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Behind the hype ; From 'Buried' to 'I'm Still Here,' Jeff Simon takes us through another year of the best (and worst) of film in 2010

I beg to differ.

Let the hurricane of hype blow. Let Oscar do what he wants and the wire services hyperventilate over Mark Zuckerberg and "The Social Network." He can be on "60 Minutes" from now until doomsday and Time Magazine "Person of the Year" covers, too.

Facebook may, indeed, be the social network of our time. And no one would argue that "The Social Network" isn't brilliantly written, acted and directed. But it's still, fundamentally, the story of how overprivileged brats changed the world -- a story that really has only one basic plot point: just how much of a jerk IS Zuckerberg, anyway?

To me, what happened after Facebook was created made for the great social network movie of 2010: "Catfish," a resonant, if embattled, movie about how people try to reinvent themselves for a digital world. "Catfish" can still haunt you; "The Social Network," not at all.

So can the even more embattled "I'm Still Here," by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck. It's as raw a testament to Hollywood alienation as you're ever likely to find, but it is destroyed by an almost irrelevant, if journalistically snazzy, "gotcha" question: "Is it real? Did Joaquin Phoenix really want to become a rapper, or was it a put-on?"

Answers: No and yes. The movie's profoundly radical movie star alienation from the American way of celebrity, though, is real, which means that there are higher truths that flourish many miles above "gotcha."

That's one of the amazing things about what happened in movies of 2010. Lowly and despised Reality TV gave them a new approach to the art of the documentary, a new way for fictional reality to be truer than true.

The other big movie story of 2010 was the utterly astonishing era of big, feature-length animated films we now foolishly take for granted. Digital animation gave animators new tools to use, but it was one man -- Jeffrey Katzenberg, way back when he and Michael Eisner ruled Disney -- who spurred on the astonishing animation renaissance that has now completely taken hold (and, courtesy of 3-D, flourishes and dominates box offices).

>The best movies of 2010 in alphabetical order.

BLUE VALENTINE by Derek Cianfrance: It already has opened in New York and L.A. and will open in Buffalo early this year. It's a raw, striking portrait of a young marriage that failed, with heartrending performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Its stark sexuality almost got it an NC-17 rating, but it was changed to an R at the last minute.

BURIED by Rodrigo Cortes: One of the great, underrated films of the year, a cinematic stunt carried off with devastating skill starring Ryan Reynolds as a man buried alive. The whole movie takes place in a coffin.

CATFISH by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman: How much is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in this documentary about some New Yorkers going to the heartland to meet friends from Facebook and MySpace? The higher truth of it can make your hair stand up on end.

THE FIGHTER by David O. Russell: Redemption for its tempestuous director and co-star Christian Bale. A great American boxing film by near unanimous acclaim.

I AM LOVE by Luca Guadagnino: How much can people sanely give up for love? How much for love of a great film tradition? It's all in this film starring Tilda Swinton.

I'M STILL HERE by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix: A classic American hoax in every way except what counts: a portrait of an actor's revulsion for a celebrity milieu in which his own brother died of a drug overdose on the street in front of a nightclub. A fraud as fact; as self-expression, it's a powerful 911 call.

127 HOURS by Danny Boyle: How to make an exhilarating, liberating, crazily cinematic film out of a man so hopelessly trapped that he had to amputate his own arm.

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg: A comic legend and pioneer gets her due as an exemplar of feminist extremity in her chosen profession.

THE KING'S SPEECH by Tom Hooper: What if the king stuttered? An affecting, gracefully written actor's show starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

TOY STORY 3 by Lee Unkrich: In an animation year of films as dazzling as "How to Train Your Dragon," "Megamind" and "Despicable Me," the finale of the "Toy Story" series was the best of all. The era we live in for these films is extraordinary.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR (Top 10 in another year): "The Social Network," "True Grit," "The Ghost Writer," "Unstoppable," and "The Kids Are Alright."

PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR: Christian Bale in "The Fighter," Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in "Black Swan," Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs," Annette Bening in "The Kids Are Alright" and "Mother and Child," Colin Firth in "The King's Speech," Ryan Reynolds in "Buried," James Franco in "127 Hours," Javier Bardem in the upcoming "Biutiful," Sam Rockwell in "Conviction," the entire cast of Michael Winterbottom's brutal, tough-to-watch "The Killer Inside Me" all doing the gutsiest work of their performing lives.

>OVERRATED MOVIES OF THE YEAR: "Winter's Bone," "Greenberg."

>SCI-FI/FANTASY INCOHERENCE AND SILLINESS OF THE YEAR: As eye-boggling as they are in their megabudget way, "Inception" and "Tron: Legacy."

>WHAT DOES AARP STAND FOR? ACTION, ACTION, REPRISALS AND PUNISHMENT: Being over 60 doesn't mean you have to give up pedal-to-the-metal action movies. See the new big box office breed of geezer action movie, especially "Red" and "The Expendables."

>THE BEST THING HE'S EVER DONE: Clint Eastwood, the octogenarian director, gave us a terrifying tsunami to open his film "Hereafter." It's the most unforgettable sequence in his films thus far.

> SENIOR SPLENDOR: Michael Douglas in "A Solitary Man" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" until word got out about his struggles with Stage Four throat cancer. Nonagenarian Eli Wallach, so grand in a small part in "Wall Street," finally gets a career Oscar this year. Hallelujah.

>UNDERRATED MOVIES OF THE YEAR BESIDES "BURIED": "Splice" and the majestic nature documentary "Oceans."

>WORST BIG STAR/BIG DIRECTOR DISASTER OF THE YEAR 2010: Killer competition. The decidedly gloomy "Robin Hood" starring Russell Crowe? "Due Date?" The mind-bogglingly awful "The Last Airbender?" "The Killers?" All of them pale in comparison to the gigantic distance between the quality of talent involved and the rubbish onscreen in "Little Fockers."

***

>Other choices for 2010's best from News movie reviewers:

Melinda Miller

A PROPHET by Jacques Audiard: The title of this award-winning French-language prison drama suggests a film with strong religious undertones, but there is little salvation here. Corruption and coercion are the canon; the baptisms are in blood.

GET LOW by Aaron Schneider: Robert Duvall disappears into the role of enigmatic anti-hero Felix Bush, who wants to throw his own funeral with the help of Bill Murray, whose turn as sleazy, frustrated funeral director Frank Quinn is a deadpan masterpiece.

ANIMAL KINGDOM by David Michod: Honor among thieves takes a massive hit in this much-praised Australian crime drama about a Melbourne crime family -- three bank-robbing, drug-selling brothers and their diminutive matriarch. Michod creates a tense, compact jungle, packed with predators who are surprised to find they are now the prey.

*

>Mark Sommer

LET ME IN by Matt Reeves: An artfully rendered remake about two disaffected outcasts -- one of them a vampire -- longing for connection in a world with no place for them.

THE TILLMAN STORY by Amir Bar-Lev: A testament to football star-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman's family for pressing to find the truth of his death in Afghanistan, and an indictment of the Pentagon and Bush administration for covering up the "friendly-fire" incident and using a false story of his death to rev up war support.

INSIDE JOB by Charles Ferguson: A revealing expose by Charles Ferguson on the Wall Street financial crisis, explaining how the 2008 economic calamity fueled by unadulterated greed was made possible by government deregulation and politicians beholden to Wall Street campaign contributions.

*

>Christopher Schobert

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD by Edgar Wright: The most caffeinated, colorful, sweetest, and most unfairly neglected movie of the year, "Scott Pilgrim" is probably the first film to successfully pull off a video game aesthetic onscreen.

STONE by John Curran: A genuine adult melodrama, a moral study, an actor's showcase, and as unsettling and conversation-worthy a film as any in 2010.

HERE & THERE by Darko Lungolov: A wonderfully offbeat charmer, "Here & There" captures the experience of the immigrant in New York and the New Yorker in Eastern Europe with warmth and humor.

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