5 True Grit
All the awesomeness one could have anticipated upon first hearing the glorious phrases “Coen Brothers” and “western” together for the first time when the project was originally announced came sparklingly true upon fruition. Adapted from a novel, (previously filmed quite famously with John Wayne back in ’72) the flick brings the Coens’ trademark penchant for dark comedy, memorable, ornate dialogue and top-notch casting to tell the story of a little girl’s (new comer Hailee Steinfeld, who gets to make lots of stately, old timey declarations, “I will see the thing done!”etc.) ride for vengeance against the low-down (Josh Brolin) who killed her father, with the assistance of an alcoholic Marshal (Jeff ‘The Dude ‘ Bridges taking things in a decidedly non-John Wayney direction, to great effect) and an arrogant Texas Ranger (Matt Damon, in full-on mustached creep mode).
4 Blue Valentine
The anti-date movie if there ever was one. This is a so-believable-it-makes-you-uneasy look at the dissolution of a marriage, which ultimately succeeds on the power of its two leads, Ryan Gosling and the never-failing Michelle Williams. As things fall apart in the present day (even as they try to reconnect during a weekend spent together at a sleazy theme motel), the history of their relationship is told through a series of flashbacks detailing how aimless dropout/dreamer Gosling fell for ambitious med student Williams. Things get serious and Gosling ends up marrying Williams and raising her child (who belongs to her dick/jock of an ex,) as his own. It’s the concept of love vs. that thing called reality. Guess who wins?
3 The Fighter
More emaciated, drug addled hijinks, this time from the master professional himself, Christian ‘Batman’ Bale as washed-up ex-fighter turned crackhead Dickie Ecklund, earning himself a Best Supporting statue, and in our opinion, the right to an honorary award at every Oscar ceremony to come. The half-brother of fighter “Irish” Mickey Ward (Mike Wahlberg), who is the film’s focus, Bale’s Dickie flails and tics in a frighteningly convincing and hilarious fashion, managing to eclipse what is itself a damn entertaining film with several other fine performances (Wahlberg, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo who also took home a Best Supporting Oscar) The running gag of the constantly high Bale jumping from a second story window to land in a pile of garbage still has me howling (yes these are peoples’ real lives, but its quite plainly played for comedy). An all around classic of boxing tropes and trashy South Boston atmosphere (you will, no joke, spot extras from Gone Baby Gone).
2 Winter’s Bone
If you see one non-documentary flick about meth-cookin’ hillbillies, make it this one. Showcasing the breakout performance of current It-girl Jennifer Lawrence, and set in a world men say things to their wives like “I done already told you to shet up once with ma hand,” this cold and unglamorous outing packs a serious punch. Lawrence, portraying a teenage girl seemingly made of steel, navigates a barren landscape of dead trees and dilapidated shacks in a search for her no-good Pa, encountering all manner of Appalachian scum along the way. (Breaking Bad fans will recognize the woman who crushed her husband’s head with the ATM, appearing early on, apparently the go-to actress for methed-out skanks).
1 Toy Story 3
God only knows what’s becoming of Pixar these days, but back in ’10 they gave us one hell of a gem in the form of the first animated flick to gross a billion: The stellar third film in the Toy Story franchise. Though some of the story beats seem familiar from the previous entries, it manages to surpass both by at times being more inventive than Inception, more riveting than The Social Network and more heart-wrenching than Blue Valentine. That’s no small feat for a second sequel in an animated kids flick series about talking toys. The incinerator scene alone packs more power than a dozen dour indie dramas. It almost makes you dread the idea of another installment, lest they wreck this rare perfect trilogy. If you think that’s overselling, tell it to The Academy, who saw fit to simultaneously nominate it for Best Picture and Best Animated Film, easily walking off with the latter.
Animal Kingdom – A bleak crime/family drama from the land down under, which is historically no stranger to deep criminal legacy. Jacki Weaver drew raves and awards as the calmly manipulative matriarch to a clan of miscreants.
Inception – Christopher Nolan’s thoroughly enjoyable visionary thriller upon, even if its dream-within-dream logistics had some rolling their eyes. A benchmark in Nolan’s evolution, but so is everything he makes.
Black Swan- A film that concerns Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman dropping molly and hooking up doesn’t have to do much more to land on some peoples “best of” lists, I’m sure, but in addition Black Swan is an elegant, bizarre psychological thriller with Portman’s spellbinding turn as an unraveling ballerina at its core, and another win for Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream , The Wrestler).
127 Hours – Essentially a one man show for James Franco. That climaxes with him amputating his own arm and climbing out of a very deep ditch. There you go.
The Town- In the end, it proved overall to be a great year for somber flicks concerning dynasties of lower class criminals. This Ben Affleck directed neo-classic heist flick boasts a mad-dog performance by Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner as an Oxycontin-addicted thug to boot.
That’s the official take on 2010. If you have conflicting reports, let’s hear them.