True Grit-I can decide that this is my favorite of the year. Based on one of my favorite novels, I thought this version perfectly captured the spirit of the book. I loved every single thing about it, but especially the score, the nuanced and subtle performance by Hallie Steinfeld, the cinematography, the trees, Little Blackie, and "the long ride" sequence that goes down in my list of my favorite movie moments. I was moved in every way by the whole movie.
Black Swan-Natalie Portman's performance is incredibly powerful and the look of the film causes me to think of overused adjectives like "beautiful". Since the visuals were so original, I was a little disappointed that the plot was so familiar (an overbearing, protective mother leads to a perfectionist child who teeters on the edge of self-destruction) but I forgave it because it was all so well-paced and never let up. By the end of the movie I realized that I hadn't been aware of anything else except what was on screen. Few movies can hold the attention like that. Plus I loved what all it said about being an artist.
The Kids Are All Right-I love that the movie that says the biggest and best things about family values is about a family that many would deem unconventional. And Annette Bening turns in one of the best performances I've ever witnessed. The scene where she sings Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" is heartbreaking and beautiful and lingers just long enough. Also: perfect ending!
Easy A-My favorite comedy of the year, for sure. It's laugh-out-loud funny, and it's one of the most moral movies I've ever seen, examining how the complexities of morality enlarge our view of God versus the way modern Christianity has simplified religion into something small. Really intelligent. And Emma Stone is awesome.
The Deathly Hallows-I thought this installation of Harry Potter was pretty perfect. My favorite is still The Order of the Phoenix but there was nothing to dislike about this. I especially appreciated the long passages of stillness and silence, two things rarely seen in blockbusters. Best of all about this movie, and the whole Potter franchise, is that nothing is ever dumbed down for the audience, which is also unusual for big hits. Hardly anybody in the movies is endearing as the three leads.
Inception-Everyone is talking about Black Swan being the most visually interesting movie of the year, but actually this one is. I'm still not sure I have it all figured out but what I like most about it is that the filmmakers DO and are not just trying to pull one over on me (unlike Tron...the people who made that can't possibly have any more idea what is happening than I did). I love all the attention to detail, beauty, and precise language. Plus it has Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, AND Tom Hardy.
The Fighter-Some people I know who are great movie buffs were turned off by this one ("I've seen that movie before" was something two trusted friends said to me about it) but I absolutely loved it. I thought that more than anything it was a great sense of place film. I felt like I had been to that neighborhood, and I also felt like that neighborhood was my own. And it turned in some of the best performances of the year with Melissa Leo (everyone should know who she is...she can out-act just about anybody in the world). Plus Amy Adams and Christian Bale are Oscar-worthy, too. I think that instead of being a retread THE FIGHTER is actually a reinvention of the boxing movie genre, telling the story in a completely original and exhilarating way.
The Secret In Their Eyes-My favorite foreign-language film of the year, with a haunting score and a mind-blowing plot.
Helen-the least-seen movie on this list is also one of the year's absolute best. It's a shame it wasn't seen, because it showcases Ashley Judd's best performance ever as a woman desperately trying to claw her way out of depression. The movie is the best exploration of depression I've ever seen. It's very slow but that works in its favor. Judd should have had a shot at an Oscar nomination with this one.
The King’s Speech-Beautifully written and acted, with some of my favorite actors. Nothing mind-blowing or absolutely new, but an excellent look at determination, loyalty, and duty.
Winter’s Bone-My fellow Kentuckian Jennifer Lawrence gives a star-making performance. I especially loved the way the filmmakers used local people (especially that singing woman). This movie gives dignity to the place and its people, revealing the complexities of rural life while never shying away from the terrible aspects. Another one I loved everything about, and that last line is one to remember.