COLUMN: ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Inception’ top Harris’ list of movie favorites

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ERIC HARRIS, Film Review

Eric Harris, who reviews films for The News, ranks last year’s offerings of dramas, comedies and science-fiction offerings. He will be back with occasional reviews in 2011.

1. “Black Swan” – I loved nearly every aspect of this film. Darren Aronofsky has made a disturbing classic featuring the best female lead performance of the year from Natalie Portman.

I thought it was great how Aronofsky took the pure, beautiful world of ballet and showed its darker, uglier  – but still just as beautiful somehow – side. Aronofsky has cemented himself as one of my favorite filmmakers.

2. “Inception” – Jaw-dropping and utterly impressive. This is what a summer blockbuster should be.  It has action, it is deep  – insanely, literally deep at times – and it has an amazing cast. Christopher Nolan does a masterful job of staging a ridiculously complicated setup in such a way that it is easy to follow. That feat alone makes it one of the year’s best. All of the other elements, like the overpowering score or Tom Hardy’s scene-stealing performance, are just a bonus that propels it to my No. 2 spot.

3. “The Social Network” – The story behind Facebook is engaging and funny. Aaron Sorkin’s quick-witted, rapid-fire dialogue screenplay is the best of the year. David Fincher tones down his style a bit to create a grounded, yet still visually interesting film. Jesse Eisenberg leads a great cast in what I found to be the best male lead performance of the year. This is a film that requires multiple viewings to let all of the great dialogue and interesting camerawork wash over you.

4. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” – A movie made by and for geeks. Many people may have been turned off by the frenetic pace and video game references, but certain types of people – this critic included, obviously – loved the film for those very reasons.  

Michael Cera breaks out of his wimpy stereotype to play a fun and cool hero. Director Edgar Wright obviously loved the source material and because of that the end result is a love letter to geeks.  I, for one, am thankful.

5. “127 Hours” – The most intense film of the year. Great, frantic direction from Danny Boyle keeps what could have been a slow movie very fast-paced and interesting. James Franco gives the best performance of his career (of the year, some would argue). The fact that this survival story is based on a real event makes it that much more effective and uplifting.  
It never received the true wide release it deserved and it is catching some backlash all of a sudden – I’ve noticed it on one or two “most overrated” lists – but I thought it was great and it needs to be seen by more people.

6. “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans”/”My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done” – This is my Werner Herzog double-feature pick.  “Bad Lieutenant” technically came out in 2009, but I only got to see when it was released on home video this year. “My Son, My Son” was basically a direct-to-DVD release.

I think it is OK to pair these two up not only because of director Werner Herzog’s involvement, but also because both films deal with insanity. Nicolas Cage goes all out in “Bad Lieutenant” and the result is funny and ridiculous. Michael Shannon does the same in “My Son,” though it’s a bit weirder and more disturbing. Both films are very interesting and I loved every minute of both of them.

7. “The Fighter” – This story of a boxer and his family works because it is funny and real.  Mark Wahlberg returns to form in an understated role and Christian Bale is flat-out amazing as his crack-addict brother – by far my favorite male supporting performance of the year.

8. “Shutter Island” – This movie was a delight from a directing perspective. Martin Scorsese shows how skillful he is in his depiction of madness in this thriller.

The strong visuals and distracting score all piece together a portrait of insanity. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance, but Scorsese is the star of this one.

9. “True Grit” – The Coen Brothers have made a funny and refreshingly straightforward western. It is not a very deep film, but it is still on par with their best work. It’s light on the action, but that’s OK when you have a cast with the likes of Jeff Bridges in the Rooster Cogburn role and Matt Damon as LeBoeuf.

Hailee Steinfeld was a surprising aspect as she gave my favorite female supporting performance of the year.

10. “The King’s Speech” – This film about a stuttering prince who would be king may seem like awards bait, but it is a very impressive, interesting film.  It is all held together by the performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.  Their friendship in the film provides the real backbone of the film and it ends up being quite touching.  

Honorable Mentions: “Get Him to the Greek,” “The American,” “Robin Hood,” “The Town,” “TRON: Legacy,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Kick-Ass” and “The Book of Eli.”