7. “Winter's Bone”: Director Debra Granik's Sundance Festival grand jury prize winner unflinchingly transports audiences to the Missouri backwoods, where poverty, methamphetamine and family dysfunction are as much a part of the Ozark Mountain culture as crystal streams, mighty forests and bluegrass music. The taut thriller hinges on Jennifer Lawrence's breakout turn as Ree Dolly, a tenacious teenager who will stop at nothing to find her bail-jumping father, who has used their ramshackle home as collateral on his bond. Determined to protect her mentally ill mother and two young siblings from eviction, Ree must face down the ruthless members of her meth-making criminal clan on her harrowing quest.
8. “Never Let Me Go”: Director Mark Romanek's (“One Hour Photo”) elegantly haunting adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed novel unfortunately lasted a mere week in a single Oklahoma City theater. Set in an alternate reality long changed by radical scientific breakthroughs, the lovely film combines the heartbreaking warmth of a British romantic drama with the chilling horror of a science-fiction cautionary tale. Through the tale of three friends (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, who give indelible performances) locked in a painful love triangle, Romanek gracefully explores the fleeting nature of life.
9. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”: It doesn't boast the stunning performances of Darren Aronofsky's mind-bending ballet drama “Black Swan” or the harrowing exploration of drug addiction and poisonous family ties of David O. Russell's hard-hitting boxing biopic “The Fighter.” But Edgar Wright's (“Hot Fuzz”) faithfully amped-up and video game-inspired adaptation of the popular “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels earns its spot on my list because it was one of the most inventive and downright fun movies I saw in the past year.
10. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”: By 2010, the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy of crime novels and the Swedish-language films based on them reached global phenomenon status. While the film franchise produced diminishing returns, the initial movie at least lived up to the frenzied hype. Director Niels Arden Oplev skillfully adapts Larsson's twisty first book into an electric thriller and introduces the world to Nordic actress Noomi Rapace as unforgettable antiheroine Lisbeth Salander.
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