By Tony Johnson | Arts & Entertainment Editor

Last year was a terrific year for movies, with a multitude of tremendous blockbusters as well as celebrated art-house and indie films. However, there are always stand-outs. Before we start criticizing and predicting which movies will be the best of the best for 2011, here is the (arguable) top 10 movies of 2010.

1.     127 Hours– Danny Boyle and his crew have crafted a masterful epic here. The strength of the human spirit as demonstrated by Aron Ralston’s time spent Between A Rock and A Hard Place is the center of the film. James Franco carries the story as Ralston, and through his performance he brilliantly and beautifully embodies every emotion a person can feel throughout the 5 days Ralston spent pinned to the boulder. Though this true story is hard to watch at times due to Ralston’s life-changing choice being displayed on screen, it’s an experience to behold. The majority of the movie takes place with Franco stuck within a canyon crevice, but it soars as a suspenseful, deeply touching, and extraordinary tribute to Ralston’s refusal to give up the will to live and to the reason and meaning of life. The 90 minutes you spend watching the expertly structured adaptation are brief but powerful, and allow you to take those minutes with you and use them to find your way through your own adventures. Just as Ralston was both restrained and liberated by the boulder; you will lose and find yourself in this amazing journey of a film.

2. The Social Network– There are not enough positive adjectives in the English dictionary to describe how cool and great David Fincher’s masterpiece is, mainly due to the fact that all of them have already been used up by every movie critic in the world. Though it tells the story of Facebook’s birth and the people behind it, both users of the morbidly popular social network and non-users who refuse to take part can relate to it one way or another. It’s a spectacular mirror reflection of how the creation forever changed the creators’ generation and encouraged our own to use technology as a source of communication, while also inadvertently promoting a form of isolation. This realization is haunting and hard to believe, but the phenomenal performances, nail-biting script, and awe-inspiring filmmaking make the film feel real.

3. Inception– Christopher Nolan’s uber-succesful, mind-bending action movie is a sight to see. The incredibly creative plot goes perfectly with the magnificent set pieces that are supposedly dreams but feel just as real as the people going into them. The complex structure of “a dream within a dream within a dream” will get you lost at times, but that’s also the point. It’s a film that’s open to complete interpretation, and full of discoveries that you’ll find even more of each time you watch it. As Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cob said: an idea is a resilient parasite, and this movie is one that will stick with you.

4. Black Swan– Quite possibly one of the craziest films ever made, this is also one of the best of the year. Darren Arronofsky’s dark, twisted, and ultimately beautiful thriller provides more suspense and chills than any other movie on this list. It’s certainly not for everyone, due to its focus on the art of ballet and the overarching raw feel, but well worth watching regardless. Natalie Portman’s performance as the tormented ballerina Nina Sayers is one of the most intense of all time, and possibly the best of her career. Her torment, uncertainty, and desire for perfection contribute to the film’s dreamy feel; once the credits roll, you will feel like you just woke from a dream. That alone makes it a work of art.

5. The Kids Are All Right– The best indie film of the year is an absolute delight to watch. It’s the first film to explore how universal family is, no matter the orientation or race, and does so with a perfect combination of comedy, heartbreak, and understanding. Smart direction from Lisa Cholodenko and outstanding performances from every actor involved make this one a stand-out.

6. The Fighter– With the title, you’d think this movie would be more focused on the sport of boxing, but then you’d be wrong. Perhaps the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year, David O. Russel’s The Fighter does provide some thrilling boxing sequences, but its main focus is actually on family drama. It’s basically about “a family that fights together; fights to stay together.” Featuring what is quite possibly the best ensemble cast of the year, Fighter brings a true story to life again on the screen with excellent care and heart.

7. True Grit– It may not be as gritty as some other movies that came out the same year, but the Coen Bros’ PG-13 rated adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic western novel (and remake of the original film with John Wayne) has enough grit to keep you interested and excited throughout the movie. A lot of detail and spirit was put into it, and it shows through Jeff Bridge’s interpretation of Rooster Cogburn, Hailee Steinfeld’s terrific first performance, the Coen Bros’ witty script, and the indelible western atmosphere. Whether or not it’s the last great western, it’s a great movie that anyone seeking a well-paced cinematic escape can enjoy.

8. The Town– Ben Affleck’s second turn in the director’s chair is even better than his first, in which he made the terrific and unforgettable adaptation of Gone Baby Gone. He and co-writers Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard put even more passion into this crime movie, with the city of Boston and the town of Charlestown brought out to feel like living and breathing characters instead of just simple backdrops. It’s one of those rare movies that gets better every time you watch it. With an expert balance between drama, action, and even romance, The Town has it all.

9. Shutter Island– It’s not at all as scary as the trailers made it out to be, but it’s certainly better than advertised. Martin Scorsese’s attempt at a psychological thriller was a big success, and is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. Leonardo DiCaprio’s underrated performance gives the film its mind and soul, and while the first time watching it is the best, multiple viewings are recommended just to spot where the twists and turns originated. It’s a piece of work that will seize you with a tight grip.

10. Toy Story 3– Pixar did it again. The three-quel to their original beloved films is just as magical as its predecessors, but gives off new feelings of nostalgia and closure. It raises the bar for what animated movies are capable of, and can be enjoyed by all generations.

Honorable Mentions:

The King’s Speech for being a stand-out biopic and providing towering performances…Winter’s Bone for being a gritty and intense thriller amidst a dead yet beautiful Missouri atmosphere…Blue Valentine for being a dark but ultimately sincere telling of a marriage in crisis…Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World for being a cutting-edge and hysterical comedy with creative eye candy to boot… Easy A for being the most original and enjoyable high school movie since Mean GirlsKick Ass for being a super hero movie with a Kill Bill-like feel.

However, 2010 also had its share of painfully awful, unwatchable movies. Though there were more than 5, these are ones you should avoid at all costs.

1. The Last Airbender– What in the world happened to M. Night Shyamalan? What looked like to be a promising career after the accolades that accompanied The Sixth Sense turned into utter failure. This one tops all of his past Razzie-worthy films. If you’re wanting to have a laugh-fest with your fellow moviegoer friends, then by all means, watch this. It’s so hilariously awful that unintentional irony is the only thing you can expect from this mess. Worst acting, worst filmmaking, and worst directing of the year is all here. Don’t see it.

2. Killers– Supposedly a comedy, you can sit through Killers with a straight face the whole way through. It’s just dull and lifeless. There is no feeling or humor to be found anywhere. If there’s any hope left for the used-to-be-so-loveable Katherine Heigl, she’d better go find it.

3. Burlesque– Why this is nominated for a Golden Globe best picture nomination (musical/comedy) is something we may never know. Cher herself, and Christina Aguilara, seem to be struggling to make a comeback. Do them both a favor: remind them of how awful this flashy musical is by not watching it.

4. Little Fockers– If you find entertainment out of poop and fart jokes, predictability, and flat-out unfunny silliness, this one is for you. Otherwise, don’t even bother seeing the third entry in the lagging Meet The Parents saga. This is one series that needs to be put to sleep.

5. Grown Ups– Same with Little Fockers, only it’s not part of a series; just another reel in the slew of awful Adam Sandler movies.

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