Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (280-271)
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:
280. Pacific Rim
This movie is to me, the ultimate testament to Guillermo Del Toro’s abilities as a filmmaker. Because… it’s just a monster movie. People in giant Gundam suits fighting giant monsters. That’s it. The scale to which you can make that movie — from Godzilla to Z-grade movie to cable TV movie to what he made. Just look at the sequel, which he didn’t make, to see the drop-off in quality when he’s not involved in a story. It’s the overall level of artistry he brings to it that makes it truly worthwhile. There’s a beauty to this that it would have otherwise lacked with a director who didn’t care so much about every facet of the film. So, yes, this is not the most complicated movie ever made… but it’s also awesome. And I love it.
The ‘lost’ Ken Lonergan film. He’s only made three films to this point, and arguably the only one most people could tell you about is Manchester by the Sea. But maybe some film people would know You Can Count on Me. Less people could tell you about this one. Because he shot it in the mid-2000s and lawsuits over length of cut and things like that delayed the film until 2011. And when it did come out, it basically got dumped out in theaters and so few people even managed to see it. And then like a year and a half after that, once everything was cleared up, he put out his own director’s cut. But still. So few people have seen it relative to how many people should have. It’s, like Manchester by the Sea, a study in grief. Only here it’s more of a coming-of-age story. Anna Paquin plays a high schooler who, while out and about having fun one day, begins flirting with a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), which distracts him and leads to him running over a woman (Alison Janney) in the street. And the film is about the aftermath of this crash and what it means to all involved, specifically Paquin. It’s terrific. It’s a movie about people and how people face problems. And it’s beautiful. It’s one of those movies I’d deem essential for all people who love movies from this decade.
Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien 33 years after Alien. I wasn’t sure why he’s felt the need to go back over these stories, but at least his films always have a certain quality to them and wind out being completely watchable. Here, you get the birth of the story that would become Alien. Big cast of famous people, similar scenes that you’d expect, that slow build to people getting killed. It’s fun. It’s fine. It’s nowhere near Alien, but nothing can be. So you just go along for the ride and enjoy yourself. That’s all this is.
277. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
When they announced the return of Star Wars, the one movie that they did announce where all of us went, “Oh fuck yeah,” was this one. Because no matter what you feel about the new trilogy… this movie tends to be pretty overall liked. Because it’s the story anyone who’s watched the Star Wars movies has thought about in their own mind — just how did the rebels get the Death Star plans to put into R2 to send to Leia at the beginning of the movie? And that’s what this is? You follow a cast of characters, all of whom you know are doomed, and show how the plans ended up being stolen, eventually leading to the end of the first movie. It’s pretty awesome. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are great, you have the introduction of some interesting characters, and you get some old ones, like Vader, who get some nice screen time. They even CGI Moff Tarkin because they could. It’s not even all that distracting either. It’s a really fun movie. Sure, the one downfall is that it feels like the 2010s version of this story instead of the 1970s version, but let’s face it… Star Wars has always been a prisoner to technological advances. Just watch the original trilogy for that. So I get it. Story-wise, this is one of the most satisfying ones they’ve made.
276. Sausage Party
Ah yes, the movie based off a filthy pun. I can’t believe they got the money to make this. And I’m thrilled they did. This is a movie that 100% came about because Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg got high and thought, “What do you think food thinks when we eat it?” And so they pitched it and here we are. And it’s the story of food learning what it’s ‘true’ purpose is. And it’s so fucked up. I love it. Getting Alan Menken to score it was a stroke of genius as well. I don’t even know what to say about this movie except that it’s awesome, it’s hilarious and it’s a good example that animated film isn’t just a medium to make children’s movies.
Ah yes, Martin Scorsese goes religious. He’s made almost as many religious films as he has gangster movies. But people seem to forget that and also seem to overlook them. Not to say they necessarily shouldn’t, as this trilogy, Last Temptation, Kundun and this, is the set of films of his I return to least (save made After Hours). But still, it’s Scorsese. And it’s nice to see him indulge his spiritual side once in a while. This is the story of two Jesuit missionaries, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, who go into Japan to go find their mentor (Liam Neeson), who has gone missing during his mission to bring Christianity to Japan. And this is back when Christians were getting murdered for their beliefs. So it’s not the easiest journey. And mostly you’re following them on these gorgeous islands and seeing people get tortured and killed as they have more of a spiritual journey as much as they have an actual one. And it becomes a bit of a spiritual Heart of Darkness. At least, that’s how it felt to me. It’s not a movie where you are necessarily following the destination so much as supposed to be following the meaning along the way. But, it looks great, it clearly means something to Scorsese and it’s a really great piece of work. Everything the man makes is required viewing for anyone into film and this is no different.
