10. True Grit
True Grit just barely makes this top ten list, but it definitely earns this spot. While True Grit didn't really break any ground, it was still exceptionally shot and well-acted all throughout. This is perhaps the Coen Brothers most accessible film and as it turns out it's also their most successful financially. I can't blame people for showing up to see this movie, it is quite the entertaining ride.
9. Shutter Island
Somewhat forgotten since being released in February of last year, Shutter Island winds up staying on my list of the top 10 films of 2010. The beautiful cinematography and masterful direction by Martin Scorsese coupled with the joyful glee that you could feel from Scorsese who really played things up and showed that he can pretty much make any movie that he wants to make. A Scorsese thriller? Absolutely. Who else could pull off this movie? Most directors would've resorted to cheap thrills, but there was truly a method to Scorsese's madness in this film. Leonardo DiCaprio was also great in a performance that wound up being overshadowed by Inception. But it's arguable whether or not his performance Inception is really that much better than his performance here.
8. The Fighter
The Fighter proves that the formula to a great film is actually quite simple. As long as you have the right director and the right actors, a great film will almost always wind up being the end result. That's no less true than with this film. Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Mark Wahlberg all give strong performances and David O. Russell does everything he can to get the best out of all of them. The Fighter is one of the year's best showcases in film when it comes to acting and it also manages to be feelgood film without being too predictable.
7. Winter's Bone
Gritty, tough as nails, dank, sour, down-trodden. When you sit down to watch Winter's Bone, you are entering a world that you're not too familiar with and yet... it's set right here in America. The story itself is rather simple: a teenage girl who searches for her father. But the atmosphere, the acting, and the moody tone of this film is what elevates this material. Directed by Debra Granik, Winter's Bone does what a lot of great movies are designed to do: show you a world that you're not too familiar with and keep you fascinated throughout. That's really what Winter's Bone is about.
6. The Social Network
Some people love The Social Network and think it's easily the greatest film of the year, others think the hype is overdone and that it doesn't deserve any of the acclaim that it gets. I tend to agree with the former instead of the latter, although I didn't think it was as great as some others say. The Social Network is about as perfect a film can get as far as craftsmanship is concerned. The Social Network is so tight and well-made that your hat has to come off to David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. What a powerhouse combination that is. People want to call this an Aaron Sorkin movie, others want to call this a David Fincher movie. One thing's for sure, both needed each other in order for this movie to work as well as it did. So if it's so perfectly made, why is it not in my top 5? Because, overall, the stakes in this movie aren't really that high. The tone remains steady throughout even though there are most definitely some high points and low points in this story. Overall, this movie is really just about friendship and betrayal and doesn't really say much about the current world that we live in. I often like to compare this film favorably to All the President's Men, but even that film said something about journalism and corruption in politics. The Social Network is just a perfectly-made film, I've watched this twice and had a blast both times. But, watching it a second time confirmed to me that, beyond its expert craftsmanship and its well-constructed story, there really isn't much there. Still, it definitely deserves a spot on this top ten.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
I had a tough time with where I should put Scott Pilgrim and I know I may get some flack for having it in my top 5. But much like The Social Network, for me, you just have to applaud the work of Edgar Wright with this film. Whereas David Fincher already had great material to work with (an Aaron Sorkin script), Edgar Wright truly elevated the material of this film to a point where there is so much packed in every frame of this film that you can't possibly catch all of its cleverness by merely watching it once or twice. The wildly inventive camera movement, visual effects, use of sound and music just left me in awe when I watched this the first time. Just by watching the highly energetic opening credits, you could tell this was going to be an extremely fun film to watch. I guess I also wanted this in the top five because I feel that it was vastly under-appreciated and it's still misunderstood by people who simply view it as another awkward Michael Cera film. IT'S NOT. It's an Edgar Wright film all the way! And he's truly one of the most talented directors out there.
