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Friday, December 31,2010

The bad and the beautiful

2010's 10 best and 10 worst movies

by James Sanford

Strange to think that at the beginning of 2010, I'm not sure I'd ever even heard the name Lisbeth Salander. Now, it's like she's practically a member of my own family. OK, well, maybe just a Facebook Friend.

But the central character of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- unforgettably portrayed by Noomi Rapace -- seemed like the thread that held this movie year together. In the spring, there she was in "Tattoo." Midway through summer, she roared back in "The Girl Who Played With Fire." In the final months of 2010, she stormed in as "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." Not to mention the fact that she'll be back in 2011 in director David Fincher's English-language version of "Dragon Tattoo," with Rooney Mara of "The Social Network" taking over the part; talk about a tough act to follow.

Lisbeth is a true survivor who has overcome all sorts of horrors and humiliations. Those of us who went to the movies frequently in 2010 can definitely relate. Whether it was the excruciating/exhilarating sights of James Franco struggling to cut off his arm to save his life in director Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," or Ryan Reynolds giving the performance of his career as a terrified man trapped in a claustrophobic coffin in the sadly overlooked "Buried," there was plenty to keep us on edge.Would Colin Firth ever stop stuttering in "The King's Speech"? Would Natalie Portman's toenails ever recover from Barbara Hershey's careless clipping in "Black Swan"? And would Leonardo DiCaprio and his cohorts ever figure out exactly whose subconscious they were navigating in "Inception"?

There were also plenty of traumatic experiences that were less artistically rewarding, such as the sad sight of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis trashing whatever warm feelings we might have had for the "Sex and the City" franchise by stomping through the Middle East like Gucci-clad Godzillas in the mind-bogglingly misguided, utterly witless "Sex and the City 2." And what about Jennifer Lopez, acting less like Jenny From the Block and more like Jenny the Blockhead in the rancid rom-com "The Back-Up Plan"? If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would one day be warning people to avoid at all costs a movie that starred Robert DeNiro, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Blythe Danner, I would never have believed it -- yet there is "Little Fockers," firmly ensconced in the 10 worst of the year list.

Ultimately, however, there was much to celebrate: When there is no room in the top 10 for movies as wonderful as "Toy Story 3," "How To Train Your Dragon" and "Let Me In," we must have had a year with enough outstanding films to make even the stony-faced Lisbeth turn her trademark frown upside down.

The 10 Best (click on title for full review, if available)

1. Inception: I can't tell you if the top falls over, or what. But the true mystery of director Christopher Nolan's brain-spraining masterpiece is how it continues to reveal hidden levels and secrets with each viewing.

2. 127 Hours


3. The King’s Speech

4. Black Swan

5. Rabbit Hole: Opening nationwide in January, this outstanding adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning play manages to expand the source material without mutiliating it, thanks to writer-director John Cameron Mitchell's marvelous modulation of the tricky tone and the heart-shatteringly fine performances of Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest.

6. The Fighter

7. The Social Network

8. Never Let Me Go

9. Winter’s Bone

10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

10 Very Worthy Runners-up
(click on title for full review, if available): Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Toy Story 3; How To Train Your Dragon; Greenberg; Easier With Practice (an amazing little black comedy based on the life of "Found" writer Davy Rothbart that never got the exposure it deserved); Let Me In; I Am Love; Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work; True Grit; North Face

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The 10 Worst (click on title for full review, if available)

1. Sex and the City 2

2. The Back-Up Plan

3. Remember Me

4. Going the Distance

5. The Spy Next Door

6. Little Fockers

7. Jonah Hex

8. Case 39

9. Cop Out

10. From Paris With Love

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