The Best Movies of 2010
The Fighter: What could have been a rather traditional uplifting sports film becomes something much quirkier and more interesting thanks to the great cast and the direction by David O. Russell.
Greenberg: Director Noah Baumbach makes dark and uncomfortably funny movies about prickly characters, and I think Greenberg is his best yet. Ben Affleck is a good fit for the title role, but the real revelation is Greta Gerwig, providing a nice entry point for the audience and a truly original character.
The King's Speech: Despite its Best Picture win, it didn't quite make my top 10. It is a charming and entertaining film about friendship with great performances.
127 Hours: Probably my number 11. A desperate and grotesque situation filmed as a full-throated affirmation of living.
The Town: Proof that, every once in a while, Hollywood can still make an entertaining genre film. A great cast and great energy provide a really entertaining time at the movies.
And now to my 10......
10. In a Better World: This Danish film just won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It's a subtle and involving movie about children, adults, revenge, and forgiveness. Seek it out when it comes to theaters in April.
9. Exit Through the Gift Shop: There were several documentaries I enjoyed this year, but none as much as this movie which takes you deep, deep into the world of underground street artists. You might not know what you're watching for a while, but just go with it and enjoy the ride. (It's on Netflix Watch Now!)
8. Please Give: Director Nicole Holofcener is kind of like a feminine version of Woody Allen with a stronger moral code. Please Give is a very funny movie about two interacting families tussling over how to be good and prime real estate. The cast is terrific.
7. Another Year: Another treasure from British realist director Mike Leigh. A beautiful, funny, and heartbreaking film about what makes a good life and the mysteries of fate. Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent shine as a happily married couple, and Lesley Manville is astonishing as their friend Mary.
6. The Social Network: This pulsing, tense, involving, extremely well-made film might be seen, thematically, as this generation's Citizen Kane. Why isn't it higher on my list, then, especially since it's widely considered the masterpiece of the year? I think it dropped off just a tad in its last third. I also reserve the right to bump it up on my much-anticipated second viewing.
5. The Kids Are All Right: A pitch-perfect family comedy with just the right amount of humor and heart. Was there a better cast this year? I think not. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Mia Wasikowska all shine.
4. Blue Valentine: A movie cataloging both the beginning and end of a romantic relationship might sound simple, but in the naturalistic hands of director Derek Cianfrance it becomes simply astonishing. Ryan Gosling (give him an Oscar!) and Michelle Williams touch your soul in their portrayal of a couple on the rocks.
3. Winter's Bone: So original and so brilliant. This movie is so many things: an indie character study; a classic detective story; a mythical journey. Whatever the viewer sees it as, they won't forget Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), one of the most unique and brave heroines to come along in a long while.
2. Toy Story 3: This was so so close to my top spot. A perfect end to a classic trilogy. Fast-paced, funny, poignant, and reminiscent of so many classic Hollywood films. I can't think of another film who's ending has touched me as deeply.
1. Black Swan: I saw this movie opening night to a packed house, and it was an electrifying experience. Director Darren Aronofsky has thrown all he has into this movie, and it totally worked for me. The film references, the performances, the campiness, the horror, and the metaphor. I was riveted every second.
As an end, here's a quick list of what I've seen by its letter grade. A few of the grades have changed (both up and down) on second viewings or rethinkings. I would highly recommend any movie ranked B+ or higher on this list, and especially the 11 in the A/A- range. While I've seen a lot, I'm still looking forward to watching Carlos (a French film that won a bunch of awards), Fish Tank (a British indie), and several documentaries. This is where I see things now:
Black Swan, Blue Valentine, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, Winter's Bone
Another Year, Exit Through the Gift Shop, In a Better World, 127 Hours, Please Give, The Social Network
Cairo Time, Catfish, Dogtooth, The Fighter, Greenberg, Incendies, Inception, The King's Speech, Prodigal Sons, Restrepo, The Town, True Grit
Animal Kingdom, City Island, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Easy A, Fair Game, I Am Love, Rabbit Hole
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mother, Mother and Child, Soul Kitchen, The Tillman Story, Waiting for Superman
Biutiful, Cyrus, Everyone Else, The Ghost Writer, The Girl Who Played with Fire, How to Train Your Dragon, Outside the Law, Shutter Island, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Babies, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Vincere
Date Night (Hey, I watched it on a plane.....no judging)
Here's to a (hopefully) great 2011!