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The Scene critics weigh in with their best films of 2010

Milan Paurich:

1.The Kids Are All Right, Please Give, Somewhere (tie) — If 2010 was not a banner year for movies, it was a fantastic year for women directors. With these three films, it's starting to look like Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar win for The Hurt Locker was less of a fluke than a bellwether.

2. Carlos — Edgar Ramirez gave the performance of the year in the title role of Olivier Assayas' epic about notorious Venezuelan revolutionary/terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal.

3. The Social Network Who would have guessed that a movie about the creation of Facebook would turn out to be the best big-studio release of 2010?

4. Greenberg — Ben Stiller gives his bravest performance in this extraordinarily nuanced, emotionally acute Noah Baumbach dramedy that, tragically, almost nobody saw. 

5. Vincere — I've run hot and cold on veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio for years, but his Mussolini-as-a-young-man biopic is the most accessible — and possibly finest — film of his career.

6. The Ghost Writer — Roman Polanski's crackerjack thriller about a Tony Blair-like British politician and his unwitting ghost writer is as effortlessly elegant and rigorously crafted as vintage Hitchcock. 

7. Inception — Turn on, tune in, drop out:  the grooviest head trip since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

8. I Am Love — Luchino Visconti may be long gone, and Bernardo Bertolucci hasn't made a proper "Bertolucci movie" in years, but Luca Guadagnino's rapturously beautiful, intoxicatingly sensual art-house hit recalls both Italian maestros in peak form.

9. Another Year — Another year, another Mike Leigh masterpiece. Leigh's most satisfying film since 1999's Topsy Turvy tells the story of a year in the life of a British family and their maddeningly needy best friend, played by the brilliant Lesley Manville. 

10. Tiny Furniture — The malaise of post-collegiate life has rarely been captured with this much insight, honesty, and humor. A remarkable first effort by 24-year-old Lena Dunham, who also stars.

Pamela Zoslov:

1. Inside Job Charles Ferguson's important, searing documentary dissects — in fine detail and with cathartic outrage — the reckless and villainous greed behind the global financial meltdown.

2. Life During Wartime — Misanthropic genius Todd Solondz follows up his 1998 masterpiece Happiness with this sublimely mournful melodrama about the same dysfunctional family, entirely recast.

3. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work This profile of the 77-year-old comedian reveals a smart, vulnerable, and endearingly self-aware performer who lives primarily for her work.

4. Fair Game Naomi Watts is ideally cast in Doug Liman's penetrating drama about covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was outed by Bush administration officials in retaliation for husband Joe Wilson's (Sean Penn, also perfect) exposure of the lies that pushed us into war.

5. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer Alex Gibney (who chronicled U.S. torture practices in Taxi to the Darkside) turns his attention to the downfall of the brilliant, disgraced ex-governor of New York, revealing the machinations of powerful enemies — alongside reckless hubris — that brought down the onetime Sheriff of Wall Street.

6. Catfish The DIY alternative to the glossier The Social Network, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's documentary about a young man who seeks out the seemingly irresistible woman he met on Facebook is an absorbing, tech-styled study of the seductions and deceptions of social networking.

7. The Fighter Christian Bale is superb in David O. Russell's raw, heartfelt biopic about welterweight boxing champ Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), whose career was sidetracked by his brother and trainer (Bale), a fighter who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard but later succumbed to crack addiction and crime.

8. The Last Station Helen Mirren's vivid portrayal of Sofya Tolstoy is a thing of beauty in Michael Hoffman's charming film about the troubled marriage of writer Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer).

9. The Kids Are All Right Though a bit too precious, Lisa Cholodenko's comedy about a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) and their relationship with their teenage children's sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo) is a radical act, showing a lesbian marriage in utterly conventional terms.

10. Love and Other Drugs Ed Zwick's movie about a pharmaceutical salesman who falls for a Parkinson's patient (Anne Hathaway) won my affection for subversively disguising its devastating critique of Big Pharma as a sexy romantic tragicomedy.

Send feedback to film@clevescene.com.

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