The Best Films of 2010

First, the list is alphabetical. This is essential – frankly, none of these films are equal to the other. Some are better in certain ways, some are worse. However, each helped define the year and at least gave a bold, original idea and fantastic performances. They should be sought out by any one looking for a thought provoking film.

Oh, and one more thing. As a rule, I only put films on this list that I have seen. This is why films like 127 Hours and King’s Speech are not on this list. I am sure they are spectacular and I will see them as soon as possible. But, as of this writing, I have not, and thus do not feel comfortable including them.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the top ten films of 2010.

Black Swan-A film of enormous skill and tension, Black Swan embeds himself firmly in that barrier between reality and fantasy. It is a film that could not be told either way – especially considering the themes of duality and perception that are available. Natalie Portman’s performance was perfect, as was Vincent Cassel’s villain, who unknowingly pushed her character over the edge. If Hitchcock used to play his audiences like a piano, then Aronofsky has played his audiences like ballerina dancers; with grace, but with a very dark undercurrent that almost transcends humanity.

Easy A-I never understand why people think that I am trying to condemn everything that does not fit some sort of genre or other film that I like. Well, here is a film about a high school girl making up a story about sex, and making fun of the high school society. I absolutely loved it. I thought that Emma Stone’s Olive was the smartest high school girl since MTV’s Daria. Most films aimed at high schoolers seem to eternally feel the need to insult them. That is why most directors supposedly influenced by John Hughes write for older characters. This is a film that embraces youth, and recognizes that that era of someone’s life is a very important one. It is smart, well executed, and above all funny. The supporting cast (including Stanley Tucci, Thomas Hayden Church, Lisa Kudrow, and Malcolm McDowell) is one of the most memorable of the year.

Exit Through the Gift Shop-Banksy is one of the most important artists of the decade. And now he has made a film about street art and a documentary filmmaker trying to make a movie about street artists. The result of mostly anonymous artists (the notable exception to the anonymity is Shepard Fairey, the man who created the infamous ‘Hope’ symbol) trying to elude capture while making provocative statements about the modern urban landscape. The fact that it may be a ‘hoax’ merely helps its reputation (more than that other hoax documentary, I’m Still Here). In fact, it makes artistic sense; Banksy has spent his career creating images that are meant to distort people’s views of art. Comparable to F for Fake? Only time will tell, but Exit Through the Gift Shop definitely deserves a spot on the top ten list.

Inception– Next to The Social Network, this was the most talked about film of the year. And with good reason – it still shows that Christopher Nolan can make a great original script about the way the mind works. Everyone dreams, but few people really understand what is causing it or what it really means. Inception does not answer these questions, but gives the audiences a fun chase. Unlike Nolan’s previous Memento, Inception roots itself in a fantasy world and uses a large amount of incredible set pieces to get its point across. That hallway sequence contains some of the most convincing special effects I have ever seen. I compared it to 2001 in my original film, because I cannot think of the last time such a smart science fiction film became so popular. Oh, and it was nice to see Ellen Paige and Joseph Gordon Levitt playing against type for one of the first times in their careers.

The Kids Are All Right-On the surface, this is a film about lesbians and their children. But this is not a film that is trying to make a political statement, by repeating endlessly how normal the situation is. We can see it for ourselves. TJules and Nic are not defined by their sexuality; they are defined by their lives and their careers. They are also wonderful people – I certainly would not mind having dinner at their house. And that is the most important thing that a film like this could do. It is not about the message (although that becomes clear), it is about the people and the lives that they lead. No other films this year were as warm and inviting as this one.

Never Let Me Go-As we talk about government health care, this film comes along. I have a feeling that a program like this one may become implemented. But the film never dwells on that – it allows the audiences to reach that conclusion by themselves. This makes the message, about what makes people human and what happens when portions of people become commodities. The characters are mostly stoic, but that is part of the point. After all, the would have been trained not to be complete. But they can still be frustrated and sad, which means that they are more like us than we could release. This is a film people will come back to during the ongoing health care debate.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World-Why did no one see this film? I have no idea why – it seemed to be one that panders to everyone of the new generation. This film is not so much about telling a story, as so much modern film is (the story is actually kinda boring) but about how the story is told. Scott Pilgrim borrows from every genre and other medium imaginable, from music to video games to television. It is certainly a cleverly directed filmAll of which makes the film the most kinetic I have seen since, maybe, the works of Godard and Pulp Fiction. I suppose that the total take of the film means that it is not for everyone. But those who do see it will find it an incredibly rewarding film that is never, for one second, boring. Also, the soundtrack is quite good, so there is that.

Shutter Island-This is, ultimately, Scorsese’s tribute to Hitchcock. The film does not really try to explore any new ground, but it does appear to have mastered all of the old techniques exactly. Most everyone who watches this was along for the ride (even if it was a little predictable) and admired the performances, especially Leonardo DiCaprio’s. But it was Scorsese’s direction that makes the film work. It is tight and tense, and rather than existing for cheap scares, the film truly lingers in people’s minds. Shutter Island makes a perfect double bill with Inception.

The Social Network-This is the film that is topping most other critics lists. If I were doing a traditional one, it may top mine too. It is easy to understand the hype – facebook is the most significant invention of the past decade. This film helps us all understand not only the motivations behind it (it was not just unrequited love, but other reasons) but why it caught on. We see the history of a website told in an exciting way (yes, real computer programming as excitement) and actually put human faces on the people involved. As we become more adept at digital media, we see interactions as a mathematical equation. But this is not a promotion of it, or a condemnation, merely a way to help us understand. It is a fascinating film and one that will only become more important as more websites like Facebook are created.

True Grit-I have not seen the original featuring John Wayne, but this remake makes me curious, which is at least a partial compliment. But then, this one stands very well on its own. The world that the Coen Brothers uses is as much of a satirical fantasy world as a reality. I suppose westerns cannot help but be ironic these days, but that sense of irony helps the film out enormously. Cowboys, by themselves, are not memorable, but the ones in the film certainly carry that air. In addition, the film is a fantastic morality play, about vengeance and redemption. Hailee Steinfeld may be the new Jodie Foster, considering the maturity she manages to exude for being such a young actress.

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