3. Mattie Ross: The Negotiator

There are several moments from the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit that we considered for our list – and truth be told, the scene of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) blowing off an outlaw’s head after the perpetrator cut off his partner’s fingers and stabbed him in the heart almost took the win. Almost.

However, in the end, the scene that introduced the world to a new young star is the one we have to highlight.

Hailee Steinfeld hadn’t acted in a feature film prior to her casting as Mattie Ross in True Grit, playing a vengeful little girl hell-bent on finding her father’s killer. Steinfeld had appeared in a few TV episodes and short films, but as far as Hollywood was concerned, she was still a fresh face. Now, she could possibly walk away with an Oscar.

Anybody who saw the film knows that True Grit owes its title not only to Jeff Bridges’ brass-balled lawman, but also to Mattie Ross, who in some ways displays the truest grit of all in her pursuit of the murderer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). As the film opens, it is apparent from the first frame that Mattie is a girl with smarts and moxie well beyond her years, but that point is firmly hammered home in the scene where the young girl takes on a hapless shopkeeper (Dakin Matthews) in a chess-like negotiation for the property and funds rightfully owed (or not) to her late father’s estate.

It takes deft skill for a child actor to carry themselves with an adult swagger without appearing pretentious. Not only did Steinfeld accomplish that tightrope walk, by the time that negotiation scene was over, we were loving both Mattie and the young – clearly talented – actress playing her. A star was born.

2. Topsy-Turvey Hotel Hallway Fight

By fall of 2010, if you uttered the phrase  “Hallway Fight,” “Hotel Fight” or some combination thereof, 9 out of 10 people likely knew exactly what you were talking about: the epic gravity-bending sequence from Chris Nolan’s Inception.

Like many of Nolan’s greatest sequences, the rotating hotel hallway fight between Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a subconsciously projected thug (or something) was an intricate bit of movie wizardry made to look effortless. Our own Mike Eisenberg is still in awe of the fact Gordon-Levitt actually tied on a harness and literally jumped head-first into Nolan’s crazy scale-model hallway, which was specially built to rotate according to the director’s command in order to mimic the effect one dream level had on the physics of another (or something). Talk about dedication to the craft: the sequence turned out awesome and Gordon-Levitt had the bumps and bruises to prove why.

In fact, our #2 moment had such an impact that we can actually trace its effects back to 2009 when the very first Inception teaser trailer hit the web. That trailer was mostly a collection of random shots from the film, accented with booming music that made them seem o so important (BAUM!!!) – but nothing really grabbed your attention until the very end of the teaser, when strange men in suits started running on ceilings and walls, diving at each other as if gravity didn’t exist. If you weren’t paying attention to Inception before that moment, you certainly were afterward.

Best of all: unlike so many other promises made by cleverly cut movie trailers, the full-length hotel fight sequence in Inception was actually better than advertised. An instant classic.

1. Woody & Andy’s Bittersweet Farewell

Pixar is king when it comes to delivering CGI animated features that are at once fun, gorgeous, and moving enough to draw out even our most carefully guarded tears. Sure, at this point the news that a Pixar movie made us cry is hardly “news” at all – but hearing that one Pixar franchise got us all choked up on three different occasions, over a span of fifteen years, is definitely worth acknowledging. And so we give the end of Toy Story 3 the top spot on our list.

There’s an old saying about the inevitable arrival of a time in which childish things must be put away, and the film wizards at Pixar clearly had this saying in mind when they conceived the story for their third Toy Story film. Despite the whole subplot daycare that mirrored The Great Escape, the real narrative drive of Toy Story 3 was Woody’s (Tom Hanks) struggle to reconcile the changes that were taking place as a result of his owner, Andy, growing into adulthood and leaving for college. After all the harrowing obstacles Woody had to conquer to be reunited with Andy (three times no less!), in the end the hardest challenge Woody faced was a solemn goodbye to the child he helped grow, as Andy’s car drove off one last time, with Woody and the other toys left in the caring hands of their new owner.

I don’t even need to write anymore. If you ever loved a single toy you owned growing up, you already know exactly what this bittersweet sendoff meant: the end of an era in film that echoes the end of era for every child-turned-adult who has ever lived.

What do I define as great cinema? The ability to connect us with, and highlight that which is, or was, significant in our lives. Toy Story 3 most certainly accomplished that.

That’s it for our top 10 Movie Moments of 2010. I’m sure there will be plenty of grievances that will need to be aired regarding our choices – and God willing, we’ll be able to debate them all together in 2011.

Happy New Year from us here at Screen Rant!

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