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Sarah Stelle and Catherine Keener in Please Give.

The Year in Review 2010

 

Best of 2010

Critic: Shawn Stone

1. The Social Network

According to this Facebook creation myth from David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, you can lead the whole world to your virtual doorstep but you can’t make anyone friend you.

2. Please Give

Nicole Holofcener’s wicked comedy about money, family and aging has many pleasures, most notably a fine performance by Catherine Keener as a sharklike merchant increasingly crippled by guilt.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The title is misleading. It’s really Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) vs. himself in a Toronto that’s part hipster paradise and part video-game fantasy world. It’s as funny and, yes, touching, as it is smart. This is Edgar Wright’s best yet.

4. Black Swan

A psychological breakdown set to the romantic delerium of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Think The Red Shoes meets American Psycho.

5. Tangled 3D

Disney’s “Rapunzel” redo is CG animation that captures the luminous qualities of the hand-drawn tradition. Strong characters and an absence of groan-inducing topical humor help, too.

6. I Am Love

Tilda Swinton, acting in Russian-accented Italian, is the beating heart of this romantic drama about family and money—and the terrible ways that family and money can thrive without love.

7. Winter’s Bone

The year’s breakout indie film is a dark look into “meth America,” a world of drugs, rural poverty and despair. It’s set in the Ozarks, but it might as well be upstate New York.

8. Inception

Proof that a $160-million-plus budget and a clever idea can lead to dazzling entertainment.

9. Agora

Rachel Weisz shines in this drama of ideas set in Roman Egypt at the dawn of Christianity. The parallels are clear: The smug, rich pagans stand in for the liberal West; the intolerant Christians are radical fundamentalists a la the Taliban. And, no, it doesn’t end well.

10. Let Me In

Matt Reeves’ haunting reimagining of the Swedish cult vampire film Let the Right One In was too slow for genre fans, but cast a grim spell. With a fine performance by Chloe Moretz as the child vampire.

Worst of 2010

1. The Kids Are All Right

Here’s a fun exercise for those who love this film: Imagine that the gender of the Annette Bening character is male.

2. Never Let Me Go

Limp, unconvincing fantasy about noble-spirited human clones raised for body parts.

3. Skyline

You know it’s a horrible movie if you find yourself actively rooting for the aliens to kill the humans not out of spite, but because you want the movie to end.

4. The Expendables

Sylvester Stallone combined the worst of ’80s shoot-’em-ups with the worst of contemporary game-influenced kill-’em-alls.

5. Hereafter

This made the list for being wishy-washy about the title subject. It’s a fault so crippling that it negated Matt Damon’s fine performance and director Clint Eastwood’s assured storytelling.

 

Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception.

Best of 2010

Critic: John Brodeur

1. The Secret in Their Eyes

This slow and suspenseful Argentine crime drama doubled as the year’s best love story. See it in this lifetime.

2. The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski had a rough start to his year personally, but his political thriller was pitch-perfect. It also had the year’s best cast, with terrific performances from Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, and Olivia Williams at the top of the heap.

3. Inception

A dazzling vision from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, the one guy in Hollywood who knows what to do with a $160-million budget.

4. Exit Through the Gift Shop

What happens when the filmmaker becomes the subject? Anonymous street-art hero Banksy hijacks Thierry Guetta’s “documentary” and turns it into one of the year’s funniest and most visually exciting pictures.

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.

5. Winter’s Bone

Deliberate and deeply creepy, anchored by a knockout performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Expect to hear her name come Oscar time.

6. The Kids Are All Right

Two more names you’ll likely hear at Oscar time: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Their believability as a middle-aged lesbian couple is what makes this rather predictable film sing.

7. Shutter Island

Scorsese makes a solid noir thriller.

8. Kick-Ass

A fucking lot of fucking fun.

9. Black Swan

Nothing about this film feels good, but there’s no denying its quality. Natalie Portman is outstanding.

 

Worst of 2010

1. Jonah Hex

Filmmaking at its most tone-deaf.

2. Shrek Forever After

At least it’s the last one.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street

How dare they take the fun out of Freddy!

4. Clash of the Titans

The kind of film that makes you wish CGI never happened.

5. The Runaways

Decent performances, awful storytelling.

 

Best of 2010

Critic: Laura Leon

1. Winter’s Bone

Gritty, utterly without pretense slice of Americana with a healthy dose of suspense thrown in for good measure.

2. True Grit

The Coen brothers have resurrected the spirit of the source novel with amazing resonance. Like Winter’s Bone, it’s dark and remorseful, yet exhilarating all the same.

3. Please Give

I wrestled with this one, kind of hating it at the same time as appreciating it, not just because Nicole Holofcener and Catherine Keener are such an amazing artist-muse team. But the more I’ve thought about it, this movie really says volumes—quite eloquently—about families and about class guilt.

4. The Ghost Writer

I hated that I knew how this one was going to end, but maybe that just says I watch too many movies, read too many mysteries. Roman Polanski is back in fine form with this moody thriller.

