After hundreds of ticket stubs and thousands of hours spent in a theater this year, we want to share with your our favorite cinematic experiences of 2010. Over the next few pages you will find our favorite films of the year, split up by contributor here on The Film Stage formatted to their liking. The mix of tastes should cover all grounds and give you a few new films you may have missed, or urge you to revisit the ones you loved. I’ll kick things off below with my top 10. As a disclaimer, I’m going by US 2010 theatrical releases and not counting things I’ve seen at film festivals that have yet to be released.
Jordan Raup’s Top 10 of 2010
10. Flipped (dir. Rob Reiner)
This would be the most under-appreciated film of the year – if anyone actually had a chance to see it. Warner Bros. pulled its wide release at the last moment, but seeing an early screening of this was one my favorite moments of the year. Rob Reiner‘s latest is a much-needed nostalgic jolt of classic film making. Covering all areas on the emotional spectrum, this is one film that anyone can love.
9. Dogtooth (dir. Giorgos Lanthimos)
If Flipped portrayed a “classic” American family, this Greek film goes to the absolute opposite breaking point in this brilliant satire. Dogtooth is an uncomfortable film that you may not enjoy will watching it, but its shots, ideas, and characters will stick with you until your deathbed.
8. True Grit (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
Roger Deakins‘ cinematography is gorgeous and Carter Burwell‘s score is fantastic, but it is the cast that makes this Coen adaptation a marvel. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld goes beyond simply holding her ground next to Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Along with Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, she delivers the break-out performance of the year.
7. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)
The best blockbuster of the year, Christopher Nolan‘s meticulously crafted adventure demands a theater for the ultimate experience. While home viewings haven’t necessarily held up for me, the initial awe of devouring and compressing every single frame of this puzzle is something I’ll never forget. Check out my full review here.
6. Carlos (dir. Olivier Assayas)
It’s amazing how a 5.5-hour biopic can feel faster then many 90-minute films we’ve gotten this year. Édgar Ramírez gives the performance of the year as the infamous Carlos. Split into three parts, you won’t find a more expansive and personal narrative in 2010 then this masterwork.
5. A Prophet (dir. Jacques Audiard)
Although I saw it over a year ago, this prison crime drama got a release this year, and it is still ingrained in my memory. Many have thrown around comparisons to The Godfather, and its an apt description. Tahir Rahim is stunning as Audiard continuously re-invents a tired genre.
4. The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)
The depiction of Facebook’s birth by David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin changed my life. Mark Zuckerberg‘s obsessed genius drive, conveyed brilliantly by Jesse Eisenberg, sparked a passion to work harder at everything I do. Many are against the notion this film “captured our generation,” but I truly believe it has, and will only be more prevalent in the years to come. Check out my full review here.
3. Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Completely captivating horror that continually amps up until every part of your body is left senseless. Aronofsky’s portrait of the mentally insane is hardly subtle, but that is all part of the absurd fun. Check out my full review here.
2. The Secret In Their Eyes (dir. Juan José Campanella)
Last year’s Best Foreign Oscar winner is a masterpiece. Campanella conveys a sprawling romance tale set alongside a gripping crime adventure, taking place over multiple decades. Not only is it technical proficient (just look at the elaborate single-take stadium scene), there is an extravagant amount of heart running through these feverishly fleshed-out characters. Specific lines changed the way I looked at my own life, and nothing this year has enthralled me more, from the first to the last frame.
1. Exit Through The Gift Shop (dir. Banksy)
2010 has been a remarkable year for documentaries. Restrepo, Waiting For Superman, and Inside Job all tackled vital issues and exposed a previously unseen truth; then there was Exit Through The Gift Shop. Exploring the underground world of street art, this documentary not only made a vital statement on the medium itself, but delivered the most charming, thought-provoking film of the year.
Dan Mecca’s Top 10 of 2010
For all the talk over the summer about the dismal state of film, the list of solid 2010 cinema ran longer than one would expect. And while more than a few high-profile filmmakers (Boyle, Romanek, Baumbach, etc.) swung and missed (if just barely), the swings these artists took were large, wide and passionate. Chris Nolan proved a blockbuster can have a brain while Disney showed us the big-singing princess genre is still very much alive.
Honorable Mentions: The Fighter, 127 Hours, Tangled, Never Let Me Go, Wild Grass
Impossibly long, impossibly dense and impossibly entertaining, Olivier Assayas‘ best film yet is also his longest, by about 3 hours. Edgar Ramirez embodies terrorist Carlos the Jackal in every frame, running around the frames with endless ambition and energy.
This spot on the list goes to Warner Bros.’s PR campaign just as much as it goes to Christopher Nolan and Leo DiCaprio. Top-notch, high-concept entertainment supported by a kinetic Hans Zimmer score and the usual reliable performance from Mr. DiCaprio (plus scene-stealer Tom Hardy), Inception needs to be the future of Hollywood, not just a flash in the pan.
8. The American
Filmmaker Anton Corbijn will never make Inception, and it would appear he doesn’t want to. Let us all be thankful. Shots are held way past their expiration date as George Clooney‘s hitman sinks deeper and deeper into the quicksand of his occupation.
7. Winter’s Bone
Boasting two of the best performances of the year, courtesy of Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, Debra Granik‘s film noir does a very lot with a very little. When there’s nothing to say, no on screen says anything. That’s good writing for you.
6. Waiting For ‘Superman’
Davis Guggenheim won’t win an award for either subtlety or objectivism, but few filmmakers present stakes to their audience like this man. Whether you leave angry, sad or disheartened (perhaps all three), you’ll leave smarter and, hopefully, more determined.
