Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (480-471)
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:
480. Get Out
Not much to say here. Everyone knows Get Out. Everyone saw Get Out. Everyone generally likes or even loves Get Out. It’s hard to deny the cultural relevance of this film and how much this hit the epicenter of culture and has seeped through to become casually relevant in everyday conversations (if a film can become a meme that everyone understands, it’s crossed over and assimilated into the cultural pool). It’s one of the more important films of the decade. I have said all along that I don’t love this as a film as much as others have, and so some people are gonna see this so early in the list any have opinions about that. But this is pretty accurate as to my feelings on it — really solid film, does a lot right, but when you take away cultural importance and all that and just look at it purely as a film… it’s just a solid movie that I liked fine enough to rate but not something I’d put much higher than this.
479. Feast of the Seven Fishes
I really enjoyed this, and I had no intentions of even seeing it for a long time. It’s a film that I knew a lot about purely because I — and if you read a lot of the crap I post each year have a pretty good idea about this — track everything. When I post those giant lists in January/February of all the films slated to come out that year, I keep following all of those to see if and when they’re gonna come out and then try to watch them all. And I’m constantly, in my tracking travels, finding more stuff. That’s what I do. So I’m generally looking at those calendars of films dated for streaming and monitoring to see what things are gonna be added new and if things stick. And generally things get added within about two months of release. Right now, it’s the end of June, it would be weird for anything after Labor Day to have a streaming date set. That’s the kind of range you’re usually talking about. Maybe one or two bigger things like Netflix will be dated, but anything smaller almost never gets dated until you get closer. So this film, I saw this film get dated for mid-November in something like May or June. It was insanely early. And I saw it and thought, “What the hell is that? That’s weird/that’ll never stick.” And then I watched it stay exactly the same over six months. And it actually came out on the date they said it was gonna come out. And by that point, having watched it and seen it on the calendar for so long, I felt like I had somehow known it and felt almost obligated to see it. That’s sometimes all it takes with me.
Anyway, the other reason I wanted/was dreading seeing the movie is because its title refers to the Italian way of celebrating Christmas Eve, which is by making seafood dishes (the idea is you don’t have meat because you’re gonna eat meat on Christmas Day, so you make fish). And growing up in an Italian family (though not as hardcore as the fish meal in this movie would suggest), I was very well aware of what this movie is gonna be about and have a bit of a sensitivity toward how Italian Americans are portrayed on screen (mostly because I feel like it’s so often done wrong and in a very one-dimensional, almost comical kinda way. Which isn’t necessarily wrong a lot of the time, but there’s a way to do it that feels realistic and other ways that just grate on me). So I was very iffy about this one, but ultimately chose to just bite the bullet and watch it. And I’m really glad I did, because I loved this one.
It’s a coming-of-age story set in Pittsburgh (and I just assumed this was somewhere in the New York/New Jersey area, but it’s not) in 1983 (and based on a graphic novel, too, which was adapted and directed by its author, which probably explains why it works so well). It’s about a working class Italian kid whose father owns a store and who grew up working for it and is assumed to take over the business one day (as his father did from his grandfather, etc). And he ends up meeting and falling for an upper class Protestant girl (with the WASPy boyfriend who wants her to go on a skiing trip, the whole thing). And the whole thing is, ‘you guys aren’t right for each other, her family will hate you’ etc etc, but they have chemistry and they like each other. So that’s all weaving in and out of the story as well as his feelings of wanting to go to art school rather than take over the family business, and it’s all building toward Christmas Eve (I think the whole thing takes place over like, two days) and this big family feast that they’re all prepping for. It’s really low key and charming, and the kind of movie that I had no expectations for, was really drawn into, and could really see as being one of those films where, if it came out when I was younger, seeing, liking a lot and just watching over and over because it was constantly on HBO. And I always gravitate to films like that.
I can’t say whether or not this film will mean anything to anyone else, but I can say that it’s this really charming little film that I had no expectations for and really, really liked. And you can’t put a price on films like that and I hope that maybe someone will read this, go see this film and feel the same way about is as I did. That’s the reason I write up lists like this.
478. A Quiet Place
Another film that everyone knows and saw. It’s a really smart horror movie done in a different way. The creatures are sound-based, so the film has almost no dialogue and everything being communicated is done almost entirely via sign language or facial expression and gestures. Which is great. It’s nice seeing someone build tension a lot of different ways that aren’t just jump scares and demons possessing people or vengeful spirits or some shit. It’s a really well-made film on a lot of levels, and, as I must say when I feature films of this stature this early in the list — I didn’t love it as much as everyone else did, but I think it’s really good.
477. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
People sort of forget about these movies. I mean, Gen Z doesn’t, but the rest of us do. These movies were actually kind of good, by and large, even though most of us look back warily on the whole YA craze that was ultimately a bastardization of Harry Potter. This was the most successful of the bunch. At least in terms of being good movies (because the only other comp here is Twilight, which… yeah. Divergent doesn’t count because they just abandoned those movies midway through). The whole series is basically retrofitting Battle Royale into the YA genre, which gave me reservations. But ultimately the first film was really solid. And then this one came out, and I found myself, for at least the first half, thinking this might even be better than the first one. Of course, now like 7 years later I can’t remember anything about this second one, other than a vague recollection of a moment where Donald Sutherland shows up on a TV and plays political chess with Jennifer Lawrence and basically just murders a bunch of people as a ‘fuck you’ to her, and the moment where they commit a hate crime against Lenny Kravitz, but I do remember thinking this was a really solid follow up and that it was much more about that political game of chess than I ever thought possible. I mean, like all the films of this series, it devolves into action and into people killing, and like all YA series, it devolves into rebellion against an oppressive dystopian government, and for a large section of the running time, it avoids that, which is why I’m still largely in the camp of this one. I have no memory of the last two movies and didn’t even like them all that much, but the first two I think still hold up as pretty solid.
