Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (230-221)

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:

230. Knight and Day

This is one of those key movies for me. Because I remember at the time, back when this came out, we were just getting past the ‘weird public Tom Cruise’ era. He had largely been absent from big movies, for the most part. He had War of the Worlds and Mission: Impossible III, then there was Lions for Lambs, which no one saw, Valykrie, which no one really saw, the cameo in Tropic Thunder which was just that, and then this. Ghost Protocol was the one that brought him back and made me go, “Oh yeah, that’s Tom Cruise.” This one — I wasn’t on board with this one when it first came out. And yet, over the course of the decade, going back to it I realized a couple of things — “Oh yeah, that was just before I stopped having firm opinions unrelated to just the films themselves” and “James Mangold doesn’t make a bad movie.” Cruise either, really. But to me, this is more a product of Mangold than anything else. He gets Cruise to play off that screen persona really well and crafts a fun romantic comedy that handles the action stuff really well. I love the concept of it, an action movie from the prospect of not-the-hero. She’s just a random person who ends up involved in all this, and it’s a great idea. They get the most out of it and really use Cruise’s star power to full effect. It’s a really fun movie that, like most of Mangold’s films, is so rewatchable. It’s one I will always remember as being one of those key movies that got me to where I am now in terms of how I approach watching movies and formulate opinions on them. And it’s one I am very happy to say that I was wrong about.

229. Never Let Me Go

This felt like the first great film of the decade that absolutely no one bothered to go see. And since we had nine more years of films come after it, that just meant the pile on top of it only got larger and larger as time went on. The novel it’s based on is terrific and you’ve got this amazing cast here, plus it’s directed by Mark Romanek, who shot so many amazing music videos, most notably Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and also directed One Hour Photo. It’s a fantastic film about three people from childhood at a boarding school into adulthood, as a love triangle develops and we slowly start to learn just what exactly is going on with them and what their ‘purpose’ is in life. It’s beautiful, tragic, and just an incredible film that really should be seen by all.

228. Top Five

Chris Rock has always been a really underrated filmmaker. We know how good he is as a comic, and we’ve seen him be good as an actor. But as a writer-director, he’s flown largely under the radar. The first film he directed was Head of State, which was quite good. Then he made I Think I Love My Wife, which no one saw. Then he made this, which is the closest he’s come to a Woody Allen movie, but his version of one. It all takes place over the course of a day as a famous comedian and actor known for dumb comedies returns to his old neighborhood to promote his upcoming movie, his first ‘serious’ turn as an artist, a film about the Haitian Revolution. And so largely it’s him going around Brooklyn with Rosario Dawson, a journalist, interviewing him for a piece, while also planning his upcoming wedding to a reality TV star. It’s really great. The film is shown in segments and flashbacks (Cedric the Entertainer has an amazing flashback sequence, while a bunch of great comics show up in an apartment scene and then some comics like Jerry Seinfeld show up in a club scene, and there’s perhaps my favorite single film cameo of the decade in this movie, near the end, which I will not spoil for those who haven’t seen it. But it made me almost cry laughing in the theater when it happened), but the heart of the film is just simply two people talking. It’s a film that is stronger than its response (indifferent-to-‘didn’t get it’) would suggest. I really like this one a lot.

227. Arbitrage

Essentially this is a drama about a rich white dude getting away with murder. And somehow, it’s great. It stars Richard Gere (in his best performance of the decade and yet another performance on his list of wholly underrated work that he’s been doing for about 40 years now) as a businessman about to sell his company and get enough money to retire. Only he has to make sure the deal closes and prevent certain dealings from coming to light before they can close. And also, one night while driving home from a party with his mistress, she dies in a car crash. So now he’s gotta get himself out of that too. It’s great. I don’t know how to explain why it’s great, since even if you explained this to me, I’d assume a certain tone and quality of the movie… but trust me. It’s way better than you think. It’s a really strong piece of work and well worth your time.

226. Escape from Tomorrow

A movie that by itself, is just okay. It’s not the quality of the actual film that makes this essential but rather how the film came to exist. Because this is a movie that was shot, completely unlicensed, in Disney World. That is, the entire cast and crew bought season passes to Disney, went into the park, where you are allowed to film so long as it’s on phones and general home video cameras, and shot this movie unbeknownst to anyone working there (and as we all know, Disney has secret park police and the whole thing. They’re militant about this stuff). It’s about a family on vacation in the park and the father slowly having a mental breakdown and losing his mind over the course of the vacation. That’s all you need to know. The fact that they even made everything they made inside the park is worth every frame of the film. The director went to ASIA to edit it because he somehow thought they’d find out and send people after him. They vetted the hell out of it with lawyers before they even showed it at Sundance (which they did with no fanfare because they knew a brush fire would start the minute it screened), and because it is legal to film there, so long as they didn’t use any trademarked imagery or copyrighted music, it was entirely legal. So you have this movie that Disney can’t do anything about that is just out there in the world. I can’t imagine something like this will ever happen again (though I could be wrong. North Korea is the next frontier, of course. Though maybe there are steps in between as well), so really, this is one of those rare gems that exists within the film world like Russian Ark or something, where it’s just so singular that you almost have to see it if you love movies because it’s so far removed from everything else there is.

