Locke’s Favorite Films of 2010

by | Dec 31st, 2010 | 11:00PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, In My Humble Opinion, Movie Lists, Movies, Theatrical Reviews

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

Special Mention: Enter the Void

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.

10) Another Year

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.

9) Let Me In

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.

8) The King’s Speech

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.

7) The Social Network

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.

Read my full review

The Social Network will be available from redbox January 11

6) Exit Through the Gift Shop

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.

5) 127 Hours

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.

Read my full review

Read my interview with Danny Boyle

4) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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!!”

Read my full review

3) Black Swan

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.

Read my full review

2) True Grit

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.

Read my full review

1) Winter’s Bone

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.

Read my full review

Honorable Mention

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

9 Responses to “Locke’s Favorite Films of 2010”

  1. Jennifer Sci Fi Friend
    Posted on January 3, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Interesting thoughtful list. And I know my question will far from shock you, however, why no category for Sci Fi/Fantasy genre???

  2. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on January 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    It’s a very good question, Jenn. Fact is I came up with the different categories by simply making a big Master List and then seeing how the titles broke down into groups of five or ten movies. And frankly there just weren’t that many sci-fi or fantasy films on the original list. Let me turn it back on you: what were the really good, list-worthy sci-fi or fantasy films of 2010?

    Scott Pilgrim, of course, and it’s right there in my top five.
    How to Train Your Dragon, sure.
    Inception, sure.
    Iron Man 2, I guess.
    Monsters was actually pretty good, but fell a little short of the lists.
    Repo Men is another that has its strengths, but not enough to make the top ten (or top 40) of the year when there was so much competition from other genres.
    The Crazies came very, very close to making the Thriller list.
    Splice is another one that probably would have been on a sci-fi list.
    Predators was fun, but not list-worthy.

    What am I forgetting?

    After that you’re down to things like Daybreakers, Book of Eli, Alice in Wonderland, TRON: Legacy, Narnia: Dawn Treader, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Skyline, Harry Potter, Twilight: Eclipse, Clash of the Titans, Legion, Percy Jackson, The Wolfman, Prince of Persia, Last Airbender, and Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Some of which have their appeal, but aren’t going to make my list.

    So okay, top ten sci-fi fantasy films of 2010, in NO particular order?

    Scott Pilgrim
    The Crazies
    Repo Men
    Iron Man 2
    How to Train Your Dragon
    Toy Story 3
    (Honorable Mention: Megamind, Despicable Me)

    Happy now? :)

  3. Jennifer Sci Fi Friend
    Posted on January 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Well, I was happy until you put Inception on the list. I thought we had agreed the movie was simply an action film. Instead of rehashing that old dead horse, I move on to answer your question.

    I have been complaining all year, as you know, we have had no list worthy Sci Fi/Fantasy films for 2010. However, that does not mean you leave the genre category empty and nonexistent in my opinion. Pick three or five if you cannot find ten then lament the fact we need more solid Sci Fi Fantasy flicks. You have a voice for so many of us who have no reach that maybe the powers that be will start listening???? Plus, you have access to dig around for the sleepers and the foreign hits. I know Sci Fi/Fantasy has a small audience and we are few amongst many who do not understand us.

    On my list for 2010, I would have good attempts that fell short but still worth seeing on DVD.

    Book of Eli- my man Gary doing his thing.
    Legion – just because I love Paul Bettany and had a hoot with Dennis Quaid and him trying to make something of the movie.
    Prince of Persia because it was fun
    Clash of Titans again because it was fun
    Splice – I didnt see but belongs on the list from what I have read and what little I did see.

    And NO Inception would not even come close to my list, an action film like Salt. Plain and simple.

    Look how many kid movies you put on the Sci Fi Fantasy List. Kids dont even get their own category??? You have to clump them into the Sci Fi Fantasy list?

    You forgot Robin Hood and Nanny McPhee even though the latter belongs on a kid’s list.

    Just so you know, I interrupted my viewing of “Once More with Feeling” just to respond….

  4. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on January 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    The science to enter other people’s dreams does not exist. Therefore, “science fiction.”

    Robin Hood is not fantasy, it’s historical action — there’s nothing otherworldly or supernatural in it, unless you count Maid Marion suddenly knowing how to armor up and wield a sword in battle on horseback.

  5. Trevor L
    Posted on January 3, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Yep, again, Inception is most definitely science fiction, you can only argue that it’s not good science fiction. It’s not the movies fault that people took it too seriously.

  6. Jennifer Sci Fi Friend
    Posted on January 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Locke – I quote you from your review “But the movie[Inception] still adds up to a very clever, complex puzzle-box of an action film—a welcome blast of cool adult smarts that also delivers plenty of giddy thrills”.

    Thank you Trevor L for saying that the movie was not good science fiction. Had total potential to be fabulous just fell short and for me was an interesting well done action film.

    So I am wrongly placed Robin Hood which just means you need a category for Historical Drama.

  7. JawaWaxer
    Posted on January 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I love that Winter’s Bone is number one on your list. Terrific movie that left me feeling more unsettled than any other I’ve watched this year. The chainsaw scene was so disturbing in the frankness of it. I don’t live but an hour’s drive from the Arkansas/Missouri Ozarks, and there are several places even here in Northeast Oklahoma that if you were to drive twenty minutes off the paved roads you coan find people who live that way. It rang true, and that girl definitely deserves a nomination and quite likely a win.

    P.S., I’m with Locke. Isn’t the entire premise of Inception based around fictional science, aka science fiction.

  8. matphoto
    Posted on January 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    good picks! I think I definitely agree that all of the movies I’ve seen on this list belong here. I agree with leaving Toy Story out too – I would actually choose Train your Dragon over that anyway.