1. The Social Network
The Social Network is a movie of biography of the famous ‘Facebook’ founder Mark Zuckerberg. It’s shaped beautifully to make us feel the overwhelming loneliness of Mark Zuckerberg, both the odd basis of his success and the reason it rings so hollow. In Jesse Eisenberg’s hands, he’s the vindictive nerd as tragic archetype, a know-all who doesn’t, finally, know himself. Setting his obsessions brilliantly to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s pulsating score, Fincher’s watertight direction elevates what might have seemed a legal footnote into a story for our times, one of human connections reduced to a pattern of ones and zeros, in a doomy echo chamber of clattering laptops.
2. Winter’s Bone
If it weren’t for the awards season thrusting it back into the spotlight, Winter’s Bone would have come and gone from theaters with hardly anyone noticing. Instead, the dark thriller set in the Ozarks and featuring the stunning breakthrough performance of Jennifer Lawrence has been heralded as this year’s ‘little film that could’. Directed by Debra Granik and based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone is harsh and beautiful, a haunting morality tale that lingers with you long after the credits have rolled.
3. ‘The King’s Speech’
Tom Hooper (The Damned United) directs this fascinating true story about the relationship between King George VI (played by Colin Firth) and Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Born Albert Frederick Arthur George, the second son of King George V was never expected to become King. However when his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne due to his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), George reluctantly ascended to power.
4. ‘Easy A’
Before you blast me for my decision to include Easy A – a film I’ll wager few if any other critics have placed on their top 10 lists – hear me out. We need more intelligent, well-written, well-acted films for teenagers and if we don’t support the few that exist, we’ll forever be subjected to teen comedies in which pee and penis jokes are considered the height of hilarity.
5. ‘Black Swan’
Leave it to Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler) to bring us the psychologically twisted tale of a ballerina who doesn’t just dance the role of the Black Swan in Swan Lake but who’s so in touch with her dark side that she becomes the Black Swan. Natalie Portman is absolutely mesmerizing as the dancer so obsessed with perfection, so controlled by dance that she loses the ability to separate reality from fantasy. With outstanding performances by Mila Kunis as a rival dancer, Vincent Cassel as the ballet company’s fiery director, and Barbara Hershey as Portman’s domineering mother, Black Swan is an engrossing peek inside a world seldom seen in films.
More on ‘Black Swan’
6. Toy Story 3
We expected a fond farewell to Andy’s toys, but maybe not this skilful a threequel, which keeps all the necessary plates spinning, hardly ever flags and elicited many a tear from grown adults when it says farewell to Woody and the gang, with the simple words “Thanks, guys”.
7. The Kids Are All Right
Cracking work from Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as feuding lesbian moms, and a bespoke part for Mark Ruffalo as the oblivious sperm donor who comes back into their lives. Director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko makes a spectacular breakthrough with this plum comedy of eye-rolling dysfunctionality.
8. How to Train Your Dragon
Another one great movie from PIXAR comes with exciting animation stuff. DreamWorks triumphed too, finally ditching the sarky quips for this charmer about a Viking blacksmith’s apprentice and his pet, a fire-breathing reptile of rare appeal.
9. The Ghost Writer
Initially underrated, Roman Polanski’s frisky political thriller about a PM in exile was classy, creepy and thoroughly absorbing. Yes, Ewan McGregor’s dissolute hack gets implausibly up to his neck, but the caustic repartee in Robert Harris’s script was great fun.
Love them or loathe them – and rival sections of the geekosphere did both – there was nothing to match Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending dreamscapes for giddying spectacle and scale this summer. Quite a ride.