Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (360-351)
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:
360. The Christmas Chronicles
This movie is so damn fun. It’s a Netflix Christmas movie with Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. Basic plot is — two kids spending their first Christmas since the passing of their father decide to wait up to ‘catch’ Santa Claus. Only, they do. And then cause his sleigh to get separated from the reindeer. So now they have to accompany him to go get back to it. Normal Christmas movie stuff, but what makes this so fun is the fact that they write Russell’s Santa as very much open about who he is. He’ll go up to a random person, “Hey, Johnny McMichael! You wanted a toy sailboat in the second grade if you managed to get all As on your spelling tests!” And the person would be like, “Who the hell are you and why the hell do you know that?” All freaked out. It’s hilarious. It has a car chase between Santa (in a GTO, no less) and the police, Russell performing a song with Stevie Van Zandt in a prison cell and a scene where an elf is gonna take a chainsaw to a guy’s nuts. Trust me, it’s not the kind of Christmas movie you’d normally expect and it’s so much fun.
359. Premium Rush
Great B movie. The beauty of the B movie is going into something you don’t really know much about (like Nightcrawler did) — here it’s bike messengers — and crafts a thrilling story that give you immediate pleasures without having to think too much about it. Here, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a bike messenger who ends up with the wrong package in his hands and in the crosshairs of Michael Shannon, a corrupt cop, who chases him all over the city. It’s fun, it’s not that complicated, and it’s a really well made movie from David Koepp (who wrote a couple of movies in his day like Jurassic Park and Carlito’s Way).
358. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This is the first one. I always felt the titles were a bit backwards. Wouldn’t the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes be before the Rise of the Planet of the Apes? But whatever. They made three, and they’re all really good. The first one is arguably the most important, but spiritually I like it the least. Probably because it has the most James Franco screen time. But it’s a strong film. You get the origin of Caesar in the lab, eventually breaking out and starting an ape uprising. It’s fun, and really well made. I was going in expecting disaster and got a really strong film, anchored by Andy Serkis delivering yet another fantastic mo-cap performance. Truly, this might be the single best trilogy that came out this decade, pound for pound.
357. Eye in the Sky
Fantastic drama that’s very contained yet also has some sort of scope. The film centers around a drone strike. On one side of the film, military personnel sit in a room and decide whether or not the person they are tracking is the suspected terrorist they’re after and then, once they have enough confirmation, deciding whether or not they should send in the drone strike (by calculating whether or not they think they will be able to do so without any civilian casualties. On the other side, the actual people on the ground, helping the intelligence team get the kind of camera angles to help confirm this (at their own risk of safety) while also trying to (without being noticed by the terrorists) clear any civilians out of the blast radius. It’s a really strong film, really tense, well-directed by Gavin Hood. And it features the final screen performance of Alan Rickman, if that’s of interest to you on top of this already being a really good movie.
356. 99 Homes
Great drama for adults. I always feel the need to specify that, because for some reason I instinctively feel like people, unless they’re prepped for it, don’t like mature films for adults most of the time. Because all they want are dumb, loud ‘blowup’ movies or people in tights. This is just one of those quiet movies about people being awful to other people that has something to say about how terrible certain things in the world are. This stars Andrew Garfield as a man who gets evicted from his home and is determined to get it back. At first he sets out to get revenge on the man responsible — Michael Shannon — but then Shannon makes him a deal: he’s a shady real estate guy who exploits loopholes in order to get these people evicted, and says that if Garfield helps him for a certain length of time (the title is how many people he needs to evict), he’ll get his house back and consider the ‘debt’ repaid. And so Garfield now basically joins the evil dude evicting completely innocent (and in many cases poor and desperate) people from their homes in the pursuit of his back. It’s really strong work and has two terrific lead performances in it. Just one of those movies that you know is great but will never get its proper due because its such a small scope and doesn’t have any ‘flash’ to it.
