We asked our writers for their top ten lists for 2010. Six writers contributed to Movie Habit this year, and 4 of them submitted lists. We weighted those lists by the number of stories submitted by the author, the “currentness” of those stories, and by rankings within the lists.
Below are our ranked also-rans for 2010. Below that are the individual contributions that went into making our Top Ten of 2010.
Also-Rans for Our Top Ten
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Matt Anderson’s Top Five
Given that I still have to see many of the art house flicks enjoying late-season endorsements, such as The King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone , and Somewhere, it seems fair enough to offer a Top 5 instead of a Top 10.
Inception: It’s the complete package: An incredible story, a great cast, stunning visual effects, and a terrific score that revolves around Edith Piaf. Whose dream is it?
Black Swan: It’s not to be taken literally. It’s a psychological allegory of what it takes to be a stage performer and it’s a highly entertaining mix of ballet and horror.
127 Hours: Aron Ralston turns out to be a kindred spirit.
Stone: Underrated and misunderstood, this is an excellent drama about what makes an individual a good person. Sincerity counts.
Hereafter: Clint Eastwood’s movie about the afterlife is really about following your bliss in the current life.
Best Animated Movie: Despicable Me - It’s clever, the story works well, and those minions keep things wacky. And their utilitarianism is tremendous, like one minion cracking another minion’s back in order to turn him into a glow stick. Sorry, Pixar, but that nostalgic Toy Story 3ending that jerked tears out of so many saps was sad mostly because Pixar’s cube farm is littered with toys and people who’ve never had to grow up. It’s the biggest double-standard since Benjamin Button wrote his postcards encouraging people to stand their ground and not be bullied… while Button himself ran away from his troubles.
Best Sequel: Iron Man 2. Throw a butt-kicking Scarlett Johansson into the mix with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow? I’m so there. (Oh… And sorry once again, Pixar.)
Best Christian Bale Movie: The Fighter - Okay. It was his only movie this year, but Bale scored a knockout as the drug-addled Dicky Eklund.
Best Action: Salt - This one rates high purely based on the hoot factor. A good old-fashioned spy thriller in which Russians want to destroy America, Salt benefited from the serendipitous timing of a real-life Russian spy ring bust, including the Russian hottie Anna Chapman. The plot needs to be taken with a grain of salt and it involves a nefarious scheme that implicates Lee Harvey Oswald. Now that’s some kind of “hootzpah!” Angelina Jolie’s return to action turf and the over-the-top action set pieces make it a fun spy flick.
Best Eye Candy: Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton’s imaginative, quirky visuals illuminate a good story of female empowerment.
The Flip Side
Year’s Most Overrated Movie: The Social Network - Sure, it’s entertaining and it has some good dialogue, but calling it a zeitgeist move is a bit much, especially after considering only a tiny handful of Facebook’s 500 million “friends” actually ponied up the money to see the movie. Maybe it’s not a surprise this movie’s most ardent proponents seem to be members of “old school” newspapers, the very same media that gave away the family store for free online while Mark Zuckerberg found a way to turn his Web site into a cash cow worth billions.
Andrea Birgers’ Top Ten
I’m not feeling too inspired. I could easily scramble the order of these movies and feel satisfied, but here is a list:
- The Ghost Writer
- Toy Story 3
- A Prophet
- Winter’s Bone
- The American
- The Social Network
- The King’s Speech
Robert Denerstein’s Ten Favorite
Even in the worst of years — and 2010 certainly doesn’t rank as one of the best — it can be difficult to winnow out the 10 best movies.
David Fincher’s The Social Network seems to be running at the top of most critics’ association lists, and has emerged as the early frontrunner for this year’s best-picture Oscar.
That’s fine with me. Now that Time magazine has anointed Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and the subject of Social Network, as the person of the year, the movie looks even more like the major winner of 2010.
