During the first couple of months of 2011, I’ve been able to catch up with some of the best movies that were released in 2010. Here’s my list, and it has nothing to do with which films I think will win on Oscar night:
10. The Fighter
Uneven, blue-collar boxing picture, best served by Wahlberg’s understated performance as opposed to Melissa Leo’s over-the-top histrionics.
9. Exit Through the Giftshop
Rarely I have I so enjoyed and been so frustrated by a film at the same time. Delightfully manipulative.
8. Rabbit Hole
Perhaps Nicole Kidman’s best performance ever. This film absolutely nails the grieving process.
See it. It’s important. I was totally expecting a Michael Moore-style “gotcha” doc, but Josh Fox really delivers in conveying the humanity of his subjects against the backdrop of larger environmental and political issues.
6. Black Swan
Aronofsky. Portman. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly intriguing.
5. Winters Bone
In the wrong hands, this could have turned into backwoods poverty-porn in a heartbeat, but here the filmmakers were restrained enough to keep it simple. Watch it for the stand-out performances from John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence.
4. 127 Hours
Creating a compelling film from an event where not a lot happens and the ending is well-known is quite a challenge, and I was impressed by Boyle’s humanizing approach along with Franco’s performance.
3. True Grit
I’ve only seen clips of the original from the trailer, and while it might be sacrilegious to say so, boy, does it look terrible. I’m sure Wayne is terrific, but after watching the trailer, I had no interest in spoiling my impression of the Cohen Brothers’ inspired take on the Charles Portis novel. I don’t really understand why Hailee Steinfeld is only nominated for Best Supporting Actress when she carries the film - needless to say, she’s fantastic.
2. The King’s Speech
The Kings Speech ranks so high on my list because it overcame all of my prejudices against it as pure Oscar-bait. The acting is top-notch, with Firth delivering the performance of a lifetime. Ultimately, for me, the storytelling and the stakes in the film made this one stand-out in 2010.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge Inception is not a perfect film, but it was the best time I had at the movies all year. I haven’t seen a movie in the theater multiple times in more than a decade, and I saw Inception four times. I just can’t remember Hollywood releasing a big-budget summer blockbuster, with an A-list cast, that actually challenged the audience. Nolan’s treatise on the nature of movie-making and movie-watching as as an almost indecipherable puzzle of interlocking dreams-within-dreams provides for some masterful storytelling from a filmmaker truly in command of his craft. Also, be sure to check out the soundtrack.
Honorable Mentions: A Prophet*, The Social Network (could probably join the list along with The Fighter, I just gave the edge to the movie that I’m most willing to watch again), Waiting for Superman, The Town, Easy A (for Emma Stone’s performance), Shutter Island, Dogtooth, Best Worst Movie, Catfish, Restrepo
*A Prophet was technically a 2009 movie, but it wasn’t released in most places in North America until 2010, and some critics count it as a 2010 movie. If I were to do so, it would move up to #2 on my list, if not not #1. It’s that good.