I know I’m a little late with this list, but I wanted to make sure that I had watched everything before making it. It took some time to get back into the swing of things after the Oscars. How did I feel about 2010 as a year in cinema? Well, all ten of the best picture nominees were truly enjoyable. It was probably a little weaker than average on the foreign film side, but the films that stood out will no doubt become classics. The year also had some glimmers of light in the blockbuster field – a field that otherwise seems to be getting worse every year. So with that said, this is how I saw it.
The full list after the jump.
Fish Tank – Directed by Andrea Arnold
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Directed by Edgar Wright
Inception – Directed by Christopher Nolan
The top ten:
10. Mother – Directed by Bong Joon-ho
The story of a mother trying to prove the innocence of her mentally challenged son. This film takes chances a film made state-side never would. The nameless mother character, played by Kim Hye-ja, is so strong and believable it makes us care about the outcome. As a side note, this film has one of the best closings of the year.
9. Somewhere – Directed by Sofia Coppola
Viewed as a companion piece to Copplola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation; this film deals with the similar themes of isolation and celebrity. Though, I find Somewhere not as strong as its predecessor, it still manages to hit all the right chords. The film moves slowly, methodically showing a prominent movie star, play by Stephen Dorff, in midst an existential crisis. When circumstance finds his 11 year old daughter reentering his life, he must begin to face his own adulthood.
8. The Social Network – Directed by David Fincher
As everyone knows by now, this film is about the beginnings of Facebook. Terrifically penned by Aaron Sorkin, this story of betrayal has more to do with Shakespeare than Facebook. Also, Jesse Eisenberg delivers a stunning performance as the socially awkward Zuckerberg.
7. Catfish – Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Where The Social Network takes a classical approach analyzing the themes of Internet communities, this documentary is distinctly modern . We watch as Nev Schulman falls for a girl over Facebook and then by phone, but the relationship gets progressively more serious, the film begins taking shocking turns. I would love to see what Marshall McLuhan would think of Catfish if he were alive today.
6. Black Swan – Directed by Darren Aronofsky
In 2008’s The Wrestler, Aronofsky shows us a world were a man is willing to do anything for his art. This past year with Black Swan he does the same thing, leaving the world of professional wrestling for a prestigious New York City ballet company. Unlike The Wrestler, Black Swan is not constrained to the real-world, which is why I had a tough time accepting the film on my first screening. After subsequent views, I fell in love with its vision and powerful third act.
5. The Ghost Writer – Directed by Roman Polanski
This film was edited in Roman Polanski’s prison cell. With that said, he shows us again that he is one of the best living filmmakers. The plot is about a controversial prime minister of the United Kingdom and the ghost writer hired to write his memoir. If this film was made by any other director it would feel both average and boring. Polanski easily makes it gripping and fun.
4. Dogtooth – Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
This weird and thought provoking Greek piece is the most talked about foreign film of the year. From its controversial Academy Award nomination to its audacious plot, this is a tale of a husband and wife who keep their children imprisoned on their property into adulthood. It makes comments on home schooling to dictatorship.
3. Exit Through the Gift Shop – Directed by Banksy
In a year full of fantastic documentaries, Exit stands out among the rest. The film is directed by Banksy, a street artist who keeps his identity hidden, and tells the story of street art through the lens of obsessed Thierry Guetta. Guetta finds himself meeting some of the more notable street-artists (Banksy himself being the most notable). The film takes an odd twist as it not only ends up questioning the legitimacy of street art, but all art. It questions so much about this world we get the feeling that not even our masked director even knows what to think.
2. The Illusionist – Directed by Sylvain Chomet
The only animated film on my list somehow takes the closest look into the human condition. The Illusionist is based on a 1956 script by French mime, director, and actor Jacques Tati. Intended to be a love letter to Tati’s estranged daughter, it is about a struggling magician who meets a young woman who is convinced the magic that he performs is real. This is the only film of the year I was truly impacted by and at the films climax, I am not ashamed to say, I welled up.
1. A Prophet – Directed by Jacques Audiard
A French crime drama set in prison. We follow the rise of power of a young Arab inmate, played by Tahar Rahim, as he goes from a characterless mule to having influence even he can’t fully understand. This film isn’t just a mix of Goodfellas and Oz; it is an allegory for larger political problems facing France. As the Director says, “the film aims at creating icons as the images for people who don’t have images in movies, like the Arabs in France.”