Elisabeth Rappe December 30, 2010
Reader, I am nervous.
This is my first time at making a proper Top 10 list. It was also my first year receiving all those fancy “For Your Consideration” packets which made this an exciting and nerve-wracking time of, well, consideration. It pains me to admit it, but films fell through the cracks. I didn’t make it to The King’s Speech and neither The Way Back or Blue Valentine has opened in my cold region so I feel as though my list has three enormous gaps on it. (Four counting Carlos which needed a rewatch before it could be ranked. At five hours, this was impossible.)
Is apologizing a good way to start such a list? Probably not. But I’m very anxious to do this right, which is pretty preposterous with such a personal topic. They are my top 10 films — not yours, not theirs, but mine — but I still feel the need to stress how tough it is to slash out titles or wonder if there’s a film out there to nudge out No. 3 or No. 4 ….
Enough. I can even hear you saying it! Here are the Top 10 Films of 2010 — the Elisabeth Rappe Edition.
10. Going the Distance
Though you may hear me giggling maniacally on podcasts, I rarely laugh out loud at movies. My family has a little list they maintain of the ones that have sent my Julia Robertsish laugh braying through a room or theater. Going the Distance is now on that list thanks to a well-placed reference to The Shawshank Redemption. (The entire theater started laughing along with me, by the way.) But this isn’t just here because it made me laugh. I thought Going the Distance was the rare romantic comedy that took a hard look at all the conventions — running to the airport, making awful choices for dreamy ideals — and dodged them. It was also more honest and poignant about the economy and its effect on us poor young things than any film of the past five years.
9. The Social Network
Though I use social media, it’s something that leaves me cold. The Social Network left me in a similar state of frustration and Luddite annoyance. I wasn’t even going to put it on my top 10. But there’s no doubt that it perfectly bottles up the zeitgeist of my generation. It’s All the President’s Men for the tech age, and I haven’t stopped gnashing my teeth over what it says about us. For that I have to give it a nod. But I’ll be honest, I kind of wanted to put The Town here because I was so grateful to have a mature thriller.
Agora is a sprawling and untidy film, and often heavy-handed in its cries for tolerance. But its re-creation of ancient Alexandria is stunning, as is Rachel Weisz‘s starry performance. As a former historian, films like Agora have an undeniable and bookish hold on me, and I forgive their torrid romances and structure shortcomings. In a world that continues to disdain science, books, and tolerance, this film feels especially necessary.
7. Toy Story 3
I’ll be honest — I hated Toy Story 3 because it tore my heart out and showed it to me while laughing at my broken down sobs. It was a story I was in no state to see. But despite my abhorrence, it’s on the list because it was so effective in illustrating the sorrow of growing up, and leaving our loved ones behind. (It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, your dog, or your cowboy toy — the pain is the same.) I’m just not sure I needed Pixar to torture me through the horror of Bullsye’s googly eyes, and the resigned embrace of Jessie and Buzz.
6. Rabbit Hole
I was dreading this film. I fully expected it to be a miserable and gray slog that I couldn’t bring myself to praise. There’s no doubt that Rabbit Hole is sad, but it’s not bleak, it offers some hope and catharsis, and it’s refreshingly realistic in doing so. The characters talk, weep, grieve and fight like real people. It’s not revelatory, but it deals quietly and patiently with a difficult subject, and ends up saying more because of it.
5. Winter’s Bone
A cold, tough, and relentless exercise in tension, Winter’s Bone is a look into Americana that you really don’t want to think about. Ree Dolly is the hard beauty in a backdrop of casual violence, fear, and drug dealing, and she is never less than admirable. She’s a female Josey Wales, operating under a stern code of honor that doesn’t back down when faced with the ugliest of odds.
Ellen Page‘s Ariadne sums this film up best for me: “It’s pure creation.” I didn’t go as crazy for Inception as the majority did (I’ve only seen it twice if you can believe it), but it’s a dizzying, rewarding, and unique piece of science fiction. If I had to pick one film of the new decade that future filmmakers will cite as “the one that made me want to direct,” it’s Inception. It makes me more excited for Nolan’s Batman to be done, so he can concentrate on original stories like these.
3. How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks finally proved it could make an animated movie that wasn’t a hollow mess of merchandise. How to Train Your Dragon is warm, charming, richly rendered (I can’t gush enough about the authentic Dark Ages art that decorates Berk; even the clasps of the Viking cloaks are authentic), and doesn’t distract with pop culture jokes or gratuitous celebrity voices. Roll your eyes at its ranking, but the scene with Toothless “drawing” in the dirt with a tree branch is my new happy place.
2. Black Swan
Breathtaking and grotesque, Black Swan is one of the most original and daring films I’ve seen in a long time, and has proved to be even weirder and darker the more I watch it. Nina is a frail, tragic, and seething little swan, and Natalie Portman neatly undid all my criticism of her in one method and manic performance. Her dance of the black swan is one of the most transfixing images I’ve seen all year.
1. True Grit
As a lover of Westerns, I was an easy mark for True Grit. But I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. It wears its heart on its homespun sleeve, and manages to rise above musty homage and mimicry into something fresh, funny, sad, and invigorating. Beautifully shot, scored, and acted, it’s one of the most accessible and loving films Joel and Ethan Coen have made. If there’s justice in the world, it will remind audiences just how rich and resonant the Western can be.
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