Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (310-301)

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:

310. Tramps

Incredible, virtually unknown Netflix movie that’s one of the sweetest, most endearing rom coms (of a sort) I’ve seen this decade. It’s a relatively short film, only 80 minutes, and is about a guy forced to take a job for his brother, who ends up in prison on an assault charge. Basically all he has to do is take a bag, go to a train station and meet a woman fitting a certain description and swap it with her bag. He does this… only he soon finds out, it was the wrong woman. So now a total stranger has the bag he was supposed to give away. So now the two of them (him and the right woman) have to go get this bag back before anything happens. So the film is them wandering around, following leads, to try to get the bag back. And it’s just this sweet little movie. Not a thriller, nothing escalates in any particular way. It’s very grounded, and just really likable. It’s one of the best Netflix movies I’ve seen (and I’ve seen them all).

309. The Ides of March

This is a George Clooney film, which most people forget. Clooney’s big directorial effort was Good Night and Good Luck. But everything else around it (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Leatherheads, this, Monuments Men and Suburbicon) tends to be overlooked. This might be his best overall film next to Good Night and Good Luck. It’s based on a play and the cast is insane. It’s him, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle and Max Minghella. He plays an aspiring presidential candidate and the film is about Gosling as a campaign staffer who at first is really idealistic but begins to learn the dirty side of politics as the campaign progresses. It’s really good stuff. Never got its proper due at all, but it’s one of those really solid movies with a great cast that you will at the very least respect for being a solid movie with a great cast even if it doesn’t turn out to be your favorite movie ever. So what I’m saying is — there’s a far drop into the territory of ‘not worth it’.

308. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I loved this. I said all along since this came out — because they came out within a few months of each other — I liked this more than I liked Kingsman. I’m not gonna argue about better or worse, I’m just saying that this was more my speed than Kingsman was. And I like Kingsman, I’m just not as insane about it as other people are. Kingsman was Matthew Vaughn, student of Guy Ritchie, and this is actual Guy Ritchie. It’s sleek, it’s fun, it’s sexy and it’s just a really good time. This is the Guy Ritchie I want, and not blockbuster King Arthur/Aladdin Guy Ritchie. Okay, granted… The Gentlemen Guy Ritchie is the one I want, going back to his Lock Stock and Snatch and RocknRolla roots, but if he’s gonna go mainstream, this is the kind I want. It’s a fun movie. Based on the TV show about an American spy and a Russian spy having to work together at the height of the Cold War. It’s so much fun. Both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are great, and you get Alicia Vikander and Elizbeth Debicki to boot (oh, and Jared Harris and Hugh Grant). I really enjoy this one a lot and think it got a bad rap when it came out because people somehow thought there was no room to share with Kingsman in the marketplace.

307. Victoria

This I like just because it’s a single-take film. A legitimate single take film. It’s two hours and I think fifteen minutes and the entire film is done in one continuous take. And it’s about a woman in Berlin who meets up with these guys at a party and spends the night hanging out with them, which eventually leads her into some trouble. It’s fun. It’s entirely about the one-shot gimmick, but honestly, there are so few movies that even attempt this that it’s worth seeing when they do. And rather than being something like Russian Ark, which is inside a museum and is contained and they can easily pull it off… this one’s actually on the streets in large sections. It’s controlled, but it’s not completely controlled. And I really like that about it.

306. The Final Girls

A great high-concept horror comedy. I’ve talked about it a few times, but it’s worth repeating — Taissa Farmiga is the daughter of Malin Akerman, famous as a scream queen for a series of slasher movies in the 80s that are very clearly based on the Friday the 13th films. Her mother died young and she’s been traumatized by it ever since, but agrees to go with some people to a double bill of her mother’s films. While at the screening, the theater catches fire, so she and her friends slice open the movie screen to try to get out that way. But doing that actually transports them inside the movie. It’s a Pleasantville type situation, where they magically end up in the reality of the film. So now they’re in this cheesy 80s slasher movie, but aware of it. So they interact with all the characters, know all the ‘rules’ of how to survive and eventually have to do so. But also, there are these beautiful moments where this girl gets to interact with her actual mother again, albeit in the context of her as this character. But still, those moments are really touching and elevate this to something that’s a cut above the film’s premise. And also, and I mention this every time because it does bear repeating — this movie features not one but two stripteases that are essential to the plot. I know that sounds like a joke, but consider this — have you ever seen a striptease on film that actually did really matter on an actual story level? And two, have you ever seen it happen multiple times? And for one of them to actually bear emotional resonance? That’s what I’m talking about with this one. There’s a lot more here than you might think at the outset.

