Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top 10 of 2010

The best thing about 2010 is that it’s over.  I’ve been writing film reviews, free hand and on this blog, for 11 years, and this past year was easily the worst.  I usually have trouble slimming down my end of the year list to just 10 films.  This year, I was hard pressed to think of 10.  My top four are solid; they are game-changing measures of the film medium and will be remembered and mimicked for years.  The rest are all worthy of your time, but they aren’t classics.  Sorry if some of the titles don’t ring a bell; most of the mainstream movies didn’t really do it for me this year.

Top 10 of 2010

10. The American
I think I’m one of seven people who have actually seen this, but that matters little, because a good film is a good film, popularity be damned.  Despite its title and leading star George Clooney – in a wonderfully restrained performance – The American is anything but domestic.  It’s slowly paced, tersely written, and shot with purpose.  Most of you probably haven’t paid this movie the time of day.  Shame.  It’s one of the best hidden treasures of this year. (Currently on DVD)

9. Winter’s Bone
Not many films released before November have the luxury of being remembered come Oscar time.  And the margin slims even further when you’re talking about independent films.  So, it’s a testament to Winter’s Bone – a beautifully realized, meticulously detailed drama about an impoverished teenager barely keeping her family afloat – that it has stayed above the radar since July.  Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey are all fascinating; much like the film as a whole, you can’t take your eyes off them.  (Currently on DVD)

8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I was tempted to clump the Millenium Trilogy together, but on second thought, this is the only one that best stands alone as an individual film.  Crafting together source material that Hitchcock would be jealous of, in such a wildly successful way, is enough of an achievement.  Having a force of nature like Noomi Rapace be the face of that great venture, well, that’s something else all together.  Okay David Fincher, let’s see what you’ve got. (Currently on DVD and Netflix Instant)

7. I Am Love
Another indie darling that I came across by chance one lonely night while scouring my Netflix Instant queue.  Thank God I did.  Tilda Swinton delivers the best work of her impressive career as a quiet, out of place Russian woman who married into phenomenal Italian wealth.  The film’s overall look and sound seem effortless, but they're the work of a very skilled, very purposeful director. (Currently on DVD and Netflix Instant)

6. Never Let Me Go
A great counterpoint to the lavishness of Inception, Never Let Me Go is most definitely a science fiction film, but you wouldn’t know it unless you pay close attention.  Stamping this film with a one sentence plot description would do it a grave injustice.  It’s far too original and engaging to have it ruined here.  (On DVD Feb. 1)

5. Somewhere
The real shocker on my list is this indie curveball, which I had next to no interest in seeing, and was utterly blown away by the final result.  It’s painfully slow, yes, but wholly deliberate.  Stephen Dorff delivers a performance of such restraint and candor, it should vault him to the top of the A list. Critical response has been positive, but Somewhere isn’t attracting crowds, which is why it most likely won’t reach your local theatre.  Bummer.  All’s I want to do is watch it again, and then again.  I’m dying over here. (Currently in, some, theatres)

4. The Social Network
One surprising thing about 2010 is that it has every major critic aligned, as most of them have chosen David Fincher’s Facebook flick as the best film of the year.  It’s a wise choice, one backed by the year’s best screenplay and an ensemble of flawless acting performances.  You can’t just watch The Social Network, you have to listen.  A rare critical darling that everyone can enjoy.  Don’t be surprised if it snags the Best Picture Oscar. (Currently on DVD)

3. Inception
It’s easy to knock a film like Inception, given its plethora of praise.  Hype does that to pop culture: everyone else likes it, so we start to find things wrong with it.  While Inception may have its fair share of naysayers, you have to make one hell of a compelling argument to call the film unnecessary and anything but completely fucking mind blowing. Me?  I’m thinking ahead.  Inception, like the greatest films stuck in the science fiction genre, is years (possibly decades) before its time.  Just wait.  Ten or 20 years from now, when the only sci-fi movies being released are about the effects of dreams, you’ll wonder what movie started it all.  (Currently on DVD)

2. Blue Valentine
I didn’t know two characters better this year than Dean and Cindy from Blue Valentine.  Maybe it’s because Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Cutris’ script was so poignant and honest.  Maybe it’s because Cianfrance’s direction made us feel like a fly on the wall in the best, most shocking way.  Those are two good reasons, but I suspect that I knew Dean and Cindy so well because they were played so flawlessly by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.  Many roles demand a broad spectrum of emotions from the actor, and many roles demand that those emotions be played out simultaneously.  But rarely are those emotions carried out so convincingly.  I saw Blue Valentine only five days ago, which is to say, it’s the film on this list that is freshest in my mind.  That hardly matters, due simply to the fact that I haven’t been able to shake it for one waking minute. I think Blue Valentine will be lingering around my subconscious for many a cold night to come. (Currently in threatres)

1. Black Swan
“I just saw Black Swan. The whole drive home from the theatre is a blur, now I’m sitting in my car trying to remember how to get out and walk. It was that good.  Also I feel physically ill and am afraid to take a shower or look in the mirror.  I’m 100% serious.”

