Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (200-191)
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:
200. Ready Player One
I struggled with this one from when they announced it, since Steven Spielberg is the man who’s created such incredible films for just about 50 years now. And here he was making this movie based on something that openly references his movies. And naturally, I had concerns. And I know instinctively that he’s never made a bad movie and that all his movies are of a certain quality, so I knew it was gonna be fine no matter what, but with someone like him it’s always, “You’ve only got so many left in you, so do I really want this to be one of the ones?” I was nervous. But within 20 minutes, that was all gone. It all made sense to me. The story worked. He didn’t overdo it with the references. Even times when I thought, “There is no way he’s gonna make The Shining work.” And yet, somehow, he does. Can’t say I love that part, but I don’t hate it. And the story is really good and he somehow makes me care more about the VR stuff more than I care about the real world stuff. And I don’t even mind that it’s essentially Willy Wonka and the Video Game Factory. Even that works for me. I’ve rewatched this movie a bunch since it’s come out, and I still really enjoy it. I’m not sure how people look at this one in terms of his entire oeuvre, or if it’s even been considered yet, but I think it’s a really fun movie that does deserve a proper audience (which I’m not sure it currently has).
199. Shutter Island
Ah yes. Martin Scorsese, though it doesn’t always feel like Martin Scorsese. Right? It’s a weird one. He had just done The Departed and won his Oscar, and then all of a sudden this was his followup. (Well, I guess Shine a Light was technically a followup, but that’s just a concert film. This was the first feature he followed it up with.) It felt like an odd choice at the time. He took a Dennis Lehane novel (he also wrote Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone), which doesn’t feel like something he’d adapt and made what I’m assuming he figured would be his Hitchcock film. And it’s awesome. I like it a lot. The cast is amazing — there’s just famous people coming out of the woodwork here — and it’s a fun, twisty little thriller that accomplishes everything you want it to accomplish. I always still just get hung up on, “What’s Martin Scorsese doing making a movie like this?” And then he went and did Hugo and Wolf of Wall Street and Silence and The Irishman and you think, “Those all make sense.” This one still feels like an outlier. But hey. An odd Martin Scorsese film is still better than 90% of all the other stuff that comes out.
198. The Kings of Summer
A fantastic coming of age story that really stands out as one of the best and most charming things I saw this year. It’s a great premise — a bunch of kids in the 80s have rough home lives and decide to just run away and live in the woods together. And that’s the film. They spend the summer in this house they threw together in the middle of the woods, away from their families, in this place that they essentially rule by themselves. It’s pretty awesome, and the movie is really, really good. I cannot recommend this highly enough if you haven’t seen it.
197. Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson makes a war film. As we’ve seen from Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, Mel likes to tell these stories about pacifists that include great violence. This is about a man in World War II who refuses to pick up a weapon because of his religious beliefs. Which is part Sergeant York, only whereas he eventually picked up a weapon and became a decorated soldier, Desmond Doss never did pick up a weapon. And the film tracks Doss from a young age until he was drafted, fighting to serve without carrying a gun, becoming an army medic and getting involved in a hugely bloody battle where he helped save the lives of some insane amount of soldiers. It’s a terrific film. Mel really does a great job directing it and it’s just a really solid film all around.
Bennett Miller has made three films in fifteen years (though really three in ten and hasn’t made a fourth in six years now) and they’re all incredible. Capote, Moneyball, this. Pretty damn good run. This one is the story of two brothers — Mark and Dave Schultz — Olympic level wrestlers, who take an offer to join a wrestling team started by millionaire John du Pont, which puts them in this weird alternate reality of sorts, fueled by du Pont’s money and… well, general weirdness. It’s an incredible film. All three leads — Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell — are incredible and Miller directs the hell out of it. You’d never figure from the outset that this story would be so great, and yet Miller crafts one of the absolute best films of the decade here.
Ah yes, this movie. The original Suspiria is one of my all time favorite movies. I love that movie. And I can’t explain to you why. I hate horror movies, giallo movies don’t particularly do much for me, and I can’t say I’ve particularly loved anything else I’ve seen from Argento as a filmmaker. But Suspiria? Perfect movie. Can’t explain it. So needless to say, when they announced that Luca Guadagnino’s followup to Call Me By Your Name was a remake of Suspiria? One I knew they’d been trying to remake for years and years and originally had David Gordon Green involved with? Honestly it was the most exciting news of the year for me and this was the most anticipated movie of that particular year for me. And man, was I not disappointed.
For fans of the original — this is not that movie. It’s the same broad story, but there’s so much more going on here. This movie isn’t about witches and people getting murdered. This is about sisterhood and about grief and trauma and so many other themes. Once you wrap your head around the different experience, it’s a really intensely rewarding film. You have Tilda Swinton playing three different roles (all in the most Tilda Swinton possible way) and that third act… holy shit though.
