March 31, 2011

The Best Movies of 2010

"A Prophet is one of the best crime sagas in recent memory, and, along with last year's Lion's Den and Hunger, it has helped usher in a new era of harrowing prison dramas (the last truly memorable one being what, The Shawshank Redemption?).

Written and directed by Jacques Audiard, whose last film (The Beat My Heart Skipped) was highly acclaimed but unseen by me, A Prophet boasts impressive verisimilitude for a completely fictional story. Maybe it's not surprising considering former convicts were hired as extras and advisers, but Audiard himself has admitted that prison life is rarely depicted in French film and television. French citizens are apparently clueless about what goes on behind prison walls in their country, so it doesn't take much convincing to accept this story as reality.

Indeed, life on the inside is reflective of life on the outside: the old French/European power structure is fading as new immigrant groups - particularly Arab Muslims (that term should not sound nearly as redundant as it does) - are arriving and establishing their identities as the "new French". Symbolically speaking, this film is urgently relevant (it won nine of the record 13
C├ęsar Awards for which it was nominated); cinematically speaking it is a masterful showcase of acting, cinematography, pacing (even at 150 minutes), suspense, music, action and, most importantly, global insight."

"No matter how hard we might try, and no matter how much of it is actually true, and no matter that (or likely because) it is such an assured and polished piece of cinema, The Social Network is now and forever will be a primary influence on our thinking about Facebook and its founding. You can deny it, but for better or (probably) for worse, it has significantly changed some of our opinions about Zuckerberg and social networking, and thus also the decisions we'll make about if and how we use Facebook. Since the Facebook story is not yet complete, I find that realization fascinating: The Social Network will influence the real-life future of its characters - Zuckerberg included - considerably more than the average film based on true events."

"If not the most surprisingly suspenseful movie of the year, The King's Speech is at the very least the most enjoyably suspenseful movie of the year. There is no action, no mystery, no murder, no crime. Just a maddening. Wait. For. Words. And it's enthralling." 

4. The Fighter
"The Fighter is an example of a film that gets better as it gets closer to the reality of what actually happened (a far cry from The Social Network), simply because the characters and story are so rich in the first place."

"If Animal Kingdom were made by a veteran American director like Scorsese, it would be a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination."

"While the physical pain of being trapped under a rock would be debilitating, I fear the mental anguish of regret would be worse."

"Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is one of those characters, and although I haven't seen the original True Grit, I think I'd rather watch Bridges in the character if only because he's a lot more fun to imitate than John Wayne."

"As always with Pixar films, it was a visual spectacle that is so brilliantly written it can be appreciated by people of all ages (and, as always with Pixar films, the theater was comprised primarily of adults - go figure)."

"It's not a sequel!"

"Mia is the anti-Juno MacGuff: she looks, walks, talks, and generally acts like a teenager, which is truly refreshing in this age of ironically mature teen characters."


  1. Nice Top 10 Dan! I consider Un Prophete to be a 2009 release but it would have easily made my top 10 otherwise. Indeed a great prison/crime thriller.

    Good to see The Fighter and 127 Hours in there, the latter being a bit of a forgotten movie after The King's Speech and Black Swan came out. That said, I'm surprised the latter isn't on your list ;)

  2. I know A Prophet made it's big splash in 2009 on the festival circuit, but since it only arrived here (Minneapolis) last March I threw it in '10.

    Black Swan...yeah, I'm sure you're not the only one wondering. What can I say, I appreciated it a little more in hindsight, but not enough to completely warm me over to it. Maybe I'll grow to appreciate it over time, but that would require some dark and disturbing re-viewings that I'm not sure I want to make time for.

  3. Hey Dan, that's exactly how I compose my top lists every year, I make the rule that they are released at a UK cinema within the 12 months and no compromises. For me half of your list will be in my 2011 list and with something like True Grit it's bound to feature quite highly also.

    Loved A Prophet, a film which featured very high in my own list and a massive fan of anything Pixar do and on seeing Toy Story 3 it just made my whole week. Inception, what can I say, I've seen it twice now and it still leaves me giddy and goofy with excitement - this is what it must be like being a fanboy, well who knew?

    I have only recently seen The Social Network and some of what you've said about how it's now a 'primary influence on our thinking about Facebook and its founding', has been playing on my mind since I've watched it. I'm really not used to having such recent history regurgitated and reformulated on cinema in such a way that it makes me question my day to day interaction with technology, for that fact alone I found The Social Network mind altering. There's something unique going on in TSN, the zeitgeist is often souped up in Hollywoodland but to have it laid out so bare boned, so dull, so ordinary yet so powerfully really made me shiver, I felt like I was watching a horror movie. A really unique, once in a generation kind of film, that's neither praise nor criticism but merely fact as I see it.

  4. Nice reality check on the year of release - I always think we're behind the times, when in truth we get films a lot earlier than those of you across the pond!

    "I'm really not used to having such recent history regurgitated and reformulated on cinema in such a way that it makes me question my day to day interaction with technology, for that fact alone I found The Social Network mind altering."

    Exactly. It's an incredible phenomenon that the movie was made and released right in the middle of the true story, and yet in such a disarmingly objective way that it provides almost no answers to many of the questions we might have. It's not a fair comparison because of the length of the real-life story, but it would be similar to Fincher's Zodiac being released at the height of the public paranoia (like Dirty Harry, but then not at all like Dirty Harry). Fascinating stuff and an impressive accomplishment.


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