Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank Monica and David Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Cyrus: John C. Reilly & Jonah Hill New York Story: Prince of Broadway

 

When it comes to the Best Picture contenders, we are in agreement on the titles that are being most often bandied about: (in no particular order) The Social Network, Blue Valentine, True Grit, The King’s Speech, The Kids Are All Right, Inception, Winter’s Bone, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Restrepo, etc. These movies are all deserving of praise, and we wish them well.
 
But we see a lot of movies, and every year, we also have some personal favorites that, for whatever reason, do not rise to award-contender status. So we give them a humble place here on our own end-of-year list, simply titled Movies We Love.
 
LAST TRAIN HOME a film by Lixin Fan Norma UK: Sally Hawkins in Made in Dagenham Rush Fans Mike and Chris Wilson  And Everything Is Going Fine: Spalding Gray

 

These are not necessarily the "best" or buzziest of the year; instead, they are movies that, for two hours or so, moved us, made us laugh, and maybe caused us to look at the world a little differently. All ten—Fish Tank, Monica & David, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Cyrus, Prince of Broadway, Last Train Home, Howl, Made in Dagenham, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, And Everything is Going Fine—are worth seeking out, especially as on-demand services make it easier for everyone to access the smaller films that were once only available to those in large metro areas. We promise these are worth the hunt.

 


 
Fish Tank
Director: Andrea Arnold
Sadly, this grim working-class British gem, from writer/director Andrea Arnold, has mostly been forgotten in the awards shuffle since it was released stateside in January. The startling lead performance, from newcomer Katie Jarvis, is a raw and heartbreaking standout; if there’s any justice, she will be in the lineup for Best Actress, but it’s not likely. Costar Michael Fassbender also makes waves with his magnetic sexuality, something we’re all becoming accustomed to—his star continues to be on the rise.

 

Read more: In the Fish Tank
Save to your Netflix queue.
Official site

 

Monica and David
 
Monica & David
Director: Alexandra Codina
This was the very first TFF 2010 film we screened, and it remains one of our favorites. Winner of the Best World Documentary Feature award at TFF, Ali Codina presents a loving—and unflinching—portrait of her cousin Monica and her husband-to-be David, both of whom have Down Syndrome. Monica and David’s love story reminds us all to strip love down to its basic components: care and appreciation. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

Read more: Monica & David: Meet Director Alexandra Codina
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Official site

 

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
 
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Directors: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
We know you rolled your eyes at the mere mention of Joan Rivers, and that’s just a shame. Comedy is a man’s world, and when you see this insightful doc, you realize just how hard Rivers has worked to be funny (and famous) for 40+ years. Think about it: how many female comedians can you even name right off the bat? (Probably fewer than 10.) Look past the plastic surgery, and we promise you’ll find the roots of this comedy icon’s longevity impressive, and even endearing.

 

Read more: Funny Lady: Joan Rivers A Piece of Work
See it. See it on Showtime.
Official site

 

Cyrus: Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly
 
Cyrus
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Erstwhile mumblecore darlings, the Duplass brothers went a little mainstream this year—but only a little—with a dark comedy starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei. By filming chronologically, in natural light, they kept true to their filmmaking ideals. And by letting their talented (and funny) cast improvise, the outrageous humor—which sometimes made us squirm in our seats—grew and grew. Two scenes are embedded in our brain forever: 1) Reilly and Tomei's pas de deux on Don’t You Want Me, and 2) Hill’s threatening note cards.

 

Read more: Bizarre Love Triangle: Cyrus
See it.
Official site

 

New York Story: Prince of Broadway 

 

Prince of Broadway
Director: Sean Baker
We don’t think this little gem of a New York story got much play outside of NYC, but any tourist who’s ever bought a knockoff handbag from a storeroom on Canal Street will recognize the main character. Lucky (Prince Adu) is an African immigrant hustler with a heart of gold, and when his ex dumps the 18-month-old she claims is his son into his lap, he’s forced to examine his life, his choices, and his surroundings. It’s a sweet story that forces us to consider people we see everyday in a different light.

 

Read more: New York Story: Prince of Broadway
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Official site

 

LAST TRAIN HOME a film by Lixin Fan
 
Last Train Home
Director: Lixin Fan
Speaking of forcing us to consider the unexamined, this brutally sad documentary is the most powerful film we saw all year. Lixin Fan painstakingly follows a Chinese couple for three years as they leave their rural home (and their children) to work thousands of miles away in a grimy city factory, living in dormitory squalor and making jeans for Westerners. Once a year, they travel home by (overcrowded, unreliable) train for the Chinese new year. They lead a desperate life in order for us to have cheap products; this must-see doc will inform your worldview, and break your heart.

 

Read more: Desperation: Last Train Home
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Official site

 


 
Howl
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
While James Franco is (deservedly) getting unanimous praise for his compelling performance in Danny Boyle’s thrilling 127 Hours, he was equally strong in Howl. Astoundingly, our favorite surfer/slacker dude transformed himself convincingly into Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and this fast-paced biopic covers a lot of ground, from animation to courtroom drama to a mesmerizing recreation of the epic poem’s debut. It's a literarily cinematic tour-de-force!

 

Read more: Film and Literature: HOWL
See it.
Official site

 

Norma UK: Sally Hawkins in Made in Dagenham
 
Made in Dagenham
Director: Nigel Cole
When we first saw this polished, uplifting, and funny film about 1960s feminists in working-class Britain, we were certain this would be a contender. But for some reason, it never found an audience, and we just don’t get it. Spitfire Sally Hawkins leads a cast of spirited women (including Rosamund Pike and Miranda Richardson) in the feel-good movie of the year. It will put a smile on your face.

 

Read more: Norma UK: Made in Dagenham
See it.
Official site

 


 
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
Though we knew their hits like Tom Sawyer, Fly By Night, and Limelight, we were not fans of the Canadian band RushGeddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson—before we saw this movie, but their story soon won us over. This trio is not into groupies, drugs, or even fame; they are just three hometown buddies—refreshing in their nerdiness—who live to make music, whatever the genre (and they’ve tried them all). This film won the Heineken Audience Award at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, and we didn’t even stuff the ballot box.

 

Read more: Rush Fans Wait in Rush Line to See Rush Doc
Faces of the Festival: Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen
See it.
Official site
 
And Everything Is Going Fine: Spalding Gray

 

And Everything is Going Fine
Director: Steven Soderbergh
A lot less flashy than his usual Hollywood fare, Soderbergh’s December 2010 release flew under the radar. When monologist Spalding Gray committed suicide in January 2004 (by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry), he left behind more than a wife and three kids—from the overwhelming library of his performances preserved on film, his friend Soderbergh was able to cull together a final monologue of Gray’s life. It’s a poignant and fascinating look at one of our truest artistic spirits.

 

Read more: And Everything is Going Fine
See it.
Official site
 

Honorable mention: North Face, A Film Unfinished, Kings of Pastry, The Tillman Story

 

Tell us what movies YOU loved in 2010!