My Top Ten List – 2010
Last year, I can remember the huge uproar against the AMPAS extending the amount of Best Picture nominees to ten. I can also remember, that through it all, I was one of this notion’s strongest supporters. I recognize the faults in the logic. It allows for lesser films that have no business being considered one of the year’s best to fight their way in due to endless campaigning and the votes of stupid people. This flaw took shape last year in the form of “The Blind Side” getting nominated for Best Picture.
However, the upsides of the expansion are far greater. It gives the field a more diverse look, for one. It’s nice to see films from a wide range of directors and collaborators. If allows also a mix of both intelligent box office hits and scrappy indy favorites. More than anything else, however, is that five films is just two few to sum up a year in cinema. Had the Academy enacted this ruling ten years ago, one would look back on certain films and think it a crime had they not been nominated, which they haven’t. Imagine a world if films like “The Wrestler,” “The Dark Knight,” “WALL-E,” “Into the Wild,” “Once,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “United 93,” “Little Children,” “Children of Men” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” could have been Best Picture nominees, and that’s only the last five years.
It must be for that reason that critics, for over fifty years, have been issuing top ten lists of their favorite films, rather than top five lists. It’s about that time, therefore, for The Edge of the Frame to release its own list for the 2010 year. I have now seen sixty films from 2010, which is low for me and not quite an respectable amount. Over the years, I’m sure that this list will change a spot or two as I see more, but for now, I believe that I’ve seen an acceptable sum to create an adequate list.
This has been a good year for film, but not really a great one. Out of sixty films, I gave only two films “A” grades. The year has had its high points and low points. For instance, it has been a great year for lead acting performances, but a rotten year for cinematography. For sure, I will always remember 2010 as the year that the Oscars snubbed its nose at great film and went home to their comfort zones. More than anything else, however, 2010 has been the year of the documentary. Never have I seen a year in cinema in which so many documentaries have captured my interest, let alone made it into my top ten.
As always there are a few stragglers that, even though they don’t qualify for my top ten, they still deserve an honorable mention. Therefore, this next selection of films are all very good, but just not good enough. They may be packed with amazing moments, but there’s also one too many flaws that have kept them down. So without further adieu, here are the films that just didn’t quite make it:
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
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Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin
“How to Train Your Dragon”
Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Written by William Davies, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
“I Love You Phillip Morris”
Written and Directed by
John Pequa and Glenn Ficarra
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Laeta Kalogridis
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Written by Marco Bellocchio and Daniela Ceseli
The following of which are, as of now, my ten favorite films of 2010. Each of these films have reached a level of excellence in my mind that is worthy of recognition and remembrance. I’ve provided a short commentary per film. Enjoy!
Directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington
Perhaps the only film experience more visceral than an intensive cinematic dive into the world of warfare, such as “The Hurt Locker,” “Saving Private Ryan” or “Platoon,” is when that experience is for real and not fictional. This is the driving force behind the most emotionally moving documentary of the year. It reminded me of another fantastic war doc a few years ago, “The War Tapes.” However, while at times more entertaining, the aspect that that film lacks and “Restrepo” perfects is the way it delves into a soldier’s sense of brotherhood with the man next to him. It also shines a light on what might be the most horrible place in the world, and examine how humanity can survive amongst such elements of fear and turmoil.
9. “Blue Valentine”
As in “Ordinary People,” Judd Hirsch tells his patient, “A little advice about feelings, kid. Don’t expect it always to tickle.” That quote truly sums up the essence of Derek Cianfrance’s first significant feature. Many people describe this film of a marriage crumbling away as being one that is difficult to watch, which, at points, it certainly is. However, for a film that conjures up such sorrow and sympathy, one will be surprised at the level of excitement and entertainment brought about by the characters’ misfortune. It’s not that I took pleasure in the hardships of said woeful lovers. Yet, the film reminds us that human drama can not only bring us low, but give us pure exhilaration. The film is also not hurt by holding two of the most towering and naturalistic performances in recent film history in Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
8. “Inside Job”
Directed by Charles Ferguson
Written by Chad Beck and Adam Bolt
As far as docs go, they simply don’t get any smarter than this one. Hell, films in general. And you don’t have to be a stock broker to understand it, but rather you’ll learn a multitude of lessons from watching it. Sometimes, a documentary’s information can speak for itself and the direction can go unnoticed, but not here. Aside from perhaps Michael Moore, I’m not sure if there is a documentarian who leaves a bigger footprint on his films than Charles Ferguson. His method of slow-cooking the details like an epically suspenseful power-point as well as his ability to grill his interview subjects into submission have made him into perhaps this country’s greatest doc-artist. Watch this movie if you want to feel your blood boil like it never has.
