Wow, could 2010 have flown by any faster? I swear, it feels like I just got back from the Sundance Film Festival, and that was back in January.
That’s just one of the reasons why I originally could not fathom the prospect of coming up with a list of the 10 best movies of 2010. Of course, the other reason is that there were so many truly bad movies, some of which approached epic proportions. Submitted for your disapproval: “When in Rome,” “The Tooth Fairy,” “The Bounty Hunter,” “The Back-Up Plan,” “Killers,” “The Last Song,” “The Last Airbender,” and the crème de la crème of movie badness, “Furry Vengeance.” (I mean, really, what the heck was Brendan Fraser thinking?)
But as always, there were a few diamonds in the rough, so picking 10 amazing movies turned out to be easier than I anticipated. And since 2010 marks the true end of the decade from a technical perspective, there’s a good chance that a couple of these movies would have made the cut on the “Best of the Decade” list I came up with last year. As for what they might have been, read on.
10. “How to Train Your Dragon”: The first must-see movie of 2010 was also one of the year’s best surprises. What started off as an animated 3-D romp that was aimed squarely at kids soon turned into a rousing, exciting and very moving family adventure that adhered to the timeless sensibilities of “boy-and-his-dog”-style classics like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Black Stallion.” With the “Shrek” series running on fumes after four installments, DreamWorks Animation scored a fire-breathing hit that launched a brand new franchise.
9. “The Town”: In Hollywood, everyone loves a great comeback story (just ask Robert Downey Jr.). So after years of being better known as a tabloid punchline than as an esteemed filmmaker, Ben Affleck followed his solid directorial debut, 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone,” with this gritty Boston crime drama that was gripping, entertaining and wholly engrossing from start to finish. With only his second time behind the camera, Affleck proved that he was as technically proficient at staging elaborate bank heists and intense car chases as he was at crafting an engaging story with fully realized characters.
8. “Kick-Ass”: Talk about a movie that lived up to its name, “Kick-Ass” gave the superhero genre, which had been getting a bit stale and formulaic in recent years, a swift kick in the you-know-what. Thanks to an energetic vibe, a smart story and amazing performances from Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz (who stole the movie as the foul-mouthed Hit-Girl), “Kick-Ass” did just that as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
7. “Waiting for Superman”: By taking an exhaustive review of the U.S. public school system that was just as informative as it was infuriating, director Davis Guggenheim did for education what his Oscar-winning documentary from 2004, “An Inconvenient Truth,” did for the environment. Despite the efforts of a few idealistic saviors who had brave ideas to restore the system to greatness, the government, as usual, turned out to be its own worst enemy. If you still haven’t seen “Waiting for Superman,” see it now; you might learn something.
6. “127 Hours”: Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy followed up their Oscar-winning Best Picture “Slumdog Millionaire” with another unforgettable cinematic experience that celebrated the instinct to survive and the triumph of the human spirit. But it was James Franco’s bravura performance as trapped adventurer Aron Ralston that took the film to a powerful emotional level that stayed with you for well over 127 hours.
5. “Inception”: If there was ever a movie that absolutely needed to be seen twice, this was it. Actually, seeing it just twice barely scratched the surface of writer-director Christopher Nolan’s cerebral, mind-bending and mind-blowing puzzle, whereupon layers and layers of dreams (many of them happening at the same time) made for a riveting and all-consuming cinematic experience that duly rewarded moviegoers who were up for the challenge.
4. “The Kids Are All Right”: Director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko drew upon personal experience for this smart, charming and ultimately moving portrait of a lesbian couple whose kids meet their biological sperm-donor father. But what really made it so refreshing was how ordinary it depicted the same-sex parents (wonderfully played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) as they grappled with a variety of domestic issues, their frustration with the careers and their never-ending challenge to keep the passion burning between them.
3. “Black Swan”: It would have been easy to praise Natalie Portman for her tour de force performance as a competitive ballerina whose obsessive dedication to her craft had disastrous consequences on her sanity. But Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershy and Vincent Cassel also gave Oscar-worthy performances in this dark, twisted, sexy and altogether breathtaking psychological melodrama that’s the best movie yet from director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”).
2. “The Social Network”: Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin seamlessly crafted a riveting and exceptionally well-written masterwork about the formation of the most important technological phenomenon of the last 10 years. As for who really created Facebook, well, that’s the bone of contention, and that’s why “The Social Network” brilliantly combined the tragic elements of ambition, greed, betrayal, jealousy and loss of innocence to ultimately triumph as the “Citizen Kane” of the 21st Century. “Rosebud,” indeed.
1. “Toy Story 3”: It took Disney-Pixar 11 years to get from “Toy Story 2” to “Toy Story 3,” but the third installment was all the better for it, so it was worth the wait. It made the central focus of this otherwise clever, funny and exciting masterpiece – about the relentless passage of time – so much more effective, profound and ultimately moving. As Woody, Buzz and the rest of the “Toy Story” gang learned to let go of the past and embrace the future, so we should all do the same – especially since time really does fly by.