Top 10 of 2010
133 7 7.510. Restrepo (2010)
When it comes to documentaries, there's one factor that will probably pre-condition whether or not you'll actually like the film: your interest in the subject matter. I'll admit that I watched Restrepo only because of the critical acclaim and not because I was interested in the subject. Call me disconnected from the world's problems, but the topic of war doesn't interest me very much. It's incredible that Restrepo manages to be such an involving experience. Rather than focusing on battles and loud explosions, it cares more about the soldier's experience. I'd rather hear a soldier talk in confessional style about how he felt while he was being fired at than to actually "see" all the mess happen. Seeing it happen only gives you YOUR perspective on it, whereas hearing WHAT IT FELT LIKE for the person who went through it gives you far better of an idea of what it was truly like. The emotional journey that these soldiers go through is enthralling to watch. Last year's best picture winner The Hurt Locker won the Oscar simply because of its relevance to current issues. To be sure, The Hurt Locker is a good film, but its decision to focus more on the mechanics of war than on the emotional experience of the characters wasn't so much to my liking. Restrepo could've done the same, but it takes the other direction instead, and that's highly commendable.
1996 7.5 7.59. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/642352
Ah, what a joy it is to watch this movie. It's a pure visual delight and it's got so many one-line zingers that they're impossible to count. It's the best comedy of 2010. The script is nothing short of sheer brilliance. Some aspects of it will be enjoyed more by video gamers, but the overall story is easily accessible for anyone who's got an open enough mind. The movie is a little longer than it should be (as a result of a few missteps in the final act) but that doesn't negate the amount of unabashed fun that is to be had here.
292 7 6.68. Howl (2010)
Easily the most underrated movie of the year. It's a gem that I imagine a lot of people haven't yet seen. I didn't get around to watching it till the DVD came out, and I'm so glad I did before compiling my top 10. If you're a lover of poetry, you may like the film even more than I did. The animated sequences with lively depictions of the themes explored in Allen Ginsberg's poems (while we listen to James Franco's excellent recitation of the poems' lines) are so engrossing and terrific. You can almost get a high from them. Some of the film's court room scenes feel a bit procedural and straightforward, but that's a mere quibble. Howl's tribute to Ginsberg is impossible to dismiss, and Franco's performance as the poet is something to marvel at.
4455 8.4 8.87. Inception (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/642357
Okay, don't yell at me, please. If you're like most people, you've probably placed Inception much higher on your list. I'd just like to say, though, that placing a movie as #7 on my top 10 list is a big deal to me, and Inception definitely deserves it, as it is, without a doubt, one of the most intelligent films of the year. The idea of this exploration of the many possible layers of dreams is incredibly ingenious. The slight nitpick I have with the film has to do with the path it takes to depict those layers. What we get to see is a team of people going on a mission, and the complications of that mission lead to pedestrian, shoot-out action sequences. The only interesting/entertaining action sequence in Inception is the zero-gravity scene - everything else is kinda meh. If the EVENTS that had occurred during the dreams had more to do with people's emotional demons or if the film went really deep into how far the mind can really go in imagining things, Inception may have easily been a masterpiece of dream exploration a la Mulholland Drive. But because, at its heart, it's an action movie, it can't go that far into dark waters. Still, there's no doubt that the film's mere idea is brilliant and that the film as a whole is pretty engrossing.
59 7 6.26. The Exploding Girl (2009)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/642364
If you've ever been in love or even infatuated with someone who is a close friend of yours, and you've had to deal with the strangeness of being that person's friend while trying to suppress your feelings as much as you can, The Exploding Girl will resonate with you intensely. This is the rare strictly dialogue-based drama that doesn't stop being engrossing because its characters are so well-drawn. The film is also a very accurate depiction of the doldrums of being back home on break from college: it's that weirdness of being back in a familiar place despite the fact that you've obviously experienced emotional changes as far as maturity and other things are concerned. It's an incredibly sweet movie, but without being annoyingly saccharine, and the ending is left open to interpretation in a way that pure romantics will definitely think one thing and the cynics will think something else. You've got to praise a movie when it can have that effect.
