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The best movies of 2010

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Justin Strout

Don’t let the late-coming Oscar downers fool you: 2010 was all about hope and optimism returning to the multiplex. It was there from the year’s first week in Nicolas Cage’s bizarro-noir turn in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans and it was there in Hit-Girl’s shit-eating Kick-Ass grin. It permeated Toy Story 3’s homages to The Bridge on the River Kwai and Cool Hand Luke, and it was slathered all over Jeff Bridges’ whiskey-soaked True Grit beard. It’s the love of storytelling, and this year’s moviegoers rejected the nihilism of Robin Hood and the self-seriousness of The Last Airbender in its favor. That’s a “win” any way you cut it.

Be sure to visit www.orlandoweekly.com for our 2010 Best in Film Honorable Mentions!

1. The Social Network – What begins as a simple battle between the geeks and the cool kids – tech scholarships vs. WASP legacies – ends with everyone losing. What Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s exploration of the origins of Facebook managed to cram in between – ambition, jealousy, revenge, billion-dollar stakes and the connectivity of the world – was told in a more thrilling, breakneck-paced, smarter and funnier way than any other film this year. (on DVD Jan. 11)

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Director Edgar Wright pulled off a better postmodern romance than last year’s 500 Days of Summer, with Michael Cera coming into his own as a lost 20-something garage-banding his way through life until he meets Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s unobtainable Ramona. That plotline works well enough, but when Cera’s Pilgrim is thrust into an arcade world of epic battles he must win to be with Ramona, the result is gonzo filmmaking the likes of which I’ve never seen. (now on DVD)

3. Exit Through the Gift Shop – From the exuberant opening montage set to “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” Banksy’s documentary, which challenged our perception of art while simultaneously luxuriating in the ecstasy of an emerging style on the brink of becoming a worldwide commodity, took me places I never thought I’d enjoy so much. (now on DVD)

4. Blue Valentine – Director Derek Cianfrance’s debut film, 1998’s Brother Tied, was first embraced by the Florida Film Festival. While in town at the time, Cianfrance was heard talking about Blue Valentine, a script he was putting his all into. Twelve years later, that script became a heart-wrenching film featuring the talented Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in their best roles. In its portrait of a couple on the brink of divorce, Valentine feels so real and is so powerfully portrayed, that it put me in an emotional funk for a couple of days after seeing it. The last film that hit me that hard: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (in Orlando theaters Jan. 2011)

5. The Kids Are All Right – In helming a story of a couple thrown into turmoil by the arrival of their kids’ biological father, Lisa Cholodenko avoided melodrama in favor of natural emotional ebbs and flows. The scene where Annette Bening sings Joni Mitchell at the dinner table is at once the funniest and saddest cinematic moment of the year. (now on DVD)

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