So what’s left to be said on this, the final day of the year? We expected 2010 to be a weak one and it has indeed proven to be fairly lackluster overall- but like any year there’s been value to be found. In fact, the stars aligned in such a way that many of our preeminent filmmakers turned out work this year, much of which was solid and some of which was great. There were some unexpectedly wonderful films scattered throughout the year as well. All that said, I found the order of my list to be much harder to determine than the collection of films that would be on it- the former was fairly easy to determine. There were few heartbreaking decisions, few films I was truly disappointed to cut, and yet… some of the good stuff is really really good.

I will say that this is the first year in which I’ve reviewed films in a professional capacity, and frankly, I only started a few short months ago. While I’d say the bulk of the year’s notable films were released or screened during that time, there’s a sizable batch of films that emerged not only before my time as an official critic began, but while I was still knee deep in college, trying to complete a thesis and nab a degree. In that time I saw fewer movies than I ever have, and while I have done my best to catch up, I’m still left with a list of unseen films that is shamefully long. While I by no means want to look back in a few years and see my entire list upended and outdated, I do hope that 2010 has a few gems remaining to share with me.

Until I discover them, let’s celebrate what was great!



The List!




15. Renn on Jackass 3D:

Even without the gimmick of employing the best use of 3D in a film this year, the third Jackass would still be a ranking highlight. Johnny Knoxville and his band of miscreants return to once again wow and disgust us with how far they’re willing to go and how clever they’re capable of being to make us laugh. Blessed with plentiful resources and a decade’s worth of experience, this third film is as dense as any of the others and has the added value of (as I called it in my review) a sense of “effortlessness.” We’ve got a shorthand with this crew now- we know their quirks, their fears, and even their laughs. We are truly laughing with them as much as we laugh at them- not necessarily so when they first started tossing each other around parking lots in grocery store shopping carts.

Mix all of this with the beautiful implementation of 3D and ultra-high frame rate photography and you’ve got the most cock and poo-filled delight of the year.

Current rating: 9 out of 10

Contributing factors: The Crew, the crew’s age/sobriety, 3D, a jet engine, enough distance from the last one for it to be exciting.

Performance to savor: The bull that slams Knoxville’s ass through his asshole.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The only movie this year that requires them to sterilize the 3D glasses twice.”


Review



14. Renn on Blue Valentine

This is a film I never got around to reviewing simply because trying to express my feelings toward it, or deconstruct the painful honesty that makes it function, is too much for me at this point in my life. This is the film on the list that I’m least likely to revisit anytime soon not because it isn’t wonderful, but because I just don’t want to see what it has to show me or feel what it’s going to make me feel again. All of that aside the power of the film is unquestionable, and it’s a brutally honest look at how a relationship built on genuine, real-deal love can disintegrate because of the seemingly small things that actually represent the biggest things. I’ve heard it called “masturbatory” by people who know what they’re talking about, but I would challenge that any film that can draw extreme praise or, just as easily, incite as gut-level revulsion as I’ve witnessed deserves real attention. You can’t fake that kind of honesty and understanding just by having actors scream at each other. The film is not joyless however, and you’ll find yourself smiling along with the characters during the good times. Its value has a lot to do with what you bring to it though, and in a genre that has been so brilliantly augmented by classics like Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine (that find ways of working personality and interesting novelty into their heartbreak) it would require more than just honesty to be an honest-to-god masterpiece and climb higher on the list.

Ultimately it’s the stripped-down, raw nature of the film that makes it one of the most powerful of the year, if not necessarily the most pleasant.  

Current rating: 9 out of 10

Contributing factors: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are running the show here, with truly incredible performances. The hand of Derek Cianfrance is not invisible though and his handheld camera and jumpy narrative have a lot to do with why the film is so potent for anyone that’s ever loved/lost.

Performance to savor: Gosling and Williams… are there really any others in the film?

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Get ready to watch the theater fill up with tears of repressed resentment, ignored discontent, and iron-hot bitterness!”



13. Renn on I Am Love

I Am Love is seriously high-class filmmaking. In the way a handcrafted Italian sports car employs the (conceptually) same engine and tires as any wood-paneled mini-van, it’s really the quality of each individual element and the care taken in every level of craftsmanship that sets it apart. Beyond its fashion magazine costuming, photography, and production design is a stunning attention to detail in the script, camera work, and editing of I Am Love. The actors are similarly high-grade, natural to the point they seem almost beyond criticism (though foreign-languages are almost always favorable to performances). Tilda Swinton is the center of a story of the adulterous and the culinary, familiar and (soap) operatic, that is told with a grace and texture all its own.

