Jesse Hassenger’s Top 10
1. Inception (Christopher Nolan)
I guess you could dismiss this as freshman-level philosophy and mild-buzz trippiness, but Christopher Nolan’s unapologetic heist-movie framework for dreams-within-dreams makes Inception the most purely enjoyable movie-movie of the year, with strong emotional chords struck by Leonard DiCaprio as a man fighting his way out of a James Bondian subconscious.
2. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach doubles down on the (often hilarious) misanthropy that turned so many off of Margot at the Wedding; Ben Stiller abets as an unpleasant man cursed with critical-speaking anti-skills that any film critic will probably recognize.
3. The Social Network (David Fincher)
Aaron Sorkin discovers the secret to making Aaron Sorkin characters less insufferable and, actually, fascinating: make ’em jerks, or at least guys we’re never prompted to admire. Without that hero-slash-self-worship, Sorkin’s dialogue stings harder and faster, and David Fincher’s coolly observational eye never sweats to keep up.
4. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
Having long established their visual invention and comic timing, the Pixar team keeps pushing the envelope on how much emotional heft and glimpses of darkness can make it into a top-grossing G-rated blockbuster.
5. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
It’s The Wrestler for ladies! And plus glorious nightmares!
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright)
One reason we always complain about no one making good (much less great) romantic comedies is that no one seems to count a movie like this as one. Maybe because it wrecks the hell out of the curve.
7. I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
Jim Carrey gives his best performance in years by starring in what is, essentially, a Jim Carrey comedy flipped into a cock-eyed semi-sick joke—that nonetheless has more recognizable humanity than any of his crowd-pleasers.
8. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
English kitchen-sink indies aren’t usually my bag, but apparently if you add downtrodden humor, a brilliant performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis, and just a pinch of Step Up 2 the Streets, I tumble hard.
9. The Other Guys (Adam McKay)
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are the De Niro and Scorsese of secretly absurdist big-studio comedy.
10. 127 Hours (Danny Boyle)
The real soloist here isn’t James Franco but Danny Boyle, who can make kinetic, impressionistic thinking-person’s music videos of just about anything.