When it came down to picking just 10 of my favorite films of 2010, even I was surprised by some really great ones that didn’t make the cut. (Sorry, Toy Story 3 fans — it’s a nearly perfect movie in every respect, but as much as I like it, it just didn’t mean or say as much to me personally as other movies did.)
I’ve been putting up my “nomination” lists by genre the past few days, so if you don’t see some of your favorites here, check out the Top 41:
(Most of the descriptions below, with the exception of the top two, are from those nomination posts–so if you’ve been dutifully reading my lists so far, you can skim down to numbers 1 and 2.)
In the end, the from-the-gut, painful criteria was this: Not which were perfectly made films, but which ones blew me away, made me think, affected me; the ones I liked the most and think I’ll be re-watching for years to come.
First, some glaring omissions. Despite my best efforts, time ran out on my seeing the following titles, all of which are getting high praise and might have made the list: Inside Job, Biutiful, I Am Love, Carlos, Dogtooth.
My Favorite Films of 2010
Okaaay… Director Gaspar Noé calls his 2 1/2-hour, almost literal mind trip a “psychedelic melodrama.” It’s all filmed from the visual POV of a young American man in Tokyo who takes a powerful hallucinogen and gets shot dead in a club restroom, but whose astral consciousness then floats through the lives and memories of his friends and emotionally damaged sister. Until, well… he finally reincarnates in his sister’s baby, after first witnessing the child’s conception from an, uh… unique angle. Yep, it’s totally bug-funk nuts, but I suspect 10 years from now it’s the one on this list hard-core film scholars, freaks and geeks will still be talking and arguing about.
Wanna win me over? Make a British film about facing middle age. And have it be from writer-director Mike Leigh (Happy Go Lucky), whose Naked remains one of my all-time favorites. Like many of Leigh’s domestic dramas, the overall tone may seem subdued and genial, but it’s simmering with powerful, honest human emotions. As a lonely woman trying to laugh and drink her way past depression into delusion, Lesley Manville may get a Best Actress nom, but Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent are equally affecting as her happily married, happily aging friends.
It’s a shame knee-jerk dismissal of remakes, vampire overload, and short attention spans kept people away from Matt Reeves’ brilliant remake of the cult-fave Swedish film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz are both phenomenal, but the real star is the cold, dark, beautifully photographed amorality that soaks it through–it’s not about finding friendship, it’s about losing your soul. Overrun by Saw-style trash, we’re in desperate need of more smart, gripping horror films like this.
Let’s see, we’ve got a true story of family dysfunction, royals/commoners class clashes, a monarchy in transformation from ruling power to symbolic inspiration, and a world still recovering from one world war about to plunge into another. Plus brilliant performances from Colin Firth and and Geoffrey Rush. And Timothy Spall as Churchill! All of it filtered through the personal doctor-patient struggles of a man of the world reduced to a terrified child by his debilitating stammer.
There’s nothing like an avalanche of unanimous critical and awards acclaim to make me backlash on a film, but there’s also no denying The Social Network’s heady brew of thrilling craftsmanship, sharp performances, whip-crack dialogue, and “Oh My Zeitgeist” insights. Maybe I don’t think it’s the best film of 2010 (I suspect most film critics love it because we think we’re also misunderstood geniuses with dicey social skills), but it’s still a very, very good one.
Internationally renowned street artist Banksy’s film about himself and his peers (and the wannabe director who originally tried to make the film) is a twisting fun house of real? fake? genuine? hoax? joys. In the end, whatever is and is not “true” here, the entire film ends up a truly exhilarating ode to the obsessive, expressive, fulfillment of creation.
What’s the most striking thing about 127 Hours? Its solitary character trapped in a canyon? James Franco’s acting tour-de-force? The hyperactive inner-monologue visuals? Or the gory DIY amputation scene? The strength of the film is that director Danny Boyle’s restless style and belief in the enlightening power of extreme hardship bring all those elements together into an uplifting tale not of survival, but transformation.
While I was surprised Toy Story 3 didn’t end up on my Top Ten, I was equally surprised this one did. But viewing by viewing it’s become my go-to mood lifter, life-affirmer, and laugh producer.
“Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.”
“We are Sex Bob-Omb! And we’re here to watch Scott Pilgrim kick your teeth in! Onetwothreefour!!”
It may not be for everyone–some may find it confusing or just flat-out silly in its passionate study of artistic pressure and madness. But I really love Darren Aronofsky’s tale of a ballerina (Natalie Portman in a sure-to-be-nominated performance) who’s fighting paranoia and possible possession as she struggles for perfection.
Boy, this came close to unseating the number one–I even considered declaring them tied for first (and in my heart they are–ask me in a week and I may have swapped them). The only reason I held back is because I fear I might still be in the grips some sort of holiday season True Grit fever. (I’ve only re-watched it four times in the past two weeks.) Needless to say it’s marvelous, not just as rollicking, hilarious, and thrilling entertainment, but also for its more thoughtful, melancholy themes of time, aging, and perspective.
I’ve been gushing over this small, powerful indie film since the summer, but in the end the reason it continued to win out in my heart was more than just the amazing performances (especially Jennifer Lawrence, who will be nominated, and John Hawkes, who won’t but should, but also Dale Dickey), and the taut, mesmerizing story. While all these films spoke to me on some level, this is the one that really struck a deeply moving chord.
The American, Blue Valentine, Cyrus, Easy A, The Fighter, Four Lions, Get Him to the Greek, The Ghost Writer, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Kick-Ass, The Losers, Rabbit Hole, Toy Story 3, Waiting for Superman