The Social Network tops Southeastern Film Critics’ list for the best films of 2010

by Mark Burger

by Mark Burger contributing columnist

SEFCA’s the name. Movie criticism is the game.

It’s an annual tradition: Each December, the members of the Southeastern Film Critics’ Association cast their votes to determine the year’s best movies. (As for

the rest, most are probably best forgotten.)

Earlier this month, the members of SEFCA dutifully filled out their individual ballots and forwarded them to what might euphemistically be called “Election Central,” at which point they waited anxiously (you can bet!) for the votes to be tallied and the results to be announced. Yours truly is a card-carrying member of SEFCA — if, indeed, there was a card to carry — and like my compatriots I dutifully submitted my votes on deadline.

For 2010, SEFCA’s “Top 10 Films” were:

1. The Social Network 2. The King’s Speech 3. Winter’s Bone 4. Black Swan 5. Inception 6. True Grit 7. Toy Story 3 8. 127 Hours 9. The Fighter 10. The Kids Are All Right

Best director: David Fincher, The Social Network (Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, Inception) Best actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech (Runner-up: James Franco, 127 Hours) Best actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan (Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) Best supporting actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech (Runner-up: Christian Bale, The Fighter) Best supporting actress: Hailie Steinfeld, True Grit (Runner-up: Melissa Leo, The Fighter) Best ensemble cast: The Social Network (Runner-up: Winter’s Bone) Best adapted screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network (Runner-up: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone) Best original screenplay: David Seidler,

The King’s Speech (Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, Inception) Best documentary: Inside Job (Runnerup: Exit Through the Gift Shop) Best foreign language film: Mother, South Korea (Runner-up: Biutiful, France) Best animated film: Toy Story 3 (Runnerup: How to Train Your Dragon) Best cinematography: Roger Deakins, True Grit (Runner-up: Wally Pfister, Inception) Gene Wyatt Award: Winter’s Bone (Runner-up: Get Low) The latter award is named for the late film critic and writer Gene Wyatt, and is meant to honor the film that “best evokes the spirit of the South.”

Although we critics don’t always agree, more often than not there tends to be a general consensus when it comes time to vote on the year’s best movies — and that applies, to some extent, for any critics’ organization. The same films and the same names come up again and again. The National Board of the Review, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Washington DC Area Film Critics’ Association also selected The Social Network as Best Film. It’s no great leap of presumption to predict that some of the winners may well find themselves in competition at the next Academy Awards (scheduled for Feb. 27).

I have not seen every film that was released during 2010. Many independent films come and go so quickly that there’s no time to catch up with them. Then there are those independent films that don’t come here at all. In terms of the theatrical marketplace, the Piedmont Triad is not counted among the larger markets.

The ever-shrinking window between theatrical exposure and home-video release makes it a little easier to catch up with some films, and many studios are nice enough to send (“inundate” might be a better word) screeners to critics at the end of the year. In fact, I’m still catching up with a number of films that will hopefully open here in the near future.

You’ve really got to love movies to be a critic, because you see a lot of bad ones. It’s that occasional gem that makes sitting through the duds worthwhile. Enduring a Saw VII or a Prince of Persia or a Jonah Hex is neither easy nor fun. It can be fun to really rip a movie to shreds, but first you have to sit through it.

In all my years of reviewing movies, I have only ever walked out of one movie: Ishtar. That was 23 years ago and I left in the middle because my girlfriend had fallen fast asleep and I could see no legitimate reason to continue. Don’t worry, though, I caught up with the rest of Ishtar some years later. We didn’t miss anything.

This past year, however, there were quite a few worthy movies — many, predictably, released at the end of the year. Some have yet to open here. Others have come and gone. A few are still playing — and well worth seeing.

Here then is my personal 10 best list for 2010:

1. Another Year2. The King’s Speech 3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo* 4. 127 Hours 5. Inception 6. Toy Story 3 7. The Social Network 8. Rabbit Hole 9. I Love You, Phillip Morris 10. Please Give *

(I would also include the sequels The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest, as all three films were released in such quick succession in the United States.)

Other films of merit that just missed the cut would include Micmacs and Green Zone, along with several excellent documentaries: Winnebago Man, Burzynski, Inside Job, Restrepo and The Tillman Story.

Overall, not a bad year at the movies. That’s not to say it was a particularly good year, however. There was more than enough calamity to go around. In no particular order, the worst films I sat through in 2010 included Jonah Hex, Furry Vengeance, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Losers, Sex and the City 2, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Last Airbender, Salt, Valentine’s Day, My Soul to Take, Skyline, Going the Distance and My Son, My Son — What Have Ye Done?

You take the bad with the good, we reviewers do. It’s not the easy job some people think it, but it can be great fun and richly rewarding.