If you’ll allow me the opportunity to geek out for a moment, this will be the first time in many years of figuring out the “10 Best Films of the Year” where I get to put my list out into the world in an official way. Well, more official than Facebook anyway. So here goes.
2010 wasn’t the worst year for movies but it certainly wasn’t the best either. Hollywood blockbusters were okay but disappointing (Robin Hood, Iron Man 2, Inception), theatre screens were loaded with animated films (Megamind, Despicable Me, Toy Story 3) and there were too many entries for series that I don’t care about (Harry Potter, Narnia, Twilight). Just when I was starting to get down about it all, a few surprise winners, a trio of great Canadian contributions and an above-average fall movie season saved the day.
With this is mind here are my humble picks for the 10 best movies of the year, keeping in mind that there are still a number of films I am highly anticipating but I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet (True Grit, 127 Hours, Blue Valentine). If only it was in the budget to fly me around to film festivals and premiers...sigh.
For full reviews of these movies, an extended list (including “The Worst Movie of 2010”) and a whole mess of other stuff visit the CineFile blog.
10. The Social Network
Directed by: David Fincher
This modern Citizen Kane story is a sobering look at the creation of the largest social phenomenon of today, Facebook. Fincher’s sparse, moody film portrays the 500 million-user website as the ultimate culmination of the infinitely human desire to connect, creep and control. In the same year that Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s person of the year, The Social Network questions his successes as the petty revenge tactics of a rejected nerd.
9. I Am Love
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Pure cinematic lusciousness, I Am Love is a feast for the eyes. Guadagnino’s use of colour and tone is the finest of the year, resulting in a film of repressed emotions that burst operatically through the seams of stuffy bourgeois Milanese society. Robust performances, gorgeous direction and a simple concept combine into a great example of the high art of cinema.
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Splice is good old-fashioned weird Canadian horror. Scientists create a new life form that’s part human, part animal and fully whacked out. It is reminiscent of David Cronenberg at his earliest, strangest best. Full of campy special effects, a classic score and typically Canadian weird sex, Splice is thrilling, bizarre and, most of all, fun.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by: Edgar Wright
This movie shocked the heck out of me. Not expecting a whole lot, I was instead treated to two hours of out-of-control, frantic energy matched with earnest, relatable heart. Pilgrim is as modern as a movie gets and, from my out-of-the-loop point of view, an example of the heights of modern pop culture. An overdose of Canadian content seals its inclusion on this list. Not that I’m biased...
6. A Prophet
Directed by: Jaques Audiard
Every year one film is pronounced a modern day Godfather. A Prophet may not live up to that holy hype but is still the best down and dirty crime film of the year. Low-level nobody Malik enters prison on the bottom rung of the crime-world ladder and proceeds to rise through the ranks while inside. Audiard’s film is gritty and gripping, even with the occasional misguided dash of French surrealism.
5. Black Swan
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Nice, sweet ballet movie? I don’t think so. Aronofsky’s visually stunning journey into the mental and emotional descent of a dancer discovering her inner black swan is a shocking, horrifying and overall fascinating trip. Every trick in the cinema book is used to capture the age-old fear of losing control and falling prey to our own animalistic desires and emotions. The performances, especially Natalie Portman and Barbara Hershey, are brave, the visuals dark and lush.
4. The Trotsky
Directed by: Jacob Tierney
This was, for me anyway, the most fun film of the year. Jay Baruchel plays a high school student convinced that he is the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky. He organizes hunger strikes at his father’s factory, asks the apathetic student union what legislative powers they have and attempts to take the principal down with a good old fashioned coup d’état. Hilarious, sweet and incredibly entertaining, The Trotsky makes you wish more films had its spirit and energy.
3. Winter’s Bone
Directed by: Debra Granik
Probably the least fun film of the year, Winter’s Bone is also undoubtably one of the best. Jennifer Lawrence, in a career-making role, plays Ree, a 17-year-old girl who must find her meth-making father among the lowest of the low-down in the bizarre and dangerous society of the Ozark Mountains. This is a tense and emotionally devastating film. I’m not sure if I managed to breathe during the entire movie.
2. Shutter Island
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese is probably my favourite director of all time, even if that does sound a bit film school, hipster chic. Or maybe it’s chic now to not like him? Either way, the man knows how to direct a good yarn and Shutter Island is a worthy example. Two US Marshals travel to an island for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. It becomes clear early on that nothing is as it seems and everyone is suspect. Or are they? With a touch of film noir, Shutter Island is a classic suspense popcorn movie.
1. The American
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
The American is like a finely crafted play or a piece of classical music where every note counts. George Clooney plays an assassin doing that one last job in Italy and runs into trouble with bosses, love and people who want to kill him. Silence is the real star in a film that is sparse in dialogue and high in intrigue, talent and brooding emotion. Wonderfully slow and meticulously crafted, The American is, admittedly, exactly the type of film that appeals to me, but you know what? It’s my list, so there.