Trapped between a rock and hard place, 12 months in the life of middle British class, youth in the life of the lower British class, a Boss documentary, the making of a contemporary phenomenon and the satisfying conclusion to a beloved animated series. 2010 was a peak year for everyone. Directors were following through with previously great films with more great films. It’s a shame that the Best Picture choice was so lightweight with the flimsy but sporadically charming King’s Speech. Would have much preferred The Social Network to continue its sweep. Here are essential movies of the year to watch:
127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
Riding a high from the runaway success of Slumdog Millionaire garnering the biggest Oscar sweep since the third Lord of the Rings, Danny Boyle decided to double down in scale with a film mostly set in a single small space with a single character. It was a great decision, as it turned out to be his best film since Trainspotting. The ending makes me cry every time. Pure cathartic filmmaking.
Another Year (directed by Mike Leigh)
It’s no secret of mine that Mike Leigh is my all-time favorite director. My Another Year experience was incredibly special in that I saw it at the London Film Festival with the cast and crew present, it ended up being my favorite Leigh film at the time. It perfectly encapsulates his frequent themes of self-worth and relationships. Funny and tragic in equal doses, Lesley Manville’s performance is incredible.
Cemetery Junction (directed by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant)
This film is relatively unknown in the USA due to a tiny cinematic release which is a shame because it would suit American sensibilities to a T. You might expect something more gritty and verite with Gervais given his Office roots but Cemetery Junction is slick with its cinematography and soundtrack with its script having just as much laughs and heart. I really hope they can make another one this good.
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town (directed by Thom Zimny)
Okay, this will have a very limited audience. This documentary (which did have a cinema release) is about the writing, recording and impact of Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Any Boss fan would love it as it has eye-opening archive footage. See also 2005’s straight-to-DVD but just as good Wings For Wheels which is about the making of his 1975 album Born to Run.
The Social Network (directed by David Fincher)
It’s hard to imagine a world without Facebook. The Social Network connects those two before and after worlds. I admit I was a skeptic about this film at first. Fincher had disappointed with Zodiac and Benjamin Button and the subject matter was too vague. But I was so proved wrong. People who argue it doesn’t have a heart aren’t looking close enough as it has Shakespearean levels of depth in its themes of friendship, success and betrayal.
Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
Millions of children grew up with Woody and Buzz. Half of my childhood pictures have me wearing a Toy Story t-shirt or a Buzz Lightyear costume. The idea of a long-awaited sequel to the nearly-as-good Toy Story 2 was a tall order, especially considering the roll Pixar was on. Not only did it meet expectations but it blew them apart. I saw it three times in the cinemas and my face was a waterfall by the end every time.