And finally onto films. This was honestly the hardest of the three lists to compile as there wasn’t a huge amount of films that really excited me this year, and I sadly missed out on plenty of films that did look like best of the year contenders (in the past month alone I’ve not been able to catch Monsters, Uncle Boonmee and Of Gods and Men). But still, that’s not to say that these ten films aren’t worthy of praise and your time and attention, should you have not seen any of them yet.
1. A Single Man
Tom Ford’s impeccably styled tragic gay romance (is there any other type of gay movie?) was, not entirely unfairly, accused of favouring style over substance. However, as I argued in my review, the style very much is the substance, with obsessive attention paid to the smallest details in order to reflect the inner world of its central character, who busied himself with plans and details so as to try and avoid the painful reality of his situation. Which resulted in the most moving couple of hours I spent in a cinema this year.
Another style over substance sort of film. I adored the books, bemoaned the casting of Michael Cera before the film came out (I do like him very much, but he just wasn’t the Scott of the books), and then was pleasantly surprised by just how effectively Edgar Wright both managed to capture the feel of the books (lifting many scenes practically frame for frame) and make very effective additions or subtractions from them when necessary. It was even a lot of fun on multiple viewings, what with there being far too much going on to take in all at once.
Like Scott Pilgrim, based on a cult graphic novel, and also like that film well received by fans but seen as a bit of a box office disappointment. It was all pleasantly juvenile fun, raised to another level by Chloe Moretz’s hit-girl (character of the year?), a for-once appropriately barking performance from Nicholas Cage and a whole load of gleefully, offensively quotable dialogue (“Fuck you Mr Bitey!”).
4. The Social Network
When it was announced, David Fincher telling the story of Facebook sounded like the most boring film imaginable. But, thanks to a universally excellent cast (even Justin Timberlake!), a dark and witty script from Aaron Sorkin (which at no point threatened to descend into sentimentality unlike The West Wing and Studio 60 at their weakest) and a fantastic score from Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, it turned out to be his best film to date (in my opinion at least).
5. Toy Story 3
Honestly, I didn’t like Toy Story 3 as much as the last few offerings from Pixar (Wall-E, Ratatouille and Up), but even then it was still quite extraordinary. A children’s film that was almost universally adored by critics, tackled ageing and mortality in a sensitive and intelligent way, moved grown men to tears and may well be the first example of the third part of a trilogy being its best.
6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I haven’t gotten around to reading Steig Larsson’s novel, which might be why The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was such a wonderful surprise. Not only an efficient thriller (albeit one with an easily guessable denouement, not that it really mattered), but a chilling riposte to the genre’s casual misogyny.
Christopher Nolan is, for me, a bit of a hit-and-miss filmmaker, but he was on top form this sub-conscious based thriller. Jaw-dropping to look at, excitingly scored and suitably complicated to piece together. It may have required a bit of a leap of faith in order to get on board with the concept, but the end result was possibly his best film since Memento.
8. Whip It
A small, sweet film, but not a quiet one. Hopefully Drew Barrymore’s roller derby based directorial debut will become cult viewing for girls of a certain age thanks to its nicely handled feminist message, as well as the fact that it was a hell of a lot of fun.
9. A Prophet
Despite it being released back in January, A Prophet’s striking set pieces and images have been hard to forget over the subsequent year. Jacques Audiard’s prison drama was as brutal as it was compelling, but also had at its heart an intriguingly ambiguous metaphysical perspective, and an incredible performance from Tahar Rahim.
10. Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans
Another film where Nicholas Cage’s crazy screen antics seemed entirely fitting (unlike in the rather terrible Sorceror’s Apprentice). In fact Werner Herzog crammed his frenzied remake (not that it had much in common with its inspiration, other than half a title) with so many demented details (Iguana cam was my favourite) that Cage seemed to be one of the more sane aspects of the film. And for a bleak crime drama, it was surprisingly funny.
So that’s 2010 over and done with, although before we all start thinking of the delights that 2011 has in store for us, feel free to offer any of your cinematic highs (or lows – I’d say it would be a toss up between Percy Jackson and Grown Ups for my most hated film of the year, while Brooklyn’s Finest was the most dull) in the comment section underneath.