Top 10 Films of 2010 – Allen’s Picks
#5: 127 Hours
Director Danny Boyle follows up his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008) with this claustrophobic, tense, emotional true story of a man who becomes literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. James Franco gives a career performance as Aron Ralston, an outdoor adventurer whose one minor error resulted with his arm caught beneath a boulder. For the next one hundred and twenty seven hours, we witness this man’s perseverance to outlast hunger, the elements, and his own deteriorating sanity. For a film set nearly all in one place, Danny Boyle uses a number of cinematic devices to keep the story continually moving, making the tiniest sip of water as tension-filled as a suspense movie. James Franco has never been better; through his acting we see a man who must remove all sense of self-importance and vanity, and must face the very real possibility of using desperate measures to survive. Franco has always been a good actor, but this is a role that will propel him to the next level. An uplifting and inspiring story, the film is very much about life itself, and goes to show that nothing is more powerful than man’s will to survive and return to those he loves. Yes, the film is also very tense and graphic at moments, but do not use that as a reason to not see this movie. This is a powerfully moving film, a cinematic experience that one should not miss.
#4: The King’s Speech
I was not expecting to like this movie as much as I did. The King’s Speech tells the story of King George VI (Colin Firth), notorious for his consistent stammer. Ascending to the throne of England after his brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates, King George, or “Bertie” as he is known to those closest to him, assumes a role that he feels unprepared for. To help him relieve his speech impediment, Bertie’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) enlists the unorthodox tutelage of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist who lacks an actual medical degree. Together, Bertie and Logue form the most uncommon of partnerships, working together to find the voice needed to lead the people. The highlight of the film is Colin Firth, who successfully shows us a king frustrated from a lifetime of stuttering and unfinished sentences. Firth’s acting here is truly an accomplishment; he presents his stammer so convincingly that we come to believe that he is truly trying to say something through his condition. This only makes the climax of the film, King George’s war-time address to the nation, that much more moving, because it is not just a speech reaffirming the unwavering spirit of the British people, but it is also the result of the hard work between two men who will eventually become the best of friends.
#3: The Fighter
There are two reasons why The Fighter is more than your typical sports underdog film, and those two reasons are Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. These are two actors who completely disappear into their roles; it’s as if director David O. Russell took two real-life personalities and placed them in to his film. Even though the movie stars Mark Wahlberg as the tough, real-life fighter Micky Ward, and although he does a good job with what he has, the best parts of the film feature Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother, and Christian Bale as his drug addicted brother, Dicky Eklund. Leo plays Alice Ward as a force to be reckoned with; with her big, dirty blonde hair tied high above her head, and a cigarette constantly hanging from her mouth. Alice was Micky’s manager; she booked his fights, got him gigs, and apparently knew what the score was. Whenever someone had an issue or disagreed with her, she was convinced it was not because of herself, but because that person didn’t know what they were doing. She wanted all business to be within the family, even when it was apparent the family was the cause for much of Micky’s issues. As for Christian Bale, here is an actor who has consistently given strong performances for years, and with this film I believe he should get the recognition he’s been long overdue. With his frail frame (who else loses weight more routinely than this guy?), twitchy eyes, dirty teeth, and constant movement, Bale’s Dicky is so realistically like a drug addict that you wonder just how far he went to achieve that level of truth. Here is a character that has fallen from grace, was once a great fighter himself, and now is living in the shadow of his past success. Micky wants Dicky to succeed, to find that sign of redemption, and as the audience, we come to desire that as well. These are two great performances in a film filled with great performances, the scene they share in the car being one of the best scenes in the film. This may be the first time since Raging Bull (1980) where the scenes outside the boxing arena are stronger than the sport itself.