Without further ado, here is the first part of my top ten list for 2010.
10. (dir. Mark Romanek)
From my review: "The adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel of the same name was, for my money, an incredibly effective and emotionally devastating film (take note of the word "devastating," a much harder and more lingering emotion to evoke than "depressing"). I was impressed up and down with this film... Yes, there is a conceit at the core of this story that hangs over the narrative, but the film is more concerned about matters of the heart than the soft sci-fi element." To expand, I'm aware that this is a controversial citation of a movie that so thoroughly disappointed a great number of people. But I could not ignored a film that swept me up and moved me so beautifully. Whether taken as a piece of soft science fiction, or a as a quiet meditation on life and death, it's ultimately a graceful and challenging piece of cinema.
9. (dir. Sylvain Chomet)
What's this? There's an animated film on my top ten list and it's not Toy Story 3? As I've stated many times, I believe these lists have to be honest. Honestly? I was deeply moved and effected by The Illusionist, which I caught just in time. I ventured out on a thirty-minute drive to a small theater on the outskirts of Los Angeles. How fitting. As I walked into this tiny theater and the movie began to roll, it was as if I was an audience member in magician's sparsely attended show. It's at once a heartbreaking portrayal of the need for human connection and a portrait of a dying profession in an increasingly modernized world. It's classically animated (there doesn't seem to be much place for that these days) and it's sparse, slow and stately, all to its credit. Who would think that the words "Magic isn't real" would bring tears to my eyes?
8. (dir. David Michôd)
From my review: "This tautly structured, well-paced Australian crime drama is more than meets the eye and rewards repeat viewings. Writer-director Michôd has constructed a film that is rife with character specificity that sucks you into this family of clumsy yet conniving and often loving Melbourne criminals...Animal Kingdom's ability to build tension to a fevered pitch, particularly in the much talked about scene that involves a car backing out of a garage, is something to marvel at and I'm amazed this is Michôd's first feature."
7. (dir. Mike Leigh)
From my review: "There's a moment towards the end of Another Year when Mary (Lesley Manville) tearfully tells her friend and co-worker Gerri (Ruth Sheen), "As long as we're friends, I'm all right." It's a sentiment that is at once incredibly sweet and incredibly sad, expressed with aching conviction...[The actors here have an extraordinary ability] off of each other. The don't just act, they react. It may seem like I'm speaking little of plot. Mike Leigh's films are not creatures of plot. This is, in many ways, his most observational film. And yet it never feels boring or stale. It's heartwarming, honest and refined. I literally didn't want it to end."
6. (dir. David O. Russell)
From my review "In spite of the presence of Black Swan and The Social Networks (splendid films in their own right, certainly), one can't help but wonder if The Fighter is the true directorial achievement of the year. David O. Russell takes one of the oldest and most hackneyed cinematic genres ("The Boxing Movie") and imbues it with so much life, specificity and directorial flourish that's true to his style...The actors here all play like their role is fully fleshed out and realized. Every inch of this film, from its performers, its director, its wonderful script ("She's an MTV girl"), Hoyte van Hoytema's unshowy cinematography--they all seem to be working in perfect synergy with one another."
My Best Picture Nominees for 2010