Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (320-311)

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:

320. Wonder Woman

To this point, the best this new D.C. universe has to offer. Which isn’t even to say that it’s a great movie, because it’s not. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. I remember watching the movie and thinking, “I know exactly who your villain is and we’re not even out of London yet.” The plot is very straightforward. And yet — really entertaining movie with a lot of great empowering moments with a female superhero, which the world had sorely needed to see on the screen for so long. The No Man’s Land sequence remains one of the most exciting and uplifting moments of the decade. Gal Gadot is really charming and her chemistry with Chris Pine really works. It’s one of those movies I think of fondly even though I know if I went back to it, I’d think less of it as an actual piece of filmmaking. But sometimes a movie is about more than just what’s on the screen.

319. Life of Pi

I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. The book is an allegory for religion and loaded with all sorts of religious messages, Ang Lee basically shot the movie on a green screen… there really wasn’t a whole lot to make me excited about this one. And yet… really solid film. I found myself engaged by it even though it’s an allegory about a dude in a raft with a tiger a monkey and… I forget what the third thing is. Honestly, it’s just a nice movie to look at.

318. Hostiles

Scott Cooper’s fourth movie, after Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace and Black Mass, all really solid films. This one just never got anyone to see it, partly because it’s a western and partly because it’s a revisionist western. Christian Bale plays an army soldier sent to accompany a dying Native chief to his homeland. Bale, having been through conflicts with the Natives is very racist toward them, but of course, over the course of the journey, slowly comes to have a respect for the chief and his family and starts to change his attitudes. It’s a strong film. Not for everyone, but still very much worth seeing. If a filmmaker has at least three other movies worth seeing, then you should make an effort to see this, even if it doesn’t seem up your alley. It’s good. It’s worth your time, and there are great people in it.

317. The Theory of Everything

Pretty conventional biopic of Stephen Hawking. Which is not to say that it’s bad, just that it goes how you’d expect it to go and is every bit as solid as you’d think it would be. Eddie Redmayne is great as Hawking and Felicity Jones is great as his wife. Just an all around solid movie, the kind you like and would watch again but not the kind you want to shout about from the rooftops. Such is the fate of safe but competent films.

316. The Congress

Lovely film from the director of Waltz with Bashir. It’s part live action and part animated. I’ve talked about it a few times now. It stars Robin Wright as an aging film actress who is unable to get solid work anymore who is offered a lifetime contract, which will pay her enough money to comfortably live out the rest of her days. Only the condition is that she can never act again. Because, what they’re gonna do is digitally record every aspect of her and, coupled with her previous film footage, make it so they can digitally render her in films in perpetuity. So essentially, imagine if your favorite actor could just keep being in movies at the same age you always remembered them being forever? That’s what they do. So the first half of the movie is her coming to this decision and agreeing to do it and the second half is animated and takes place in the future in this trippy landscape where you’re not sure of what’s reality and what isn’t. It’s really great, and gets into a lot of great themes and identity and humanity and all that. It’s quite wonderful and worth your time.

315. The Lobster

This is the movie that brought Yorgos into the mainstream. At least, as compared to Dogtooth. The Favourite put him in the mainstream so as your parents will recognize him. But anyone into movies knew him from this. Because the premise is just so bizarre — an alternate future where anyone above a certain age who is single is sent to a hotel. And there, they are given a finite amount of time to find a mate. If they do, they go off and have a family and go on with their lives. If they don’t, they are turned into an animal of their choosing. And the humor is appropriately weird and perfectly Yorgos. It’s so dry and so odd that it’s wonderful. Definitely one of those movies that feels like a rite of passage for those who live film.

314. The Witch

Terrific debut from Robert Eggers, who takes a very simple story but layers it in such atmosphere that it transcends everything about its limitations. The story is about a family in the colonial days of America who are kicked out of their colony for being too religious (and when you consider just who were the people who came to colonize America, that’s pretty nuts). So they start their own farm in the middle of the woods, and one day, their youngest child, an infant, suddenly goes missing. And this leads to the parents (the entire family, really) starting to suspect that their eldest daughter (who said as much to her younger siblings, just to scare them and keep them from annoying her) is a witch. And things start to deteriorate from there. It’s a really terrific film, mostly because Eggers uses the stillness and isolation of the setting and sound design to scare the hell out of you before anything really happens. There’s barely any real ‘horror’ moments in the film, but you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time. It’s more a series of unsettling images and moments — the scene with the brother in the attic is absolutely intense and amazing. It’s a really strong debut that will stay with you, and introduce you to one of the coolest film characters of the decade, Black Phillip.

313. Tangerine

Most people know this, because it’s made the rounds as the film shot entirely on an iPhone. It’s this low budget movie about a particular neighborhood in LA, which is home to a lot of trans women, and Sean Baker takes what is an everyday occurrence for those in the neighborhood and imagines a story set within that world, which involves one trans woman’s release from prison on Christmas Eve, only to find that her boyfriend/pimp has now moved on to another woman. So she goes on a rampage to find him (and her) and we follow her and her friend, as well as an Armenian cab driver who likes hiring trans sex workers. It’s really awesome, especially so if you live in LA and know that corner really well. But it also shows Sean Baker’s ability to take this story that almost no one would ever consider making the basis for a film and turning it into something really terrific and really watchable. It should be required viewing for anyone who wants to potentially make films, because it shows what you can do when you have no money but want to tell a story.

312. When Marnie Was There

Absolutely terrific Studio Ghibli film about a lonely girl staying with her relatives who meets a mysterious girl in a nearby abandoned mansion and becomes friends with her. It’s a beautiful coming of age story about friendship, with some overtones of the girl also discovering her sexuality which are never explicitly expressed or discussed but feel ever-present within the narrative. It’s, as all Ghibli films are, beautiful and should be required viewing for anyone who loves animated film.

311. White Boy Rick

This is one of those films I’d been tracking for so long and was so excited about that looked like a cant-miss film with the way they cast it and based on who directed it… and then it came out and no one saw it and no one cared. And I couldn’t figure out why. It’s an awesome story — teenager in Detroit whose father is a low-level gun salesman who, before the age of 15, becomes a heavy duty drug dealer and police informant. It’s awesome. Matthew McConaughey is incredible as the boy’s father and you’ve got big actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and Bruce Dern to put alongside the main actor, who had never acted before this whatsoever. It’s a strong film that really evokes 1980s Detroit and just all 1970s cinema. I love it, and I think it’s one of the more underrated films of the decade.

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