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Friday
Jan142011

Best of 2010: Nathaniel's Top Ten List

Previously on "Best of the Year"
Honorable Mentions: Scott Pilgrim, Another Year, Winter's Bone, etcetera
Runners Up: A Prophet, Toy Story 3, Rabbit Hole


TOP TEN LIST

10 How to Train Your Dragon (see previous article)
09 The Ghost Writer (see previous article)
08 Fish Tank (see previous article)

Animal Kingdom dir. David Michôd.
[SPC, August 15th]
It begins with a banal static shot of a mother & son watching a game show, all zoned out like couch potatoes. A few seconds later paramedics arrive. Surprise, you've been staring at a dead woman! This is but the first of many chilling upheavals (and, uh, dead bodies). Her orphaned son "J" is soon picked up by his estranged Grandma (Jacki Weaver in an Oscar worthy performances) and dropped right into her lion's den; his uncles are all crooks. Animal Kingdom circles around introducing this testosterone-heavy crime family and then it makes like a boa constrictor. It may be the family that's getting squeezed but you have to remind yourself to breathe. It's the year's best crime drama and a major arrival for first timer writer/director David Michôd.

The Fighter dir. David O. Russell
[Paramount, Dec 17th]
Springing as it does from the extremely tired sports bio, this movie is a real miracle. It's tough to single out a favorite moment or element because it's "squirrely" humanity keeps popping into frame even within standard tropes and traditional scenes. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo and Christian Bale are a perfect exhaustive mother and son but Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams quieter work as Mickey and Charlene resonates, too. David O. Russell is the movie's MVP. He's not brawling or slugging it out as many directors do. Like Mickey he's picking his punches... "Head. Body. Head. Body". He's an even craftier boxer. You never know where the next punch is landing "Head. Body. Funnybone. Heart".

The rest is in alpha order. 

"No rankings?" you scream in disbelief and protest? See, it's like this. It's late at night and I'm way tired and I kept changing the order and I finally gave up. But I gotta announce my personal Best Picture nominees.  You don't wanna know medals already, do you? (Don't answer that.) We've just begun our annual awardage.

 

Black Swan dir. Darren Aronofsky
[Fox Searchlight, Dec 5th]
"It's so pink. Pretttttty" Nina (Natalie Portman) says peering down at a grapefruit. What is it with Aronofsky and grapefruit? (See also: Requiem for a Dream). Nina is in some ways a silly girl, terrified of her own shadow, grossed out by sex, at odds with her body, still living in her mother's apartment.  Black Swan is silly and girlie itself, in love with its most histrionic moments, its mad crushes, and always eager to peer over but then retreat from the precipice [Spoiler] until the actual adult moment arrives when Nina dances the Black Swan. So what to make of artistic triumph being a literal fall if not, perhaps, a literal death? [/Spoiler] It's odd that Aronofsky's fifth feature feels so juvenile after his most adult (The Wrestler) but he's clearly having a ball. Nina's not the only one seeing reflections. This is Aronofsky's own funhouse hall of mirrors.

 

Blue Valentine dir. Derek Cianfrance
[Weinstein Co., Dec 29th]
Hundreds of stories announce their resolution straightaway and use the 'How did we get here?' hook as they circle back to kick off the story. Blue Valentine doesn't do this exactly, but you can soon compare and contrast the start and finish line. The film shows us the courtship and the breakup of Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) simultaneously on linear tracks. Cindy and Dean are out of sync even in their happiest moments but the actors are brilliantly in sync. The genius of the telling is not, I think, in how it starts or how it ends but in all the tiny details that point you towards that vacuum in the middle. Notice the gap. As for the film's own middle? Perfection. Shortly after we've seen that Cindy don't wanna dance with Dean no more ("You and Me") she happily dances for him ("You Always Hurt The Ones You Love"). The songs are in the wrong order.



