Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (270-261)

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:

270. Stronger

Great David Gordon Green film. He made his career making character-based indies, then diverted a bit into stoner comedies and now seems to be making Halloween movies. But the basis for his status as a director is character-based dramas. And this is a return to those. It’s about the guy who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon. But rather than being about the incident, it’s about his relationship with his girlfriend and his family. It’s very much rooted in these people (and Boston, naturally). You know how The Fighter is about this family and all the boxing almost feels incidental even though it’s the point of the movie? That’s kind of what this is like. It’s a really strong film. Continues Jake Gyllenhaal’s incredible performance streak of this decade (and somehow almost all of them feel underseen) and also has a great supporting performance by Tatiana Maslany as well. This movie is better than you ever think it could be.

269. Black Mass

Ah, speaking of Boston. Different, but still. This is Scott Cooper’s Whitey Bulger movie. Most people know it because of Johnny Depp and the makeup. But the overall cast is amazing and Cooper has this amazing resume of films to this point (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, this and Hostiles). While the film is ultimately kind of repetitive — it feels like the same sequence done over and over… Depp is charming and everything is light, then someone says something, he goes, “What did you say?” And before you know it he’s murdered that person. That’s how it goes. Of course there’s more than that, and while that is the case with the film… it is a really compelling scene to be shown over and over again. Great set of famous faces and character actors here, and ultimately just a really strong movie. It’s hard not to like these gangster pictures when they’re made well like this.

268. Magic Mike XXL

The rare sequel that, to me, is better than the original. They’re on a par, and it ultimately comes down to preference, but I love this sequel. This cut out all the stuff I didn’t like as much about the original — namely the dark stuff with the younger stripper getting into drugs. Here, they dispense with all that. It’s fun and light from the get go, and is ultimately a road trip movie of all these guys reuniting to go to a big stripper convention. It’s incredible. They cut out a plot and gave everyone exactly what they came to see. And it’s so much fun. It’s worth it entirely for the convenience store scene where Joe Manganiello dances to “I Want It That Way.”

267. The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance’s followup to Blue Valentine. And while that film didn’t get quite as many eyeballs on it as it should have, people generally knew it. So, for a lot of people, his followup to that was highly anticipated. And what we got is this crime saga that’s told in three distinct chapters, and I’m not sure that’s what people were expecting. You assume this is Ryan Gosling’s movie, but it isn’t. The first third is Gosling. He’s a motorcycle stunt driver who starts robbing banks. Then the middle section focuses on Bradley Cooper, who is the cop assigned to take Gosling down. And then the third section is about Dane DeHaan, Gosling’s son. It’s a strong movie. I like the first two thirds more than I like the final third, but overall it’s a really strong drama with a great cast and proves that Cianfrance is a filmmaker to be reckoned with (which he proved again with The Light Between Oceans and the more recent I Know This Much Is True).

266. Bleed for This

Incredible boxing movie. Boxing movies typically are always watchable and usually come out solid. That is, if they’re of a certain caliber of production value. It’s rare for one this good to fall between the cracks as it has. It’s by Ben Younger, who you may know as the guy who made Boiler Room, a movie that’s become this cult classic that everyone seems to know and like. He made one movie in the 16 years between the two films (Prime, the movie with Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman where Meryl is Uma’s shrink and doesn’t realize Uma’s dating her son). This is based on the real story of a boxer and champion who gets in a car crash and breaks his neck. Naturally, his career is over, right? Wrong. And that’s the film. Him training while still in traction to get back in the ring again, even though doctors would be happy if he could somehow walk again. It’s awesome. Miles Teller is utterly committed and continues his string of performances that are stronger when he’s under physical duress (see also: Whiplash) and the film also does that ‘Fighter’ thing where it’s as much about the characters as it is the story and the boxing. They’re all Italians from Providence, so there’s a lot of ‘family’ stuff going on. And you have Aaron Eckhart with full beer gut and shaved back hairline. It’s a movie you will enjoy. Trust me on that. It’s a shame this isn’t up there as much as The Fighter is, because it’s of that ilk and is one of the best sports movies we’ve gotten this decade.

