Winter's Bone - Jennifer Lawrence

Best of 2010: Film

2010 was quite a year for film and we like our movies around these parts, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Shelf’s “Best of 2010” film list comes in at a ridiculous 2200 words. True, we didn’t make contact with extraterrestrials in 2010 (Peter Hyams and Arthur C. Clarke lied!), but we did get a year full of extraordinary films. Here are our few of our favourites. – Will Perkins

Winter’s Bone

Winter's Bone - Jennifer Lawrence

A tiny film that came out of nowhere top win top prize at Sundance this year, this film strips bare all pretense of gloss and glamour to tell a strange and sad tale, anchored by the most extraordinary performance of the year. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a girl who must take responsibility for her mother and two young siblings. When their father goes missing, she has little time to find him or risk losing their home. Set in Missouri, this is the land of serious drug abuse in a part of the United States where little employment exists. Ree will not back down from any fight, nor will she rest until she gets the answers she needs to save her family. This is a frightening world, almost post-apocalyptic in its plethora of useless things and lack of the necessities of life. Ree does not threaten anyone, nor think herself above them; but she will seek the truth that she needs at any cost. It is a stark portrait of a very real part of American that has been left behind, and how the few that strive to make things right are likely losing the battle. Shelagh Rowan-Legg

Balada Triste de la Trompeta


Balada Triste de la Trompeta

Returning in many ways to the style of his early films such as Accion Mutante, de la Iglesia creates a fantastical fable about a group of circus performers who struggle through love and revenge during the last days of Franco’s reign in Spain. The film begins with a clown in drag running wild against Nationalist soldiers with a machete, and ends with a trapeze artist throwing herself off a statue, unspooling a length of cloth like the blood spilt over the preceding thirty years. In between, a young man named Javier, the sad clown, attempts to win the love of Natalia, whose husband Sergio abuses her. Extremes of violence are mirrored in the extreme lives of the circus folk, who freakish jobs and hence freakish lives become a love parody for the state of Spain during these tumultuous years. The film is a grand opera, willing to go farther and further than most historical-styled epics. De la Iglesia knows that it is only in these extremes that the truth can be found, as in an opera, and the use of the fantastical circus serves to make the grandiose into a perfect metaphor. Shelagh Rowan-Legg


Buried - Ryan Reynolds

This seems like a fairly straightforward (if frightening) story on the surface: a American truck driver, working for a company in Iraq, is kidnapped and buried alive in order to be held for ransom. Armed only with a cell phone, a pen and a zippo, Paul (played by Ryan Reynolds) must try to reach someone, anyone, who can free him before his air runs out. But Cortes ups the ante by filming the story entirely inside the coffin, with all other characters only voices on the phone. This creates likely the most intense and claustrophobic film I’ve ever seen; despite the size of the screen, the viewer is right inside that coffin with Paul. And the world outside: the loving wife, the fellow truck driver also in trouble, the unfeeling corporate executive, and the semi-sympathetic officer. Shelagh Rowan-Legg

Toy Story 3


Toy Story 3

Pixar Animation Studios, the much-loved film collective known for its animated shorts and features, continues its near-perfect streak of heart-warming, gut-wrenching and gorgeous storytelling with Toy Story 3. In the third and final Toy Story installment, Woody and the other toys face an uncertain future as their owner, Andy, prepares to leave for college. If you enjoy this film — as I’m sure you will — be on the lookout for Woody, Buzz and the gang in a Toy Story short screening with the upcoming Cars 2. Sasha James

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

While not all of the biggest releases were masterpieces within themselves, many of them made movie hype fun again. Tron: Legacy, which within itself is nothing more than a pretty fun blockbuster, was more fun leading up to it, months before bantering about Daft Punk’s score, in-jokes and overall gushing. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, especially for locals, even brought back some magic into general Toronto living. My brother saw Pilgrim while home sick with mono, and seeing the appearance of the Comeau character, based on a real dude with the same name he met mere months before at a weird zine thing I dragged him to, sort of brought the watching experience to a whole other level. Game jokes and Toronto jokes littered Edgar Wright’s precious little movie, and while it didn’t find footing with general audiences, meant so much more to those who let it into their hearts. It had to come up sooner or later, but Inception is the best movie for those willing to suspend their belief on hooks so high it would make even the most brutal body modder cringe. It was Nolan’s film that made absolutely everything up, something done a lot in half-baked science fiction, but interesting to see how that pans out when an actual budget is supplied. Jackass 3D gave us the most creatively fulfilling scene to ever include a dildo cannon.


But there is still plenty of room for films that weren’t the most expensive of all time. Eli Roth did something odd and neglected to buy a bucket of blood, the result was The Last Exorcism, a film that did everything right by doing the opposite of every other fake-horror-mentary in its sect. As far as real documentaries go, I actually saw Best Worst Movie last year, but it came out this year, and for folks who have been long laughing at the depravity of b-movies may find how interesting the highs and lows of cinematic infamy can be. Rubber had Mr. Oizo/Quentin Dupieux  bring back the wonderful creative enema that is music video direction back to the big screen, something I had been longing for since Jonze and Gondry’s best days.Zack Kotzer

