Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (500-491)
And here we are. The big list. Theoretically the one we’ve been building toward. But really anticlimactic when you get down to it. You think the list of my ‘favorite’ films of an entire decade would be the thing you want. But really it’s just me going back over a lot of the stuff I covered on the other lists and a broad regurgitation of my top ten lists from the ten years. So, rather than treat this like some big holy set of rankings, I’m just gonna do what I did with all the other lists – try to get you to see some of these you haven’t seen before and maybe introduce you to some cool movies.
It’s important to note, as it’s important to note with all my lists – the rankings don’t really matter. The number is only a function of the day I put it together. The only way to truly get a real ranking of my favorite films of the decade is for me to take the pool of films I used and make up this list from scratch at least ten different times and then use some sort of formula to figure out the average position of each movie and then create a ranking. And that’s not the goal here. I don’t care about the numbers. I care about talking up the films I like and trying to get people to see some of them.
So, if you feel like you want to get upset about where something is ranked, know that it’s a broad ranking. For the most part, films are in the general range of the 25-50 where I’d generally rate them next to everything else. Things will change as I revisit stuff and as time goes on. Like I said, this is really just about telling you what I enjoyed most in the hopes that it gets you to check out some of the stuff you either didn’t know about before or never bothered to see (or maybe saw and didn’t fully appreciate at the time). That’s it. It’s really just about celebrating movies. Don’t get so hung up on the numbers.
So, here are my 500 favorite films of 2010-2019:
What an insanely weird movie this is. It’s an indie existential comedy about a stand-up comedian in a tour of the midwest. And it plays on the notion that comics, when they’re not on stage, are depressed, emotionless hunks of flesh who get no real joy out of anything. At least, that’s what this guy is. And his act is just so dated — it’s based on Neil Hamburger, who is Gregg Turkington’s Tony Clifton type persona. It’s the character of one of those comedians whose material is dated immediately upon him writing it. He’s got the gigantic combover with too much gel on it, wearing a suit like he’s headlining Vegas in 1956, cradles multiple rocks glasses in his arm and tells these one-liner jokes that are so dated that the entire ensemble becomes funny because of how not funny it is. You know how present day Eminem makes references to Monica Lewinsky and Anna Nicole Smith and you think, “Did you not ever get out of 2004?” That’s what this guy’s material is. And it’s that character that, to me, makes this movie work. Because it’s this existential look into the life of a comedian like this, and then it goes into these moments of him doing material as this guy, and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s just this absolutely weird and absurd movie. It’s not for everyone, it’s actually for a very small segment of the population. But man, if you hit the frequency of this movie, you’re gonna enjoy the hell out of it.
One of three movies that came out all within a year of one another about the whole ‘person without super powers decides to be a costumed vigilante’ angle. The films are this, Super and Kick-Ass. And all three deal with the same two primary subjects: real life violence vs. comic book violence and mental illness. Each does it differently. Kick-Ass is more about the violence and not so much about mental illness. Super is a solid mix of both and this leans much more heavily toward the mental illness angle. Woody Harrelson plays the guy, who had a rough life, and has adopted the persona Defendor, and is determined to save the city from “Captain Industry,” putting himself in the path of a corrupt cop while being aided by a crack-addicted prostitute. It’s… a weird one There are some really fun moments though and it has one of my favorite jokes I’ve seen in a movie all decade. It’s not gonna change your life, but it’s worth it for Harrelson’s commitment alone.
498. Little Sister
Another weird little indie. I find that the weird indies with some personality stand out to me more than just the decently solid studio stuff. Because that’s all assembly line whatever. This at least has that weird hook that makes you remember it. It’s about a nun about to take her final vows who gets an email from her family saying that her brother has just returned from fighting in Iraq. So she goes home to visit, and we see her relationship with her family… as well as the fact that she was heavily into death metal and very much a goth teenager for a lot of years (making the whole nun thing a pretty weird turn of events). And the film is about her awkward reunion with her parents as well as her trying to reconnect with her brother, who had his face blown off by an IED, has had major, major surgery (he looks like what the real life version of Deadpool without the mask would look like), and that’s the film. It’s this nice little indie that you’ll always sort of remember as the ‘goth nun movie’. I think it’s got charm and is worth it just for the ability to bring it up to people.
