Three Wise Movie Critics: A Trifecta of Top Ten Lists

25 12 2010

I hope you enjoy Pearl Snap Discount’s Top Ten Movies of the Year List.

Our three wise monkeys are Jenny Alme, Andrew Johnson and Yours Truly.  To highlight the films of 2010 we’ve independently come up with our top ten films of the year.  I figured there would be a few repeats, but I didn’t expect to have such variance.  In other words, 2010 wasn’t that bad a year for film.  I look forward to the debating and can’t wait to see what you think should have been added, dropped and rearranged.

Jenny’s List

10. The Kids Are All Right

This portrait of a modern unconventional family, starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married couple with children, shows one of the most accurate depictions of marriage ever captured on film. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is moving and incredibly relatable, with top notch award worthy performances by the entire cast.

9. Splice

Sadly, the latest film by Vincenzo Natali (CUBE) flew almost completely under the radar during its release this summer. Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley are genetic scientists who attempt a breakthrough in technology, the splicing of human and animal DNA. Their creation, Dren, grows at an alarming rate and the two scientists have their hands full with her. The film features enough twists, turns, and comedy to keep you glued to your seat. SPLICE is one of the best science fiction movies in the past few years, and worthy of looking up now that it’s on DVD.



8. Tangled

Disney finally returns to the quality of films during its heyday during the 1990’s with TANGLED. The return of Alan Menken has a lot to do with it; the songs are amazing. Mandy Moore voices Rapunzel and Chuck’s Zachary Levi voices the charming Flynn Rider. TANGLED is joyous, features the best use of 3D, and is the best family film of the year.



7, Let Me In

Fans of the original Swedish movie and book LET THE RIGHT ONE IN have been sending negative internet vibes about the American remake LET ME IN since it was announced. But it was the perfect way to do an American adaptation of a foreign film. Hopefully David Fincher took lots of notes while watching this film, since he’ll be helming the American remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A dark movie about a 12 year old vampire, LET ME IN kept all of the characters, the tone, and the look of the original movie completely intact. In fact, personally, I think I like it better than the original.



6. Black Swan

I’m a huge Darren Aronofsky/Clint Mansell fan, so it was a given that I would fall in love with his latest project, BLACK SWAN. Natalie Portman gives a riveting performance as Nina, an overachieving ballerina (are there any other kind?) who has just been cast as the White Swan/Black Swan in her company’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. She begins a downward spiral as she prepares for the role, and rival ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis) may or may not be helping her slip further down into her psyche. Mila Kunis’ performance has been praised, but I didn’t think she played the character any different from any other she’s portrayed. The standout performance to me was Vincent Cassel as the ballet company’s artistic director. BLACK SWAN isn’t for everyone, it’s a very dark and disturbing movie. But as an Aronofsky fan, I wasn’t disappointed.




5. The Fighter

With a simple title that reminds audiences of 2008’s THE WRESTLER, THE FIGHTER might not appeal to very many people. Based on a true story, THE FIGHTER was a passion project of Mark Wahlberg’s. He grew up idolizing the real-life boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, and has been training for the role while filming his past six movies. But the movie is just as much about Micky’s journey as it is his brother Dicky’s (Christian Bale) and his mother’s (Melissa Leo). These two actors steal the show and are sure to gain Academy Award nominations to add to their Golden Globe nominations. THE FIGHTER starts slowly, but before you know it, you’re sucked in. The screening audience applauded and cheered at the end. I never thought I’d say this about a Marky Mark movie, but THE FIGHTER really is brilliant.


After his work breathing new life into the Batman canon, Nolan returns to his amazing original work with INCEPTION, a film just as mind-boggling as MEMENTO was. The story is nearly impossible to summarize, just simply see this movie. Leonardo di Caprio stars, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard all shine the brightest in their supporting roles. The visual effects are stunning. INCEPTION is not to be missed.


Another film that tragically underperformed at the box-office, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD already has enough of a cult following to become a favorite for years to come. It doesn’t fall into any specific category or genre, but it perfectly captures the essence of youth. Not in the way that Justin Beiber does. It does so in the way that people of all ages can watch it and remember how freeing it was to meet the girl of your dreams and have no other obligations but to play rock music in your garage.






Just like THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT was the perfect onscreen marriage, I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS is the year’s best love story. Based on the true story of con artist Steven Russell (who is still serving time in Texas), I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS chronicles his path from overly religious married man to out gay con man. While serving a prison sentence, he meets the man of his dreams, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), and will do anything to be with him. His cons affect everyone around him, including Phillip. But the lengths Steven will go to in order to prove his love are incredibly romantic. Jim Carrey’s performance is comical and heartbreaking at the same time. Thank goodness it finally got a US release.




