My favorite films of 2010

With the Oscar nominations coming out Tuesday morning, I thought I’d detour into my favorite films of the past year …

The list below was made using the extremely nerdy Weisman Rating System, which awards points in three categories: Ambition (how grand the film’s aims were), Execution (how well the film met those aims) and Personal Impact (how much the film affected me personally). The scale is weighted toward the latter category, because I don’t really think anyone can be completely objective about a film – and ultimately, there’s some subjectivity that enters into the first two categories as well. That’s why this isn’t a best picture list, but rather a favorite picture list. So take all the point totals with a grain of salt …

I saw 33 films from 2010, which might seem like a lot to some and not all that many to others – my nearby seatmate at Variety, film critic Peter Debruge, sees more than 250 movies each year. Most of the films I saw were of quality – anything that gets over 15 on my scale is something that I consider good, and that accounts for 28 of the 33 (and the difference between No. 1 and No. 28 isn’t all that huge – just a matter of having a few more flaws). The next four get an overall thumbs down from me, though they had some redeeming value. The only true dog in the bunch was “Chloe.”

It’s not really a hip choice, but “The King’s Speech” came out on top for me. Several people I know felt it was phony, but the movie really did work for me. You’ll see my comments on the rest below.

Title Ambition (1-7) Execution (1-10) Personal (1-13) Total (3-30) Comment
The King’s Speech 3.5 9.5 10.5 23.5 Simply a near-perfectly executed movie, hitting both human and (lightly) global themes. Hugely enjoyable.
The Illusionist 3.5 9.5 10 23 You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more sweetly affecting film this year.
True Grit 3.5 9 10 22.5 Immediately immerses you in a great story, atmosphere and dialogue. Pleasure from start to finish, and Steinfeld is outstanding.
Please Give 4 9 9 22 Directly but naturally takes on emotional and life issues. A low-key movie done just right.
Blue Valentine 3 9 9.5 21.5 A mostly real heartbreaker about a love story that wasn’t meant for a happy ending.
Inception 4.5 8.5 8.5 21.5 Intensely interesting, visually cool. Character depth beyond DiCaprio and Cotillard minimal.
The Social Network 3.5 8.5 9.5 21.5 Well-told business/character tales are up my alley, but I wouldn’t say this was transcendent.
Toy Story 3 4 8 9.5 21.5 Didn’t have many of the blow-me-away moments I recall from the first two, but clever, enjoyable and poignant.
How To Train Your Dragon 4 9 8 21 Fairly flawless – just didn’t quite have the emotional impact on me that it seemed to have on others.
127 Hours 3.5 7.5 10 21 Lags in parts, with camera magic become self-conscious, but the climax choked me up in a way I’ve never experienced.
The Kids Are All Right 4 8 9 21 Grows stronger as time passes – a little hippieish but it’s aware, and has some real insights about family and relationships.
Made in Dagenham 3.5 8.5 9 21 Well-made nonfiction story that hits all the right notes, only occasionally overdoing the sentimentality.
Never Let Me Go 4 7.5 9 20.5 Not sure all the dots were connected in this ambitious story, but it was engrossing to watch.
Biutiful 3.5 7 10 20.5 Practically sadistic in its story arcs, but well-acted and effective in making you treasure life.
The Fighter 3.5 8.5 8 20 Really well done, even as it hits on some familiar boxing movie tropes. Can’t help being annoyed by mother character.
Get Low 3 7.5 9.5 20 Powerful opening and affecting at times, enjoyable throughout, but seemed to miss the heights it reached for.
Tangled 3 8 9 20 Just a few sore-thumb moments – villain’s behavior included – in otherwise fun romp about, well, kidnapping and imprisonment.
The Ghost Writer 3.5 8 8 19.5 Very sharp first hour dipped into melodrama, wasting potential – and I don’t think the ends tie up. Great acting, though.
Winter’s Bone 3 8.5 8 19.5 Taut drama finely acted, but I feel I’ve seen more affecting work in this genre.
Cyrus 3.5 7.5 8.5 19.5 Didn’t deal with Marisa Tomei’s character in the way it needed to, but good performances and kind of a funny story.
Animal Kingdom 3.5 8 7.5 19 Part caper movie, part family melodrama, pretty well done but not entirely effective.
Another Year 3 7.5 7.5 18.5 Mary was such a mess that I almost couldn’t take it, but it was a meaningful look at sadness of running out of choices.
Rabbit Hole 3.5 7 8 18.5 Brutally tough subject matter, and on some level I liked a partly offbeat approach, but it didn’t all work for me. Thin in places.
Conviction 3.5 7.5 7 18 Ably executed movie-of-the-week material, elevated by top-flight actors. By the numbers, but I’m not made of stone.
Solitary Man 3 6.5 7.5 17 Easy enough to watch and not without insight, but feels forced in several places. Douglas doesn’t really disappear in this role.
I Am Love 3 7 6.5 16.5 Highly praised movie had great visuals and acting, but I didn’t buy the plot and found it a weak argument for passion.
Date Night 3 5 8 16 Flawed but considering that it demands that you not take it seriously, a fun, likable enough experience.
Cairo Time 3 6 6.5 15.5 A little too languid for my taste, with Clarkson’s performance kind of self-conscious, but a strong, touching ending.
Despicable Me 3 5 6 14 Not a bad movie, with some poignancy at end, but lots of effort for little impact.
Black Swan 3.5 5 5 13.5 “Showgirls” disguised by a high-class setting, with a character too crazed to mean anything.
The Town 3 5 4 12 What value it had was overwhelmed by the problematic characters and plotlines, topped off by the preposterous epilogue.
Somewhere 2 4 4.5 10.5 Too little payoff to a film that barely attempted to give its lead a story.
Chloe 3 3 4 10 Pretentious, ponderous and mostly pointless, except for a future run on Skinemax. Some good acting from Moore, but Seyfried saddled with some embarrassing lines.
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