Ugh.  I was halfway through this when my computer crashed and then I was out of town for two weeks.  Apologies for the delay! Thanks so much to everyone who has read these, and for commenting on them publicly or privately.  I’ve spent a good chunk on time on this, not to mention the…well, figure an average of 100 minutes per movie * 154 movies and that’s what, 10.5 days of watching movies?  In any case, it is nice to know someone else is getting at least a little something out of this exercise.  And, of course, thanks to Adam, Brian, and John for watching movies with me, exposing me to new ones, dealing with my travel schedule, and inspiring me to keep going with this. I believe that my favorite movies are the year’s best movies.  As such, if I were filling out an Oscar ballot without any considerations to game theory, this would be my list.

10. Please Give

A few months ago, I wrote up Please Give, suggesting the script was among my favorites of the year.  Seven months later, I still firmly believe that.  Characters in ensemble films can often feel underdeveloped or like stock characters because of how difficult it is to convey a character in such limited amount of words.  Writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s characters here are rich and engaging.  They feel like real people, sure, but real people interesting enough to warrant being in a film.  Plus, the dialogue is always sharp and often funny.  In my mind, the Academy seriously missed not nominating this WGA-nominated screenplay.  The film was very well-cast (and thus deserving of its Spirit Award).  I won’t be a bore and list out all the actors and actresses, but they are a lot of fun.

9. My Name is Khan

If I’m not mistaken, no Indian film received a nomination for Foreign Film since the quite excellent Lagaan in 2001.  And if My Name is Khan can’t make the cut, I’m not quite sure what will do the trick.  It has an autistic main character, a love story, deals with a Social Issue (the United States’s response to potential domestic terrorism threats), has heroism in the face of tragedy (there’s a subplot involving a small town being flooded), and is an ultimately hopeful look at one man’s long journey to meet President Obama.  Is it maybe a little melodramatic?  Sure.  But to good effect, I think.  The film stars Shah Rukh Khan, who seems to be in half the Bollywood movies I’ve seen and is one of my favorite actors.  He’s a leading man in the mold of Harrison Ford or Nathan Fillion — dashing and an action hero, but also self-aware enough to handle comedy.  The story is too long to rehash here, but he has a high-functioning form of autism, ends up marrying a single mother (Kajol), and after a serious tragedy and a comment said in anger, heads off on a Forrest Gump-like road trip to see Obama.

8. Lovely, Still

This Spirit Award nominee actually features some relatively big names: Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks.  Landau is a depressed, lonely old man.  He lives pretty much just for his bagging job at a supermarket, where Scott is his almost overbearingly well-meaning boss.  But one day, a little before Christmas, Ellen Burstyn moves next door along with her daughter (Banks) and after a meet cute, they start dating and living life as if they were decades younger.  Writer-director Nicholas Fackler’s film is charming, sweet, and packs an emotional punch.  The resolution won’t satisfy everyone, but I found it hauntingly powerful.  Plus the performances were really solid.  Lovely, Still was clearly in my wheelhouse, I hope it finds its way to other people who feel similarly.  Each year there’s one film I wouldn’t have seen if not for awards and I’m really happy I did.  This year, this is the film.

7. How to Train Your Dragon

Saw this one on a plane.  And then again on one of the movie channels I pay too much for.  The Academy absolutely made a right call putting an animated film in the Best Picture hunt, they just chose the wrong one.  For reasons still unclear to me, Toy Story 3 lapped up all the love this year that should have gone How to Train Your Dragon‘s way.  Not that the film did too shabby, raking in almost $500 million worldwide, two Oscar nominations, and has a sequel on the way.  Many people raved about how effectively the flying scenes used 3-D, I of course can’t speak to that.  I can speak to the heart and wit showcased in the film, though.  The story was both epic and extremely personal.  And sure, the movie espoused the usual themes of togetherness, understanding, and respect, but always in a way that serviced the story.  Like everyone else in the world, I”m a big Pixar fan, but their reign at the top actually ended one year earlier than people think.

6. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

A few years ago, when I was writing for The Playlist, the editor recommended I read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels.  I initially balked, both because I had a fear of the unknown when it came to graphic novels and if you’ve ever read anything over at The Playlist, you know their taste in movies tends to be directly opposite to mine.  I’m very glad I came to my senses.  The first volume of the series is one of the best pieces of literature I’ve ever read and the following books are all quite good.  And yet even with all those expectations, the film manages to make good on its promise.  There’s a whole other post I could write devoted to the many reasons it “flopped”, but this movie is funny, touching, inventive, charming, and altogether brilliant.  It is so perfectly cast, from the always unintentionally hilarious Brandon Routh as the super vegan to Chris Evans’s skateboarding action star to Kieran Culkin’s hilarious Wallace to the underrated Alison Pill absolutely nailing Kim Pine to the divine Mary Elizabeth Winstead figuring out the elusive Ramona Flowers.  Heck, even blog favorite Clifton Collins, Jr. has a cameo.  It is unfortunate that the country had a collective Michael Cera fatigue because he too really is quite good.

