The coming of December means a few things: holidays, great feasts and a compilation of the best movies of the year.
Oscar hasn’t yet tallied his favourites, but the following 10 films are the best of the year, ready to receive Academy Award Best Picture nominations (in reverse order):
10) True Grit
The Coen brothers return to the big-screen after last year’s critically successful A Serious Man was nominated for an Academy Award.
True Grit is an adaptation of the original novel, not a retelling of the 1969 version that starred John Wayne in his only Oscar-winning performance as ‘Rooster’ Cogburn.
Jeff Bridges inhabits the role in the Ethan and Joel Coen’s version, starring alongside Matt Damon, James Brolin and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
It’s almost an unspoken Hollywood truth that all directors and actors want to make a Western. True Grit is proof.
9) The Town
Ben Affleck has made a name in Hollywood as the Oscar-winning co-writer of Good Will Hunting, an actor with blockbuster hits and famous girlfriends, and a marriage to the stunning Jennifer Garner.
But he is starting to be recognized as one of the town’s best directors.
The first picture he directed was the critically-praised Gone Baby Gone (2007). He follows that wonderful film with one of the sleekest and coolest movies of the year, The Town.
He also stars as a bank robber who falls in love with one of kidnapped victims. The film co-stars Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, John Hamm and Rebecca Hall.
8) The Fighter
It’s truly amazing how Christian Bale puts on and takes off weight with seeming ease. For 2004’s The Machinist, he reportedly lost over 60 pounds to play the role.
In The Fighter, he loses enough to look like the crack-addicted Dicky Eklund, a far cry from his bulky role in the Batman films.
Mark Wahlberg stars as real-life boxer Mickey Ward, who gained fame in the 90s for his tough style and bloodbath fights with Arturo Gatti.
The Fighter is one of the best on-screen boxing stories in recent years.
There are just a handful of directors out there who are batting 1.000. Sofia Coppola is one of those directors who has never made a terrible picture.
She’s an artist, an film auteur who crafts some of the best works by focusing the camera on the spaces between, the silence in conversations.
Her famous father, Francis Ford Coppola, must have given her all of his directing genes. In Somewhere, she tells the tale of a Hollywood actor (Stephen Dorff) who’s holed up in a hotel when his 11-year-old daughter comes to visit.
Somewhere is another one of Coppola’s magically real stories about relationships and people struggling to live.
6) Black Swan
What’s real and what is imagined?
That’s the question that director Darren Aronofsky poses to audiences this Oscar season with arguably the best film of his career, Black Swan.
Natalie Portman gives the best performance of her young career, the early favourite in this year’s Academy Award race. Mila Kunis also shines in the supporting role.
The story revolves around the world of ballet, while the company puts on a production of Swan Lake. Ballerinas have never been this interesting, or dark.
5) 127 Hours
Coming off his 2009 Best Picture and Best Director Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle returns to the screen with 127 Hours, the true story of hiker and mountain climber Aron Ralston.
James Franco plays Ralston wonderfully — he goes through all the emotions of someone trapped under a boulder trying to survive.
Franco is a rare young actor. He combines a great sense of humour, James Dean looks (he played Dean in Golden Globe-winning TV performance), acting chops, and the ability to lose himself in any role.
This film might be the one that is remembered in the future for performance and style.
4) Shutter Island
There is simply no denying that when Martin Scorsese, the great film director of all-time, teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio, the best actor in the world today, magic happens.
Shutter Island was a departure for both filmmakers. The dark and eerie subject matter and tale of hallucinations and horror, in other hands, would be B-movie material.
Not with these two masters, though. DiCaprio sizzles as an FBI agent who has lost his wife and kids, and goes to Shutter Island to investigate a disappearance.
Scorsese weaved this tale so that the twists and turns are shocking and exciting. Cinema brilliance.
3) The Social Network
For fans of the spoken word, there wasn’t a movie with better snap and wit than The Social Network.
Director David Fincher tells the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s college days at Harvard, where he created the popular social networking site.
Aaron Sorkin’s script is air tight, full of quips and intelligence that have become his calling card.
But it’s the young actors that stand out the most. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer are all fantastic in their roles.
If nothing else, this film will win the Best Screenplay Oscar. Much deserved, for it’s one of the best scripts of the past decade.
2) Toy Story 3
Woody and Buzz are back, probably for the last time, in the closing chapter of this Pixar trilogy.
The first two films were marvellous, but Toy Story 3 might be the best animated movie of all-time. It’s a treat for audiences of all ages.
Woody and Buzz and Andy’s other toys are accidentally donated to a day care. They meet the rejected toys there, where they struggle to escape.
Toy Story 3 is about friendship, getting older, love and loss. It’s a laugh a minute, but it also abides by the old Walt Disney quote, “For every laugh, there should be a tear.”
In fact, I challenge any adult to make it through the ending of this movie without crying.
Christopher Nolan has crafted some of the most fan-friendly films over the past decade.
He gave us
emento, an indie breath of fresh air. He re-envisioned the Batman franchise and brought it to a more real and dark place, helming Batman Begins and the wildly successful Dark Knight. In 2010, he brought us Inception, the most mind-bending film ever.
Inception’s stars are some of the best, a list of greats including Leonardo DiCaprio (the best), Oscar-winner Marion Cottiard, Oscar-winner Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and many more.
The story is not difficult to explain, although some people like to jump on that bandwagon.
It’s simple, really: Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb is sent into people’s subconscious and unconscious to steal the root of their ideas, hence the name Inception.
Yes, there are rules that the filmmaker provides, but the story is rather simple. It’s the way in which Nolan tells the story that is complex and brilliant.
Inception was a blockbuster hit over the summer, earning more than $800 million at the worldwide box office.
It’s a movie that immediately became part of the zeitgeist, with ideas that everyone was talking about and trying to figure out.
Hopefully, the Academy won’t overlook the film come voting time, like they did with Avatar, just because it was a giant hit.
Inception deserves to be at the top of everyone’s best movie list. It’s the best movie of the year.