Posted: 01/11/2011


Jessica Machen’s Best Films of 2010

by Jessica Machen

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Envelope pushing. Visually stunning. Psychologically entertaining. Just a few descriptions for the cream of the crop in 2010’s filmmaking experience. The year seemed to have some dry spouts, but nonetheless, these few managed to shine above the rest.

The Book of Eli directed by Albert and Allen Hughes is a gritty film that exemplifies the power of hope. Even in the darkest times, when the world is in ruins, food and water is scarce, having faith keeps Eli, played by Denzel Washington, pushing forward in an attempt to save the only surviving Bible. If you’ve seen this film and weren’t thrilled with it, give it a second try. It’s a film you really have to pay attention to, if you want to try to catch the amazing twist at the end. Phenomenal film.

Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. As Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) lands on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a woman from an insane asylum, flashbacks to the death of his wife begin to haunt him. The longer he remains on the island, the hospital staff begin to turn on him, as if he was losing his mind. This thriller is a must see for anyone who enjoys being scared. Scorsese will definitely throw a few chills down your spine.

Red will have you dying. Of laughter, that is! With an all-star cast consisting of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, Red is a film pitting the old versus the new. If you like action, comedy and can appreciate that things were made better in the old days, this is a film for you. The highlight for me were the insane outbursts from Malkovich’s psychologically disturbed character of Marvin Boggs. Suddenly I’m craving pancakes.

Speaking of psychologically disturbed characters, one of the best films I’ve seen in 2010 was Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. The pressures put on Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) to give a perfect performance as the lead dancer in Swan Lake as both the White and Black Swan drive her to madness. The way that the film is shot so closely to her face allows viewers to feel the confined nature of her desires, the extreme dedication to becoming perfect and the eventual loss of self.

If you are a fan of the tales of Robin Hood, Ridley Scott’s take on the story is a more raw and realistic approach than previous adaptations have been. Starring Russell Crowe as the great archer himself, Scott portray’s King Richard in a light craving the approval of his followers rather than a King attempting to make life better for his people, whilst Robin Hood is not a follower of King Richard and instead seeks to help give the people of Nottingham a voice by accident. This is more of a tale of how Robin began his quest of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Both Crowe and Cate Blanchett give amazing performances in this captivating story.

Two films I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival deserve to be on this list as well: Mooz-lum and Dieci Inverni aka Ten Winters.

Mooz-lum, directed by Qasim Basir, takes place prior to and throughout the time that the September 11th attacks occurred. It’s a story about acceptance. Accepting differences in one another in terms of religion, race and gender. Accepting yourself and who you are as a person. And accepting the world around you and events that you cannot control. Evan Ross stars as Tariq, a Muslim African American boy who struggles with the pressures put on him to be a devout Muslim, his desires to be a normal kid and inhumane actions brought upon him by a leader in the Muslim community. If you have the opportunity to get your hands on this film, it’ll open your eyes to a new perspective towards the Muslim community.

Dieci Inverni is a beautiful Italian film directed by Valerio Mieli. It’s a love story about two people meeting on a boat and having a connection with one another, but never seem to be able to express those feelings at the right time. The story takes place over a span of ten years of these two, each year hoping that they finally get it right. It’s not a film you watch for the beauty of Italy. It’s a film you watch for the beauty of humanity and love. There’s real love invested between the main characters Camilla (Isabella Ragonese) and Silvestro (Michele Riondino). It’s innocent and pure. If you have a special someone, this is a great film to share.

After reminiscing about the films of the past, one can only hope that the upcoming year will bring just as many, if not more, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring and thought provoking films.

Jessica Machen is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Chicago.

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