Looking Back: Ethan's Picks for the Top Ten Best Films of 2010
by Ethan Anderton
January 10, 2011
We've already looked back at the ten biggest box office earners of 2010, and I also highlighted my favorite movie posters and least favorite films from last year as well. But now it's time to finish up my retrospective business with my Top 10 Best Films of 2010. While plenty of you have pointed out the fact that there was a lot of garbage sent into theaters last year, there was still plenty of spectacular filmmaking on display, and believe it or not, figuring out which films would make the cut was rather difficult. While many of my choices are in line with other year-end lists, I think there's a couple surprises in there. Check out my full list below!
#10 - Let Me In
For a film that had both myself and fans of Let the Right One In skeptical from the beginning, director Matt Reeves successfully helped people put their feet in their mouths with this wholly unique vampire story. While the film shares its style, tone and obviously story with the original Swedish film, Reeves did some great work to make the film his own. Using New Mexico in the early 80's as the backdrop for this unconventional coming-of-age tale, Let Me In makes you forget that vampires have been overexposed and highlights two of the best performances from child actors (Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee) in 2010 not to mention an astounding supporting performance from Richard Jenkins. If you've been stubborn in seeing this because of your love for the original film - please give it a chance!
#9 - True Grit
Who says Westerns are dead? The Coen Brothers make a return to the genre after No Country for Old Men snagged them a Best Picture win, but this time they're remaking a John Wayne classic. Fortunately they brought Jeff Bridges with them as Rooster Cogburn in one of the best leading performances of 2010. But no matter how good Bridges stumbles and mumbles in this, some major kudos goes to newcomer Hailee Steinfeld for holding her own with the likes of Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper. She's a feisty, truly inspiring heroine whose strength and prowess is right up there with Ellen Ripley and Clarice Starling despite only being 14-years old.
#8 - Buried
Not only did 127 Hours fail to make my Top 10 of 2010 (it was a tough choice), but I found this similar story of isolation and desperation to be far more engaging, captivating and daring in its storytelling. Without utilizing flashbacks, cutaways or a space larger than a pine wood box, Rodrigo Cortés crafts a suspenseful story that seems like your average horror thriller on the surface. However, buried with Ryan Reynolds is all the frustration every single one of us has with bureaucratic bullshit, especially when our very life depends on it. Reynolds performance isn't quite as perfected as James Franco in 127 Hours, but considering some of his physical feats inside the pine box, I have to give him a lot of credit. If you need more evidence of my love for this flick, you can read my review here.
#7 - Winter's Bone
If you loved Brick, then I imagine you'll be just as impressed with Winter's Bone. While Rian Johnson's film noir was set in high school, Debra Granik sets this detective-like story in the middle of nowhere. Another strong female character takes the spotlight with Jennifer Lawrence delivering a breakthrough performance as Ree Dolly, a tough, determined girl wiser than her years who sets out to find her deadbeat meth dealer father or risk losing her family's house. Complete with great performances from John Hawkes and a compelling mystery, this film came out of nowhere to impress me on every level.
#6 - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A movie that was surely unappreciated at the box office by general audiences and will likely become a cult classic amongst geek culture, this was one of the most bold, visually striking and unique films to hit the big screen in a long time. With the incredible talent of Edgar Wright behind an adaptation of the six-volume graphic novel, this ink-and-paper story translates beautifully to live-action with some of the most spot-on casting I've seen in a long time. Aside from Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jason Scwartzman, even criticized Superman actor Brandon Routh were pitch-perfect in this fun, video game inspired action flick. Very rarely do I watch a flick and want to watch it again immediately after the credits.
#5 - The King's Speech
Though many of called this film "Oscar bait," this story isn't in the same vein as some period dramas. Like Shakespeare in Love before it, the film doesn't intently focus on historical times just to recollect the achievements and events in history, but instead focuses on the touching relationships between people caught up events of the past. In this case, we get a view at one of the earliest bromances between King George VI of Britain (Colin Firth) and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as they become friends while attempting to cure His Highness of a terrible stammer. A friendship blossoms beautifully along with great performances from Rush and Firth who seem like they've been friends for years.
#4 - Black Swan
Hauntingly beautiful and darkly twisted, Darren Aronofsky delivers his best film to date with Natalie Portman falling from white porcelain grace into a visceral, erotic darkness. In a visually striking, and mind-melting story, Aronofsky delivers what is essentially a sinister, psychologically thrilling adaptation of Swan Lake in with an almost Charlie Kaufman-level of meta storytelling as Portman attempts to become both the Black and White Swan in the famous ballet. Clint Mansell only makes things better with his beautiful score, and just adds more greatness to this unforgettable masterpiece.
#3 - Inception
One of only two original films to crack the Top 10 box office earners of 2010, director Christopher Nolan earns every penny with this heist of the mind that will leave you lost in thought even after multiple viewings. Layers of dream levels and manipulated environments always keep you guessing as to what is real and what is part of the dream. I don't remember the last time being so frustrated and enamored with the last shot of a film as Cobb's totem begins to tilt before a cut to black leaves us on the edge of our seat. Sheer brilliance!
#2 - Toy Story 3
Saying goodbye to Woody, Buzz and the rest Andy's toys since being introduced to them when I was a young lad back in 1995 was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of 2010. All three times that I journeyed to theaters for Pixar's amazing finale, I had tears in my eyes. Looking back, it's absolutely amazing that I found myself moved by the loss of toys that I never owned when I was a kid and only experienced by way of a screen (both large and small). Thank you Lee Unkrich for one of the most simultaneously difficult and touching screenings of my life.
#1 - The Social Network
Though it seems like the hype machine has already started to invoke the rage of baffled parties who aren't on board the high speed praise train for David Fincher's story about the founding of Facebook, it was still my favorite film of 2010. Jesse Eisenberg was born to play this role, and if anyone mistakes him for Michael Cera after this film, that person should be punched. As a matter of fact, Aaron Sorkin's amazing writing talents immensely contributed to my complete 180 on a film that I was vehemently opposed to when it was announced about a couple years back.
The Social Network both glorifies the process of invention and growth behind Facebook and criticizes its effect on interpersonal relationships and how it's become a substitute for developing a personality. The same can be said for our achievements that no matter how great, may have been spawned out of spite for an ex-significant other. I loved this film beyond belief, and will be first in line to buy it on Blu-Ray when its released on Tuesday, January 11th - this week!
In addition, here are some extra Honorable Mentions that were in consideration for my Top Ten list this year, but didn't make it in the end: Waking Sleeping Beauty, Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Fighter, 127 Hours, Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon, Greenberg and Tangled. Some other purportedly great films that I've yet to see like Blue Valentine and Somewhere could very well be good enough for the Top 10, but I'm quite pleased with my current choices.
As for the lack of any documentaries on my Top 10, I've always enjoyed a great doc but I find traditional narrative features to be more captivating. I've also found that documentaries have less rewatchability (no that's not a real word), but that's something I take into consideration when picking my favorite films. We'd love to find out what your own Top 10 Films of 2010 are, so let the hopefully civilized discussion begin!