In alphabetical order and not ranking, here are the five best films of the first two months of 2010. According to me, of course. Not that I know much, but if you've seen any other films, I'll tazer you.
Following one character scene-by-scene in a two and half hour French prison drama ought to feel like more work than it was, but this startling mash-up of Shawshank meets the Godfather races by.
The first third is the best as we reach an Act One climax involving a brutal sex act which, believe me, is not what you've been led to expect. Tahar Rahim (pictured on the right, above) negotiates a tense tightrope of loyalty, racism and ruminant mammal dreams.
A Single Man
And you thought The Road was depressing? Of course Colin Firth deserves the Oscar. Since I saw the film, I've watched the phone call, in which he is informed of his lover's death, again and again.
His performance in A Single Man is minutely studied, as layer upon layer of this collage professor is economically stripped until one little smile near the end of the film tells you everything you need to know about his journey. Contains serious levels of man totty.
Another Oscar tip, this time for Mo Nique as the sadistic parent of put-upon Harlem teenager Precious. I didn't think a film produced by Oprah starring Mariah Carey would be this good.
This is a drama that wears its intentions a little bit too much on its sleeve (hey, we need to create character empathy, let's bully her to hell and back) but it is still a rivetting and immersing experience where the cold streets of Harlem will have you in tears.
Not my kind of film, so why is it here? Four words. Robert Flippin' Downey Junior. He performs the opium-toking sleuth as Johnny Depp played Captain Jack Sparrow: just the right side of unhinged throughout the whole film and a reeling contrast of colour and sparks to Jude Law's stuffy Watson.
It's a shame then that the downside is its director, who mistakes story for fight scenes. Still, what amazing fight scenes (the double-scenes are a revelation). It's Ritchie's best since Lock Stock and that includes Snatch.
Up In The Air
Clooney does his Tom Hanks, deadpanning it as a man who spends his life in airports. There are no fireworks in his performance, no hair gel obsession, no teeth paranoia, just a bloke who is slowly having his barriers kicked down by a delightful Anna Kendrick (playing out-of-her-depth to perfection).
It lacks substance, despite Clooney going through some massive rejections. Could have done without the talking heads.
Hey, Fats, you missed The Road. Yeah, I took a wrong turning because the McCarthy adaptation bypassed a rollercoaster of emotion in favour of something akin to a trip to the shops. You're right, though, it was otherwise brilliant.
Youth In Revolt was Michael Cera giving us more Michael Cera, but that's a good thing because he lights up the screen throughout - and there's a lot of him this time.
Meanwhile, Daniel Day-Lewis is predictably an eye-popping, heart-pumping master of the craft as a washed-out Italian film director in Nine. It's just a shame most of the songs are tedious and the story seems to miss the mark.