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My Favorite Films Of 2010: Rodrigo Perez

My Favorite Films Of 2010: Rodrigo Perez

Maybe I’m getting too old, but not many movies truly moved me this year.

Conversely, I had to make a top 15 list because there’s so many deserving films worth mentioning (plus a swollen honorable mention section). One conversation I had with a friend settled on the agreement that this year was more about performances than front-to-back tried-and-true great films. Perhaps that’s it. Whatever the case, to regurgitate a maxim I’ve restated over the years, the equation that makes a film is: experience + resonance.

A film can’t just be a thrilling, intense experience in the theater. It has to last and linger. That doesn’t necessarily mean holding up on repeat viewings (though it sure doesn’t hurt), it just means, the more a film haunts you months after it’s over, the more it did its job in the theater. I’ve had many experiences where the in-the-moment picture was amazing, but days later, poof, it was gone. I’ve also had pictures that didn’t strike me so much in the moment, but then just circled mercilessly around my head; always the meaning of a good film. Obviously having both elements is best, but it’s my personal opinion that too many out there put a high premium on experience only. Sure, “Inception” probably blew you away in theaters. Did it still grip you months later? If not, that’s a tell-tale sign (it still holds up for me, personally).

I digress, but these are the films that stayed with me the most, their impact resonating far long after they were over, regardless of their flaws. And some do have their imperfections. I realize what I value in movies might not be the same as what everyone else values. So be it. And as usual, another dictum. The top 10 (or 15 in this case) list is a living, breathing organism that evolves, grows and changes tastes just as we do. So this is how I feel about 2010, right now and I place an emphasis on “favorite” films over “best.”

15. “Exit Through the Gift Shop
How did you think something this wild could be made up? Street graffiti artist Banksy creates one of his greatest masterpieces with this wicked documentary and wry commentary on the value of art that’s two movies in one; the first half a “Finding Forrester“-type scenario with a documentarian seeking court with the elusive Bansky, the second half flipping the script, with Banksy taking over and watching as his sycophantic apostle attempts to be a street art god himself. Fascinating stuff and a third act played out with a shit-eating grin; not because it’s fucking with anyone, but because again, it’s just too good to be true.

14. “Blue Valentine
A devastating and heart-aching portrait of the natural decay in relationships. Are they all doomed? Is this the natural evolution of love? Derek Cianfrance raises a lot of disturbing questions for you to ponder and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are as good as you expect them to be. Heartwrenching.

13. “127 Hours
I made the stupid mistake of seeing this twice; something I generally avoid until at least a year later. It would have been top three for sure if I hadn’t seen the movie so soon after its initial impact, which was so grand for me. I left TIFF thinking it was hands down the best film of the festival. It has a visceral attack, it’s brimming with life and I love the hope and optimism that Danny Boyle brings to his film. If James Franco doesn’t get a Best Actor nomination, burn down the Kodak Theatre. I honestly resent that second screening for robbing of me of that tremendous, elating feeling after the film was over. I would give anything to go back and be completely happy and content with the exhilarating first screening. Still, all said and done, it’s being overlooked during awards season and that’s seriously bumming me out.

12. “Rabbit Hole
Do not underestimate Nicole Kidman or she will sucker punch you. She, Dianne Wiest and Aaron Eckhart are tremendous in John Cameron Mitchell‘s grieving drama about a couple that lose their son in a freak car accident. The wounds never quite heal, but watching these people cope as JCM’s compassionate, carefully observed camera respectfully watches from afar is a striking thing of beauty and cuts a very emotional and deep chord. Kudos to Anton Sanko‘s plaintive and elegiacal, simple score.

