2010 didn’t quite bring with it the same abundance of noteworthy films that 2009 graced us with. However, this year did see some stellar efforts, with the 10 listed below being the stand outs.
10. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (dir. Edgar Wright)
Comic book adaptations litter the latest release line ups these days. Some are good, some are bad and some are absolutely woeful. However, it’s not often that a director attempts to actually adapt the genre itself for film -Zack Snyder arguably did it brilliantly with Watchmen, where literal panels from the comic book were translated onscreen. Ang Lee failed miserably with Hulk. Edgar Wright took it to another level completely with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Almost like a graphic novel brought to life, the film is so vibrant and so packed with life that it’s almost impossible not to like.
9. The Kids Are All Right (dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
Upon its release The Kids Are All Right was met with a wealth of comparisons to Little Miss Sunshine, and rightfully so. Slow-burning familial difficulties are at the core of this story, as two teenage children to a lesbian couple (expertly acted by Julianne Moore and Annette Benning) decide that they want to meet their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo, in another highly encouraging role, perhaps one of his best). Tensions rise thanks to a mixture of minor and major crises, culminating in a crisis major enough to blow the whole family unit wide open. The performances are outstanding and the direction and script likewise.
8. Four Lions (dir. Chris Morris)
A resolutely fearless satire about some extra-stupid suicide bombers was one of the last things you’d have expected to see on a cinema screen this year. Chris Morris took a terrifying subject matter and boiled it down to show its inherent stupidity before injecting the fear factor straight back into it. That Four Lions is able to craft moments of hilarity and shock and meld them together into the same film is testament to Morris’ ability as a director and the team of writers around him. It’s upsetting and disturbing, but it’s also brilliantly funny in equal measure.
7. Monsters (dir. Gareth Edwards)
There were a couple of low-budget sci-fi efforts this year, but none of them can hold a candle to Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. The film takes place around an accidental alien invasion, though that is never the focal point, only a stumbling block for the lead characters to traverse. Monsters isn’t the cheaply-shot blockbuster you might be expecting -it’s a tender road trip movie that happens to have alien figures looming in the distance, their presence a jarring reminder of what’s at stake for the unlikely travelling pair at the centre of the piece. Delicately shot with remarkable visuals, you have to constantly remind yourself that the special effects are big-budget on zero-budget.
6. The Town (dir. Ben Affleck)
In his first directorial effort since 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck continued to establish himself as a more-than competent filmmaker with The Town, a Boston tale of a bank robber who falls for a bank manager. The film features a handful of great performances -from Affleck himself in the lead, as well as from Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall in supporting roles. But it’s one of last year’s brightest stars that shines again here, with Jeremy Renner throwing himself into Oscar contention once again with another fantastic turn.
5. Dogtooth (dir. Giorgos Lanthimos)
This off-the-wall effort from Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos was as surreal as it was shocking. Three teenage children live in complete and utter isolation alongside their controlling parents, who act as the complex villains of the piece. The mother and father oversee every detail that the teenagers are exposed to -for instance, words that they don’t learn from within the household are assigned with new definitions, with ‘zombies’ becoming flowers, as an example. It’s incredibly dark, but has a relentless sense of humour about it, with an incident involving a stray cat proving to be a memorable highlight.
4. Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn)
Absolutely brimming with energy and enthusiasm, Kick-Ass marked a different take on the recent conventions of the comic book movie. It’s both a satire of the comic books that it lifts it’s archetypes from as well as being a homage to them. A feverish pace, a simple-yet-involving narrative, a slew of quotable lines and some great performances made Kick-Ass a blast to watch.
3. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)
How do you follow up a momentous picture like The Dark Knight? Christopher Nolan made it look easy when he brought a project over 10 years in the making to the big screen. Inception was elaborate in both structure and narrative, requiring that attention be paid to the rules and regulations sprawling throughout the dialogue. It’s complicated, but not overly so. Leonado DiCaprio is as good here as he is in Shutter Island, while Tom Hardy is scene-stealingly brilliant. The technical achievements on show will surely bring reward in the form of Oscar nominations at the very least, with Hans Zimmer’s score probably adding another nomination to the list as well. Inception is how you follow up a picture like The Dark Knight.
2. Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)
A fitting end to one of film’s finest trilogies. It’ll be a shoe-in for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars, but Toy Story 3 really does deserve a nomination in the Best Picture category. As is the standard for a Pixar picture, it is packed with a remarkable amount of heart and comedic moments as well as just the right amount of scenes of denudation, where the script peels back the layers and forcefully pulls at your emotions. The film deals with a lot of the same themes as its predecessor, but with further exploration that stops it from becoming just a simple rehash. If the absurdly-bleak cliffhanger in the final act fails to move you, then you’re watching the wrong movie.
1. The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)
This will sit proudly at the top of the majority of ‘best’ lists this year, and rightly so. Fincher’s direction is expert, the work of somebody at the very peak of his game. The Social Network looks phenomenal, every scene a muddied wash of dimmed browns and greys with the subtlest of lighting. And it sounds phenomenal too, backed up by a mesmerizing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film is spectacularly well acted, not just in the lead role as played by Jesse Eisenberg, but also in the additional supporting roles: Andrew Garfield is fantastic, Justin Timberlake is completely adept and Armie Hammer really has you believing that his character is played by two entirely different people. All of this combined with Aaron Sorkin’s note perfect script makes The Social Network the stand-out film of the year, maybe even of the last ten years.