5. The Ghost Writer
Pure mystery schlock covered in the kind of intelligent glaze only an auteur can apply, Roman Polanski‘s ridiculous film, offering solid turns from Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams, unfortunately turned less heads than his ridiculous personal life. Even still, the stupefyingly silly dialogue thrown against beautiful locales and sure-fired direction comes out the other end looking like something sweet and nostalgic. Hardly Polanski’s M.O.
4. The Social Network
A film as technologically proficient and perfection-obsessed as its central character, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin‘s masterpiece shows us how scarily deep inside The Grid we already are.
3. Valhalla Rising
A visual dynamo set to a rock hard score, Nicholas Winding Refn gets a brutal performance out of Mads Mikkelson as a rabid viking taken to the New World and into some sort of hell. Or Heaven.
As objective a view of war as you’re going to get, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger dive head first into the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan with a group of soldiers equal parts scared and determined. Bouncing between interviews with the troops and fly-on-the-wall storytelling, Restrepo is a haunting, transformative experience that will serve as a time capsule for generations to come.
1. Exit Through The Gift Shop
The funny, little street art documentary that apparently destroyed Banksy‘s reputation is anything but. What is art if nobody knows what art is? Buy your ticket at the front.
Jack Giroux’s Top 10 of 2010
This was a difficult list to compile, considering there has been an overwhelming amount of excellence in the past few months. I would have loved nothing more than to make a top 30 to include a handful of films I feel bad for not making room for; Rabbit Hole, The Ghost Writer, Let Me In, Cyrus, The American, How to Train Your Dragon and the list goes on and on. Due to the great difficulty I had of compiling this list, I finally realized how strong of a year for film this was. There was obviously more duds than successes, as is the case every year, but we must be thankful for the wonderful amount of great films we received this year.
Note: There were a few films that, sadly, I never got a chance to see before writing this list that had great buzz surrounding them including Dogtooth, the Mesrine films, Carlos and Blue Valentine.
Here’s my 10 favorite films of the year and as well as my honorable mentions:
Honorable Mentions: The King’s Speech, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Never Let Me Go, The Fighter and Inception.
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is like a gigantic slushy with all the best and most colorful flavors one could ask for. When I first saw Pilgrim at the fantastic San Diego Comic-Con screening, I knew I found a new love in my life: the imaginary world of Scott Pilgrim and those that inhabit that world. Every character has their moment to shine, there’s no weak link in the cast. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stands as the best comedy of the year, the best action film of the year, and one of the best love stories of the year. I mean, what else could one ask for? The only flaw to be found is the ending, because Scott totally should have wised up and realized how incredible Kim Pine is and picked her over both Knives and Ramona, that would have been the logical decision.
9. Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is not simply a great debut, but a great film in general. This is a sprawling crime film following a family of bank robbers set in Melbourne. The Cody family could not have been filled with a more eclectic and interesting bunch. This is a despicable group of people that you oddly feel for, even its passive and seemingly blank slate lead. This is a pure slow burn that follows a downward spiral. David Michôd, along with the rest of the Blue-Tongue Films crew, are seemingly true pros of tension. My only complaint about his debut film is also a compliment: it could have been longer. It’s not often that one wouldn’t mind hanging out and studying characters for a longer period of time, and I would have been ecstatic if offered the opportunity to be around the Cody family for just a little more time.
8. True Grit
The Coen brothers’ simplistic western is nothing but pure poetic, rich fun. Many have lamented the film as too “basic,” but if any other director made this well contained good versus evil tale, that wouldn’t have been a complaint. Plus, there is far more going on beneath the surface than some are claiming. To no surprise, the Coens way with dialog is full of imagination and depth. Dozens of lines could make for stories on their own right. Outside of the end’s slight fumble, this western still remains funny, beautifully crafted and thoroughly entertaining. And while all the performances are top-notch, it’s Matt Damon‘s fantastic turn as La Boeuf is the one that feels destined to be another classic Coen Brothers’ character.
7. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky‘s commentary on obsession and perfection is nothing but pure bombast. It’s not subtle by any stretch of the imagination; rather completely in your face. On a visual level to the film’s thematics, everything is presented clearly and very, very loudly. This level of overwhelming style is perfect and more than suitable for the psychological state of Nina, played by Natalie Portman in a sure-to-be-iconic performance. The film doesn’t deliver on any big surprises or make any unexpected turns, but every turn that it does take is haunting, tremendously entertaining, and sometimes hilarious. This is a wonderful blend of indie art-house and B-horror movie schlock that we rarely get.
6. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle is so upbeat and hopeful it’s almost annoying. No matter what insane test he puts his character through, he always has to give them a happy ending. And as is the case with all of Boyle’s work, it feels incredibly earned. 127 Hours is beautiful and moving. Ultimately, the film isn’t about whether or not Aaron “cuts his arm off,” but instead whether or not he comes to terms with the fact that he’s not Superman and needs to be more caring for the ones that care for him. Some may have the false belief that Boyle’s latest is an endurance test, but the film couldn’t be further from it. Boyle took a possibly depressing and agonizing concept, and made it cool, funny and entirely uplifting.
5. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese‘s psychological horror film does not solely rely solely on a big “twist.” The film, despite what some will say, doesn’t go for a big surprise moment. The film isn’t about if Teddy is or is not crazy, but is rather a POV into the mind of a seriously damaged individual. Leonardo DiCapriomakes for the empathetic man of violence, Teddy Daniels. He’s a victim of a harsh reality that drives him to the point that he’s at. The way Scorsese treats Daniels is very Travis Bickle-esque, aka with a huge amount of sympathy. They’re both driven to madness by the things they’ve been through, both being war vets, for one example. Despite the film’s heightened nature — a representation of how Teddy sees the world — it’s subtle in both themes and performances.