11. “The Town
The rehabilitation of Ben Affleck‘s career is officially complete and surely he regrets Bennifer more than any of us. A more than competent director, he proves that “Gone Baby Gone” was no fluke and the actor establishes himself as a truly thoughtful filmmaker, adept in both the quiet, expressive moments and the necessary thrilling action beats. Yes, the emotional love story in the film is a little short-changed, but it’s a testament to the intensity of the picture and something you don’t really realize until long after it’s over; plus Rebecca Hall makes the most of her scenes and leaves an impact. Jeremy Renner‘s simmering and volatile performance will likely score him another Oscar nomination and with due reason. Not perfect, but a great, entertaining ride.

10. “A Prophet
Jacques Audiard‘s prison drama is incredible; immaculately crafted and harrowing stuff. Tahar Rahim is a gift to acting — a breakthrough performance if there ever was one — and Alexandre Desplat‘s score is one in of a long line of impressive works. This guy will eventually be seen as one of the all time greats. Audiard has made some great films, but this is now probably my favorite.

9. “True Grit
Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin are tremendous in the Coen Brothers tried and true, salt-of-the-earth Western, but the real star is their script and the language, lifted straight from Charles Portis‘ matter-of-fact novel which is far more cheeky then John Wayne understood. They nail every second of it. Hailee Steinfeld is outstanding and hopefully has a long and illustrious career in front of her. Now someone give Greg Mottola and Bill Hader money to make Portis’ “Dog of the South,” please.

8. “Let Me In
Matt Reeves shut haters like The Playlist up this year and proved himself one of the most formidable talents in genre filmmaking (we initially thought the remake was a terrible idea). He matched the tenderness of the original, “Let the Right One In” and far outdid the action, effects and creepy tone which were always the element lacking in the initial film. The cinematography by Greig Fraser and music by Michael Giacchino were also atmospheric, moody and total aces. Chloe Moretz is going to be a huge Kate Winslet-around “Titanic” star when she’s older. She’s got amazing chops and we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg.

7. “Easy A
The front to back most enjoyable and entertaining film of the year? Hard to argue with, which is why it’s included here. I had an immense smile on my face the entire time and left elated, which counts for a lot these days. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson steal every scene and should be in every movie from now on. The endlessly charming Emma Stone was so good they plucked her for instant stardom-to-be with the next “Spider-Man” film. Sony will keep this girl in their stable as long as possible because she’s a genuine star. This movie is proof #1 why.

6. “Please Give
Thank god Nicole Holofcener makes movies and that someone out there is still bold enough to fund, small, intimate personal dramas like this one, full of work-in-progress characters that can be jerks, but are fully human. So full of life. So much like what we all experience on a daily basis. Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall were exceptional.

5. “Inception
Slow-motion Edith Piaf dreamscape, narcolepsy MC Escher brilliance. Christopher Nolan does it again, proving original ideas can be king. Also, hello once again Tom Hardy, glad to see the world has noticed you after “Bronson.” Nolan dreamt big this year, Warner Bros. thankfully took the risk, and moviegoers were paid in full with this emotionally rich high-concept thriller.

4. “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno
Everyone loves a good what-could-have-been story from the vaults of cinema, right? What about an extraordinary documentary about the legendary master of French horror — France’s HitchcockHenri-Georges Clouzot who was gunning to top Fellini‘s “8 1/2” with an experimental relationship drama about a man who goes mad with jealousy? Ironically, art imitated life, and Clouzot’s own obsession with making the picture — including his endless optical experimentation featuring his gorgeous lead, the great Romy Schneider — deep-sixed the project midway through a nightmarishly difficult shoot. It’s entirely conceivable, this ambitious picture and its super abstraction could have been a for-the-ages mess, but what’s hinted at — as what footage was shot still survives today — is still a fascinating snapshot of a film unfinished and therefore a must-see historical piece of cinema.

