Plenty of film critics and movie pundits have bemoaned the lack of truly great films in 2010, and while that’s not necessarily a notion that’s without validity, it could also be said that there was a surplus of awfully good movies this year. There may not have been many that really knocked us back, that pulled together ace screenplays, smart direction, and brilliant acting into the full package, the way the best movies do. But there was plenty to entertain, to enlighten, to thrill, to arouse; even some of the year’s lesser movies had an element — a good performance here, a memorable scene there — worth recommending. So with that, let’s take a look at some of the best scenes from this year’s movies — not all of them in films that were great (or, in some cases, even particularly good), but all meriting a spot in our 2010 movie scene mixtape.
Opening duet, The Social Network
Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for the Facebook origin story The Social Network is a dizzying whirl of snappy, fast-paced dialogue; there were few films this year as enraptured with the sound of smart people talking fast. (This does not exactly make the film an anomaly within the Sorkin canon.) Director David Fincher sets up the picture’s sharp-tongued wit immediately, with a memorable opening scene that finds protagonist Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a smug Harvard sophomore obsessed with penetrating the university’s social hierarchy, out at a bar with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). They volley their dialogue back and forth, the conversation a convoluted series of sidebars, asides, and footnotes, one often charging past the next while the other sputters and lunges. “Sometimes you say two things at once, I’m not sure which one I’m supposed to be aiming at,” she says, not unreasonably, but she turns out to be the slipperier opponent; she breaks up with him at the end of the scene, before he’s even aware of what’s going on. From the standpoint of pure entertainment, the scene is a humdinger — a whiz-bang Sorkin special. But it also sets up the film beautifully, establishing the contradictions of Zuckerberg’s character, the tone and pace of the picture, and the fierce, sexy intelligence of Erica, who becomes the “Rosebud” to Zuckerberg’s Charles Foster Kane.