2010 turned out to be a marvelous year for movies. One thing I loved about the year in film is that the awards shows, for the most part, have rewarded the best movies of the year. Many times, they will ignore some amazing movies and instead reward films that are better in theory but not necessarily executed that well. Because of this, my top 10 list looks very similar to the Best Picture lineup. Without further ado, here they are!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
10. The Fighter
Dir. by David O. Russell
This film is the latest in the endless parade of great boxing movies. There always seems to be amazing stories ready to be told about the sport. This film explores the relationship between two brothers, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Bale plays the washed-up has-been with a drug problem. Wahlberg plays the up-and-coming fighter looking to single-handedly bring redemption to his brother, his family, and his entire of Lowell, Massachusetts. This is possibly the best acted film of the year and one of the most appealing.
9. The King’s Speech
Dir. by Tom Hooper
This movie was just fun. Once again, it is beautifully acted in an ensemble of three Oscar nominees: Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Oscar favorite Colin Firth. This tells the story of a man forced into his ancestral duty of King of England while struggling through a speech impediment. A constant stutter makes public speaking a nightmare for him, and becoming king forces him into that situation often as World War II is about to start. He forms a bond with Rush’s character, an unorthodox speech therapist that becomes much more. He begins to make progress because the king realizes that this man genuinely cares for him. I loved this film. I’m not sure if it deserves to be the Oscar favorite, but it was one of the top films of the year.
8. The Town
Dir. by Ben Affleck
I was so disappointed this film missed the Best Picture lineup for this year. The Town is the second film directed by Ben Affleck, and it shows that he had no sophomore slump. This film is a crime drama following a group of bank robbers led by Affleck who wants out of the business. These thoughts started when he had to confront a blindfolded hostage from one of their jobs to make sure she did not recognize them. He ends up falling for this girl, wishing there was not the lie bringing them together. This film received an acting nomination for supporting character Jeremy Renner. It also validates Ben Affleck’s directing career as for real. I will definitely look forward to his next film.
7. The Secret in Their Eyes
Dir. by Juan Jose Campanella
This film was last year’s Best Foreign Film winner, which always seems to be an obscure film when crowned the winner, but becomes one of the best films of the first half the next year when it gets its American release. The Secret in Their Eyes fits this profile perfectly. It tells the story of a former detective haunted by a cold case that he encountered several years before. He relives the details of this case as he once again tries to silence the demons inside him regarding this case. The film is wonderfully made with an ending that will shock you.
6. 127 Hours
Dir. by Danny Boyle
No other film this year was more of a product of one man’s performance than this one. James Franco puts in a performance that takes over the movie simply because he is the only actor on the screen for most of the film. This film tells the story of the young man who went hiking alone, got his arm wedged and stuck in the middle of nowhere, and spent 127 hours trying to escape and survive. This film was engaging and surprisingly intense from start to finish. This is all due to the acting ability of James Franco. He deservedly was nominated for the Oscar, and if it were up to me he would win.
5. Toy Story 3
Dir. by Lee Unkrich
One of my favorite film franchises growing up concluded its masterful story in 2010 with this beautiful movie. Once again, we get to spend time with Andy’s favorite toys. This time, Andy is getting ready to go off to college and deciding what to do with his toys. They accidentally get placed in a box to be donated to a local daycare. From there Woody, Buzz, and the gang once again have to find their way back home to their rightful owner. From start to finish, it does what is so hard for sequels to do that come long after the last installment: it fits the feel and persona of the previous films. It did not skip a beat. It also does something else that is even harder for a sequel to do: it brings a perfect end to a remarkable franchise. They could not have put a better ending together for this story. Just amazing.
4. The Social Network
Dir. by David Fincher
I asked the same question I am sure everyone else asked when they heard about this film. How good can a movie about Facebook be? And why is David Fincher directing it? It turned out to be one of the best films of the year, and a film that could come to define a decade. The near perfect Aaron Sorkin screenplay is executed to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg as the conflicted founder, Andrew Garfield as the best friend business partner, and Justin Timberlake as the smooth-talking entrepreneur. This film tells what was a little known story of the founding of the groundbreaking website and several of the lawsuits that ensued. This film is intoxicating from start to finish, from litigation to code writing. This might be the most complete film of the year; from screenplay to acting to directing.
3. Shutter Island
Dir. by Martin Scorsese
I said The Social Network may have been the most complete film of the year. What makes these next three films better are amazing, original premises and three of the most shocking endings I have ever seen. Shutter Island is by far the most underrated and forgotten film of the year. Scorsese’s latest effort was supposed to be released in the middle of 2009’s awards season, but instead got pushed back to February of 2010 due to production cuts. What a shame. This latest adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel focuses on a detective (Leonardo DiCaprio) sent to a mental hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of an inmate. While there, you begin to see some inner demons that he is trying to work through while also trying to solve the case. Perfect performances from the whole cast and the legendary trained eye of Martin Scorsese make this film unforgettable.
2. Black Swan
Dir. by Darren Aronofsky
The debate over which film would end up first and which would end up second was one of the greatest inner debates I have ever had with myself in regards to movies. These last two films are really more like numbers 1 and 1A. First, we have Black Swan. This is the story of a production of Swan Lake that is set to star Natalie Portman, who is forced to wage war inside herself in order to play both the innocent Swan Queen and the sensual Black Swan in the ballet. Portman gives the performance of her career as she fights with who she is, while supporting actors such as Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder enhance this incredible product constructed and pulled together by the genius that is Darren Aronofsky. This film takes on some aspects of a David Lynch-esque movie, as it seems to mess with the audience’s mind until the jaw-dropping final scene. It will leave you breathless and stick with you for days after viewing.
Dir. by Christopher Nolan
If we just forget that The Prestige was ever made (which I try to do every day), then Christopher Nolan might have the greatest filmography of any director ever. Every film seems to be groundbreaking in its own way as he constantly explores never-before-seen concepts. Coming off his record-breaking The Dark Knight, Nolan switches gears and constructs the most original idea in recent memory: the exploration and theft of subconscious thoughts found in dreams. Once again, Leonardo DiCaprio stars in a similar role to his Shutter Island role; a conflicted, tormented man trying to work through his inner demons enough to do his job. The performances are amazing, but what makes this film the best of the year is its originality and ability to sell the completely illogical concept as absolutely plausible in every aspect. The scope and scale are so breathtaking at times, as cities are folded on top of themselves and crumble into the ocean, it actually becomes hard to believe what you are watching isn’t actually happening. Christopher Nolan is by far the most creative and original filmmaking mind of our time. All we can ask is that he lives a long time never stops making movies.