497. Drive Angry
Ah, yes. I’m pretty much gonna go over all the worthwhile Nic Cage films of the decade on this list. For those of you who, like me, love the man and will watch him in just about anything. Though now, you gotta be someone like me to actually watch him in anything. So most people try to find the worthwhile ones and stick to those. So that’s what I’m here for. This one is the earliest worthwhile film of the decade for him, made during that whole 3D craze. So the film is very much of a ‘throwing things at you’ sort, trying to make the experience as interactively campy as possible. So know that going in. There’s gonna be a lot of random moments that make no sense visually until you realize that the film was originally designed to be seen in 3D in a theater.
The plot, you ask? Well, it begins with Cage driving a muscle car out of the gates of Hell. And he’s stolen Satan’s gun to boot. So that’ll give you an idea of tone. He’s escaped to go kill the cult leader who killed his daughter so he can save his infant granddaughter (if this sounds a bit like Mandy, that’s because it’s kinda similar, though wildly different tonally). And the film is just this insane action ride (which features him murdering a bunch of bikers while still inside a woman he picked up (and drinking bourbon and smoking a cigarette, naturally), just to give you a taste of how insane) filled with all sorts of grindhouse style fun to it. It also features a nice William Fichtner performance as a demon tasked with bringing Cage back, but is enjoying the freedom to get out to Earth a bit. It’s a lot of fun. You’re not coming here for high art. You’re coming here for insane Nicolas Cage action. You know what it is. That’s the whole point.
496. The Voices
A movie that I will admit doesn’t fully work, but is fun as a weird little oddity and was one of the most fun scripts I’ve ever read. It was almost guaranteed to never fully work on the screen, but damn if they didn’t give one hell of a college try. The film is about Ryan Reynolds as a painfully normal man, who you realize is painfully normal because he’s deeply mentally ill. And has stopped taking his medication. So at first, things seem kinda okay — he’s got a crush on a girl at work, he’s trying to do what he can to be noticed by her, it’s the usual rom com thing. And then you meet his roommates… his cat and his dog. Who he believes talk to him. The dog is super optimistic, while the cat is super jaded. And you sort of follow the threads, knowing all this is going on, watching him seemingly maybe even get somewhere with the girl of his dreams… and then, you know, it all goes quite wrong, several murders happen and things seem to get horribly, horribly wrong, to the point where… well, you’ll see. But let’s just say if you don’t like the idea of severed heads being kept in the refrigerator talking back to the person who killed them, then maybe this isn’t a movie for you. Like I said, it’s a weird one. Any movie that features a musical number with Jesus is one you’re kinda just gonna have to go with on some level. It’s a very dark comedy. Not for everyone, but the premise is too interesting to not talk about. Odds are you’ll remember this much more than some random Fast and Furious movie.
495. Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut. This is one of those films I didn’t have that many hopes for, but because I’m always interested when actors direct, I wanted to see what he’d do with it. And even from then, I was hugely surprised by this. It felt like a mature effort that was entirely the story he wanted to tell. Purely character based, very specific to a certain corridor of the country (and has to be based on Jersey Shore, in some form), but really well done. He plays an Italian guy who is a bartender in New Jersey, who, as he says pretty early on, is all about the same few things: his family, church, working out, picking up women, maintaining his car, cleaning his apartment, and porn. And the film is him living this lifestyle until he meets who he thinks is the girl of his dreams in Scarlett Johansson. And the film is about him dating her and trying to make it work while also, on the side, while taking night classes, meeting Julianne Moore, an older divorcee with whom he has much more in common. As a rom com, you can guess how things go, but really the strength of the film is seeing all the different family scenes and how strongly he characterizes these otherwise one-note kind of characters. Tony Danza is particularly good as the father. I’m not gonna say it’s a perfect film — he does the thing with Brie Larson as the sister where she’s completely silent and on her phone throughout the entire film but then busts out with the one wise nugget of wisdom in the right moment to push him in the right direction. You’ve seen the template of this before, but not with this kind of meet on the bone, which is why I think it’s a really successful film that’s worth seeing.