265. Winnie the Pooh

Weirdly forgotten Disney movie. It feels like when they get on their runs of great films, there’s always one movie that sort of slips through unnoticed among the others. Like how technically The Rescuers Down Under counts as part of the Disney Renaissance, because it was released the year between Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. This was from 2011, which is after the run of Bolt, Princess and the Frog and Tangled and right before Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. It’s nestled right in there, totally neglected. And it’s lovely. They’ve only released one Pooh movie before, which was a compilation of two previously-released shorts and one new segment for the film, so it’s not a proper Disney movie, even though technically it is part of their canon. This is pretty much just that. It’s only about an hour long and for children under 7. It’s for really young kids, but it’s lovely. It’s hard not to be charmed by a Winnie the Pooh story. This one’s particularly fun, as it’s about the gang freaking out because one day Christopher Robin is gone and he leaves a note saying he’ll be ‘back soon’, but because no one can read and Owl misreads it, they read “Backson,” which they somehow interpret as this evil beast that lives in the woods that has Christopher Robin hostage. So they set off to go get him back. And mostly it’s just a series of all the stuff you’d expect from them. It looks stunning, and it’s just a nice little movie. I get that it’s not like anything else they put out during this time and you have to really be into the younger stuff to care, but it is still a very lovely movie.

264. Joy

The fourth film in David O. Russell’s series that begins with The Fighter, then follows with Silver Linings and American Hustle. He got into that Terrence Malick groove of realizing, “Oh, this style is fun and I like it,” and so he kept trying to go back to it. And in a way you got a bit of diminishing returns. Which isn’t to say this film is bad so much as it’s to say that by the time he gets to this one, you kinda get it and you’re not getting a whole lot more out of it that you did in the previous ones. But it’s still really good. Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a real woman who went from struggling housewife to Home Shopping Network queen after she invents a Miracle Mop that can self-wring. So the film begins with her backstory and how she gets to where she is. Edgar Ramirez is her husband, Robert De Niro is her father, Virginia Madsen is her mother, Diane Ladd is her grandmother, Isabella Rossellini is her stepmother. And you just follow her life until she invents this mop and turns it into success (with the help of Bradley Cooper, producer at the TV station). It’s fun. The story is almost completely inconsequential and you’re just watching these actors do the thing again that you’ve seen before. But it’s fun. I feel like if he made another one right on top of this it would have fallen totally flat. This one holds together, but it’s clear the magic is wearing thin. Still, it’s really good and is completely worth seeing. I like it a lot. Just… view it like Godfather III, a movie that on its own is very good, but it’s when you compare it to what came before it that you start thinking of it negatively.

263. Piercing

I love this movie. This is a pure grindhouse movie and they don’t even hide it. The opening credits basically tell you that straight off the bat. It’s based on a Ryu Murakami graphic novel (he also wrote Audition, FYI) and begins with a man holding an ice pick over his infant daughter, struggling with an intense desire to kill. He decides to channel his rage by going to a hotel under the pretense of a business trip, hiring a hooker and then murdering her. And he’s planned this out very thoroughly. Of course, the minute the prostitute gets there, nothing goes as planned. It’s… it’s only about 85 minutes, the film, and the best way for me to describe it is the perfect second half of a double feature with Phantom Thread. Just gonna leave it at that. It’s really great and one of those movies I cannot recommend you see highly enough. And just in case you think it’s gonna be graphic, know that the most horrific shit that happens is stuff you don’t see. There’s a scene where he’s going over his plan for killing the hooker and he mimes what’s gonna happen. And the sound effects actually made me cringe. Nothing else later on is as bad as that, I felt. It’s more weird than icky in terms of violence. I think it’s very much worth your time.

262. Sorry to Bother You

Ah yes. This was a phenomenon when it came out. Everyone felt like they were all over this (the social media crowd that is. You can’t expect old white people to go see this. They wouldn’t understand it) when it was out. And it’s amazing. Boots Riley’s ‘fuck capitalism’ movie that also has shades of all sorts of social issues that are currently at the forefront of society. It’s great. Lakeith Stanfield is a broke guy living in his uncle’s garage who get a job at a calling center and soon becomes really successful because he discovers his ‘white voice’. Pretty soon he’s a VIP and is meeting with the head of the company (tech billionaire Armie Hammer, who may have some nefarious plan that involves indentured servants working for him), meanwhile all his coworkers and friends have decided to strike and boycott the company and protest unfair wages and working conditions, so he becomes torn between both sides. It’s… amazing. It’s so good. I suspect most people have seen it or know about it, so there’s not much for me to do here except to say, if you haven’t seen it, you probably wanted to and just didn’t, but you should becuase it’s very much worth your time.

261. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The middle film, and arguably the best put together of the three. Which isn’t saying much. The first one feels the most like the original trilogy and the third one is mostly incoherent battles. This one, while very weird in terms of where they chose to end it and start it, does have some cool stuff in it. Also too long, the films didn’t need to be a trilogy, and too much CGI, but also… it’s for kids. It’s for younger viewers than the original trilogy was, and I like Middle Earth, so it’s hard for me to get too upset with it. The Smaug sequence is a lot of fun, even though there’s no Gollum in it like in the first one. And it’s more time in a world I enjoy seeing on screen. So I’ve got a soft spot for this trilogy even though, sure, like everyone else, give me the original films over these any day.

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