A stuttering king, a hillbilly hermit, a trapped mountain climber and an Internet entrepreneur are among the varied subjects of my favorite films of 2010.
The list includes movies from England, France and Argentina. There are dramas, documentaries and animated features. Some have star-studded casts, others have no stars at all.
What they all have is a compelling story, well told. Here are my picks, in alphabetical order:
“Fish Tank”: Katie Jarvis makes an unforgettable film debut as an alienated British teenager living in a dreary housing project in Andrea Arnold’s coming-of-age story.
“Get Low”: Based on a real 1938 incident, this tender, whimsical film stars Robert Duvall as a Tennessee hermit who stages his own funeral while he’s still alive.
“Inside Job”: Charles Ferguson brilliantly dissects the causes of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
“127 Hours”: James Franco is practically a one-man show in this true, harrowing story about a mountain climber pinned under a boulder in a remote Utah canyon. Warning: Some viewers have fainted during the scene where he cuts off part of his arm to free himself.
“The Illusionist”: Sylvain Chomet’s animated feature about an aging musician and a teenage admirer is a poetic meditation on love, friendship and deception. Based on an unproduced script by legendary French filmmaker Jacques Tati.
“The King’s Speech”: A stirring drama about the unlikely friendship between King George VI and the eccentric speech therapist who helped the British monarch overcame his severe stutter. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are impeccable.
“The Secret in Their Eyes”: This Argentine thriller about a retired investigator who reopens a 25-year-old murder case is a piercing exploration of obsessive love, unfulfilled desire and fragmented memory. It won the Oscar for best foreign-language film of 2009, but I’m including it here because it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2010.
“The Social Network”: Jesse Eisenberg stars as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in this frenetic, multiviewpoint account of the website’s creation. Combines screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue and director David Fincher’s bold visual style.
“Toy Story 3”: More Pixar magic. With Andy about to leave for college, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of his childhood toys end up at a daycare center run by a dictatorial teddy bear. Their attempts to escape and return to Andy appeal to the kid in all of us.
“True Grit”: The Coen brothers remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western is more violent and funnier than the original. Jeff Bridges leads a sterling cast that includes Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the precocious 14- year-old who hires a drunken, trigger-happy U.S. Marshal to track down her father’s killer.
“The Wildest Dream”: A fascinating documentary about George Mallory, who died in 1924 while trying to become the first man to summit the world’s tallest mountain. His climb is recreated by Conrad Anker, who found Mallory’s corpse near the peak in 1999.
“Winter’s Bone”: Debra Granik’s bleak, heartbreaking tale is set among the dirt-poor in the Ozark Mountains. Jennifer Lawrence is mesmerizing as a teenager searching for her druggie father.
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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