3. “The American
An iceberg-slow European art film and anti-thriller starring George Clooney, is this what Focus Features wanted? Did they expect Anton Corbijn to direct a hitman film as if Ingmar Bergman were making it? No matter. Their commercial loss — though not a financial one, the film grossed $65 million worldwide against a $20 million dollar budget — was our artistic gain. In one of Clooney’s most haunted and internal performances to date, with a deep de-emphasis on words, Corbijn guided the superstar to a picture actually about faith, or rather a lack thereof. This is a contemplative drama about a hired killer in crisis, who desperately seeks salvation in the comfort of connection that has eluded him his entire life. The simmering paranoia and anxiety Clooney evinces as he tries to make a break from this life is riveting, intense stuff.

2. “The Fighter
Good on comeback kid David O. Russell for taking what could have been a fairly predictable, dark, paint-by-numbers boxing flick and infusing it with a jovial, light-on-its feet touch filled with pathos, humor and energy. Also kudos for simply making a boxing film that’s actually about family with an emphasis on the girls. There’s a loose and limber electricity running through the air of this thing; Melissa Leo is on fire as the bouffant-haired mom, Amy Adams will scratch your eyes out and Christian Bale is arresting and playful as the gaunt and mercurial drug addict brother. The ending is so exhilarating I jumped up and cheered when Mark Wahlberg knocked out Sanchez. I was right there.

1. “Biutiful
Too long, too bleak, too narratively disjointed or meandering? Possibly, but no other picture in 2010 punched me as savagely in the gut as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s soulful, painful and spiritual paean to family, mortality, his father and the suffering of humankind. Javier Bardem won the Best Actor Prize at Cannes with good reason. It’s an immersive and devastating performance and even if Oscar neglects him, he shouldn’t feel too bad. So humanist, it scrapes hard on the inside of your heart and yes, it will hurt. Yet more passion and more palpable blood, sweat and tears than any other movie this year.

Honorable Mention. These first three I’m a bit embarrassed didn’t crack my top 15. Cerebrally I’m in love with them, but when I ask myself honestly where they belong, they just can’t crack this list, however, in another world, they’re in my top 5. It’s hard to explain, I suppose.
Luca Guadagnino‘s “I Am Love” is sumptuous and graceful and contains some of the best sequences in cinema all year hands down, but at 2 1/2 hours it was a little long in making its point for me. “Black Swan” is terrific. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Aronofsky‘s dance sequences are thrilling. “Dogtooth” is dark, twisted and fucked up with delicious black humor. It’s amazing. Had Olivier Assayas‘ “Carlos” been as strong as part 1 across its three films, it would have been a top 5 contender. Unfortunately it’s three films long and tends to have diminishing returns as it moves along. Best soundtrack of the year though in terms of music within a film (no soundtrack was ever released). Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right” is a wonderful humanist film and every actor in the picture, including once again, the always exceptional Mia Wasikowska, is tremendous. I have no excuse as to why it’s not on my proper list and I hope to god it earns itself a Best Picture nomination this year. Mike Leigh‘s “Another Year” is terribly good. Ashamed, it’s not in my top 10, but for whatever reason it’s here. The “Red Riding Trilogy” is fantastic, especially parts one and two by Julian Jarrold (1974, shot on 16mm) and James Marsh (1980). “Winter’s Bone,” Debra Granik‘s sophomore effort is a visceral whodunnit. Jennifer Lawrence is a revelation (star watch alert), John Hawkes proves that he’s as riveting as ever given half the chance and the cinematography is the best RED camera lensing of 2010. “The Killer Inside Me” is extremely underrated, also way misunderstood. Oli articulated that well. “Trash Humpers” and “Ondine” were great too.

Comedy Scene Stealers
Kieran Culkin and Chris Evans – “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” – Culkin flat out runs away with every scene he’s in the movie. The actor seems born to play the wry, wise-cracking gay roommate Wallace. Chris Evans plays his evil ex-boyfriend dead straight and comes on top of all of his six compatriots. He was certainly my fave. Shame mainstream audiences ignored this picture.

