Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (300-291)

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:

300. Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s second film, after A Single Man. And I’m not sure anyone was prepared for what this is. It starts with a sequence of plus-size women wearing patriotic bikinis and waving sparklers in super slow motion. It’s certainly attention-grabbing. And the film is about Amy Adams, an art gallery exhibitor, who gets a manuscript of a novel by her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal (who we never see on screen in the present). And it’s this really dark murder/revenge novel. So we watch Amy Adams read this while also seeing the action of the novel unfold (Gyllenhaal ‘stars’ in it, while you have Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon in it as well). It’s an insanely compelling film, even if no real action ever really ‘happens’ within the plot. It’s literally the imagination of someone reading a book and then considering the state of their current marriage and previous one. It’s great, though.

299. A Hidden Life

This is Terrence Malick, and his films used to be appointment viewing. For a while, he only had five, and they were either all perfect or all near-perfect. Badlands, Days of Heaven, Thin Red Line, New World, Tree of Life. That was the list. And then he got hung up on that ‘tone poem’ style of Tree of Life and kept going back to it — To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song. And all were interesting, as his films always are, but they felt a bit like diminishing returns, because he was eschewing narratives in favor of trying to capture mood. So it was a lot of people walking around in nature with voiceover explaining esoteric things about life and the universe. Here, though, he returns (kinda… it’s still very much in that style of his) to narrative filmmaking, telling the story of an Austrian farmer who was a conscientious objector to the Nazis during World War II. And the film is basically if Terrence Malick made A Man for All Seasons. Because you know they’re gonna kill this man, so the film becomes this meditative and slow walk toward the eventual moment when they say, “Hey you, come fight,” and he says no, and then they try to convince him to say that he’s wrong and doesn’t really believe in what he’s saying, and when he doesn’t, they’re gonna kill him. So it’s that. But done in that Tree of Life/Terrence Malick kinda style. It’s great and stunning to look at. It’s a return to that form of ‘you have to see this because Terrence Malick is an incredible filmmaker’, though sadly at the moment the ship might have sailed on Terrence Malick getting that automatic universal support from people after those last three films.

298. Their Finest

A film I’ve talked about a few times on these lists. It’s one of the great gems of the decade and reminiscent of all those feel-good ensemble Brit comedies of the 90s (Four Weddings, Full Monty, etc). It’s about a group of people during World War II. They want to make a propaganda war film based on true events (Dunkirk) to keep morale up during the war. They find a clipping in the paper about two teen girls who commandeered their father’s boat without his permission to go sail and evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk. And they take that little story and turn it into this big narrative with a Hollywood star, and etc etc. So we follow the filming of that from all the different perspectives. There’s Gemma Arterton, who wants to be a writer but is reduced to getting coffee and writing the ‘slop’ (aka the ‘woman’s dialogue’), but slowly becomes the person with the best ideas on the entire set. Then there’s Bill Nighy, the leading man who is starting to become too old for it, who has to give in and play the ‘grandpa’ role for once in this movie. There’s the American war hero turned actor who can’t act worth a lick… etc etc. You get the idea. It’s a really charming movie and represents the best of these British ensemble pieces. It’s hard to not be charmed by this movie. It’s quite lovely and most people will be entertained by it.

297. Side Effects

This was, for four years, Steven Soderbergh’s final theatrical feature. And sadly, by the time this came out, people had stopped going to see his films in the theater. Since Ocean’s Thirteen — Che, The Girlfriend Experience, The Informant!, Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike and this. Only one of those people actually went to see (even though all of them are really interesting and great in different ways). This one is his version of a Hitchcock thriller and is honestly one of the few films I would even ascribe that adjective, Hitchcockian, to. We all know you can never achieve what he achieved, but even to try it, so few films get close enough to actually be considered of a class with him. Otherwise it’s just a good thriller. This one feels like it can exist within that realm. It’s about the opioid crisis, a few years before people really started taking that super seriously within the media. Rooney Mara plays the wife of Channing Tatum, a stockbroker about to be released from prison for insider trading. She’s got some stress about all this, which manifests in a suicide attempt, so her psychiatrist (Jude Law), prescribes her a new experimental antidepressant. This causes her to sleepwalk, and eventually, causes her to murder her husband while sleepwalking. So now the film becomes this crafty thriller with a lot of turns — is Law bad, did she do it on purpose, is Catherine Zeta-Jones, her former psychiatrist who suggested the medication on a consult with last, the mastermind? Is this all just a really bad confluence of events? It’s a really great thriller with a lot of amazing stuff going on in it. One of Soderbergh’s better films and one of the better hidden gems of the decade.

