Top Ten Movies (I’ve Seen) in 2010

As a filmmaker, I’m supposed to keep up with the Jones’s in film and be sure to watch all those indie hits and Academy Award contenders like Black Swan and 127 Hours. Truth is that this year I haven’t seen nearly as many of those films as I should have (I think the only one I did see was Inception.) But as you can tell by reading my status updates and tweets, I soak up cinema through Netflix, and this year I’ve had an unquenchable penchant for Hollywood classics and foreign films.

So instead of a “Top Ten Films of 2010″ list, I put together a brief list (with trailers and my own comments) of the top ten films I’ve seen in 2010.

Admittedly, this list weights a bit heavy on the noir side of the spectrum since many of the movies I watched this year were used as research for a quirky hit man feature I’m currently outlining.

So here it goes, in reverse order for maximum tension, of course!

10. Martin (1977; Director George A. Romero) Prior to my hit man research, I went through yet another stage of research for my vampire script A Beautiful Unlife and I stumbled on this “smart” vampire classic by zombie guru George Romero. The final scene alone makes this cult classic worth viewing, though the entire film is pretty messed up (and strangely reminiscent of my first feature!)

9. Funny Games (1997; Director Michael Haneke) 2010 was a year of firsts; I immersed myself in the works of Almodóvar and Michael Haneke. However, Haneke was the one who made the list. I’ve never seen the 2007 American remake of Funny Games (also directed by Haneke), but this original version is fucked up enough! The best part is that the types of things you normally wouldn’t find in a movie are found here in all their psychotic and gory detail.

8. The Hurt Locker (2008; Director Kathryn Bigelow) Now I’m not a war movie kind of guy, but The Hurt Locker is by far one of the best war films I’ve ever seen, seconded only by Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land. Hearing writer Mark Boal talk about his personal experiences in the war on NPR.org also aided in my desire to watch this picture, since much of what is shown in the film was experienced by Boal himself during his research.

7. Elevator to the Gallows (1957; Director Louis Malle) I’ve seen films like this before, the kind that take place primarily in a single location (Phone Booth stands out in my mind), but when you’ve got a jazzed up score by Miles Davis crying beneath your long shots and close ups, no other film is worth the effort (sorry Devil!). This is truly a masterpiece, not only of noir cinema, but of all cinema.

6. Insomnia (1997; Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg) Al Pacino and Robin Williams do not star in this all out thrill-tale––and it wasn’t directed Christopher Nolan, either. I’m talking about the original “night of the midnight sun” masterpiece. Slow-paced and tense, this first film by director Erik Skjoldbjærg definitely tops the American remake.

5. Rififi (1955; Director Jules Dassin) Due to my film noir research, I’ve become a bit of a Jules Dassin groupie, as you’ll notice further down this list. Rififi captures the essence of gangster cinema (and the gangster epoch, in general) perfectly. The best part of this movie is the 30-minute heist in the middle, which is nearly silent and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

4. Moon (2009; Director Duncan Jones) I’m a huge sci-fi fan, and this film made me realize that the genre has not been reduced to Michael Bayesque action sequences and Tron: Legacy laser light effects, but, like a classic Isaac Asimov tale, can still make you ponder all the deepest meanings of life when placed in the hands of a director who understands the true definition of science fiction. Moon also happens to be the finest film Sam Rockwell has ever done, in my humble opinion.

3. Night and the City (1950; Director Jules Dassin) Another darkly wonderful film noir by Jules Dassin (See? I told you––I’m a darn groupie!) This movie, along with Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (1953) and Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (1947), made me fall in love with the trademark smirk of Richard Widmark, who plays a hustler trying to make it in the big time.

2. The Long Good Friday (1979; Director John Mackenzie) The best part about The Long Good Friday, I’m convinced, is the score, though when I first saw the film, it struck me as extremely odd and dissonant. Then, as with the catchy theme to Carol Reed’s immortal classic The Third Man (1949), I found myself humming the tune over and over again. It was then I realized just how much the music really adds to director John MacKenzie’s story of a big shot casino man slowly losing control of his empire.

And the best movie I’ve seen in 2010 (which doesn’t have any trailers up on YouTube, so I’ve included this cool chase scene instead) is…

1. Thieve’s Highway (1949; director Jules Dassin). I’ve watched this film two times, and I want to watch it again and again. I keep marveling over the story itself, the final confrontation between Nick Garcos and the man who crippled his father, and the seductive siren songs in Valentina Cortese’s voice. From the inciting incident to the denouement, Thieve’s Highway is a non-stop thrill ride full of dollars, double crosses, and yes, Golden Delicious apples!

Happy viewing everyone, and a happier New Year to you all!

What are some movies YOU’ve watched (noir or not) this year that you would recommend and why?

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