Feature: Sam's Top Ten of 2010
Sam's Top Ten of 2010
Here's my top ten of 2010 list and it should be noted I never got around to seeing The Kids Are All Right and The King's Speech. Who knows how this list could be different! Of course this is made up of what I did get around to seeing and I'll stick by it.

10. Greenberg
In Noah Baumbach's latest film, we follow a depressed 40 something trying to get his life together. Pretty standard small movie material but Ben Stiller delivers a great performance to match Baumbach's script. The film never dives off the deep end to become maudlin but it toes the line following the lost Greenberg and his equally lost quasi-love interest Florence (another great performance from Greta Gerwig). If nothing else this movie made my list for having one of my favorite lines of the year.

9. Restrepo
While Exit Through the Gift Shop may have been my favorite documentary of the year, Restrepo might be the best. Placing viewers in the single most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan, Restrepo presents a war that is baffling on a number of levels. The soldiers, while they are more than capable and seem to firmly believe in the effort, are put in an unwinnable spot. They get constant complaints from village elders while they're being shot at. In my view, the film makes the case against the United States being there since there seems to be no real point (other than of course to kill members of the Taliban). The film does an excellent job a putting real people to the war replacing a faceless view on out soldiers and the people in Afghanistan. Gripping and sometimes difficult to watch, Restrepo gives the best inside look to the war I've ever seen.

8. Shutter Island
Remember this? Yeah, it was released early in the year when much worse films are the norm. But Scorsese's supernatural (kinda) thriller was a lot of fun and at times even beautiful. It's been a while since seeing it but one thing I do remember about a lot of people's reactions was that they could "call" the ending. I don't think that was much of the point. It was about the journey for DiCaprio's character rather than the audience being able to put the pieces together themselves. In this regard I think the film was a success, if you wanted a tougher mystery to crack, watch Memento or something.

7. Winter's Bone
This was a difficult move to place for me. Winter's Bone has been praised by critics and rightly so. The film has amazing performances from Sarah Lawrence and John Hawkes in this adaptation of a story of a girl looking for her father in the destitute Ozarks. Director Debra Granik gives a tremendous sense of place holding shots on seemingly innocuous items strewn about porches and front lawns. Winter's Bone is this year's "Little movie that could" in a lot of respects. The person to benefit most from this is Lawrence who was truly the breakout star.

6. Exit through the Gift Shop
In this fascinating documentary, Banksy, the acclaimed street artists, creates a documentary about a man who had spent years documenting him. The film works on two levels. First, it gives novices like me a rudimentary knowledge of the world of street art and artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Space Invader. Just watching some of these artists work at night in sometimes dangerous situations and places is often as impressive as the final work. The other success of the film is documenting the life of Thierry Guetta whose footage makes for most of the film. Banksy examines Guetta's interest in street art and his eventual foray into the fold as a known commodity in the street art world. Banksy also manages to lampoon him and make clear the line between ingenuity and borderline plagiarism.

5. Inception
I can't help but think that Inception began to be viewed as something other than a great summer movie. Once people started projecting Oscar aspirations, in my mind, is when the backlash hit. Some found it boring, which I still find hard to believe. Others found it confusing, which I find even harder to believe. DiCaprio gives a solid performance but nothing Oscar-worthy. The real standouts were Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Great special affects along with well above average action makes for what I think is the best summer film since Nolan's The Dark Knight. Even for Inception detractors I find it difficult for someone to make an argument that it doesn't serve as a great summer blockbuster. Oscar winner? Perhaps not. But Inception is the type of fun that I want in my summer viewing.

4. True Grit
I'll always have a soft spot for Joel and Ethan Coen as they may be my favorite living directors. True Grit is somewhat of a departure for the brothers as it is really just a straight Western. It also continues a new trend of theirs of adapting films from books (No Country for Old Men being the first, I don't count O Brother Where Art Thou?). What makes True Grit so enjoyable is the cast lead by Jeff Bridges who plays Rooster Cogburn and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who plays Mattie Ross who looks to avenge her father's death. Steinfeld's performance should garner her an Oscar nomination and will likely put her up against another young actress, Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence. Of course the Coens made a supremely crafted film even if it is a bit less off kilter than their others.

3. The Social Network
Besides having the best trailer of the year (hmm that would have made an interesting list) The Social Network had by far my favorite screenplay coming from one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin. Yes, many of the details were not true to the real story of Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg (portrayed wonderfully awkward by Jesse Eisenberg). Though to take the narrative as it stands in the movie, it's truly great. There were a number of comparisons to Citizen Kane in the sense that it portrays the rise to power of a media mogul who essentially ostracizes himself from everyone he has cared about, but that may be a bit of a stretch. This much is true, The Social Network was way better than any movie about Facebook has any right to be.

2. Toy story 3
Every college student must feel the same way about the conclusion of the Toy Story franchise. It's like it was timed out perfectly for us. We watched the first one when we were Andy's age then in the most recent incarnation he was a college bound young adult. What I continually to be impressed by with Pixar, besides its top of the industry CGI films, is their boldness in taking on darker parts of life in their films. Of course TS3 is still kid friendly but it deals with moving on to another stage in your life. Something, to me anyways, that can be scary. The voice cast was once again excellent with the best addition being Michael Keaton's Ken doll. My only real complaint is little and that's Slinky Dog who was voiced by the late Jim Varney was replaced.

1. Black swan
Whatever you think of Darren Aronofsky, he always goes for broke and seems pretty unapologetic about it. I think Black Swan is his masterpiece, better than even the oft acclaimed Requiem for a Dream. What may have been this film's downfall is how transparent the connections to the ballet Swan Lake were. But the movie overcomes that in my mind. Reaction to the clear symbols in the movie may be the deciding factor in whether one loves or loathes Black Swan. Natalie Portman gives the best performance of her life while Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershie and Vicent Cassell provide wonderful support. In debt to "slipping into madness" films like The Red Shoes especially, Black Swan still felt wholly original and delivered an exciting end to the year in movies.
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