Intrigue and awe were the hallmarks of the best cinematic features in 2010. True, it was a year of (very) mixed offerings but still one of the most exciting I’ve witnessed in recent history. Below, a compilation of the 10 sensational films that most fascinated me (and countless others, I’m sure) over the past 12 months.
True Grit: Steeped in beguiling atmospherics and the thrill of the great American outdoors, the Coen Brothers’ winning adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic western novel is a masterfully executed film anchored by brilliant performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and wonderful teenaged debutante Hailee Steinfeld.
Black Swan: An expertly crafted and emotionally rich dramatic thriller set in a universe of troubled and fiercely competitive ballerinas, Black Swan is a sterling testament to the gifts of director Darren Aronofsky, and the Oscar-ready Natalie Portman, who is simply “perfect.”
Inception: Christopher Nolan has fashioned an intriguing feature, a bonafide water-cooler piece, that both entertains your socks off and challenges you with its boldly original plot, fascinating dream-within-a-dream sequences and mind-bending cinematography.
127 Hours: If there’s one thing I learned from 127 Hours, Danny Boyle’s spellbinding meditation on survival and inspiring resilience, it’s that no one can truly go it alone. Oh, and James Franco is a terrific Method actor (who gives a truly award-worthy performance in this true-to-life account of Aron Ralston’s near-death experience).
The Social Network: For actors barely in their late-'20s, Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield deliver laudable turns in this wickedly absorbing film centred on the genesis of Facebook. Director David Fincher and scribe Aaron Sorkin imbue The Social Network with endlessly brainy dialogue and enthralling courtroom scenarios.
The Kids are All Right: Talk about a modern family! Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right is at once a delightfully smart and accessible comedy-drama driven by an outstanding ensemble led by Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. The kids (Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) are more than all right; they’re pretty darn good.
Winter's Bone: 2010’s little film that could. The setting is bleak and at times downright depressing, but an enchanting spirit of hope courses through Winter’s Bone. First-time director Debra Granik coaxes strong performances from fierce newcomer Jennifer Lawrence and the equally memorable John Hawkes in what is certainly an unforgettable triumph.
The Town: Ben Affleck convincingly shows that his directorial success in 2007 with the critically acclaimed Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. He earns major kudos with this gripping cops-and-robbers saga, which provides The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner with a meaty and gratifying supporting role.
The Karate Kid: The absence of awards season buzz has failed to diminish the appeal of this box-office kicker, a respectful and thoroughly enjoyable remake buoyed by a star-making turn from the young Jaden Smith.
The Fighter: Of all the 2010 films that rigidly explore the dynamics of family, The Fighter proves the greatest triumph. In the hands of director David O. Russell, the movie completely transcends the clichés of the boxing genre, while giving new meaning to the phrase “down but not out.” Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams are rock-solid, but Melissa Leo and Christian Bale have never been better.
BLOOD BROTHERS: Christian Bale (right) and Mark Wahlberg give bruising performances in The Fighter.