Film critic Andy Bockelman’s Top 20 movies of 2010:
Top 10 released from July to December
“Let Me In”
“The Kids Are All Right”*
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”
“The Social Network”*
“The King’s Speech”
Top 10 released from January to June
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”*
“Get Him to the Greek”*
“How to Train Your Dragon”*
“The Ghost Writer”*
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”*
“Toy Story 3”*
Indicates a movie available on DVD
Indicates a movie currently playing at the West Theatre or Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Cinema
Although Dec. 31 has come and gone, the cinematic achievements of 2010 still linger in the minds of audiences, whether it’s recalling the biggest hits of the summer on home format or heading to the multiplex to see the Oscar bait that has been held through the new year.
The following is a list of the top 10 movies released between July and December, some of which are still in theaters and some already on DVD.
10. “Let Me In”
Life is miserable for 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). At school, his classmate Kenny (Dylan Minnette) tortures him mercilessly, while at home, he is almost completely overlooked by his recently divorced mother (Cara Buono). When a strange girl named Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moves next door, he strikes up a friendship, finding companionship for the first time, albeit with someone who only leaves her apartment after sundown.
But, Abby has a secret — one that ties in closely with a string of mysterious murders that have been occurring in the area lately. Arguably the best horror movie of the year, this American version of the Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In” is less a story about a bloodthirsty monster in the least likely form than a moving if mordant tale of a kid living in abject fear and loneliness. Smit-McPhee is sympathetic as meek Owen, while Moretz is outstanding as the sweet-hearted girl who not only emboldens him to stand up to his bully, but is also willing to rip his tormentor’s head off, if it comes to it.
9. “The Kids Are All Right”
The teenage children (Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson) of a same-sex couple (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) seek out the anonymous sperm donor who contributed to their conception. Their search yields Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an easygoing restaurateur with whom the two of them bond almost immediately, though when he integrates himself into their lives, the women they call “Mom” aren’t quite as enthusiastic.
All five main cast members are fantastic, with Bening and Moore an unusually effective couple as Nic and Jules, a mismatched pair who have been dreading the idea of their children bucking their happy family life, though they have different notions of what the negative impact is. Ruffalo gives just as fine a performance as the man who’s never had to worry about anyone else in his life, though he’s hardly equipped to take up the title of father now. This indie comedy-drama manages to be funny, touching and nuanced with a story that doesn’t concern itself with making a statement about traditional and non-traditional family values, instead focusing on making its characters real and personal.
8. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1”
With the wizard world more dangerous than ever as Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) commences with his plan to gain ultimate power, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is the last hope in the battle between good and evil. But, even with the help of best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), stopping such a tremendous force seems impossible as they set out to find and destroy horcruxes, fragments of Voldemort’s soul to preserve his immortality, though there may be another answer.
The first half of the final film in the “Harry Potter” series shows an unbelievably dark alteration to the universe that we’ve come to know and love in the last decade, but it’s no less powerful. The power trio gets even more of a focus than usual as they head across the country on their quest, possibly saying goodbye to everyone they love for the last time, not so much stepping into adulthood but getting shoved.
But, if you miss the multitude of characters who are barely featured in this segment, don’t worry — Part 2 promises to be an all-encompassing, no-holds-barred finale set for this summer.
7. “The Social Network”
Following a night of frenzied computer hacking, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) stumbles across a phenomenal idea: a Web site that allows college students to interact and share information about themselves. As he sets to work on his creation, there’s no end to the people who are interested in getting in on the business, ranging from his roommate, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who wants a partnership, to well-connected Harvard rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Arnie Hammer), who maintain Mark is infringing on their own similar plans for a dating site.
And, as thefacebook.com spreads beyond the Ivy League to colleges across the nation, the list of conflicts become longer as the site’s name becomes shorter and Mark becomes primed to be one of the most influential people of the new millennium.
Truth is subjective when it comes to Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, adapted from the biography “The Accidental Billionaires,” but even if the facts are as negotiable as the details on any given person’s Facebook profile, it makes for one incredible journey. The cast is first-rate, especially Eisenberg, Garfield and Justin Timberlake, as fellow Internet wunderkind Sean Parker, but director David Fincher takes everything to the next level in a relevant commentary on recent, current and ongoing events set to a pulsing musical score by Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor.
Though this isn’t quite the generation-defining film it’s been made out to be, it is a flick everybody needs to see before they next update their status.
6. “127 Hours”
In 2003, outdoorsman Aron Ralston (James Franco) finds himself literally between a rock and a hard place when he plunges into a small Utah canyon during a hiking trip. With his hand crushed and pinned against a wall, he must endure days of physical agony and personal soul-searching as his supply of provisions dwindles down, though his sense of hope remains high.
The more claustrophobic viewers may have a problem with the extreme intimacy they experience in this saga of one man’s struggle to survive, but the closeness is a necessity as our hero chronicles his accident on his camcorder in case he doesn’t make it through the ordeal.
Franco’s performance is top-notch as he tries to keep a sense of humor even while facing his impending death, inevitably coming to dwell on the difficulty of his relationships with his family and other acquaintances.