225. Amour

One of the ten most important foreign films of the decade, easily. It’s a masterpiece about relationships and about aging. Michael Haneke tells this story of a couple in their 80s who have been together 50-60 years, whose love is tested when the wife has a stroke. And so you watch them work through this, and it’s just beautiful. Of course, it’s Michael Haneke, so you know it’s not gonna be overly uplifting in any way, but the film is just incredible and one of those where any film fan should see it, and if you’re at all looking to what the best foreign films of the decade are, this is one you have to see.

224. It Follows

One of the best horror movies of the decade. Most people know it, so I won’t waste too much time. But, as I always say, for me, horror is all about the premise and whether or not I can view whatever supernatural element is in it (if there’s none, even better, but that seems all but impossible nowadays) as a metaphor for something else. Here, it’s pretty clear the ‘it’ is a metaphor for STDs. The premise is revealed after the film’s main character has sex with a dude, who then drugs and kidnaps her, mostly to explain, “Look, now that we had sex, you need to know. There’s this thing that’s now gonna follow you. It will look like any random person you’d see, only they’ll be walking toward you, very slowly and very steadily, no one else can see them, and if they reach you, they will kill you. And the only way to get rid of it is by sleeping with someone else and passing it onto them. And if, by chance, they get killed, then it returns to you.” So the film has this inherently creepy premise of someone following you with intent to kill, and there’s the whole thing about passing along this ‘disease’ willingly to other people in order to get it away from you. It’s really well done, and one of the few horror movies of the decade I will out and out say I really like.

223. From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli, which automatically means it’s amazing and that you should see it if you respect animated film in any way, shape or form. This one’s an overlooked masterpiece, set just before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, about a girl and boy at a school who team up to try to save their school’s clubhouse from being demolished. There’s so much more going on, but that’s the general premise of the film. But honestly, you don’t even need a plot for Ghibli. You know what you’re getting with them. It’s always gonna be incredible.

222. In the Shadow of the Moon

I must have talked about this movie three or four times now over the course of these articles, and I really hope that someone took notice over the course of these entries. The movies I get most excited talking about are the ones I perceive as hidden gems that I’ve discovered and loved when it seems no one else has even noticed. And then I get to share them with other people, knowing that a good portion of them are gonna come out going, “Oh my god, that was amazing.” Sometimes you just know a good movie when you see one. And this is one of those. I just know people will enjoy this one if they actually take the time to see it. And it’s a Netflix Original, so you can. Easily. The film begins with a standard ‘young cop on the beat’ sequence. Like Training Day. Guy leaves his very pregnant wife to do the midnight to eight shift with his partner. He’s trying to get promoted but is stuck driving around, picking up drunks and minor stuff. Then, out of nowhere, like four people suddenly die all at the same time and there’s one suspect that seems to be behind all of it (implausibly). So he decides, “I’m gonna investigate this.” Even though he’s just a patrolman. So we follow him investigating and eventually finding and chasing the suspect. And then the situation gets resolved and life goes on. Then we come back to nine years later. And it happens again. And he, having not fully moved on from this moment (because it’s really the singular moment in his life), is all over it. This person, who by all rights should not be doing this, is doing it. And then the movie becomes this movie about this one guy’s obsession with figuring out just what the hell it’s all about. You know there’s something going on, and watching the movie slowly put all those pieces together is really entertaining. It’s a really well-made film and one of the best Netflix has ever put out. I really urge people to go see this, because of all the crap Netflix does also put out, this is worth your time more than almost any of that other stuff, whether you end up loving it as I do or not.

221. Loving

Such a beautiful, tender film. And yet another unfortunate casualty of a film not being ‘baity’ enough. The story is one that ought to have been told before on the screen, about the Loving v. Virginia case that helped legalize interracial marriage in the United States. Most filmmakers, with this story, would make it this big, stirring film with a big score and uplifting ‘movie’ moments — you can just imagine how it would go. But here, the film is in the hands of Jeff Nichols, who makes movies like Take Shelter and Mud. His filmmaking style is to focus on the small stuff. So instead of this big movie, he shows you their relationship from a very personal level. There are no ‘big’ moments in the film. The big Supreme Court case isn’t really even shown on screen. The climax of the movie is a simple phone call. And I think the film’s dedication to the normalcy of everything rather than the big cinematic stuff is what kept people from truly flocking to it. But it’s a really incredible piece of work, and I really think everyone ought to have seen this one. Not even for Nichols himself, who has established himself as a filmmaker whose work demands attention. It’s just the fact that it’s really good. I know there’s a lot out there, but for anyone who says they love film to willingly ignore a good movie is something I just cannot understand.

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