Simon Miraudo’s Top 10 Films of 2010

Simon Miraudo’s Top 10 Films of 2010.

As 2010 makes its inevitable march towards death (or rather, 2011), Quickflix critics Simon Miraudo, Tara Judah and Jess Lomas reflect on the year that was. Check out their individual selections for the best (and worst) films of a year that will be remembered by endless debates about spinning totems, fake street artists, faker actor-turned-rappers, and the extent to which we all wept at the end of Toy Story 3.

Simon Miraudo picks…

Honourable mentions: Gasland, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, Shutter Island, The King’s Speech.

Did the totem topple at the end of Inception? Was it all really just a dream? Are we dreaming right now? Eh, whatever. Inception was an exhilarating action film, but debating the equilibrium of a spinning top was hardly stimulating. Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop and Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here have the honour of being the most fascinating and endlessly debatable films of the year. The former – which Banksy swears is legit – documents the rise of the street art scene through the lens of a sycophant named Thierry Guetta (who many still suspect was an invention of the filmmakers). The latter – which was revealed to be a fakery – chronicled Joaquin Phoenix’s so-called descent into madness. There were no other films I enjoyed devouring, discussing and ultimately defending more in 2010.

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine ain’t fun, but it’s a unique piece of cinema. I have a hard time recalling a more believable portrayal of two souls falling in, and ultimately out of, love. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams devastate in this romantic drama that will likely stay with you longer than the memories of your own failed relationships.

In my review, I said Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3 “didn’t feel essential”, and I stand by that. But inessential Pixar is still essential cinema. I started crying in the opening credits, and by the finale, I – along with the rest of the audience – was a weeping mess. Seeing Toy Story 3 with a crowd was like attending primal scream therapy. It was the most emotional, visceral movie-going experience of the year. Also: “nice ascot”.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is a film that wears audience walkouts like badges of honour (and it must have a lot of badges by now). A deranged married couple keep their three adult children confined within their isolated estate, teaching them the incorrect definitions of certain words, scaring them away from the outside world and forcing them to compete against one another for their love and attention. It’s not idyllic, but hey, it works for them. That is, until the concept of ‘sex’ enters the equation – and the household erupts into chaos. A darkly-comic cinematic-reinterpretation of such psychological experiments as the Monster Study, the Stanford Prison Experiments, the Milgram Study and the Well of Despair. It’s also the best argument against home schooling since the Jonas Brothers.

Chris Morris’ Four Lions is both the most provocative film of the year, and the funniest. Perhaps not since Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove has one movie held claim to both titles. It offers us a simultaneously ferocious and sympathetic look at five bumbling wannabe-terrorists. You’ll laugh hard, and then you’ll feel guilty. The film doesn’t condescend to soften the blows, or assure us that it’s perfectly fine to find this stuff funny. It humanises – hilariously – those who we so desperately want to hate. Who would have thought that a goofball comedy would challenge and confront us so?

Jennifer Lawrence gave the breakout performance of the year as Ree Dolly, the 17-year-old gumshoe at the center of Debra Granik’s neo-noir Winter’s Bone. On the hunt for her bail-skipping daddy, Ree takes us on an unflinching journey into the heart of the Ozark, confronting meth dealers and murderers with steely determination and a Sam-Spadian-sense of humour. The equally brilliant John Hawkes and Dale Dickey join Lawrence in this gripping and supremely entertaining thriller.

The ‘Best First Film’ award goes to David Michod for Animal Kingdom. Sure, it seems like a traditional crime drama (a family of crims struggle to stick together as the cops close in on their crumbling empire), but Michod and his cast make a number of brave choices that set it apart from the pack. Newcomer James Frecheville was unfairly maligned (and robbed of AFIs) for his deeply detached lead performance; it worked big time for me, particularly in contrast to the fierce performances from the rest of the cast (notably Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver). Writer/director Michod avoids convention at every turn – from the unsettling opening shot to the jarringly violent finale. Be proud Australia.

Allow me to lazily crib from my review, but I quite don’t know how else to put it: “This is not a love story. This is a story about love. And video games. And comic books. And demon hipster chicks. And learning to not be a jerk all the time. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World pretty much covers the full gamut of male Gen-Y’s concerns. Our hero – the titular Pilgrim – joins Benjamin Braddock, Harold Chasen and Tom Hansen as yet another misguided young man desperately trying to navigate his own existence. That he does it in the architecture of a live-action cartoon is apt. Here is the universe from the eyes of a dude strung out on modern pop culture. The end result is one of the funniest, most furiously action packed film of the year; one certain to be beloved by all the boys and girls who share the same passions and foibles as its foolish hero (myself included).”