5. Toy Story 3

I laughed, but mostly I cried. It’s a hilarious yet achingly poignant portrayal of growing up. In a cartoon, no less.

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Held off on this one out of unfounded prejudice, and then rented it on “on demand.” Hilarious and stylish at the same time, and for once Michael Cera’s nerd-in-love shtick fails to annoy.

7. Night Catches Us

Excellent and gritty tale of former Black Panthers, but really more about how the past catches up to us.

8. Tangled

Beautifully drawn, wittily scripted rewriting of the Rapunzel tale.

9. The Town

OK, so I didn’t really buy that someone recently involved in a hostage situation would fall for a guy at the Laundromat . . . but still. Loved the character development and the build up of suspense in this, from director-costar Ben Affleck.

10. How to Train Your Dragon

No, just because I have kids is not the reason that I have three animated films on this list. This charmer barely hit the radar, which is too bad, as it was a superb retelling of “Androcles and the Lion.”

 

Worst of 2010

1. Iron Man 2

I love me my Robert Downey Jr, but in addition to being one of the worst sequels, this was a downright bad movie. The plot was stupid, the effects lame, and really, how exciting is a fight between two metal behemoths?

2. Sex in the City 2

Please, please, please, leave us in peace with our DVDs of the complete television series. No more movies!

3. The Bounty Hunter

Even the cute accent can’t save Gerald Butler from a terrible script and a complete lack of chemistry with Jennifer Aniston.

4. The A Team

I so wanted to enjoy this, even if only on a Saturday-matinee level. But it was not to be. A completely inane reworking of a TV show that wasn’t even all that great.

5. Due Date

I love me my Robert Downey Jr., but seriously, he’s a complete ass in this movie. Zack Galifianakis plays a minor reworking of his Hangover role. And, by the way, the script sucks.

 

Best of 2010

Critic: John Rodat

1. Jack Goes Boating

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s direction of playwright Robert Glaudini’s Jack Goes Boating benefitted greatly from Hoffman’s experience as a theatrical director, as well as from his years as one of America’s best and most versatile actors. Hoffman gave his leads—including himself—enough room to develop complex characters while avoiding big, distracting “actor-y” moments.

2. Animal Kingdom

This noirish Australian drama convincingly captured the sickening tension and anxiety of the criminal life between the crimes.

3. Cyrus

Excellent performances by John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, and career-best work of the mumblecore-auteurs the Duplass Brothers, who shared writing and directing, elevate this flick out of the rom-com ghetto.

4. A Prophet

The lack of overt—or, really, even implied—moralizing in this French prison drama gives A Prophet an almost anthropological feel; though there’s more than enough action to hook fans of American gangster flicks.

5. The Fighter

Christian Bale is getting the attention for this one—not undeservedly (though Wahlberg, too, does good work with an understated performance that goes a long way in setting up Bale). But the real star of The Fighter is director David O. Russell, who cunningly tells a story about the wracking attempt to preserve individual dignity in a crushing flux of desperation and opportunity—disguised as a boxing movie.

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Every generation gets the This Is Spinal Tap it deserves . . .

7. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

If Joan Rivers had worse doctors, we could call this a warts-and-all look at a pioneering comic: one whose personal idiosyncrasies and insecurities keep her in equal parts fascinating, pitiable and, still, sharp and funny as hell.

8. Please Give

Catherine Keener’s and Oliver Platt’s portrayals of a moderately upscale urban couple are warm and realistically, morally ambiguous and conflicted. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener presents a gently dark—darkly gentle?—confirmation that, yeah, try as we might, we’re all fucking it up.

9. Tangled

A smart, well-directed, action-oriented kids’ movie that avoids lowest-common-denominator gags and still entertains.

10. The Extra Man; Operation: Endgame; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

There were very few, almost no, straight-up comedies that enticed me into the theater this year. But these few provided some fitful entertainment. The Extra Man could be termed a mildly homoerotic Harold & Maude, Operation: Endgame is a mostly idiotic spy parody with great performances from Rob Corrdry as an alcoholic agent and Zach Galifianakis as a demented but sensitive assassin, and Scott Pilgrim is a formally impressive—if slightly precious—mash-up of movie and video game.

Worst of 2010

1. The Ghost Writer

If director Roman Polanski talks in his sleep, it’s guaranteed to be more thrilling than this overpoweringly dull movie.

2. The Joneses

I can only imagine that the studio exec who green-lit this one (“Duchovny and Demi?! It’s sure fire!”) is exactly the same age as me. Stick to The X-Files and St. Elmo’s Fire and whatever sexual fantasy works best for you.

3. Sex and the City 2

Yes, still, it had to be said.

4. Alice in Wonderland

You know that scene in Zoolander where Will Farrell yells, “They’re the same face! Doesn’t anybody notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” Yeah. Misters Burton and Depp, please knock it off.

5. Greenberg

I so wanted to like this. And I did—when it was the 2008 Joe Swanberg (!) movie Nights and Weekends. It had its moments (how I wish Rhys Ifans and Ben Stiller had switched roles), but still felt ripped off. Most frustrating movie of the year.


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