Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (350-341)

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:

350. Spring Breakers

Sprang Break forever. I had no idea what to make of this movie before I saw it. Harmony Korine hadn’t really done anything that ever got mainstream attention before, and here he was with this movie that had Disney actresses and James Franco doing a Riff Raff impersonation. It looked interesting, but you thought, “There’s no way this can be good, can it?” And then somehow I end up at the premiere of this thing (separate story), and I’m watching it, going, “This is utterly bizarre, but I can’t look away. And it’s kinda interesting?” And that’s pretty much what it is. Just insane shots of people (I’m assuming real) on spring break going nuts, then this story of these girls getting into some shit and then Franco… it’s weird but I kinda dug it. And it carves out this own little reality for itself that I enjoyed. And if anything, it definitely became a movie that people just recognize and remember. Which is really the goal of something of this stature. So that’s nice.

349. Force Majeure

Great comedy. I know most Americans are very anti subtitles and generally don’t go into foreign film. Because let’s face it — it’s hard enough for me to get people to watch a movie, let alone a foreign movie. And that’s people I know are into film. But if you’re gonna rank the most important foreign films of the decade (a list I somehow didn’t make to go along with all of these), this would for sure be on it and potentially be in the top 20 or even top 10 (I haven’t really considered it). And when I say important, I mean just all around best, most entertaining, ones that feel like they would cross over to the most people/could be easily seen by people who don’t generally gravitate to foreign cinema and then would just stand the test of time. It’s checks a lot of those boxes. It’s about a family on ski vacation who encounter a controlled avalanche breakfast one day. And what seems like it’s fine turns into a potentially dangerous situation. And afterward, what we find out is that the dad just ran away, leaving his wife and kids to die. And then things get awkward afterward and they call him out on it, only he steadfastly refuses to admit that he ran away. And things just devolve from there. It’s awkward, it’s hilarious, and it is just really entertaining. (P.S. They just remade this as an American movie with Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Don’t see that one. It’s not bad, but why would you see the inferior remake when this one is also just right there to see?)

348. Novitiate

Incredible movie I’ve talked about a bunch here. One of those movies I didn’t think I’d be in on and ended up loving. It’s about a girl who decides (almost out of nowhere, based on her upbringing) that she’s going to become a nun. And not just any nun, a cloistered, hardcore nun. So she goes into the nunnery, and this is all taking place in the 60s when the Vatican lowered their strict rules about clergy and all that to keep people from leaving the church. So she’s in this hardcore nun program that’s run by Melissa Leo, who is very traditional and strict, and the film is about her (and the other women in the program’s) journey. It’s really terrific. Margaret Qualley is great, Leo is always really good and the MVP of the film is Julianne Nicholson as Qualley’s mother. It’s a really strong piece of work by Maggie Betts, and take it from me — I cannot stand religion and religion in movies. But I really enjoyed this story. So if I’m saying that, Mr. Fuck The Church Get It Off My Screen, there has to be something here worthwhile.

347. War for the Planet of the Apes

The third and final entry in the trilogy. This one is a culmination of Caesar’s story, which kind of becomes a biblical story in the end. Him leading the apes to the promised land like Moses, only before he does he has to deal with the final bit of human resistance (led by Woody Harrelson) as the last of the humans are slowly dying out and/or becoming infected with a virus that renders them unable to talk (much like they, the apes, were at one time). It’s really strong. All the different threads start to tie together and it’s, like the two that came before it, ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’, a really great movie that rounds out perhaps the best trilogy of big budget films we had all decade.

346. The Best Offer

A great movie from Giuseppe Tornatore (who made Cinema Paradiso) that is one of the few I will drop the phrase ‘Hitchcockian’ for. It’s not one of his more twisty ones, but there is a bit of an air of mystery to it and it feels like something he’d go in for. It’s sort of a mix between his usual mystery stuff and maybe a Marnie or something like that. Or maybe a Rebecca. One of the more romantic ones. Geoffrey Rush plays an auction house manager who has overseen the sale of billions of dollars of art over the years (while secretly amassing an incredible collection for himself on the side). He’s efficient, really great at his job (but also OCD and seemingly asexual). Then one day he’s hired to look at some pieces from a woman who’s just inherited a large estate (and is hugely agoraphobic). And so he keeps going there to look at the work while also getting to know her (through a barrier of sorts). And slowly he starts falling in love with her. And it’s one of those where there’s some mystery there and there’s some romance there… it’s just a really nice little movie. Ennio Morricone wrote a great score for it and it’s just a movie I saw with no expectations for and came out really liking.