Worst Movies of the Year
Alice In Wonderland
Hereafter” – Clint Eastwood malaise. So crushingly dull.
I Love You Phillip Morris” – Ugh, from its pedestrian voice-over that connects you to one of the films final scenes (cliche alert off the bat), to its ridiculous plot twist ending to its ineffectual
performances by Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, I thoroughly disliked almost every minute of this film minus a few admittedly laugh-out-loud jokes. Still, naïve or not, greatly looking forward to the directors’ next picture (“Crazy, Stupid, Love“).
The Runaways

Favorite Female Performances of the year
Lesley Manville – “Another Year”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone”
Jacki Weaver – “Animal Kingdom”

Favorite Male Performances of the Year
Christian Bale – “The Fighter
Javier Bardem – “Biutiful

Underrated Male Performances of the Year
Jim Broadbent – “Another Year”
Mark Wahlberg – “The Fighter”
George Clooney – “The American”
Ben Affleck – “The Town”
Ed Norton – “Leaves Of Grass”
Joaquin Phoenix – “I’m Still Here”

Underrated Female Performances of the Year
Emma Stone – “Easy A”
Isabelle Huppert – “White Material”

Most Disappointing Film of the Year

Most Overrated
The Social Network” – A good film and the reasons for placing it here have already been articulated so I won’t karp on about it.

Best Onscreen Chemistry
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson – “Easy A”

Most Underrated or Undervalued
Animal Kingdom
127 Hours” – A relative underrated pick. Obviously it’s a celebrated film, but somehow went from surefire top 3 Best Picture contender to a drama that will be lucky if it finds itself in the expanded Oscar 10. How did that possibly happen? Though don’t count it out, probably will still nab Best Picture and Best Actor noms.
Valhalla Rising
The American
Clouzot’s Inferno

Worst Continuing Trend of 2010
Movie reporting about movie reporting.

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Charlotte Bellpost

I agree with everything you say. Except the one teeny, weeny part you said that ALICE IN WONDERLAND is one of the most worst movies of the year! I can’t believe it!

Okay, maybe you’re one of the types who like sad, emotional films, but it got the movie did get a 6.9. I’d say Tim Burton did a very good job in doing the movie and it was very wrong of you to write like that. Really.

Just because it’s fantasy doesn’t mean that it is bad. Movies differ from Genre to Genre. What do you suggest of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows then, hmm?

I like every movie you suggested. But, people go too emotional and impressed on sad films. I wish everyone stop that and appreciate other genres too.

True, the way they portray the movies is very cool and awesome, but please……., don’t write anything without knowing the actual opinions of other different people.


throwing in an adopted black child to the the family for no reason other than to make them look good is totally cheap, obvious and condescending. if anything, it should be offensive to blacks that once again the great white family swoops in and saves the poor ghetto kid! it’s no better than the blind side or avatar. and the fact that it is just a side note to the overall story is precisely why it so obnoxious!

it’s lazy filmmaking that turns a potential character that could be developed into a real human and makes them simply a device. and really, it
is just a symptom of how terrible movies are these days and how they fool “do-gooders” like yourself.


“Inception” was actually better than I remember it being the 1st time when I saw it in IMAX. My 2nd viewing was on my 32″ HDTV on DVD 5 months later & it blew me away even more (& it was more open to interpretation — vs. “confusing”).
Don’t tell me the tide is turning against “The Social Network” because it was the biggest & best surprise of the year.
“Hereafter” is not the worst movie of 2010. It was the most disappointing.
But this was the year of social misfits & the actors who played them. Jesse Eisenberg & Noomi Rapace killed as Mark Zuckerberg & Lisbeth Salander (good luck Fincher & Mara with her).

Alex P

This site has never suffered fools well, that’s why it rules. But i get why it pisses (fools) people off. RP you need to write way more often.


