2010 turned out to be a remarkable year for cinema, owing in no small part to the fact that, in a decade that boasted some of the most awe-inspiring technological advances in movie-making history, several films with little-to-no production value stood out as some of the year’s most amazing pieces of work. With his groundbreaking Trash Humpers, Harmony Korine helped to illustrate a point that Zachary Oberzan succinctly drove home in Flooding With Love for the Kid, namely, that technical excellence and budget size don’t necessarily have anything to do with how good a movie turned out to be.
This year heralded the return of enshrined auteurs like Todd Solondz, Gaspar Noé, and Darren Aronofsky, the latter’s Black Swan a nearly flawless exegesis on the nature of artistic endeavor. Social commentary figured heavily into some of the most interesting films of 2010, timely meditations on the idea of privacy (The Social Network) and public image (I’m Still Here) serving as of-the-moment reminders that, in the wake of WikiLeaks and Facebook’s privacy-settings fiasco, pretty much all of us live in public now.
However, our very favorite movies of 2010 held in common a very basic preoccupation with character. The most daring filmmakers of this year were more interested in offering us an honest-to-goodness experience of the actions and emotions of their characters than in moralizing to us about all the horrible shit those characters were doing. With the year reaching its end, we’re left with the feeling that we very well might be entering a new period of exploration in studio-backed cinema, with more and more huge entertainment companies cautiously giving filmmakers the wherewithal to carry out their visions. Let’s all hope this keeps up. —Paul Bower