The Best Movies of the Year 2010
1.  “Conviction”:   This true story of the high-school dropout whose brother was wrongly convicted and imprisoned is truly inspiring.  She became obsessed with the cause of freeing him, even getting all the way through law school to become an attorney herself.  Hilary Swank plays the main character just right, and Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of her longing-for-vindication brother is truly outstanding.  Ah, sweet redemption.
2.  “True Grit”:  Yes, it’s a re-make of the 1969 classic which finally won John Wayne an Oscar, but Jeff Bridges may be even better as Rooster Cogburn, the flawed U.S. Marshall hired by a 14-year-old girl to help her find her father’s killer.  Here’s a true Western in the languorous, hey-look-at-that-breathtaking-scenery old-fashioned style.
3. “Love and Other Drugs”:  Yes, the sex scenes are steamy, but there’s purpose behind them:  Anne Hathaway plays an intelligent, attractive young career woman with Parkinson’s, and she does not want to be “the sickie” in any relationship, but neither does she want to miss out on some fun while she’s still healthy enough to enjoy it.  Jake Gyllenhaal is her more-than-willing “friend with benefits,” but then love happens, and now what?  Of course, this is the exact sequence hoped for in all those biblical centuries of arranged marriages:  throw a couple of strangers together in the tent and hope they have fun, and maybe fall in love later.  Or not.
4.  “The Company Men”: Feels-so-real fiction about an up-and-coming corporate executive who is summarily dismissed, and his travails having to adjust his attitude about practically everything: what’s necessary, what’s affordable, what’s important, and, most difficult of all, his self-image.  And yet it feels triumphant because it’s the unconditional love of his family which gets him through to the other side of personal re-alignment.  Written and directed by award-winning television veteran John Wells, Ben Affleck plays the main character quite convincingly.
5.  “The King’s Speech”:  The Prince who is soon to become King of England has a severe stuttering problem, and it’s a commoner with unorthodox speech therapy methods who finally helps him improve enough to stammer out a national radio address, in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II in Europe.  Both Colin Firth as the Prince and Geoffrey Rush as the therapist are outstanding, but what’s gratifying is to watch how much constructive good someone in a helping profession can do.  Church workers, take heart.
6.  “The Social Network”:  Nobody has recently transformed our society so much as 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, Time’s 2010 Person of the Year.  As a student at Harvard in 2003, he created Facebook, and the rest, as they say, is history.  This portrayal of him (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is riveting, but not, according to Zuckerberg, entirely accurate.  Nonetheless, we are fascinated by this thunderous cultural phenomenon, and the chronicling of its unlikely beginnings in a dorm room in Boston .
7.  “The Fighter”:  True story about a club boxer (Mark Wahlberg) from Lowell, Massachusetts, who manages to briefly hold the light welterweight crown, but it sure was a bumpy ride getting there.  This time, close family is so close as to be oppressively smothering, and our blue-collar hero must figure out how to make his dysfunctional family function long enough to help him meet his personal goals.  Christian Bale steals this show as the force-of-nature older brother.
8.  “The American”:  George Clooney plays an American assassin-for-hire trying to quietly retire in the countryside of Italy , but his past won’t let him enjoy the present or secure his future.  A deliberately-paced morality tale about how all our previous life-choices continue to affect us, and define us.
9.  “Toy Story 3”:  Those who would normally avoid sequels, and surely stay away from cutesy animated films, need to re-consider on this one.  Brilliant, touching CGI chronicle of a community that has to change and adapt, and yes, you will find yourself rooting for cartoon characters, and maybe even weeping tears of joy for them.
10.  “Rabbit Hole”:  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play parents who lose their only child, a four-year-old who ran into the street to chase his dog and didn’t see the car coming.  Of course the parents are devastated.  But now, several months later, grief deals with us in ways we can’t always control, or even describe to each other.  Spot-on performances, well-written script (it was originally a play), and just enough optimism at the end to make it hopeful.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas