Sunday, December 26, 2010

My 10 favorite movies of 2010

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 its effect on others.

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 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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thumbs up on the first two choices. It's getting strange that TV projects are now supplying some of the best movies.