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Top 10 Movies of 2010

2010-12-13 17:37
 
The year is coming to a close and our annual Best Movies list takes its usual rocky ride from bona fide box office hits, to Oscar winners (and hopefuls) to a few gems you probably missed. Dive in!
Top 10 Movies of 2010
10. Piranha 3D

It's such a gross, tacky, highly exploitative piece of trash cinema. Oh, but how much fun was had being on the verge of throwing up as one ravenous piranha works its way through the insides of a doomed porn actress, chomps off then regurgitates another's penis and about 200 other equally ludicrous and wildly fun scenes of WTF-ness. No need to be arch about this one - Piranha 3D delivered.


9. Step Up 3

Ok, so this is in no way the most accomplished film on this list. Not by a mile. But look at those young people move! The magic, mayhem and pure joy of dance shine through in every frame of this light bit of escapism. Most of the dance scenes are endlessly rewatchable and Step Up 3 was also one of the few 3D releases this year that actually capitalised on the technology. To hell with the cheesy, nonsensical plot. It's all about lithe bodies, gravity-defying moves and thumping street music. And making slushie bubbles.

8. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

This one came out of nowhere. The first Nanny McPhee was lovely, but transported to wartime England, Emma Thompson's ugly duckling tale took on a surprising level of heart and gravitas. A young mother, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, struggles to control her three adorable but unruly kids, their two snooty cousins from the city, a rambling farm on the verge of a sneaky takeover and the devastation of losing her husband in the war. It all hit me in the chest like a ton bricks. The cast is to-die-for (Ralph Fiennes in military uniform! A joyful twist!) and everything looks like a dream.

7. Shirley Adams

It spent all of two weeks on circuit, but no one who caught the debut film by young SA director Oliver Hermanus would easily have forgotten this hard-hitting story of a desperate single mother's attempts to care for her quadriplegic, suicidal son. Shot in gritty, uncomfortable close-ups, it's a film that belongs to its luminous lead, Safta-winner Denise Newman. It's a performance that should be seen and hopeful proof of what can be achieved in South Africa.

6. The Hurt Locker

Released locally in March, after it beat zillion-dollar Avatar to the Best Picture & Director Oscars, this was a war movie unlike anything we'd seen before. And boy, did so many people just not appreciate it all. With little regard for storytelling rules, let alone war movie conventions that we'd become so used to, director Kathryn Bigelow went with what felt real, and delivered a sucker punch. Every IED and suicide bomb felt immediate, every drop of sweat on the soldiers' brow I felt on my own. Yes, it requires a bit of a patience, a little thought, and perhaps a few repeated viewings. Every bit of effort is rewarded tenfold. Not for lazy, casual viewers. Sorry.

5. How to Train Your Dragon

Here's another movie that arrived with little fanfare and went on to capture imaginations around the world. On the surface it was a cute story about a Viking teenager, Hiccup, who just wasn't as gruff and manly as his forefathers (and peers). Underneath beat a generous heart that pleaded tolerance, acceptance and faith in the unknown. It was also a film that came as close to conveying a sense of flight as I've ever experienced. The scenes between Hiccup and his reluctant new dragon Toothless as they go from fearing one another to achieving something close to brotherhood were pure magic. Also one of the most worthy films Gerard Butler has been involved in for a long, long time.

4. A Prophet

Who could resist a good, twisted Mafia tale? A Prophet is set in a maximum security French prison where Malik El Djebena, a teenage Arab convict, is welcomed into the cold embrace of his new hell by finding himself the gopher of the ageing Corsican don Cesar Luciani, a psycopath who controls every facet of prison life with an iron fist. His treacherous six-year journey to freedom and power is shot with arresting economy by veteran filmmaker Jacques Audiard. As the rejected and resourceful Malik, French actor Tahar Rahim's soulful performance commands your undivided attention at every turn. It's a brutal, taxing film that finds spirituality in the bleakness.

3. The Social Network

Who knew the story behind Facebook was this fascinating? In the hands of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who was highly selective about which facts and legends to include and which to discard, The Social Network is the story of our generation. It crackles with a youthful, innovative energy, and hardly ever lets up as it probes the eternal question: Is Mark Zuckerberg an asshole? The young cast, including Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer (who gets to play twins), take to it all like old pros. And as maligned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg is a revelation of scrupulously maintained mania.

2. Inception

A no-brainer for any list looking at the best entertainment 2010 had to offer. It's the movie everybody was talking about upon its release. It was this year's Avatar and District 9 rolled into one confounding piece of art. There was all that business about dreams, limbo, consciousness, architects and falling into water. Yet again, director Christopher Nolan had us dancing to his unique tune. Not many people who saw it actually believe they have a firm grasp on what it was actually about. Do you?

1. Toy Story 3

Why am I always choosing Pixar films as my favourite of the year? Yet... how could I not? Their films look like they're tailor-made for kids - but more than any other filmmaker, they just get to the core of what it is to be alive. Toy Story 3 was the most terrifying movie of the year. And the funniest, most heart-warming, charming, adorable, and most gut-wrenchingly true depiction of growing up and letting go. It made grown-ups cry for their lost youth, face up to their own mortality and dread the day their own kids will learn to do without them. And it was the perfect conclusion to the most endearing film franchise of all time. All time. Sob.

Some honourable mentions:

Fantastic Mr Fox
It pained me to leave this off. A super-fun, thoroughly weird stop-motion adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic.

Shutter Island

Still gives me chills. Martin Scorcese on top form again. And Leonardo DiCaprio has had a dream year. (Geddit? Oh, never mind...)

Kick-Ass
What an odd movie. Kids with no special superpowers making mincemeat of the city's scum and turning the air blue at the same time. Fun.

* How many of your favourite movies this year made our grade? Let us know which movies ruled your 2010 in the comments below!

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