This is always a difficult task but it comes with the territory. There are lots of small films that deserve attention but unless you live in â€œselected citiesâ€ you may not get a chance to see them in theaters. In Minneapolis/St. Paul we are blessed with a number of theaters that exhibit some of the most talked about films of the year in spite of the small box office numbers they generate. Thank you Landmark Theaters and The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Here are my top 10 film choices fro the past year with some honorable mentions thrown in at the end.
â€œThe Kingâ€™s Speechâ€. Colin Firth will win the Oscar for his portrayal of the stammering King George VI. I predict nominations for Geoffrey Rush, as speech therapist Lionel Logue, and Helena Bonham Carter, as the kings wife, in the supporting actor category as well.
â€œToy Story 3â€³. Hereâ€™s a film that outshines itâ€™s predecessors in the series with brilliant 3D animation , terrific script, and a real sense of heartfelt emotion and heart stopping action. If any animated film could win the Best Picture Oscar, this would be the one.
â€œThe Social Networkâ€. Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher deliver a fascinating character study with the story of Facebookâ€™s inception. Special notice to Armie Hammer who played both â€œWinkleviâ€, the litigious Winklevoss Twins, with such skill.
â€œWinterâ€™s Boneâ€. This is one of those small films that sticks with you through the year. The story of a 17 year-old girl struggling to keep her house and protect her young siblings against tremendous odds. Jennifer Lawrence will get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for a gutsy, brilliant performance.
â€œThe Fighterâ€. Christian Bale is once again amazing, watch for a Best Supporting Actor battle with Geoffrey Rush, as Dickie Ward in this true story about a scrappy boxer, Mickey Ward, played by the reliable Mark Wahlberg. More nominations possible for Melissa Leo (Frozen River) as the Matriarch of the squabbling Boston Ward Clan, and Amy Adams, playing an anything but â€œEnchantedâ€ blue collar barkeep.
â€œ127 Hoursâ€. Oscar nod for James Franco for his portrayal of Aron Ralston, the hiker who amputated his own arm. Franco and director Danny Boyle keep us tuned and fascinated during this essentially one man show with great storytelling skill.
â€œBlack Swanâ€. I predict Natalie Portman will win the Best Actress OscarÂ for her role as ballet dancer Nina Sayers in the psychological thriller from film maker Darren Aronofsky ( The Wrestler). The film is way over the top, but in a good way. Mila Kunis (forgetting Sarah Marshall) will get some Best Supporting Actor attention with her performance as well.
â€œTrue Gritâ€. The Coen Brothers have taken the Charles Portis novel, made famous in 1969 by John Wayneâ€™s version of the character Reuban â€œRooster â€ Cogburn, de-Hollywoodized it, and delivered a truly gritty Western, thanks to Oscar worthy performances by Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and newcomer, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld.
â€œRestrepoâ€. This documentary is a must see for all who wonder about the challenges facing our volunteer forces in Afghanistan. A harrowing inside look about our â€œboots on the ground â€œprotecting an outpost in the most hostile environment imaginable.
â€œInside Jobâ€. A fascinating, ultimately depressing, documentary from Charles H. Ferguson detailing the financial crisis of 2008. The depressing part is that apparently the corporate foxes are still in charge of the Wall Street henhouse. A fine companion piece to the 2003 documentary â€œThe Corporationâ€, which questions the status of the corporation as a â€œpersonâ€ with an often pathological behavior pattern.
Honorable mention goes to:
â€œThe Squareâ€. An Aussie import with a Coen Brotherâ€™s vibe. A Noir thriller about the dangers of infidelity and greed crossing paths.
â€œThe Kids Are Alrightâ€.Â A film about family, an unusual family at that. Annette Bening will get a much deserved Oscar nomination for her part as partner of Julianne Mooreâ€™s character, each giving birth to a child thanks to an anonymous sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who enters the picture when the kids come of age.
â€œRabbit Holeâ€. I think Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart both deserve Oscar consideration. They are terrific as a couple deeply affected by the loss of their 4 year old son. Itâ€™s a film of heartbreak and redemption that avoids easy answers.
â€œTangledâ€. This is another worthy use of 3D technology. Brilliant animation and a fine musical score updating the Rapunzel tale with humor. Look for this fine Disney offering to become a Broadway Musical.
Looking forward to more fine films in 2011.