Ah, yes, this movie. Which people refused to admit is a comedy (it is) and is one of the funniest movies of the decade (arguable, but it is really funny). It’s a horror movie that takes a simple premise and juices it up by being very artistic in the filmmaking to create this interesting atmosphere that really slow builds into what it’s really about. That first act is just family stuff, and then there’s the car sequence and the immediate aftermath, and that’s when the film starts to take its turn. And by then, you’re just kind of in because of how well the filmmaking’s been to that point (though admittedly I feel like he wastes the visual setup with the dollhouses). And then the film just descends into hilarity (“I AM YOUR MOTHER!”) and dark humor (“It’s just another language. Read it, what can go wrong! Just fucking read the card!”) before kind of petering out in that third act when you get to the full reveal of what’s happening. But still, it’s a really solid film. And admittedly, I’m very tough on horror movies. So for me to even be positive on this one, let alone solidly positive, is a big step. I do think he wastes some of his good will by the end, but it’s the story that he wanted to tell, so I can’t argue that much. I enjoyed the humor of it all along the way.
354. Not Fade Away
This is from David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, and was his feature debut after the ending of the show. It’s a small story about a bunch of kids in Jersey in the 60s who decide to start a band. And that’s it. You follow them and the main kid, as well as his relationship with his father (wonderfully played by James Gandolfini. I’ve been screaming for almost a decade now about how he probably should have been nominated for this performance or one of the several he gave the year this came out). It’s just a really delightful little movie that almost no one knows about because it never got its proper publicity.
353. Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen. I’m very on the record about being generally opposed to most of his films from a quality standpoint. I just don’t really like his whole thing a lot of the time. New York upper class intellectuals waxing poetic about art and literature while going to museum openings and talking about what their analyst said — that’s not for me. So, he’s made about 50 movies by now, and I’d say maybe a quarter of them I’d say I particularly enjoy. The rest are varying degrees of ‘fine’ to ‘don’t care’ to ‘very much do not like’. Now, that’s still a solid percentage given the amount of films he’s made, but by and large, his movies aren’t my thing. And as such, this will be the only film of this decade you’ll find on this list. I had largely given up on him for years, save the occasional movie I liked (like Whatever Works, which I ascribed to Larry David more than anything else). This one, I tried not to like. But it works. It’s fun. Most people agree on this one. It’s a charming little movie, and hey, you spend a decade churning them out, one of them’s gotta work, right? The premise is really good (if reminiscent slightly of Purple Rose of Cairo, one of my favorites of his): guy in Paris planning his wedding with his fiancée and in-laws, wants to see the city, but she doesn’t. He finds this mysterious car that shows up at midnight that takes him into 1920s Paris where he gets to hangout with people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It’s fun. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone versed in Allen’s films (or even not) who doesn’t like this film in some form. It’s very charming, and definitely one of the ones I’d show people who want to see the best of what Allen has to offer as a filmmaker.
352. Get Low
Lovely movie. No one saw this, and its only notices were right at the time (which is 2010) because there was a push for Duvall as Best Actor. And when he didn’t get it, the movie completely disappeared forever. He plays a backwoods hermit who is famous in the town for maybe having killed his wife (and of course, since he’s not there and the stories change over the years, everyone’s got some sort of ghost story about him… kinda like his first screen character, Boo Radley). And he comes into town one day to go to the local funeral home (run by Bill Murray, who is also tremendous here) to say he wants to throw a funeral for himself. He’s not dead, he just wants to have one before he dies. And of course, the entire town wants to show up because this is their first opportunity to get a look at him in nearly 40 or 50 years. It’s fun. It’s really good, Duvall and Murray are fantastic and it’s just a nice little movie that no one knows about.
351. Iron Man 2
This is a curious movie. Because on the one hand, the first Iron Man was so good and so big that there was no way they could have ever matched its success. But they rushed a sequel into production and it came out nearly two years to the day of the first one. And by this point they were also trying to get their universe off the ground, so in a lot of ways, any satisfying sequel arc they could have had here (Tony’s alcoholism/death wish/relationship with his father/dealing with the fact that he’s openly a superhero and now it’s open season on him and bringing villains out of the woodwork) falls victim to the desire to create the ‘cinematic universe’. They introduce SHIELD and Black Widow and all the villain stuff with Mickey Rourke isn’t there and he’s just sort of in the movie with nothing to do, and Sam Rockwell is comic relief and dancing — the movie’s fine, but no one particularly remembers this as anything more than a stepping stone to what would become this gigantic universe. But, if you pare it down to just a movie… it is very fun and still largely works. Jon Favreau is still there trying to make a good movie out of this. They tied his hands in a lot of places, but you can still see places where he and Downey tried to do something nice.
– – – – – – – – – –