'In the Loop' tops DeFore list, with 'Informant!' second
1. 'In the Loop.' A blast of acrid comedy that profanely voices disgust with the war whose origins it fictionalizes.
2. 'The Informant.' More insightful about run-amok capitalism than the well-intentioned "Up in the Air," Steven Soderbergh's strange black comedy wasn't about the Great Recession but speaks to it nonetheless.
3. 'A Serious Man.' The Coen brothers come closer than they ever have to showing us the soul behind their cinematic vision.
4. 'The Hurt Locker.' Kathryn Bigelow's intensely physical nail-biter might be the best drama to come from American filmmakers about the wars we've waged in the past decade.
5. 'The Road.' Harrowing and dark but by no means a one-note bleakfest, this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's revered novel convincingly depicts paternal devotion strong enough to withstand an apocalypse.
6 and 7. 'Precious' and 'An Education.' Two very different, very compelling coming-of-age stories about young women who dream of escaping the worlds (the first unbelievably horrific, the latter merely uninspiring) they were born into.
8. 'Funny People.' The sprawling structure that makes this Judd Apatow dramedy a hard sell for some viewers is essential to its honest take on the performers it depicts.
9. 'Bright Star.' Jane Campion takes the familiar pleasures of Anglophile literary drama and brings genuine poetry, not just charm and romance, to them.
10. 'Moon.' "Avatar" creates a pretty thrilling new planet, but count me among the sci-fi socialists who would rather its budget had been redistributed to produce scores of intimate, brainy visions like this one.
Special mentions: Christian McKay in "Me & Orson Welles"; the Hall & Oates sequence in "(500) Days of Summer"; all the production design in "Avatar," except for the awkward-looking aliens; Francis Ford Coppola reaching for greatness again, even if he misses, in "Tetro"; Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart."