It was a good year for ... Movies

We culled through national movie critics' year-end "best" lists to come up with a list of our own, with movies more familiar to Midlands audiences.

"The Hurt Locker" / "In the Loop": The Iraq war, two ways: as action spectacle and as farce. Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" is a tour de force of high tension and directorial pyrotechnics wrapped around an astute and wrenching psychological drama. Its deep subject, embodied in the character of Sgt. James, is professionalism - the irrational, passionate devotion to a job. Careerism, the comic underside of professionalism, is the superficial subject of Armando Iannucci's "In the Loop," a verbally explosive satire on affairs of state. Dissimilar in style and mood, these two movies nonetheless add up to a cracked, sad, infuriating and glorious epic of our time.

- A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"(500) Days of Summer": The best movie romance since "Brokeback Mountain," this rom-com about two twentysomethings captured the exhilarating highs - and soul-crushing, life-changing lows - of falling in love for the first time. Bonus: The best musical number of the year (sorry, "Nine").

- Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

"Up in the Air": "Capitalism: A Love Story" was more specifically about the financial meltdown. But "Up in the Air," a funny movie about a guy who flies around the country firing people, is just as deep in its own way (and features cameos from real people who have been laid off).

- Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press

"Inglourious Basterds": Quentin Tarantino is a natural and joyous filmmaker who feeds off his own story that fearlessly rewrites history. It finally comes down to a conflict between a fatuous Nazi monster (Chrisophe Waltz) and a fearless French Jewish heroine (Melanie Laurent), with Brad Pitt as a knife-wielding American commando leader. You have to hand him this: It's one World War II movie where we don't know the ending.

"Up": This marvelous, moving, funny and all-in-all beautiful modern animated classic from the remarkable House of Pixar lives up to its name on a deeper level, too. Every aspect of director Pete Docter's creation is devised to lift the spirits of young and old viewers alike, elevating the art of movie storytelling along with way through the inspired use of sophisticated animation."

- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire": One of the miracles of the movies is the way that they can link us up to the hearts and minds of the desolate and the dispossessed, and "Precious" is that kind of film."

- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly