In between the bloated 3D summer blockbusters and mindless romantic comedies, 2010 offered up a diverse spread of arthouse dramas and exciting popcorn movies. TechCentral’s entertainment critic, Lance Harris, looks back at the year in cinema and names the top 10 films of the year.
10. Scott Pilgrim vs The World
If you don’t like Edgar Wright’s irreverent videogame and comic book mash-up, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, it’s probably not meant for you. The vacuous but fun film is based on a comic that presents a developing relationship between Scott (played by indie stalwart Michael Cera) and girlfriend Ramona as a series of boss fights with her evil exes. Part lovelorn indie drama, part Mortal Kombat, Scott Pilgrim is a hyperkinetic blur of blink-and-you’ll-miss-em cultural references, hipster insouciance, hilarious cameos and sassy, endlessly quotable dialogue. And stuff.
9. Iron Man 2
Jon Favreau’s sequel to the likeable 2008 Iron Man is as enjoyable as its predecessor, despite the fact that it takes no risks with its comic book formula. Again, the film rests heavily on Robert Downey Jr’s charismatic performance as the eccentric billionaire superhero, Tony Stark, and on an extravagant special effects budget. Iron Man 2’s story is a little unfocused compared to its predecessor, but the film makes up for that with a great gallery of villains (headed by characters played by Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell) and razor-sharp one-liners.
8. Toy Story 3
Pixar’s Toy Story 3 is as effortlessly charming as its two predecessors. The film brings the much-loved characters from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 for a funny and occasionally moving meditation on growing up and moving on.
7. A Prophet
The crime drama A Prophet (Un prophète) from French director Jacques Audiard bears comparison to the best gangland films from Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma. It’s a searing portrayal of a naïve Arab immigrant’s transformation from a petty criminal into a mafia boss during his time caught up in the French prison system. Poetic but brutal, this is one of the most powerful films to open in SA this year.
6. The Hurt Locker
Katherine Bigelow’s low-key Iraq war drama turned out to be the little film that could at the 2010 Oscars, where it beat off a long list of better-funded films to win Oscars for best picture, best director and four other categories. The tightly directed film is equally effective as a character study of men drawn to dangerous jobs and as a nerve-shredding action movie.
5. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a US Marshall hunting a murderess who has escaped from a mental asylum, is a love letter to Alfred Hitchcock, a masterful exploration of Catholic themes of guilt and redemption, and last but not least, a tense and compelling psychological thriller. Under Scorsese’s watch, material that would feel clichéd and pedestrian in most other hands becomes fresh and exciting again.
4. The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon is a chilling exploration of the roots of fascism that takes place in an idyllic German village at the turn of the 20th century. This technically brilliant film is a complex and haunting parable about how violence and fundamentalism perpetuate themselves from generation to generation. Its beautifully stark black-and-white cinematography earned an Oscar nomination. The film was also nominated in the best foreign language category, but lost out unfairly to the Argentine melodrama, The Secret in their Eyes.
3. The Social Network
It’s testimony to David Fincher’s skill as a director that he fashions a compelling thriller out of a story that centres so heavily on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hammering at the keyboard of his PC at Harvard. There’s much to admire in the film, from the stellar cast (headed by Jesse Eisenberg) to the menacing Nine Inch Nails soundtrack and the snappy dialogue from Aaron Sorkin. There may be points of fact to quibble with in the film, but it captures the Web 2.0 zeitgeist perfectly.
2. A Serious Man
Joel and Ethan Coen followed up their modern Western epic No Country for Old Men and the absurd espionage comedy Burn After Reading with their most personal film yet. The enigmatic and comedic A Serious Man wrestles and dances with some of life’s most profound questions and then leaves you to wonder what the answers are – if indeed there are any. This quietly clever film is anchored in some subtle performances from solid characters actors and in its excellent script.
Christopher Nolan must be one of the smartest directors making blockbuster films at the moment. His high-concept science-fiction thriller, Inception, offers up big ideas, big dreams and big explosions in nearly equal measures. Nearly everything about the film is note perfect – the ominous Hans Zimmer score, the smart casting, the pacey action scenes, the stylish visuals and the quick-fire barrage of ideas and questions. It’s perhaps the best big-budget science-fiction film since The Matrix.
- This list is based only on films that opened on SA cinema screens in 2010