The Social Network


The Social Network

It’s a credit to David Fincher’s filmmaking and t0 Jesse Eisenberg’s performance that the audience actually cares about Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. His character is as reprehensible and as unlikable a guy ever put to film, and yet we root for him. The film is an underdog story about a billionaire asshole. Fincher’s moody digital aesthetic, the wonderful ensemble cast, Trent Reznor’s subtle-yet-integral score and Aaron Sorkin’s too-clever-for-it’s-own-good script all come together to make a movie that is a real joy to take in. Granted, people don’t talk in Sorkinisms in real-life, but the film’s smug and self-satisfied script is a perfect fit for this Ivy-Silicon drama.  Will Perkins

The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt - Alexandre Franchi

The Wild Hunt focuses on Erik, an average Quebecois twenty-something whose girlfriend and brother are obsessed with live action role-playing games (LARP, for short). Chasing after his girlfriend after a fight, Erik dons a peasant shirt and joins the game to win her back. While the fodder for comedy is plentiful, Erik’s first glimpse of LARP manages to be genuinely charming and heartfelt — all while being terrifying as hell. Sasha James

127 Hours


127 Hours - James Franco

You have to hand it to Danny Boyle for taking a story that takes place mostly in one location with one character and making it one of the most engaging, visceral, and emotional movie-going experiences in recent memory. Boyle has dozens of little tricks up his director’s sleeve (some more gimmicky than others) to depict what was going on in this man’s mind when faced with death and keep us engaged in his plight.  While some found it way too graphic, I thought the gruesome climax was incredibly effective and well earned. It was a scene that I’ll never forget. It made me grin and cringe all at once, I highly recommend seeing this movie in theatres while you still can so that you can experience the different reactions of the rest of the audience, that is if you’re not too busy trying not to lose your own shit. Noah Taylor

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy: the guy with more street art cred than anyone, proves that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. The resulting film is a wonderful examination of hype versus art. Noah Taylor

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson

I still can’t believe that the same team that made the last few lackluster Potter films managed to pull off this surprisingly entertaining entry from what I thought was one of the most boring parts of the books. But the highlight for me was definitely the animated addition of The Tale of Three Brothers directed by Ben Hibon. Noah Taylor

I’m Still Here

I'm Still Here - Joaquin Phoenix

Casey Affleck’s ballsy mockumentary made fools of us all, “documenting” actor Joaquin Phoenix’s supposed descent into drugs, madness and mediocre hip-hop. But what makes I’m Still Here a great film isn’t the ruse we all fell for, or the heavy-handed examination of the pitfalls of fame — it is the depraved and utterly believable performance by the film’s subject. While we now all know that the movie was an elaborate hoax/brilliant piece of peformance art, ambiguity about the film’s true nature could have made I’m Still Here an absolute classic. To have the actor reemerge several years later, without acknowledgement would have been incredible. Still, I’m happy to know that Phoenix — a legitimately talented man — did not completely fall off the wagon. Will Perkins

Black Swan

Black Swan - Natalie Portman

It’s hard to find the words to talk about a movie as mesmerizing as Darren Aranofsky’s Black Swan. When I came out of the film’s packed final public screening at this year’s TIFF, I was gasping for breath. What starts as a erotic psychodrama with Freudian subtext turns into a grotesque horror film before transcending any attempt at labelling and becoming something truly unique. It’s an art film, a genre film, and a character study all rolled into one. But it’s when the stunning final ballet sequence begins that everything, the frantic camerawork, Clint Mansell’s Tchaikovsky-indebted score, the subtle visual effects, the perfectly timed editing, it all coalesces into a dazzling and magical example of cinematic showmanship. Alan Jones

The American

The American - George Clooney

Many people were misled by the marketing of this film, which suggested a generic “hitman on his final job” storyline starring George Clooney. What these people were led into was a slow, methodical, Antonioni-influenced thriller filled wall-to-wall with moral ambiguity and gorgeous cinematography of provincial Italy. Of course, Antonioni never featured a hitman screwing a hooker with a heart of gold in any of his films, and although not much happens in The American, the tension in Clooney’s character comes not from existential ennui, but from the threat posed to his life by any number of characters. This film is the perfect mixture of Hollywood archetypes and European art-film cool. Danish director Anton Corbijn got his start in photography before debuting as a director in the beautifully shot and excellently acted Joy Division bio-pic Control, but The American is by far the superior film; I hope to see a long and exciting career behind the camera from him. Alan Jones

Shutter Island

Shutter Island - Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo Dicaprio

Shutter Island is another film from 2010 that confused audiences and critics alike. Martin Scorsese’s recent Oscar and the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio had people expecting something a little less trashy than this. But here is Scorsese, a master filmmaker, making what might be the most expensive pure horror film ever made. Red herrings are thrown into the plot with abandon, characters accost the camera with grotesque wounds on their faces, and Scorsese plays tricks with the camera that are obvious, yet effective. No other film this year had critics reaching so far back into their knowledge of obscure cinema, and never has Vincent Price appeared to be so popular amongst reputable print publications. Watching Scorsese take on the horror genre is a bit like eating a master chef’s chocolate mousse — it can be hard to stomach, but if you can take it, it’s fucking delicious. Alan Jones

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine - Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling

Of all the movies I watched in 2010, I was suprised by how much Blue Valentine stuck with me. It’s an emotionally wrenching film that juxtaposes the beginning and the end of a relationship. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling so immerse themselves in the characters that you can’t help but feel invested in the relationship. The audience watches the couple’s sweet and wholly realistic beginnings, and then their tumultous and equally realistic break-up. If you’ve ever been in love or had your heart broken, you will be affected by Blue Valentine. Brilliant filmmaking and incredible acting.Will Perkins

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