The best, or at the very least my favourites. Can anyone be that objective about these things?
In 2009 I genuinely struggled to find a Best Film, eventually settling on the theatrical release version of John Woo's Red Cliff, the only genuine five-star film of the year, and had to pad my list out with only-just four-star titles that perhaps didn't belong on anyone's Best Of The Year lists. 2010 has been better: there have been quite a few five-star films to pick from, and a lot of confortable four-star ones as well. All these were theatrically released in UK cinemas between the start of January and the end of December this year:
1. INCEPTION. From the moment I saw it I knew it was straight in as the best of the year. I loved the ideas behind it, I loved the fact that anyone could make a multi-layered SF thriller taking place on five or six different tiers of unreality, all operating at different speeds and the audience would always know which layer they were in and would always know exactly what was going on on each level, regardless of the cutting between the layers. If you had to nip out to the bog or you came in late, you had no chance at all of fathoming where you were or what everyone was doing - for so many movies you could duck out for half an hour and not miss anything at all but with Inception you have to pay attention and that attention is richly rewarded. Maybe if you watch it twenty or thirty times you start picking holes in the different levels, but it certainly held together for me. I think I did actually stagger when I came out of the cinema, and not in a bad way.
2. TOY STORY 3. To be honest I can take or leave a lot of digimation movies: the Madagascars and Shark Tales and Over The Hedges and Ratatouilles usually pass me by. Whatever their qualities I always feel they're just not aimed at me, and in addition I'm growing disenchanted with the emphasis on 3D (even in live-action movies). But I did go to Toy Story 3 and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it, and watching it again on DVD it's still surprising, touching, exciting, funny and dazzlingly designed and conceived. I do think that Toy Story 4 should absolutely not happen but I fear that it will.
3. MICMACS. This doesn't appear to have found favour with anyone at all, so maybe it was just me having a bad day but I thought this was fantastic. With its collection of weirdos, oddballs and eccentrics and its horrible arms-dealing villains, the Heath Robinson machinery and the truly unhinged plot, I found it to be charming, great fun and hugely enjoyable.
4. INVICTUS. Me and sport go together like puppies and landmines. But I'm usually interested in Africa-set films, particularly Southern Africa; I like the way Clint Eastwood directs: simply, efficiently, without the visual pyrotechnics and frenzied editing and camera movement of someone like Tony Scott. And I loved the fact that the film made me excited enough in the mechanics of rugby to enjoy the sports sequences of the film, at least for the duration of the movie (the way that Oliver Stone is the only director to ever get me even mildly interested in American Football). Could it have been a tad shorter, perhaps trimmed of some of the speechifying? Well, possibly, but much of that does provide the necessary political context against which the rugby takes place.
5. LET ME IN. Sacrilege! Heresy! Blasphemy! Yeah, whatever. Frankly, if you feel that strongly, stick with Let The Right One In but I couldn't help feeling that many reviews of this American studio remake took against it for actually daring to exist in the first place. It's a lot better than many suggested: it's been done with care and craft, it's beautifully photographed and the story, much of it identical to the first film, is very nicely told. (Despite the Hammer logo at the start, it's not a Hammer film in any recognisable sense.)
6. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART ONE. Mercifully released in the flat 2D in which it was shot rather than subjected to a worthless post-production depth effect, HPDP1 is a fitting penultimate entry in a saga that has managed to maintain the quality and high standards through seven films, four directors and nine years. Maybe there is too much moping around in the woods, and one misses Hogwarts, but there's a lot of wit, invention, great ideas and depth to be had, and before seeing the grand finale next year I shall enjoy whizzing through all the previous Potters to catch up again.
7. BURIED. A last-minute surprise replacement for A Serbian Film at FrightFest (whose loss I still can't get that upset about, for all its good points), Buried has one brilliantly simple idea and works it well: Ryan Reynolds is buried alive and we're stuck in the coffin with him for the entire time. The frustrations of being on hold, cut off or stuck listening to "your call is important to us" recordings are bad enough to start with, but intolerable under these circumstances. Terrific.
8. CHLOE. Partly, I suppose, because I knew absolutely nothing about it save what was on the poster, and I'm convinced that's the best way to see movies: without all the studio hype and publicity interviews and trailers that give 90% of the movie away. And partly because I'm not that much of a fan of Atom Egoyan; the ones I've seen I've not been that impressed by. Chloe is actually a return of the old-fashioned erotic thriller of the Fatal Attraction variety, as Amanda Seyfried's eponymous minx makes trouble for the marriage of Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Quite enjoyable.
9. SPLICE. We should have more monsters and mad scientists in movies: here Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley mess about with genetic sequences and end up with a strange creature that develops quickly into something sexually attractive and absolutely lethal. Comparison has been made to the earlier, gloopy David Cronenberg films; certainly it's an intelligent monster SF/horror flick and great fun.
10. THE HOLE. If we are going to have live-action 3D films, can we please have them done by directors like Joe Dante, who understand 3D, how it works and what it's capable of? The Hole is, despite its 12A certificate, very creepy and while I think it loses its way a bit towards the end, the first half of the movie has some terrific stuff in it, including an evil clown doll thing that scared me and I'm more than three times the recommended age on the certificate. Good stuff.
Honourables mentions to Winter's Bone, Agora, The Collector and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, all of which I enjoyed. Rules is rules, however, and my absolute favourite film of the year doesn't qualify for the list as it hasn't had a proper theatrical release in this country yet. But Simon Rumney's astonishing Red White And Blue left me literally - literally - dazed.