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The best movies of 2010

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6. Tangled – A beautiful fairy tale from the classic Disney princess mold, Tangled had it all – lively adventure, fluid animation, elegant storytelling – without resorting to decade-old pop-culture references or Smash Mouth songs. (now in theaters)

7. Restrepo – I’ve heard it said that what America needs to be emotionally connected to our current war is war footage, the kind that flooded people’s homes on a nightly basis during Vietnam. This is that footage, though it’s far from partisan. Following a platoon for a year through the deadliest place on earth, the only thing to conclude about the Afghanistan War after viewing Restrepo is that our troops are, a) just kids, and b) tough as nails. (now on DVD)

8. Karate Kid – So ingrained in ’80s pop culture was the original Karate Kid that its touching qualities and peerlessly executed triumph is easily overlooked, including an Oscar-nominated performance by Pat Morita. This “update” could have taken that for granted as well. It didn’t. Written, directed and acted in the alternately meditative and attitudinal spirit of its origin, the Jackie Chan-starring, kung fu-focused remake soared with an Eastern majesty and a Western smirk. (now on DVD)

9. Easy A – With her flame-red hair, it’s too easy to compare the young Emma Stone to Lucille Ball, but Stone’s soul-piercing gaze and disarming ease in front of the camera make it an apt one. Stepping into the spotlight as if she was always there, Stone chewed up director Will Gluck’s smart-teen setup – a jaded, liberal wiseass takes on Hawthornian high school puritans – and spat out something entirely fresh. Gluck, meanwhile, proved that the surprising charm of his debut, the should’ve-been-awful Fired Up!, was no fluke. (now on DVD)

10. Jack Goes Boating – Unlike so many quirky-for-the-sake-of-quirkiness indie leads, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s titular character in this adaptation of the Robert Glaudini play wants to grow as a person, and he has a big heart. Jack Goes Boating is the anti-Greenberg: a human tale with characters who consider others’ feelings, not just their own. (on DVD Jan. 18)

Speaking of Greenberg, I’m naming it the year’s worst film. Starring Ben Stiller and directed by Noah Baumbach, it’s a film by assholes, for assholes, about assholes. Knowing and self-loathing or not, the world its characters inhabit is insular, grim and completely of their own making. That doesn’t make them anti-heroes; it makes them sociopaths. Baumbach has said in interviews that he thinks it’s funny how awful Stiller’s character is. You know who else tried to pull that stunt this year? Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix is an idiot. Baumbach is not. He should’ve 
known better.

William Goss

“Every creation myth needs a devil,” Rashida Jones’ character explains to Jesse Eisenberg’s in The Social Network, and she’s right. This was the year in film where ambition and adoration came back to bite characters in the ass. Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to create Facebook cost him his closest friends. Mattie Ross’ quest to avenge her murdered father took a physical and emotional toll in True Grit. Nina Sayers’ pursuit of artistic perfection wreaked havoc on her psyche in Black Swan, Olive Penderghast’s self-generated rumors of promiscuity built up and tore down her reputation in Easy A, and both of Leonardo DiCaprio’s grief-stricken men in Inception and Shutter Island lost themselves to grand illusion and grim delusion. Maybe that’s bleak, but the films mentioned above and listed below saddened, angered, tickled and thrilled me all the same. Some of these didn’t open here properly, but still deserve some love; if they’re not on DVD or VOD already, they will be soon. As for a few others – Rabbit Hole, Another Year, Blue Valentine and The Way Back – that won’t open locally until early next year, let me simply say they’re all well worth keeping on your radar.

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