The Kids Are All Right dir. Lisa Cholodenko
[Focus, July 30th]
This dramedy is so effervescent that its easy to miss the depth and the detail as you're laughing. Though it's light on its feet, Kids is grounded in multi-dimensional characters, smart specific dialogue and structural beauty, too. It takes place in that wonderfully vital summer between adolescence and adulthood and so does the movie, toggling between the two as Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) cope with growing up and their moms (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) cope with marital trouble and Paul, the new man in all their lives (an exceptional Mark Ruffalo). Paul himself is caught between adolescence and adulthood albeit in a different way. The family expands and constricts and expands and constricts as all families do, experimenting with their own dynamics as life rolls on. Paul may be an interloper but then, so are we. We're just happy to have shared our summer with them.

 

I Am Love dir. Luca Guadagnino
[Magnolia, June 18th]
In I Am Love, a ravishingly operatic melodrama, Tilda Swinton, that prized jewel of the movies plays Emma, the prized jewel of a wealthy Italian family. The storytelling is in the images and oh, what images. (I Am Cinema would be an appropriate alternate title.) In fact, the film might reveal itself more readily without the subtitles. The secret key to its divisive ending (if you ask me, she's not being punished as some angry readings go) is to notice that it's not just her husband who wants her locked up. Even her beloved servant cocoons her with curtains, shutting out the world. Her son, too. She's never to be lost or shared or stolen or even changed. Whenever Emma escapes, there's sudden rushes of feeling, sunlight, flavor, curiousity, beauty.

 

The Social Network dir. David Fincher
[Columbia, October 1st]
Not many movies feel like new classics while you're watching them. And as early as the first scene, too. Most need time to settle. Not so with The Social Network which just speeds through, all synapses firing with rich performances (Jesse's best) inspired direction (Fincher's best) and handsome production values (many people's best?), until... "wait, it's over?" When that ending comes (spoilers: Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, got sued, is a gajillionaire) you want to click "refresh" yourself. Project that bad boy again! Here's why I know it's a new classic: second viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"; third viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"; Fourth viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"

 

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    Best of 2010: Nathaniel's Top Ten List - Blog - The Film Experience
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Reader Comments (47)

No top 5 order? I'm not one to critique. I tried to make a top 10 for the first time this year and only made it to top 2 -- Black Swan and I Am Love, for what it's worth, but don't ask me which is one and which is two. I saw a lot of other greats this year, but I just couldn't put value to them! Number 3 always changes, so I just gave up.

Interesting what you say about I Am Love and subtitles. I've actually been planning on watching it senza sottotitoli ever since I first saw it in July. Now that I know the story, I'd like to pay more attention to the visuals. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out when watching a film in a foreign language, especially when I partially know a language and I know that the translations are incorrect or I'm too busy reading to really watch. Also, I want to have full exposure to Tilda's performance. Too bad I don't have the DVD yet and it's impossible through Netflix Instant watch.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfbh

Half the films on this list I haven't seen because they aren't out in Australia yet!!!!!!!!!! Rah! But the ones I have seen all loved :) Especially Animal Kingdom and The Social Network.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

Great article. Shouldn't "I am love" come before TKAAR in alpha order? Somehow I have a hunch the alpha order this year is gonna be your eventual ranking (swan 5th, TSN 1st). TKAAR and TSN are my top 2. I've seen both multiple times, and I still can't decide which one I like better.

Can't wait for your actress list! I'm predicting:
Swinton,
Williams,
Steen,
Manville,
and Bening
with Kidman, Portman, and Kim Hye-ja as finalists. Though I'm really rooting for Moore.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRic H

What a great line-up!!

No need for medals just yet! :)

One negative I must say is that you chose my least favourite Black Swan poster for your awards!!

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

I think the moment where Nina dances/becomes the Black Swan was pretty much the best scene in 2010. The confidence, the sexiness, the craziness. Perfection.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Nice list...I am yet to watch some of the films- Blue Valentine, I am Love, The Fighter, but I have total faith in Ryan G. and Tilda S. and Christian B.
Social Network did feel like a modern classic, though I don't think it's Fincher's best (Fight Club FTW). It is my most favourite film this year though.
How'd you like 127 Hours, because I was sort of blown away. I have to redo my top 10 list after watching that, though I'll wait till after having watched the afore-mentioned ones.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikhat

Darn, I was hoping that Black Swan would miss your top five. Oh well...at least consider David O. Russell for a lone Best Director nod?