Written and Directed by
Let’s be honest. Is there possibly a more exciting or consistent director working in Hollywood than Christopher Nolan? In thirteen years, the man has yet to make a bad movie, or even an average one, for that matter. And with “Inception” he achieves one of the crown jewels of his career. Like the director’s last (and slightly superior) film “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” is a near-perfect blend of action, intelligence and pure grandeur. Nolan weaves every scene together with finesse, while never letting go of the reigns. Even when the film seems to spend too much of its time explaining itself to the audience, it doesn’t seem to matter, for everything that it has to define is just so damned interesting. A stellar vision. I also hope that as long as Christopher Nolan is making films, Wally Pfister (his longtime cinematographer) will be at his side. They are one of the greatest visual pairings in cinema, up among the likes of Spielberg and Kaminski, Bergman and Nykvist, Bertolucci and Storaro.
6. “The Fighter”
Directed by David O’Russell
Written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy
Without a doubt, the surprise film of the year. David O’Russell ventured completely out of his element to create a vision I didn’t know was possible, anymore: a wholly original boxing film. The movie finds a perfect balance between grittiness and crowd-pleasure. However, it’s the cast that makes this a film to be remembered, host to a wealth of phenomenal performances. Melissa Leo does and Oscar-worthy job and Christian Bale has put forth the finest work of his career. It’s the vitality of the ensemble and, not necessarily the talent, but the sense of purpose and passion of the director that makes this film one of the best and most moving of the year.
5. “Another Year”
Written and Directed by
There are not many true auteurs left working in cinema today: a filmmaker who drafts a unique vision and then crafts said film into a work of art using a style that only that artist can bring to life. Mike Leigh is certainly one of those individuals. He has long been perfecting his method of portraying the commonwealth of British society, at their highest and lowest points. In “Another Year,” the director shines a light on a loving couple and their friends as they all make the transition into late middle age. The movie is heartfelt and awkward, yet in a wonderful fashion. Leigh’s talent also comes from creating highly entertaining and original dialogue from thoroughly mundane situations. A fantastic film, also noteworthy for having a truly inspired performance by Lesley Manville. One for the ages.
4. “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
It doesn’t take much to say that “Exit” is one of the most unorthodox documentaries to come out in years. In fact, it’s really not much more of a stretch to say that you’ve never really seen anything like it before. The film’s pure ingenuity and willingness to be bold is really something to admire, even in the midst of accusations that this documentary is really a work of fiction. Had Banksy really conjured this whole story, it would make the film almost more impressive than it already is. It goes to show that sometimes the greatest film achievements can come from the most unexpected places, such as a hooded graffiti artist who won’t even be able to show his face at the Oscars, should he win. Entertaining and ferocious, at times hilarious and, in its own way, moving. This film sets a new precedent for its genre, and hopefully one that will be followed.
3. “Winter’s Bone”
Not only is Debra Granik’s second feature far superior to her first venture, it is one of best film achievements of the brand new decade. “Bone” is a quiet little film that takes an effort to truly appreciate. However, it’s definitely worth that extra mile, for it will leave you changed in its wake. An acting powerhouse, with a career-making turn by Jennifer Lawrence and easily one of the best supporting performances of the year by, the veteran, John Hawkes. His eyes communicate a both heartfelt longing and boiling rage much like Al Pacino in “The Godfather: Part II.” The film also does more than tell an incredible story, but casts a light on the Appalachian poor in a way, perhaps, no film has ever done, making it one of the most culturally significant films in years.
2. “Toy Story 3”
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by Michael Arndt
I remember a time when cartoons were mostly just for kids. When Disney movies were something that were exciting in youth and existed only as nostalgia in later life. Pixar has long been moving to put to rest that ideal, and with “Toy Story 3” they have achieved that goal in stride. I don’t know if a film has ever bridged the gap between cinema and animation better. The story is crisp. The visuals are phenomenal. The characters are completely fleshed out. The comedy is brilliantly matured and hilarious to whatever regard. On top of it all, this is the most emotionally impacting film of the year. In an unprecedented scene, the toys find themselves facing an inescapable situation, and instead of avoiding the reality of said predicament, the film allows its characters to accept their deaths. These are children’s TOYS, for god’s sake. The boldness on display here is staggering. The film brings the perfect end to a much celebrated trilogy and may go down, at least in this critic’s mind, as perhaps the greatest animated feature of all time.
1. “The Social Network”
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin
There’s really not much more to be said about this film that hasn’t already been said, by me or any of the unparalleled amount of critics who have also been completely taken by this film. There also doesn’t seem to have been much of contest for this top spot, and perhaps, there never was, from the first time I experienced it over four months ago. The film is simply a work of cinematic genius. The direction is flawless. The acting is riveting. The writing is absolutely perfect. This is a film with an incredible depiction of the modern times of college, communication and popularity, while echoing the timeless themes of friendship, greed, power and betrayal in both their purest and most complex forms. I could place this among the top twenty to twenty-five films of all time without batting an eye. Bravo to Aaron, David and everyone involved. You have created a masterpiece.
Well that about does it for the Top Ten, but the fun is far from over. Stay tuned, later this week, for the The Edge of the Frame’s first annual Conroy Film Awards (or as they’ve indubitably been labeled by my friends as “The Tommies”). Find out what films achieve the greatest glory in a plethora of different categories and see how my taste agrees or disagrees with that of the Academy. I know I’m looking forward to it.
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