Current rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing factors: The look, the script, the subtle comparisons of eating and sex and the role of memory in both.

Performance to savor: Tilda Swinton, who colors her Italian with a russian accent in a bit of performance preparation that I can barely comprehend.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Man, this classy-ass movie look like it done come out of Vogue Fair or Vanity or some shit..”

Review




12. Renn on The American

One of the quietest films of the year, the impression left by The American still rings out loudly in my mind. I’ve heard this film called “George Clooney’s The Conversation” and I think that’s a brilliant comparison. Both center on men working in professions that Hollywood would (and often will) tart up and turn into slam-bang action extravaganzas, yet in these films are shown to be quiet, highly-disciplined loners operating less on profound passion than the understanding that this is, quite simply, what they’re good at. Harry Caul was a more obviously awkward protagonist than Clooney’s inescapably dapper Jack, but this is Clooney at his least suave, no trace of Danny Ocean in site. In this universe Clooney has to pay for time with a woman as holy-goddamn-animals beautiful as Violante Placido (heir to the body that almost got Michael Corleone blown up), but it’s still Clooney, so she eventually sticks around for free. It’s Jack’s passion for the smallest details of his craft –assembling his weapon and modifying it for precision, alone in his room– that light up his face, much in the way Harry seemed at home only when manipulating faders at his desk, in his cage. There’s definitely a dodgy quality to the ending, one that might smack of last minute fairy tale-telling to some, but ultimately it’s a fittingly abrupt conclusion to a deliberately told story.

Current rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing factors: Brilliant sound design that is as detailed as that on any film, yet muted in a way that makes you strain for the sounds of danger the same way Jack is constantly forced to. The ethereal, dreamy quality of the location and telegraphed but well-executed climax are highlights as well.

Performance to savor: Clooney is the center here, but it’s difficult to resist mentioning the delicate performance and stunningly classic beauty of every inch of Placido. So difficult in fact, that I didn’t resist at all.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “A film starring George Clooney about an assassin’s last job which has ‘American’ in the title, even though it most certainly isn’t.”

Review




11. Renn on The Fighter

Flashless sophistication was the name of the game for many of the best films of the year, with a number of brilliant director’s settling into a track of making extremely solid films that let performances shine, rather than making blatantly brilliant masterpieces. The Fighter is a prime example as the hot-headed David O. Russell turns in well told and well orchestrated story of family that gets the character work right, even if the boxing that drives the story leaves little impression. Bale, Wahlberg, Leo, and Adams are the hard-hitting players here, and each performance is a career best or close to it.

Current rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing factors: A story worth telling, the brilliantly captured family dynamics, serious ensemble greatness.

Performance to savor: Mickey O’Keefe playing himself.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Crack! Bitchy Sisters! Tramp stamps! The Fighter has it all.”

ReviewCrack Documentary From The Film




10. Renn on True Grit

The Coens take a break from the harsh vibes of cynicism and human folly to take The Dude out to the plains, end up making a great western. You could see the quality of this film a mile away, what with the whole thing letting loose Deakins on the expanses of New Mexico (standing in for Arkansas), Bridges on Rooster the ruthless and grumbly drunk of a US marshall, and the Coens themselves on the Bible-like cadence of Portis’ novel. What we couldn’t have predicted was how a 13-year-old girl selected out of an open casting call of 15,000 would outshine them all and embody the stiff-lipped, Protestant-grit of Mattie Ross with such aplomb that she steals the film from three of the strongest actors currently working. While I feel like the film is being a touch overvalued among the work of The Coens (which is literally one of the most classic collective ouvres of any filmmakers in history), there’s no disputing how wonderful Hailee Steinfeld’s performance is and how perfectly she handles that Coen rhythm. The film itself is wonderful as well, and even their more standard, crowd-pleasing effort stands tall among the best and most sophisticated of the year.

Current rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing factors: The perfectly re-interpreted dialogue presented in dynamite scenes of verbal sparring. Gorgeous photography. Fidelity to the thematically straightforward, powerful source material.

Performance to savor: Watch that little girl. Watch her close. Don’t be creepy about it though.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “A western directed by The Coens. Sit down, shut up, watch.”

Tag-Team Review




9. Renn on I’m Still Here / Catfish / Exit Through The Gift Shop

Well wasn’t this just the year of the meta-documentary with questionable legitimacy? These three films run the spectrum from being admittedly fraudulent, to being clearly shaped and staged from real-life events, to being backed by a story steadfastly stuck to by all involved. Ironically, it is the most unbelievable of them that will probably turn out to be the most true.

