more top fives of 2010

And now I am picking a Top Five in each of the categories by which I make the habit of grading movies (because that’s easier than picking arbitrary categories (that is, different arbitrary categories)). Again, these are selected from everything (and only things) I saw for the first time since the day I posted year-end lists last year.

Concept
#1. 12 Angry Men, 1957. Twelve strangers with a life in their hands, locked in a room with only their wits to fight with: one of the ballsiest set-ups a movie ever had.
#2. The Road, 2009. Based on a beautiful, intense science-fiction novel that seemed perfect for a film adaptation.
#3. The Last Man on Earth, 1964. Vincent Price, dapper zombie hunter.
#4. Dracula, 1931. The ultimate monster story.
#5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948. Three men in an isolated wilderness with a small fortune; the best plot from any Western I can think of.

Story
#1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948. Part action/adventure, part character drama. Clever and iconic.
#2. 12 Angry Men, 1957. There’s no action, even in the loosest sense of the word, but the story arc is still more gripping than just about any other movie.
#3. True Grit, 2010. A simple, straight-forward set-up that still manages to be unpredictable.
#4. The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957. One of the only epics that has the depth of story to warrant its running time.
#5. The Ghost Writer, 2010. A tight mystery with twists and suspense to rival the classics of the genre.

Characters
#1. Winter’s Bone, 2010. One of the most memorable roles I’ve seen in a long time.
#2. Mary and Max, 2009. Lovable, and hilarious in a quiet, warm sort of way.
#3. Jack Goes Boating, 2010. Like Rocky or Away We Go, it’s one of the only love stories about a couple that seems capable of love.
#4. Crazy Heart, 2009. Jeff Bridges’ performance was great, but it didn’t really compare to his Oscar competition; it’s the character that won.
#5. The Fighter, 2010. I thought there were rules against having great characters in true stories, but I guess I was wrong. These people let the writers go ahead and put everything in there and capture something real.

Dialog
#1. True Grit, 2010. Nothing else comes close.
#2. In the Loop, 2009. Absurd hilarity that puts The Holy Grail to shame.
#3. 12 Angry Men, 1957. It’s a great movie, and it’s nothing but dialog, so it stands to reason, it must be spectacular dialog.
#4. Mary and Max, 2009. Funny and poetic.
#5. Raising Arizona, 1987. The Coen Brothers, reminding everyone in the 1980s what dialog is.

Pacing
#1. 12 Angry Men, 1957.
#2. The Social Network, 2010.
#3. The Departed, 2006.
#4. The Ghost Writer, 2010.
#5. The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957.

Cinematography
#1. The Third Man, 1949. The definition of great cinematography.
#2. I Am Love, 2010.
#3. Street Angel, 1928
#4. North by Northwest, 1959
#5. Vertigo, 1958

Special effects/design
#1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. So fun to look at, it had me grinning like an idiot through the whole movie.
#2. The Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926. Beautiful, elegant simplicity.
#3. Easy A, 2010. Weird choice, I know, but those costumes are unforgettable.
#4. Bambi, 1942. Pushed animation further than it would go for more than fifty years.
#5. Inception, 2010. I guess something on this list had to get here with special effects.

Acting
#1. Requiem for a Dream, 2000. Jennifer Connelly and Ellen Burstyn are so good they make you want to vomit a little. But I think they meant to.
#2. Downfall, 2004. Bruno Ganz as Hitler: more than just an internet meme.
#3. A Single Man, 2009. Note to self: see The King’s Speech.
#4. The Fighter, 2010. Christian Bale, who are you and what did you do with Batman?
#5. Winter’s Bone, 2010. My favorite for Best Actress this year.

Music
#1. North by Northwest, 1959. John Adams’ source material.
#2. Winter’s Bone, 2010. Appalachian ballads and banjo pickin’ = automatic love.
#3. Inception, 2010. Hans Zimmer, who are you and what did you do with your steaming piles of bad film scores?
#4. Crazy Heart, 2009.
#5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. Wait, a musical? I loved the music in a musical?

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