So, without further ado, my list, tilted — as always — to the peculiarities of my taste and to whatever adjustments my mind has made since said movies were first released:
1. The Red Riding Trilogy. It was made for British TV, and involved a total of three movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more shocking look at the way corruption can invade every corner of a society. The Yorkshire accents were challenging to say the least, but the Trilogy snared me in its web of dread and deceit as it revealed the appalling face of a community that seemed to have lost all moral bearing. (Released in the U.S. in most cities in 2010.)
2. Carlos. Director Olivier Assayas’ portrayal of a terrorist boasts an amazing performance by Edgar Ramirez as Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos, the Jackal. The 5 1/2-hour movie takes us deep inside the world of a self-aggrandizing and violent man who claimed that he was challenging the established order. Assayas’ movie stands as a brilliant character study of a man whose politics didn’t seem to rest on a bedrock of conviction, but on the shifting sands of anti-authoritarian attitudes that prevailed during the 1970s and beyond.
3. The Social Network. Working from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, director David Fincher showed how phenomenal success can arise when technical innovation coincides with an astute reading of social trends. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrait of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg may not be a precise representation of the real person, but it stands as a richly realized portrayal of the kind of intelligence that seems to be dominating the entrepreneurial moment: quick, capable and perhaps unaware of the importance of loyalty.
4. Animal Kingdom. Director David Michod’s look at an Australian crime family featured two of the year’s most chilling performances — from Jackie Weaver, as the matriarch of a clan of small-time Melbourne felons, and from Ben Mendelsohn, as the most dangerous of a band of criminal brothers. If there was a false note here, I missed it.
5. Winter’s Bone. Director Debra Granik’s sobering movie examined the emotionally deprived life of an Ozark teen-ager (the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence) who’s saddled with the task of caring for her family after her drug-dealing father disappears and her mother retreats into the mists of mental illness. One of the least stereotypical portrayals of Ozark life yet, chastening in its authenticity.
6. Toy Story 3. I expected nothing from this 3-D farewell to a bunch of toys. But saying goodbye to Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and, of course, Mr. Potato Head put a lump in my throat. Any creative group that can make three movies and give each one a distinct identity while ensuring that they’re all of a piece deserves high praise. Great work, Pixar.
7. Please Give. Nicole Holofcener’s look at a group of New Yorker’s may not have been profound, but it felt real to me and offered memorable performances from Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet and Ann Guilbert, as a woman of astonishingly foul disposition. Holofcener’s carefully assembled ensemble of actors made us realize the lengths to which people will go to control space in cramped Manhattan.
8. The Ghost Writer. Roman Polanski’s thriller focuses on a writer (Ewan McGregor) who agrees to ghost write the autobiography of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan). Of course, McGregor’s character gets a lot more than he bargained for. If you want to watch a movie made by a director who’s in complete control of his material, look no further.
9. Last Train Home. Director Lixin Fan’s extraordinary documentary about the toll a burgeoning Chinese economy takes on one family. Last Train reveals character and situation in the way of a great novel.
10. Another Year. Mike Leigh’s latest movie won’t reach most of the nation’s theaters until 2011, but this wonderfully played ensemble piece captures something important about the need for connection bred by loneliness. A terrific cast — led by Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville — rises to the occasion, and Lee’s final scenes are as illuminating as they are painful.
Honorable mentions. Black Swan, Marwencol, Kick-Ass, Inside Job, 127 Hours, True Grit, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and A Film Unfinished.
Marty Mapes’ Top Eight
- Black Swan
- Mesrine: Killer Instinct
- Casino Jack
- 127 Hours
- Shutter Island
- Ghost Writer
- The American
- King’s Speech
- A Prophet
- The Town
Best films I didn’t see
I’ve read very good things about these films and wish I’d had the chance to see them before voting.
- Blue Valentine
- I Am Love
Deliberately left off
Some of these are better than others (they’re all found on other top ten lists), but none of them rose to “best” status in my mind.
- Social Network
- Toy Story 3
- Winter’s Bone