Perhaps it’s cheating to select three films and tie them all together, but it’s impossible to deny that the three represent a strong trend among recent documentaries, and that they are all pointing a strikingly similar lens at complimentary aspects of our culture. I’m Still Here takes aim at our relationship with celebrity, Catfish takes aim at our relationship with identity, and Gift Shop takes aim at our relationship with art. The internet, the media, and self-reflective meta-commentary is deeply entwined with each of them, and even the one that was demonstrably staged still catalogs events that actually happened. These documentaries have all left audiences asking “was that real?” even though the central question of each of them is really, “what the fuck does real even mean?” Sure, Joaquin Phoenix dumped his career and rapped poorly on purpose, but he still did it and plunged into the cycle of celebrity meltdown full force, so where does “reality” begin or end in that scenario? Sure, Mr. Brainwash could be an invention of Banksy and his cohorts, but if his work really was sold for that amount of money and he really was commissioned to do Madonna’s album cover… you get the idea.

You can certainly argue that one or another is better told or better constructed but they all play equally fast and loose with structure, style, and technical primitiveness. Exit Through The Gift Shop has been the most overwhelmingly accepted with its more likable protagonist, but all three of the films are awfully keen on their own cleverness, and don’t mind casually glancing over the parts of their narratives that make no sense. The cheekiness is part of the point however, and it’s shocking that not one but three entertaining and watchable documentaries emerged to tackle the recursive mirror of navel-gazing that is pop-culture, identity, and celebrity in the internet age.

Current rating: 8.5 / 9 / 9.3 out of 10

Contributing factors: The conversations that follow. Each film is worth far more than their own hour and a half runtime simply from the conversations you’ll have about them. Gift Shop wins the authenticity battle though- most viewers will (and probably should) call “bullshit” on Here or Catfish, but Gift Shop straddles the line of reality just well enough to keep you on board.

Performance to savor: Each has their own intriguing central figure, but I suspect Banksy’s wry, funny commentary on Gift Shop‘s story is the reason that film has gained the momentum the other two didn’t.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “If you want to lose all faith and trust in the documentary format, I’ve got a triple feature for you!”

I’m Still Here ReviewCatfish Review




8. Renn on Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is staggeringly subtle, and yet it’s the most thoroughly “science fiction” film I’ve seen this year. What sells the classical sci-fi tone of the film so thoroughly, despite its refusal to show more than a hint of the technology that sparked this alternate universe, is that the scenario is so unquestionably accepted by the story and the characters. In most science fiction films you usually feel the characters, or even the story itself, trying desperately to drag the world back to something like our own. It’s as if our reality holds some sort of gravity by which lesser sci-fi films are pulled in, forcing their characters to revolt or shift things towards a paradigm we audiences in this universe can understand. Not so in Never Let Me Go, where the system is never challenged or questioned, which is half the horror of it. Instead the film concerns itself with the story of three young people who don’t even realize how trapped they really are- they look for loopholes in the system with the same “revolutionary” spirit that you look for an extension on your taxes. They are frustrated by their circumstances and are passionate about finding a loophole, but acknowledge what’s coming as inevitable.

All of this sets the stage for a carefully told tale that is (as I described it in my review) “marked with the melancholy of youthful mistakes that stain a relationship irreparably.” The film is not without joy, but there is the sub-surface rift between characters that only comes when youthful mistakes are made that can never be explained and can never be forgotten. Love is what’s being celebrated here though, and the desperation with which we cling to it when we finally find it.

Never Let Me Go is not perfect, which is actually a shame because I’d like this to be one of those inarguable masterpieces that is important for all of history for everyone forever the end. It’s great though- absolutely wonderful and unique and gorgeous. I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time and being swept away by this melancholy little universe, in a way I hadn’t experienced since Children of Men. That’d make a great double feature in fact, if you’ve got the emotional stomach for it. These hypothetical dystopias can teach us a lot about ourselves, if we pay attention to our own human traits that are said to have gotten us there.

Current rating: 9.5 out of 10

Contributing factors: Brilliant execution of a well-trodden concept. Subtle but powerful themes. Three great performances from young actors.

Performance to savor: I have to give it to lead girl Carey Mulligan. I’m always impressed when young actors are able to pull off the wisdom and quiet maturity of age, before their time.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “The purest, quietest science fiction film of the year.”

