David Fincher’s The Social Network is the closest thing to a perfect film that Hollywood has seen in a long time.
1. The Social Network (Columbia Pictures, PG-13)
Without slipping into hyperbole, David Fincher’s The Social Network is the closest thing to a perfect film that Hollywood has seen in a long time. Fincher’s direction is beautifully precise and seamless, and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is a masterpiece of storytelling. The film is flawless and every component is absolutely terrific, both individually and collectively.
Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, has crafted a character so believable and real that he hardly appears to be acting. The entire cast, for that matter, is wonderfully effective in each of their roles, especially Armie Hammer in his amazing performance as the Winkelvoss twins.
The Social Network has rightly been compared to classic films such as Citizen Kane and Rashomon for its storytelling style and basis on conflicting explanations of events. The true comparison, however, should be made for the film’s amazing contribution to cinema and timelessness that will forever be associated with the themes of the movie.
2. Inception (Warner Bros. Pictures, PG-13)
While The Social Network will likely always be agreed upon as a masterpiece, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is the type of film that filmmakers and audiences will discuss and dissect for decades. Nolan’s journey into the architecture of dreams can be read and interpreted on a number of levels, and its meanings and layers by themselves could easily be the basis of a doctoral thesis or full-length book.
Nolan has refuted time and time again that the movie is about filmmaking itself, though many viewers can only see it as such. It is also interesting to know that it is Nolan’s first original screenplay since his first film, Following, which is both a companion piece to Inception and the key to unlocking many of its secrets.
Inception is a brilliant film which Nolan will have a difficult time surpassing. Then again, the same thing was said about his previous film, The Dark Knight.
3. The Fighter (Paramount Pictures, R)
When I walked out of The Fighter, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach (no pun intended). David O. Russell’s movie is a breathtakingly powerful story of family, responsibility, perseverance and retribution. The true-life story of welterweight boxer Micky Ward played out like the plot of a movie because of the challenges he faced and burdens he willingly endured.
The film wouldn’t have been nearly as moving without Christian Bale’s performance as Micky’s brother, Dicky, an ex-boxing champ and crack addict who was once Micky’s hero. Bale gives his finest performance ever, which is saying a lot considering the truly great work he’s done so far in his career.
4. The American (Focus Features, R)
The American was the most overlooked and underappreciated film of the year. As a professional killer and weapons builder hiding out in an Italian village, George Clooney dropped weight and any sense of Hollywood stardom to transform into a man too overcome with demons to have a real connection with any other person. Director Anton Corbijn creates a stark realism in the world of the film that feels almost desolate and hopeless, but still manages to give the audience a small sense of optimism at the end of the movie.
5. Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions, R)
Set in the dreary, depressing Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Winter’s Bone follows a young girl who has endured a lifetime of struggles but must go on an Odyssey-like mission in order to keep her family together. Debra Granik’s film is absolutely heartbreaking, and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Ree Dolly is mesmerizing.
6. Let Me In (Overture Films, R)
Considering how loved and respected the original film adaptation is, director Matt Reeves had guts to make another adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish vampire story Let the Right One In. Reeves made the story his own, though, by cranking up the horror elements and giving a vintage, almost nostalgic, feel to the movie. Chloe Grace Moretz, who is astounding as the young, conflicted vampire, elevates the film from good to wonderful.
7. 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight Pictures, R)
Everything has pretty much been said about Danny Boyle’s film which tells the true life story of hiker Aron Ralston who had to make a decision that few of us could ever make. Boyle attacks the material with so much fervor that every moment of the film is pumped full of energy. James Franco as Ralston is brilliant. He gives one of the best performances of the year, and proves yet again how chameleon-like he is as an actor.
8. The Town (Warner Bros. Pictures, R)
Ben Affleck co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of the novel Prince of Thieves, directed the film and gives arguably his best performance ever. The Town is a classic heist movie in the best sense and Affleck proves that not only was Gone Baby Gone not a fluke but that his talent as a filmmaker is real and spectacular.
9. The Secret in Their Eyes (Sony Pictures Classics, R)
The Secret in Their Eyes is about one man, a retired attorney, who is still haunted by the events surrounding a case four decades old. The brilliance of the film is director Juan Jose Campanella’s ability to bounce back and forth effortlessly between the present and the past, which both build to one of the most disturbing and thought-provoking climaxes in recent memory.
10. Catfish (Universal Pictures, PG-13)
Whether or not this alleged documentary is real doesn’t matter. What matters is that the three amateur filmmakers behind it have captured a truly magical revelation of what it means to live in a world where social networks are more heavily relied upon as reality than what is outside our front doors. Released almost simultaneously with The Social Network, Catfish forcefully holds a mirror up to us and shows us that these are the “lives” that we are living.
| Matthew F. Newlin