First I should mention I have not yet had a chance to see True Grit or The King's Speech, but of the 118 titles in 2010 I've thus far seen, these were my favorites:
BLACK SWAN - Frenetic, suspenseful examination of a ballerina slowly losing her mind as she studies for the dual role of the Swan Queen. It's an electrifying performance from Luke Skywalker's mom, and yet with its disturbing imagery, it's not a movie I'd recommend to very many people.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO - Noomi Rapace embodies one of the more interesting female protagonists to come along in a while in this Swedish murder mystery.
GREEN ZONE - Surprisingly effective fictionalization of the US invasion of Iraq. Matt Damon plays a soldier happy to serve his country but continually frustrated that their "intelligence" on where the WMDs are hidden is consistently incorrect. If only WikiLeaks had access to more of the 2001-2003 Pentagon paperwork, we might know more of how so many people got it wrong.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I - The ultimate hammock movie of the series. It takes time to let our central three characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione) breathe and be real characters coping with some very big battles coming in the very near future.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT - But The Parents Are Screwed Up. Annette Bening gets her best part in years as one-half of a lesbian couple who feels threatened when her two children locate their sperm-donor and start to bond with him. It minorly suffers from too convenient of an ending.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 - A rare sequel that doesn't desecrate the original, even if it doesn't equal it. It does its job in providing the scares and suspense on a minimal budget.
RESTREPO - A solid "you are there" documentary that immerses the viewer in what it's like being a soldier in Afghanistan.
SALT - Ms. Jolie certainly knows how to kick some butt. Hat-tip to the most fun action movie of the summer.
SOLITARY MAN - Michael Douglas returns to form as a once-successful businessman who learns he may be dying, but rather than make things right, he goes on a selfish binge, cheating at his business, cheating on his wife, hitting on girls half his age. We root for the cad to find redemption, and it's a credit to Douglas we care at all, but its one flaw is the ambiguous ending. Sometimes I don't mind those, but here, I wanted the extra five seconds to show what happened, and THEN the credits can roll.
TANGLED - Disney animation is on the right track with this return to classic fairy-tale storytelling combined with the expected modernish humor. One would hope Disney would keep investing in stories like this and less on tripe like Chicken Little.
.... My Best Ten ...
10. THE FIGHTER - A boxing movie with realistic fighting, and a sibling story meatier than any actual fighting. Mark Wahlberg sits back and lets Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo take turns in career-bests for all three.
9. CATFISH - It's still unknown just how much of this is staged, and elements of it obviously are, but that doesn't take away from the fascinating story that unfolds. A young man in New York takes up an online correspondence with an eight-year-old girl and her family in Michigan, which leads to phone calls, but after several months he decides to stop by and surprise them. There is genuine suspense as to what he might actually find when he does, and the movie's an interesting expose about what is real online.
8. WINTER'S BONE - Jennifer Lawrence in a star-making performance about a teen girl in the Ozarks forced to grow up when her deadbeat daddy skips bail. She has to find him before the bank forecloses on their house. Since said daddy is involved in the local drug ring, odds aren't too good he's still alive. The measured stares between these hillbillies can be just as unnerving as well-dressed mobsters.
7. 127 HOURS - Danny Boyle's follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire is a vibrant celebration of life by focussing on one guy who almost lost his due to his own bad luck and stupidity. James Franco has rarely been better, and this basic one-man show is in good hands. *cough*
6. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD - The perfect movie for a youth culture overly drunk on video games, MP3 players, and up-to-the-second pop-culture updates. Had fun from beginning to end. It made me forgive Michael Cera for Year One. It deserves to garner a following on DVD. I'm still mortified - mortified, I say! - the Golden Globes didn't nominate it for Best Comedy.
5. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - DreamWorks Animation's best film to date. It finds the heart of the story of a boy and his dragon. If it weren't for Pixar it'd be a shoo-in for Best Animated Film of any critics groups that rewards that category. I hope the planned sequel doesn't tarnish it.
4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK - It has delicious dialogue that just made me wish Aaron Sorkin put out more screenplays. It has breakthrough performance from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. It has flawless CGI with Armie Hammer playing a set of twins. It's exciting and alive, which seems unlikely from a movie that's basically about a lawsuit.
3. THE TOWN - Ben Affleck writes for and directs himself in his best paht in years, as a Bahston bank robbah. (Okay, I'll stop). He has a knack for pace, for action, for slow spots, for choreography, and letting his co-stars shine, especially Jeremy Renner as the hothead best friend, like an Irish Joe Pesci. The central love story may seem constrained, but it actually all winds up the way it should. And hey, he allowed the late Pete Postlethwaite to go out with a good character in a good movie.
2. TOY STORY 3 - The rare third installment that lives up to the first two. The characters have followed natural progression, and yet stasis, and find themselves in a prison-break movie. Lotso Huggin Bear is the best villain of the year. Pixar rules.
1. INCEPTION - Christopher Nolan can do no wrong in my book. He has ruled the second half of my decade. Inception is one of those deeply layered movies that's fun to dissect months after viewing. It's one of those infrequent opportunities where a studio will give a ton of money to an original idea.