Love it or hate it, Sofia Coppola‘s latest film is audacious. Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff with a wonderful level of restraint and heart) is either someone you’ll come away understanding or despising, I felt the former. Marco, like the film itself, is devoid of cliche. His transformation is represented both internally and visually, something many are most likely frustrated by. There’s nothing inherently despicable or likable about him, he’s a middle of the road person. Marco is almost invisible because he’s so passive and directionless. But by the beautiful ending, he has direction, and hence the title, is going “somewhere.”
3. The Social Network
I don’t want to hug Mark Zuckerberg by the end of The Social Network, which scribe Aaron Sorkin insists as his intention. In fact, Zuckberg – as he’s portrayed in the film – is someone I would never want to be in the same room with, but that doesn’t mean I feel nothing for the insecure genius. As portrayed wonderfully for Jesse Eisenberg, he’s simply someone striving for greatness, and at any cost. Zuckerberg is on a path to both social destruction and glory. He’s terrible with people, but masters technology. The Social Network isn’t a film that represents a generation, but instead chronicles the rise of an ambitious, sad, desperate kid in a near-epic fashion.
Noah Baumach shows an incredible amount of sympathy and love for his characters. He never judges or makes fun them. The same goes for his latest character, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller). Once again Baumbach presents a character that is flawed, but ultimately, lovable. Greenberg isn’t unlikable at all, but instead someone completely relatable trying to find his footing in an unplanned life. So far, Baumbach has been a pro at striking at an uncanny sense of honesty and realism with each feature. And it must be said, Rhys Ifans makes for one of the best friends someone could ever have. Ivan is just like Greenberg: someone living an unplanned life, but Ivan has actually accepted it.
1. Fish Tank
Andrea Arnold‘s follow-up to the excellent Red Road could not have been any better than this. Fish Tank is not just one of the most notable coming-of-age tales in recent years, but instead one of the best of the entire bunch. This is an intimate and beautiful insight into a teen’s transformation into adulthood and what comes with it. Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender, the latter making for a surprisingly empathetic man-child at heart, deliver pitch perfect performances. There’s not a false note in Fish Tank. It’s total, brutal, unflinching honesty. And as for the title, it represents both Mia and Connor’s surroundings. They’re held captive in their little, unsatisfying worlds.
Nick Newman’s Top 10 of 2010
Disclaimer up front: this list is kind of boring. I have the misfortune of living in an area where many independent and almost all foreign films are out of my immediate reach, and I usually have to wait until home video to see them. As a result, I felt a little limited by what I could put on here, because the amount of 2010 releases I got to see before the year’s end is likely smaller than some of the others who have put together their list for the site.
So while I’m pretty sure something like Dogtooth would show up on here, it was out of my reach during its (very) limited run, and the same could be said of other foreign and independent releases. As a result, this is more of a “favorite of what I had the chance to see in 2010” list than anything else. Also, if you’re reading this, don’t put too much thought into the order, as it’s not the most concrete thing and I’m not fond of ranking works of art. I like all of these movies a great deal, and numbers 5-1 almost equally. Anyway, let’s start this thing off with some honorable mentions:
The Ghost Writer, MacGruber, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, The Red Riding Trilogy
And, without further ado, here are my ten favorite movies I saw in 2010:
10. The Secret in Their Eyes
While it was the surprise winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year, its victory is no wonder when you actually experience it for yourself. I would have appreciated this enough if it were simply the well-told crime yarn it is on the surface, but the heavily authentic romance, one that resonates even across continents makes it something deeper, something more affecting. Bonus points for the convincing makeup work done on the leads, something that seems to elude most American films.
9. True Grit
As is usually the case with films from Joel and Ethan Coen, I think that this is the movie that’s most likely to climb up this list the more times I see it. But just from my first viewing I can safely say it’s a proud addition to their already wonderful filmography, full of interesting, complex characters brought from script to screen by great performances. Combine that with the brothers’ colorful dialogue and Roger Deakins‘ great cinematography, and this is one to savor. It’s just a good Western story told damn well, and you’d find me hard-pressed to complain about that.
8. Enter the Void
When you think of the term “pure cinema,” that’s the best way to describe Enter the Void that I could possibly imagine. Because the journey of our dead lead is one of emotion and spirit, we feel everything he does, veering from joy to pain with a dose of just about everything else that you can imagine in-between, all guided by a camera that does things you previously would have thought impossible. A head trip like no other movie I saw this year, Gaspar Noé builds upon the themes and ideas in his previous two features I Stand Alone and Irreversible, culminating in an experience both exhausting and exhilarating. A true marvel of both technique and storytelling.
7. A Prophet
One of the advantages of having a two-and-a-half hour runtime is the chance to tell a full story with wonderfully developed characters, which is just what Jacques Audiard managed to do here. Lead Tahar Rahim gives one of the best performances of the year, American or foreign as Malik, who after being sent to jail for a crime he may not have committed, climbs his way up the ladder of a crime family that transforms him in a way both physical and mental. Taking its spot among some of the best crime films of the past ten years, this is one many American viewers have yet to catch onto, but are likely to highly recommend to others once they do.
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Coming off as a modern day F for Fake and providing a look at the world of street art (not mere vandalism, mind you) while also making many – some contradictory – statements about what actually makes something art, this is one of the most fascinating documentaries of the past ten years. The big debate that’s raged on about this movie is whether or not it’s real, with even its elusive creator chiming in, but that argument is moot. Real or fake, it’s an examination of how we perceive works of art and the process behind them. The ambiguous nature of the proceedings is merely part of the fun.
