Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (330-321)

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:

330. The Illusionist

Absolutely lovely film from Sylvain Chomet, who made Triplets of Belleville (in case you couldn’t tell from the visual look), adapted from an unmade script from Jacques Tati. And, as such, the film is told in Tati’s signature style, which is no dialogue. But unlike Tati’s films, this one is not a comedy. It’s based, I believe, on his estrangement from his own daughter and he made it as a sort of way to feel closer to her. It’s about a vaudeville magician in the waning days of vaudeville who travels from town to town, playing to smaller audiences, and his melancholic existence which gets brightened by the introduction of a small girl who believes in his magic into his life. It’s really sweet (though definitely melancholic) and is one of the best animated films of this decade.

329. Booksmart

What I say every time I talk about this movie, mostly because of people’s tendencies to overrate things (a lot of times with good intentions, sometimes because they just don’t know better and that’s the world we live in) — this film doesn’t reinvent the wheel at all, but because of the absolute dearth of good comedies the past, I don’t know, decade-plus and because comedies are just so poorly written, often using the same hollowed-out, played-out Apatow formula and mistaking raunch and pop culture references for humor, any time we get a good one, it’s a real breath of fresh air and exciting. And that’s what this one is. It takes a very well-worn tradition and makes it feel fresh again. And it’s written by a woman, directed by a woman and stars women. And that’s awesome too. The plot’s very basic for high school comedies — two smart kids realize they could have maybe lightened up a little bit and socialized, so they decide to pack four years of partying into the night before graduation. And so it’s just this wild ride as they try to find the right party to go to. It’s awesome. Even when it veers into ‘obvious’ territory, it never loses its footing, always feels true to itself and always stays close to the central relationship between the main characters, which is the crux of the film. I’m very picky when it comes to comedies, and this for sure is one of the best of the decade.

328. Take Shelter

The movie that brought us both Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon. Nichols hasn’t fully taken off (but between this, Mud, Midnight Special and Loving, he probably should have), but Shannon has. Shannon had been nominated for an Oscar by this point, but no one really took notice of him until this performance. Him and Fassbender both broke this year, both for indie performances a lot of us were shouting about when no one would really pay attention (there’s this weird notion that the first one is always the ‘welcome to the club’ and then they’ll start paying attention going forward. Makes no sense to me at all). It’s a terrific film about a regular guy in a regular town who sees a vision that makes him realize (like Noah) that a big storm is coming and that he needs to build a storm shelter to protect his family. So he starts building this thing, and everyone thinks he’s crazy and it starts to affect his relationships with those around him and cause problems for himself and his family, both financially and otherwise. And the film is, in a lot of ways, about the ‘is he or isn’t he crazy’, but also just this really nice portrait of a guy who feels he needs to do something and doesn’t understand why people just won’t let him. It’s a strong Shannon performance (as they all are) and definitely introduces Nichols as one of the great new voices in cinema (which I’m still hoping to see more of. He hasn’t made a movie in almost five years now).

327. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

One of the great indies of the decade. Honestly, if it had come out a few years later, it would have been an A24 movie. It’s that kind of movie. Very much hipster bait in a lot of ways, but also kinda cool because it shows Ana Lily Amirpour’s cinematic voice and gives you something you didn’t know you could get — an Iranian vampire western. Not western in the sense of horses and things, but it’s still very much rooted in the western genre. It takes place in an Iranian ghost town, and there’s a lonely vampire walking the streets, stalking all the worst people in the town, but also looking for some sort of connection. It’s really nice. Well shot, very cool, and a nice little movie worth seeing.

326. 20 Feet from Stardom

Amazing documentary about backup singers, some of the most essential parts of songs but often the least heralded. They get into some of the most famous examples, like Merry Clayton, who was called while in bed (and pregnant) one night to be told that the ‘Rolling somebodies’ were recording a song and needed a female singer to do a bit on it. So she goes down to the recording studio, and… this is the result. And that’s what this documentary is — stories like that. It’s incredible. If you’re a fan of music, you don’t want to miss this one.

325. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The middle film of the new Apes trilogy, and for me, its best. They’re all very good, but this one feels like it accomplishes the most. The human race is largely dead, so now you’re seeing the Apes get a foothold on their own civilization, Caesar has to contend with a challenger to his throne, there’s human resistance as well as some humans who are friendly for the apes and helping with each other’s causes. It’s just a really solid film and the one that, for me at least, made me realize that the first film wasn’t a flash in the pan and that they were serious about actually making these films worthwhile rather than just trying to milk money from them.

324. Flight

Incredible film that features one of Denzel’s best career performances. Denzel has always sort of fluctuated between ‘action’ Denzel and ‘actor’ Denzel. Not that it’s a bad thing, but he does. Sometimes you’ll get a bit of both in the same film. Man on Fire is an example of that. But lately, this decade, most of what it felt like we got from him were the action movies… Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Safe House, 2 Guns, The Equalizer, Magnificent Seven. But this one was him going full actor mode (like he admittedly also did in Fences and Roman J. Israel, Esq.), and it felt like a really welcome return to the Denzel we hadn’t seen in a while. Because there’s no action here whatsoever. He plays an alcoholic airline pilot who, during a routine flight, encounters engine trouble and has to land a plane without killing everyone on board. And he makes a split second decision and winds up doing it. Though two people do die, he does manage to save most people on board. However, there’s the investigation into the incident that has to be done, so now he’s facing the potential of real criminal charges, given the fact that he is an alcoholic and has to now try to hide this so to keep his job and remain a ‘hero’. It’s a really strong performance, and as I said, one of the best of his career. Shame that so few people actually took the time to see it, but it’s worth it.

323. The Aeronauts

Incredible, incredible movie. Who knew a balloon movie in IMAX could be so thrilling? It’s an adventure film with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones about a daredevil and a scientist who are traveling up to as high an altitude as they can in a balloon to learn about Earth’s atmosphere. Because, you know… before planes and things how else could you really know without just doing it? And since they are in a balloon… dangerous as hell. And trust me… when you get to the upper atmosphere sequences, it’s some of the most thrilling stuff you’ve ever seen. It’s almost Gravity level, where you just feel like you’re there. It’s incredible. And it’s so easy to see (it’s on Amazon Prime). Do yourself a favor and see this, because it’s so much fun and so well made.

322. Atomic Blonde

“Hey, what if we took John Wick but made it a woman?” Amazing idea. The graphic novel was there, and they took one of the Wick directors and they made a badass, colorful action movie with Charlize Theron kicking all sorts of ass. Beautiful stuff. The narrative is a bit too twisty for its own good by the end, but honestly, who gives a shit. You’re not here for the plot. You’re here because of the one take action sequence that starts in a hallway/stairwell and lasts about ten minutes all the way down into a car on the street (that I’m pretty sure even ends up underwater). That’s the purpose of this movie. It’s fun, it’s sexy, and it kicks all sorts of ass. In its own way, it’s a perfect film.

321. Iron Man 3

A lot of people have problems with this for a variety of reasons. It’s not particularly a Marvel Universe film, outside of some passing references to Avengers and other characters popping up. Plus there’s the whole Mandarin thing that people hated. I honestly… Iron Man 2 was a rush job and Downey was unhappy and they brought on Shane Black to appease him and keep him on board (as well as paying him a Brink’s truck full of money). Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was amazing and they had him come back and bring the fun back to it all. Of course, he essentially made a Shane Black movie, and that’s why I like this. I don’t watch this as a Marvel movie. I watch it as a Shane Black movie. And on that level, it’s fun. There’s no insane action sequences. It’s all generally contained. The fight in the diner in the town, small. The Air Force One sequence is great. There’s the finale, with all the suits… but even that’s kinda contained too. Sure, that twist is a little dumb and the ultimate villain is telegraphed and obvious, but you’re not here for high art. You’re here for fun and for Downey being Iron Man. And yeah, some people hate the kid, but have you seen a Shane Black movie? Grow up. This movie’s fun as hell. I’ll take this any day over half the rest of the Marvel output.

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