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Dream Country

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IFC Films

My favorite film of the year is on this list. My second and third favorites were too experimental to attract any wide distribution, but that's life. Mainstream distributors prefer event movies, and event movies are more to do with drug delivery and a repeat of whatever pleasant sensations seemed to work last time rather than anything more sophisticated, but that's life as well. The porn industry has done alright for itself with that business model for centuries, and with about as much need for critics, too.

Tim Hayes's Top Movies of 2010 in alphabetical order

CARLOS (Olivier Assayas) Mr. Assayas's bracing attitude to filmmaking gets a full airing, with waves of impersonal aggression sloshing across the continents and breaking over the very personal forms of Édgar Ramírez and Nora von Waldstätten respectively as Carlos the Jackal and Magdalena Kopp. It's no "Demonlover," but then what is?

FOUR LIONS (Chris Morris) Nothing Mr. Morris will ever do can top the eight seconds of his old TV show, "The Day Today," where George Formby sings "Subterranean Homesick Blues," but "Four Lions" is an angrier beast altogether. Any doubts about its creator's importance only lasted until I got home from the screening and found that the Sky News ticker read "War crimes prosecutors seek to subpoena Naomi Campbell." Chris Morris: trapped in a world he never made.

THE GHOST (Roman Polanski) So many juicy identity crises: faked American locations, a not very camouflaged British prime minister and a director's conflicted public image, all tied up in a film about the power of the written word.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Niels Arden Oplev) I lived in Sweden for a while and can testify that every time a Swedish film breaks out and people talk of discovering its stark powerful tone with dark undercurrents and fine eye for chilly landscapes, those qualities aren't as undercover as all that. Turn on the television and there they are, in soap operas, comedies and especially in a raft of visually striking TV police procedurals, which feed directly into this expertly executed movie.

INCEPTION (Christopher Nolan) Mr. Nolan's embrace of his inner Michael Bay produced a hypnotic machine of a movie. It is a welcome nod toward 1970s heist movies, 1960s super spies and cool guys with sharp suits and guilty secrets. As movies queue up to dig deeper into Jack Kirby's imagination, "Inception" was more interested in Jim Steranko, a thoroughly good thing. The critical response and the shenanigans that followed are something else again. Whoever first used the word Kubrick with a straight face did nobody any favors, least of all any potential ticket buyers looking for assistance. Hans Zimmer's turning of a source cue from the film into a score motif was greeted as if he had been the first man to split the atom, proving that our new model collective has bags of enthusiasm but a poor memory for yesterday and apparently no concept at all of last month. Fair enough — so we move on.

MADE IN DAGENHAM (Nigel Cole) Thanks to genetic differences too deep to do anything about now, no British labor movement fable is ever going to shoot into orbit trailing sparks like the U.S. equivalent can. Americans have Jimmy Hoffa and Sylvester Stallone and David Mamet; we Brits have Hugh Scanlon, Miriam Karlin and the blokes who wrote "On the Buses." It's not the same. But this film does let me marvel at Rosamund Pike's talent and transatlantic career path, which is a thing of beauty. And having now seen Andrea Riseborough barge into a room of intimidated males, eyes flashing and beehive trailing in the draft, I think she should have a crack at Wonder Woman.

MR. NICE (Bernard Rose) If Bernard Rose could bring himself to make one film each year, the British scene would be much more sparky.

THE RUNAWAYS (Floria Sigismondi) Hugely underrated; Ms. Sigismondi whips up a storm of bold textures and electric hues, not simply to be acidic but to echo the sparks flying and hormones surging when the Runaways meet.

SHUTTER ISLAND (Martin Scorsese) Mr. Scorsese's enthusiastic B-movie tribute is shamelessly entertaining and still had plenty to say about the life of the mind. Plus the soundtrack featured the year's first musical foghorn courtesy of Krzysztof Penderecki — the first of many. The film also contained my biggest laugh of the year, when Ben Kingsley pauses in mid-exposition to unveil a marker board with a recap of what he has just said — in case anyone is taking the film too seriously.

WINTER'S BONE (Debra Granik) I didn't see a film all year that generates as much of its atmosphere through character trait and mood, rather than anything flashier.

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