Review




7. Renn on 127 Hours

I’m still stunned, if not surprised, that Danny Boyle managed to make a movie about a guy pinned under a rock the most dynamic film of the year, without ever feeling like he cheated. Sure, there isn’t the narrative discipline of Cortes’ (terrible) Buried, as the film is willing to leave the confines of the canyon from time to time. It’s always in a manner that is perfectly connected to Aaron though, and there is less of that than you would reasonably expect. 127 Hours seems to have slipped from the conversation a little bit this year, but the exuberant and masterful power of this film shouldn’t be ignored. Unlike Slumdog Millionaire, which always felt a little exploitative and rose-colored about the poverty in which it played, the inherently horrifying nature of this story just serves to make the joyousness and energy of the film more vivid. James Franco’s performance is the perfect (pardon the pun) bedrock on which Boyle can stage his lively look at one man’s quest for amputation, and were this less of a stellar year for performances, Franco would be on top of the pack at awards time.

Current rating: 9.5 out of 10

Contributing factors: Dual cinematographers that find every conceivable way of shooting the story, a script that actually flies through the story and never has to resort to cheap tricks or dragged out sequences.

Performance to savor: Franco of course! Cocky without being a cock, he portrays Aaron as a youthful, joyful spirit whose spirit believably endures, even when faced with a life-threatening reality check.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Boyle and Franco don’t even need both hands to put together one of the best of the year.”

Review




6. Renn on Enter The Void

Sometimes you have the pleasure of watching a film that seems like it’s trying to break the very concept of cinema in two, and on rare occasions you may actually come across a film that seems to succeed. Some would argue that whatever the fuck it is that Gaspar Noe keeps doing is more akin to assaulting or molesting cinema, and they may be right. Even if he is managing to cleave the art form in two, I don’t really want to think to much about what appendage he’s using to do it. Enter The Void is another film from the director that doesn’t give a fuck what you think a movie should be, how long you think a movie should run, or where you think a movie should go and yet… Enter The Void is pure cinema. An exciting, indulgent, perhaps over-long experiment in camera movement, scene transitions, lighting, subject matter, point of view, sound design, music, and naturalistic (or maybe just bad) acting that you’ve never seen anything quite like. 2001 is the clear point of approach here, but even that film ill-prepares your for Void‘s method of storytelling, for which Gaspar Noe has employed a camera that is able to shift lens length, shutter speed, aperture, focus plane, and means of movement at will, with no regard for what should be physical possible. I can not emphasize enough that the camera in Enter The Void can and will go anywhere. The story being told is recursive and fractured, told as much through memory and fantasy as actual recall, and it’s filled with symbolism so abundant that it would take a dozen viewings to catch it all, and dozen more to pinpoint their meanings.

I’ve heard some say that Gaspar Noe could change the very face of cinema if he were to focus his talents on a less indulgent project,  but that smacks to me of trying to restrain some hideously gorgeous neon bird to walking around on the ground, flapping its wings for show. Yeah, when it’s flying we can’t always see or grasp –much less follow– where the damn thing is going, but it sure is glorious and exhilarating when we can.

Current rating: 9.6 out of 10

Contributing factors: Camera, camera, camera. The thing will. go. anywhere. And the brilliant opening credits.

Performance to savor: Paz De La Huerta is the closest thing to a real actress in this film, if you notice through all of the titty.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Hey, you can’t put your camera there… oh my god, put your camera there!”



5. Renn on Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone is very much this year’s Brick for me, and Brick is a film that I truly, deeply love. The similarities extend beyond the noir foundations though, as they each dig into a dense, insular world that is unfamiliar to most of us. Winter’s Bone explores a location much more based in reality though, and the sickly taint of meth production coats the rural Ozarks in a very real way. Ree is unconcerned with grand issues like the squalor meth has brought on the region, or how to topple the fiefdom of redneck drug-cookers that run the area in which she lives. Instead, Ree is dealing with plain ole day-to-day poverty, and even the mystery of her father’s disappearance is less important than the mystery of how she’s going to feed her siblings tomorrow. That’s what’s so great about Winter’s Bone- the focus and importance of Ree’s goal is so deep and unquestionable, that any mystery pales in comparison. We become invested in the people of the story, rather than any superficial revelations the plot could offer us. This wouldn’t work all that well if the film didn’t boast some of the best performances of the year but it does, so it does. Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes are doing stunning work here, blending into their characters, their motivations, and their environments seamlessly. This film won’t connect with everyone, and even those that enjoy it may not all be especially impressed, but if stories about hyper-focused protagonists in interesting environments interests you, Winter’s Bone can’t be missed. It’s is undoubtedly one of my favorites of the year, and one I can’t wait to revisit over and over for years to come.

