January 2, 2011
Note: This top five is based on the 2010 releases that I saw up to and including Rabbit Hole.
2010 was an interesting year for film. I've only seen 50 so far, and I have over 100 more that have captured my interest. Many have decried this past year as a weak year for film overall, and despite the fact that I've seen some really excellent movies, I tend to agree. There were few films that really caught on with both critics and audiences alike.
The five best films out of the fifty 2010 releases I've seen at this point are all absolutely fantastic movies that I wholeheartedly recommend! Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there are all that many other excellent films remaining that I have left to see. I do hope so, but after following the critical response to the films of 2010 closely, I think I might have seen most of the best of the best that's out there.
Here are the best films of 2010 so far:
5. 127 Hours
James Franco gives a richly nuanced performance in Danny Boyle's tricky film about the true story of Aron Ralston, an outdoor enthusiast who gets his arm stuck under a rock in a crevasse. Eventually, he must do the unthinkable to survive, which probably makes you think that it's going to be a certain type of movie. 127 Hours is never simple and never conventional. It's frenetic and brilliant.
At five and a half hours, Carlos delivers not only the heft but also the entertainment with this bloody biopic about famed terrorist dedicated to the Palestinian cause who was known the world over as Carlos the Jackal. As the title character, Edgar Ramirez is a wonder to behold, delivering a performance in many different languages that many have compared to some of the best work of Marlon Brando. Olivier Assayas' ambition resulted in one of the great movie going experiences of my life. Sure, by saying that, I'm primarily referring to the accomplishment of sitting through such a long film, but the fact that it's one of the best films of the year makes the memory that much sweeter.
3. A Prophet
Jacques Audiard's French film Un Prophete is magical in more ways than one. It's a prison gangster film unlike any other in either the prison or gangster film genres. It's the story of a teenager who rises up the ranks within the walls of a jail. Tahar Rahim's character Malik is a changed man by the end, and that transformation requires him to act in ways he couldn't even imagine before his arrest. A Prophet is a glorious achievement. It's not always easy to witness what we see on screen, but it's absolutely worth it.
2. The Social Network
Aaron Sorkin pens the best screenplay of the year, and I'm not kidding when I say that the dialogue within might be among the best in film history. David Fincher beautifully directs a cynical examination of the founding of Facebook and the disintegration of the modern relationship due to the ways we now interact socially through the internet. Anchored by a pitch-perfect performance by Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network moves with such rapid fire energy that audiences are left breathless not only by the cruelty displayed but also by the momentum and energy of everyone involved in what I truly believe could become the movie of a generation.
1. Exit Through the Gift Shop
I've seen so many movies in the past few years that it's really something when one stays with me long after I see it. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary that will not allow its audience to understand exactly what it's trying to do. In part, it's a fascinating look at the movement of "street art" which has become quite famous in the last few years. It's also a look at the accomplishment of an artist whose persona may have been fabricated for the film--or maybe not. Of course, we're left with larger questions exploring the meaning of art and our relationship with our own consumption. Be warned that if you see this film, you will be manipulated, but it might just open your eyes to ways you're manipulated in life that you never thought of before. Yet, even with all of its philosophical undercurrents, what helps make Exit Through the Gift Shop the best film of the year so far is the fact that it's the most entertained I was in the movie theater in a 2010 film. The sequence at the Disney theme park will have you on the edge of your seat. Exit Through the Gift Shop works in every way imaginable, and considering that it's available right now on DVD and Netflix Instant, see it!
Fish Tank, Greenberg, The Secret in their Eyes, Toy Story 3, Inception, Mother, Temple Grandin, Rabbit Hole
And the very worst film of 2010 so far is:
The Good Heart
Brian Cox gives it his all, but even he can't help this absolutely terrible one-dimensional excuse for melodrama. Written and directed by Dagur Kari, The Good Heart is the tale of a homeless man, played by Paul Dano in a terribly mannered performance, taken in by a cantankerous bar owner recovering from a heart attack. Dano is gentle and idealistic, while Cox is nasty and cynical. Their opposing natures change the other, and all the while, a duck lives in a cage inside their bar. Something happens because of that duck which had me wanting to throw my cat at the television screen. The dialogue goes beyond clunky, and the ducky twist at the end is among the worst endings of any movie I've seen. The Good Heart, though well-intentioned, is a cliche-ridden disaster.