5. Shutter Island
What some people may see as a simple psychological thriller I view as a near masterpiece of suspense and atmosphere from Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest living filmmakers, who even in his late 60’s manages to deliver like few others out there. By adapting Dennis Lehane‘s pulp novel of the same name (scripted by Laeta Kalogridis), he’s made one of the more dense and thrilling movies of the year. It also features one of the best performances of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career and an incredible soundtrack of previously existing work compiled by The Band‘s former frontman Robbie Robertson.
4. 127 Hours
The story of a man with his arm trapped under a rock for an extended period of time, either real or fictional, could easily be told in a manner that would make the experience a total slog. This wasn’t a problem for Danny Boyle and James Franco, who as director and star tell the true story of Aron Ralston by making one of the most captivating movies of either of their career’s. Both an emotional roller coaster and filmmaking/acting, excuse the clichéd term, tour-de-force, at times it’s a tough watch but it’s all in service of putting you in the main character’s place. And it works beautifully.
3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The first couple of viewings of Scott Pilgrim are like being thrown in a pop culture blender, with references to video games, movies, television, comics, music and historic events thrown at you at a relentless speed thanks to editing that’s at times jaw-dropping. But by the third or fourth viewing, things that were obscured like the complexity of the characters and how their actions affect the world they’re in come to light, making it all the more satisfying. There’s so much more to say about it, but at the end of the day, this isn’t just an amazing sensory experience; this is a great movie, period. Oh, and there’s also this part where a gorilla made of rock fights two dragons made of electronica and it is terrific.
It’s not an easy task to make a man who literally steals ideas as a career into a sympathetic character. But writer and director Christopher Nolan not only did that, he also made one of the most exciting films of the year that actually manages to have a brain in its head. So much has been said about it at this point, and I’ll just submit my viewpoint that it’s the kind of movie that gives you hope for mainstream filmmaking, partly because its showing us how it works through the mechanics of its labyrinth plot.
1. The Social Network
Yes, I know that this is truly a renegade, unconventional choice for the #1 film of 2010.
In all seriousness, this is at the top of a lot of lists, including mine, simply because it’s a great film. Holding up a mirror to the last ten years of American social interaction, Aaron Sorkin’s script and David Fincher’s direction go wonderfully hand-in-hand, but that’s not all this has going for it. Jesse Eisenberg‘s performance makes these elements converge through his smug, irritating but ultimately tragic portrayal of a man we see in the news almost weekly, and expertly peels back the layer of mystery that comes with being the world’s youngest billionaire. The rest of the cast is excellent, and Trent Reznor‘s score is the perfect musical accompaniment for the onscreen events. Is it all factually accurate? When the resulting story is this perfectly crafted and intellectually gripping, why would you even care?
Kristy Puchko’s Top 10 of 2010
2010 was a fascinating year for film, full of dichotomy. Sequels like Toy Story 3 and Harry Potter 7.1 successfully mixed it up with original pieces like Inception and Easy A. And while the fall was a boys’ club of tales of men like The Social Network and The King’s Speech, this year, theatergoers also turned out in droves to take in features with female heroines from Kick Ass to Winter’s Bone to Black Swan. And now with award season coming in with the cold of winter, indie films like 127 Hours and The Kids Are All Right are garnering as much attention as major studio productions like The Social Network and True Grit.
It was an exciting year full of thrilling films, which has made it difficult to cull a list of only 10 favorites. So before you scroll through my list to see if your favorite is one of mine, let’s assume one of the following:
A) I liked it too! But I liked 10 other films more.
B) It wasn’t my kind of movie
C) I haven’t seen it yet.
Generally I spend most of January and February hunkered down in theaters (or on my couch) dedicatedly catching up on films deemed extraordinary by the heralds that are award shows, a process you can follow along with this year as I blog my pursuit to see all the Spirit Award nominations. So, while this list is an admittedly motley configuration, at this time – I stand by it!
Now that that’s out of the way, I present my favorites of 2010…so far.
10. Inception ~ Directed by Christopher Nolan
Guaranteed to be on a lot top ten lists this year, Christopher Nolan’s twisting film noir was as full of star power and thrilling set pieces as it was exposition! And while I’ve had more discussions about the film’s meaning than I can count, what sticks with me most about Nolan’s dream-bending epic can be distilled into three words: Zero G Gordon-Levitt. The groundbreaking hallway sequence was edge-of-your-seat exciting while Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance contained such grace and magnetism it reminded me of one of my favorite stars of all-time, the one and only: Gene Kelly.
9. Mesrine ~ Directed by Jean-François Richet
Technically a film in two parts (Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1), it’s better viewed as a double feature. This unstoppably cool biopic unfolds the life story of France’s public enemy number one, a merciless gangster named Jacques Mesrine, played brilliantly by the sizzling and sexy Vincent Cassel. The gangster drama unrolls like old-school Scorsese bedecked with a number of French stars including the aged lummox Gérard Depardieu, the dangerous and beautiful Cécile De France (High Tension), and the sprightly and sensual Ludivine Sagnier (The Swimming Pool). Ultimately, it’s as sexy and cool as its leading man. (My full review).
8. The Art of the Steal ~ Directed by Don Argott
Heist movie meets history doc in this thrilling true-life tale of the illustrious Barnes art collection. Albert C. Barnes was a self-made man whose love of art inspired him to start a collection that was initially mocked and later globally admired. Disgusted by the art world snobs, Barnes refused to get involved in their circles and created his own haven to house his Renoirs, Cézannes, Matisses, and Picassos. But after his death, mechanizations were put in place to subvert his will and steal the envious Barnes collection. Documentarian Don Argott deftly unfolds the story with a pace and structure that makes it a taut thriller about the politics of wills. (My full review.)