1. 127 HOURS

Danny Boyle’s latest masterpiece 127 HOURS is known mostly for its hard to watch scene at the end, but everyone who knows the true story of hiker Aron Ralston already know what’s coming. What makes the film so unique and memorable is the journey that we go on while Aron (played by James Franco) is pinned literally between “A Rock and A Hard Place” (the name of his book). We learn about his past, his shortcomings, and what he wants to look forward to if he escapes. The score by A.R. Rahman is spellbinding and Oscar-worthy, as is James Franco’s performance. Hopefully he’ll walk away with the golden statue as he hosts this year’s Oscar ceremony.


Gadi’s List

10. A Film Unfinished

Yael Hersonski’s powerful documentary unearth’s a film, the now-infamous Nazi-produced film about the Warsaw Ghetto. Discovered after the war, the unfinished work, with no soundtrack, quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record, despite its elaborate propagandistic construction. The film shows how easily it is to manipulate an audience if you understand the real purpose of what you are creating, and also in the process shows just how powerful film can be.

9. Night Catches Us

I was mesmerized at the feature film debut of a writer/director Tanya Hamilton. Her story is about the harsh dynamic of a man returning to an unwelcoming home (or in this case a city in the form of 1976 Philadelphia). Anthony Mackie’s (The Hurt Locker) performance is mysterious and yet you find your self rooting for his romance with Kerry Washington (Ray). Also superb casting of two actors, from THE WIRE, Jamie Hector and Wendall Pierce was perfect. The film dwells upon the impact the Black Power Movement had/has on these former allies in arms.

8. Love And Other Drugs

Director Edward Zwick took a simple story of a douche bag salesman into a tale of how love can take hold of even the most skeptical. This film straddles the tough line of what is to sexy. Anne Hatheway and Jake Gyllenhaal seem to fit perfectly whether they’re engaged in a passion romp, arguing, or talking about their futures. The part of the film that stuck hardest with me was the disease that hovers’ over our lovable duo. Its that haunting realization that our lives are not meant to be for ever and thus love isn’t meant to be forever.

7. The Fighter

David O. Russel has delivered a haunting tale of two brothers who worked their way to legendary status in the boxing community. The tale of boxer Mickey Ward is untellable without the story of his older half-brother Dicky Eklund. In easily one of the finest supporting actor performance’s of the year Christian Bale is despicably haunting and unforgettable as Dicky. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams both give wonderful performances that are earmarked for their own award glories as the stubborn and controlling Ward family matriarch, Alice and Micky Ward’s foul-mouthed girlfriend (eventual wife) Charlene (respectively)


6. Marwencol

The documentary of the fantasy world created by Mark Hogancamp is a penetrating and gripping look at the true power of our imagination. Mark was brutally beaten into a coma by five men. He had to re-teach himself everything and in the process of coping with the tragic event Mark created a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard. In the town Mark also makes dolls that both represent fantasy characters as well as real-life people in Mark’s everyday actions (including the film-makers). His way to gain peace in life was to create this world and through exposure from his friends Mark has become a respected artist.








5. Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky has created a group of scarred and flawed protagonists in each of his films. The tale of a determined ballerina, Natalie Portman as Nina, who battles her own mind trying to be perfect in her company’s Swan Lake show. The struggle of one’s inner demons has always been at the heart of Aronofsky’s films. The film makes you question whether you’re watching reality or the dark imagination that haunts Nina. Either way you’re watching something powerful and beautiful.





The Coen Brothers attempt to tell Charles Portis’ book rather then recreate the John Wayne academy award winning film is fully realized in this film. Jeff Bridges as Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn, Matt Damon as Texas Ranger Le Boeuf, and Haylie Steinfeld’s Mattie Ross have all been ROBBED by the early award nominations so far. Haylie’s verbal battling with everyone in the film is a site to see and makes the “elder” Mattie Ross all the more stoic in the final scenes of the film. Though the true gems of the film come from DP Roger Deakins’ camera work in this film. How he captured the ruggedness, openness, and grittiness of the Wild West is something only God and The Coen Brothers can fathom. The opening shot of this film alone is one of the finest ever captured on screen.



3. 127 Hours

Only ballsy Director Danny Boyle would attempt to make a film like this. The true story of hiker Aron Ralston survival from severing off his own arm is truly horrific and wonderful. James Franco’s portrayal of Aron is easily the finest acting of 2010 and the now infamous “arm cutting” scene is purely unforgettable. Its a testament to the talents of Boyle and his editor Jon Harris for keeping an audience captivated as the protagonist is always on screen and yet stuck in one place after the opening title sequence is finished. My heart never stopped racing while watching this film.




