1. The King’s Speech
“The Social Network” is getting the most year-end raves, but “The King’s Speech” is the more lasting and superior work. “Network” is a deftly told look into the world of high-stakes corporate entrepreneurship—the legal, economic and psychological tensions between participants. The film’s pace is so sharp and its script so lively that there isn’t a wasted scene. Yet it reminds me more of the outstanding work being done on cable TV these days than the best moments in film history. One of “Network’s” chief strengths is its timeliness—the way it brings us behind today’s headlines. For that reason, I think “Network” is its most powerful today. It isn’t likely to be as commanding a year or, more significantly, a decade from now because that literalness and timeliness will be reduced. It simply lacks the eloquence and timeless grace common to most great films. By contrast, “The King’s Speech” is blessed with the vision and superb acting that will make it every bit as compelling long into the future. Colin Firth, who should have won the Oscar last year for “A Single Man,” is again superb as the king and Geoffrey Rush is ideal as the eccentric therapist. Tom Hooper’s direction and David Seidler’s script also contribute greatly to the movie’s timeless, majestic feel.
2. The Social Network
The Secret in Their Eyes—This is a rare blend of the light-hearted charm Alfred Hitchcock put into his most entertaining films and the tension of the best psychological thrillers. That’s a powerful combination. The mystery at the heart of the Argentine film unfolds in surprising and increasingly striking ways, suggesting the importance of human intuition in problem-solving. “The Secret” is the work of writer-director Juan Jose Campanella and it won the Oscar last year for best foreign film.
Another Year—Director Mike Leigh takes us through four seasons in an older British couple’s life--Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen--as they tend their garden and host family and friends in good times and bad. The heart is one of the friends—a sad, fragile woman (played by Lesley Manville) who unravels as she sees any chance for happiness slowly slipping through her hands. Very moving.
Winter's Bone--A stark, unsettlingstory of a teen-age girl struggling to confront a dark, dangerous criminal element in her bleak, Ozark backwoods in hopes of holding her fragile world together. The movie assumes such a raw, documentary feel at times that it reminds you of the accomplishment of “Hurt Locker.” The director is Debra Granik.
Inception--More brilliance from director Christopher Nolan, aided by the charismatic Leonardo DiCaprio. Nolan takes our imagination on a magic carpet ride, dazzling us with screen wonders, while slowly raising questions about the underlying, ethical issue involved—mind control.
The Fighter—Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Mark Wahlberg anchor the year’s finest ensemble performance in a film that isn’t so much about the prize ring, but a dysfunctional family—and the limits of loyalty and blood.
White Material--In this tale of a West African nation’s struggle to deal with its bloody past and uncertain future, director Claire Denis chronicles a descent into madness that is horrifying in its unrelenting savagery and detail.
ShutterIsland—DiCaprio again, this time with director Martin Scorsese. And here, too, DiCaprio (and the audience) is seen fighting to discover what is real and what is imagined in his life. More straight-forward than “Inception,” but still haunting.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct
The Kids Are All Right
Mesrine: Public Enemy
A Funny Kind of Story
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Book of Eli
I Love You Phillip Morris
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
The Other Guys
Death at a Funeral (U.S. version)
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Made in Dagenham
Iron Man 2
The Killer Inside Me
The Next Three Days
Love and Other Drugs
My Dog Tulip
A Solitary Man
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Edge of Darkness
How Do You Know
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
From Paris with Love