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Top 10 movies of 2010

By Kyle Wells 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.

By Kyle Wells 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. If only it was in the budget to fly me around to film festivals and premiers...sigh. Or Courtenay.

Films that I anticipate could be on the list but I haven’t had the chance to see yet: 127 Hours, True Grit, Blue Valentine, Another Year, The King’s Speech, The Fighter and Machete. That’s right, Machete.

10. The Social Network (USA), 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 (Italy), 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.   
8. Splice (Canada/France/USA), 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 (Canada/USA/UK), 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 (France/Italy), directed by Jacques 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 (USA), 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 and the film itself unrelenting.
4. The Trotsky (Canada), 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 (USA), 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 (USA), 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 (USA), 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.
The 11th Film (that one I really wanted to get on the list but couldn’t): The Girl Who Played With Fire (Sweden/Denmark/Germany), directed by Daniel Alfredson Far better than the first film, in my opinion, the second installment of the Millennium trilogy, although still far from perfect, still gets a spot on the list for being one of the most interesting and refreshing pop culture phenomenons in recent memory. Liz Salander is an anti-hero to root for, violated by society and no longer willing to take any guff. Proper girl power.
Honourable mention: Easy A (USA), directed by Will Gluck I saw this in a theatre full of high school girls and felt very out of place. But you know what? I really enjoyed it and thought it just the type of film kids that age should see. It’s a well written film that has a good heart but doesn’t jam any messages down your throat. The scenes with Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci still make my sides split when I recall them and Emma Stone has a boatload of charisma and talent. Well worth watching.
Worst Movie of the Year: The Killer Inside Me (USA), directed by Michael Winterbottom There may actually have been worse (Cop Out, for instance) but surely none so offensive. Casey Affleck plays a small town sheriff who gets revenge on the woman who sexually abused him as a child by killing women in scenes of intense and horrific violence. The women in the film are essential portrayed as asking for it and Affleck’s character is meant to be creepily dark and cool. A pointless, misguided attempt at a shocking and challenging thriller.