OK, so here it is the list of the best films of 2010. I say ‘the list’ because obviously my selection isn’t subjective, it’s just cold, hard fact. I still had my usual cry about the ones I had to miss off; Lemmy, Justice: A Cross the Universe, Sons of Cuba, The Freebie, and as they’re not below you know that I haven’t been able to catch Another Year or Black Swan yet, but of the films I did watch, these are the cream.
10. Kick-Ass – Matthew Vaughn
I’ve already frothed at the mouth about Matthew Vaughn’s bubblegum exposition of straight out comic book fun that is Kick-Ass, so no need for a retread here. Suffice to say the film should really be called Hit-Girl because Chloë Moretz steals every scene she’s in.
Read the DN review of Kick-Ass.
9. 127 Hours – Danny Boyle
Trapped in a canon for 127 hours may not sound like the most compelling way to spend your cinema time, but we do so in the hands of Danny Boyle, so you should expect nothing less than the thrill ride, soul searching adventure we go on with Aron Ralston (James Franco). I went in to 127 Hours psyching myself up for the ‘moment’, but almost forgot it was coming up as I followed Ralston through his life regrets and flights of fancy.
Read the DN review of 127 Hours.
8. Gravity was Everywhere Back Then – Brent Green
Have I mentioned filmmaker, artist and general master of all he creatively surveys Brent Green on DN before? Well you’ll just have to indulge me again because along with having a great title, Gravity was Everywhere Back Then is one of the most ambitious pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in a long time. To realise the story of Leonard Wood, a man who built a house to heal his wife, Brent built a full scale town in his yard and spent months stop frame capturing and lip-syncing the performances of his two leads. The result is a beautiful film about love, obsession and a crazy self belief in problem solving as well as a mightily impressive car crash scene.
Llisten to the DN interview with director Brent Green.
7. Cyrus – Jay & Mark Duplass
In Cyrus Jay and Mark Duplass have somehow managed to cross over to the dark side that is Hollywood but maintain their indie aesthetic despite that. Cyrus makes for uncomfortable viewing of the highest order with Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly playing it perfectly straight for the affections of Marisa Tomei’s Molly. Here’s hoping the Duplass way of working infects more sets in the future.
6. The Social Network – David Fincher
Obviously on paper this looked destined to be good; script by Aaron Sorkin, direction from David Fincher and even a soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, but it was still going to be a film about bloody Facebook, how good could it be? Great is the answer, and scratch that, it’s not a film about Facebook (even discounting the artistic license taken with some facts), it’s a film about friendship, creation and what happens when you throw a whole bunch of money in there too. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake all bring their A-game to the performances, but Fincher does the impossible by making coding and boardroom depositions play out like an action/adventure movie.
5. Four Lions – Chris Morris
Satirical master Chris Morris takes on suicide bombers, how could this possibly fail? Although Morris’ work to date had been across the shorter forms of TV and radio, I was heartened early on to hear that Four Lions was the fruit of extensive research by Morris into the myth of the highly organised terrorist. Four Lions turned out to be much less scathing than I was expecting (anyone remember Paedogeddon!?), but instead we got characters I cared about and “Rubber dingy rapids”.
4. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
In the depths of rural Missouri it seems that the one thing you can count on is family, that is unless you’ve got a question or two, then all bets are off. That’s the way things shake out for teen Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) when she goes on the hunt for her missing father who’s put their meager house up as his bail bond, threatening the whole family’s future. Debra Granik’s excellent adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name runs at a largely measured paced, which make the few sudden explosions of violence rock you to the bone, but the understated performance she gets from Lawrence, attempting to push the bear trap of familial boundaries is mesmerising.
Read the DN review of Winter’s Bone.
3. Animal Kingdom – David Michôd
After seeing the consistently high quality shorts to come from the directors over at Blue Tongue Films, I felt more than a tad apprehensive as to how they’d fair as feature directors. Nash Edgerton did us proud with The Square, I’ve heard mighty good things about Spencer Susser’s Hesher, but totally owning it this year was David Michôd with Animal Kingdom. With a basis in reality taken from the Pettingill crime family and the Walsh Street police murders, Animal Kingdom is a tense drama full of outstanding performances and menace, mainly emanating from Ben Mendelsohn’s ‘Pope’.
Read the DN review of Animal Kingdom.
2. The Arbor – Clio Barnard
We’re well beyond the days of documentary being something you watch because it’s good for you as opposed to entertaining, but by and large, just as their drama counterparts, there’s often a set structure which documentary directors sit within, which is a major reason why Clio Barnard’s experimental debut The Arbor had such an impact on me. Telling the story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, Barnard utilises a mix of first person audio interviews combined with the techniques of verbatim theatre and a staging of Dunbar’s play The Arbor performed by Buttershaw estate residents. It all combines to paint the life of a troubled, raw talent who died young and left behind two daughters whose views of her as a mother are polar opposites.
Read the DN review of The Arbor.
1. Dogtooth – Yorgos Lanthimos
When you have the good fortune to sit through days of festival screenings, putting away 3-5 films on each of those days it’s not surprising to find that plots and characters can tend to run into each other. I initially caught Dogtooth at a late screening towards the end of SXSW, but despite that there wasn’t the slightest chance Yorgos Lanthimos’ strange Greek family drama was going to get lost in the shuffle. Lanthimos throws us straight into this bizarre household with no explanation behind the parents’ motives. What we do get is a beautifully shot, solidly conceived world of ‘What If?’ whose subtext can be seen to address wider themes of control and conditioning but never at the expense of the core story. Since that March screening I knew Dogtooth would top this list, go see it now!