Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best and Worst Films of 2010 - The Best

As I mentioned in an earlier post, 2010 was one of the hardest years in recent memory to glean a true "best of" list because there were so many good ones. I agonized over the elimination process, but when I did, deciding what order they should go in was actually a lot easier. Here are my favorite 11 films of 2010, in order.


11. A SERIOUS MAN (2009)

Joel and Ethan Coens' film based on the book of Job is perhaps one of their most personal, dealing with strong Jewish themes. Michael Stuhlbarg is Larry Gopnik, a math professor who sees his world unraveling through a series of life altering events, until something as simple as being hounded by a collector from Columbia House records becomes almost too much to bear. Darkly humorous, yet profound, A Serious Man is a polarizing film, but I think those that appreciate it, really appreciate it, and I loved it.


I haven't yet found a Pedro Almodovar film I haven't liked, and his latest film, Broken Embraces, didn't disappoint. He always draws an incredible performance out of his muse, Penelope Cruz, who stars as Lena, the tragic love interest of two different men. Part thriller, part romance, Broken Embraces is both precise and beautiful.

9. HOWL (2010)

I didn't need to be sold on the premise of Howl; being a huge fan of the literature of the Beat generation, and Ginsberg's work in particular, I was looking forward to whatever was going to be prevented onscreen. What surprised me, however, was how incredible and imaginative the film turned out to be. Primarily focusing on the obscenity trial over Ginsberg's epic poem Howl, the film also examines Ginsberg's life and creative process during the time he produced his seminal work. Part pseudo-documentary, part courtroom drama, the film boasts imaginative and sometimes horrifying animated representation of Ginsberg's poetry, and an amazing, Oscar-worthy performance by James Franco, who continues to surprise me with his talent.


I have no idea what is fact and what is fiction in The Social Network, David Fincher's film about the creation of the hugely successful social networking site, Facebook and the people who claim to have created it, but I honestly don't care. The Social Network is effortlessly compelling, and Jesse Eisenberg gives a completely amazing performance as Mark Zuckerberg, the lead player in the drama that almost takes on a bent of Greek tragedy. Scripted by Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network also contained my favorite movie quote of the year, when one of the Winklevoss twins, who claim to have had the Facebook idea first expresses the desire to kick Zuckerberg's ass: "I'm six-five, 220 pounds and there are two of me."

7. PERSONA (1966)

Starring Liv Ullman and Bibi Andersson and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Persona is a masterpiece of psychological manipulation and decline. When "The Actress" (Ullman) suddenly stops talking, she is assigned to "The Nurse" (Andersson) and the two become close while they share a cabin at the beach as part of Ullman's recovery. Their roles soon become reversed, with Ullman acting as Andersson's confidante, and their personalities soon begin to meld together until Andersson becomes paranoid and unsure of who she is anymore. Full of amazing imagery, complicated, cerebral and scary, Persona is brilliance personified.

6. INCEPTION (2010)

Though I like his Batman films less than his "other" films, I'm pretty sure that it is an understatement that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors to come out of the last decade. I was thrilled to see him going back to his mind-bending roots of Following and Memento with the wildly entertaining and thought-provoking Inception. Part colossal mind-screw and part kick-ass action film, Inception gives us philosophical food for thought in a fantastically polished package that left some unanswered questions that had a lot of people talking - just one indication of a great film.

5. A SINGLE MAN (2009)

Though it was his directorial debut, I never doubted that Tom Ford would bring high style to A Single Man, being a fashion designer and former head of Gucci. What I didn't expect was the subtlety and incredible depth he would bring to this story about George (Colin Firth), a closeted gay man in the 1960's who has to cope with the sudden death of his longtime lover. The beauty of A Single Man, and the heart-breaking performance by Firth (sorry, but he deserved the Oscar for this one) had me in awe and wracked with sobs by the end of the film. Unfortunately I saw the film in public, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one who walked out of the theater sniffling.

4. BLACK SWAN (2010)

Having only seen Black Swan a week ago, this one really skyrocketed up my list. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Black Swan is a scary psychological thriller that delves into the competitive (and obsessive) world of ballet. If Portman doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for her role (it's still too early to deem her a deserving winner) I will be shocked. Aronofsky notoriously puts his actors through hell with his challenging characters, and ultimately gets some of the best performances of their lives out of them. Black Swan is beautiful to look at, even if you sometimes want to look away. The brilliance of the film lies in the fact that you can't look away.


The best film I saw during my Scorsese filmography project, My Voyage to Italy is a fabulous 5 hour opus by Martin Scorsese about the Italian films from the 1940's through 1960's that influenced him as a filmmaker and as a lifelong student of film. Covering films and filmmakers that extend beyond the obvious choices, Scorsese's passion for film is practically tangible and charming to witness. I found that I had to keep a steno pad next to me during the film so I could make a note of the films he showcased that I hadn't yet seen. Scorsese begins the film by saying, "I saw these movies. They had a powerful effect on me. You should see them." He is a born teacher, and My Voyage to Italy makes every viewer, like its director, a student of film.

2. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

A couple of cute people meet at work and begin a relationship, only it's not all sunshine, despite the best efforts of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to reign in Summer (Zooey Deschanel). (500) Days of Summer is a chronic of their relationship, with a non-linear order that both affords clues of its impending doom and makes the audience second-guess what they think they already know. The film has its sweet, breezy moments, (the dancing in the park scene with Gordon-Levitt is a joy) but for the most part shows how relationships really can be, with its insecurities and false hopes. (The party scene which shows Tom's expectations and the reality in split-screen is both ingenious and gut-wrenching.) Though not as clever, (500) Days of Summer has a lot of similarities to Annie Hall, and I found it absolutely brilliant.

1. MARY AND MAX (2009)

A tale of an unlikely friendship between a young girl in Australia and a middle-aged man in New York, Mary and Max is a brilliant animated film. By complete serendipity, Mary and Max become pen pals, with loneliness being their common bond. During their decades-long correspondence, they share their ups-and-downs and become irreplaceable in each others' lives. With clever animation, an inspired script and fantastic voice over performances (particularly Max, played by an almost unrecognizable Philip Seymour Hoffman) Mary and Max is sweet, sad, funny and above all, uncompromisingly charming. There were a few times during the film when I was in tears, but I was soon laughing over something cute or funny. You've probably never heard of Mary and Max, but it is truly a film that must be seen, and hands down, it was the best film (out of a lot of excellent films) that I saw in 2010.

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