7. Kick-Ass ~Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Just when I was losing interest in the comic book genre, Vaughn drew me back in with his baroque super hero flick. A tale of super heroes minus the fantasy of super powers, Kick-Ass is a darkly humorous take on ordinary men (and girls) achieving great things. I was dragged to this by eager, comic-book lovin’ friends, and had no idea the candy-colored movie posters I’d seen were for a rated R movie. (How the marketing failed the film is whole other discussion.) By the end of the brutally dark comedic open, I was on board. Add to this my beloved Crazy Cage and the unstoppable force that is Hit-Girl, you’ve got a movie I crave like—well—candy.
6. Toy Story 3 ~ Directed by Lee Unkrich
Reminiscent of half a dozen film classics, Pixar’s latest proved as smart and poignant as its first Toy Story, skillfully avoiding the pitfalls that have made some of Dreamworks’ sequels unwatchable. Pixar packed Toy Story 3 with fast-paced adventure, exciting set pieces, keen pop culture references and one of my favorite characters of the year: KEN! As a former Barbie-doll playing savant, when Michael Keaton’s Ken did his fashion show catwalk, displaying his devastatingly dated duds, I – like many women in the audience – felt like a kid again and squealed with delight. Pixar is pushing hard for award attention, and truly, the animation studio that proved kid’s movies don’t have to be insufferable for adults, deserves all kinds of props.
5. Bluebeard ~ Directed by Catherine Breillat
Acclaimed French auteur Breillat unveils a fantastical drama about a wife-killing aristocrat, with a striking flamboyance that breathes fresh breath into the stale tale. By paralleling the sweeping story of two girls amid a treacherous old world with a pair of more modern (1950’s era) sisters, Breillat infuses the film with a brooding undercurrent about the dark side of sisterhood. This drama is gorgeously crafted with a vivid color scheme and a purposely-anachronistic art design that draw you into the lush world of the girls’ imagination. If you missed it in its brief limited US run, check it out on DVD.
4. Winter’s Bone ~Directed by Debra Granik
A neo-noir nested deep in the Ozarks, this dark drama hosts such deeply chilling performances that I found the whole thing hard to shake. Much has been made of relative unknown Jennifer Lawrence and her stirring yet subtle performance as Ree Dolly, a teen girl on a perilous search for her missing father. However, the performances that really rattled me were those from character actors more often known for their comedic relief than their menacing brutality. Supporting players, Dale Dickey and John Hawkes, both create deeply intriguing characters, but Hawkes’ grim-faced Teardrop haunted me long after the credits rolled.
3. Easy A ~ Will Gluck
Out-and-out comedies rarely get love on year-end top 10 lists, but my personal criteria for this list included which films made me want to watch them again—immediately! And for those of us who were more Daria than Quinn, this whip-smart comedy, which centers on the snarky & smart Olive (Emma Stone), who was over high school by freshman orientation, is as full of sass as it is laughs. Besides proving Stone’s box office worth, this teen sex comedy also managed to be both a loving send-up of the teen coming-of-age comedies that came before while paying deserved homage. Few films this year tickled my funny bone and touched my heart the way this comedy did; in short, Easy A was easy to love.
2.True Grit ~ Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
While the Brit directors are relishing in their past through docudramas of monarchs and rebels, American auteurs the Coen Brothers resurrected a John Wayne classic into something both familiar and fresh. This tale of retribution and the loss of innocence is–simply put–American cinema at its best. Roger Deakins glorious and clean camerawork pairs with the brothers keen editing eye to unveil a devastatingly brilliant western full of stellar performances and jaw-dropping moments of beauty and horror. Basically, this remake of the charming Wayne western is at once classic and compelling. (My full review.)
1. Black Swan ~ Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Aronofsky’s masterfully crafted genre-bender blends the taut pacing of a physiological thriller with the aesthetic of gothic horror. Natalie Portman plays the painfully thin Nina, a ballerina so fragile and strained that her pursuit of perfection has goose-bump inducing results. Never a fan of Aronofsky’s bleaker works, I didn’t expect to like Black Swan but by its final curtain, it proved to among my favorites this year. Between Portman’s transformative and gruelingly physical performance to the sexual charisma that exudes from Vincent Cassell to the shriek-inducing surprises, Black Swan is a feature you should see in theaters, where the dark surroundings and immersive sound design can better pull you in and properly freak you out.
Raffi Asdourian’s Top 10 of 2010
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for movies and myself. This has been my first year writing for The Film Stage and a very rewarding experience at that, considering it has given me the opportunity to see way more films than I would normally have seen in addition to the extreme honor of interviewing some incredibly talented filmmakers and actors. Between covering the Tribeca Film Festival, the NY Asian Film Festival and most recently the New York Film Festival, I have been privy to some fantastic films.
Being a filmmaker myself, it has been remarkably refreshing to be surrounded by people with different perspectives who are truly passionate about film, maintaining a constantly interesting discussion of all things cinematic and for that I’m truly grateful. So without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 best films of 2010.
10. Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan): Despite having some issues with Inception, it’s hard not to put this brain bender on the best of list for it’s bravado and creativity. Its truly rare for a director to have his dream project manifest into reality out of thin air, but following the immense success of The Dark Knight, Nolan was given carte blanche to indulge his fantasy. Though not perfect, Inception is a unique example of a highly imaginative director, aspiring for a greatness in film that is rarely ever approached nowadays.
9. Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky): After garnering Oscar praise for his previous and tonally different film The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky undoubtedly wanted to unleash his inner demons by returning to his original and more visceral form. Mix a brilliant ballet performance from Natalie Portman, delivering a demonic transformation that will surely garner her some gold statue attention, with fantastic, frenetic cinematography by Matthew Libatique and a restrained score from Clint Mansell and you have a winning formula. The one caveat with the film is that it doesn’t feel like there was much philosophy behind the script, but that’s ok because ultimately Black Swan does a great job at being a high grade horror film.
8. Carlos (Dir. OIivier Assayas): Originally planned as a 90 minute film, Carlos became a 5 and half hours biopic about real life terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez aka Carlos the Jackal. It is a sprawling epic that spans the globe and examines the psychology of what motivated the terror behind a notorious figure. Using real life news reels and historical footage to interweave the chapters, Assayas vividly paints a portrait of a conflicted man, struggling with politics and ego. Edgar Ramirez does an incredible job of balancing a total of eight different languages seamlessly while giving real heart to his character. Forget the Bourne trilogy, Carlos is the real deal if you want an intelligent international thriller.
7. Mother (Dir. Bong Joon-ho): Creating suspense, tension and dramatic intrigue that Hitchcock would be proud of, Bong Joon-ho’s Mother is a taught and intriguing murder mystery film that examines the odd relationship of one mother and son. Anchored by a strong performance by veteran Korean TV actress Hye-Ja Kim, the genius aspects of this film are in the ways it subverts both genre and expectations. Surprisingly moving and funny, Mother is one of the best hidden gems you may have missed in theaters.
6. Certified Copy(Dir. Abbas Kiarostami): Kiarostmai is known by many as Iran’s most successful and influential filmmaker and an auteur in his own right. Making his first film outside of Iran, Certified Copy is a stunningly beautiful film that will have you pondering its meaning for days. Shot in the gorgeous region of Tuscany, Italy with brilliant dueling performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, Certified Copy is a unique entrancing experience that will you have questioning the nature of art and love.
5. The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher): When The Social Network is described as a generation defining movie, in many ways thats spot on. Shot through the lens of a paranoid teenager, David Fincher surfing off a razor sharp script from Aaron Sorkin delivers the most compelling look at a phenomenon that no one can deny, the power of social networks. This film is smart and treats its viewers as such and it also features one of the best performances of the year from Jesse Eisenberg and one of the best scores by NIN.
4. Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy): Not just the best documentary of the year, Banksy’s subversive debut feature film is the definitive guide to the street art movement. The added bonus is being subjected to Bansky’s brilliant twists and turns as he shifts the perspective about the value of street art and exploiting it for financial gain. Funny, fast-paced and witty, Exit Through The Gift Shop is an odd and fascinating journey from the mind of one of the most talented artists in the world today.
3. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Dir. Edgar Wright): To his credit, Edgar Wright has never made a bad film in my opinion. He continues to get better and better with each movie he directs and that couldn’t be more the case with Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Filled to the brim with 16-bit SNES video game nostalgia, comic book references and painstakingly authenticity to the original source material by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Wright has crafted a fantasy fanboys can be proud of. Never has a film felt more fun and true to what an actual comic book feels like, which is an extremely impressive feat in a climate of comic book adaptions gone horribly wrong.
2. Confessions (Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima): A Japanese film that totally caught me off guard at this year’s NYAFF2010 was Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions which as I described in my review ‘is this year’s Oldboy ‘. Breaking box office records in Japan, Confessions is a brutally intense revenge tale that unfolds with the fervor of freight train. Emotionally devastating, visually arresting and savage in its portrayal of young Japanese students, the film will leave you shaken in your seat and your soul.
1. Enter the Void (Dir. Gaspar Noe): Pushing the cinematic boundaries to the limit, Gaspar Noe’s psychedelic melodrama is personally the most innovative, raw, breathtaking cinematic adventure of 2010. Shot in three distinct and unique POV styles, Enter the Void breaks new ground while pushing the envelope with dark subject matter and amazing cinematography. As a warning to those brave enough to watch the film in one setting, it is indeed extremely graphic in both and sexual and violent way. This is because of the subject matter, a drug dealer in Tokyo who finds himself cornered in life with no way out. Existential, beautiful, frightening and most of all haunting, Enter the Void was definitely the most intense film experience I had all year and I cannot wait to see what Noe does next.
I also made a video highlighting my top ten, check it out below:
Kristen Coates’ Top 10 of 2010
As many of my colleagues will mention, it was very difficult to pick only ten favorite films for this year; in fact, it was much harder than I expected. Going into this, thinking about the number of duds and disappointments throughout the year, I thought I would be forcing my second choices into those final two slots. Instead, I found myself cutting many films off my list that I loved, which was difficult at the time, but it allows me to end this year remembering all of the cinematic moments I really enjoyed, and go into the new year with a renewed sense of optimism.
Note: There were a few films that, sadly, I didn’t get a chance to see before writing this list that had a good buzz surrounding them including Blue Valentine, Black Swan, Biutiful, and 127 Hours.
Here’s my 10 favorite films of the year and as well as my honorable mentions:
Honorable Mentions: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Shutter Island, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, True Grit, Kick Ass
10. Nowhere Boy (Dir. Sam Taylor-Wood) I attended the Sundance premiere of this film back in January, and couldn’t think of a better note to start the year on. I tend to be a bit wavering of musical biopics, but Nowhere Boy does right by choosing to focus on the family dynamics between a teenage John Lennon, his mother who abandoned him as a child, and his aunt who raised him. Both Aaron Johnson and Kristin Scott Thomas turn out incredible performances, driving this story with an emotional mix of love, anger, and regret. The family drama stands so well on its own, it’s easy to forget that this is based on the true story of a future icon.
