Wednesday, February 9, 2011

End-Of-Year: Top 10 Favorite Films of 2010

Took a little longer than I had planned, but without further a due, here are my ten favorite films of 2010. In a year (or even a few weeks), maybe I'll feel a bit differently, but for now this is how it all shook out. If you want to see the rest of the top 25 films of 2010, click here.

10. Agora - Always a fan of films where the central character is an historical woman way ahead of her times going against the tide by being her own person and Hypathia as played beautifully by Rachel Weisz is one such woman. Her steadfast will to learn and understand the universe amidst political and religious turmoil was inspiring. Playing opposite here is her slave as played by Max Minghella who struggles between his devotion to her and his freedom. Their journeys were fascinating to watch unfold amidst all of the upheavals of the times all leading up to that magnificent and heart-wrenching ending.

9. 127 Hours - As a huge fan of Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle in general, I was counting down the days for his next feature film and with 127 Hours he delivered another great one. The film is pretty much a one-man show with James Franco playing real-life person Aron Ralston and his amazing ordeal of being stuck down a canyon for a grueling 127 hours. Boyle's frenetic style, which I'm a fan of, helps the movie never get stagnant, but it was Franco who really shouldered the whole film with his wonderful performance. The pièce de résistance was definitely the "cutting off the arm" scene which was as exhilarating and riveting as I had expected it to be, but I was also damn impressed by the gorgeous and breathtaking locale shots of Utah.

8. A Prophet - This film is nearly three hours long and yet I remembered thinking when I finished it that it was probably the fastest 3-hrs I've spent watching a film. Not sure why this movie was so watchable to me since it's a pretty hardcore prison drama. I'll attribute some of it to its great lead actor Tahar Rahim who was brilliant in showing us the journey of a man who went from a small-time crook to a full-fledged master criminal all the while maintaining sympathetic to the audience. It's an incredibly difficult role, but when done right, like it was here, you couldn't look away.

7. Easy A - I wanted to watch this movie because it had a few of my favorite veteran actors such as Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson and while those two latter actors DO steal the show as the easy-going cool parents, it was relative newcomer Emma Stone who was the breakout star of the film, and really the year. The success of the film as a John Hughes-inspired teen-style high school comedy was squarely put on Stone's shoulders and she carried the film spectacularly with her unassuming yet charismatic presence. The film itself had plenty of laughs and heart to fill its 92 minutes of running time.

6. Toy Story 3 - I knew it was going to be "one of those movies" when I started tearing up as soon as Randy Newman's score started playing and I supposed a lot of people probably had a similar reaction. For this film, it really was about saying goodbye to these characters who we first met more than 15 years ago, which also makes me feel incredibly old. It was the big theme of the film as Andy had to say also bid adieu to his toys because he was off to college. Of course before that happened some bits of hilarity (daycare!) and horror (incinerator!) had to happen, but every emotion the film elicited was sincerely earned.

5. Inception - I still remember this past summer when I couldn't get the film out of my head. And why not? This was certainly an ambitious and smart film and I applaud Christopher Nolan for always going there with all of his movies. The story itself is actually not that complicated to follow, but it is still such an intricately layered film, literally and metaphorically, that every viewing brings forth something new. The cast, which was my pick for Best Ensemble, is beyond words and they needed to be in order to keep up with Nolan's story. I'm still debating the ending with friends of mine to this day, so I just can't seem to get this film out of my head.

4. Black Swan - Even though I fully expected the unexpected with this film, especially with Darren Aronofsky at the helm, I wasn't fully prepared for his thrilling and sometimes disturbing vision of a ballerina going absolutely out of her mind in quest of perfection. You could tell that Natalie Portman underwent immense emotional and physical transformations to magnificently pull off this role, so kudos to her. And though I singled out the visionary direction and the inspired lead, the whole surreal film came together wonderfully in a sort of mindfuck kind of way and I just loved it all.

3. The Social Network - Even though it's not my #1 film and it's probably going to lose the Oscar to The King's Speech, in a lot of ways this is probably the film of 2010. A lot of it has to do with its subject matter i.e. the founding of Facebook, but also because it's plainly an amazing movie. From its writing, directing, and acting, almost every element of the film was top-notch. Why *I* like the film though was because in the heart of it all, it was about two friends, wonderfully played by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, whose friendship was challenged while they were building something together that would literally change the world. It's that relationship that makes this movie so worthwhile even in years to come.

2. Blue Valentine - This was probably my most anticipated film last year and so of course it was released on the very last week of the year. The wait was worth it though as the film delivered on every level in no small part due to its two incredible leads fantastically played by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Both displayed a wide range of emotions as the film went back and forth from their initial courtship to their relationship's eventual collapse. Saying both had chemistry would be terribly simplifying it since I believe they inhabited their characters so fully and so realistically that it almost hurt watching their relationship crumble.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - As a huge Edgar Wright fanboy (loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz unequivocally), me loving this film was a no-brainer, but what was easily my favorite summer film somehow coalesced itself into my favorite film of the year. It's definitely the most unique film I saw this year. Most of that was Wright's full commitment to the video game aesthetics ever-present in the film that perfectly complemented its graphic novel origins. The relatively young cast is immensely talented especially Kieran Culkin who played my favorite character, Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells. It's not a perfect film, but it is my favorite and I'm just totally in lesbian with it.

And that's it! At least for now. For the rest of my top 25 list, click here.

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