Thirty for ’10 


If you haven’t noticed, 2010 has proven volatile for our country, and the same goes for cinema. It’s been an off year. Need proof? My list of the 10 best from the last 12 months has two — count ’em, two — movies starring Mark Wahlberg! (Could that be real or is the top still spinning?)

1. “Inception” — In the theater, I was wowed. On Blu-ray, I was wowed again. What’s most impressive about Christopher Nolan’s mind-crime caper is its diabolically creative script. Finally, a movie driven by pure story, enhanced by expert visuals, and not the other way around.

2. “Four Lions” — The year’s bravest movie is also its most uproarious. In these times (or any), I never thought we’d see a comedy about terrorists, but here it is, and it’s whipsmart funny. Yes, I said “comedy about terrorists.” It has yet to play this city.

3. “The Red Riding Trilogy” — While Sweden’s “Dragon Tattoo” trilogy got all the buzz and bucks, Britain’s three-film exploration of the real-life Yorkshire Ripper case played out in chapters each set in a different year, from 1974 to 1983. Whether watched in part or in whole, the results are absorbing and addictive.

4. “The Social Network” — After reading the god-awful book last year on which this Facebook origin tale is based, I thought, “I hope David Fincher knows what he’s doing.” He did.

5. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” — This is either the year’s most exhilarating documentary or entirely a hoax merely posing as one. (If it’s the latter, that means Banksy’s gifts as a filmmaker are that much greater.) Never has the subject of street art and its guerilla creators been mistaken for suspense.

6. “The Fighter” — In general, I detest sports movies, so that should tell you how good this one is. Christian Bale delivers the year’s best performance, lead or supporting, as far as I’m concerned.

7. “The Other Guys” — I understand some people don’t like Will Ferrell, but with lines like “I was so drunk, I thought a tube of toothpaste was astronaut food,” I can’t figure out why.

8. “Make-Out with Violence” — You haven’t heard of this microbudgeted, Tennessee-lensed effort, but it’s as if Wes Anderson directed a wry rom-com involving 18-year-olds in the summer before college ... that just happens to have a zombie in it. Different? To say the least. Never played here, or much of anywhere. Seek this out!

9. “True Grit” — To worry about what the Coen brothers’ remake does to the John Wayne original is to miss some brilliant dialogue, some stunning photography and one incredible performance by 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld.

10. “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” — It could be argued this French spy spoof isn’t as funny as its predecessor, 2006’s “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” but my smile was too big, dumb and genuine to notice a difference. Viva la France!


In 2010, no good films were better than I thought they’d be, but several I had high hopes for were disappointments. The biggest stinker should be “Skyline,” but there’s just something about the hack cutesiness of “Valentine’s Day” that makes me want to hurl a used Whitman’s Sampler all over it. And with that charming visual in mind, let’s proceed.

I’m presenting not necessarily the 10 movies I think were the best of 2010, but the 10 I liked best and may watch again. This is completely subjective. I don’t always dislike what’s bad; in fact, I frequently enjoy it more than what’s good.

1. “True Grit” — Are the Coen brothers subversives and nihilists who use American movies to tell us how they don’t really
like America or movies? Or do they love both things, but recognize how
immature they are and ripe for kidding? As someone said about the novel
“True Grit,” it is both a parody of the traditional Western and a
perfect example of it. This is a consistently funny film that didn’t
make me laugh out loud until Mattie’s final words to Frank James. And I
haven’t stopped laughing since.

2. “Shutter Island”
Martin Scorsese started the year off right with the most entertaining,
trickiest and thought-provoking thriller of 2010. This is not only one I
want to see again, but have to see again, as many more times as it
takes to put all the pieces together. It’s a thriller with brains and a
production design that’ll knock your socks off.

3. “Alice in Wonderland”
I like this one, but I wanted to love it. No cigar there, but I want to
see it again. More eccentric wackiness from the Tim Burton/Johnny
Depp/Helena Bonham Carter triumvirate.

4. “Splice”
This was the most interesting almost-horror film of the year, mainly
because it wasn’t pure horror. It’s a love story, family story and
American Dream story wrapped up in a mad scientist story, and it’s just
as thoughtful as it is scary.

