The Top 20 Movies of 2010, part 1

It bugs me when people say things like "this was a pretty weak year for movies."

First of all, that's not something we can judge until AT LEAST five years afterward. Secondly, you just have to know where to look.

Despite the internet seemingly concurring that this was a down year, I found myself wanting to do a top 20 instead of a top 10. So here's the first half of the best 2010 had to offer.

20. Solitary Man

Thoroughly overshadowed by the misguided Wall Street sequel, Brian Koppelman and David Levien's quiet, thoughtful rumination on the Michael Douglas archetype came and went quickly at the end of the summer.

Playing a literal used-car-salesman, Douglas explores the fallout that the womanizing and swindling Gordon-Gekko-types would eventually face in real life.

The early plot hinges on the character's extreme reaction to not-that-extreme medical news, but stays low-key and believable the rest of the way. Douglas does some fine work, and supporting turns from Jesse Eisenberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, and even Danny DeVito make it a memorable film.

19. The American

Beautiful, beautiful film from photographer and music-video-director Anton Corbijn. Very sparse and very quiet, so I can see why it didn't catch on in a big way. George Clooney is also pretty good, even if the script is too spare to make the ending as heartbreaking as it wanted to be.

18. 127 Hours

My initial response to the film was just north of ambivalent, but it's grown on me since. By the time I ended up writing about it at length for the movie-blog association, I found myself arguing for its relative subtlety, as loud and Danny-Boyle-y as it is.

17. The Town

(reviewed already here)

Question: film-setting-wise, is Boston the new New York? Discuss.

16. I Am Love

A little soapy, to be sure, but worth it for the cinematography and Tilda Swinton- who can switch from unsettlingly androgynous mode to fabulous just like that, it turns out.

15. Shutter Island

Shutter Island was top ten for me until the end. A full five minutes of Ben Kinglsey explaining every little damn thing, straight down to a full-on, facepalm-inducing anagram.

I've said this before, but can we most past names that are anagrams in movies as a society? That's something that the lame twin in Adaptation would think was awesome.

So as well-made as Shutter Island is in every other respect, the hand-holding makes it vastly inferior to something like Spider. But no Oscar nominations?

14. Tangled

Tangled, too, was in the running for the top half until the big finale sidelined the heroine and turned on a deus ex machina. But it was witty, well-CGIed, and swiftly paced.

13. Mother

On the other hand, Mother has an ending that just amplifies everything that's come before, even if you were to guess it beforehand- which I didn't, I was too enthralled by Hye-ja Kim's performance.

12. Never Let Me Go

Still not sure how much of my goodwill comes from just having read Ishiguro's beautiful novel just beforehand, but credit to the movie that I could do so and not immediately find flaws in the adaptation of it. Mulligan, Knightley and Garfield all acquit themselves well.

My only complaint would be that the casting for the younger version of Mulligan was so spot-on that it made the other two younger characters less believable.

11. Toy Story 3

You cried too. Admit it.

Tomorrow, the top ten!

2 Response to "The Top 20 Movies of 2010, part 1"

  1. Tom Clift says:

    Some excellent choices. I still need to see SOLITARY MAN, I AM LOVE and NEVER LET ME GO. When I do my own final top of 2010 list (in a few weeks), SHUTTER ISLAND and 127 HOURS will both make my top 10 (the exposition in SHUTTER ISLAND doesn't bother me because the story plays second fiddle to the filmmaking anyhow). TOY STORY 3 and THE AMERICAN would also crack my top 20.

    Looking forward to your top 10!

    Thanks Tom! I really should see Shutter Island again now that it's on DVD- I suspect I would find even more to like if I'm not wondering about the central mystery.

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