Friday, July 8, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2010

As New Years rapidly approaches it's a common impulse to look back on what the past year had to offer.   It can be hard to sum up a year in anything as the year is ending.  Often one can find oneself caught up in the moment, unaware of what the present may look like through the lens of the future.

Many times, one votes or bases his/her opinion on their initial reactions and the spirit of judging in the moment.  Something happening today may hold a stronger meaning in the future, only developing relevance and importance with time.

It is with this knowledge that I hesitantly take a look back on the films of 2010 to compile a list of my 10 favorite films.  Many of the films on my list, and ones that didn't make the cut, will gain cultural relevance and added meaning as time passes.  Some that made the list will lose their importance and fade away.

Know that this list isn't to be taken as a document written in stone, but merely a reflection of a moment in time.  I haven't seen every film released in 2010, a goal I will likely never complete.  Therefore, my list may feel a bit incomplete, but I can only speak to what I've seen.
Here is my list of my favorite films of 2010:

1.    Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky
        (Rated R)

No film has left a stronger impression on me this year than Black Swan.  The film is a visual masterpiece whose images continue to haunt my memory. The story is told equally masterfully, with incredible performances (particularly Natalie Portman).  Best of all, the film acts as metaphor to the artistic process and the toll that making great art has on an artist.  Check out my review of the film.

2.      Inception by Christopher Nolan
         (Rated PG-13)

While not a perfect film, nothing this year was more entertaining than Inception.  Every moment of the film is inventive, unique, and offers something I've never seen before in a film.  The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, who uses a machine to infiltrate the dreams of others to steal their deepest secrets.

In order to reunite with his family he is hired to implant an idea in the mind of his boss' rival's son, a task that has never been successfully completed.  As Cobb delves deeper into the mind of his subject, he begins to release his own dark past on his teammates.

Inception rewards viewers on multiple viewings, revealing Christopher Nolan's incredible attention to detail.  It would be easy to dismiss the film as just plain entertainment.  However, Inception is also an incredible story about dealing with and recovering from a great loss as well as an introspective look at the nature of dreaming.

At an even closer glance the film can also be viewed as a detailed impression on the filmmaking process itself, with each member of the heist team occupying a key role from a real film set.  Check out my first impressions of the film here.

3.     Catfish by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
       (Rated PG-13)

I'll leave it to history to determine whether or not Catfish is a documentary or a masterwork of fiction, but either way this film is gripping and sad in just about every way a film can be.

Catfish needs to be entered into knowing as little as possible for the full effect, and what an effect it is.  Just when I thought I knew where the film was going it delivered a sucker punch to my emotions that I won't soon forget.

When Nev Schulman is contacted by an 8-year-old painter named Abby, through Facebook, his brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost begin to document his growing relationship with the girl.  Abby sends Nev paintings based off of his photos and their correspondence grows to include Abby's entire family.

Soon Nev meets Megan, Abby's seductive and intriguing 19-year-old sister, and they begin a long-distance relationship.  However, something doesn't seem right about the whole ordeal, and Nev is determined to find out the truth.

4.     Toy Story 3 by Lee Unkrich
         (Rated G)

Over the past 10 years audiences have grown to love the characters from the Toy Story movies, especially Woody and Buzz Lightyear.  In the third and final chapter in the trilogy, Andy is headed off to college and the future of the toys is thrown into question.

Toy Story 3 perfectly emulates escape films like The Great Escape while taking the franchise's story to its logical conclusion.  We've seen what happens when toys are new, when they are misplaced, and now we get to see what happens when they are at the end of their lives.

I saw this film in an empty theater in Los Angeles and, while I hate to admit it, was reduced to a sobbing mess.  The film is so heartbreaking, in its depiction of the loss of friendship, that I found myself removing my 3D glasses just to wipe the snot and tears from my face.  The only reason that this film isn't #1 is that it hems very close to Toy Story 2 with its storyline.

5.     Let Me In by Matt Reeves
        (Rated R)

2008's Let the Right One In was a true masterpiece, so when it was announced that the Swedish film would be remade for American audiences I was very skeptical.  Fortunately, Matt Reeves has created a movie that doesn't just repeat what was so successful about Let the Right One In but it actually improves on it in places.

12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is bullied constantly at his middle school in 1980's New Mexico.  When a mysterious new neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz), moves in next-door the two quickly become best of friends.

