen in sometime but that is not to say its all brooding drama; quite the contrary. The film is light and filled with fantastic beats of character humor that unfurls naturally from the two’s relationship which is one that you root to succeed all the way till the end. The bond these two men are able to form while overcoming the King’s speech impediment is an unlikely source of engaging filmmaking but it is more than up to the task. Hooper has crafted quite the film with a few visual flourishes up his sleeve to boot. NetFlix
10. Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese’s thriller has jumped around the most on this list I think and I don’t really know why. Leonardo DiCaprio is great as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal brought in to investigate a prisoner’s mysterious disappearance from the facility, as is his supporting cast. This creepy and bizarre mental hospital seems to be hiding many secrets and Scorsese deftly only reveals what is necessary. The real brilliance of the film comes from when you watch it a second time and you notice a lot of things going on that you glanced right over the first time. Full of ominous mood and a plot that keeps you on your toes, Shutter Island is quite the affective thriller that is another excellent entry into Scorsese’s impressive line up of films. If you weren’t a big fan the first time you watched this, I urge you to see it again, as there is certainly more there. And the film’s final moment, it is just a crushing blow to the end of this film’s strange journey. NetFlix
9. Rabbit Hole – No film this year has so deftly juggled tone like this one. Revolving around a couple, played by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, who are trying to get their lives back on track after the loss of their son in an accident. The film sounds deathly serious but there is a lot of humor injected into the film; sometimes in the most unlikely places. Sure the film is sad, but it isn’t afraid to confront the way we as a society deal with tragedy head on and I couldn’t be happier for this. The group meetings lead our characters to say things I would want to say to some of these people. It’s not mean, it’s honest, and that is why this film works so wonderfully. It isn’t trying to be a shoulder to cry on or make things any easier for anyone by saying what they want to hear; it’s honest. Kidman and Eckhart are both great here, Kidman especially, and can’t wait to see what director John Cameron Mitchell does next. NetFlix
8. Exit Through The Gift Shop – This is the best documentary since King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and it might even exceed it. The film is an amazing look at the world of street art and its apex of relevance, particularly that of Banksy, while also being a intriguing character study of this odd duck with a video camera, Thierry Guetta. The film’s structure is equally compelling as it starts off through the eyes of Thierry as he records everything and by the end has turned around on him and his new person Mr. Brainwash. The film is just a bed of riches as it can be all of the above, praising the work of the artists it captures, and by the end is questioning the consumerism and nature of what really defines art. All of this and we haven’t even touched on the controversy around the film. Banksy has assembled an incredible film and it very well could deserve to be higher on this list. NetFlix
7. The American – George Clooney stars in Anton Corbijn’s follow up to his phenomenal debut, Control, which is almost a bizzaro hitman film in that it isn’t about the hits but the man making them. There are a couple action beats sprinkled throughout the film but this mostly about Jack (Clooney) trying to figure out where he goes from here. Unable to take on a lover, unable to connect with anyone, Jack might be finally reaching his limit on this life of isolation and looking over his shoulder. The film is masterfully shot but Corbijn and I really hope he decides to make more than three films, which would make his next his last. The film elevates your senses as it builds tension buy never knowing what might be around the next corner waiting for Jack. We feel his unease with his surroundings. The relationship Jack strikes up is also heart wrenching as we can’t tell if is truly falling for her or if he will just grasp at any companionship he can get; a marvelous and quiet little film. NetFlix
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Now, the way I talk about this film, the amount of times I have listened to the killer songs of Sex Bob-Omb, or the fact that this will probably be the film I watch the most repeatedly from this list would leave you to think that this is my number one film of the year. But the fanboy in me desperately wishes that this film had four acts and blew out the stories of the fourth-six evil ex’s. I love this film. Edgar Wright has assembled a film that speaks to me in a way few films do. The film is technically spectacular, perfectly cast, and exquisitely acted starting with the perfect Scott Pilgrim, Michael Cera. I mean, really, I’m over my nitpicks even. The film works marvelously in its third act and I understand the trimming down and I don’t think they could have done it any better. I just wished we could have had the awesome ending from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s books. It’s not fair, but its how I feel, and I am an asshole probably for not having it higher (Lauren probably agrees with this statement). Though I could not recommend the movie any more highly then I am right here. See this movie, it is fucking awesome! To many of you have missed out on its greatness. NetFlix
