A few weeks into 2011, I finally feel prepared to offer my top ten films of 2010. I am not sure 2010 was a great year for cinema, as it seems the year will be remembered more for the disappointments than for the highlights. I am also disappointed that so few foreign films were released into theatres in Toronto. I wish there was a greater audience and demand for international films. That being said, I think the individual performances from 2010 are stronger than 2009. I enjoyed a great number of films this year, and I present my top ten:
10. True Grit
The Coen brothers won three Academy Awards in 2007 for No Country For Old Men, an urban western adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel. True Grit, the second cinematic adaptation of Charles Portis' novel, is a more traditional western and the least quirky film they have made. It is beautifully photographed and terrifically acted, led by the precocious Hailee Steinfeld.
9. 127 Hours
James Franco finally delivers a performance worthy of his talent. I was blown away by 127 Hours, a mesmerizing film that combines incredible acting, directing, writing and editing. A huge part of the intensity of the film is the build up to the amputation, but Danny Boyle's direction shows great restraint and vision. In another year, James Franco would be a sure frontrunner for the Academy Award.
8. Toy Story 3
I was twelve when Toy Story was released and into adulthood I have retained my admiration for the franchise while my appreciation for animation has waned. The third installment is the most mature and it is the most heartbreaking. Up forced the sentimentality, but Toy Story 3 hit all the right notes. It was an emotionally satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy.
7. The Social Network
I have come to appreciate The Social Network more now than I did after seeing it for the first time. I had a much stronger reaction to the film after seeing it a second time. It is a socially relevant film with a great central performance from Jesse Eisenberg, though he is overshadowed by the great talent of Andrew Garfield. David Fincher is a great director and somehow he made a film about something as dull as Facebook feel fresh and exciting.
6. Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams own the screen in Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine. It is a heart-wrenching look at a crumbling marriage and yet it gives the audience reason to want the couple to try to stay together. Using flashbacks, the film has a great number of emotional layers and I felt just as emotionally raw as the characters on screen by the time the lights came on.
Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is beautifully melodic and poetic. The film has a very art house feel and it is a shame that Stephen Dorff has not received more attention for his starring role. It is a great character for him and a performance that I hope will encourage him to seek better roles that reflect his talent. Somewhere is so hauntingly beautiful that I still find myself replaying scenes from the film in my head more than a month later.
4. I Am Love
Tilda Swinton may be one of the oddest actresses currently working in Hollywood, but she is a ferocious talent. She not only learned to speak Italian for this role, but she learned to speak it with a Russian accent. I Am Love may frustrate viewers, but I was captivated by the beauty of its cinematography and the intensity of Tilda Swinton's performance. I am appalled by the lack of attention she has received for I Am Love, a film which she co-produced.
3. The Kids Are All Right
If The Kids Are All Right had been released in the fall instead of the summer, would Annette Bening be the frontrunner for the Best Actress prize instead of Natalie Portman? She is a tremendous force in this turbulent comedy about love and family. It also features Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, and the film offers one of the best acting ensembles of 2010.
1. Black Swan
I did struggle with my top choice of 2010. Black Swan, with a brilliant and intense performance from Natalie Portman, is one of the two absolute best films I saw in 2010. Darren Aronofsky's film about the dark side of perfection is over the top and uncomfortable to watch at times, but it is beautiful to watch Natalie Portman's downward spiral. I still get chills remembering some of Black Swan's more jaw-dropping scenes. Not only does Natalie Portman give the best performance of her career to date, but Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey are equally superb in supporting roles.
1. Another Year
Mike Leigh is one of the most talented directors working today and his films depict such an intimate and honest view of humanity. Another Year is easily one of his best films, though it would take quite the effort to eclipse Secrets & Lies from its perch (as it is my second favourite film ever). Like Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Lesley Manville is an electric force in Another Year whose performance depends so much on her talented costars, a wonderful screenplay and a great director. There is too much for me to say about Another Year. I loved every second of it. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen undeservedly take the back seat to Lesley Manville even though their performances are equally brilliant.
Other films I enjoyed this year:
Animal Kingdom - Jacki Weaver is terrifyingly brilliant as the matriarch of a Melbourne crime family.
Easy A - Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci steal a few scenes, but Emma Stone is the real treasure of this enjoyable teen comedy.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Noomi Rapace owns the screen and her performance will still overshadow David Fincher's American remake.
The King's Speech - Colin Firth gives a great performance, though not as good as last year's A Single Man, and although the film is a bit too formulaic, it is worth seeing.
Made in Dagenham - Sally Hawkins is always great, and although this film does not fully utilize her potential, she does make it worth seeing.
Mother and Child - Annette Bening and Naomi Watts are great in this film about the effects of adoption.
Rabbit Hole - Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances in recent years and a great supporting performance from the always brilliant Dianne Wiest.
Biggest disappointments of the year:
Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton's film might be the worst film I saw in 2010.
The Fighter - for a film Mark Wahlberg spent years trying to make, both he and the film failed to hit the mark for me (though his costars were outstanding).
Shutter Island - There is little to enjoy about Martin Scorsese's overwrought film.