What a strange year 2010 was. We have been scrolling up and down various movie indices, reflecting on what we saw, comparing notes and wondering if we missed anything. If you consider that it takes about two years to make a movie, this year’s crop of movies was still on the drawing boards in that now-legendary year 2008—shall we chalk up this rather unimpressive slate to creative fatigue, then? As 2011 looms large we weighed in on a year that was and reveal our picks of the litter, in no particular order:
Saïdeh Pakravan – # 1 – ”Of Men and Gods,” by Xavier Beauvois – What true spirituality means for a handful of Cistercian monks in a remote Algerian village. At the other end of the spectrum of banal, feel-good fare. Plus, an admirable cast.
# 2 – “Crazy Heart,” by Scott Cooper – The Dude in top form, giving us a washed-up country singer. Plus, great acting by an uncredited Colin Farrell.
# 3 – “The Zazous” by Valerian Todorovsky – A bunch of soviet-era youngsters for whom rebellion means dressing and acting like their U.S. counterparts. Or how they imagine their US counterparts. They couldn’t be more hilariously wrong. Plus bright colors, great musical numbers.
Lita Robinson – # 1 – “City of Your Final Destination” – luscious, pensive, funny, Merchant-Ivory.
# 2 – “Winter’s Bone” – girl power at its scrappiest.
# 3 – “The Eclipse” – haunting and lovely — great turn by Ciaran Hinds.
Arthur Tiersky – #1 – “Toy Story 3” – Because it was a worthy, entirely satisfying conclusion to one of the great trilogies in film history, a supremely clever and astonishingly tense thrill-ride that left me a quivering, blubbering wreck.
Runners-up: “Social Network,” “Inside Job.”
Also-rans: “Tangled,” “Inception, “True Grit,” “The Fighter”
Best Imports: “Mother,” “Rec 2,” “The Square,” “The Secret in Their Eyes”
Best possibly-fake-but-still-great-fun documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Best unexpected delight: “Daybreakers”
Best you-gotta-seek-it-out documentary: “Thunder Soul”
Worst: “The Warrior’s Way,” “The Expendables”
Craig Younkin – # 1 – “The Kids are All Right” – Funny, touching, and honest film that doesn’t sugarcoat the trials of marriage, parenting, and family. Five really good performances as well, three of which are at least nomination-worthy.
# 2 – “Green Zone” – Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon bring their shaky camera and breathless plotting to the ground in Iraq and the result is an immensely entertaining, suspenseful, and politically resonating drama that will leave your pulse-pounding all the way up to the action-packed fire-fight finale.
# 3 – “Shutter Island” – That ending sure made people think but the rest of the movie ain’t bad either. Another great “emotionally tortured” guy performance from DiCaprio and an engaging mystery surrounded by creepy atmosphere and a supporting cast of odd-ball characters makes it hard to look away for a second.
Kevin Bowen – # 1 – “Inception”
# 2 – “Winter’s Bone”
# 3 – “The Ghost Writer”
Ali Naderzad – # 1 – “Of Gods and Men,” a film with no imperfections and a story and direction that drew splendid performances out of the cast.
# 2 – “Poetry” by Lee Chang-Dong. Seen it three times and it keeps getting better. One of the best films of these last few years.
# 3 – “From Paris with love,” it’s great to see John Travolta on top of his game and “Paris” went down as one of his best performances in a while. The film made no compromises and avoided the usual pitfalls and cliches of American-made movies filmed in European towns (well, OK, its director was French). A terrific bargain for the shoot’em up amateur.