5. The Social Network – David Fincher has made a movie about facebook and continues to prove that he is one of the premiere talents working behind the camera. The film was originally to be directed by the film’s screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, and in some behind the scenes material on the Blu-ray you can see how Fincher’s presence and exactness helped elevate this material. The film has been endlessly hyperbolized as “a film for the times” or “a film that defines a generation” but I think these people are missing the point. This film is as simple as it seems, it’s a film about friendship, and what happens when a multi-hundred-billion dollar company gets in the way of that. Sure there are a lot of other conflicts and tensions in the film, but at its heart it’s about Zuckerberg and the way he handles his relationship with Saverin. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous that people write this movie off because they think it is about a guy making facebook over a girl. Zuckerberg is a brilliant mind who wants to create something great and that is what drives him. Jesse Eisenberg is extraordinary as Zuckerberg in what might be the performance of the year and the rest of the young cast around him is able to keep pace behind him. The Social Network might come off cold to some, but that doesn’t keep it from being a master work of filmmaking by a modern master. NetFlix
4. Never Let Me Go – This film is a beautiful piece of work from Mark Romanek that is easily the most underappreciated film of the year. The film’s secrets will shock you and the way the characters react will perplex you even further. The film is about living the life you have to the fullest no matter what the world tries to put in front of you and that is a message that everyone can take to heart. Do not let anyone spoil this film for you though, just trust me on this recommendation and dive into this film uninitiated. The young cast of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield are perfect and guide as effortlessly into this universe. Romanek’s camera captures this world so wonderfully, and with such subtlety, that we are able to slowly put the pieces of the world together and discover what is going on. It is the little touches of the film that make it resonate so strongly with you and it is one film I will never forget. NetFlix
3. Toy Story 3 – Pixar has been dethroned! After two years at the top spot on my list they will instead have to settle for third. But to be quite honest, depending on the day this could be my favorite. The film is such an emotional roller coaster with these characters we have grown to love over the last fifteen years and you almost wish the film would never end. In fact, two of the most powerful moments put on film in recent memory are in this film, holding hands and goodbye, and Pixar has created few finer moments. It is just amazing that Pixar was able to tell such powerful and affective storytelling with these characters over three films with not a dull moment along the way. I couldn’t have even begun to dream a more perfect finale for our friends from the toy box and Toy Story 3, along with its prequels, is a film that I will be revisiting over and over again for the rest of my life. NetFlix
2. Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors. His films challenge you and test your limits of what you are able to take as a viewer and Black Swan is no different. Natalie Portman stars as Nina who becomes the lead of a new rendition of Swan Lake and proceeds to dive into her own madness as she tries to embrace the role of the Black Swan. The film keeps your head spinning as you never know if what you are seeing is real or a part of Nina’s imagination and that insanity keeps the film racing towards the breathtaking finale with a tension rarely found in film. The film’s final act is just mesmerizing as we watch Nina elevates her game and the moment she breaks through is perfect. Aronofsky never ceases to amaze me and while this isn’t quite at The Fountain’s level for me, it isn’t far behind. NetFlix
1. Inception – Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece is why we go to the movies. A film that demands to be seen on the big screen and is unlike anything you have ever seen before. Watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb try to come to terms with his wife is emotionally draining and I hope for nothing more than for him to complete his task and get back to those kids. That is why I hate that final shot of the film. I have made up my mind on the matter but I can’t express to you how sad I was over the ambiguity the first time I saw the film. I hope so much for Cobb to get back that my heart was racing hoping that the ending would change the second time around. Beyond the imaginative world Nolan created, he assembles a story that is taking places on four different layers and we are able to keep pace every step of the way. And the hallway fight, sweet lord the hallway fight. My jaw was on the ground as I watched Joseph Gordon-Levitt tumble around that hallway in an amazing feat of filmmaking. Above all this, the film as a whole is filmmaking at its finest. Inventive, exhilarating, and truly one of a kind, Inception is the best film of 2010. NetFlix
That’s it for 2010, well at least films that I saw (See all of them here). Here are a bunch I wanted to see but couldn’t for whatever reason; I am sure a few of these would have made the list had I gotten to see them:
The Freebie, Micmacs, Please Give, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Triangle, “The Good, The Bad, and the Weird,” Chole, Creation, The Crazies, She’s Out of My League, Casino Jack, I Am Love, Please Give, Life During Wartime, Mother and Child, Sweetgrass, Restrepo, Fair Game, Secritariat, Inside Job, Waste Land, The Tillman Story, Client 9, Tamara Drewe, Middle Men, The Extra Man, Paper Man, Mesrine, Centurion, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer, Inside Job, Red Riding Pt. 2 and 3…and I am sure there are even more.
And don’t forget to come back for my Oscar picks on Friday/Saturday for the big night on Sunday.
Also Lauren should be posting her end of year list some time soon as well.
Thanks for reading, keep coming back! Until next time…