These were the films that struck a cord with me in 2010, that I enjoyed for various reasons. Before the list, some Honourable Mentions, just missing the top 10: The Losers, Tron: Legacy, Easy A, How To Train Your Dragon, The Crazies, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows prt 1, Iron Man 2, Catfish, The A-Team, Tangled
10- The Town (Directed by Ben Affleck; Starring Ben Affleck, John Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall) Even after Gone Baby Gone, I wouldn’t have pegged Affleck as a director who could deliver. But here we are. He’s 2 for 2. He was able to get some great performances out of some terrific actors, and he even elevated his game in front of the camera. We get a tight thriller that excites every step of the way, and pushes Jon Hamm more and more into super stardom.
9- Black Swan (Directed by Darren Aronofsky; Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel) One thing that can be said about Aronofsky’s films is that they are an experience. And he comes off his gut wrenching look at professional wrestling by taking a look at the New York Ballet scene, and how the drive to be the best can drive one mad. We experience the descent Portman’s Nina goes through, in her best performance to date.
8- The Fighter (Directed by David O. Russell; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams) Say what you will about Russell, his films tend to be love or hate, but this one is hard to hate. His last pairing with Wahlberg produced Marky Mark’s best performance, add in the drama of a boxing story (which I’m a sucker for) and the almost always great Bale and Adams, it’s a winner.
7- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Directed by Edgar Wright; Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Evans) It was easy to miss and dismiss this film as being too esoteric, too targeted, too Michael Cera being Michael Cera (again). But what you missed with this film is one of the most strikingly original romantic comedies, and for once, Cera playing his type works in the film’s favour, as it contrasts with his adversaries. Wright consistently delivers some of the most finely crafted films, even if they are genre films.
6- True Grit (Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen; Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin) My approach to this film is how I approach most remakes. If they bring something new to the table, or can stand on their own merits, then there’s nothing wrong with them. The Coen brothers bringing their dark humour and bleak sensibilities to the classic (which is actually a readaptation of a book, rather then a remake of a film) western, and Bridges continues with a late career resurgence in both quality and popularity. Of particular note, young Hailee Steinfeld, with the gravitas and talent not normally seen in someone so young, and holding her own against the likes of Bridges, Damon and Brolin.
5- Let Me In (Directed by Matt Reeves; Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Richard Jenkins) Like True Grit, Let Me In is less of a remake (of the 2008 Swedish film Let The Right One In) and more of a readaptation of the original novel, and it loses none of the haunting beauty of the original. It’s a disservice to compare the two, as both are fascinating. The two children, who were both about 13 when the film was being made, carry the film, and handle the roles better than some actors with twice the age and experience. Reeves is an emerging voice in genre cinema, and made an indelible impression.
4- Toy Story 3 (Directed by Lee Unkrich; Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack) Pixar has been on a 15 year hot streak since the first Toy Story in 95, and I’m not ashamed to say that this brought a tear to my eye (several tears, actually). Pixar never compromises story for spectacle, one thing other animation houses (including Pixar parent, Disney) have struggled with. But they are first and foremost storytellers, and give the fans who grew up with Woody, Buzz & crew a great final, closing chapter.
3- Kick Ass (Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong) The superhero genre reached critical mass and market saturation with the powerhouse of The Dark Knight and Marvel Studio’s ambitions Avengers plan, but 2010 belonged to a nerdy guy who just wanted to do good. Not since Edgar Wright’s Hott Fuzz has a film so thoroughly skewered the conventions of the genre, yet lived entirely within the confines of the conventions. Moretz delivers her first great performance of the year, and coupled with Let Me In, she should be a lock come Oscar time, and I’m looking forward to more from her for years to come.
2- The Social Network (Directed by David Fincher; Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and Justin Timberlake) Fincher works from a script by the great Aaron Sorkin, a story that they both acknowledge is both a fictionalized and sensationalized account of mostly true events, but sometimes what actually happened needs to be jazzed up a bit. Eisenberg is the best emerging talent, breaking through in 09, and hitting his stride in ’10 to bring excitement and energy to Zuckerberg and the start of Facebook.
1- Inception (Directed by Christopher Nolan; Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy) I’ve seen critiques of this go both ways, but in earnest, Nolan does the near impossible: Combines the spectacle to to appease mainstream audiences, but he actually has a complex plot, interesting characters, and compelling dialog. I’ve been following Nolan for 10 years, and he’s a filmmaker who will consistently deliver. And the cast, what a phenomenal ensemble cast he put together, especially the always pleasing Cotillard.
Not on the list because I have yet to see them:
127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Waiting for Superman