5. Hot Tub Time Machine

I suppose there was a chance I wouldn’t love an 80s throwback film starring John Cusack.  Well, OK, no, not really.  But where Hot Tub shines, is its self-awareness, whether it is Craig Robinson winking into the camera as he delivers the titular line or giving Chevy Chase a role, or all the ridiculous 80s things the film highlights.  This sort of time travel film can be difficult to pull off as it can often devolve into just killing time until the lesson is learned and the heroes just barely make it back to their present.  But Hot Tub is consistently funny and the tub itself is more a relatively minor MacGuffin to facilitate the nonstop humor.  And honestly, any movie that can get me to enjoy a Black Eyed Peas song must be doing something right.  The film was co-written by Sean Anders and John Morris (along with Josh Heald), and as we’ll soon see, I clearly dig their sensibilities.

4. She’s Out of My League

Remember screenwriters Anders and Morris from the last sentence I wrote? Here’s another one they did.  How about that foreshadowing!  I saw a sneak preview of this film with Adam, then watched on a movie network with a friend in a different city who had the DVD, and probably caught bits and pieces again.  So I’m fairly confident in my ranking here.  Broadly speaking, it is framed by many of the conventions of a modern romantic comedy: dorky guy, impossibly hot girl, wacky best friends, and there’s even a scene of people running to an airport.  (As a side note, someday I’ll get around to the post arguing those constructs aren’t really modern at all.  Taking a few liberties, that’s basically the general idea of It Happened One Night).  But She’s Out of My League places so high on my list because it subverts those conventions and does so while being really really funny.  I could spend a long time discussing this movie, but let’s take a look at the running to/in an airport scene as a microcosm of everything that is great about the movie.  We start with T.J. Miller (best friend of Jay Baruchel) calling up Krysten Ritter (best friend of Alice Eve).  This film was my first introduction to T.J. Miller, who is friggin’ hilarious.  And Krysten Ritter is nothing short of fantastic, here’s hoping Apartment 23 blows up huge this year.  Throughout the movie, these two strongly dislike each other.  In a traditional romcom, obviously, that means they’d end up together.  But no, here, they end up continuing to truly just hate each other.  Anyway, Ritter picks up Eve, true feelings are confessed, they rush to the airport where T.J. Miller, who works for TSA (or the airport, at least) hilariously barges her through security and then gets his friend to prevent the plane from taking off.  Meanwhile, Baruchel comes to his own realization, and tells off his whole family and ex-girlfriend, only to be unable to get off the plane in time.  When he eventually does, he has his own run through the airport, on one of those airport golf carts — chased by his maniacal ex-girlfriend (Lindsay Sloane).  Plus, I have a man-crush on Baruchel, and actual crush on Alice Eve.  And the film takes place in Pittsburgh, which is a refreshing change of pace.  Oh, and burying the lede here, but a Hall and Oates cover band may be involved.

3. The King’s Speech

I’m not sure how many people pegged this one correctly.  Plenty of people dismissed its Oscar prowess because the film was about British royalty.  Well, sure, but it was hardly the costume drama one normally thinks of as Oscar bait.  I won’t go so far as to claim the royalty stuff was incidental, but the film is more about the relationship between Firth and Rush than anything else.  Also, if I were angling for a Best Picture win, seems like I’d be sure to cast Guy Pearce in a supporting role.  I’m not sure he’ll be in much this year, but I guess The Wettest County in the World has to be an early front-runner for next year’s Oscar race.

2. Inception

Christopher Nolan is this generation’s defining action filmmaker, I think.  Like most action films, his films don’t really develop characters at all.  Which is certainly a problem in a relationship drama or a character study.  But I think many action films need rapidly-defined types in order for the audience to better appreciate all the explosions/destruction/carnage going on around the characters.

1. The Social Network

So, yeah.  Real original top three, I know.  And it is shocking that I would love an Aaron Sorkin script.  Can we talk for a minute about Jesse Eisenberg’s movies?  He starred in my favorite 2010 film.  He starred in my favorite 2009 film.  I wasn’t ranking movies in 2005, but The Squid and the Whale may have been my favorite movie of the year.  And I just watched Roger Dodger a month or so ago and loved that.  So I suppose you should be expecting plenty of Eisenberg movies high up these here rankings in the years to come.

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