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Hamer

My favorite scene would have to be everything post-transformation in Black Swan (that strut!). I particularly liked how Nina applied makeup before going out with a bang; all the while Natalie's acting her ass off!

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbadmofo

I think Social Network has the gold medal...

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIan C.

@badmofo - YES, YES, AND YES.

@Nathaniel - GREAT JOB. Nothing else to say, really. i'm looking forward to the rest of the FBAwards.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

Fantastic list, Nathaniel !

I love this line from your Black Swan write-up : "Black Swan is silly and girlie itself, in love with its most histrionic moments". Perfect summation a film and performances that are highly overrated.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheesy Bits

What a great read! You pack more critical punch in these little encapsulations than some critics do with an entire front page spread.

And if you ever give a class in prolific film watching, sign me up. I mean, my little red Netflix envelope holding "The Social Network" still sits on my living room table, waiting to be seen and yet for you to see all these movies AND to have seen "The Social Network" not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times?! That's crazy good!

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick Tran

Three of my favorite films of the year made the shortlist ("Dragon," "The Fighter," and "Black Swan"). "Blue Valentine" finally opens today in Baltimore, as does "Rabbit Hole," so I'll be checking them out within the next week. I still don't get all the love for "Kids" and "The Social Network," but they are respectable films that I at least liked.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

Personally I thought "I Am Love" was overrated, much as I love Tilda (except for the food porn and Emma going into orgasm over a crawfish.) I think something about the "wealthy people porn" and the ultra-rich lifestyle, the "poor little rich girl theme" (see, you working class people are so much better off, don't you know? Now let's spend several more minutes staring in admiration at those rooms, those tables, at what money can buy), the tropes about poverty and simplicity being better, the working class guy being preferable to the men in white collars (although he's really an "artist" with ambitions and not just a common worker, and he might do very well for himself if that restaurant comes to fruition.)These are tropes I've come across in standard romance fiction (including, for instance, the novels of Barbara Delinsky.)That sort of thing just doesn't do it for me, however.

I agree with you about the gorgeousness of it, but I am surprised that there is anything the least bit controversial about the ending: I read that very clearly as a scene of Emma liberating herself, not as punishment (with her daughter, who has already liberated herself as a lesbian, the only one who understands and urges her on.) The mother-daughter scenes were some of my favorites, although the focus was on the son (rarely in American cinema anymore do we get to see mother-daughter relationships that aren't sick or broken, never mind nonexistent. Of course, I haven't seen Rabbit Hole yet.)

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Great list. Your top five is the same as mine with the exception of The Social Network which in my list is replaced by The King's Speech.

I plan on seeing The Social Network again , I am very puzzled on what exactly made everybody else flip over it. Usually I don't care too much about not liking what everybody else does, but such a consensus makes my think I missed something.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

What can I say? Your list confirms why I keep coming to this site. I'm excited to finally see Blue Valentine now that it opened in a local theater and The Kids Are Alright is right behind Winter's Bone on my Netflix queue.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOtherRobert

Damn strong Top Five. Black Swan and I Am Love will def make it to mine, too (Social Network just misses the cut; Blue Valentine and The Kids Are All Right are in the Top 15). I look forward to these with the same anticipation I hold for Oscar, so for your Five to include some of my own favorites absolutely tickles me. Can't wait to see the nominees for Actress, Supporting Actress and Sexpot.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWalter

Awesome list. Agree with you on most of the great entries here, maybe except The Fighter. I mean, I liked the movie but I'd say Rabbit Hole or Winter's Bone is far better....but yeah, that's just me lol I'm glad you refer to The Social Network as a classic. It does get better on a second, third viewing. I'm also glad you included Poetry (Si) in your honorable mentions. One of the best Korean movies I've ever seen. I have yet to see Blue Valentine, can't wait to see it this weekend.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDalurae

for those of you who haven't seen some of these do report back whne you do!