2. The Social Network

The speed of the dialogue in TRUE GRIT is no match for the intelligence spewed out in 2 hours of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. The story of how Facebook was created, launched and took over our world is entertaining and fun throughout. The pace of a Fincher film is never short of QUICK AS HELL. The guy must never take a breath or blink, at least that is how his films come across (its ironic of course since Fincher is famous for having more takes then any other director and by miles). Mix in that epic pace with the witty banter from a Sorkin script and you have some of the finest young actors dueling for 2 hours. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker and Armie Hammer in a duel role as twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are all announcements of who we can look to as our next great crop of talented leading actors.


Director Christopher Nolan and DP Wally Pfister have created one of the more magical worlds seen on screen. To view Inception on an IMAX screen is easily the best form of entertainment this year. The complex nature of a script about how people can steal our dreams. The technical prowess to create a whole dream world with IMAX film and state-of-art sets. The gall to end a film in such a manner. These are all the elements that Nolan used to make the most gripping story of 2010. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb the best extractor in the world. Dom’s inner battles over the loss of his wife Mal define the darkest moments of the film and give us the most amazing character. Marion Cotillard plays Mal with a captivating and haunting presence. Joseph Gordon Levitt is quirky and fantastic as Arthur (and he takes part in the coolest “zero-gravity” fight EVER). Tom Hardy’s funny take on the character Eames is refreshing and easily stands out. The movie’s power is that it leaves you with one simple question. Ken Watanabe’s character Saito utters the great line, So do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone?”

Andrew’s List

10. Shutter Island
Scorsese’s first major film project in almost four years was not at all what I expected going in. The trailers made Shutter Island seem like a horror film, While the end result was much more akin to the old Hitchcock psychological thrillers like Vertigo. Apart from Shutter Island keeping me on the edge of my seat for most of the film’s 138 minute run time, it also featured some great performances from younger superstars like DiCaprio and Ruffalo, and also older legends like Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow. Shutter Island is definitely better than your usual late winter/early spring movies; albeit not Scorsese’s best work… which is a pretty high bar.

9. Inside Job

The first documentary on my list is Charles Ferguson’s look at the 2008 financial crisis. Although this film features some fairly difficult language, Ferguson and his team must be commended for explaining it in a way that makes sense to Wall Street idiots like me, while also being very detailed in his telling of this discouraging, yet necessary story of American greed at it’s worst. Perhaps this biggest accomplishment, however is Ferguson’s ability to cut through the crutch of partisanship and point blame at anyone and everyone responsible, no matter where the party line’s are drawn. Ferguson has proven with this film that he is a true journalist, asking hard hitting questions of everyone responsible for this atrocity. My only critique of this documentary is that it doesn’t exactly spell out what we can do now to turn the country around as citizens, but perhaps that’s for us to figure out.

8. The Fighter
Telling the true underdog story of Mickey Ward’s welterweight title run in the late 90s. Sure, you could argue that the underdog boxer story has been done to death, but the performances in The Fighter really help to set it apart from your run-of-the-mill sports dramas. Mark Wahlberg delivers a memorable performance as the protagonist, while Amy Adams also does a fine job as Mickey’s bar-tending girlfriend, Charlene. However, it’s Christian Bale’s Oscar worthy portrayal of Mickey’s doped up brother Dicky that gives everyone a reason to check out this boxing movie.

7, The Town
In Ben Afleck’s first full length directed film since Gone Baby Gone, the actor/director/screenwriter tells the story of a small team of bank robbers in Charlestown, MA. who get involved with one of their hostages following a big city heist. Afleck stars as Doug MacRay, The apprehensive protagonist who falls for the unknowing former hostage Claire, played by up-and-comer Rebecca Hall. Afleck delivers a solid performance, but much like The Fighter, it’s a supporting actor who steals the show in this bank heist. Jeremy Renner pulls off what could be another Oscar nominated performance as Alfeck’s friend and cohort, James. Things get intense when the FBI (led by special agent Frawley, played admirably by Jon Hamm) starts to put things together, so to speak. Just like Good Will Hunting before it, I think Afleck is at his best when he’s dealing with Massachusetts culture, good or bad, and The Town is no different.

6. Toy Story 3
Despite the brilliant track record of John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and the rest of the geniuses at Pixar, I had my reservations about yet another film in the Toy Story franchise. Let’s face it, the third film in a franchise is rarely as good as the original, and many times much worse than even the second in a trilogy. I realize this logic makes very little sense when I write it out, but look at The Godfather Pt. III. Look at Return of the Jedi (although I really like RotJ… so, bad example.) How about The Karate Kid Part III? Yeah… horrible. Anyway, as ridiculous as this logic might be, I personally was worried about a third film in Andy’s bedroom (that sounded awkwardly dirty.) However, Toy Story 3 was arguably the best of the franchise, and one of the best film’s in Pixar’s now prestigious library. I must also mention the 3D. I for one am not sold on the medium. I think there is a reason Chris Nolan is deliberately not shooting the next Batman film in 3D. However, Pixar seems to be the only company right now who I feel actually makes the 3D experience both enjoyable and relevant, and both last year’s Up! and now Toy Story 3 have made good use of the technology. Now if we could only get Pixar to make an Incredibles sequel, we’d be in business.