345. The Adventures of Tintin

I feel like, if you were to break down the career of Steven Spielberg, this wouldn’t be a movie that you necessarily pointed to as one of his best (but that’s just because you have at least a dozen other movies to point to first, because the man’s made so many amazing films), but this is one that, if you were looking at it from a student point of view… I’d say this ranks among his best films to analyze from a staging perspective. He really is one of the best to ever do it in terms of how he stages sequences and brings you, the audience, into the action and has it unfold in such a way that’s thrilling and never overdoes it. Raiders is, of course, the absolute masterpiece in this. But this is also another one. You might not realize it, but this really does show you how to stage an action sequence in a way that doesn’t feel trite. The final chase sequence is absolutely stunning. It’s basically (it’s not, but it feels like) a one-shot kinda sequence where you sort of descend through all these planes of action (the bikes, the water, the flooding, etc) seamlessly, and it all builds on itself to keep you totally engaged and on the edge of your seat throughout it. It’s incredible. That’s really what I take away from this one. But that’s me as someone who never really knew Tintin past a passing recognition of the name and generally knowing they were children’s books. So I had no real affinity for the story outside of, “Okay, this is a solid animated film.” But the action sequences are just beautifully staged and, if you’re not gonna see it because A) Tintin, B) Spielberg, C) because it’s one of the best animated films of the decade, then see it because it’s a film that you can learn how to stage action from and how to be a better storyteller.

344. Mid90s

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, which I always jokingly refer to as ‘Skatey Bird’. Which is unfair to it, but also not wrong. It’s him telling a story influenced by his own childhood growing up in Southern California in the 90s, learning to skateboard and hang out with older kids, getting into girls and listening to hip hop. The film is generally plotless. You’re just kind of following the kid over the course of a summer through various vignettes, but it feels really strong and feels like it means something. You can always tell when a film means something to a director. It’s a very strong start from Hill as a filmmaker and I hope he keeps going. Maybe they won’t all have something to do with his life, but I feel like he’s talented enough to give us something good no matter what the subject matter.

343. Lone Survivor

This is the movie Peter Berg made Battleship for. He basically agreed to do that movie if the studio would let him make this one. It is, in a lot of ways, the kind of movie I hate — military glorification, rah rah soldiers. Especially taking place in the Middle East. As much as they’re going up against the Taliban… American’s not the hero there, guys. But whatever. Plus it starts and ends with real fucking army recruitment video shit, showing the ‘brotherhood’ of soldiers and ending with Peter Gabriel covering David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. But, for all that shit that I fucking hate, there’s a really solid action movie in between. Because it’s about this unit of guys setting out to capture and/or kill a Taliban leader, and the mission goes sideways and they end up on the run in terrain they don’t really know and just trying to fight for their lives. And there’s a sequence where they’re running down cliffs and falling through trees and rocks and you can just hear every thud, every bone breaking, every piece of impact land as painfully as possible. And that’s the kind of thing that really drew me into the film. Fuck all that other stuff. It’s the filmmaking that I appreciated most about this one.

342. Promised Land

This was supposed to be Matt Damon’s directorial debut, and then he backed out right before filming started and had Gus Van Sant direct it instead. He wrote the script with John Krasinski and the two star in it together. Damon plays a guy sent to this small town to get them to agree to let his company start fracking the land there. And he’s a charming guy, good at getting the people to think it’s a good idea. Although the plan is complicated by Krasinski, who shows up as a very vocal voice against the plan and starts thwarting Damon at every turn. It’s a small little movie. Got some drama, got some comedy, got some romance. Just really well made. It fell totally under the radar at the time and I’m pretty sure almost no one knows it exists. But it’s a really solid film worth your time.

341. A Bigger Splash

This is the film that brought Luca Guadagnino’s name into film circles, if not yet fully into the mainstream. He had I Am Love, which was good, but not really something that really made him a ‘name’. This came out and people went, “Oh that was really good.” And then he followed it up with Call Me By Your Name and the rest is history. But this one — it’s a remake of La Piscine, and is about a woman and her husband on a vacation getaway when her ex-husband shows up out of the blue with a previously unknown daughter in tow. And soon he takes over the entire vacation and what was gonna be a quiet, peaceful getaway turns into this whole other thing. It’s really strong. Ralph Fiennes is terrific as the ex-husband and you have Tilda playing essentially silent, since her character is a rockstar who is having vocal problems and is supposed to be resting her vocal cords. So she barely speaks throughout the entire film (and if she does, it’s in a hoarse whisper). It’s really terrific.

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