janice -- a lot of critics thought Emma was being punished for sexual liberation and that bothered me a tad bit on first view but on second not at all. i think i misread it so i loved it even more the second time.

fbh -- my order of the entire 25 just kept switching. it's TOTALLY MADENNING. so eventually i give up. That's how it goes every year. Of course a year from now if not tomorrow, i'll totally want to change the order.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Great top ten and write-ups, Nathaniel! As always, your commentary was both pleasingly on-point and entirely personal. I gotta ask though, what of Mary and Max? I remember you pushed it back last year due to some dodgyness with the NY release. No mention at all? Did it not stay with you or simply get lost in the shuffle?

Anyways, great job-can't wait to see the rest of the FB results!

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArun

"The Kids Are All Right" really bothered me with the way that it disposed of Paul like that. Amazing performance by Mark Ruffalo, and I want to see him nominated maybe more than anyone in that category. But that ending rubbed me the wrong way, and b/c of it I can't include it in my top ten films for 2010. But I'm glad that at least one adult comedy will be included in the top ten. Haven't seen "Blue Valentine" (won't open up in my area) or "I Am Love" (guess I missed that one when it came out), but I'll gladly join the choruses on "Black Swan" and "The Social Network." Natalie Portman has never been better, and my God, "new classic" is the perfect description of "The Social Network." I saw the film in theaters four times, and I'm loving the DVD set I bought on Wednesday. Truly a brilliant film, and this David Fincher/Aaron Sorkin combo is one for the ages.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

Arun -- good question. Actually Mary & Max never opened in NYC. so yes, it did slip through altogether. sigh.

January 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

You're totally correct on the "new classic" description for The Social Network, but it reminds me of that TNT or TBS marketing promo from a few years back. How horrible would it be for The Social Network played over and over again at least once a month on some second-rate cable station?!

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Timothy-- getting hurt is not necessarily the worst that could happen to a person. I could imagine Paul having a new drive in his life (offscreen of course). This summer would be like an inception for him.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRic H

well 4 of your top 5 are in my top 5 the only one i have not seen is blue valentine.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermark

It wasn't about getting Paul hurt, but getting disposed of. He was the most interesting character in "Kids," and it seemed like in the end the film said, choose between Jules and Paul when the film was always going to side with Jules (and by extension, Nic). That just didn't sit well with me is all.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy

Well, if you look at his scores, this looks like the order. On first look, this is alpha, but the slip on I am Love (Only "the" and "a" result in the following word being alpha placement) seems like you've given up the ghost.

Kids: Bronze
Love: Silver
TSN: GOLD

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Animal Kingdom was AMAZING.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPope

I just got out of Blue Valentine. I'm not sure where I stand with it yet (do I like it or do I love it?), but I took great joy in seeing a group of senior citizens debating the merit of the film as soon as the credits sequence ran. One said "it's pornography," which prompted much tutting and shaming from her friends.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOtherRobert

Pornography? That means there's no redeeming content past the sex. (Ebert called Betty Blue porn. That doesn't change the fact that it's also the movie that pretty much confirmed the influence of A Woman Under the Influence.)

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'm going to stick with Zodiac as Fincher's best. I can imagine a lot of director's making something good out of that script (Not as good, but still). It's tough to imagine anybody else doing what he did with Zodiac.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

Michael C -- i think David Fincher agrees with you. His interview at W Magazine is pretty interresting for that. He has bizarre reasoning but he clearly loves ZODIAC above his other work. it sounds like if people don't die he feels the movie can't be "important" so therefore social network is lesser plus it's a "movie" rather than a "film"

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I hate to agree so totally with you this year .. Only thing I can replace is having The Town take "Dragons..." place. Also, the order of the top yen might change a bit. I really like "The Fighter" and would put it in 2nd place after :The Social Network"

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Sorry... I left out another change I would make..... I liked "Winter Bone" way better that "The Kids Are Alright".

