Swanning Into 2011

But first, a look back at the films of 2010

<i>Black Swan</i>
Black Swan

Among The Austin Chronicle's three film critics, Black Swan earned a spot somewhere within each writer's top three picks for the best film of 2010, thus making the movie a shoo-in for selection as our overall No. 1 film of the year. It received the highest total vote count of any film on the combined lists. Darren Aronofsky's ravishing film, which stars Natalie Portman, is an intense portrait of the insanity that is birthed by one woman's struggle for perfection. Curiously, the madness that derives from the struggle to create perfection can also be seen as the crux of one of the great visual spectacles of the year, Inception. That one, however, made barely an impression on our critics.

Although our critics favored many of the same movies – including The Social Network, Winter's Bone, The King's Speech, and The Fighter, which have topped others' lists across the country – many other titles can be found among our combined Top 10. Three foreign films are listed here: A Prophet, the trenchant prison story from France; Germany's fraying-relationship drama Everyone Else (which Kimberley Jones correctly points out as being far more exacting than Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams' stab at similar terrain in Blue Valentine); and the Red Riding trilogy, a searing three-part crime saga from Great Britain. Also on the combined Top 10 is Exit Through the Gift Shop, street artist Banksy's brain-teasing documentary, and the little independent movie that could, Monsters, Gareth Edwards' amazingly polished and gripping, low-budget horror movie/love story. Within our individual lists, you can find many more titles worth another look before we pack away 2010.

The plethora of superhero movies that dominated theatre screens over the last couple of years subsided noticeably this year, leaving the field wide open for emotionally complex dramas and documentaries to dominate the awards podium. (As usual, comedies barely make an impression when it comes to the granting of awards.) However, before anyone leaps to the conclusion that the decline in movies based on superheroes and other comic-book and cartoon characters is a trend, a glance at the 2011 film calendar is in order. Just next week we'll greet the arrival of The Green Hornet, starring the slimmed-down Seth Rogen and directed by the ever-imaginative Michel Gondry. Other releases scheduled for 2011 include Green Lantern, Thor (which is directed by that noted Shakespeare interpreter, Kenneth Branagh), The First Avenger: Captain America, Cowboys & Aliens, and X-Men: First Class. And we mustn't forget the live-action Smurfs film on the horizon. Comic-book and cartoon characters haven't gone away: They seem to have spent 2010 resting on their laurels and plotting future glories.

With the rise of video on demand and new ways of streaming films, 2011 is certain to present us with more movies to watch and share than ever before, in addition to what is released to theatres. So here comes the caveat about year-end lists: No one has seen it all. Our lists are snapshots or guidelines, but they are not gospel. They offer a peek into the individual tastes and preferences of the Chronicle reviewers and provide suggestions for movies to catch up with in the theatres or through in-store or online rentals. Making lists is fun and safe to try at home. In addition, our writers have many more observations about the year in film, and we have put those up on our Picture in Picture blog, which you can find at austinchronicle.com/pip.

Top 10 Films of 2010

1) 'BLACK SWAN'

2) 'THE SOCIAL NETWORK' (tie)

2) 'WINTER'S BONE' (tie)

4) 'MONSTERS'

5) 'THE FIGHTER' (tie)

5) 'A PROPHET' (tie)

7) 'EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP'

8) 'THE KING'S SPEECH'

9) 'EVERYONE ELSE'

10) 'RED RIDING' TRILOGY

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

top tens, Black Swan, The Social Network, Winter's Bone, Monsters, The Fighter, A Prophet, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The King's Speech, Everyone Else, Red Riding trilogy

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