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Another Top 10 List

The year has come to a close, and at first glance, I thought I would have difficulty naming my Top 10 movies of the year, as so many movies left me unimpressed this year. (Oddly, not a single animated or foreign film made the list this year.) But once I got going, I found that there was more than enough to rejoice about.

There were films featuring fantastic performances that didn't quite make the list: Michael Fassbender in "Shame," Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain in "Take Shelter," Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh in "My Week With Marilyn," Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer in "J. Edgar," Martin Sheen in "The Way," Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."  There was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," a film that deserves mention not only for being great, but for not screwing up the end of a terrific franchise.  "Insidious" deserves mention for providing great scares in the horror genre, so often done poorly. "Midnight in Paris" was not only Woody Allen's best film in years, but introduced us to Corey Stoll, who played a sexy, funny Ernest Hemingway. And there was "The Skin I Live In," one of the most fun rides I had at the movies this year. But in the end, here are the 10 that stood out above the rest:

10. "Drive"

When Ron Perlman is the second-baddest badass in the film, it's one thing. When he's out badassed by Albert Brooks, you know you have something special. Some complained Nicholas Winding Refn's film was all style over substance, to which I would say: "Yes. And?"

9. "Warrior"

Woefully overlooked in theaters, this MMA movie featured a career-high performance from Nick Nolte and star-making turns from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers who battle each other in the ring. Part Eugene O'Neill family drama, part rousing fight film, it deserves more attention.

8. "The Artist"

I could wish that the film had a weightier impact or a more powerful ending, but that would do a disservice to the lighthearted, sweet fun that is this ode to silent cinema.

7. "A Better Life"

Demian Bichir is outstanding as an illegal immigrant struggling to raise his defiant 14-year-old son. A movie that surprised me at every turn.

6. "The Descendants"

As a Hawaiian descendant myself, I appreciated every little thing Alexander Payne got right about the island culture, from the lingo to the customs. In a broader sense, his movie about loss and forgiveness is a punch to the guy, followed by a warm hug. Bonus points for the scene where Judy Greer's wronged wife has a meltdown at the bedside of her comatose competitor.

5. "Win Win"

Paul Giamatti plays another lovable loser in this gem from writer-director Tom McCarthy, now batting a thousand following his films "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor."

4. "Moneyball"

Brad Pitt makes it look so easy as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane, who creates a winning baseball team from cast-offs and losers. Jonah Hill has some of the year's best lines and the two make a great pair in this sharp, funny, and touching film from director Bennett Miller.

3. "The Help"

No matter what anyone says to try to bring this film down, "The Help" is a triumph. Every cast member is flawless, from Bryce Dallas Howard's chilly Hilly Holbrook to Jessica Chastain's goofily endearing Celia Foote. Discovery of the year Octavia Spencer deserves the Oscar, as does stalwart Viola Davis, in a heartbreaking and heartwarming turn.

2. "50/50"

You might expect a comedy about cancer starring Seth Rogen to be brash and funny. What you might not expect is it to be sensitive, beautiful, and romantic. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been unfairly overlooked in awards races for his pitch-perfect performance as a young man striken with the disease. In supporting roles, Anna Kendrick and Rogen are believably baffled as to how to react. Realistic in both its pain and laughter, the film walks a tricky line and never stumbles.

1. "Bridesmaids"

Because no movie made me laugh--or cry--harder this year. Because Kristen Wiig and company's antics should put an end to discussions of whether or not women can be funny and if people will pay to see it. Because Melissa McCarthy is genius, but so are Chris O'Dowd, Rebel Wilson, Jon Hamm, and Rose Byrne in supporting roles. The most quotable film of the year with a raunchy soul and a sweet heart, that captures female friendships and competitions as few films ever have. A perfect comedy and a fantastic movie.

--Jenelle Riley

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