Current rating: 9.6 out of 10

Contributing factors: Lawrence, Hawkes. The script and delicate direction of Debra Granik. Michael McDonough shooting the shit out of the Ozarks, making the RED camera his figurative motion-picture-capturing bitch.

Performance to savor: Lawrence is the discovery here, but the always-great Hawkes times his performance of Teardrop pitch-perfectly. Who would have thought a meth-cooker could be made so endearing, without loosing his edge or your desire to stay at least ten steps away from him at all times.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “You’ll love this redneck noir film, set in a land where meth is the stuff dreams are made of.”

DVD ReviewJohn Hawkes Interview




4. Renn on The Social Network

I didn’t connect with The Social Network in the same way that it seems most people did. Case in point: I was never not rooting for Zuckerberg, and I ultimately thought he came across as brilliant, visionary, and often frustratingly ahead-of-the-curve. I saw value in the examination of genius and the shrewd decisions that must be made by visionaries, and ultimately I think the film’s one flaw is the mildly on-the-nose, 1:1 connection made between Mark Zuckerberg’s motivations and his trouble with women*. It’s the foundation of the film though, and it’s the spine that makes what is ultimately an immensely entertaining political drama something more universal and classic. It’s certainly the narrative artifice that allows a classically-styled movie to be made from the life story of the world’s youngest billionaire who, all shenanigans aside, is what he is not because of bitterness towards females, but because of a unique combination of genius and luck.

I’m glad they invented that construct though, because The Social Network works best as an intense character study, and one that is relatable for reasons larger than of-the-moment social commentary. Had “the Facebook movie” been turned into an exploration of what has made the social network site such a center of our lives and our relationship with the internet… well, it probably wouldn’t be on as many Top x of the Year lists. What we got instead was a timely but timeless look at a public character that allowed for a master film craftsman and a master wordsmith to join forces and give us a great film. They should do it again sometime.

*That said (and this doesn’t reflect well on me, I suppose) I always found myself relating to Daniel Plainview to a disturbing degree.

Current rating: 9.6 out of 10

Contributing factors: It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s edited wonderfully. Reznor and Ross’ score is great, and the music selection is superb. Fincher and Sorkin were undoubtedly made for each other,

Performance to savor: There’s greatness all around, but it’s Eisenberg baby. Witty, dickheaded, vulnerable- it’s amazing what he crammed into a character that is so entertaining on screen, and yet shockingly reminiscent of the real Zuckerberg.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Fuck social commentary, just give me a great movie where people talk good.”

Review




3. Renn on Inception

I’ve written a ton of words about Inception this year, including a review of my own review along with the film itself on Blu-ray! With that in mind, I think I’ll port over my conclusion from the Blu-ray tag-team which sums it up well enough:

“My mood hasn’t swung, my views haven’t changed- Inception is great. It’s Nolan’s current masterpiece, but the wonderful thing is that it promises so much more from the filmmaker. I expect virtually every element of this film to hold up in the long-term and it’s one I’m looking forward to enjoying for as long as I’m watching movies. Inception is highly unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the overall quality of the average blockbuster –we’ll mostly just have a ton of trailers cut to the recognizable cues, and most picture-edits will be done with an Inception temp-score for a while– but beyond the slight uptick in slow-motion and gravity-bending that we’ll see, there’s always the chance that it will open the door for one more big-budget film with a brain. If only one more filmmaker gets to bring his or her slightly unconventional idea to the screen with enough dollars to pull it off, then it will all be worth it. Anything like that is a bonus though- we’ve got this one. It’s in the can, it was in the theaters, and now it’s in our homes. The studio can re-release it in 3D, or push through some misguided sequel, but it won’t matter- Inception is ours now.”

Current rating: 9.7 out of 10

Contributing factors: The marriage of effects and brains, a ton of actors having a ton of fun, and a uniquely left-brained approach to depicting dreams and layered reality.

