Films of the Year

We're very nearly at the end of 2010, and with much of the Christmas dinner still working its way through my system, it's time to sit back, take stock and put forward my Top 10 list comprising the best films of this year.

I could waste time repeating all the usual caveats about having not seen everything, and all this being just opinion, but to be honest if you've been reading my reviews you probably know that already. Instead, let's just dive straight in.

10. The Arbor
A gripping if uneven documentary about the life and legacy of playwright Andrea Dunbar which straddles the divide between fiction and reality. By having the cast lip-sync to recordings of Dunbar's friends and relatives, what could be a straightforward biopic is transformed into a Rashomon-like exploration of the fractured nature of truth and how the past lingers in the present. One of the most unusual films of the year and a must-see for anyone interested in the documentary tradition.
Full review available here

9. The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)
Seven years after he charmed the pants off us with Belleville Rendez-Vous, Sylvain Chomet returns with an equally charming and uniquely crafted effort based on an unfilmed screenplay by Jacques Tati. While not as compelling or rounded as his debut, the film is still a visual delight with beautiful design and characterisation rooted in dry wit and subtle pathos. The film marries a well-judged relationship between an ageing illusionist and a young fan with social undercurrents about the decline of variety and the age of rock'n'roll.Full review available here

8. Burke and Hare
John Landis returns to the big screen in style with a really good black comedy about enterprising 18th-century murderers. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis enjoy strong chemistry as the gags flow thick and fast, and the film is rooted in Landis' brilliant combination of horror and humour. Its lush period setting accurately recalls the classic Ealing comedies of the 1950s, and the film's knowing economies with the truth work largely to its advantage. Worth seeing just for the cameos from Paul Whitehouse and Tim Curry.Full review available here

7. Green Zone
One of the most underrated films of the year and another solid addition to the Paul Greengrass canon. A very well-constructed, technically accomplished and ultimately substantial conspiracy thriller, with Matt Damon cementing his status as one of Hollywood's best leading men. Bourne-style action set-pieces are ably intertwined with relevant discussions of the role of media in modern warfare and the fragmented nature of both the enemy and the allies. A film which ticks all the action movie boxes and hurls The Hurt Locker into the middle of next week.Full review available here

6. The Ghost Writer
What looked at one point like Roman Polanski's last film now stands as a fine addition to a stunning back catalogue. While ultimately a minor work which draws heavily on The Tenant, the film is a great old-fashioned thriller in its own right; a film which is less about political allegory and more about the powers-that-be and the faceless, nameless figures which try in vain to keep them in check. Ewan McGregor gives his best performance in years as the title role and the final shot is textbook Polanski: chilling, bitter and cynical.Full review available here

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Edgar Wright's third film is a visually astounding and heartfelt love letter to all things comic-book and video game, with a beautifully-judged coming-of-age story at its centre. Career-best performances from Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead elevate the film above other quirky teen affairs to create a film as much about accepting responsibility as it is about defeating psychic vegans. A hilarious film which never misses a beat.Full review available here

4. Kick-Ass
After grabbing our attention with Stardust, Matthew Vaughn turns comic-book conventions on their heads in this flesh-ripping adaptation of Mark Millar's comics. The film combines knowing humour with rich pastiches of Batman and Spiderman, approaching the darker and tougher aspects of comics while keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. Visually outstanding and with brilliant stunt choreography, this represents a real departure from the light-to-dark cycle of comic adaptations and set the bar high for Christopher Nolan's next work.Full review available here

3. The Social Network
David Fincher returns to form spectularly with an intelligent, intriguing and labyrinthine examination of the founding of Facebook. Combining the visual intimidation of Zodiac with a razor-sharp script from Aaron Sorkin, Fincher manages to do what Noah Baumbach never managed: to take a bunch of hideous, chauvinistic intellectuals and make them engaging and entertaining. But the film is also a gripping analysis of the way in which technology comes between friends, the ruthlessness of capitalism and the changing nature of nerds.Full review available here

2. A Single Man
Colin Firth gives a career-best performance in Tom Ford's ravishing and heartbreaking debut based on a story by Christopher Isherwood. Ford's outstanding visual palette, which draws on the work of Michelangelo Antonioni, is the fitting sheen to a tender examination of grief and the powers of deception which we employ to protect ourselves in everyday life. The film is less a thesis on sexuality than a poignant and meticulous portrait of one man struggling to appear in control when everything about him hints towards chaos and meltdown. An emotional triumph.Full review available here

1. Inception
Having come perilously close with The Prestige, Christopher Nolan finally delivers his masterpiece with a daring blockbuster notable not only for its intelligence but its nuance and emotional resonance. What begins as a heist movie set inside the minds of its protagonists blossoms into a full-blown examination of dreams, addiction, grief and redemption, contained in a brilliantly designed cinematic world and underscored by spectacular action. Inception is the pinnacle of Nolan's career, marrying thematic complexity with visual astonishment to create a memorably mesmerising masterpiece.Full review available here

Honourable Mentions
Shutter Island (USA, dir. Martin Scorsese)
The Kids Are All Right (USA, dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
The Killer Inside Me (UK, dir. Michael Winterbottom)
Winter's Bone (USA, dir. Debra Granik)

Roll on 2011 :)

Daniel x


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