That was the reaction my best friend had after seeing the best film of 2010.  Loyal readers know I haven’t shut about this movie since I saw it in the beginning on December.  And for good reason.  It’s everything a contemporary movie should be: new, inventive, emotionally gripping, and wholly convincing.  Natalie Portman delivered the best acting performance of the year as a tortured ballet dancer, and she should be awarded accordingly.  Black Swan is the highlight of Darren Aronofsky’s already impeccable career.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Perfect.  It was perfect.” (Currently in threatres)

Most Disappointing Films
The Cove was my second favorite movie last year, but this year, I was left confused and dumbfounded by most of the mainstream documentaries.  Waiting for “Superman” and Inside Job are earning rave reviews (one of them will likely win the Oscar) but I thought they came off as boring history lessons.  And don’t even get me started on Catfish, Exit Through the Gift Shop and I’m Still Here; they had their moments, but a fake documentary is not a documentary, it’s a lame marketing ploy.

Foreign films
While A Prophet, The Secret in Their Eyes and The White Ribbon were all released in American theatres this calendar year, they were technically 2009 releases.  Where the hell were the good foreign films of 2010?

I love Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) and what he’s learned from the school of Wes Anderson.  But I detested Greenberg, a trite, overzealous, boring mess of a film.

Robin Hood
Note to Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott: you guys got lucky with Gladiator, but you’ll never duplicate its success.  Stop trying.

Sex and the City 2
I wasn’t exactly disappointed by this film, I figured it was going to suck.  But while Sex and the City 2 did manage to suck, horribly, it also pulled off the grand feats of being offensive and racist.  On top of all that, seriously, who wants to watch a two and half hour movie about rich white women bitching about being rich white women?


  1. No 11 or 12 or 13... or 15 spot here? If so what would be the films?

    1. 2010 was not a good year for film. I struggled to find 10 for this list, let alone 11 or 12 or 13... or 15.

    2. Biutiful? or The Kids Are All Right? or The Town? or 127 Hours? or True Grit? Get Low, The Ghost Writer, The Karate Kid, Solitary Man or Please Give? Hmm?

    3. Some of those are pretty good. Not Top 10 for me.

    4. I don't want to be mean or something, but you are a little snobbish. What do it is the material for your top 10 of the year?

    5. Now seems like a good time to bring this up. You leave a lot of comments on my site, and I appreciate a great deal of them. It’s really cool of you to read so many of my posts and comment on them. I mean that, truly. Many of your comments are kind and generous, even if we don’t agree on a particular film. But many of your other comments are mean spirited and insulting. Now, I often give you the benefit of the doubt – the language barrier, maybe you’re having a bad day – and so on. But it puzzles me when you leave comments suggesting that I’m sexiest (which, admittedly, you quickly amended), a poor writer, or, here, snobbish.

      Your nastier comments also have a bullying tone to them, and I’ve realized that the quickest way to end those threads is to be short, which is what I was doing here. I see no need to debate about something that we clearly aren’t going to agree on. I liked a lot of films in 2010, but I loved very few. That’s just my opinion. Can’t we leave it at that?

      Being called a movie snob is hilarious. Last weekend, I watched Jodorowsky’s Dune, Cliffhanger, Terminator 2, Inherent Vice, Tales of the Grim Sleeper and Total Recall. And I can say that I more or less enjoyed them all equally. I’m not a snob, I just don’t have the patience for negative comments on my own site. Again, I’m very thankful that you spend part of your day reading my site, but if you insist on insulting me, then you’re going to hear about it from now on.