Performance to savor: Depends on the viewing, but I always go back to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wonderful ability to step up and be a believable bringer of authority and subterfuge.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “Yo dawg, I heard you like dreams…”

ReviewBlu-Ray Review




2. Renn on Black Swan

Black Swan is explosive and operatic and raw and all of the things that make big bold cinema great. It makes for a wonderful pairing with it’s predecessor The Wrestler, and it’s an even better punctuation mark on what will ultimately be Aronofsky’s pre-major studio ouvre. I have a feeling that even a complete return to the low-budget indie for Aronofsky after Wolverine won’t stop his work from be classified as B.W. (Before Wolverine) and A.S. (After Swan). So we are ultimately left with a profoundly interesting, personal batch of films that represent the early work –ups, downs, and all– of one of the most interesting filmmakers currently living. Black Swan is the culmination of that early work and is his best and most thrilling look at the obsession that drives those who quest for greatness. Searches for universal understanding, money, and immortality (literally, then figuratively) have driven Aronofsky’s respective protagonists before Black Swan, and Nina’s desire for artistic perfection is the perfect cap on what could be considered Aronofsky’s “impossible personal quest saga.” Ending with the subject that is likely most personal for him –artistic expression– the filmmaker takes us to some of the darkest places he’s explored yet. What’s interesting is that Aronofsky’s ultimate conclusion seems to be that maybe some impossible quests are able to be completed- but at what cost does that resolution come?

Quite simply, Black Swan is a masterpiece and the best film of the year.

Current rating: 9.9 out of 10

Contributing factors: The multi-format photography. The brilliant staging. The remarkable score. The concussive, breath-taking finale.

Performance to savor: Kunis, Cassell, Ryder and Hershey are great, but Portman transforms right before our eyes. A cinematic rebirth, we feel the actresses real desire for adulthood and artistic maturity vibrate through her much more naive and innocent character.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “A remarkable journey, unmatched this year.”

Review




1. Renn on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

As I have no formal review that articulates my thoughts on Scott Pilgrim to fall back on, it was difficult to resist turning this into an overly long and ultimately late review of the film. Instead I’ll have to trust in the fact that you’ve already read excellent reviews of the film from very smart people that do a wonderful job explaining how great this film is. If not, I would encourage you to find some and then note that, yeah- what those guys said.

For me Scott Pilgrim is one of the most wonderfully cinematic movies of the year, despite being adapted from a graphic novel and its point of reference so often being video games. How could this happen? My best answer is to say that no other film this year managed to combine energetic imagery, bombastic sound, and rhythmically sublime picture-editing to such an exhilarating effect. If you connect with Scott Pilgrim, if you can tune yourself to its frequency, it’s the kind of film that gets in your blood and affects your heart rate. It makes you move and laugh and dance and cheer along with it, all through the power of visual and sonic rhythm. It’s one of those films that you can’t really be faulted for not LOVING, but those who are plugged into that same cinematic amplifier understand that it just doesn’t get any better than this. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve played a video game for more than an hour in my life, and yet Pilgrim is a film I can’t stop watching. It’s instantly taken a place in my arsenal of films to excitedly show people who missed it.

Current rating: 9.9 out of 10

Contributing factors: Ramona, Beck, Motion Graphics, D D D D D D D, Thomas Jane, the Hammer, VS screens, pixel sword, Cera, laugh tracks, FROM MY BRAIN!, coin remains, stupid hair, Continue…?

Performance to savor: Cera, Routh, Pill, Webber, Wong, Culkin, Kendrick, Plaza, Winstead, Larson, and Evans. All of ‘em.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “He is Scott Pilgrim, and he is here to make you think about love and have fun and stuff.”

VIDEO coverage of our Atlanta Scott Pilgrim event.



Honorable mentions….

The King Speech being missing is as much a clerical error as anything, though it didn’t stick with me as much as some of the “prestige” films of this year. Four Lions and Monsters are both great films that do a lot with a little, but the former is given a bit too much credit for being brilliant and brave, and the latter just didn’t have the kick to make it one of those BRILLIANT no-budget sci-fi films I love so much. There was another batch of great docs in Best Worst Movie and Freakonomics, and I was bummed to have no room for Waking Sleeping Beauty (the touch of corporate pandering ultimately made me remove it). Cyrus, The Killer Inside Me, and Get Low all feature really really great performances, but never quite became more than the sum of their parts. Finally, animation shone brightly this year with Toy Story 3 and The Illusionist, but not quite enough to make it.

Thanks for reading!

To sum it up…

1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

2. Black Swan
3. Inception
4. The Social Network
5. Winter’s Bone
6. Enter The Void
7. 127 Hours
8. Never Let Me Go
9. Meta-Documentary TIE: I’m Still Here / Catfish / Exit Through The Gift Shop

10. True Grit
11. The Fighter
12. The American
13. I Am Love
14. Blue Valentine
15. Jackass 3D