Ah, that old story of ‘woman’s unborn child starts telling her to murder people’. We’ve all seen that one so many times, haven’t we? And that’s it. That’s the film. Written by, directed by and starring Alice Lowe, clearly something she thought up while pregnant that deals with the subject of motherhood in a way you’ve never seen before. Of course, they do eventually get into more of why she’s killing so that it’s not just ‘my unborn fetus is telling me to do it’, but it’s still great to sell it that way. Because what an amazing way to characterize pregnancy. No one deals with pregnancy as a subject in this way. It’s a really nice film, both as a horror film and allegory as well as a vehicle for an actress to give herself something to shine in. And I always like it when people do that successfully. It’s worth your time. There’s some really twisted humor in this that some people will really appreciate.
I’m a sucker for these types of films. I’m very open about my love for precocious children on screen. I enjoy the hell out of that trope and will always like these kinds of movies more than most. I know precocious children are seen as annoying by a fairly large section of film goers, but I’m not one of those people and I don’t apologize for my tastes. This is a Rob Reiner film, and I know that stopped meaning something right around North, but people forget that he had one of the most amazing runs of films that anyone’s ever had. These are his first nine films: Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, North and The American President. Sure, North is a misstep and nobody remembers The Sure Thing and even if you give me American President as an underrated gem, the other six are straight unassailable classics. Since then, it’s been pretty hit and miss and most people haven’t even seen half the stuff. Ghosts of Mississippi, The Story of Us, Alex and Emma, Rumor Has It, The Bucket List, The Magic of Belle Isle, And So It Goes, Being Charlie, LBJ, Shock and Awe. And this. But that goes without saying. Past The Bucket List, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s seen more than two films maximum on that list.
So I get why no one knows this movie exists, but I think it’s charming. Here’s the premise: two kids meet when they’re younger. The girl immediately falls in love with the boy. The boy, not so much. And then later on, while they’re in middle school, we start to see things turn. The boy starts to have feelings for the girl and ow she isn’t so sure. And it’s just this cute coming of age story set in the 60s like all those great movies people my age grew up with (The Sandlot, etc). The thing I liked most about it is that the film jumps between perspectives. You’ll get the boy’s view of events and then afterward switch to the girl’s and see how the same event is interpreted completely differently by her. I’m not gonna make a plea for people to see this film, because I get that most people wouldn’t ever care about this and probably wouldn’t ever want to see it. But I quite liked it and I think it’s an adorable little movie.
492. Rules Don’t Apply
Warren Beatty is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and is notorious for both his pickiness as an actor (the filmography of stuff he’s turned down is absolutely jaw-dropping) and his dedication to quality. As a director, his filmography was: Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Dick Tracy, Bulworth. Those were the four. All great movies. And then he just disappeared. He appeared in more stuff as an actor over the years, but not that much. Put it this way — Bonnie and Clyde is 1967 and this film is 2016. So call it 50 years. In 50 years, do you know how many films he acted in between those two? 14. And do you know how many there were after 1990? Five. He’s not all that out there. After Bulworth in 1998, he made one more movie, Town and Country, which was a giant flop and made him disappear for 15 years. And he’d occasionally pop up (you’d hear that Quentin offered him Bill in Kill Bill or he’d show up at an awards show and say ‘of course’ he was gonna make another movie), but largely he was just sort of gone. And then this movie came into our lives. And you kinda knew that it was gonna be what it was, which is — a director notorious for having a very particular vision, not caring about filming too much or running over on time or budget, in his late 70s, without having made a film in 15 years… you kinda knew they’d push the film as this big prestige thing but that by and large the medium would have passed him by in some ways. Film is a young persons’ game, even though some of the old vets do make amazing stuff. But so often with directors you see them get out of step, losing that stride they once had so fluidly, and making something that just feels dated. And while dated isn’t necessarily bad, it’s enough to absolutely doom a movie like this.