9. The Freebie (Dir. Katie Aselton) Admittedly, I am a fan of mumblecore films, especially those ultra-low budget films at are able to focus on personal relationships effectively, exploring those deeper levels of human nature and emotion. Katie Aselton’s directorial debut does exactly this, in which a couple decides to allow each other a free pass, rather than examining why the spark in their relationship has faded. Aselton and Dax Shepard offer a rich and honest portrayal of a couple coming undone, suddenly dealing with consequences surrounding fear and mistrust. It proves that you don’t need big budgets to tell a compelling, human story.
8. Catfish (Dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman) It’s interesting that within the same year as a feature film telling the story of Facebook, a documentary would explore one way that the social media site plays a role in people’s lives. Following Yaniv Schulman, a New York photographer who has befriended a family through the internet, Catfish explores the true face of social networking, and the idea of accepting the way people portray themselves online, as being who they are. Another documentary this year, Life 2.0, also explored the idea of creating an ideal self on the internet, and reasons behind living a second life, but not with the same suspense and emotional drive that Catfish offers. I found myself squirming in my seat, wondering what twist was around the next corner.
7. Never Let Me Go (Dir. Mark Romanek) Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel, Never Let Me Go examines the need for love and belonging, and the precious nature of time. As a viewer, I felt myself consumed in the love triangle comprised of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley, haunted by the way they encountered love and death. Of the films I saw this year, this is the one that continued to come back to me the most.
6. Waste Land (Dir. Lucy Walker) In this emotional documentary, artist Vik Muniz returns to his native Brazil with a project in mind. Traveling to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill, located in the outer limits of Rio de Janeiro. There, he works with the self-designated pickers of recyclable materials, using found materials from the landfills to create beautiful portraits, which Muniz photographs and sells to raise funds for the pickers. It is an incredibly moving story, with Walker being able to gain intimate access to each of the subjects. It’s a story of the transformative power of art, and how it can give a voice to those needing to be heard.
5. Waiting for ‘Superman’ (Dir. Davis Guggenheim) Perhaps the most heartbreaking film of the year was Guggenheim’s examination of failures within the American public education system. As the film followed several students, many who were participating in lotteries to try to get into better schools, showed that for each glimmer of hope, there was the heartbreaking reality of those left behind. It’s films like this that bring to light the topics that need our attention, hoping to start the conversations that may lead to a much needed solution.
4. The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher) Led by impressive performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, The Social Network tells the story of Facebook, and the shock waves it caused on personal and international levels. In once sense, it’s the story that defines a generation, but it’s also a story of self-realization, friendship, and betrayal. Driven by a well-crafted scripted penned by Aaron Sorkin, the film features two parallel timelines that keeps the view engaged and on the edge of their seat. The score, created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, makes up my favorite soundtrack of the year.
3. Certified Copy (Dir. Abbas Kiarostami) Certified Copy was my favorite surprise of the year. With brilliant dueling performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, I spent the entire film with my mind spinning with questions. Filmed in gorgeous Tuscany, Italy , the film is shot beautifully, with intimate portraits and penetrating eye contact. Filmed in a mix of English, French, and Italian, the movie also provides an interesting international mix of cultures. Bringing up themes of love and authenticity, the film leaves the viewer wondering what they can believe.
2. Animal Kingdom (Dir. David Michôd) Animal Kingdom is one of the most powerfully gripping crime dramas I’ve seen in a long time. As a n orphaned teen is dropped into his eclectic extended family, the viewer finds themselves caught between the usual drama of family dynamics, and the added dire nature of underground crime. While actors like Ben Mendelsohn and Guy Pearce have amazing performances, it is Jacki Weaver who steals the show with a memorizing turn as the family matriarch, desperately trying to hold her own version of family life together. This slow burn film held me to the very end, leaving me mystified that this was David Michôd’s directorial debut, and anxiously waiting to see what he’ll do next.
1. The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper) While I was disappointed that Colin Firth did not win more acclaim for his role in A Single Man, I’m comforted to see that he has produced an equally deserving performance this year, portraying King George VI in The King’s Speech. As someone with a strong British heritage, this film not only consists of compelling performances and beautiful cinematography, but it also captures an incredibly fascinating moment in history, while preserving the delicate personal matters involved. I found it extremely powerful and incredibly moving, and hoping that comes awards season, it receives its due.
Addam Hardy’s Top 10 of 2010
2010 has been an up-and-down year for cinema and myself. It has seemed like one of those years in film where every month you’re changing your mind on what the best film of the year was. It has been harder for me to see films this year because I have been in areas of the U.S. that do not get many films that are not very wide releases. I have definitely felt the pain of a large majority of America that has to deal with this situation. Unless you live in a large city or have a rather dedicated art house theater in your area, it is often pretty difficult to track down some of the foreign or more indie & off-the-beaten-path films. So if you are reading this and feel like not only have you not seen a some of these films but you haven’t even seen them at your local theater, try to use this list as a guide for what to track down on DVD or Blu-ray in the coming months. These are all great films and shouldn’t be missed due merely to a lacking distribution.
I am going to take a little bit of a deviation from my fellow The Film Stage colleagues and present my list of my favorite films of 2010 in alphabetical order. I find it harder and harder to sequentially order great films by which one is the “best,” and I thought for a change I would just present my end-of-year list as an unordered list of the best films of 2010. I’m not here to tell you which film is the best of the year. I would rather you use my list as a guide to point you in the direction of some films you may have not heard of or might have thought weren’t your type of movie, and discover something truly great that you might have missed out on. Watch them for yourself and decide which you think is best!
