True Grit

Released December 22, 2010 | Grade: A+
An elegant, nostalgic masterpiece and the Coen Brothers’ best movie yet, this so-called Western is actually a coming-of-age adventure about Mattie Ross, a precocious teenage girl who learns that enforcing “an eye for an eye” comes with a price. With the always convincing Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, a rough around the edges US Marshal hired by Mattie to hunt down the psycho who killed her father for no good reason, this dark and touching comedy about courage trumping evil speaks in a timeless cinematic language.


The Ghost Writer

Released February 19, 2010 | Grade: A-
From the elaborate concept shots to the dramatic score to the tense tedium of psychological suspense, director Roman Polanski remains one of the best storytellers in the business, keenly aware of the atmosphere needed for edge-of-your-seat thrills. Ewan MacGregor plays a ghost writer hired to revise the first draft of an ex-British Prime Minister’s memoirs. Filling in for a predecessor who has just died under suspicious auspices, the ghost writer eventually uncovers secrets connecting his British employers to the CIA. This cautionary tale about the seductive nature of wealth and power delivers a stinging and memorable conclusion.


Inception

Released July 16, 2010 | Grade: A
Christopher Nolan, director of the allegorical Batman film The Dark Knight and cult favorite Memento weaves a compelling web of corporate espionage from the criminals’ point of view. Leonardo DiCaprio gallantly plays a man hired to perform “inception,” the process of planting an idea into another person’s subconscious. With a gang of experts who do their work via sedating hypnotic chemicals and technology that enables communal invasion of their target’s subconscious, DiCaprio’s Cobb performs this one last job in exchange for a clean slate that will allow him a return to his family in the States. How he came to be wanted as a murder suspect is something we figure out mainly through his dreams, subconscious visions which, in general, this movie depicts more originally, accurately, and expressively than most films in history.


The American

September 1, 2010 | Grade: A
Anton Corbijn’s existential thriller follows a hit man performing one last job, the construction of a weapon to be used for an upcoming assassination. Hiding out in the hills of a remote Italian village, the hit man ends up falling in love with a provincial prostitute after patronizing her services during his stay in what is presumably her home town. George Clooney plays the brooding lead in this slow and deliberate meditation on the chaos that goes with a life dictated by excessive order – that which comes from the barrel of a gun. We achingly hope that the hit man will escape his life of organized crime, and yet we know it’s impossible. He who plays with fire gets burned.


The Social Network

October 1, 2010 | Grade: A
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s profound, funny, and Mamet-esque text supplies a propulsive foundation to David Fincher’s modernist epic, a gripping courtroom (arbitration) drama about the pros and cons of loneliness, the psychological condition which infects its hero, pushes him to invent Facebook, and ultimately transforms him into a billionaire. Like Sorkin, director Fincher achieves a more authoritative scope than ever before seen in his work. Minimal, formalist camera direction and rapid-fire, deadpan delivery of dialogue marries the inventive zaniness of Fight Club and sober procedure of Zodiac. This powerful film shows us, with an aesthetic both confident and moody, that even the most intimidating of anti-heroes feels remorse.


Honorable Mention:

Winter’s Bone

June 11, 2010 | Grade: B
After a meth-making convict irresponsibly puts up his family’s home as a bail bond, his teenage daughter endures horrific intimidation from local criminals when she tries to locate her father and prevent her family’s demise. This winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize succeeds as a Twain-esque tale about self-sufficiency in the backwoods. The visual direction is much more ordinary than the casting, script and authentic locations, but the story’s shocking realism shines through nevertheless. this is the little indie film that could.


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