Top 20 movies of 2010


30th December 2010

15. Restrepo

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Starring: Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne)

War: what is it good for? Fucking incredible documentaries for one, though I'm sure there are downsides I don't see. Restrepo transports us to the shittiest end of the stick that is the War On Terror: located slap-bang in the guts of Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, not only is it the outpost where soldiers are most likely to get killed, but it's named after one poor soul who did - Juan S Restrepo paid the price of living life on the front line.

In truth, apart from the odd savage burst of erratic gunfire - fired at tiny, vaguely-ethnic moving pixels on the horizon - Restrepo isn't about conflict, or politics, or right and wrong. It's about the men who have found themselves posted in a place where certain death lurks in every nook and cranny, and the devastating effect that has on a soldier's mentality.

It's challenging, harrowing, essential viewing that makes contrived efforts like Brian De Palma's Redacted look about as authentic as a quick blast on Call Of Duty. Ali

Defining moment: A stray bullet takes out a platoon leader, turning his bunch of highly-tuned war machines into a crumpled, howling mess in seconds. Gut-wrenching.

14. A Single Man

Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Matthew Goode, Julianne Moore

Colin Firth is enjoying quite the career renaissance at the moment, dispelling memories of stiff Brit typecasting in Richard Curtis-like rom-coms by appearing in more meaty Oscar-worthy roles, but none display more of a transformation in the actor than this directorial debut by fashion designer Tom Ford.

Set in 1962, Firth plays George Falconer, a gay English college professor in LA who is mourning the death of his long-term partner and consequentially planning his suicide. While Firth impresses against type, playing solitary bereavement tinged with perseverance, scenes are still stolen by Julianne Moore as George's best friend, a lush fag-hag named Charley, who boozes up the film like a glamorous 60s Patsy from Ab-Fab.

Filled with neat little visual tricks, this film shows a surprising proficiency from first-timer Ford but what stands out most of all, and which shouldn't come as a shock considering the man's usual day job, is how goddamn stylish everyone and everything is. You could literally pick any single frame from this film at random and it would look like one of those glossy-paged adverts that make up 70% of Cosmopolitan. Matt

Defining moment: In the blackest of comic scenes, George awkwardly plans how best to position himself and his gun in order to shoot himself with upmost dignity while lying on his bed.

Click here for the full review

13. The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Brad Dourif

2010 was the year that officially made it okay to legitimately enjoy Nicolas Cage movies. Previously more a figure of fun than an actual acting icon, Cage needed a critical hit to halt his descent into mediocrity and curb his erratic tendencies; what he got on Werner Herzog's canny retooling of Abel Ferrara's odyssey into insanity was an excuse to channel his bat-shit crazy energy into something David Lynch or Joel Coen's Nicolas Cage would consider worthy - a part fuelled by his own self-confessed improvisational "jazz acting".

It's an unmitigated joy watching Cage crave his "lucky crack pipe" or egg on a gangster to shoot a corpse because "his soul is still dancing", simply because we imagine this is Nicolas Coppola Cage the way he's always wanted to be seen: unhinged and derailed, but in tune with someone just as mental as he is. In a weird, roundabout way, it almost - almost - validates the huge heaps of shit he's put out in years gone by. Still no excuse for The Wicker Man, though. Ali

Defining moment: For no apparent reason, two iguanas begin singing 'Please Release Me' at a crime scene, while Val Kilmer stares on oblivious.

Click here for the full review

Black Dynamite
Matthew Leyland - Reviews Editor, Total Film magazine

Wouldn't it be a lovely mark of respect for Leslie Nielsen - and filmgoers worldwide - if Hollywood shut down the sausage factory responsible for Epic/Date/Disaster Movie, Meet The Spartans, Vampires Suck et al? Sadly, inexplicable box office success is unlikely to see that wish fulfilled, making Black Dynamite a true diamond in the rough of spoof comedy. Sending up blaxploitation cinema has been done before - and done well - by the likes of I'm Gonna Git You Sucka and Undercover Brother, but Scott Sanders' film defies redundancy by being more badass accurate (and affectionate) than all the rest.

Like The Good German, The Manson Family and Viva, it's a genre pastiche so precise, unwitting viewers could easily mistake it for the real thing. Unlike those films, it doesn't come off as a flawed experiment but as exuberant entertainment, following the titular 'tec (Michael Jai White) on an epic quest to avenge his murdered brother.

It sounds like the kind of the thing that'd make a great trailer (which it did), but every time you think the satire is spent, it re-energises - not least in a closing stretch that ticks kung fu and Nixon off its '70s zeitgeist checklist. It all hinges on White who, after years on the margins, is a revelation, keeping the straightest of faces as the silliness hits epic heights. Frank Drebin would be proud. Matthew

Matthew writes for the always excellent Total Film magazine and loves Amy Adams almost as much as me.

12. Enter The Void

Director: Gaspar Noe
Starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Olly Alexander

Gaspar No' garners more controversy as he presents this story of Oscar, a young drug dealer in Tokyo who is killed in a police bust and then floats through an afterlife impassively witnessing the effects of his death on his grief-stricken sister Linda and best friend Victor.

The whole film is displayed from Oscar's POV, which automatically forces the audience to become awkward voyeurs to this deeply personal tale and, for all of the intensely private moments that are shown in full glory in the film, none are more discomforting than those moments in which Oscar watches Linda partake in some trashy fucking. Dude, that's your sister.

If you're not offended by the explicit sex and drug-use, or the themes of incest and an ambivalent afterlife, then the excessively prolonged sequences of pure light and colour mimicking DMT-fuelled hallucinations should send you running home to take a rape shower. But with this visual abuse comes a touching story that is both distressing and poignant, and those that can bear to stick through the film's deliberately arduous scenes are ultimately rewarded with a feeling of catharsis come the film's surreal, hazy conclusion. Matt

Defining moment: Oscar's spirit observes Linda mid-coitus from within her hairy potter, thus exhibiting a giant hammering penis looming threateningly towards us. I swear it even looks angry.

Click here for the full review

11. Catfish

Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Yaniv Schulman, Megan Faccio, Angela Faccio

Teased with a rather cryptic advertising campaign that urged viewers not to tell others what it was, Catfish is proof positive that sometimes, the less you know the better. 100% real/bogus depending on who you ask, it follows smiley, affable New York photographer Yani 'Nev' Schulman as he begins an innocent Facebook correspondence with a fan, young female painter Abby, and her family.

As a burgeoning relationship develops between Nev and Abby's older sister, Megan, an art documentary turns into an on-the-hoof love story, before a little sleuthing from Nev and his filmmaker brother threatens to turn the whole thing into a horror movie. That's the beauty of Catfish; at any given point, it's still a complete blind alley, where the protagonists have even less of an idea of where the story's headed than you do.

Whether it's a genuine, organically created morality tale or a carefully constructed fake, the fact remains that Catfish taps into something primal and manipulates your emotions like only the most raw, honest films can. See it, love it, just don't spoil it for others. Ali

Defining moment: Nev and his crew rock up to Megan's stable in Nowheresville, USA, in the pitch black of night. You half suspect it could go all Blair Witch at any moment.

Click here for the full review

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