    6. In the end I knew you will bring this up. I have a problem, I am antisocial with people. I say mean or bad things and I cross the line without meaning that. Sorry if I insult you, I don't want to but you know...what I can say.
      When I wrote the comment about female directors I wrote the comment without thinking it. There I really fucked up. I kept telling myself why did I comment that. Very sorry for that.
      Not that you are a poor writer but in The Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese is Scorsese at its best and I thanked you hit the tip of the iceberg. But just my opinion. I can't write so many great things about so many great films I the way you are doing it, maybe the film did it for you in time.
      1.To be snob isn't a bad thing and its not an insult. 2.There are levels of snobbish, you are a little snobbish for MY level. (When I wrote the comment I read some posts where you were saying bad things about films that I love) 3.To be snob (for me, I don't know the real sense of the word) doesn't mean that you hate not-so-good films, mean to just like good films that are very loved (or something, I don't know why I still comment at Top 10 of 2010.) Here my friends and buddies or don't watch films or talk about how much they love Transformers 4 and don't even listed when I recommend to them to go to Interstellar and Gone Girl.
      I'm being snobbish with your list, don't you think?

      (If I said something offensive, a insult again here, then I'm sorry.)

    7. I really appreciate this comment, truly. You have a self-awareness that many people lack, and I actually think that is a very fine quality in a person. So look, no hard feelings, okay? We're all good. I really do thank you for all the comments on my site.

  2. So I may be 4 years late, but I Was the sixth guy that saw the American. Damn if it surprised me, bar the completely unnecessary, pointless to modern audiences cameo of Once Upon A Time In The West (seriously what was up with that?). But to be fair I wouldn't have seen the film had my father not recognised my love for the movie in the café and called me in, selling it as the 'best scene'. I was expecting a thrilling conversation or action sequence. I got 5 seconds of Leone. Well, cant complain I guess ;D

    Not a fan of Inception. At all. Visually stellar, but people call it one of the best films ever made. Sane people. People I made watch GoodFellas and a plethora of other classics and modern masterworks (ie TWBB and Traffic, the latter of which I was pleasantly surprised with after your recommendation I have to say). Is there something Im missing? Never been a fan of Nolan’s, just wondered if a fan of films from Bergman to PT Anderson had something to say :)

    1. It's never too late to comment, my friend! Love any and all sort of praise for The American. In fact, I really need to give that movie another go.

      As for Inception... Nolan's films seem to split people. For every die hard Nolan fan, there's someone who just flat out doesn't like his films (or a specific film(s) in particular). And then there's the "Ehh, it was okay... I think" people in between. I love all of his movies, but I don't dare question the tastes of people who don't. It's funny, because, on paper, I'm the anti-Nolan fan. High-brow sci-fi very rarely works for me, but there's something about his style that I absolutely love.

    2. The American isn’t a film I’d spend the time watching again, but yea it was pretty patiently paced for its time. Good movie, despite its flaws

      Yea I know you said about 2001 (a film I ADORE). Honestly, his style is just too choppy for me. The editing of a simple conversation, flickering between shots every 3 seconds just can’t hold my attention (ironically enough) and yea, the absurd amount of praise his films get from some fans who won’t consider any other option just generates a general dislike of his work for me. Good film-maker regardless though. Not “the next Kubrick” not “TDK performances all around are better than that of the Godfather” but a guy whose good at what he does, no doubt about it.

      As are you, I must say, loving the independent stuff you’ve been doing- a lot of your inspiration really shines through :)

    3. Saying the acting in TDK is better than The Godfather is just silly. I mean, I like it, but come on. I hear you on the choppy editing. That's something he tapped into with Batman Begins. Following, Memento and Insomnia don't have it at all, which is interesting. I do find it somewhat engaging, but other times, I just wish he'd stay in the now. For instance, repeatedly cutting to Topher Grace yelling for Jessica Chastain in Interstellar was unnecessary to me. And I loved Interstellar. But it was like, "Okay, I get it, chill."

  3. 2009 was fantastic. Your first 7(!) films in the list are A+ (The White Ribbon, Hunger, A Single Man, Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, The Cove, Precious). So, yes, 2010 had A LOT of lows but the highs were high. Sci-fi had 2 hits, with you (Never Let Me Go, Inception), Swedish cinema did a comeback with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and then Force Majeure). And then a lot of films from 2010 that you didn't liked at the moment and grown on you over time (Animal Kingdom). And if you really take the US release date then there are missing films like: Dogtooth, Incendies and Fish Tank.

    1. I count Incendies as 2011, because that's when it was released in the US. Not sure if Fish Tank is 2009 or 2010, but either way, it would be at the top of either of those years. Hadn't seen Dogtooth when I wrote this list, but it would definitely be on here now.