To add one more comment…I think the most interesting part of this list is how 127 Hours ended up at number 13. You even admit, had you ranked it upon one viewing alone it would’ve been in top 3! I’m not trying to judge or be a hypocrite…on the contrary, a movie I found to be better upon second viewing was Sideways and a movie I found to be weaker upon second vieing was I Heart Huckabees…so I know it happens. The thing is, unless you’ve seen all the other films twice, I think it’s a little unfair to drop it down in rank. Personally, I don’t think True Grit will be as enjoyable the second time around. The only film I’ve seen twice this season is The Fighter, and fortunately it still held the same power. Now I’ll see The Social Network again when it hits BluRay on the 11th, and then I’ll be able to judge it’s resonance…and speaking of that film, I know you listed it as overrated, but remember when I called it to win Best Pic and Director shortly after you saw 127 Hours. I remember you said “no way” claiming the Academy will side with the “life affirming nature” of 127 Hours since it had just moved you. Doesn’t appear that way now does it?


“Don’t be disappointed by any of the lists, they’re for the writer it was written by, not for you.”

Oh come on now…I’m not gonna give you that one. If they were simply for the writer who made them, they should’ve stayed on the college ruled notebook they originated on rather then posted in a public domain meant for people to read and discuss. Why even have a comment section then?

And I’m not hating…I actually prefer this “American” list over the foreign crap that filled up the previous lists ;)

Christopher Bell

Very surprised at how much I liked “The Fighter,” considering its beats were fairly by-the-numbers and I’m not a fan of O’Russel… was much smarter than I thought it’d be.

Loved “I am Love” until the last half hour, where it drops its mesmerizing elegance for a rather obvious plot point shock. It feels a bit silly after that…

Pissed I missed: Easy A, Let Me In

Melvin Pereira

both lists thus far have been disappointing. i agree many of these films are very good but where the eff are teh international films. i’ve been a regular reader of your blog for international cinema and your ‘best…’ lists which have so much of international cinema.

please do a separate foreign films list if this is what we’re going to see in all the writers’ lists


Also, this is not hate. It’s simplisitic and reductive to claim people who have differing opinions are haters. You should be better than that.

I enjoy your blog a lot. You should be pleased it stirs up up discussion, not just attack every one who disagrees with you.


RP: I’m wondering why there is such a disparity between your new list and the previous ones.
Why would you go from a majority of foreign films in 2008/2009 to a majority of american ones in 2010?
Surely it’s not that the american production was so much better in 2010, or that the foreign films production was suddenly so dreadful.
If you haven’t seen much foreign films this year, it’s no big deal, nobody can see everything, but it makes your list unbalanced in regard to world cinema (meaning America AND the rest of the world). I hope you’ll agree.


Just to clarify, you seem to have entirely missed my point.

You said “Yes, i can put a film on my list and then put in the underrated section.”

Of course, I completely agree. I’m talking about all of the other films that you don’t rate as being good enough for your best of list, but are ‘underrated’. You, yourself have underrated these films by not including them in your best of list, which means you do not think they are worthy. This is the paradox, you are at once saying these are not amongst the best films of the year, but also saying they are and are underrated. It doesn’t make sense.

I understand what you mean about things being relative, but these lists are your opinion and it seems you’re trying to have it both ways.


@rourke You know, people in real life adopt children who don’t look just like them. God forbid a movie depict a non-traditional family in a positive light! I thought it was great to see an adopted son in a mainstream movie that wasn’t all about adoption.


As I was reading the list, I thought “Could it be..? Could it be the one..?” — but you went and included 2 titles from 2009. That’s ok, everyone else does.

Good list, though. The part that’s ‘legit’


Love your reasoning for placing films in your Top 15. Good list, excited to see Biutiful tomorrow. Don’t stop writing for the site RP!


Yes, I would say that there is a lot of raw emotion in Biutiful.


Also, I haven’t seen Biutiful yet, but I don’t know what to expect. I loved 21 grams but didn’t care for Babel. I just found there to be more raw emotion in 21 Grams…is this the same with Biutiful?

One more observation is Oscars’ two frontrunners (The Social Network and The King’s Speech) are nowhere to be found.


