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The Top 10 of 2010

2010 was a terrible year in film.

Legion, The Wolfman, Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, From Paris With Love, Little Fockers, Grown-Ups…it was like a never-ending stream of sewage flowing into our theatres.

But it wasn’t all bad news.  Among the 550ish movies released this year, there were some amazing pieces of film-making that, to quote one of the films on this list, “deserve some recognition.”

In alphabetical order, the top 10 movies of 2010 are:

Animal Kingdom

Look, just because Australia was founded by criminals, that doesn’t mean that they have some secret expertise at crafting superb crime dramas. That, my friend, is culturally insensitive. Shame on you.

Still, there’s no denying Animal Kingdom is one of the best crime films to come out in recent memory.

It chronicles the fall of the Cody family – a tight-knit family of criminals forced into a game of survival against the police, and ultimately, each other.

The film is nearly two hours of tension, always threatening to explode into something much worse. There have been many ‘crime family’ movies made before it, but Animal Kingdom remains an original, conveying a chilling authenticity that is hard to shake once the credits roll.

A must-see for fans of the genre.

Black Swan

“Dude, you mean that…ballet movie?”

Yes, hypothetical frat guy, that ballet movie. Now un-pop your collar, you look like a tool.

Black Swan is a modern, twisted retelling of Swan Lake, created from the same mind which took your happy thoughts and forever scarred them with Requiem for a Dream.

It’s a story of obsession, perfectionism, and losing one’s self. Darren Aronofsky took a classic story and reinvented it with his own unique stamp. Tchaikovsky’s classic score is also given a modern twisting to suit the film perfectly.

The movie is tense and unsettling and Natalie Portman’s acting is nothing short of amazing. She’s a serious contender for Best Leading Actress this year.

If you’re still not convinced, hypothetical frat guy, it also has Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in a hot, lesbian sex scene. Thought that might change your mind.

Inception

Like anyone’s surprised this one is on the list.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live. You saw this movie.

Inception featured astounding effects, a memorable Hans Zimmerman score, and a twisted plot that people are still debating. It also was a bit of an anomaly:  a smart, summer blockbuster.

Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors around these days. Inception was a break from his Batman franchise, which let him get back to the Memento-like mind-bending that his fans know and love him for.

It also featured a great ensemble cast, and made everyone sit up and take notice of Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Easily one of the best films of the summer.

Rabbit Hole

Dark, bold, and uncompromising, Rabbit Hole offers an unflinching look into the tragic world of losing a child.

Featuring dynamite performances by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole serves up believable reactions to tragedy, without the clichés. There are no platitudes or glossed over Hollywood endings to be found here – just honest, unpredictable life.

Every moment of heartbreak, grief and rage that encompasses their new lives feels genuine and hauntingly real.

So make no mistake, you’ll probably feel like a bag of shit when you’re done watching.

Awesome.

Restrepo

Very few of us will ever be anywhere near a battlefield. Restrepo shines by bringing the front lines to us.

This National Geographic documentary focuses on a year in the life of a group of US soldiers stationed in the most dangerous part of Afghanistan. In a place where every day brings about five firefights, Restrepo chronicles daily life.

The result is a remarkably candid portrait of war that reveals truths last year’s The Hurt Locker never even scratched the surface of. Restrepo provides an authentic look at the joy of comradery, the panic of battle, and the pain of lost friends.

The best documentary of the year.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Call this one the anti-Inception, because nobody saw this movie.

And that’s really a shame because Scott Pilgrim is a truly unique experience that really begged to be seen on the big screen. Like some sort of addict, I got my fix again and again.

It’s an amazing blend of pop culture and about half a dozen genres. It’s an example of paying meticulous detail to every moment of a film (watch how every scene flows seamlessly into the next). It also solidifies Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as one of the most intriguing and original directors in the game these days.

But perhaps most amazing of all, it made me no longer hate Michael Cera. Truly it has done the impossible.

The King’s Speech

A historical film based around a future king learning to overcome his speech impediment. I can hear your yawn from here.

But that description really only tells half the story.

The King’s Speech is a funny and refreshingly human story. Most films about the monarchy are stiff and hard to relate to. The King’s Speech turns figureheads into real people with *gasp* actual personalities.

The dialogue is sharp and clever. Much of the movie focuses on the relationship between King George VI and his eccentric speech therapist, played by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, respectively. These two are the glue of the film, and their dynamic and thoroughly entertaining bond is fantastic to watch.

The movie serves as a metaphor for anyone having to overcome self-doubt. Firth captures a man with a stutter impeccably, never being too grating for the audience or disingenuous to his subject.

One of the best performances of the year.

The Social Network

I never took the idea of basing a movie on Facebook seriously.

But with David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin attaching their names to the project, The Social Network began to give me strange, unusual feelings of what can only be what some describe as ‘hope’.

Turns out that hope was well placed, because The Social Network turned out to be one of the surprise hits of the year.

Sorkin’s snappy dialogue is quick and clever, and turns what could have been a legal snooze fest into an exciting story of fame, fortune, and betrayal.

Sure, some of the details were clearly exaggerated, but the movie is better for it. I mean, would you rather have the 100% accurate version of Facebook’s origin? Months of writing code and saying no to drugs?

Also, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg is engaging and hard to ignore. He adds a quiet, yet powerful screen presence to every scene he’s in.

Ultimately, The Social Network was fantastic, and showed us that movies based on popular websites can be huge successes.

Now to wait for the inevitable icanhascheezburger.com film.

Toy Story 3

Perfect trilogies are hard to come by.

That’s what makes the Toy Story saga so remarkable, and particularly, what makes Toy Story 3 one of the best movies of the year.

Toy Story 3 is the final film in the story of Woody and the gang, and ties plot elements up in an ending that feels organic and satisfying.

All the heart and great writing that made the other two so great is still intact. However, Toy Story 3 also introduces darker elements into the familiar mix, and challenges viewers with mature themes. One particularly emotional moment involving certain death is one of the most outstanding film scenes of the year.

A remarkable movie for young and old.

True Grit

Jeff Bridges snarls and swaggers his way through the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic novel, ‘True Grit’.

The plot is similar to many ‘you shot my pa’ westerns before it, but True Grit surpasses the basic formula. Characters feel three-dimensional and full. The ruthlessness of the old west feels intact and tangible. It’s less a movie than a window into another time.

Portis’ dialogue is brought to life by brilliant exchanges by Bridges and newcomer, Hailee Steinfeld. Likewise, moments of the Coens’ distinct influence can be felt in the films many moments of dark humour.

And it’s this constant of humour and darkness that takes a basic premise and makes it great.

One of the Coens’ most accessible films, and will no doubt do well come Oscar nomination time.

Honourable Mentions

The Fighter
127 Hours
The Kids Are All Right
How to Train Your Dragon
Kick-As
s

You know, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t such a terrible year after all.

What do you guys think? Did one of your favourites get overlooked? Have your say in the comments.


Restrepo

Very few of us will ever be anywhere near a battlefield. Restrepo shines by bringing the frontlines to us.

This National Geographic documentary focuses on a year in the life of a group of US soldiers stationed in the most dangerous part of Afghanistan. In a place where every day brings about five firefights, Restrepo chronicles daily life.

The result is a remarkably candid portrait of war that reveals truths last year’s The Hurt Locker never even scratched the surface of. Restrepo provides an authentic look at the joy of comradery, the panic of battle, and the pain of lost friends.

The best documentary of the year.

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