Culturevulture Film Critics Pick Their TOP TEN of 2010
As everyone knows, making top ten lists is mostly a personal affair, so Culturevulture’s Film Review section continues its tradition (yes, for the second year in a row) of publishing each CV contributor’s own personal Top Ten list. Some of our writers prefer not to play this game, and have decided to bow out. A few others, such as yours truly, have been busy with other life concerns such as getting teaching credentials, and therefore were not able to see enough films in 2010 to feel justified in compiling a list. The ones who willingly submitted their lists did so with varying levels of enthusiasm and disgruntlement.
You will notice that some films–notably Toy Story 3, The Social Network, The Kids Are All Right and True Grit–made it on several lists. Quite a few others made their way on at least two critics’ lists. And then, of course, there are the films that distinguish one Culurevulture critic from another. These are the choices I find most interesting; they shed light on a writer’s personal tastes, beyond the objective judgments made through critical acumen.
If I had decided to make a list of my own, the film I would certainly have chosen that I don’t see here, and therefore would distinguish me from my fellow CV critics, is Tiny Furniture, an extraordinary little film by a 22-year-old recent college graduate named Lena Dunham about the post-college funk of a 22-year-old girl named Aura. It’s funny and intelligent, it was made with craft and daring, and it heralds the next generation of filmmakers in a way that makes me wish I could be a 22-year-old all over again.
Reading ten best lists is almost as much fun as making them. So here they are: not one but five of them, for your list-reading pleasure.
George Wu’s Ten Best Movies of 2010
2010 wasn’t a great year for movies, but it had its gems. These are my favorites.
1. Another Year – Mike Leigh’s wonderful look at a year of just plain life overflows with brilliantly observed and evocative details that turn the mundane into the marvelous.
2. Secret Sunshine – It’s rare to find such a striking, original, and poignant work in which one truly has no idea where the story is going (so avoid spoilers!), and Cannes winner Jeon Do-yeon gives a performance for the ages.
3. Greenberg - Writer/Director Noah Baumbach and actress Greta Gerwig just keep getting better and better while Ben Stiller truly surprises in a (mostly) serious role
4. Blue Valentine – About twelve years in the making, this is a true labor of love with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams giving career-best performances while generating an astounding number of emotions in every single scene
5. Wild Grass – 87-year-old auteur Alain Resnais delivers a remarkable Buñuelian farce that’s charming and disconcerting at the same time
6. Toy Story 3 – Surpasses its predecessors by providing the year’s most emotional ending
7. The Warlords – Epic war melodrama with ferocious battle scenes and likely career best performances from Jet Li and Andy Lau
8. True Grit – The Coen brothers make an almost too straightforward western, but it’s easily a contender for the genre’s best post — Peckinpah and it beats the original Wayne vehicle on every count
9. Air Doll – Basically Pinocchio with a sex doll, this movie is about what it means to be alive, capturing the joie de vive as well as the inevitable downsides
10. The Kids Are All Right – Perhaps the year’s best ensemble elevates this story of lesbian parents, their children, and their father.
Les K. Wright’s Ten Best Films of 2010 (in no particular order)
I wish I’d seen more indie and international fare this last year. I couldn’t quite bring myself to include a Disney/Pixar film in my Top Ten list (I am horribly prejudiced that way, I guess.)
Black Swan – Neurotic, overachieving New Yorkers do each other, and themselves, in à la Stephen King.
The Kids Are All Right – And so are their lesbian moms; a smart, contemporary, almost European study in manners.
The Social Network – 2010’s reply to the original “Wall Street” message that greed is good.
The Ghost Writer – Nice, if not great, work by a master (Roman Polanski).
The King’s Speech – Okay period drama, and a great vehicle for Colin Firth, who keeps getting better.
Another Year – Mike Leigh explores mature love, a tremendous break from the usual multiplex fare.
Inside Job – The most important documentary of the year, about the grand con job still being perpetrated against most Americans.
Blue Valentine – A sobering look at marriage (this seems to be the year for marriage in the movies).
True Grit – Great cast, nice visit with the genre, does justice to the book, and the Coen Brothers, and gets the bad taste of John Wayne out of my mouth.
Carlos – French fare for only the truly committed cineaste.
Paula Farmer’s Ten Best Films of 2010
1. The Social Network(see my full review here.)
2. I Am Love – Technically this was released in 2009, but most American audiences did not get to see this until summer 2010. Languid pacing and beautiful photography engulfs this tragic story of a bourgeois family in Milan. At its center is the mother, played gloriously by Tilda Swinton (yes, she speaks Italian too), who considers letting go of the restraints of her passionless marriage and life, while maintaining her relationships with her grown children and her sanity.
3. The Kids are All Right – A clever script, believable, outstanding performances, with a welcome blend of drama and humor portraying an alternative family.
