2010 has been host to some truly inspiring works of cinematic art. In a year of catastrophic oil spills and Chilean miners trapped 2,300 ft underground, films allow us to momentarily forget these instances outside the theatre, letting us get sucked into the realities they create and raise a smile or arouse a tear. Sure, 2010 hasn't been the strongest of years for moviemaking (don't we say that every year?), but a select few flicks are nothing other than superb examples of committed craftsmanship. Without further ado, here are my ten favourites. See these if you can.
10. “Rabbit Hole”
A true cry-a-thon if I ever saw one, "Rabbit Hole" stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as two parents who are in grieving. Their four-year-old son has been killed in a car accident, a tragic event that changes them as people and as a once-happy couple. The film is a melancholy one, almost depressing, but the melodrama that surrounds it is stacked-up on emotion that doesn't seem forced or contrived. Kidman near cries herself to dehydration for an Oscar, and by golly she's worthy of it. A bit of a downer, but an effective piece of poignant filmmaking that will make lips quiver and eyes fill with tears.
9. “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
The fact that "Exit Through the Gift Shop" might possibly all be a hoax makes it all the more fascinating. A documentary on a documentary, it follows shop keeper Thierry Guetta, a quirky Frenchman who has a passion for filming every aspect of his daily life. He doesn't have any focus for the mountains of tapes he's collecting -- that is, until he begins to point the camera at local street artists. The footage (of which there is many) has been hijacked and re-edited by British graffiti icon and genius Banksy, the faceless artist Thierry ends up working with. Unexpectedly hysterical, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a compelling exploration of not only the world of art, but of a man who shows how easy it is to become what some blindly consider a visionary. Real or fake, fact or prank, it's a bloody brilliant documentary/mockumentary that should provoke some thought in your noggin.
8. “Black Swan”
Haunting and bizarre, Darren Aronofsky's drama-horror and psychological thriller shows how ambition can drive one totally nuts. Natalie Portman is a ballerina who lands the role of The Swan Queen in a New York production of "Swan Lake," causing her to obsessively rehearse and rehearse until her grip on reality begins to loosen, with nightmarish hallucinations taunting her fragile mind. Portman is astonishing in the lead role, and Aronofsky's direction is a visual jaw-dropper. Disturbing and bold, this will linger and twirl in your defenceless brain for quite some time -- and not only for the lesbian sex scene.
7. “Let Me In”
The only remake on the list, Matt Reeves' "Let Me In" is based on the cult Swedish vampire horror "Let the Right One In," directed by Tomas Alfredson. Relocated to 1983 New Mexico, the American remake centres on a bullied boy, Owen, as a blood-thirsty, yet innocent-looking girl, Abby, moves into the apartment next door. She's been 12 for a very long time, apparently. The two bond over the course of the film as mismatched friends, Owen blissfully unaware of Abby's vampiric state. A creepy aura surrounds every shiver-inspiring scene, the film as unforgettably unsettling as the acclaimed original, making for a chilling and remarkably enticing horror-drama. "Twilight" fans, take note.
6. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
It's rare that a film is as zany or creative as "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," an adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-volume cult comic book. Edgar Wright's astoundingly energetic, cartoonish hipster-comedy is set in a world in which the laws of physics are similar to that of a video game -- Nintendo sound-effects, people exploding into coins, etc. The titular character, played by a shaggy-haired Michael Cera, must battle the seven evil exes of the girl of his dreams to win her over, leading to some beautifully-shot action sequences, as well as a Bollywood musical number. Brilliant, mesmerisingly inventive stuff that nerds everywhere will gawk at in wonder.
5. “Toy Story 3”
Pixar expectedly did it once again with the third instalment of the celebrated toys-gone-wild franchise, mixing deep-rooted nostalgia with colourful visuals to make for a magnificent family film. This adorable adventure had our iconic stuffed characters accidentally sent away to day care, where they must try to escape from the once-comforting residents. Fantastically comical, angelically animated, and eye-wateringly sentimental, "Toy Story 3" is a triumphant ending to the rightfully-idolised trilogy. Woody and Buzz are still as awesome as ever.
4. “Four Lions”
This Brit-flick revolves around a group of wannabe radical Muslim terrorists as they prepare to mercilessly suicide bomb the London Marathon. Perfect subject matter for a comedy, then. Chris Morris' seemingly controversial, side-splittingly funny satire balances hilarity with surprising tenderness as we watch our utterly incompetent jihadists screw everything up for 97 titillating minutes, aiming bazookas the wrong way round and accidentally blowing up sheep in grassy fields. Fuck mini baby bells!
"Kick-Ass" can easily be described as the filmic definition of the word "fun." A hilariously sick-minded satire of the superhero genre, Matthew Vaughn's gorgeous comic book action-comedy-thriller is a rare example of a popcorn audience-pleaser at its very finest. Aaron Johnson stars as Dave Lizewski, a young adult who dreams of one day becoming an ass-kicking superhero, and so decides to take on crime as a wetsuit-wearing vigilante named Kick-Ass. An awesome cast -- including a foul-mouthed, relentlessly violent 11-year-old girl -- makes for the best superhero feature of the year, with bullets piercing through the air and blood spraying with no end in sight. This is my kinda movie.
Christopher Nolan, how I love thee. The "Memento" director proved himself once again to be nothing short of a genius of the filmmaking profession with his ambitious, original, and beautiful "Inception." Following fugitive Leonardo DiCaprio as he tries to get back to America to see his kids, "Inception" takes place mainly in the dream world as DiCaprio and his loyal team raid and physically explore the mind of Cillian Murphy to plant an idea in his subconscious. Innovative and intellectually stimulating, "Inception" is a blockbuster masterpiece that never fails to amaze. I'll have antigravity fight scenes with a side of buildings folding in on themselves, and a dash of Hans Zimmer's breathtaking score, please. Extra epicness, too.
1. “The Social Network”
Easily taking the top, bright, golden prize for 2010, "The Social Network" is the kind of Oscar-baiting stuff that actually deserves the naked statuette. David Fincher's stylised drama tells the true story of the invention of relatively well-known website Facebook, mixing in themes of betrayal, loss, ambition, and power to the superbly intriguing narrative. With an awe-inspiring, godly script by Aaron Sorkin that has machine-gun characters mercilessly blasting bullets of sharply scribed dialogue at each other, and top-notch performances from the magnificent cast, "The Social Network" is a friend request you know you'll accept. Stephen Watson likes this, and you should, too.