127 Hours - Danny Boyle delivered what I consider to be his finest work with this intense, claustrophobic biopic of a young adventurer who gets trapped between a rock and a hard place. (tee hee hee...I'm sorry.) James Franco is fantastic in this film. Visually, there are some interesting techniques used to sell his duress and a few flights of fancy that inspire genuine hope before stone cold reality resets itself. There may not be much to this film, but what is here is fantastic.
Black Swan - A chilling depiction of insanity from Darren Aronofsky that works as well as it does because of Natalie Portman's powerhouse performance. She plays a dancer who lands the lead role in Swan Lake and her drive to make the performance perfect is the catalyst for her to sink into a place of madness. Portman is stunning and fully committed to the film. The film is photographed beautifully and several scenes are brutally haunting. Mila Kunis also offers a strong performance. This film received quite a bit of deserved Oscar attention with Portman taking the golden statue home.
Inception - This is Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. The sheer creative energy that went into the screenplay is staggering. A film that really plays with the idea of dreams and how it lends itself to the visual medium of film is what is so captivating. There is so much going on with the story that people often complain that the movie is impossible to understand, but the film is shockingly simple and easy to understand so long as you are paying attention. That is the key; this film requires your undivided attention and modern audiences are not necessarily used to that. This is really one of the finest of screenplays and I am still shook that it didn't win for Best Original Screenplay. Not to be outdone, Nolan put to use his grand visual style and made for one hell of a good looking film. The performances are all solid with Leonardo DiCaprio offering some great work here. And the action in this film is incredibly inventive and captivating.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World - A perfect blend of an Anime and Video Game brought to life, this film will capture you within seconds when the Universal Logo is presented in 16 bit animation. This film is warm, funny and delivers exceptional action and some great performances. Writer/director Edgar Wright should have been recognized for his work with this film. I mean, he convincingly took Michael-effing-Cera and turned him into an action hero of the hipster age. The premise is that Scott Pilgrim falls for a lovely girl but before he can commit to her, he must overcome her Seven Evil Exes. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great with what she is given and the film is highlighted by great performances from Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, and Brandon Routh. The action is incredibly well directed and dripping with creative energy. The Youtube Channel The Take did a wonderful little video dedicated to how the action in the film is really a reworking of the Hollywood Musical that I urge you to check out. This is my second favorite film of 2010.
Shutter Island - I will go on record as saying I am not a huge Martin Scorsese fan. The fact that this is my favorite Scorsese film is kind of emblematic of that in that this is one of the least Scorsese-esque films he has directed. That said, this film is a atmospheric little gem of mystery that is driven home with a stunning performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. This marks the second movie of 2010 wherein his character is being haunted by a wife the film conveniently fridges (the other being Inception). Looking past that minor complaint (about both films really), this movie offers up some really strong character work from the likes of Jackie Earle Haley, Elias Koteas and Ben Kingsley. Mark Ruffalo is also pretty great as the detective assisting DiCaprio. His performances is really nuanced, especially on repeat viewings.
The Social Network - This has been hailed as the movie most representational of the 2010's as a whole and it is hard to argue against. The fact that this film is just as socially relevant ten years on as it was upon release speaks volumes. Few movies can wield that praise and this is easily one of the most defining films of this century so far. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin crafted a film that is near perfect. The snappy dialogue pops and the look of the film really helps sell the mood. Jesse Eisenberg gives a pitch perfect performance. Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer all work to support Eisenberg and really slam home the authenticity of this character study. While, not everything in the movie may be factually true, this film captures the emotional truth of the man who created Facebook and this film makes for the best film of 2010; however, it is not my favorite film. My favorite awaits at the bottom of this list.
Tangled - Disney Animation returned to form with 2009's The Princess and the Frog, but it was their reworking of the Grimm's fairy tale of Rapunzel that really kit a home run. This was the best film out of the company since The Lion King and stands tall as the best Disney Princess film. The humor lands well and Rapunzel's character charms. She is brought to life through excellent voice work by Mandy Moore. Zachary Levi lends his voice to the off-beat romantic lead of the film and his character is a gem. The film also showcases some awesome visuals and is able to evoke some genuine emotion. This would have been a sure fire Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature were it not for the Toy Story in the room, but we'll get to that later.
True Grit - When her father is murdered, Mattie Ross enlists the aid of gunslinger Rooster Cogburn to hunt down the killers in this grim and atmospheric western from the Coen Brothers. When people slam remakes as inferior art, this is often an example I give to the contrary as it is not only a far better movie than the 1969 John Wayne classic, but a better adaptation of the novel. Jeff Bridges gives a career best performance with this picture, but it is young Hailee Steinfeld that steals the show. She is gifted with such talent and really shines as she goes toe-to-toe with Bridges. Matt Damon also offers some of his best work since the late 90's in this film. This is my favorite western of the modern era and the Coen Brother's best film of the 2010's.
Best Picture : The King's Speech - The King's Speech emerged as something of a surprise win for Best Picture. The Social Network had plenty of sway in its direction, but Colin Firth's inspired performance really took the reigns and led the film to Oscar gold. I have not seen this film, but I hear it is a solid movie.
Biggest Box Office : Toy Story 3 - Easily my favorite movie of 2010, this film is a shinning example of nostalgia done right (hear that Star Wars? Take notes!). This is a gripping movie about growing up and saying goodbye, in an almost continued theme from 2009's Up. The film handles its subject matter with strength and maturity while also hitting the laughs harder than any previous Pixar film. The scene in the incinerator is still hard to watch, and if you think that is a hard scene...try the final one. Tears. Tears for days! Hank's voice work with this film is especially great. This is among my all time favorite movies.