Abby begins to teach Owen how to stand up for himself, but Owen soon comes to find out that Abby has a secret of her own.  Abby isn't a normal 13-year-old girl, she is in fact a vampire on the run.

There are so many sequences in this film that are just amazing to watch, that even discussing them might ruin the surprise (watch for the car murder scene).  At its heart Let Me In is an extremely unconventional coming-of-age tale and a strange love story.  While similar to its Swedish predecessor, it is unique enough that the two films would make an incredible double feature.

6.     Mother by Joon-ho Bong
         (Rated R)

The opening shot of Mother stole my breath.  A Korean woman walks through a large wheat field.  She is running from something, obviously upset.  Then light drums and guitar break the silence.  The woman begins to dance, staring at the camera, almost inviting the viewer to join in with her.  It is surreal, beautiful, suspenseful, and captivating and this is just the first shot of Mother.

Mother explores how far a mother will go to protect and exonerate her son after a murder shakes up her South Korean village.  A girl is found murdered and her son, a mentally challenged young man, accidentally admits to her murder.  This begins a thrilling quest to prove her son's innocence.

Mother may be one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen.  Every single image drips style, substance, and incredible beauty.

7.     The Social Network by David Fincher
          (Rated PG-13)

"This is our time!" Napster-creator Sean Parker shouts to Facebook-creator Mark Zuckerberg over the blaring sounds of an up-scale techno party.  At its core, this statement is what The Social Network is all about.  David Fincher (Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) delivers a film that not only portrays the rise of Facebook but also documents the fall of business of old.

Mark Zuckerberg, chillingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland), represents everything that old business, which once relied heavily on having a wealthy, privileged arbitrator, fears.  He is a self-obsessed 20-something with an axe to grind and the brains to pull it off.

Unfortunately, many of the good-intentioned characters in The Social Network happen to be on the other end of Zuckerberg's uncaring agenda, executed via Facebook.

There is a great irony present in The Social Network's story about a man with no social skills who will determine the way that the world socializes.  It is this idea that makes The Social Network such an interesting film and one that will only get better with time.  Read my review of the film here.

8.     Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Edgar Wright
          (Rated PG-13)

From the opening 8-bit Universal logo to the Zelda-infused score, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is probably the most pop-culture infused movie ever made.  Every second radiates its hyperkinetic style.  Crank up the sound, rock out, and get ready to laugh your pants off!

In order to date manic pixie dream girl Ramona Flowers, slacker Scott Pilgrim must defeat all of her seven evil exes in a duel to the death.  In a musical when emotions get high people start singing.  In Scott Pilgrim when emotions get high people start fighting to the death.

There wasn't a more fun film this year than Scott Pilgrim.  Each battle is unique and full of martial arts goodness.  Not only that but the jokes are non-stop, in only a way that Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) can deliver.

9.     Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy
          (Rated R)

Just like Catfish, Exit Through the Gift Shop might be one of the best documentaries this year or one of the best works of fiction.  Again, either way this film is a stunning achievement and commentary on modern art.

Thierry Guetta is a filmmaker who just cannot stop recording every second of his life.  When he begins documenting the underground world of street art he encounters the world-famous Banksy, known for his illegal masterful street-art.

When Banksy gets access to Thierry's videos and takes over his filmmaking duties things take a very strange turn.  Thierry dubs himself Mr. Brainwash and begins to do his own street art and soon becomes famous for doing the very thing that undermines Banksy's own work.

10.    The Fighter by David O'Russell
           (Rated R)

Based off the true story of the boxer Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the boxer tells the story of two brothers who fight to rise out from their small working-class roots.  Mickey's brother Dickey, a has-been battling his own drug addiction, is set to train his brother but can he recover fast enough to keep his family together.

I have no doubt that The Fighter will soon become known as one of the greatest boxing movies ever made, in league with Rocky.  However it isn't the boxing scenes that make the film so great, but the story of the relationship of two brothers.  The performances are amazing; Christian Bale is almost unrecognizable as Dicky Eklund and will most likely land him an Oscar.

127 Hours, Buried, Kick-Ass, True Grit, The Kids Are All Right, Tangled, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Animal Kingdom, The Tillman Story, The TownEnter the Void, Red Riding (1974, 1980, 1983), Four Lions, Never Let Me Go,  Blue Valentine, The King's SpeechThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The IllusionistIron Man 2, How to Train Your Dragon, Shutter Island, Barney's Version and Greenberg. 

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