This is a film that is exactly what it appears to be — entirely respectable in every way, worthy of admiration but probably not good enough for adoration. It’s about Howard Hughes, but we already got our Howard Hughes movie from Marty Scorsese. So here, it plays a bit like a fairy tale of a town gone by. Beatty, in playing Hughes, is at least 5 years older than Hughes ever was, and the film isn’t really about him, which is tough, since he’s the star and the director and the film really needs to be about the two young leads. And he casts all these people he likes, I’m thinking, and they’re all nice enough actors, but so much of the cast feels like everyone’s ‘doing one for Warren’ rather than actually engaging with the material. And none of this is a knock on the film. I’m just preparing you for what it is if and when you see it (and it’s a Warren Beatty film. You should see it just for your own education). The film is kinda bloated (and clearly so much was already cut out. You can see threads of plot lines that just aren’t there because they had to keep it to a reasonable length actors like Ed Harris show up for one random scene, even though you know they did more with them), kinda all over the place, and very uneven. But, the parts that do work really work. And I think it’s worth seeing it for those.
The story is about the love affair between an aspiring actress who catches Hughes’ attention (he was known for hiring young women to be on his personal payroll, some of whom never even saw the big screen… The Aviator gets into this a little bit) and Hughes’ driver. And of course Hughes falls in love with the actress as well, and there’s a love triangle there… and you can guess how that goes. And of course you get the eccentricities of Hughes, which Beatty plays up, as one would expect. He’s careful not to step on the toes of The Aviator any more than he has to, but it’s a different thing. This is an actor known for being the center of attention doing his best to make himself look good while also being aware that he shouldn’t be too much of the center of attention in this story. And like I said, there’s some really nice stuff here. The shots of 50s Los Angeles are gorgeous, Beatty has some really touching scenes as Hughes, particularly his final one, which takes place in a hotel room in, I think, Argentina. There’s good stuff here, and I think it’s one of those films that you should see because it’s the film of a great actor and director with an insane cast. Just because it’s dated and maybe would have been better served being made in a different time doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It just means you gotta look at it for what it is and just be aware of that as you see it. I think the good outweighs the bad here, and if anything, reminds us that it’s always a good thing when Warren Beatty is either on the screen or behind the camera.
491. Velvet Buzzsaw
Dan Gilroy has become one of our foremost filmmakers of the elevated B movie. He started with Nightcrawler, which is pure pulp LA noir, just crawling in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, finding a unique angle and profession to take us on a ride with for two hours. Then he made Roman J. Israel Esq., which is essentially a noir morality play about a lawyer who worked tirelessly for civil rights who suddenly gets caught up in the flash of defending criminals for high fees and slowly loses his ethics. Sure, the bells and whistles of Denzel and the character having Asperger’s clouds that, but ultimately that’s what that film is. And this one is a B movie horror that’s also a satire about the art world, and the things people will do for success, often at the expense of their own artistic integrity. All of these, if they were made 60 years ago, would have been between 70 and 90 minutes and been the second half of a double bill or played in drive-ins. That’s the kind of plots they are. And I think people forget about that when they see them, trying to ascribe some sort of high merit to them when they’re meant to be taken as pulp cinema (albeit elevated).
This one in particular — there’s a lot of over-the-top performance work in this, particularly from Jake Gyllenhaal but also by Toni Collette, and it’s just pretentious art people being obnoxious for a lot of the film. But at its core, it’s about people who got into a profession for noble reasons but slowly allowed whatever it is start to move them further away from that, to the point where they’re not doing it for art’s sake anymore. And that’s where the horror angle comes in. A man dies and some paintings are found in his apartment. A woman who works for an art gallery steals them and puts them on display for a high fee. And what we learn is that the paintings, which are of indeterminate origin, are cursed in some way and begin to kill people. But what you see is, the paintings only seem to kill those who are or have been tainted by greed or ambition or whatever sin you want to ascribe them. Anyone who’s lost that purity of their way becomes a target of the paintings. And it’s both a satire but also a bit of that morality play you see in noir and B movies. And so I think it’s one of those fascinating films that if you just put it on without thinking, a lot of people came out going, “What the hell was that? That was weird.” But I think if you watch it through the lens of what it was setting out to do, I think people will get much more out of it and not only be able to see it in the proper light but also be amused at how ridiculous all the bells and whistles on it are. I mean, everything that Jake Gyllenhaal does is just hilarious in this. You have to realize you’re dealing with a dark comedy when there’s a scene where someone is killed in an art gallery and guests walk around the body for a few hours before they realize it’s not just part of the exhibit. I think if people see this with different eyes and not just with the expectation of Nightcrawler or whatever you thought you were getting from this, it’ll go a long way to people understanding just what this movie really is.
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