Black Swan could have been directed by Michael Powell in the 1950s, Dario Argento in the 1970s or David Cronenberg in the 1980s. Only Darren Aronofsky however could have fused the styles of these three disparate directors. Thankfully, he injects his own unique personality and recurring themes into proceedings too. It tells the story of a precious ballerina (Natalie Portman) whose tortured psyche splits in half as she prepares for a performance of Swan Lake. It’s melodramatic (to put it lightly), but Aronofsky isn’t going for realism (although the performances are truthful and indelible). This is Black Narcissus meets Suspiria meets Videodrome. In a year of remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels, threequels and 3-D rereleases, an imaginative, unique combination like Black Swan has my eternal love.

I was so disappointed with my review of David Fincher’s The Social Network. 1200 words, a quotation from Aristotle, and a sweeping claim that it “feels like the first film of the new decade”, yet I still didn’t feel as if I had fully captured that which truly made The Facebook Movie so great. I spent weeks writing (and rewriting) it; I ummed and ahhhd before hitting the “publish” button; I paced back and forth in front of the computer after it was sent into the ether, awaiting commenters to tell me I had done a terrible job. The last film review I wrote that similarly ruined my self-esteem was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (last year’s title holder). On the bright side, I now have an easy way of figuring out which picture to award “Best Movie of the Year”: the one that makes me feel like the most inadequate critic in the world.

And good films should make me feel inadequate. David Fincher seamless direction, Aaron Sorkin’s propulsive screenplay, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ shattering score, DOP’ Jeff Cronenweth’s gorgeous work on the Red One camera, Kirk Baxler and Angus Wall’s bristling editing, and the combined talents of this wonderful cast are assembled here into a living, breathing, monster of a movie. We’ll continue the argument as to whether or not The Social Network “gets us” over the next few years (I say it does, in a freakishly accurate way), but on a formal level alone, The Social Network raised the bar in 2010. And if this is what filmmakers will now look to top in the New Year, well, we’ve got a good year of movies ahead of us.

Discuss: What were your favourite films of 2010?

6 Responses to “Simon Miraudo’s Top 10 Films of 2010”

  1. >This is my comment in response all three Best Of lists, so be prepared for a long one.I think I have the most in common with Simon's list – THE SOCIAL NETWORK is also my favourite of 2010. I was a huge fan of GIFTSHOP but not I'M STILL HERE, which I thought was rubbish – It's one of the most divisive films of the year, although the haters do seem to be in the majority. I absolutely adored FOUR LIONS and am thrilled to see it getting recognition – more people need to see that film. I also loved TOY STORY, ANIMAL KINGDOM, SCOTT PILGRIM and BLACK SWAN, and really liked BLUE VALENTINE.WINTER'S BONE I definitely need to see again, as I was seriously underwhelmed the first time around. I think I was a victim of the enormous hype I heard out of the US – there are some great moments and fantastic performances all around, but I don't see it as one of the best film of the year. Still, I realize I’m in the vast minority.On Tara's list, I was glad to see SHUTTER ISLAND and THE AMERICAN getting some love, as both are seriously underrated in my mind. SHUTTER ISLAND especially is one of my favourites of the year.I can't agree with TRON: LEGACY however – you're right about the visceral experience, and I LOVE the soundtrack (best of the year in my opinion), but it couldn't quite make up for the mediocre script.A PROPHET I thought was good, but a little too long and a tad overrated.THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT was solid, but again perhaps a tad overrated. I haven't seen a few of the films on Jess's list, although THE KINGS SPEECH is terrific.Anyway, those are my thoughts. I still need to see DOGTOOTH, PLEASE GIVE, THE ILLUSIONIST and GREENBERG. I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in MICMACS or BOY, but perhaps on Jess’s recommendations I’ll check them out.Also if you’re interested, my Top 10 looks something like this (although I’m still finalizing)10. BLACK SWAN9. ANIMAL KINDOM8. PREDATORS (I know no one agrees, but I thought this was such a tight, well paced and well cast little action movie. Best thing Rodriguez has been involved in in years)7. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD6. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP5. FOUR LIONS4. TOY STORY 33. SHUTTER ISLAND2. INCEPTION1. THE SOCIAL NETWORKHonourable mentions for THE KINGS SPEECH, THE AMERICAN, LEBANON and THE GHOST WRITER.

  2. >What – no Twilight Eclipse? What's going on?

  3. >C'mon Simon, you can't have a tie. You must decide which one is better. Take a deep breath. Be merciless.

  4. >Just finished reading your worst ten selection and agreed with you but felt something was missing and then I came to your top ten picks and there were the rest of the really bad movies for 2010.How much do you get paid to review this crap. Your future is bright and rosy with a job vacancy coming up on ABC crap movie reviews, good luck.

  5. >No room for 'The Last Exorcism', Simon? I am disappoint 😦

  6. >Great list, Simon. And I do love that you combined Exit Through the Gift Shop and I'm Still Here, given they both blurred the line between reality and fakeness whilst exploring the exact same theme!

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