I was in Germany during the Oscars telecast and didn’t get to see the show. Not that it mattered much, since everyone pretty much knew who was going to win beforehand. I really hope Meryl Streep wins another Best Actress Oscar soon — she’s deserved it now a couple of times in a row.

I always try to get my list of favorite pictures out before the Oscars, but this year I’ve been so busy with work and traveling that I haven’t had time to get it all together. So, I’m finally listing my top ten movies of the past year.

Number 1: The Hurt Locker

I reviewed The Hurt Locker here, so won’t rehash that here. But I will reiterate how impressed I was with this film. It took a subject I didn’t particularly want to see a film about and totally engrossed me in it. Furthermore, the final two scenes of the movie really threw me for a loop but totally recasting everything that we had seen before. It offers an interesting take on war and the obsession with it. It’s also an interesting exploration of modern masculinity. The entire cast is excellent, and I’m glad that Katherine Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director. She deserved it.

Number 2: Up in the Air

Again, I’ve already reviewed this movie, so I won’t go into full detail here. Suffice it to say that I loved everything about this movie. I especially love its tone. It’s realistic and refuses to give us an ending that’s all tied up nicely in a bow but it’s also not totally pessimistic. It walks a fine line and does it really well. Clooney and Kendrick are especially good in this film.

Number 3: Precious

Here’s my earlier review of Precious. Sidibe and Mo’nique are both great in this movie, which, like Up in the Air, balances hope with reality. And it avoids all of the clichés of the teacher-saving-the-poor-black-kid(s) genre.

Number 4: Julie & Julia

I love this movie and wrote it here. This is the feel good movie of the year. And Meryl was robbed yet again! If only the Julie Powell parts of the movie hadn’t turned off reviewers (though I liked that part of the film too). Oh well. Maybe next time.

Number 5: Up

I never got around to reviewing Up, the latest Disney/Pixar film. It’s a great, sweet, touching, and funny animated movie. I especially like the kid, the bird, and the dog, the latter two of which join the long list of lovable animal sidekicks in Disney movies. The montage near the beginning of the film that traces the main character’s relationship with his wife is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a Disney movie — very real. It’s a big step forward in animated storytelling.

Number 6: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Only slightly less great than Up is The Fantastic Mr. Fox. One advantage to being so behind on blogging is that I got to watch this movie on the plane back from Europe. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t help laughing out loud sometimes. Streep and Clooney are great as the voices of Mrs. and Mr. Fox, the latter of whom is an extremely skilled thief who gets into an ever escalating battle of wits with three local farmers, putting him and his family and friends at risk. It’s a great morality tale.

Number 7: Avatar

Here’s my review of Avatar. After seeing it, I had thought that it would be higher on my list. I enjoyed it, but I just enjoyed six other movies more. It’s a good popcorn movie, so I’m glad that it was recognized at the Oscars without dominating them.

Number 8: Seraphine

This movie came out in France in 2008 but didn’t get to the State until last year. As I wrote in my review, I knew nothing about this painter and, at least partially as a result, loved learning about her in this movie. It’s a very interesting movie.

Number 9: (500) Days of Summer

As I wrote in my review, I’m surprised by how much I liked this movie. I didn’t think I would. Maybe I just find Joseph Gordon-Levitt too irresistible!

Number 10: A Single Man

This film isn’t perfect, but I admired it a lot. I like it even more after reading the book. The adaptation was excellent, adding more to the plot in order to make it more interesting. I just wish one element of the ending had been closer to the book.

Honorable Mentions: Bright Star, Shank (an interesting movie about a closeted gang member who meets a boy and wants to get out of the violent lifestyle of the gang), Make the Yuletide Gay, and Eating Out: All You Can Eat (the first in the series to star out gay actors, which is worth a mention in and of itself)

Worst Movie of the Year: Bruno (I hated everything about this stupid, boring, unfunny movie)

Another Opinion: As usual, PJ’s list is somewhat different than mine. Here is his top 10:

1. Inglorious Basterds: Tarantino’s masterful rewriting of WWII into a Jewish revenge fantasy that speaks about the power of film.

2. Avatar: So visually impressive and captivating, even though I hate 3D movies.

3. Precious: Very powerful. Great performances, especially by Sidibe.

4. (500) Days of Summer: Smart and charming. And Joseph Gordon Levitt’s a doll.

5. A Single Man: Wonderfully stylish and moving. If it just had had a different ending, it might have been perfect.

6. Julie & Julia: Meryl Streep’s Julia Child is astonishing. It set me off on a Julia Child spree (reading her books, watching her dvds, and trying her recipes) for months after.

7. Bright Star: Another moving film, with a neglected performance by Abby Cornish.

8. I Love You, Man: The best comedy I saw this year. Essentially a love story between Paul Rudd and Jason Segal–I love them both.

9. Up in the Air: Clooney and Kendrick give great performances in this timely piece that exploits current anxieties about job loss.

10. Seraphine: This one was a surprise. I knew nothing about the subject, an early twentieth-century painter with religious mania, but it was completely compelling, as was the performance by Yolande Moreau.

Worst movie: While I agree with that Bruno was atrocious, I’d give this label to Paranormal Activity. It has so much buzz, but was essentially so dumb and poorly written that it failed to scare and mostly just made me mad at the idiotic characters.