Honorable mentions: Animal Kingdom, The Ghost Writer, Kick Ass, Monsters
Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Darren Aronofsky‘s Pi is one of the first films as a kid that helped me look past big budget blockbusters and discover a world of film that was more artistic expression rather than Friday night entertainment. I’ve come to expect great, and often confusing, films from Aronofsky and his latest is possibly his best yet. Black Swan is beautifully terrifying. Not being much of a horror guy myself, Black Swan was the perfect balance of horror for me that didn’t turn me off but definitely got under my skin.
Exit Through The Gift Shop (dir. Banksy)
Banksy’s debut into film proved to be just as innovative as the art he has already challenged the world with. Questioning what is art and how do we as consumers receive it has been his message since we first started discovering his work around the world and Exit Through The Gift Shop is the next evolution of that dialogue. The ambiguity of whether or not it is real or fake adds to the discovery and intrigue of the story and I doubt we will ever discover the truth. It leaves us questioning art and what we think of art. Basically doing what he has done all along: making us realize through art just how ridiculous the world really is.
Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold)
The UK’s latest export of unnerving social realism is a harrowing coming of age tale of a 15-year-old British girl in a rundown urban area of Essex County. Bleak and depressing but hardly far from reality, Fish Tank is not an average rosy and educational coming of age story — It is harsh. Like most of the real world is. Kate Jarvis‘s character is hardly likeable on her own, but following the dismal chain of events she finds herself in you start to really sympathize with her — which is a testament to Jarvis’s skill as a new actress. There are points of such great suspense in the film that it will literally twist a knot in your gut and make you feel sick in anticipation.
Four Lions (dir. Christopher Morris)
Black comedy is hard. You can take the dark material you are working with and push it too far or inversely not push it far enough. That fine line between the two worlds is hard to attain, but when it hits the mark, it transcends to a place you didn’t think comedy could go. And at times, a place you don’t want it to go. Four Lions takes a few pretty sensitive themes in our world, extremism and terrorism, and makes us laugh at our biggest fears. At times shocking as well as hilarious, Four Lions reminds us that even in the darkest of times, we shouldn’t take the world so seriously after all.
Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan has made it into that pantheon of filmmakers wherein we don’t ever question if their next film will be a success, but rather how much further they can push the envelope compared to their last success. The tremendous scale and attention to detail in Nolan’s films are what we wish we could expect all films to have. Inception was so intriguing and innovative that it spurred conversation among viewers for weeks after seeing it. The brilliance of Nolan’s storytelling and a powerful Hans Zimmer score made Inception one of the most unforgettable movies of the year, appealing to both picky cinephiles and the mainstream theater going masses.
Let Me In (dir. Matt Reeves)
I personally hated it the idea of a remake of the incredible Swedish film Let The Right One In. The film couldn’t have possibly been improved on in my eyes. It was near perfect. Let Me In is one of those rare instances where an American remake didn’t completely butcher the source. Matt Reeves constructed Let Me In to be the closest possible adaptation we could get while at the same time allowing it to be its own film without comparison. In addition to maintaining the tone, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz were perfect casting choices. Let Me In was the best horror film of the year.
A Prophet (dir. Jacques Audiard)
Even though we traditionally think of Italians whenever we picture a large organized crime family, there is organized crime all over the world. Un Prophet takes a new spin no the genre showing the dynamics of modern France where the majority of the country’s lower class population are immigrants from the Middle East or Northern Africa. Jacques Audiard‘s subtle prison drama set in modern France easily has the fluidity and grandeur of The Godfather series, and is actually on par to deserve the comparison.
Rabbit Hole (dir. John Cameron Mitchell)
John Cameron Mitchell is not known for his subtle mainstream dramas. In fact it’s rather shocking that the same filmmaker who made Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus could make such a quiet and consuming depiction of loss. Rabbit Hole is a film that can make nearly anyone cry. Its sincerity and depiction of deeply life changing pain is something we can all relate to on some level. It asks questions like “How do you carry on after such an event?” or if its possible to even carry at all.
The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)
This film came onto the scene with some reservations and skepticism because of the story it was going to tell. Then we all discovered it was going to be directed by David Fincher and penned by Aaron Sorkin, and we all changed our attitudes. The origin of Facebook and the genesis of Mark Zuckerberg, one of our generations most important icons, was executed brilliantly by a skilled cast and left you wanting to run out into the world and make something yourself.
True Grit (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
It’s hard to walk into a film by the Coen Brothers and expect anything less than greatness. They approach each project with such a unique voice and vision that nearly every film they produce will resonate with you long after seeing it. Great performances by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld bring the Coen brother’s almost Shakespearean dialogue set in the Arkansas and Oklahoma to life and return the Western as a viable genre.
Winter’s Bone (dir. Debra Granik)
Winter’s Bone is a chilling depiction of a crime family we never think of or expect to be that organized. Being from the Ozarks myself, Winter’s Bone was very interesting to me. You see these types of people around, but I never expected this level of ruthlessness and structure to their organizations. Meth has rampaged through the lives of the poor in the American south since it became popular on the drug trade scene in the 1990s and it destroys everything in its path. It is a sad fact that there are still impoverished people in America that live like Jennifer Lawrence‘s character. Where if a child doesn’t learn how to properly catch, skin and cook their meal they may very well not be able to feed themselves. Winter’s Bone is one of the most honest films of the year.
That concludes our 2010 wrap-up! Thanks for reading and we’d love to know what your favorites were this year in the comments below.