Stephen Simon’s Favorite Films of 2010

January 3, 2011

I am honored and proud to be a voting member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that nominates and then votes each year for the Oscars. I have said often, however, that I have absolutely no idea how to judge a “Best” film or actor or screenplay or anything else. To attempt to do so seems akin to going into the Louvre and picking out the “best” painting. So the Van Gogh is “better’ than the Renoir or Gauguin or any other painting?

Oh, please!

In addition, movie politics (as compared to Washington politics) always play a role in the selection of Oscar nominees and winners. “Best” very often means “most personally popular” or even “least personally unpopular”. In addition, some voters think that commercial success is a sufficient reward in and of itself for a film (Avatar in 2009) and steer more toward lesser-known fare (The Hurt Locker in 2009), so, for them, it’s more like “Best least-known film”.

Anyway, my point is that I hope we get to a time when the Academy changes “Best” to “Favorite” so as to more accurately define the process.

That being said, I look forward to your responses and to seeing a list of your favorite films of 2010. Here are mine:

1) The King’s Speech. My absolute favorite film of 2010. Brilliantly acted, written, directed, produced, photographed, and designed, The King’s Speech is an Old Hollywood movie-movie at its very best: intensely human, poignant, heroic, and fiercely funny, with character development that has become all but a lost art in recent years. Lastly, I’m not sure I remember a year in which the Acting Oscar seems so assured as it is this year for Colin Firth in his role as King George VI.

2) Hereafter. Clint Eastwood’s direction seems to get better, deeper, and more emotionally vulnerable with each film and Hereafter just may be my favorite of all his films to date. The film itself is a fascinating and engrossing exploration of two stories that ultimately intertwine: the effect that a near-death experience has on a television personality (lovely and talented French actress Cecile de France) and how a psychic (Matt Damon) runs away from and then ultimately re-embraces his gift. Having produced two films that deal with the subject matter of life after life (Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come), I was deeply moved by everything about Hereafter, a truly haunting and beautiful film.

3) Inception. Writer-director Christopher Nolan has created one of the most imaginative, complex, intricate, and original films of this or any other year. Inception is an experience that is almost impossible to describe. I’ve seen it 3 times now and each time I see something in the film that I hadn’t noticed before. Only Avatar and  The Matrix series of films come to mind when trying to find a comparable film world that illuminates new horizons of consciousness. Inception is brilliant in every aspect, with an unforgettable last shot that will provoke conversations for years to come.

4) The Social Network. A totally entertaining,  “are-you-kidding-me” account of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation (with a LOT of help from his “friends”) of Internet phenomenon Facebook. It’s almost surreal to note that Facebook, now with over 500 million subscribers and an estimated value of more than $25 billion, only began as recently as  2003 when Zuckerberg and his business partner and best friend Eduardo Saverin were attending Harvard.

In a year that didn’t include Colin Firth’s brilliant performance in The King’s Speech, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg would almost certainly earn him his first Oscar. The Social Network chronicles the meteoric and controversial success of Facebook which shattered friendships, led to lawsuits and bitter confrontations, and is a classic American success story, framed perfectly by the scandal-ridden first decade of this new century.

5) The Company Men. Beautifully and sensitively written, acted, and directed, The Company Men is an important and timely film for anyone who has been fired from his or her job and descended into fear and guilt.

Expertly and compassionately written and directed by John Wells (prolific executive producer and writer of such television landmarks as ER and The West Wing), the film  follows three men (Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones) who are fired from what they considered safe career jobs after the economy went south in late 2008. The movie delves into the psyche and home life of each man as they cope with the shock, shame, anger, and desperation that anyone who has been fired feels to their depth of soul.

Having been fired several times myself, I was deeply touched by each man’s experience as he struggled to regain his self-respect and dignity. The Company Men illuminates the same playing field that Up In The Air did in 2009 but where that film focused on the people doing the firing,  The Company Men focuses on the people who were indeed fired, and is full of love, compassion, and ultimately redemption. If you’ve been fired, or know someone who has (which covers almost everyone everywhere, yes?), The Company Men (which opens nationwide on January 21 after a short Academy qualifying run in December) will resonate deeply and also give you hope that tomorrow is indeed another day.

Tomorrow: My Next 5 Favorite Films, some of which will most assuredly not be on many–if any- other such lists. What are your favorite films of 2010?

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