A Film Unfinished: For half a century, we thought the footage the Nazis shot in the Warsaw Ghetto was truth, but now we know it was staged. Sometimes we need to be reminded that cinema can be a powerful tool—and that we shouldn’t believe everything we see.
Another Year: Mike Leigh’s films are always deeply personal, and in his latest, the year spent by longtime married couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) is just one more year. But for everyone else in their lives, especially their alcoholic friend Mary (Lesley Manville), it’s something else entirely.
Carlos: A five-and-a-half hour biopic about the nefarious terrorist Carlos the Jackal is one of the most engrossing films of the year. Édgar Ramírez is brilliant in the lead role, making both smoking and evil cool once again.
Easy A: Wait, a teen sex comedy in a top-10 list? Absolutely. Emma Stone is enchanting as Olive, the girl everyone thinks is sleeping around in this loose adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. It’s funny and touching, and it left me feeling like the first time I saw Sixteen Candles.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: The knock on this film, about a Frenchman trying to make the definitive documentary about street art and the street artist Banksy, is that it all might be a hoax, perpetrated by Banksy. But that misses the point, because even if the entire tale isn’t true in the telling, Exit is the definitive documentary on street art and the street artist Banksy. Could anyone else accomplish all that, while also being funny, insightful and kicking our notions of art and art appreciation in the ass? In short, it’s a Banksy work of art, a movie that’s always two steps ahead of its audience, a hell of a good time to try to catch up to and my favorite film of 2010.
Four Lions: Armed with talented actors and the year’s best dialogue, director Chris Morris created a terribly funny comedy about inept British jihadists that makes fun of terrorists and the people who make fun of terrorists.
Ondine: Colin Farrell stars in Neil Jordan’s movie as a lonely Irish fisherman who casts his nets one day and pulls up a beautiful woman. When it begins, you think there’s no way she could possibly be a mermaid. By the time it’s done, you desperately hope that she is one.
Red Riding 1974, 1980, 1983: The three films in this trilogy about corruption and murder in northern England are designed to work as individual pieces, but, together, they make a terrific marathon, best watched on a dark, dreary day.
The Social Network: Easily the best-written film of the year, David Fincher’s look at the beginnings of Facebook is far more than a status update, and Jesse Eisenberg gives a career-defining performance as main man Mark Zuckerberg, whose lack of social skills makes him the perfect person to understand how the rest of us interact.
Winter’s Bone: Debra Granik’s film is as bleak as its name, and 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence is just terrific as Ree, a teenager who must locate her meth-cooking dad before she and her siblings lose their home. She’s trapped by her age, poverty, the law and the intricately tangled Ozark criminal families in the region. Her only support is her Uncle Teardrop, played by John Hawkes, and that might be worse than having no help at all.
And, just for fun, the worst of the worst
Sex and the City 2: Perhaps if I’d been a fan of the first movie or the TV show, I’d have been more willing to overlook how offensive this movie is to A. women, B. Muslims, C. good taste. But I hope not.