The 25 Best Movies of 2010
Page 5 of 5
5. Waiting for “Superman”
Director: Davis Guggenheim
In a year that gave us three major documentary features about the glaring need for educational reform in America, Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” presents the most unavoidably compelling argument. In one of the biggest eye-openers, he shows that housing a man in prison (where inner city high school dropouts are statistically likely to wind up) costs three times as much per year as sending them (as kids) to even the most exclusive private school. Another—in order to bring the U.S. from close to last in developed-world education to close to first, we’d only have to get rid of the worst 10% of teachers. Like his previous epic An Inconvenient Truth, it’s not the most balanced picture, but he does give the largest teachers’ union their say. They’re on the wrong side of history, however, and one day this film, like An Inconvenient Truth, will be seen as one of the turning points in the conversation.—Michael Dunaway Read The 20 Best Documentaries list.
4. The King’s Speech
Director: Tom Hooper
It’s not the way that a non-stuttering actor stutters that makes Colin Firth believable as King George VI, but the pitch-perfect emotional resonance of gifted actor. And while the performances of his co-stars—Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as the king’s Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue—aren’t highlighted by such an obvious physical obstacle, they’re both subtly brilliant. It’s the interplay between all three actors—and the brief scenes with Michael Gambon as King George V—that make Tom Hooper’s film such a joy to watch, despite a climax that is little more than a man trying to read several paragraphs over the radio. We care so much for his character by the end of the film, that the final speech is indeed a worthy last hurdle to clear.—Josh Jackson Read full review.
3. Winter’s Bone
Director: Debra Granik
Watching Winter’s Bone is like entering into an entirely different world, vividly capturing the sights and sounds of the Ozark mountains in a way that’s stylized yet feels completely natural to the setting. But that’s all just beautiful wrapping around Jennifer Lawrence’s stunning performance as a 17-year-old raising her two younger siblings, supporting her mother, and trying to find the whereabouts of her deadbeat father before their house is taken away. Debra Granik takes this search plotline in dreadful new directions, and while Lawrence may end up battered by her community and nearly starved by an indifferent society, she never loses her dignity. Winter’s Bone is simultaneously the most depressing and uplifting film of the year, showing us the worst of humanity without ever giving in to it. —Sean Gandert
2. True Grit
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
In remaking one of the better cowboy films of the 1960s, the Coens have also taken on the genre’s biggest star—John Wayne, who played the irascible marshal Rooster Cogburn in the original ‘69 adaptation of Charles Portis’ straightforward and engaging novel. Casting, however, has never been a Coen weakness, and Jeff Bridges wholly embraces and reinvents the role for which Wayne received an Oscar. There’s a simplicity about the performances in True Grit that jives well with the rich landscapes and the authentically recreated, urban settings of nineteenth century Arkansas and the Indian Territory. That, and the genuine attire of the times, allows the Coens to create a world where the actors can play real characters, not caricatures of reality. It’s a talent that keeps begging the question, “What’s next?”—Tim Basham Read full review.
1. The Social Network
Director: David Fincher
This year’s true sequel to 1987’s Wall Street is a smart and engrossing film, a befitting look at the evolution of one of the most financially successful institutions of the 21st century. In The Social Network, the truth is surprisingly stranger—and wildly more interesting—than the fictional and flat Oliver Stone sequel. Never before have coding and algorithms been so titillating. Jesse Eisenberg gives the performance of his life in the best film of 2010. He plays Zuckerberg as a dysfunctional genius desperate to fit a month of ideas into a single moment. Throughout the film he displays an intense stare that alternately masks and reveals his inner thoughts. Although he becomes one of the wealthiest men in the world (in his early 20s) his satisfaction comes from winning, with money merely being used as a measuring stick. Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac, Se7en) has created a film where the young heroes aren’t superficial, aren’t trying to find a clever shortcut into the castle. In The Social Network they build the castle themselves and then barricade it. But, like the first Wall Street film, greed is still king and the wolves are at the door.—Tim Basham Read full review.