5. “The A-Team”
Quit spluttering in disbelief. This is the only real competition for
“The Expendables” in the silly, macho, over-the-top adventure genre, and
you’re not telling me that you prefer the Stallone gab-fest to this,
are you? Are you?

6. “How to Train Your Dragon”
Best animated movie of the year, at least among the ones that played in
this market. Come on, admit it: Aren’t you getting a little tired of
Pixar’s warm fuzzies? This year’s offering is the second calf of the
“Toy Story” cash cow. Going, going, sold!

7. “Iron Man 2” — Saved by Garry Shandling in sarcastic mode and Scarlett Johansson in black Lycra.

8. “Let Me In”
Hammer’s return to filmmaking is a thoughtful vampire story that makes
you more uneasy the more you think about it. Its 13-year-old star Chloe
Moretz had three good films in 2010 — also “Kick-Ass” and “Diary of a
Wimpy Kid.”

9. “Piranha 3D” — If you don’t know, I can’t explain it.

10. “Red” — Geezer espionage with a subversive sense of humor.


worth noting that 2010 was unusually strong for documentaries, with
“The Tillman Story,” “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “Exit Through the Gift
Shop” and “Restrepo” deserving all the acclaim they received. Is reality
the new black?

1. “The Social Network”
Before its release, a movie about the origins of Facebook sounded like a
colossally bad idea. But screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David
Fincher elevated the story of wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg to
Shakespearean tragedy. Like its antihero, “The Social Network” is
brilliant, acerbic and surprisingly humane.

2. “The Fighter”
After “Raging Bull,” I didn’t think boxing had another great movie in
it. I was wrong. Based on the rise of welterweight champ Mickey Ward
(Mark Wahlberg), it is more interested in the figurative psychological
punches thrown outside the ring. Director David O. Russell has a knack
for making family dysfunction entertaining.

3. “Toy Story 3”
Pixar’s third installment of the franchise that launched it all is a
spot-on send-up of a prison-break flick. More impressive is that the
CG-animated movie tackles themes — impermanence, aging, death — usually
reserved for brooding Swedish filmmakers.

4. “The King’s Speech”
Its wonderfully crafted storytelling might wind up attracting a little
hipster backlash since its subject matter, of monarchs and male
camaraderie, is ideal for awards season. But the film is as superb as
its hype. Colin Firth delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as George VI,
who reluctantly ascended to the British throne while trying to conquer a
lifelong stammer.

5. “127 Hours”
Danny Boyle accomplished the seemingly impossible: making a movie that
wrings energy and excitement from the most claustrophobic and horrific
of events. James Franco is pitch-perfect as Aron Ralston, who amputated
his arm to free himself from a boulder. It’s as inspired as it is

6. “Inception”
You might have to go all the way back to “2001: A Space Odyssey” to
find another innovative blockbuster head trip like this. In his caper
set amid the world of dreams, writer/director Christopher Nolan
demonstrates sizable ambitions matched by commercial instincts. It isn’t
flawless, but dreams rarely are ... at least not the ones you can talk

7. “The Ghost Writer”
International drama surrounding Roman Polanski overshadowed his
masterful triumphant return to thrillers. Ewan McGregor does a fine job
as the titular character who stumbles into a labyrinthine conspiracy of
political intrigue, sex and murder — the best kinds, you know.

8. “Mother”
In this riveting South Korean suspense/horror mash-up, Kim Hye-ja is
memorable as the most devoted matriarch since Norman Bates’ mother. When
Kim’s mentally challenged son is accused of murder, the dutiful mom
sets out to prove his innocence, with wholly unpredictable results.

9. “Let Me In”
I loved Sweden’s original “Let the Right One In,” and, like many fans,
didn’t see the point in an American remake two years later. But give
credit where credit is due. Writer/director Matt Reeves fashioned an
outstanding kid-vampire flick with serious chomping potential.

10. “Broken Embraces”
As Pedro Almodóvar movies go, the (purposely) overheated melodrama of
“Broken Embraces” is not among his best. Still, subpar Almodóvar is
better than almost anything else, and this conjures up a mesmerizing
spell of pop culture, romance and suspense.

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Rod Lott

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