With Awards Season entering its last few weeks, I figured it was about time to go over my favorites from 2010 in preparation for my 4th annual blog awards. I'll reveal top 10s and top 5s next week, and winners a few days before the Oscar ceremony (Feb. 27). Until then, here's a look back at those films and performances who were just outside of making the cutoff. Originally I hadn't planned on doing this, but one category in particular (Best Actress) had so many great candidates that I thought, why not give some recognition to those not in my lineups, just so that it doesn't seem like I forgot about them.
2010 Honorable Mentions
Best Picture: It should be noted that I'm having trouble putting together a finalized Top 10. So don't be surprised if one (or more) of these HM's actually ends up in my personal roster.
- The Ghost Writer: Carefully plotted, and marvelously atmospheric. Polanski's eye for framing is used to brilliant effect, and the letter-passing scene is one of the year's best.
- The Fighter: Its story was standard, but at its core it was more than a sports movie; it was a character piece, featuring an outstanding ensemble.
- Inception: A twisty narrative construct, fabulous editing, and thrilling sequences. If only the emotional angle was better executed and the screenplay weren't prone to such exposition-heavy dialogue...
- The American: One or two troubling plot points aside, Corbijn's sophomore effort deserves respect for its methodical yet steadily engrossing pacing, great performance from George Clooney, and gorgeous cinematography.
- Christopher Nolan, Inception: A true irony that Oscar snubbed him here and nominated his screenplay, when he's much better at directing and keeping his audience engaged in his narrative constructs.
- Nicole Holofcner, Please Give: An uncommonly engaging, well-edited look at the Manhattan middle class benefits from her straight forward yet effective style.
- Julian Jarrold, Red Riding 1974: The true-life murder mystery, already bolstered by good writing, acting, and strong visuals, gets an added bonus from his refreshingly level-headed style. He resists the temptation to sensationalize the story and its emotions, much to the film's gain.
- Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer: A master adding another strong entry to his filmography. Time and scandal have done little to diminish his skill behind the camera.
- Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network: He delivers Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue with brilliant precision, but that's not all. Take a second (or third) look, and you'll find much more than just acerbic wit.
- James Franco, 127 Hours: The entire movie rests on his ability to hold our attention, and he doesn't disappoint. A shame that the screenplay gives us so little to connect with or understand at the outset.
- Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Vincere: Full-throttle emotion in the best sense of the term. Her lingering close-ups in the insane asylum speak volumes about her character's feelings of determination and desperation.
- Hye-ja Kim, Mother: She, like the film, starts with deceptive simplicity. As time passes, the tale and her performance become more surprising and more complex to startling effect.
- Tilda Swinton, I am Love: She does so much with the smallest movements. Cut through the film's larger-than-life style and iffy screenplay, and you're left with surprisingly subtle work in an otherwise over the top film. That prawn-eating sequence stands as one of the best reaction scenes of the year.
- Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit: Holding your own against one Oscar winner is big enough. Holding your own against two (often at the same time) and delivering intentionally archaic dialogue with aplomb for roughly 2 hours? That's just spectacular, especially when you're only 13 years old.
Best Supporting Actor:
- Cillian Murphy, Inception: What could have been a total throwaway role turns into a surprisingly effective performance in the hands of this under-appreciated actor. Those eerie, transparent blue eyes are used to surprisingly powerful effect in his character's climactic scene, and it succeeds more than the Cobb/Mal relationship.
- Kavyan Novak, Four Lions: For most of the movie, he's a bumbling doofus with spectacular comic timing. And then in the last 20 minutes, as the film goes a few shades darker, he hints at a character much more complex than the idiot who previously fires a rocket launcher backwards. His reactions when he holds a restaurant hostage are fascinating and tense, and somehow still funny.
- Miles Teller, Rabbit Hole: An actor with virtually no experience, he could have easily been steamrollered by Nicole Kidman in their scenes together. Instead, he brings a calm and intriguing demeanor, and the two play off of each other beautifully. The scene when he tells Becca that he "might have been driving 32 miles per hour" is one of the most beautifully subtle acting moments of the year.
- Filippo Timi, Vincere: Makes his dual roles work marvelously with limited screen time. He takes what little he's given and turns in performances of striking intensity.
Best Supporting Actress:
- Rebecca Hall, Red Riding 1974: She doesn't have much screen time to work with, but she makes the most of it. A very quiet performance, but also an effective one.
- Barbara Hershey, Black Swan:
An eerily oppressive "smother mother"...at least, that's how Nina sees her, and that's how good Hershey is at helping fulfill the film's orientation in Nina's head. Two words: cake scene.
- Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, The Fighter: An "MTV girl" and a tough mother, both exceptionally played.
- Rob Hardy, Red Riding 1974: In addition to beautifully playing with light, he takes boring 1970s architecture and makes it quietly captivating to look at.
Best Score (Original or otherwise):
- Daft Punk, TRON: Legacy: Perfectly suits the crisp, glowing world; a perfect match of story and composer(s).
- John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon: Soaring, charming, and epic themes seamlessly interwoven. His work adds an extra oomph to the already exhilarating flight sequences.
- Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech: One of cinema's best working composers, his work here is delicate and charming, capturing the mood of the scenes, but still leaving room for the actors to do the heavy lifting.