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Great list, Nathaniel. I just saw Blue Valentine last week and am in love with it. I'm so glad it cracked your top 5. I think our lists will only overlap with 4 (Black Swan, Blue Valentine, The Social Network, and The Kids Are All Right), but your lists always makes me rethink my responses to movies I didn't fall in love with (in this case Dragon and Ghost Writer).

I am very sad Please Give didn't make your final 10. Doesn't it seem like a movie that will hold up great to many viewings?

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Nat, sincerely, I liked it better when we identified the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals by the colors in the nominees' names...

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

And let me guess: You didn't care that much about Natalie Portman's performance in Black Swan, right? Because the list of Oscar winners in Best Actress are never the way you like it...

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Love the Top 5. My sentiments EXACTLY re: The Social Network.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

@Gustavo - Since when is it wrong to have an opinion? I know the question wasn't directed at me but I'd feel remiss for not speaking up given I've only agreed with 3 of the past 10 Best Actress winners myself (Roberts, Theron & Cotillard). As far as Portman goes, I'd be incredibly happy for her if she won but I'm not so sure she'd be my first pick either (that's only, of course, if she isn't Nathaniel's). Personally, I think Swinton's performance in I Am Love is incredibly underrated and I'm sure Paprika Steen and Kim Hye-Ja would be just as deserving of a gold medal. *gets off soapbox*

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbadmofo

7. Winter's Bone
6. Toy Story 3
5. 127 Hours
4. Inception
3. True Grit
2. Black Swan
1. Social Network

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew R.

Gustavo -- i did too but i'm having trouble with the coding. even if i adjust the html it doesnt read as the color i intend. it may take me a bit to figure it out

i liked Natalie just fine. but no, she's not my gold medalist

Ben -- maybe. It definitely didnt lose any of its charm on a revisit.

badmofo -- this year is so hard to chose. still 9 to 11 ladies in consideration -ANY would be valid choices for nominations.

January 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't think I've ever seen such a mainstream list from you in all these years. All of them will end up as big Oscar nominees, they're the big movies of the year, the one everybody talks about, etc...(except for I am Love and Fish Tank)...

Nothing wrong with that, just incredibly surprised.

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShekwanda Jones

Marvelous list!

By new means surprised but still awesome to see KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, SOCIAL NETWORK and I AM LOVE in your top five (im still baffled Swinton disciple Nick Davis only gave the latter a B grade—I guess he found it a tad too ‘visually’ promiscuous. As for BLACK SWAN, I’m pleased it made your best picture lineup but I’m still sensing Portman may lose your gold metal.

Meanwhile, I’m really glad THE FIGHTER failed to make your Best Picture cut; yeah it has its moments (with two great and one brilliant performance) but the film as a whole just felt merely above average to me. BLUE VALENTINE is definitely a superior film and talk about one shattering duet…

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

For the record, here are my top 10 films of 2010…

01. DOGTOOTH (Giorgos Lanthimos)
02. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher)
03. BLACK SWAN (Darrren Aronofsky)
04. FISH TANK (Andrea Arnold)
05. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (Lisa Cholodenko)
06. I AM LOVE (Luca Guadagnino)
07. BLUE VALENTINE (Derek Cianfrance)
08. THE GHOST WRITER (Roman Polanski)
09. ANIMAL KINGDOM (David Michod)
10. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (DeBlois, Sanders)

runner-ups: TOY STORY 3 / RAGING SUN RAGING SKY / WINTER’S BONE

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Black Swan, The Social Network, The Kids are All Right and Blue Valentine all find a spot in my top 10.

Honorable Mentions: Let Me In, I Am Love, The American, Scott Pilgrim and Animal Kingdom.

10. The Secret in Their Eyes
9. Shutter Island
8. Winter's Bone
7. Toy Story 3
6. Blue Valentine
5. Exit Through the Gift Shop
4. The Kids are All Right
3. Inception
2. The Social Network
1. Black Swan

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Buckle

ouch thanks for the spoilers! :|

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