Sheesh, was it ever a bad year for the movies. But, it wasn't really a good year for anything.
Last year, I had a tough time narrowing down my list. In 2007, I couldn't stop at 10; I named my 25 top movies. This year, I struggled to come up with 10 I thought merited a spot on my list.
But, my favorite movie of the year is so good (I've seen it thrice) that it almost makes up for the dearth of good movies. Almost.
1. The Hangover. Hilarious, and it stands up to repeated viewings. It's also the movie that made Bradley Cooper the matinee idol he deserves to be. Why does an outrageous comedy about a lost night in Vegas rank as my #1? Because, 10 years from now when I'm flipping through channels (or having my robot do it for me), this is the movie I'll want to stop and see.
2. An Education. Carey Mulligan (nominated for an Oscar for best actress, and with good reason) plays an Oxford-bound high school girl who falls under the spell of a sophisticated older man (Peter Sarsgaard) in 1960s London.
3. A Serious Man. The Coen brothers ruminate on nothing less than fate, our place in the universe and the existence of God. A modern retelling of Job, with a lead actor (Michael Stuhlbarg) who should've been nominated for an Oscar.
4. Up. Of course, you'll appreciate the message that we should live our dreams before it's too late. Kids will love the colorful story, the crusty curmudgeon and the eager young Scout who unwittingly tags along on the adventure of a lifetime.
5. The Disappearance of Alice Creed. One of two closing night films at The Toronto International (TIFF) Film Festival. I'll tell you what the director of TIFF said when he introduced the film: "I hope you know nothing about this movie. It deserves to be seen as I first saw it. Let it grab you by the jugular from the first frame and not let up until the last." Twisted, suspenseful and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Oh, and there are only three actors in the entire thing. They tear it up. This is the movie Quentin Tarantino might make, if he didn't have a budget.
6. The Blind Side. This movie has more heart than any I saw this year. Let's all be thankful Julia Roberts turned down the role that seems custom-made for Sandra Bullock. This one's for anyone who likes football, brassy Southern matriarchs and/or happy endings.
7. Broken Embraces. Colorful, mysterious, multilayered. There's a movie-within-a-movie, shady characters with questionable motives, a blind former movie director left only with memories of his gorgeous muse/leading lady (Penelope Cruz) and, of course, given that Pedro Almodovar wrote and directed, themes of love -- romantic, paternal and maternal. In Spanish with subtitles.
8. Food, Inc. A horrifying documentary that shows us where our food really comes from. It has the power to change the way you live.
9. Bruno. Thoroughly offensive, and thoroughly hilarious. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Bruno, an over-the-top Austrian model who wants to be famous in America. Once Bruno realizes that all the Hollywood leading men are straight (He points to Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey), he goes in search of someone who can convert him. To say that "things get weird" just doesn't do it justice.
10. Shall We Kiss? Such a simple question, yet it takes nearly two wondrous hours for the leading lady to explain (in flashbacks) to the man she's attracted to why it may be better if they didn't kiss. In French with subtitles.