In case videos and new-fangled technology drive you mad, I thought it prudent to reward people who like to read on this here blog. Or appease people who don't want to see my face at any given point. My face features copiously in the upcoming Top 10 video, and you'll have to watch it to find out which films made the cut, but this blog post has none. What this post does have is an extra 15 films. Don't think of them as runners-up so much as extra goodness that 2010 had to offer!
As I've explained in the past, this is based on movies released in the UK in 2010- I don't count The Princess and the Frog as a 2009 film, and Black Swan won't be released until 2011. More than that, this isn't an outright Best Of list as much as it is a Best Of list tempered by favouritism and how much I enjoyed them. My outright Best Of list would be something to discuss around Oscar time...
So out of the 150 new films I saw in 2010, here are my top 25, from the Worth Mentioning at #25 to the Missed It By That Much #11...
25. Another Year (dir. Mike Leigh)
It would be fairly episodic if not for the connecting tissue of Lesley Manville's stunning performance as a desperately lonely alcoholic, but at the same time, it's more arresting than it has any right to be. Even less happens here than in Monsters, but Mike Leigh and his cast have their own improvised scripting process down pat. The characters might not move anywhere over the running time, but you care about their growth within their own space.
The Hole (dir. Joe Dante)
Dante appreciates that kids enjoy being scared, and serves up a mighty fine entry-level horror that has more than enough chills and thrills to keep older viewers transfixed too. Evoking his own Gremlins, the director also made for one of the better 3D experiences of the year, exploiting stereoscopy for the maximum creepitude as opposed to chucking stuff at the audience.
The Princess and the Frog (dir. Ron Clements and John Musker)
I'm constantly being told that I don't like this film, or at least that people don't think I would like this film. Not sure why- it's just a good film. Does it matter who it's aimed at? It's a loving and vibrant throwback to Disney's golden days without being a rehash or a retread over any old ground. It also has a nice, proper, old-school Disney villain in the form of the Shadow Man, voiced with aplomb by Keith David.
Frozen (dir. Adam Green)
Waah, but you only reviewed that yesterday and with one paragraph! Blow me- you should really be complaining about the UK critics who've put Black Swan and The King's Speech on their lists when they're not out yet. Anyhoo, Frozen is one of the more memorable horror flicks of the year, with a distinctive spin on the now very popular "I'm stuck somewhere" subset that's particularly chilling given the recent weather conditions. Anything that can go wrong for our heroes, who we do get to care about very much, does go wrong. Dark and deeply unsettling.
Easy A (dir. Will Gluck)
It's not a perfect homage to the John Hughes films it openly cites as its influences, but Easy A is more than a cut above the usual high-school comedy. It's bawdy without ever resorting to the pervy dullery of a million American Pie sequels and spin-offs, and its biggest strength is in its likeable and intelligent heroine, played ably by the gorgeous Emma Stone. Another one I'm not supposed to like, but hell, it was just very enjoyable.
Get Him To The Greek (dir. Nicholas Stoller)
This was more than I had ever expected it to be, and it's a film that continues to make me laugh uproariously whenever I revisit it. It might be very disconnected, because it's from the Apatow mode of filmmaking that loosely interchanges scenes from the excess of shot footage, but it's still very funny. It's not high art, but it's clearly not a guilty pleasure either, especially not with the excellent original soundtrack.
Skeletons (dir. Nick Whitfield)
This British answer to Inception, which is both less showy and less expensive than Christopher Nolan's mega-hit, was always going to make the top 20. It's definitely more leisurely paced than Nolan's film too, but it manages to wring the maximum amount of entertainment value out of its premise of exorcists unearthing metaphorical skeletons in the closet. It's an oddity, but a gem that's worth seeking out on DVD. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
18. The Town (dir. Ben Affleck)
Ben takes over from Casey and directs himself in his more commercial follow-up to Gone Baby Gone. It's a masterclass in action cinema and the kind of thing we never could have imagined the guy to be capable of when he was making stuff like Gigli or Paycheck. He gets bold performances out of all of his cast and the running time zips along very nicely. It's an outside contender for a Best Picture nomination, and on balance, I'd say it's fairly so. Shame about the title.
I Love You Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
Unhinged and very darkly hilarious, this was a romantic comedy drama that deserved more success. Jim Carrey gives his best performance in years as a gay conman who flits compulsively into prison and then ingeniously escapes over the course of several years. The film isn't poking fun at homosexuality and is all the better for it- you can easily root for the love story between the two leads, which is unconventional for its circumstances and not for the fact that it's same-sex.
16. Winter's Bone (dir. Debra Granik)
A film not so much about the story of our heroine, Ree, as the all-consuming atmosphere that Granik builds throughout the film. It's an absorbing and sometimes frightening watch with stellar performances by Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, and by Dale Dickey and John Hawkins in supporting roles. A viewing experience I won't soon forget.
How To Train Your Dragon (dir. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders)
If this had only been released next year, with only Cars and Happy Feet sequels to rival it, Dreamworks might have stole away the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It's possibly their best ever film, if you accept as I have that Shrek has been tainted by all those sequels. Someone at the studio decided to cast aside the dumb pop-culture references to tell a properly moving and resonant story. If it's good enough to melt Rob Simpson's heart, then you know it's really beautiful.
Four Lions (dir. Chris Morris)
As has been discussed elsewhere, this isn't really a funny film. There are hugely funny parts in it- moments of outright hilarity that have rightly got everyone talking about it. The trouble is that there's no way I could recommend Morris' poignant satire on suicide bombers as a funny film. It's deeper than that- a modern Dr. Strangelove that metes out sadness and a cracking tragi-comic performance by Kayvan Novak, alongside an exploding crow and confused police snipers.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (dir. David Yates)
The continuing adventures of the Boy Who Lived are about to reach a massive conclusion in 2011, and the series' best director takes the bad idea of elongating the book into a five hour film presented in two parts and makes an artful and vital film that keeps the series' forward momentum ticking over. It might lull a little in the middle, but giving the characters chance to catch their breath between expertly shot action sequences and Unfortunate Events actually turns out to be its masterstroke.
Black Dynamite (dir. Scott Sanders)
Charting an inevitable but graceful arcing trajectory into outright OTT silliness, Black Dynamite captures the spirit and the form of exploitation cinema in a way that Tarantino and Rodriguez couldn't with their own Grindhouse double feature. This belongs in the echelons of great parodies like Airplane! and Shaun of the Dead, sharing those films' deadpan delivery and acute sense of weird storytelling, but also serving up just as many laughs.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (dir. J Blakeson)
Blakeson bursts onto the scene with a debut that's constantly redefining its terms from the very first frame until we reach the finish line 90 minutes later, exhausted. Gemma Arterton proves that she can act when cast well and more than holds her own in a three hander alongside Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston. The tension peaks and troughs with nail-biting volatility, and it's never anything less than brilliant.
Tomorrow will bring my countdown of the 10 worst films of last year, and the day after should see the completion of the top 10 video. If you want to move ahead, you can listen to the Double Take feature-length special tomorrow, in which Rob and I count down our top and bottom 10 films. It begins at 1pm GMT tomorrow, and can be heard here. Have fun tonight and then listen in tomorrow afternoon to bring in the New Year.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.