Year in film: My Top 10 in 2010

Another Year
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
“Another Year,” directed by Mike Leigh.

Another year (to borrow a title), another — yet another, yep — list of Top 10 movies.

“What’s different about this one?” you ask.

Well, for starters, there’s only a couple of American films on it. And one of ‘em — from Portugal — hasn’t even been to Minnesota yet! (My rules: If it’s been released for a week somewhere in the U.S. in 2010, and it’s great, it’s good for listing.)

Only one of these 10 has made a fortune, which maybe speaks to the integrity of the list (or maybe not, I suppose). And because any one of them could, while I’m watching it, be numero uno, the movies are listed alphabetically. Let me save the ranking for, well, another year.

“Another Year” (U.K.)
Four seasons, one cumulatively devastating study of social anxiety and class-based shame. Mike Leigh’s strongest work since Topsy-Turvy. Opens Jan. 14 at the Uptown Theatre.

“Black Swan” (U.S.)
Ballerina Natalie Portman would die for her craft in this gorgeous, ludicrous, scandalously pleasurable melodrama. Darren Aronofsky’s strongest work since … well, ever. Playing at area theaters.

“Carlos” (France)
Five-and-a-half hours is much too short for this relentlessly paced history of pre-9/11 terror in microcosm — an up-close inspection of the titular sex-and-death machine, a.k.a. The Jackal. Available via video on demand.

“Everyone Else” (Germany)
Writer/director Maren Ade’s suitably grueling study of a relationship teetering on the knife-edge of collapse. Available on DVD.

"I Am Love"
Magnolia Pictures
“I Am Love”

“I Am Love” (Italy)
Easily the European art movie of the year, writer-director Luca Guadagnino’s Felliniesque soaper sports a dolce vita all its own. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

"Last Train Home"
Zeitgeist Films
“Last Train Home”

“Last Train Home” (China-Canada)
More than a deeply moving story of a Sichuan family’s struggle, director Fan Lixin’s documentary portrait of migrant workers captures a rich period of recent Chinese history, punctuated by the Beijing Olympics. DVD out Feb. 22.

Sony Pictures Classics

“Lebanon” (Israel)
War from the confines of a tank, wherein kid soldiers sweat bullets and the view through a cannon sight mirrors a combat documentary. DVD and Blu-ray out Jan. 18.

“Our Beloved Month of August” (Portugal)
Gorgeously photographed performances by Portuguese dance-music bands at the Pardieiros festival set one’s toes tapping, but director Miguel Gomes goes further to work the brain as a narrative sneakily emerges. Will the Walker play it? Minnesota Film Arts? Sound Unseen?

“The Social Network”
Motormouthed like “His Girl Friday,” as obsessively researched as “Zodiac,” with more testosterone than “Slap Shot,” ending up as current as your newest friend (or “friend”). Playing at area theaters.

"White Material"
IFC Films
“White Material”

“White Material” (France)
In West Africa, circa then or now, Eurocentrism — in the form of coffee plantation owner Isabelle Huppert — reluctantly yields. Claire Denis’ strongest work since … her last (35 Shots of Rum). Available via video on demand.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): “And Everything Is Going Fine,” “Boxing Gym,”  “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Greenberg,” “I Love You Phillip Morris,” “Inside Job,” “Night Catches Us,” “Please Give, Shutter Island,” “Vincere.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Nathan Roisen on 12/28/2010 - 12:15 pm.

    I can appreciate a good foreign film as much as anyone, and a few of these will be added to my list of must-sees, but it is kind of a cop-out (at least as far as end-of-year list of best movies is concerned) to include such a large number of obscure films. I mean, I’ve seen one, and heard of two others on this list, and I’d bet that most of the readers will be in the same boat.

    Yes, I’m aware that a lot of what Hollywood churns out is inane garbage, but there are a lot of great – and far more mainstream – films that are left off the list. Winter’s Bone, True Grit, The Fighter and Inception, to name a few.

    Maybe a better move would be to have a sidebar – “the five best foreign films of the year” – and add an additional criterion for inclusion on the list: The movie must have been at least somewhat mainstream. JMO.

  2. Submitted by Jane Cracraft on 12/28/2010 - 03:19 pm.

    Respectfully disagree. It’s a nice smart list. And at least a few of these played at the MSP Int’l film fest, which I think I heard broke attendance records this year, so there’s definitely a local market for more obscure films.

    I agree, I Am Love is surely the Euro art movie of the year. Mike Leigh… I just can’t stomach his movies, although I haven’t tried in several years. Going to add a few of these to my queue; thanks for the tips!

  3. Submitted by Jonathan Maze on 12/29/2010 - 04:42 pm.

    Why don’t you just call this list “Nine Movies You Didn’t Watch In 2010 (And One You Did)?” I agree with Nathan on this. It seems to me that that Mr. Nelson has deliberately tried to get obscure movies on his list, almost as if he’s showing off. (Look! I’ve seen a movie made in Portugal! EAT IT, Roger Ebert!)

    Sometimes I think film critics are the worst people to review films. Many of them have completely lost touch with what mainstream audiences enjoy. They gravitate toward independent movies and heavy-handed dramas. While they rightly focus on acting and writing, they also ignore some of the more technical aspects of films like special effects that are huge reasons people go to see movies on the big screen. And they completely ignore comedies, which is just beyond me. (What, is crying at a movie more important than laughing at it? Someone please explain a movie is more effective if it moves an audience to tears than if it makes them fall out of their seat laughing.)

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 01/02/2011 - 02:29 pm.

    I also agree with Mr. Roisson and Mr. Maze. If you’re going to have a list, at least give it a more appropriate title. I will save this list and see how many, if any, of these films are available on Netflix. Few of these have made to to Twin City theaters and I doubt that many of them will based on precedent (how many nominees for best foreign films have you ever seen outside of the winner?).

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