5. Exit Through The Gift Shop
Being a big fan of documentaries, I was hopeful 2010 would hold as many great docs as years past. I think the genre is really gaining ground in the mainstream culture, and that is a great thing. From Man On Wire to Food, Inc. to The Cove, the last couple of years have been great for groundbreaking, risky and original documentaries, and 2010 is no different. Despite internet rumors that some of the events in Exit Through The Gift Shop are fabricated, I think it only further illustrates the ideas mysterious street artist and the film’s director “Banksy” was trying to convey. Although it starts out as a film about street artists and their many times illegal activities, it turns into a character piece about amateur filmmaker-tuned-artist Thierry Guetta. Real or fake, documentary or performance art, it doesn’t matter. Exit Through The Gift Shop is entertaining, and one of the year’s best features.

4. Black Swan
Director Darren Aronofsky returns from the success of 2008’s The Wrestler with this highly artistic modern representation of Swan Lake staring Natalie Portman as the mentally unstable Prima Ballerina, Nina Sayers. In what I believe is the best female performance this year, Portman transforms (in more than one way) into the New York City Ballet’s staring role. With skill like few others, Aronofsky takes us on a psychological thrill ride that crescendos with Sayers’ debut in Swan Lake’s staring role. Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey deliver stellar performances as Ballet company director Thomas Leroy and Nina’s controlling mother Erica, respectively. Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder are adequate as well in their parts, although not as memorable. Composer Clint Mansell should also be mentioned for his incredible score for the film.


3. TrueGrit
Quick disclaimer: I love westerns. With that out of the way, this remake of a John Wayne classic stands on it’s own as a brilliant and highly entertaining film. Even if you don’t love westerns like I do, it would be hard not to fall in love with the characters in this story, originally from the 1968 Charles Portis novel. Jeff Bridges stars as the curmudgeon old U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (made popular by “The Duke” himself, John Wayne) who accepts a bounty to track down the murdered father of 14 year old Maddie Ross, played brilliantly by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Matt Damon provides his talents in the roll of La Boeuf, originally played by Glen Campbell in the 1969 original film. The Coen brothers are inescapably some of the best director/writers in the game, and this retelling of a classic is further proof of that. Despite being a well made film, this is also one of the year’s most crowd pleasing. True Grit is a must see, and surpasses even the beloved original film of the same title, in my opinion.

2. Inception

Christopher Nolan is a busy, busy man. In between his highly successful and fantastic Batman franchise reboot, Nolan has made some quality original films outside the DC universe, including The Prestige and now Inception. A project Nolan said he was working on for nearly 8 years, Inception is a film that will leave you thinking about it for days, weeks and months after the credits have rolled. Internet forums and message boards are still busy with people talking about the intricate details and mysteries in the dream world of Inception which Nolan has no intention of spelling out for us. Although Inception features some groundbreaking special effects, they only serve to further compliment this brilliantly original story. Inception is a movie which will be talked about for years to come, and I only hope Nolan isn’t finished invading our dreams.

1. The Social Network
From it’s Harvard smart script by dialogue master Aaron Sorkin, to the exceptional performances from a young and talented cast, to a fantastic and memorable score by Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor and producer/composer Atticus Ross, to the ambitious direction by David Fincher who put it all together, The Social Network is my favorite (and in my opinion, best) film of 2010. Sorkin’s script stands on it’s own as being of the highest quality and in my opinion the writer’s best film work to date, but it’s the likes of Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as friend and co-founder Eduardo Saverin and newcomer Armie Hammer playing two parts as the Winklevoss twins (Tyler and Cameron) who sell the dialogue, which could easily have appeared cumbersome and unbelievable by a lesser cast. Eisenberg and Rooney Mara deliver a scene (which starts even before the Columbia Pictures logo has time to fade off the screen) that sets the tone for this fast paced drama. The best part about The Social Network is that it is so much more than just a David Fincher film, an Aaron Sorkin script or a cast of talented young actors. The Social Network is more about being the sum of all it’s parts, which makes it so much more than “that Facebook movie.” This is the story of a generation..



One response

29 12 2011
“These Go To Eleven!”, PSD’s Best Films of 2011. « Pearl Snap Discount

[…] film-beast engulf our 10 ten lists, with Nolan’s dreamy INCEPTION (still my pick for #1), A KING’S SPEECH, and of course that Facebook movie that showcased Aaron Sorkin is still one […]

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