23 December 2010

The best of 2010

From left, Dileep Rao, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonard DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe are shown in a scene from "Inception."
Writing about the movies today, it's easy to focus on the negative. But where's the fun in that?

As much as people like to complain, 2010's release schedule included several wonderful films. In fact, so many were so good that I cannot single out one as the best picture of the year.

Maybe I'm taking the easy way out, but how do you make comparisons between a survival story that largely features one actor in one location; a psychological horror movie about ballet; a film based in dreams that ultimately has four action movies spinning simultaneously; a digital-age "Citizen Kane"; and a classic Western?

The next tier was nearly as solid: a Swedish import heralding the arrival of a major new star; one of the most entertaining comic book adaptations to date; an incredibly well-acted period piece; a mindbending thriller from one of our master filmmakers; and a taut crime drama.

So here they are, my picks for the best movie of 2010, in alphabetical order.

"127 Hours"

Danny Boyle follows his award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" with the true story of outdoorsman Aron Ralston, who in 2003 had his arm pinned by a boulder in a remote area of Utah and, after more than five days, resorted to drastic measures to survive. Carrying a movie as much as any single actor can, James Franco is riveting as Ralston, giving a performance that requires more than a little willpower and endurance of his own.

"Black Swan"

Natalie Portman is fearless in her portrayal of a prima ballerina in a New York City ballet company, cast as the Swan Queen in a new production of "Swan Lake" and taking her director's (Vincent Cassel) urging to lose herself in the role to extreme lengths. Director Darren Aronofsky employs the documentary style he used for "The Wrestler," cleverly disguising for a time that the story is being told from inside the shattered mind of its protagonist.


No one does summer blockbusters like Christopher Nolan, whose ability to mix art with popular cinema rivals that of Steven Spielberg. Its plotting so intricate, its construction so careful, "Inception" easily confounds those not paying attention while rewarding those who keep up. And nothing in the movies this year sparked more conversation and debate than the ambiguous ending.

"The Social Network"

Visionary director David Fincher, working from a script by wordsmith Aaron Sorkin, tells of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and the founding of Facebook. But it's really an American story of capitalism, greed, friendship, betrayal, envy and regret. Though its subject matter is very much of the moment, its themes will never fade.

"True Grit"

From the Duke to the Dude. Jeff Bridges assumes the role that won John Wayne his only Oscar grizzled, drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers' new take on Charles Portis's 1968 novel. The result is equal parts classic Western and Coen quirk, with a love of language showing in the dialogue and a slew of fully realized characters brought to life through rich performances by Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and feisty newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.

THE NEXT FIVE (in alphabetical order)

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Noomi Rapace steals the show as iconic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in this Swedish murder mystery based on the internationally best-selling novel by the late Stieg Larsson. An American version is scheduled for release next December.


Funny, surprisingly dark comic book adaptation highlighted by Chloe Grace Moretz as the pre-teen superhero Hit-Girl.

"The King's Speech"

Colin Firth gives a masterful performance as King George VI of Britain, who must overcome his stammer with the help of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush).

"Shutter Island"

The fourth pairing of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio resulted in what might be their best work together yet, essentially a haunted house story told from the perspective of a character who fled from reality long ago.

"The Town"

Ben Affleck continues his career reinvention as director, co-writer and star of this Boston-set crime story based on a novel by Chuck Hogan.

BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: Noomi Rapace, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE: Russell Brand, "Get Him to the Greek"
FUNNIEST MOVIE: "The Other Guys"
BEST MUSICAL SCORE: Clint Mansell, "Black Swan"
BEST SONG: "Going Up" from "Get Him to the Greek"
ANTICIPATED IN 2011: David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

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