My Top 10 Films of 2010

Posted on January 11, 2011

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FilmNote: These are Top 10 of the films from 2010 I’ve seen.

I won’t spend a whole lot of time on exposition for this here as a Top 10 list is fairly self-explanatory. As mentioned above, these are the Top 10 of films from 2010 that I’ve seen, so films that are getting praise like The King’s Speech, Blue Valentine and Exit Through the Gift Shop are not included because I haven’t seen them yet. If I do see these films and find them worthy this list could be revised.

More after the jump.


2010 in film, for me, was a mixed bag. It wasn’t an exceptionally stirring year overall and I found that I really didn’t see many movies that were released. In fact, I probably spent more time catching up on older movies and television series than watching newer stuff. There were a few just flat-out dumb fun movies, like Stallone’s The Expendables, that caught my fancy, as well as smarter but not cream of the crop stories like Easy A.

For all my film snobbery, my personal favorite genre of film is comic book movies. I’m not a huge action movie buff, though I enjoy my share. I’m also very much into character pieces and small, stirring dramas. But I get overwhelming joy out of comic flicks and I’m happy we’re in such a strong renaissance for the genre. That said, it was rather sparse (which I’m not necessarily complaining about) and rather lackluster in 2010. Iron Man 2 disappointed and The Losers and Red were enjoyable but minor. I have yet to see Kick-Ass, so I can’t comment on its contributions or quality. And Jonah Hex? Well, Jonah Hex

Overall, I can’t say I was really impressed with 2010 in film. But that said, the top films I saw were exceptional – the top 3 bordering on classic – and could stand up with many of the best from other years. I guess you could probably chalk it up to “awards season” but I also found that much of the best in film for the year wasn’t released until the later part of the year. As a result, it really stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the year.

Without further adieu, my Top 10 films (seen) of 2010:

10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Fabulous performance by Michael Douglas reprising what could be his signature role in Gordon Gekko. The story actually feels organic rather than just a way to cash in on the cachet of the first movie. It’s also fairly well-restrained for Oliver Stone and a nice dissection of the events leading to the Financial Collapse of 2008. The love story/family tragedy between Shia LeBeouf’s and Carey Mulligan’s characters is a little treacly but both turn in fine performances and give you people to root for.

9. The Fighter
I think Christian Bale is a phenomenal actor, but I always hesitate to heap praise on him because it seems not only de rigeur to do so but also somewhat dismissive of what he accomplishes. His Dicky Ward seems a bit over-the-top at first glance, until you realize it’s very true to the living, breathing person he is playing. Just watching Bale’s fidgeting in the part was an astonishing lesson in commitment. Mark Wahlberg, who does his best work with director David O. Russell, is compelling in the role of boxer Mickey Ward, something the actor struggles with in other roles. The Ward family is beautifully and believably realized. I only wish I felt a little more heart from the film. And the ending, though true to real life events, felt a bit off and anti-climactic to me.

8. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle continues to impress as a director, finding a story that, in some ways, is built for the big screen but is in many ways totally unfilmmable. James Franco gives perhaps the most fully realized performance of his career as Aron Ralston, the real-life outdoor enthusiast who was trapped in a crevasse for 5 days when a lose rock trapped his arm forcing him to amputate his own arm to free himself. The movie encapsulates the heartache and triumph as only we could best guess that it would be in the situation.

7. True Grit
The story and film are a lot more straightforward than I had expected, to the point I’m almost tempted to use the word “simple”. But being the Coens, they manage to layer on character and life, not to mention humor, to each person in the film and every actor, particularly Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, steps up and inhabits it all fully. This is one that I think will grow on me more and more, much like Fargo – a film I actually didn’t like when I first saw it – did.

6. Black Swan
Speaking of films growing on you, Darren Aronofsky’s obsession masterpiece is a bit of a tough swallow the first time through. I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed in it at first given all the the hype it had received. But this is a story – and a turn by Natalie Portman – that sticks with you. My only real drawback with this film is that it didn’t focus enough on the ballet, the art and the drive, to fully sell the obsession for me. The supporting cast throughout, led by a lascivious Mila Kunis, is superb and helps to shade depth to a rather dark story.

