My favorite films of 2010

January, 24, 2011
With the Oscar nominations coming out Tuesday morning, I thought I'd detour into my favorite films of the past year ...

The list below was made using the extremely nerdy Weisman Rating System, which awards points in three categories: Ambition (how grand the film's aims were), Execution (how well the film met those aims) and Personal Impact (how much the film affected me personally). The scale is weighted toward the latter category, because I don't really think anyone can be completely objective about a film – and ultimately, there's some subjectivity that enters into the first two categories as well. That's why this isn't a best picture list, but rather a favorite picture list. So take all the point totals with a grain of salt ...

I saw 33 films from 2010, which might seem like a lot to some and not all that many to others – my nearby seatmate at Variety, film critic Peter Debruge, sees more than 250 movies each year. Most of the films I saw were of quality – anything that gets over 15 on my scale is something that I consider good, and that accounts for 28 of the 33 (and the difference between No. 1 and No. 28 isn't all that huge – just a matter of having a few more flaws). The next four get an overall thumbs down from me, though they had some redeeming value. The only true dog in the bunch was "Chloe."

It's not really a hip choice, but "The King's Speech" came out on top for me. Several people I know felt it was phony, but the movie really did work for me. You'll see my comments on the rest below.

TitleAmbition (1-7)Execution (1-10) Personal (1-13) Total (3-30)Comment
The King’s Speech3.59.510.523.5Simply a near-perfectly executed movie, hitting both human and (lightly) global themes. Hugely enjoyable.
The Illusionist 3.59.51023You'll be hard-pressed to find a more sweetly affecting film this year.
True Grit3.591022.5Immediately immerses you in a great story, atmosphere and dialogue. Pleasure from start to finish, and Steinfeld is outstanding.
Please Give49922Directly but naturally takes on emotional and life issues. A low-key movie done just right.
Blue Valentine399.521.5A mostly real heartbreaker about a love story that wasn’t meant for a happy ending.
Inception4.58.58.521.5Intensely interesting, visually cool. Character depth beyond DiCaprio and Cotillard minimal.
The Social Network3.58.59.521.5Well-told business/character tales are up my alley, but I wouldn’t say this was transcendent.
Toy Story 3489.521.5Didn’t have many of the blow-me-away moments I recall from the first two, but clever, enjoyable and poignant.
How To Train Your Dragon49821Fairly flawless – just didn’t quite have the emotional impact on me that it seemed to have on others.
127 Hours3.57.51021Lags in parts, with camera magic become self-conscious, but the climax choked me up in a way I’ve never experienced.
The Kids Are All Right 48921Grows stronger as time passes - a little hippieish but it’s aware, and has some real insights about family and relationships.
Made in Dagenham3.58.5921Well-made nonfiction story that hits all the right notes, only occasionally overdoing the sentimentality.
Never Let Me Go47.5920.5Not sure all the dots were connected in this ambitious story, but it was engrossing to watch.
Biutiful3.571020.5Practically sadistic in its story arcs, but well-acted and effective in making you treasure life.
The Fighter3.58.5820Really well done, even as it hits on some familiar boxing movie tropes. Can’t help being annoyed by mother character.
Get Low37.59.520Powerful opening and affecting at times, enjoyable throughout, but seemed to miss the heights it reached for.
Tangled38920Just a few sore-thumb moments - villain’s behavior included - in otherwise fun romp about, well, kidnapping and imprisonment.
The Ghost Writer3.58819.5Very sharp first hour dipped into melodrama, wasting potential – and I don’t think the ends tie up. Great acting, though.
Winter’s Bone38.5819.5Taut drama finely acted, but I feel I’ve seen more affecting work in this genre.
Cyrus3.57.58.519.5Didn’t deal with Marisa Tomei’s character in the way it needed to, but good performances and kind of a funny story.
Animal Kingdom3.587.519Part caper movie, part family melodrama, pretty well done but not entirely effective.
Another Year37.57.518.5Mary was such a mess that I almost couldn’t take it, but it was a meaningful look at sadness of running out of choices.
Rabbit Hole3.57818.5Brutally tough subject matter, and on some level I liked a partly offbeat approach, but it didn’t all work for me. Thin in places.
Conviction3.57.5718Ably executed movie-of-the-week material, elevated by top-flight actors. By the numbers, but I’m not made of stone.
Solitary Man36.57.517Easy enough to watch and not without insight, but feels forced in several places. Douglas doesn’t really disappear in this role.
I Am Love376.516.5Highly praised movie had great visuals and acting, but I didn’t buy the plot and found it a weak argument for passion.
Date Night35816Flawed but considering that it demands that you not take it seriously, a fun, likable enough experience.
Cairo Time366.515.5A little too languid for my taste, with Clarkson’s performance kind of self-conscious, but a strong, touching ending.
Despicable Me35614Not a bad movie, with some poignancy at end, but lots of effort for little impact.
Black Swan3.55513.5“Showgirls” disguised by a high-class setting, with a character too crazed to mean anything.
The Town35412What value it had was overwhelmed by the problematic characters and plotlines, topped off by the preposterous epilogue.
Somewhere244.510.5Too little payoff to a film that barely attempted to give its lead a story.
Chloe33410Pretentious, ponderous and mostly pointless, except for a future run on Skinemax. Some good acting from Moore, but Seyfried saddled with some embarrassing lines.




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