2010 Best movies

The 25 Best Films of 2010 | Feature


Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)

If Noah Baumbach is, as Jonathan Rosenbaum has suggested, Renoir to Whit Stillman's Rohmer, then Greenberg is both his Boudu Saved From Drowning and his Golden Coach; we're invited to see past the palate-cleansing kitsch of southern California, where the titular misanthrope (Ben Stiller) takes a long post-breakdown vacation in his absentee brother's upper-class villa. But Greenberg's aged interloping inadvertently reveals the perverse strength rather than the hypocrisy of his sterile surroundings; he coldly pounces on his brother's assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig), not realizing that her Valley dorkiness is a more effective emotional shield than his Manhattan causticity. They painfully, and hilariously, grope at each other's aversion to intimacy amid L.A.'s lonely, mile-long city blocks. And Baumbach, unafraid to rescue multiple lives from the brink of death, hesitantly unspools the milieu's plaintive magic. Joseph Jon Lanthier


The Social Network (David Fincher)

Awe and uncertainty reverberate equally throughout The Social Network, David Fincher's fictionalized take on Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook. Spearheaded by Jesse Eisenberg's commandingly nuanced lead performance, Fincher's latest is a sleek, scintillating portrait of intellect and ambition, a snapshot of a particular time and place, a stinging class-hierarchy comedy, and a universal story of trying to fit in. As Aaron Sorkin's rat-a-tat-tat script psychologizes its programming-prodigy subject, Fincher's enthralled camera swings, pops, and speeds alongside the meteorically rising Zuckerberg, all while sumptuously evoking the Ivy-League privilege that his protagonist both coveted and ultimately circumvented on his way to billions. Thrillingly electric and yet quietly tragic, it's a keenly observed film about genius, technology, and social desires that's rooted in ambivalence. Nick Schager


Our Beloved Month of August (Miguel Gomes)

How do the circumstances of a film's production affect the content of the finished product? How much of a role do happy accidents play in the construction of a movie? And where does one draw that ever-elusive line between fiction and documentary? These are three of the many questions Miguel Gomes asks in his provocatively offbeat second feature, Our Beloved Month of August, a film that could be described as chronicling the making of itself, if there weren't so many tricky ambiguities involved to complicate such a relatively straightforward summary. Sent to the Portuguese countryside with a massive script but no actors or funds, Gomes instead turned his camera on a local musical festival and the area's residents themselves. These telling semi-docu-glimpses of rural life make up the film's first half before giving way to a movie-within-a-movie whose tale of music, romance, and incest draws its immensely satisfying power from the way it seamlessly incorporates the previously glimpsed facts and people of the region into its fictional edifice. Andrew Schenker


Ghost Town (Zhao Dayong)

An essential addition to the Chinese cinematic project of documenting the collateral damage of the country's massive economic transformations, Zhao Dayong's Ghost Town chronicles a dusty southwest village utterly left behind by the nation's shifting focus toward its coastal-based economy. While a statue of Mao in the town square recalls the questionable legacy of the country's past, Zhao's tripartite doc takes in an estranged father-son pair of Christian priests, an alcoholic ditched by his wife and child and a 12-year-old kid forced to fend for himself after being left behind by his parents. Abandonment is the watchword here, as the country's neglect of its former provincial centers is mirrored by the rifts between family members and between contemporary life and ancient tradition that play out daily on the town's streets, a set of circumstances that Zhao captures in striking digital imagery, most memorably in a fiery ghost-exorcism ritual led by the preteen that speaks eloquently to the boy's will to overcome the privations brought about by his inherited past. Schenker


45365 (Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross)

Brothers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross are literally transfixed by the idea of communication as the essence to rural life in America. In their quiet hometown of Sidney, Ohio—zip code 45365—they freely skulk around capturing poetic glimpses of people simply going about their everyday lives. Essentially a series of fragments, 45365 begins with fireworks lighting up Sidney's sky and ends with snow dusting its ground. In between, a football season and political campaign runs its course, a cop hilariously assesses a disgruntled man's cable connection, and an Elvis impersonator takes to the stage at the local carnival. Gorgeously scored, intuitively filmed, this condescension-free documentary finds something gloriously alive in seemingly mundane Americana. Ed Gonzalez

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