5. Toy Story 3
I never saw the first Toy Story when it came out. I was in my early 20s and couldn’t really be bothered with an animated kids’ film. I ended up catching it on DVD a couple years after it was released and was astonished at how literate and emotional the story was, not to mention just outright fun. The second added even more depth and to say that I was fully invested in these silly cartoon characters by the third movie is an understatement. I’m so glad that the Disney-Pixar merger happened and that Pixar was able to rescue this sequel – which they originally didn’t want to do – from what could have been a sub-par cash-in on Disney’s end. The movie is a fitting tribute to the series and, as someone who still has trouble putting away childish things, a heartfelt and touching ode to the kid – and toy buff – inside me and us all.

4. How To Train Your Dragon
Here’s another that was completely off my radar before I was sucked into it on DVD. Most of the Dreamworks Animation stuff, aside from Shrek, I’ve shied away from. Plus, I wasn’t familiar with the book that this story was based on, so I paid it little mind. That is until I saw that first flight Hiccup takes on Toothless. Now, I didn’t see this in 3D, but the flight was so captivating and engrossing, I actually teared up from it. The technical achievement of this film blows me away, from the flights, to the fire and smoke, to the lighting. This was one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It had a stunning story to match. And the fact that there are consequences to Hiccup’s great bravery in the end that they actually stuck to in a “kids” movie renewed my faith in writers.

3. Inception
I am a Nolan fan. I don’t make excuses for it. And I certainly don’t bow down to people who knock on Nolan fans as being the “in” thing to do following The Dark Knight. I fell for his style, commitment to character, and ambition in Memento and I’ve been hooked since. His track record, in my book, hasn’t let me down and Inception is no exception. I know a lot of people who complained about the too “realistic” world of dreams that Nolan created in the film, saying it seems uninspired and showed a lack of imagination. For me, I always took it as a common way of lulling other people into a false sense of reality that masked the dreaming so that the team could accomplish their goals. If I was trying to delve into someone’s mind, I would need constructs that were more based in reality for it to make sense to us both. The concepts of the different levels, the loss of self, and the seeding of our own destruction were very palpable and meaningful, as was the quality of redemption and of letting go to move forward. The intricacies of the script are awing and the performances across the board – particularly from Tom Hardy – are surehanded and remarkable.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
This was, by far, the most entertaining movie of the year for me. The fact that it was so overlooked by audiences is criminal. Sure, it’s a flavor not for everyone but I think people might have been misled in how accessible it actually is. Yeah, it’s rooted in video games (particularly 1980s 8-bit Nintendo-era gaming) and comics, but it actually has a pretty universal message about love, baggage, expectation, and compromise in relationships. It’s a pretty and fun film, as well, with great turns by Michael Cera and the beguiling Mary Elisabeth Winstead in the leads and brilliant support led by Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh. I just hope more people are able to stumble upon it.

1. The Social Network
I’m a Sorkin fanatic. I’m a Fincher fan. I like Facebook (for the most part). Hearing that all of these elements were coming together for a movie … left me cold. I really thought this sounded like a cheap way to cash in on the “craze” that was being hyped about social networking and that it just wouldn’t make for a good movie. Boy, was I wrong. As more and more came out about the movie in the months prior to it opening, I started to get more and more intrigued. I finally managed to snag a look at the script and it was a Sorkin classic. It told a story that was not about Facebook as much as it was about the ideas of connecting with the public at large in this new day and age. In the race to connect and build a business around it, the story painted a fascinating picture of the drive of people and the ironic way in which the connections amongst these particular individuals dissolved. Fincher brought everything to power life, pushing a great script into a watershed film. This movie is compelling in a way I haven’t seen in many stories over the past few years and is probably the first to really capture the way the technology to socialize in our world has diminished that ability in real life. Don’t get me wrong, social networking and social media are phenomenal tools. But there does seem to be a disconnect in life and I think the Mark Zuckerberg of this film (whether it’s an accurate portrait or not) encapsulates that.

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Posted in: Movies