Dave's Top Ten of 2010

Honorable Mention

127 Hours (because of Franco’s performance), Blue Valentine (because of Gosling and Williams’ searing work), How to Train Your Dragon (because it completely surprised me), The Human Centipede (because it delivered on what it promised and the care with which the film was made showed), The Other Guys (because Ferrell and McKay always make me laugh), Piranha 3-D (because it was what it promised it would be and, yet, it still made me laugh), Predators (because it was mindless fun and a decent throwback), and Toy Story 3 (because it nearly made me cry).

10. Paranormal Activity 2

The first Paranormal Activity was an effective, documentary-esqe film that was good because of its minimalism and realism. However, the film was only good – and not more – because there was an air of “been here, seen this” and prolonged periods of watching time-lapse photography where nothing happens. The second film is better because of its ramped up production and better pacing. The film still gives you the chills, while expanding upon the initial storyline. My only complaint: There is going to be a third entry and I feel that the drop-off is going to be severe.

9. The Fighter

Great performances flood the screen in David O. Russell’s boxing drama. I should perhaps call it Mark Wahlberg’s boxing drama, as he stars, produces, and advocated for this film to be made for four years. Wahlberg’s subtle performance is the eye of the acting hurricane as more substantial performances surround him.

Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are constantly vying for a stake in Wahlberg’s psyche. Adams, as Wahlberg’s girlfriend, gives an outstanding performance that is as explosive as it is heartfelt. Leo, playing Wahlberg’s mother/manager, reeks of 1990’s Boston.

However, the real acting triumph belongs to Christian Bale. Bill Simmons wrote a piece about how Justin Timberlake felt like Justin Timberlake playing a famous dude in The Social Network. Ultimately, Simmons argues, you cannot get past the fact that it is Justin Timberlake on screen. While I may not entirely agree with Simmons, I understand the point that he is attempting to make. Bale’s performance easily could have fallen prey to a similar situation, but he takes control of it and makes it feel lived in. Inevitably, Bale should (and will) walk away with an Oscar for his work.

8. A Prophet

Technically, this film came out in 2009, but it did not reach my front door until 2010. Besides, if Entertainment Weekly can put it on their top ten list, then so can I. Anyway, this French-Arabic-Italian crime-drama is outstanding. It is gritty, thoughtful, and contains one of the better shoot outs over the last few years.

7. The Ghost Writer

Was this film a thinly veiled Tony Blair analogy? Does the Sun rise in the East? There is a lot of social commentary and analogies occurring in Polanski’s thriller. Not only is there the Blair analogy, there is also Polanski’s analogy of being subject to living in a foreign nation in order to avoid legal ramifications.

Tied together with some outstanding work by McGregor, Brosnan, and Williams, you get a thriller that may seem conventional, but exceeds my expectations.

6. True Grit

The Coen Brothers cannot do any wrong. Not only did they remake/revision a western that many hold in high regard, they made it better. A truer adaptation of Portis’ novel was pitch-perfect for the Coens, similarly to No Country for Old Men.

Entertaining, straightforward, and wonderfully anchored by Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld makes True Grit really enjoyable. Also, this had to be the year for Roger F. Deakins to win an Oscar for Cinematography (but it wasn’t).

5. The Town

Ben Affleck’s career renaissance continues. The Town is not only a great bank robbery movie; it is also a great drama. Affleck makes the most of his cast and crew to deliver one of the most exciting and brutal films of the year.

4. The Social Network

I tussled with this decision. The Social Network and Inception kept flip-flopping with one another (I will discuss later why Inception got the slight nudge). Fincher’s Facebook creation drama unfolds beautifully through fantastic editing. The young cast show great poise and maturity to deliver one of the finest written scripts ever.

The technical merits of the film, including the overlooked Special Effects, are flawless. These elements are to the highest standard because of Fincher’s drive to create as close to perfection as he can. Paired with a hypnotic score by Ross and Reznor, this film sets itself up perfectly and delivers.

3. Inception

So, how did Inception get the slight edge of The Social Network? For me, both films are technically flawless, both have outstanding scores, both have outstanding direction, and The Social Network has an advantage in acting. The scripts are excellent, but very different in their excellence. The written dialogue for The Social Network is superior to Inception, but the overall story of Inception is more intriguing.

It all came down to rewatchability. While both merit multiple viewings, I know that I will watch Inception over and over for years to come because it was more exciting to me than The Social Network.

2. Mother

Again, a film that is technically from 2009. However, this Hitchcockian story about a mother trying to prove her son’s innocence is taut and moving. Much of the acclaim can reside with Hye-ja Kim’s incredible performance.

1. Black Swan

A lot of articles have pointed out that Darren Aronofsky makes films that focus on the physical extremes for his lead characters. What separates Black Swan from his previous works is the psychological extreme. It reminded me of Repulsion, but was ten times more coherent.

The entire cast is great. Whether it be Kunis’ seductive understudy, Hershey’s overbearing and controlling mother, or Cassel’s sexual and manipulative director. Even Winona Ryder’s five minutes of screen time is unsettling. However, the majority of the praise belongs with Natalie Portman. Her role is innocent, frightening, sexy, and timid all at the same time.

Mansell’s score is pretty terrifying, and all the technical work creates an atmosphere that is compelling and scary as hell. This was one of the few films this year that stuck with me long after I left the theater. I eagerly anticipate its impending release onto Blu-Ray.

Try as I might to find the most humorous part of the film on YouTube (“Would you fuck dis gurl?”), I cannot. So, I leave you with this instead:

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