Director Danny Boyle is able to blend in the more gruesome details of Ralston’s memoirs without taking away from the poignancy of the story. Though the constant flashbacks and dehydration-induced deliriums to which Aron falls prey are a tad distracting, Boyle still keeps a steady footing, letting us cheer on the protagonist from our introduction through the credits set to the ethereal Dido song “If I Rise.”
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief of the most unusual kind. Rather than stealing money or priceless artifacts, he plunders information from important people by entering their dreams and plucking it right out of their subconscious. It’s a line of work that’s been very hazardous, but Cobb may have found a way out, when a former mark (Ken Watanabe) offers him the chance for a normal life. But, as he gathers his crew for one final job, the memories of his past threaten to keep him from being successful.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan follows up his revamp of the “Batman” movies with a mind-blowing science-fiction caper that never has a dull minute in terms of visual wonder. The cast is game, as DiCaprio leads a talented team including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Ellen Page, facing off against the omnipresent menace of Cobb’s deceased wife (Marion Cotillard). As his characters navigate through one echelon after another of the dreamscape, Nolan starts to write himself into a corner, making up the rules as he goes, but even if the logic is imperfect, the end result is tough to dislike.
And, remember: dying in your dream isn’t the same as dying in reality.
4. “The Town”
A lifelong resident of the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) has made a living robbing banks, among other illegal activities, with his best friend Jem (Jeremy Renner). When Claire (Rebecca Hall), a hostage from their latest heist, is approached by an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) to identify them, Doug hopes to prevent her from putting them behind bars, but he is soon torn between his loyalty to his cohorts and the burgeoning romance that he’s experiencing with Claire.
Wearing the three hats of actor, director and co-writer as prominently as the ball caps of the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins, Affleck creates a uniquely authentic Boston atmosphere in his adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves.” He and Renner make an explosive pair as the reluctant criminal and the scumbag who’s always been like a brother to him. Just as worthwhile are the performances by Blake Lively as Jem’s man-hungry, drug-addled younger sister; Chris Cooper as Doug’s convict father; and the late Pete Postlethwaite as Fergie the Florist, Doug and Jem’s superior in the crime world, who has no misgivings about offing his subordinates should they become an inconvenience.
3. “True Grit”
In 1878 Arkansas, teenager Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) needs someone to help her track down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father. She settles on Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), an older, world-weary lawman whose philosophy is to shoot first and ask questions later.
They are joined by a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Matt Damon), who’s on the hunt for Chaney for his own reasons. But, the fugitive from justice isn’t traveling by himself, taking sanctuary with a notorious bandit (Barry Pepper).
Bridges has a different approach in his portrayal of the character twice played by John Wayne, turning Cogburn into less of a gallant, aged cowboy and more of an over-the-hill, gravel-voiced, drunken degenerate who can still take up the mantle of heroism when needed. He’s almost shown up by Steinfeld, whose freshness on the silver screen is a thing to behold as she takes on the role of a near-fearless girl with no qualms about telling off the men around her.
The Coen brothers prove that they can make a movie that appeals to all audiences in their remake of the 1969 Western, though they maintain their signature attention to detail in the comic timing, action sequences and the mise-en-scène of the 19th century American Midwest.
2. “The King’s Speech”
In the 1930s, Prince Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth), is faced with the unpleasant realization that his royal duties will require him to participate in more and more speaking engagements with the people of Britain, a terrifying prospect considering the stammer that has controlled his life since childhood. He comes into contact with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose determination to help his latest patient does not taper off despite the duke’s own reticence at seeking assistance.
What sounds like an incredibly dull premise — off the top of your head, name five films that deal with a man overcoming a speech impediment — is a wonderfully realized biopic about the period in which the British empire was going through enormous transition with the death of King George V (Michael Gambon), the abdication of his eldest son, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) and the eventual inheritance of the crown by his younger brother, finely played by Firth. Rush is just as good as his instructor and confidante who gets to the root of his problem, as is Helena Bonham Carter as Albert’s supportive wife, Elizabeth, whose insistence in coercing her husband to deal with his problem helps shape modern history.
1. “Black Swan”
As the top dancer in a prominent New York ballet troupe, Nina (Natalie Portman) is on edge about the possibility of playing the Swan Queen in the upcoming production of “Swan Lake.” But, her director (Vincent Cassel) has little confidence that she can play both the pure, pristine White Swan and her enigmatic doppelganger, the sensual Black Swan, casting her nonetheless on good faith that she can tap into a new personality.
As Nina practices for the role that could make or break her career, she befriends Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer more suited to play the Black Swan, hoping to gain influence, though she soon begins to perceive Lily as a threat in her pursuit of being the best on the stage.
Portman gives a tour de force performance as the sheltered young woman who undergoes the raw, undiluted emotions of rage and envy for the first time, clashing with her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) and beginning a dangerous psychological odyssey as she starts to embody the Black Swan in more ways than one.
Director Darren Aronofsky approaches his subject matter with the utmost care, creating an amazing tale that demonstrates both the futility of chasing after rigid, joyless precision and the risk of living with unbridled passion and impulsiveness.
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