I saw Easy A last night after hearing such good things and was underwhelmed. It was mildly amusing at best…but hey, I also didn’t care for 500 Days of Summer.

I think 127 Hours is following in the footsteps of Into the Wild. That was the film a few years ago that floored me (especially the ending), but then got totally ignored come awards season. I thought Emile Hirsch could have totally won Best Actor dispite his age.

I really hope Christian Bale wins. It’s the best performance of his career so far.


For the most part I agree with your list. And, yes, it is about feelings. I saw Biutiful a few hours ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. It lingers in my heart and soul.


Rodrigo is probably my favorite left in the film business. Tired of all of this hating.

The fact that he doesn’t have a lot of foreign films should state more about the world of foreign film than his own personal taste. The guy is not afraid to promote foreign films on his site at all (which says a lot compared to all of the other blogs that we read).

And EASY A did more for the female comedy genre than any film in the past 5 years. For a year that lacked comedy, it was by far the best in the genre (sorry phoenix/affleck).

Great list as always. Keep inspiring the Underdogs.

The Playlist

Was unaware that I had to justify my own picks. Maybe some of you are right, you know what my favorite films of the year are better than mine. Also, how are they bad or poor or whatever? They’re my picks.

For those that say we don’t cover or like foreign films. Here’s my top 10 list from last year.
here’s my top 10 from 2008, i might have connected with foreign films as much this year, but uhh, my #1 pick of the year is a foreign film).

@rourke, Uncle Bonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives is technically a 2011 film as it will come out in March in the U.S. We follow U.S. release dates.

@[A] There’s no 2009 films on this list as going by U.S. release date rules, this is fact. A prophet was something we initially thought was a 2009 release earlier in the year, but it’s definitely 2010 by U.S. release standards.

What other silly stuff to address. @Jan Meaning of underrated. Maybe you don’t understand the meaning of things being relative. Yes, i can put a film on my list and then put in the underrated section. #1 i can because it’s my list, not yours, #2 because just because the American or the Clouzot doc are here doesn’t mean they’re not underrated by the film community at large (they are).

Lastly, don’t be disappointed by any of the lists, they’re for the writer it was written by, not for you.

Thanks for the kind words hackattack, much appreciated. In the immortal words of actors wearing leather gloves during interviews, “haters give me strength.”


yeah, what you got dudu?

personally, im wondering where Uncle Bonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives is at?!

also, EASY A??? fucking terrible. so cliched. john hughes rip off. and can somebody tell me why they have a black adopted son? cheap nonsense.

Will Kane

If you enjoyed “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno” you may wish to investigate “La Prisionniere”, Clouzot’s follow-up flick from 1968 where all those crazy audio-visual effects were employed to psychedelic effect.

Available from


Would you mind making a list of your top10 favorite international movies of this year before feeling sorry for the writer, dudu?


Like I said, I feel sorry for people who have more than 20% of american movies in their top-of-the-year list.


Good list!!!
I really agree about Clint Eastwood’s “hereafter” as one of the worse of the year!!!


i love RP’s reasons: all about feelings


I don’t think you understand what the word ‘underrated’ means. Almost all of the performances you mention have been widely celebrated, as have the films. Also, isn’t it paradoxical to not feature films in your ‘best of’ list and then call them underrated?

Nick Duval

Interesting list. Like the inclusions of EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (my #1) , PLEASE GIVE, and A PROPHET, plus TOWN and INCEPTION. Not sure if I agree with some of it (didn’t like THE FIGHTER, RABBIT HOLE, 127 HOURS, THE AMERICAN), but cool all the same.

Makes me excited to see BIUTIFUL, makes me apprehensive about SOMEWHERE, and dissuades me from seeing PHILIP MORRIS.

Agree with you about SOCIAL, though it falls just outside my Top 10, and also about Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman. Disagree regarding MOTHER and VALHALLA. I may be a bit harsh on MOTHER (formally off-the-charts, but way too long/not tight enough), but VALHALLA was a hardship from minute one.

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