3372 8 8.15. Black Swan (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/770302
Impossible to look away from. When you walk out of Black Swan, it's easy to be skeptical about certain things and complain about how the film is at times freaky for the sake of being freaky rather than to deliver any coherent message, but WHILE you're watching the film, it's impossible to focus on those things. It's that enthralling. Those of us who lead a mostly innocent life and haven't gotten in touch with our dark side may be the ones who are impacted most deeply by Black Swan. Natalie Portman's performance is a master's work.
2467 7.4 7.84. Kick-Ass (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/648345
Hands down, the most fun I had at the movies this year. With its frenetic pace and delightfully self-aware dialogue, Kick-Ass is exactly what mainstream cinematic entertainment should be (too bad the box office and I disagree). If that were it, Kick-Ass would probably be a little lower on the list, but there are two more factors that, in my mind, make the film utterly brilliant. First of all, the way it both glorifies and satirizes the superhero movie is astoundingly seamless: you never feel like it's paying TOO much tribute to the genre, yet the film never feels like a cheap parody. Secondly, its sharp criticism of the YouTube generation (which may go over a lot of people's heads) is terrific. There's nothing accidental about a scene in which a character who is asked to call 911 when there's a dangerous fight going on prefers to use his cell phone to record the violent events rather than to make the call. And the sequence in which audiences are shown ogling over an execution-style video is even more telling. In fact, I'm glad that I'm placing Kick-Ass on the list right below The Social Network because the two films are easily the two most socially relevant cautionary tales we saw in theaters in 2010. You can't just dismiss Kick-Ass as a violent romp and move on. It's a very intelligent movie, and the entertainment it has to offer is of the highest caliber.
2645 7.4 7.93. The Social Network (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/682440
There's little doubt that this is the movie of the year. Aaron Sorkin's script is leaps and bounds the wittiest we got to hear in the entire year, and the actors' performances and their deliveries of Sorkin's lines are utterly perfect. I recommend buying the two-disc collector's edition of the DVD. If you had any doubts about how much David Fincher deserves to win for Best Director, they'll be dispelled after you watch the special features, which contain one of the best in-depth looks at the process of directing a film that I've ever seen on a DVD's extras. But of course, what gives The Social Network that extra push towards the realm of greatness is its undeniable relevance. If this is, indeed, the year in which "we stopped talking to each other," then this film came out at the perfect time as a warning of how un-human social interaction is becoming. The Social Network's current frontrunner status in the Best Picture race is easily deserved.
992 7.3 7.42. Blue Valentine (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/805688
As much as I may objectively agree with the general consensus that The Social Network is the year's best, it's hard to avoid what one emotionally gravitates to, especially as I work my way towards the top of my list. Blue Valentine is the best live-action film of 2010, and it is also the year's most devastating movie. Its relentlessly honest look at the highs and lows of a relationship is more amazing to me than any of the big special effects in summer blockbusters. We don't enjoy Blue Valentine because it's "fun" to watch. We enjoy it because we can't help being emotionally drawn into this searing story of the implosion of a couple. Love and its consequences have hardly ever looked so genuine on screen.
2588 8.1 8.51. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Full review: http://www.listal.com/viewentry/648369
Others have said it, but it bears repeating: Pixar can do no wrong. This film has it all: hilarious dialogue, fun action sequences, carefully drawn characters, and ultimately, utter heartbreak. This last aspect is what separates Toy Story 3 from other animated fare. As wonderful as the movie is throughout its running time, it's what happens during the final act that makes the film approach greatness. Toy Story 3 has a lot to say about how difficult it is to make transitions in life from one place to another, to get out of your comfort zone, to let go of people you love. ANY film that treats those subjects effectively deserves a lot of credit, but when it's accomplished by an animated movie (and without letting it be a turn-off for the kids), it's eminently praiseworthy. I teared up during the final minutes of Toy Story 3 - no other film in 2010 had that much power over me.
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