7. “Black Swan”: As George Lang noted in his review, director Darren Aronofsky creates the anti-“The Wrestler” with “Black Swan.” While Randy the Ram bore the trauma of his physically demanding profession in his worn-down body, ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) instead shows the damage of her physically and mentally demanding job in her fracturing mind.
8. “127 Hours”: James Franco plays hiker Aron Ralston in this adaptation of a real-life tale by Danny Boyle. Based on Ralston's book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” “127 Hours” showcases one man's will to live.
9. “True Grit”: Remaking an Oscar-winning John Wayne Western might seem a daunting task, but with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the determined young Mattie Ross, the Coen brothers manage to improve on the original. Mattie seeks justice in the death of her father, and asks the grizzled Cogburn to help her. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also put in good work in supporting roles.
10. “The American”: It's not most likely what audiences were looking for in a George Clooney movie, but this subtle, slow-building examination of a killer, directed by Anton Corbijn, is worth the effort. It's beautifully filmed, and Clooney plays against type to convey the struggle in this man's soul.
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