Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2010 In Review

2010 has come to an end and I'm rounding up an eclectic year of film with an epic five part review of the best and worst cinema has had to offer over the past 12 months. Where films have been reviewed for different publications, the hyperlink is included. Enjoy this round-up of my favourite art-form in all the world!

Best Films of 2010

#1 Inception (Christopher Nolan)

Christopher Nolan's achievement with Inception is nothing short of miraculous. Building on his technically astonishing, dramatically astute work on The Dark Knight, Nolan here continues a rich, intelligent vein of form, deploying literary tropes and metaphors (notions of dreams and the subconscious) and bolting them to a confidently realised, visually dazzling world, one which can pivot, shift and tilt at will. It is at once an art film and a blockbuster; an intellectual powerhouse and a James Bond style spy adventure. Fingers crossed that it will mark a sea-change whereby executives privilege films that respect an audience's intelligence. Brilliantly cast, fabulous to look at and bracingly complex, Inception raises the bar on summer movies.

#2 Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)

Who ever thought that a CGI animated feature could prove more moving than most other live action movies? Toy Story 3 manages a quite extraordinary coup, transcending crude notions of child and adult cinema to take on a beautifully complex texture. It is a film which carries a colourful exterior but mines heart-wrenching notions of loss, identity and the dreaded concept of neglect; an ostensibly kiddie-friendly story that portrays complex emotions through the eyes of plastic toys. It is by a long distance Pixar's greatest achievement to date; not only the best film in an already landmark trilogy but a profound meditation on what it means to be human, with an ending that proudly takes its place alongside the likes of The Shawshank Redemption and It's a Wonderful Life.

#3 A Single Man (Tom Ford)

Certain daft accusations were made against A Single Man; namely that because it marks former Gucci head Tom Ford's directorial debut, it's a triumph of style over substance. Such claims are perfectly ridiculous. The beauty of Ford's film is the way in which it finds the substance beneath the admittedly plush style, eking out the deeply moving story of a bereft ex-pat teacher as he sets about what he's decided will be the final day of his life. In a world where sharp suits, cuff links and chrome cars mask wrenching sadness, Colin Firth conveys a breathtaking sense of melancholy, supported by vivid turns from the likes of Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult. Heartbreak never looked so handsome.

#4 The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)

It comes bearing the dreaded 'indie film' tag but The Kids Are All Right is a fantastically warm experience, fizzling with rich humour and wonderfully observant of awkward social situations. Hitting on the simple yet deceptively profound notion that a supposedly unconventional, lesbian family are far more conventional than they appear, Lisa Cholodenko's breezily confident direction gazes unflinchingly at the sun-baked California suburbs, exposing the frailties that lie beneath. But it's never smug or unpleasant; rather honest and refreshing, backed by superb performances from Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and, especially, Mark Ruffalo.

#5 The Secret In Their Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella)

Both a profound meditation on memory and a gripping suspense thriller spanning decades, The Secret In Their Eyes begins with one of the most striking opening scenes of a film in 2010. Encapsulating feelings of loss and sadness in just a few frames, the power of these early scenes reverberates throughout the rest of the film, transforming it into a rippling, eerie tale of lost romance and second chances. Throughout, Juan Jose Campanella's multi-stranded direction is underscored with a gripping sense of portentousness, and a tracking shot into a football stadium takes its place as one of the year's most astonishing cinematic achievements.

#6 Lebanon (Samuel Maoz)

A long-gestating personal project of director Maoz, Lebanon is a remarkably accomplished technical venture, painting a picture of the 1982 Lebanese conflict from within the confines of a tank. But the film's most remarkable achievement resides in its vivid portrayal of humanity, painting a picture of anguished young soldiers trapped within an environment that conspires to sever any notions of compassion. Maoz, drawing on his own experiences, clearly draws cinematic inspiration from the likes of Das Boot but his film is a strikingly original, haunting effort nonetheless.

#7 The Social Network (David Fincher)

A film crucially not about Facebook but about those who created it, David Fincher's latest is blessed with his usual formidable attention to detail and fascinatingly taps into a period of recent history where the possibilities for online networking were still in their infancy. Graced with excellent performances, a witty sense of humour and a fascinating central portrayal from Jesse Eisenberg, how much of it is true or not is up for grabs, but it's film making done with integrity and self-belief nonetheless.

#8 The Ghost (Roman Polanski)

Roman Polanski is on his best form in years with The Ghost Writer, ironic when one considers his famous imprisonment during the film's post-production period. Not that you'd know from watching the confident results on-screen. It's a classic Polanski poisoned chalice, where dark humour and menace exist as sides of the same coin. Ewan McGregor gives a superbly blank performance as the ghost writer of the title, getting into hot water when he's called to work on the memoirs of a former UK Prime Minister (a brilliantly creepy Pierce Brosnan). Special mention must go to Olivia Williams' understated but vital supporting role.

#9 Four Lions (Chris Morris)

No other comedy this year was as bold, as controversial or indeed as successful as Chris 'Brass Eye' Morris' directorial debut, the story of a group of British jihadists on a quest for glory. Blending uncomfortable laughs with a genuine sense of tragedy, it refuses to go for the cheap shots, portraying its lead characters, first and foremost, as human beings. In fact, it occupies a particularly difficult position where comedy proves to be tragic and vice versa, never aiming for tired punchline gags but always striving for that intangible glimpse of humanity.

#10 Fuse (Short) (Ben Barfoot)

A beautifully realised slice of dystopian horror, Fuse is an astonishing achievement, influenced by a rich heritage of sci-fi cinema and achieved on a virtually non existent budget. Proof that money is no harbinger of talent, the pioneering technology used to animate live action photography lends the film an eerie texture, remarkable when one considers its torturous post-production process. My interview with the makers of the film can be found in the October section of this blog. For more information on the film itself, visit

1 comment:

  1. Good list, haven't seen all of them but agree with your choice for Inception and nice to see someone else bigging up A Single Man. If you get the chance check out my film reviews at:

    Daniel :)