Each year thousands and thousands of films are released worldwide. Some are heavily promoted and as such are seen by millions of people. That does mean that they are the best films of the year, just the most seen. There is a huge difference. While other films do not have the benefit of huge stars and big studio dollars behind them, so as a result fewer people see them. This does not mean that they were not good films. The quality of a film should not be judged by its box office. For instance, last year The Hurt Locker made hundreds of millions less at the box office worldwide than James Cameron’s Avatar and yet it won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Along that vein of including some big budget or high profile and some independent films, here is my list (in the usual no particular order) of the Top 10 films of the year 2010:
1) The Social Network: A film that tells of the origins of the social networking site called Facebook. Written by the very talented Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame, it is an intelligent look at genius at work and the cutthroat nature of business. Jesse Eisenberg turns in a wonderful performance in the starring role of Mark Zuckerberg and director David Fincher is a man in complete control of every happening in his film.
2) The Kids Are All Alright: Smart, funny and sexy film about a different kind of nuclear family. Mom is doctor and the other mom is trying to be a landscape gardener. Their teen son and daughter want to meet their biological father. Probably the best ensemble cast in film this year featuring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Mia Wasikowska. Bening does a great job playing the almost unlikable defiant half of the couple, Ruffalo does the best work of his career and Moore is sensual. The best thing about the film is how it eliminated the division between a gay film and a family drama. It shows that problems that can crop up within a family and marriage are universal.
3) The Ghost Writer: Best thriller from director Roman Polanski in years. Ewan McGregor gets us to feel sorry for his character and Pierce Brosnan was surprisingly good as the leader modeled after Tony Blair. McGregor’s character is hired to write the leader’s biography. Soon enough a conspiracy becomes apparent and suspense is the order of the day. A great political thriller.
4) 127 Hours: Even though you know what the title character Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, has to do before the film begins it still manages to be adrenaline charged. Franco is fearless in his portrayal. We get to be inside Aron’s head due to his performance and the inclusion of the many silent moments. The wonder of the film is how director Danny Boyle keeps the action dramatic from beginning to end. What Aron eventually has to do is still shocking because the film is well constructed. Arguable Boyle’s best work since Trainspotting.
5) Toy Story 3: Filled with laughs and tears this animated film keeps its lesson simple. It tells that loss is part of growing up and that love can help diminish the pain. The great type of filmmaking that we’ve come to expect from Pixar. A film for young and old. A rare sequel that is of the same quality of what came before it.
6) The Town: It is rare that a genre film produced by Hollywood will have you thinking about it days later but such is the case with The Town. I’m beginning to think that Ben Affleck really has a bright future as a director. He does turn in a good performance along with the recently deceased Pete Postlethwaite and Jeremy Renner. Affleck pays homage once again to his native town of Boston.
7) Winter’s Bone: Demonstrates that you don’t need bells and whistles in order to make a strong film. This low budget piece of Americana contains a breakout performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who deserves an Oscar nomination. Director Debra Granik keeps it real while telling the tale of a teenager responsible for her younger siblings and mentally unwell mother who is looking for her drug addict of a father in order to save the family home.
8) Ajami: The film takes place in Jaffa and looks at Middle Eastern issues from both sides. The story involves love, drugs and economic hardship. Following a revenge killing we begin to understand how violence is part of daily life in Israel. Directed by a Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli.
9) Animal Kingdom: Australian crime drama that focuses on a family of criminals. Set in the suburbs of Melbourne, Jacki Weaver is riveting in her performance and is this year’s worst mother in film. She is a mother willing to sacrifice her own in order to survive. You will be tense the whole time you are watching the film waiting for the inevitable to happen.
10) A Prophet: A French film about a young French Arab boy who goes to jail while still a teenager. He is scared to the bone but when he leaves he is completely transformed. Now tough and a self-made crime boss. The complete lack of bravado or flash makes this film totally realistic almost to the point of feeling like a documentary. Looks at the power dynamic in prison and how it can shape a person.