Alright, procrastination time is over! I will no longer put off writing my list of the best movies of 2010. While I am still behind on many movies released from the previous year (”Blue Valentine,” I will catch up with ya), I actually have enough of them to get this done. While I initially though 2010 was another crummy year for movies, it actually wasn’t as bad in retrospect. There were more truly great movies out there, and they were not overwhelmed by the retched stench of the god awful ones (thanks a lot “Last Airbender”).
So without further ado, here is my top ten list:
While I wouldn’t have given it this year’s Oscar for Best Picture, there’s no denying that “The King’s Speech” was a grand cinematic achievement with very few (if any) flaws. Colin Firth gives an amazing performance as King George VI, and his mastering of the stutter is impeccable. Other great turns came from Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, and both remain consistently excellent in each film they do. All of the various elements are brought together under the brilliant direction of Tom Hooper who involved us all in a deep emotional relationship with the characters, and made it so much more than the average historical lesson movie.
9) Kick Ass
Perhaps the most rebellious movie of 2010, Matthew Vaughan’s endlessly entertaining comic book romp proved to be a sharp rebuke against all others of its ilk that have played nice for far too long. “Kick Ass” is at times hilarious, at other times shockingly violent, but throughout it is filled with a lot of love for its wide array of characters. The movie also gives us a truly kick ass star making performance from Chloë Moretz as well as strong turns from Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, and Nicholas Cage.
Now this was the ultimate head trip of the year. Gaspar Noe’s follow up to “Irreversible” mesmerized me with visuals I hadn’t seen before, and it also had some of the best opening credits of any movie in recent years. While the tone is relentlessly bleak, there is a beauty to the relationship between brother and sister that makes “Enter The Void” more life affirming than its reputation or movie poster would suggest. Some felt this movie was too long, but I was enthralled with it throughout.
7) Winter’s Bone
Debra Granik’s indie breakout also took place in one of the bleakest settings possible, and it still felt more alive than most movies I saw this past summer. “Winter’s Bone” had an intensity that was constantly simmering beneath the surface throughout its running time, and you got wrapped up in the reality of these characters and their dilemmas completely. It also had a pair of great performances from John Hawkes as well as a tremendous star making performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly, a 17 year old girl forced to take on more adult responsibilities than anyone at her age should.
6) Toy Story 3
Unsurprisingly, Pixar does it yet again! While the last chapter in a trilogy is usually the weakest and most formulaic, “Toy Story 3″ proved to be every bit as inventive and funny as the two which came before it. Furthermore, it took on some big risks for an animated movie in that it dared to age its characters, something most of its kind would never do. And its story of leaving your childhood behind is both touching and heartbreaking, showing how deeply invested the filmmakers were in this story and the characters inhabiting it.
“Toy Story 3″ was over a decade in the making, and it was well worth the wait!
Director Niels Arden Oplev, in his film adaptation of Steig Larsson’s infinitely popular novel, gives us one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time. With it also comes one of the best female characters created in sometime, Lisbeth Salander. Noomi Rapace brought Lisbeth to life so brilliantly and made us root for her even as her actions took her to some seriously (not to mention violent) dark places. The chemistry she shares with Michael Nyqvist who portrays investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist is very strong, and they create one of cinema’s more unconventional couples. The upcoming remake directed by David Fincher will have a lot to live up to!
4) Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky once again brilliantly takes us into the perspective of someone already in the process of losing their mind while obsessively trying to perfect the art form they have spent their lives working on. I also loved how he almost completely blurred the line between what’s real and what isn’t to where I was eager to see what would happen next. No matter how crazy things get in “Black Swan,” you can’t tear your eyes away from the screen.
Natalie Portman truly gives one of the best performances of her career as Nina, and she more than met the challenge of acting while dancing at the same time (not an easy feat). There’s no doubt of just how much of herself she put into this character, and watching her at times was emotionally exhausting. There’s also some great supporting turns from Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Winona Ryder.
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin came together and took the story of Facebook and brilliantly made it one of the most defining movies of our past decade. While Facebook and technology have succeeded in bringing us closer together with others, it simultaneously has kept us further apart. Sorkin’s screenplay had some of the best dialogue I heard in a movie all year, and it was delivered to perfection by actors Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara to name a few. Jesse’s performance is particularly noteworthy in how he made Max Zuckerberg something of an enigma; he’s not altogether likable, but you still admire the smarts of this guy throughout.
Ok, just admit it, Christopher Nolan is a friggin’ genius! With “Inception,” he took many elements from many other sci-fi classics and made it all thrillingly his own. In a sea of needless remakes and stale adaptations of classic TV shows, a major movie studio actually took the trouble to bankroll this flick, and that it became such a huge hit is a major victory for creativity. Nolan’s brilliantly realized screenplay gave Leonardo DiCaprio another opportunity to give one of those great performances we all love him for. But let’s not leave out other great turns from some of the most reliable actors of today like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy among others. Seeing this movie just once was never enough, and it gave you new things to discover with each viewing.
And now for the cream of the crop, the one to rule them all, the head honcho, numero uno, the jumbo jelly bean, the big one, the prize winner, the… Alright! I can hear you saying GET ON WITH IT all the way from here!
Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series was far and away the most fun I had watching a movie in 2010. What the director of “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” came up with was always creative and endlessly inventive, and it entertained me at every turn. Even when the movie looked like it would suffer from overkill, I couldn’t get enough of what was onscreen.
There are so many things to praise about this film. Michael Cera, who has been accused of playing the same character in each movie he does, was perfectly cast as Scott Pilgrim. He gives a character to root for even when he is not always the nicest person. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes blue and purple colored hair look so damn sexy, Kieran Culkin plays your gay roommate like no other, and the rest of the cast leaves an ever lasting impression on us all.
But the one who deserves the majority of credit for “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is Edgar Wright. He must have had a ball making this movie, and his joy is thankfully contagious. Edgar reminded me of how going to the movies can (and should be) so much fun, and he is full of surprises and great visuals throughout. While the movie was sadly a box office flop, it will most certainly have a longer shelf life than many other films. It’s also become a big midnight movie hit at New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, so its cult status is assured.
Runners up for 2010 (in no particular order):