4. Fair Game – I do love a good political drama. This delivered with solid performances from Natalie Watts and Sean Penn as an embattled couple due to the white house leak of the wife’s true identity — CIA agent Valerie Plame.
5. True Grit – Normally, I’m not drawn to Westerns, but I’ll see anything by the Coen brothers. In this they don’t disappoint.
6.Exit Through the Gift Shop – This is a fascinating example of a film within a film as the accidental amateur filmmaker of notorious street artists becomes an “artist” himself as well as the subject of the film. Both stories are wildly fantastic!
7. The Fighter – While this boxer movie is no Raging Bull (what is or ever will be?), it’s a gritty, engaging drama of Lowell, Mass’s boxing brothers shot at a title. Christian Bale steals the show, but is surrounded by an impressive cast.
8. The King’s Speech – I went into this with moderate expectations of boring British manners and monarchy, but came out admitting it’s a brilliant movie deftly combing wit and drama, with outstanding performances by Colin Firth as stuttering, scared, hesitant king to be, and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist who gives him the gifts of confidence and a precious friendship.
8. Green Zone – An unfortunately overlooked political/military drama revealing WMDs, or in this case, the lack there of. Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who brought us the Bourne movies, prove to be an actor-director duo that’s always a good fit.
9. Greenberg – This year’s best quiet, quirky indie drama, with a breakout performance by Greta Gerwig.
Emily Mendel’s Ten Best Movies of 2010
I didn’t see many movies in 2010 that enlightened me, touched my heart or made me laugh. These are the best of the lot, in alphabetical order.
1. Ajami – Shot in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv — Jaffa, this crime drama explores the Byzantine interactions of several resident Jewish, Christian and Muslim families. In this realistic portrait of lives filled with reflexive prejudices and impulses, all are heroes and all are villains.
2. Fair Game – The fictionalized political thriller based on the 2003 outing by the Bush administration of CIA agent Valerie Plame and the smearing of her husband, Joseph Wilson. Sean Penn’s righteous indignation and Naomi Watts’ mystique make Plame and Wilson come alive. This film names names.
3. The Ghost Writer – Roman Polanski has created a multi — layered noir political thriller for adults. With conspiracies, intrigue, tension and twists, this story of a ghostwriter finishing a British Prime Minister’s memoirs has great performances by Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Based on the best-selling novels of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, these three Swedish (English subtitles) films combine fascinating character studies with thrills and chills, to a satisfying conclusion.
5. How to Train Your Dragon – DreamWorks’ dazzling 3D-animated film is a great coming-of-age story filled with thrilling adventure and touches of humor. Thankfully lacking the quick snide jokes for adults, this film is a pure delight.
6. Kings of Pastry – The fascinating documentary by Hegedus and Pennebaker explores the never-before-filmed three-day French national pastry contest. As we follow several contestants, the film bursts forth with universal concerns and emotional content.
7. The King’s Speech – Colin Firth is brilliant as the stammering George VI, who is helped and befriended by speech coach Lionel Logue, played by the ever-talented Geoffrey Rush. With understated drama and realistic period details, it’s a touching historical drama.
8. The Social Network – David Fincher’s excellent direction, Aaron Sorkin’s sparkling script and Jesse Eisenberg’s superb performance turn this film into a fable about greed, obsession, happiness, loneliness and friendship, interspersed with levity, capriciousness and profound sadness.
9. Today’s Special - A talented Manhattan sous chef who is passed over for promotion comes to the aid of his immigrant parents’ Indian restaurant. Assif Mandvi created and stars in a droll and heart-melting film that takes familiar themes and prepares them in a fresh and innovative way.
10. Toy Story 3 – This humorous adventure film, with strong emotional content, is the best of Pixar’s animated films. When Andy leaves for college, Buzz, Woody and all the toys are mistakenly discarded. Who will love them?
Elgy Gillespie’s Ten Best Films of 2010
The truth is that this wasn’t a great year for movies and it’s hard to come up with 10!
Very few of them approach last year’s…but here goes.
1.· The Ghost Writer· – Say what you like about Polanski, guy knows how to film suspense.
2.· The King’s Speech – Deeply satisfying period drama, if more than a tad Masterpiece Theater.
3.· The Kids Are All Right – Freshly and provocatively funny, predictably controversial among gays.
4.· The Social Network – It succeeds in sculpting this narrative into a shapely tale of wit and irony.
5.· True Grit – Why make it again? ‘Coz it’s the Coens, and they do even trad westerns brilliantly!
6.· Winter’s Bone – How can life this bleak be turned into art-house gold? Well, it just can.
7.· Toy Story 3 – Okay, so it’s the best of all three. Another Boomer meditation on aging.
8.· Hereafter – Good ole Clint, the consummate professional, tackling tsunamis and the occult.
9.· The Red Shoes – A remastered print of the ballet melodrama reveals all its vivid photography.
10.· Another Year – Mike Leigh’s profound meditation on aging and happiness and its opposite.