The Best Motion Pictures of 2010

The time has come for the awards season, and as such it is also the time to announce the best motion pictures of 2010.  I think it has been a grand year for film with several pictures vying for top honors.  With so many to choose from, I have selected what for me were the most emotionally touching, disturbing, or reaching.  If you read my page “The Critic’s Code” you will know that I find it pointless to make lists.  It is a bane of film criticism.  I don’t like to be forced to pick ten films; I’ll pick however many I want.  I also don’t like ranking them.  How am I supposed to decide which film is number seven and which is number six? The truth is I can’t decide.  I don’t know and nobody else knows.  Nobody else cares either whether Such and Such a Film is placed higher than This and That a Movie if they are both exceptional movies.  Therefore, true to my word, I shall not make numbered lists.  This collection of films that I consider to be the best of 2010 will be presented to you alphabetically.  I will, however, go ahead and name THE single best movie of the year, but after that it’s all by the letters.  So in alphabetical order, the best movies of 2010 are:


A thrilling motion picture on a grand emotional scale.  With absolutely perfect performances lurking everywhere in the film, Conviction is an exquisite piece of drama.  Hilary Swank plays a lawyer whose brother has been wrongly convicted of murder (she thinks).  She then devotes her entire life to proving him innocent.  It seems to me that this year has been full of brave and determined heroines.  Hilary Swank’s performance is inspiring; up to the caliber of Meryl Streep at least.  I found myself captivated by this story of loyalty, perseverance and really, conviction.  My initial review of Conviction can be found here:


Here is a great little film that nobody saw.  It is Rob Reiner’s latest piece of cinematic brilliance and this time delves into the lives of two teenagers during the 1960s.  Julianna Baker (again a strong heroine) finds herself infatuated with the boy across the street Bryce Losky.  However, Bryce doesn’t exactly return the feeling.  The film is narrated by both Bryce and Juli, often repeating scenes from each other’s point of view.  You’d think this would get tedious, but it never does.  Instead the film just becomes sweeter and more endearing as it goes along, always taking time to slow down and dwell on the fine points of the story that make it so good.  Very rarely are teenagers portrayed as smart and virtuous in motion pictures, and Flipped is a nice exception.  Unfortunately, nobody seems to have noticed this fine little gem of a movie.  My initial review of Flipped can be found here:


Boy! What a movie.  Inception is a mind bending, upside-down, massive jigsaw puzzle that’s about as coherent as Joaquin Phoenix’s rapper career.  The title refers to a method developed by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) that involves something called dream sharing in which dreamers can meet and speak inside their own dream worlds.  Inception feeds off the idea that maybe many of our human notions and passions are born in the dream world and what would happen if someone planted an idea in your mind during a dream.  The thing I really enjoyed about this masterful labyrinth was how much character it had.  All of the characters are fleshed out and real, not just accessories to the CGI work like many Hollywood blockbusters these days.  I really admire director and writer Christopher Nolan for creating this unique and sure-to-be classic film.  How he kept all of the myriad plots and subplots and sub-subplots straight boggles my mind.  But then again, so did the entire movie.  My initial review of Inception can be found here:

The King’s Speech:

If film was meant to move us, then The King’s Speech is an astoundingly good film.  It seems like one of those movies where everything simply goes right.  The right actors and the right director and the right screenwriter and the right story material all converged into one of those rare phenomenon in the cinema known as a near-perfect movie.  The film stars Colin Firth as King George VI of England who suffered from a serious speech impediment.  In order to overcome this, his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) hired a rather unorthodox speech therapist called Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  I can hardly find a single flaw in the film either in production quality or emotional quality.  This is a truly British film with exceptionally British themes, however it achieves an eloquence recognizable to people all over the world.  The King’s Speech, for want of a pun, “spoke” to my soul in a way few films do.  My initial review of The King’s Speech can be found here:

127 Hours:

I shudder to think of this truly sadistic edge-of-your-seat thriller based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a rash young rock climber who had to amputate his own right arm in order to escape the clutches of a rock that has smashed him against a canyon wall.  Director Danny Boyle has crafted an exciting, wild, gruesome thrill ride with more heart-pounding and adrenaline-pumping scenes than any other film this year.  Combining every element of the cinema (cinematography, production design, soundtrack, score, screenplay) and mixing it up into one great motion picture.  It must have been difficult to make a film about virtually one character in one spot for the entire movie, and even more difficult to make it well.  If, in the words of Lucy Ricardo, you are “tired, run-down, or listless” go see 127 Hours and you can be sure to be awake by the end.  My initial review of 127 Hours can be found here:

