Another year has come and gone. For my money, 2010 was one of the best years for movies that we've had in some time. I've already given you my list of the worst movies of 2010 last month, so today I'm going to count down what I thought were the 10 best movies of 2010.
10. 127 Hours
This is a gorgeously shot, extraordinary true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who falls down a canyon and has his right forearm crushed by a bolder. Aron is played by James Franco in a performance that redefines his true range as an actor. Despite its seemingly grim subject matter, 127 Hours is truly an optimistic film, or at least as optimistic as any film can be about a man confronted with the options of amputation or death. That's simply the magic of Director Danny Boyle, who previously brought us the pitch perfect Slumdog Millionaire.
9. Black Swan
This is a dreamlike movie-going experience from Darren Aronofsky. Natalie Portman gives the performance of a lifetime as Nina, a gentle, fragile woman who achieves her dream role of the Swan Queen in her ballet company's production of Swan Lake. As she digs deeper into the role though, Nina begins to loose her grip on reality and literally becomes a black swan. This is the most arresting performance of Portman's acting career.
8. Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone might not have received much recognition from mainstream audiences. Years from now, though, it will be remembered as the film that made Jennifer Lawrence a star. Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old who has a week to find her wanted father or else her struggling family will lose their house. Although Ree has virtually no influence or power outside of her household, she proves to be as determined and courageous as any individual I've seen in some time. While it's certainly not an upbeat film, Winter's Bone is without a doubt one of the year's most encouraging pictures about heroism.
7. Shutter Island
Although Shutter Island was one of Martin Scorsese's most commercially successful movies to date, it was virtually ignored this award season. Nevertheless, I can't think of a better word to describe this movie than "captivating." Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances as Teddy Daniels, a duly appointed federal marshal who is sent to investigate a disappearance at Shutter Island, a facility for the mentally unstable. Like Jimmy Stuart in a Hitchcockian thriller, DiCaprio fully escapes into this character who may be on the verge of uncovering a conspiracy or simply going insane himself.
The ad campaign for Tangled might have marketed the film to look like a sarcastic, lowbrow Dreamworks animation. But like last year's underrated The Princess and the Frog, Tangled recaptures the warmth of the best Disney animated features and further establishes that the studio is back on track. Many Moore is positively lovable as Rapunzel, a young girl with an elongated head of hair. After being locked away in a tower for 18 years, Rapunzel finally hits the road with a thief named Flynn Rider, voiced by Zachary Levi. Along the way the two are aided by a chameleon named Pascal and dedicated horse named Maximous, who both join Gromit of Wallace and Gromit as the greatest of all silent animated sidekicks. Stealing the show is Donna Murphy as the villainous Gothel, Rapunzel's alleged mother and the worst female role model since Mrs. Bates in Psycho.
5. The Fighter
The Fighter takes a traditional underdog story and creates one of the most inspired boxing movies since the original Rocky. The hero of the picture is Mickey Ward, a real-life Irish-American boxer played by Mark Wahlberg. Mickey has the potential to become heavyweight champ but is constantly brought down by his dysfunctional family. There are superb performances all around from Amy Adams as Mickey's strong-willed girlfriend to Melissa Leo as Mickey's mother.
The standout of the movie is Christian Bale who has become an obvious target for satire over the years. Here he delivers a pinnacle performance as Mickey's brother Dicky, who might have gone onto become a champion had it not been for his crack addiction. This is a risky role that could have easily misfired in the hands of another performer. The film is also a great character study about family, addiction and ego.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Over the course of 2010, the Millium film trilogy was released in America. The best of which was Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Noomi Rapace is remarkable as Lisbeth Salander, a gothic 24-year-old whose body is sheltered with piercings and tattoos. Lisbeth teams up with a middle-aged journalist named Mikael, played by Michael Nyqvist, to help solve a 40 year old mystery. Lisbeth and Mikael are two completely different people who find comfort in one another during troubled states of their lives. The divorced Mikael comes to care about this mystifying woman who may be his last chance at happiness. Although Lisbeth is reminded through Mikael that men are capable of respect and love, she is still reluctant to fully give herself to anybody. Even when you think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has topped itself with one twist it continues to blow you out of the water.
3. The Social Network
The Social Network is an absorbingly entertaining depiction of one of the most influential individuals of the past 10 years and arguably the most culturally relevant movie of this young century. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as Mark Zuckerberg, a conceited and socially awkward nerd who created Facebook and became the world's youngest billionaire. The real star of The Social Network though is the screenplay, which Aaron Sorkin adapted from the novel, The Accidental Billionaires. His masterful script zips by without one false note in it. It's unlikely that every event and every conversation in the film took place as Sorkin portrays it. But so what? It was hard not to be completely enticed by the film from its opening scene to the final image, which will stick with you for days. This is probably the most straight forward film from Director David Fincher and in many ways it is his best. Fincher has made a relevant and above all exhilarating film that's imperative for everyone to see, principally this generation's youth.
2010 was an exceptional year for movies that challenged the audience and stirred up thoughtful conversation. There wasn't a more talked about film this entire year than Christopher Nolan's mesmerizing and creative passion project about dream infiltration, Inception. This is a movie that works on every conceivable level. As a science-fiction thriller it earns comparison to the works of Spielberg and Kubrick. As a mystery it will both fascinate and frustrate you from beginning to end. In terms of visuals, it is unforgettable. When Ellen Page bends the streets of Paris with her mind or when Joseph Gordan Levitt floats through a tilted hotel lobby free of gravity, you aren't aware you are watching a visual effect. You're convinced that what you are witnessing is real. While the look of the film is spectacular, Inception is driven by its complex ideas and plot. Even with the full capacity of your brain you're bond to walk out of the film scratching your head.
1. Toy Story 3
Like Return of the Jedi and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Toy Story 3 is one of the few threequels that not only lives up to its predecessors, but makes its previous installments even better. First-time Director Lee Unkirch settled for nothing less than perfection with this sequel, completing what is unarguably the premium trilogy of animation. Toy Story 3 is full of hilarious running-gags, most notably when Buzz takes on the persona of a Spanish soap opera star. The funniest addition of all is Michael Keaton as Ken, a fashionable and groovy bachelor who insists he is not a girl's toy. There's also a great voiceover performance from Ned Beaty as Lotso, an evil, Strawberry-scented bear who acts as a warden of a daycare center. As funny as Toy Story 3 is, it goes beyond simply being one joke after joke. There are stakes and characters we care about here. I walk into almost all animated films confident that everything is going to work out for the best. Toy Story 3 is the first animated feature in a long time, though, that truly left me holding my breath in suspense, wondering how the heroes would overcome their predicament. The scene that probably resonates the most with audiences is the haunting climax when the toys face certain destruction in an oven. It's a down-to-earth moment grounded in reality in the same vein of Bambi's mother dying. The fact that we actually care so much about the well being of plastic only makes the experience of Toy Story 3 even more incredible.