4. Toy Story 3
At the year's end, Toy Story 3 also remains as one of cinema's clearest standouts. When you consider just how well made the first two Toy Storys are, it makes Toy Story 3 that much more impressive. It's just the perfect ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. It's at least the greatest animated trilogy of all-time. Toy Story 3 may actually be the best of the three which is a rarity. Even though Toy Story 3 goes through a lot of the same motions, plot-wise, as the rest of the Toy Story movies. The emotional stakes have been raised considerably in the film and it leads to a conclusion so perfect that you can't help but shed at least one tear. It's not that it's sad, it's that it's such a perfect ending. Of course, the second time I watched it, it didn't hit me as hard, I'll always appreciate and thank the writers of this movie for giving us the best conclusion that could've possibly been made for this trilogy. I think a lot of people were wondering how Toy Story 3 would play out and now I can't imagine it happening any other way. That alone makes Toy Story 3 such a great movie, but the rest of the film is also fun to watch as well.
3. 127 Hours
I never wrote an official review for this movie because I was saving it for this top ten blog post. While watching 127 Hours, it became readily apparent to me that this was one of the best films of the year, I just didn't know how good I would deem it until the last act when Aron Ralston is finally released from the rock that has been waiting for him his whole life and finally finding people who can rescue him and bring him back to safety. The combination of music, the way it was shot, and James Franco's performance practically turned me into mush. Call me a Danny Boyle fanboy, I don't care. The man wears his emotions on his sleeve when he makes his films and I can't help but commend him for that.
Speaking of wearing emotions on their sleeve, Christopher Nolan has often been accused of being the exact opposite when he makes his films. In fact, the hate, the anti-Chris Nolan sentiment that has arisen over the last few months has really shocked me. Here's a man responsible for the successful resurrection of the Batman movies, a man who is responsible for Memento, and now has succeeded in making one of the very few original Summer blockbuster films to have come out in a long time. You know what? I don't even want to hear it anymore. Inception is brilliantly executed packed with solid performances, great special effects, and wonderfully engrossing and sophisticated story. Much has been made over the supposed convoluted-ness of the film, as if we're always supposed to get everything about a movie in just one viewing. Inception is like an endless frustrating puzzle that you feel compelled to solve. Even when you think you've gotten everything, there are always one or two things that make you question whether or not your perspective on the film is truly correct. It's a superb film all throughout.
1. Black Swan
After I saw Inception back in July, I thought to myself, in order for a film to beat out Inception for best film of the year, it would truly have to shake things up for me. Black Swan did just that. Black Swan is, of course, probably the most divisive film of the year. People love it, people hate it. I most definitely love it and find it to be the most captivating film of the year. There are times in this film when I wanted to look away, times when I'd laugh uncomfortably, and times where I truly did not know what kind of things Aronofsky would come up with next. I didn't always have a high opinion of Darren Aronofsky. I felt that he used to overdo it with his stylistic choices. I watched Requiem for a Dream recently, I found it to be just as much of a stylistic mess as I did over five years ago when I first watched it. Then with The Wrestler and now with Black Swan, I feel that Darren Aronofsky has redeemed himself; he really can't go wrong at this point. Why is that? Because even with all of the stylistic choices and all the different types of flare that he adds to Black Swan, it's the performances that wind up standing out in the end. Natalie Portman's tortured performance was what kept me intimately involved with this film. And you know what? I love that this film wound up being as divisive as it has. It actually makes me love it more.
Blue Valentine - I saw this just recently and thought it was a fine film. I was also surprised to see just how well made it was. Throughout all the talk about Ryan Gosling and Michelle William's performance, I thought Derek Cianfrance was the real winner of this film. That being said, I found it to be a little too uneven to consider it one of the ten best films of the year.
Greenberg and Cyrus - I liked both of these films very much and I think both Noah Baumbach and Duplass Brothers are very good filmmakers who are capable of making great films. Their films this year just barely missed the mark.
The Kids Are All Right and The King's Speech were the only two films from the Oscar best picture list that missed my top ten. I thought they were really good, but honestly, I don't see how they're as deserving of their accolades as the other films on my list. That being said, Colin Firth does deserve best actor as he gave an outstanding performance and I think Lisa Cholodenko deserves a lot more credit for the film she crafted. I will be interested in seeing what she does in the future.