305. Dallas Buyers Club

This is the apex of the McConnaissance. He won his Oscar for this, in one of the great performances of the decade. It’s this really strong drama that I’m not sure people were expecting to connect with as much as they did. It’s about a guy in Texas in the 80s who gets diagnosed with AIDS, and, not content to follow the FDA approved prescription plan available to him, goes to Mexico for unlicensed medication that actually does help and begins an underground ‘ring’ that provides this medication to other AIDS patients. It’s pretty wonderful. McConaughey is incredible, as is Jared Leto. It’s just a really strong piece of work all around and one of those movies I feel like people have seen and should see from this decade.

304. Saving Mr. Banks

You kind of forget about this one. And I get why that is — it’s just a solid movie that’s not too memorable — but it is a solid movie that is worth seeing. It’s about the story of P.L. Travers and how she licensed her Mary Poppins books to Disney for them to make the film. And there’s a lot going on here — she’s a seemingly cantankerous lady who doesn’t want her books being turned into these Disney monstrosities, but also has this hidden trauma in her past and about her father that she’s also channeled through the books. So the film is Walt Disney trying to convince her to give him the rights while she wants nothing to do with it but slowly gets worn down. I have mixed feelings about the narrative, since it paints her out to be an almost villain, when in reality she’s just trying to protect her work that means something to her. The film wants you to believe that she’s holding up the process of making this classic movie. And while, yes, the movie is great… it doesn’t invalidate how she felt about her creation. So it’s sanitized, and there are some gray areas there the film doesn’t get into because Disney put it out, but it still is a solid film that’s really entertaining in that ‘safe’ Disney kinda way.

303. Ready or Not

One of the best horror (comedies?) of the decade. I generally hate the horror genre and it takes a few things to get me into it — the ability to see the supernatural ‘monster’ as a metaphor for something else (Babadook, It Follows) or has a really great premise and a measure of fun and lightness to it (The Guest, You’re Next). This fits in the latter category. The premise here is exquisite — a bride on her wedding day marries into a prestigious board game empire family. Their tradition is to play a game at midnight. And 95% of the time, it’s harmless. But, 5% of the time… it’s this movie. Because ‘hide and seek’ means the bride hides and the family hunts her down with weapons, intending to kill her if they find her. That’s it. That’s the film. It’s amazing. It’s so much fun, there’s a humor here that really, really works and it further cements Samara Weaving as one of those really charismatic actors who is just awesome to watch on screen. Do not miss out on this one because you will enjoy it.

302. Unsane

This is Steven Soderbergh searching. He retired in 2013 after Side Effects because he saw the distribution models changing and realized there was no market for his kinds of movies (mid-level budgets, which still require an insane amount of advertising, which makes turning a profit nearly impossible). He came back with Logan Lucky, determined to try something different. That didn’t work. So then he tried this — he shot the movie entirely on an iPhone, for next to no money, and tried to sell it by taking away the budget but still promoting it in a smart way. That also didn’t work, sadly. But, in both cases, we got really great movies. Because as we all know, Steven Soderbergh doesn’t make bad movies. In fact, he usually makes really good ones. And this is no different. This is a down and dirty B movie that would have played next to the prestige picture 60 years ago. It’s that kind of movie. Claire Foy plays a woman who may or may not have mental problems — she’s convinced she has a stalker and is always paranoid that he might be around. She, considering that it might all be in her head, goes to a mental institution for a consultation. And before she knows it, she gets committed. And they tell her it’s because she signed herself in willingly, something she doesn’t remember doing. So the film is a bit of that ‘is she or isn’t she’ mixed with ‘is something going on at the hospital’. It’s really great. You’re kind of aware that it was shot on an iPhone and not on cameras, but you pretty much forget about it after a while and eventually it makes the whole thing feel even more claustrophobic and tense. It’s really well done. Soderbergh has made some of his most interesting work in these past couple of years, and I only wish more people went out of their way to see it.

301. Black Panther

Well this was a phenomenon. Even more so than Marvel standards. Everyone has feelings about this and opinions. And while it takes a lot for me to see this as anything other than just another Marvel movie in a lot of ways, I’m also aware of the cultural importance of this film and how it does do a lot of things really well and differently than I’m used to in Marvel (which is a welcome change). I like that I can largely watch this as its own thing and not something related to the rest of the universe if I wanted to. You can’t say the same about some of their other films. I like that (like he did with Creed), Ryan Coogler had a story he wanted to tell and made it his own. It looks great, it’s got a killer soundtrack and while I can’t say I love it to death (because it does fit a lot of the Marvel formula even if it does feel unique), it is a really strong film and one of the better ones Marvel has out there.

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