476. The Hunger Games
And while we’re here, let’s get that first one out of the way. I remember when they announced the book series was happening and people (younger people) were all over it and I didn’t care and just sort of ignored it, and then the film came out and popped huge and turned Jennifer Lawrence from an up-and-comer into a megastar (though somehow she still managed that other wavelength an won an Oscar the same year this film came out). And I’m always one who, when things pop huge out of nowhere, instinctively turns away and thinks, “I know the public. How good can it be?” Which isn’t an indictment of the material so much as it’s an indictment of people. The more the broader swath of the public can agree on something, the more tame and bland it tends to be. There aren’t that many great American movies (and I’m talking great American movies) that are agreed upon by the public at large. It’s rare for a film to be considered one of the best ever made and universally lauded while also being one of the most financially successful films ever made. It doesn’t happen that often. So, when something like this happens, my initial instinct is to go, “Yeah, okay.” And plus, I know and like Battle Royale. So I see YA (a genre I do not like) and a Battle Royale rip off and go, “Yeah, sure.” And then I’m watching this movie and for the first half hour I’m thinking, “Oh this isn’t so bad.” And I keep going and think, “Oh wow, this is actually pretty well done.” And then I get into the actual games themselves and I’m watching them dispense vital exposition in little doses as necessary rather than doing the big voiceover dump or stopping the movie to explain it all. I’m watching them actually tell a story and weave the important stuff that helps you understand it within the story. And that was far and above anything I ever thought possible with a movie like this (because again… have you seen Twilight?) So while I can’t really speak to anything past the first like, 1 3/4 films in the series, I do think they started off really strong and that the films do generally hold their own among… and I know this is gonna sound derisive in some way, but I’m going for it… ‘regular’ cinema. I generally watch movies on their own terms and try to lump everything into the same general pool, but with this it’s hard to really talk about this on the same level as something like an A24 movie (like The Souvenir, which we talked about yesterday or the day before). You just can’t. I try not to denigrate either side, because each side has its place, but it’s clear they come from two different neighborhoods (or ‘districts’ if you will). But if you’re gonna look at film as two sides of an ‘mainstream entertainment’ and ‘artistic merit’ coin, this film and most of the second film do sort of fit more of that Venn diagram than you might think.
475. The Hate U Give
Another YA movie that is deceptively YA. It does all the YA things, but it’s really about so much more and is way more mature and of its time than any other YA movie I’ve ever seen. It begins with the father (brilliantly played by Russell Hornsby Jr.) giving his kids ‘the talk’, which is about what to do if they’re ever stopped by police. Which takes you by surprise, because you expect stupid YA nonsense about kids falling in love and superficial forays into actual issues. And then it settles into YA stuff — she’s black and goes to a mostly white high school, so they explain about code switching. And you see her with one set of friends versus another, and who she has a crush on, and going to a party… you know the drill. But then, at the end of the first act, she sees her friend get killed by a police officer. And that’s when the film takes off. Because it becomes about this girl realizing the extent of racial inequality and police brutality in the country and becoming an activist to fight for change. It’s a really great idea and a really smart film to market for teens. I’m not sure when I was that age I was adequately versed in things of this sort through movies. Usually it was older stuff like Inherit the Wind. So that aspect of it I really, really love. It’s nice when something uses its genre (which can, in some ways, be equated with privilege) for good and to amplify important messages for the betterment of society.
474. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
I jumped a little too hard into this film’s arms when it came out because I was so happy that it was trying something different. They released this film three different ways, subtitled “His,” “Hers” and “Them.” It’s a romance told from both people’s perspectives, so one film focuses on James McAvoy’s character primarily, one focuses on Jessica Chastain’s character and then they edited them down into a singular feature, which is typically the way most people see this movie. I just loved that idea and was already sold twice over on the movie before I even saw it. But now, going back with distance and the eyes of objectivity, it’s still a really solid film, a romantic drama with two great actors doing their thing.
473. Blood Ties
One of my most cherished hidden gems from the first half of the decade. I had no expectations for this movie or even really knew what it was. The poster of all things was what got me into it. It was one of the most badass posters I’d ever seen. It looked like they pulled it out of a lost movie from 1973. Plus it had Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Matthias Schoenaerts and a shit ton of other familiar faces in it. It was co-written by James Gray and is adapted from a French film but transported into 70s New York. It’s one of those ‘tales of two brothers’, one a cop, one a criminal. And it’s a really well-made film with great performances and a killer 70s soundtrack. It’s just a really solid film worth seeing and one of those I liked recommending to people because it had all the pieces you’d look for in a film (and the added bonus of having all these people and you knowing nothing about it). Absolutely no one took me up on the recommendation, so here we are. I’m sure no one will take me up on it again. But I do think this is a really solid film that deserves an audience, if only for the cast and the soundtrack.
472. Game Night
You know me and studio comedies. But I really liked this one. It was fun and charming, and even the parts that I didn’t care for still weren’t as bad as I’m used to in these kinds of movies. It made money and people know about it, so there’s really not much I need to add for this. It’s got a great concept, it’s fun, and it actually made me laugh, which so few studio comedies can do nowadays.
It’s a smart premise — what happens if the world collectively just stopped remembering who the Beatles were except one dude? It’s written by Richard Curtis, so it has his brand of charm and humor, and it largely works as a film. I think it runs out of steam by the third act and becomes a bit of a conventional rom com by the end, but that’s fine. It’s got enough nice moments and has Beatles songs in it, so you can’t really complain all too much. It’s just a feel-good movie. Can’t ask for much more than that.
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