The Social Network:

In 1941, Orson Welles gave us Citizen Kane.  In 2004 came Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.  And finally in 2010 Aaron Sorkin wrote The Social Network.  All three of these are very fine movies with one thing patricular in common.  They are all about men who, through the process of creating their own wealth, loose their soul and their humanity.  The Social Network is the fictionalized account of the creation of the gigantic social network, Facebook.  The main character is Mark Zuckerberg, played wonderfully by Jesse Eisenberg, an anti-social jerk whose entire existence is aimed at getting into the Finals Clubs at Harvard.  Suddenly an idea comes to him about how to make social networking better and he sets about creating what was originally “The Facebook”.  This is a really cynical and bitter movie, darkly photographed and brilliantly directed by David Fincher/ However, no matter how good Fincher was, this is Aaron Sorkin’s movie.  In an age where many Hollywood scripts have to be dumbed down to make it understandable to the audience, the script for The Social Network is an amazingly sharp, smart, intelligent, and witty screenplay.  The dialogue is sophisticated and quick.  The Social Network is headed for historical reverence.  My initial review of The Social Network can be found here:

True Grit:

Very few remakes can be considered impressive, but the Coen brothers’ remake of the original 1969 John Wayne vehicle True Grit is a fine exception.  This film is of course about a young girl called Mattie (played by a promising newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, also a strong heroine) who, after her father is murdered, hires a rambunctious, cork-popping U.S.  Marshal named Rueben J.  “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the killer.  It follows the original movie almost too closely sometimes, but always with enough of the Coen originality to make it interesting.  Young Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie gives a heck of a great performance (I’ll even say better than Kim Darby who was pretty golly-dang good), never dropping her guard and always straightforward.  True Grit is a Biblical movie with a hymnal for a musical score, beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins.  While it does stick to the original very closely, it does differ in one area: the ending.  IT’s a moving, chilling, beautiful ending.  Especially the final shot.  My initial review of True Grit can be found here:

And now it’s time for me to announce the best motion picture of 2010.  The film I have chosen reached out to me like no other this year.  It is gritty, dark, and surprisingly wonderful.  The best movie of 2010 is:

Winter’s Bone:

There isn’t much of a question in my mind that Winter’s Bone is by far the best movie of 2010.  It captures what for some people is real life in a way no other movie could.  Based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel, the film concerns itself with Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), another strong heroine (although practical problem solver might be a better word than heroine in this case), who has to bear the curse of living in backwoods Missouri, deep in the Ozark Mountains.  In other words: she lives in unimaginable poverty.  Her meth-cooking father Jessup has jumped bail and signed off the house for a bail bond.  If Ree can’t find Jessup, she will loose her house and her family will fall apart.  Winter’s Bone is a dark, grizzly, often violent film that unfolds before us like real life.  It follows no formulas, subscribes to no genre.  I don’t know why, but this film struck me as more moving and more beautiful than any other film this year.  The cinematography is bleak and hopeless, the story is as black as night, yet somehow the characters maintain this one hope of deliverance.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree perfectly.  Ree is not the ordinary goody-goody hero.  No, she is flawed and probably just as screwed up as her meth-snorting relatives.  She can be cold and phlegmatic, without any emotion or empathy, but she is determined.  She will find her father and bring him back.  Dead or alive: she doesn’t really care.  The only one of her relatives who is willing to help her is her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes), and together they head down a dangerous and disturbing path that may lead them to some secrets they’d rather not know.  I think Winter’s Bone is a great movie, pure and simple.  A beautiful, dark, and inspiring motion picture.  It could have been a political statement about poverty in America, but it avoids that, and instead presents itself as an atmospheric mood piece full of mystery, suspense, and violence that filled me with admiration for it.  Great big applause for Winter’s Bone.  My initial review of Winter’s Bone can be found here:

Feel free to comment, everyone.

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