The self-made cynic

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Top Ten Movies, 2010
10. Black Swan
What made it special: I tend to agree that the plot is fairly standard, but I loved the performances in this movie. Mickey Rourke brought his whole baggage as an actor to his role in The Wrestler, which gave the film a unique meta quality. I think Natalie Portman brings some of that too - she has kind of a Hollywood image as a goody-goody. I grant that it's not as significant here though. Anyway, I also loved Vincent Cassel, I think he is very underrated in this movie.

9. Greenberg
What made it special: My favourite scene in this movie is the scene where Florence tells Greenberg the story about her and her friend going out with those frat boys and ends with him storming out. Such great writing there, and her acting as she starts to realize half-way through the story that maybe she shouldn't be telling it is superb.

8. How to Train Your Dragon
What made it special: This was surprising to me to find in a non-pixar animated movie, but I thought this had the best, most spectacular animation of the year, even more than Toy Story 3 which is next on my list. Even though it has a fairly generic plot and some annoying voice acting, sometimes I go to the movies for pure visual beauty and this movie delivered, even more than Inception.

7. Toy Story 3
What made it special: I thought that Toy Story 3 took that "Jessie's Story" segment of Toy Story 2 and really developed it into a movie-length concept. The animation of the little girl Bonnie is terrific; it's amazing how far Pixar has come in their animation of the humans in this story.

6. The Social Network
What made it special: I liked the pace of this movie - it's so zippy and buoyant that you can't help but come along for the ride. Andrew Garfield is terrific in it.

5. Shutter Island
What made it special: I loved the weirdness and the stylization of the dialogue - is it a dream or not? But what I remember most are the visuals; the scene of Leo holding Michelle Williams while ashes fall all around them like snow, for example.

4. The Kids are All Right
What made it special: I loved the way this is a story about a family dealing with typical family problems, but the fact that the family has lesbian parents is so crucial to the story. Half-way through watching it, as we listened to the hilarious bickering between Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, my wife said to me: "Oh my God, I never realized how hard it would be to have a relationship with a woman!" My favourite moment: Mia Wasikowska's final look as she takes a deep breath in the final scene of this movie.

3. The Ghost Writer
What made it special: For me, this is the closest thing to a real modern-day Hitchcock film that we've had in years. It's also Ewan MacGregor's best performance in years. A wonderfully directed thriller.

2. True Grit
What made it special: I won't say too much about this, I think everyone knows what makes it great. Every actor is on the right key and the Coens are great as usual.

1. Winter's Bone
What made it special: I think what makes this movie so amazing is how perfectly-realized the world is. It's so rare that you see a movie where every single detail is perfectly in place, from plot to performances to the little insignificant details in the frame. And on a meta-level, it's wonderful to see a movie where you know that a new movie star is being born. I don't usually like movies like this because I tend to find overly-grim films too depressing and too much of a chore to watch. But the pacing is perfect and Jennifer Lawrence's face is just so mesmerising and beautiful that it pulled me through.

Ugh, I really need to get out to the movies more. As you might predict, the only two I managed to see on this list are the animated ones. I'm so glad they both made your list though - I really loved How To Train Your Dragon especially.

The rest are all going on my rental list!


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