274. The Muppets
Remember how charming this was? I mean, sure, as the decade’s gone on, it’s become a movie that’s more about how much Jason Segel loves the Muppets as much as it’s a Muppet movie, but before this, there weren’t any Muppet movies getting made, and now we’ve got two from this decade and a show and they’re back to being culturally relevant again. So there’s that. I was in on this movie from when they posted that first teaser trailer, where they made it look like a generic rom com with Segel and Amy Adams, and then all of a sudden started going over the cast and then started confusedly naming Muppets. And that’s the kind of playful creativity these movies should have. And it’s just a nice time with old friends. That’s what every Muppet movie should be.
273. The Lost City of Z
Ah, yes, James Gray’s attempt to make his own Aguirre. That’s what this is. It was a major step up for him, in terms of pure filmmaking. Everything he’d made before this were small movies set in New York. And now he’s in the Amazon. It’s the story of a real-life explorer who set out to find a mythical city of gold. And we follow him over the course of several expeditions over many years and on his journeys. It’s not as steeped in obsession as Aguirre is, but it’s definitely the story of a man determined to find an answer even at the expense of all else. It’s a nice stepping stone for Ad Astra, which is a good comp for this. Because when you saw Ad Astra, it felt reminiscent of other movies of its ilk (what I mean is, it wore its cinematic influences on its sleeve and you kinda knew where everything would go, even if the ride was fun) but felt like James Gray’s version of those movies. And I like that. Sometimes a movie is great just because you’re watching a genre be interpreted by a particular filmmaker. And that’s the joy I get from this one. Gray is a filmmaker whose become someone you should watch, and I fear that so few film lovers have bothered to take the time to watch this one. Which is a damn shame, because it’s wonderful.
272. The Perfection
One of the best Netflix movies out there. I put this on, expecting a forgettable thriller, and within 40 minutes, was stunned. I actually had to pause for a second at one point and recalibrated my attention span because I realized — “Oh fuck, this is the real deal.” Because all I’d seen was that cover photo with Allison Williams looking evil, clearly playing off Get Out. But the reality of the film is so, so different from what you think you’re getting. It’s directed by Richard Shepherd, who gave us such awesome hidden gems as The Matador, The Hunting Party and Dom Hemingway, and it’s about a child prodigy musician who is forced to abandon her studies at a prestigious music academy when her mother gets sick. And then, over a decade later, after her mother dies, she returns to see the student who took her place, playing in a big recital. And that’s all you need. Just start with that and go from there. Because I guarantee you will not be able to guess where this movie goes from there. I thought I knew where it was going, and then it went there, and then it went somewhere else, and somewhere else and somewhere else. Just go with it. There’s a 20 minute section in this movie that’s among the most tense I have ever seen. I’m telling you, you don’t know what you’re in for with this, and it’s great. It’s one of the best hidden gems of the decade, and it’s sitting right there for everyone to watch. Don’t miss out on it.
Ah, yes. There has to be one Nicolas Cage movie every handful of years that reminds us of why we love him. Because if he just made paycheck movies that went straight to VOD that weren’t very good, we’d all dismiss him (or rather, the rest of you would dismiss him. I’m ride or die. Never gonna disengage the Cage). This is the kind of movie we all want from him. The movie where the filmmaking is of a level to the performance he gives. Most of the time the movies are generic and his performances are muted and not really trying. Occasionally there’s a good one or two, but there’s nothing of this level out there that everyone can rally around. But fortunately we have Panos Cosmatos (son of George, who directed Tombstone), who takes a simple revenge story and turns it into a beautiful acid trip of a movie. It’s a pretty simple story — man and a woman live in perfect happiness… until a cult leader notices her and has designs on her. And so they kidnap and kill her, and then the man has to go murder everyone. Pretty simple stuff. But… when you make it look like this and add this level of artistry and insanity to it, the result is special. I can name drop about two-dozen moments from this one, so I’ll just leave it at… go see this movie. It’s insane and it’s wonderful and it’s the Cage you want to see. It reminds you of what great things can come when he gets the right material and can properly channel his acting energies.
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