296. Eighth Grade

Well, everyone knows this one, so I’ll be quick. It’s Bo Burnham’s directorial debut and I think we all were thoroughly charmed by this one when we saw it. It felt authentic and it felt really, really sweet. There are moments in this movie that will make you feel like it did to be that age. I am not a woman, nor did I grow up in the age of kids posting everything on the internet, yet a lot of the major feelings this girl had, I felt. There’s a real truthfulness to this movie and it’s one of those where I’d tell almost anyone to see it. It may not achieve the heights I feel Lady Bird achieves, but it’s still very much one of the best films of the decade.

295. Grandma

A lovely little indie that’s only about 70 minutes long. It’s a very simple, stripped-down premise, too: teenage girl goes to her grandmother to say, “I’m pregnant, and I need $300 for an abortion.” So grandma goes around town with her to try to raise the money for an abortion. That’s it, that’s the film. And largely it’s the two of them together during the afternoon as this happens as well as the grandmother revisiting people from her life/past to get the money. So you get a glimpse into her along the way. It’s really great, and you have Lily Tomlin as the lead, who is always good and always very welcome on the screen, and Julia Garner, who is becoming one of the great actresses of her generation and one of those people you should be seeing in everything she does.

294. Green Room

I’ve talked about this one a few times already as well. Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore feature, after Blue Ruin. Another small, contained, taut thriller about violence, this is about a punk band who takes a gig that they later find out is for a group of Neo-Nazis. After the show, one of the members accidentally witnesses a murder, so the band becomes trapped/kept inside the (insert title here) as the Neo-Nazis (led by leader Patrick Stewart, in an incredible piece of casting) figure out what to do with them/plan to kill them. It’s awesome. It’s really great, really tense and just incredibly well-directed. One of those movies that’ll really keep you on the edge of your seat and nervous the entire time.

293. They Came Together

An incredible comedy from David Wain, who made Wet Hot American Summer and Role Moders. This is a parody of rom coms, which takes the plot of every rom com but lampoons it. Not quite in a Naked Gun, Airplane kinda way, but similar. It’s the guys who did Wet Hot American Summer, so you can get the idea. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are the couple, and they go out to dinner with another couple, who tell them to recount the story of how they met. And so they do. And we see it happening in flash back. And every single rom com scene you know or recognize is in this and turned on its head. It’s hilarious. If you like the silly humor of their other stuff, you will really enjoy this. It’s fun as hell and one of the funniest movies I saw this decade.

292. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I adore this movie. Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut (you’ll now best know her from directing Hustlers). It’s about Steve Carell, a divorced man just going through the motions of life, finding out (along with the rest of the world) that a giant meteor is going to hit Earth and destroy it and all life is going to be destroyed in x days. And the film is about how everyone in the world reacts to that news. Some people go crazy and start partying and having sex and doing drugs and going crazy. There’s looting, rioting, murder, all of that. Other people, like Carell, just go about their daily lives, because it makes them feel normal and what else are they gonna do? And the film becomes him going on this road trip for his final days, just looking for some sort of connection he can take with him before this is all over. It’s a beautiful metaphor for life and a really sweet movie (even if you do know it’s gonna end with the end of the world).

291. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The sequel, which you have to say up front is not as good as Sicario is. But saying that frees you to just take the film on its own terms and appreciate it for what it is. It’s not directed by Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins did not shoot it, but it is a continuation of the story from the first film, namely with Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro’s characters. They continue their secret war against drugs, kidnapping a drug kingpin’s daughter under the guise of a fake kidnapping. Honestly, don’t focus on the plot so much as the mood and tone and the actors. It’s wonderful. It’s a really solid sequel that’s honestly better than it had any right to be. I just hope they’re able to finish the trilogy and release the third one eventually.

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