194. Animal Kingdom
I remember how excited I was to come across this one a decade ago. Now, after an Oscar nomination for Jacki Weaver, a general knowledge of how good the film is, its director moving on into the mainstream (with The Rover, War Machine and The King) and the movie getting its own hit TV show… I feel like people are generally aware of its existence. Whether or not they actually went and saw it is a different proposition. So here I am to again try to get you to see the awesomeness that is this movie. Also, just so you’re aware if maybe you weren’t — we don’t have Joel Edgerton or Ben Mendelsohn or Jacki Weaver without this movie. Joel Edgerton was completely unknown (and no, the moment in Revenge of the Sith doesn’t count) at the time. Warrior wouldn’t come out until the year after this. Ben Mendelsohn was in The New World and Australia, but let’s not pretend like Americans knew who he was before this. Right after this, he was in Killing Them Softly, The Place Beyond the Pines and The Dark Knight Rises in the same year. And Jacki Weaver went from this to Silver Linings Playbook. You can tell something is really good when everyone immediately starts picking its stars to be in other things.
This movie is about a boy whose mother dies (in front of him, in one of the most striking opening shots of a film I have ever seen) and has to contact his grandmother, who is the matriarch of an Australian crime family his mother had been keeping him away from. So now he starts moving into this world, and it’s an utterly fascinating movie. I can’t imagine someone would see this and not like it. Jacki Weaver especially is so good here. But so is Mendelsohn, so is Edgerton, and you have Guy Pearce to boot. This movie made almost everyone involved, and with good reason. It’s one of the best films of the decade, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should.
193. The Farewell
This is recent and it made a nice splash, so I imagine most people know about this. So this entry is gonna focus on two things. One, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, what is wrong with you, go see it immediately. When a movie is this much of an audience favorite and is 90% in Mandarin there’s clearly something that translates to everyone in it. The second thing I’m gonna focus on is: seriously, this movie is really, really good. This is just to sell it on the people who haven’t seen it/don’t really know much about it. Whoever that may be. The film is based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s actual family, and is about how her family decided not to tell her grandmother that she had cancer. So they created a fake event to get the family all together so they could see her one last time before she died. And it’s incredible. You can feel your own family in this movie, even if your family isn’t Chinese and hasn’t gone through this situation (which… how many people have?). It’s really terrific. I watched this and felt like Nai Nai was my grandmother and could relate to so much of the family stuff here. Honestly, if this came out in the UK, it would have been one of those Four Weddings and a Funeral type hits. And even so, given its budget and the level of release, comparatively it was one of those types of hits. Now we just need it to seep into the regular people who wouldn’t dream of seeing something like this from the outset.
I love Darren Aronofsky. I love how ambitious he is. He’s never not ambitious. Pi, Requiem for a Dream. For a young filmmaker, that’s ambitious. Then The Fountain, which a lot of people consider too ambitious for its own good. Then he went small, made some indies, and gave us The Wrestler and Black Swan. But the minute he had that cache he went and made Noah, which is technically a hugely ambitious film, even if most people understand the story, and then he made this. I don’t know how they allowed this to get made. It’s a giant parable that only becomes obvious about two-thirds into the film, set entirely within a house, and the entire movie is a thriller where you really aren’t sure what’s going on until the movie’s over. And then you have to see it again to fully start to understand just what he did with it. The ambition here is insane. And I respect the shit out of him for that.
The general premise is — Jennifer Lawrence is a new wife who just moved into a new house with Javier Bardem, her husband. She’s working on fixing up the house and making it perfect and beautiful, but then some uninvited guests show up and everything begins to spiral out of control. That’s the broad plot of the movie. That’s not what the movie is. I mean, you can go with that, but it’s hard to sell the movie on just that. You’re going in because it’s Bardem and Lawrence and then Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. If you need a plot, that’s certainly not gonna sell you. But, if you wanna take it further — it’s a parable for Mother Earth and religion. She’s Mother Earth, he’s God and the house is the planet. Adam and Eve show up, then their sons, Cain and Abel, and so on and so forth. She’s pregnant with Jesus… it’s the whole thing. The story is both somehow about what we as a people did to the planet and also about religion in general and the telling of the Bible in a way that feels like a critique on the human race in general and specifically people who are or claim to be religious. It’s really strong stuff. Oh, and did I mention — it takes place entirely inside a house. The most you see is her standing on a porch overlooking a giant field. That’s it. It’s entirely in the one house. And that makes it insane when you get to the third act and see some of the things he pulls off here from a direction and production design standpoint. It’s a hugely ambitious piece of work and not an easy one at that. And movies like this never get their proper due because people never want to work their way through them. People always turn away from films that are difficult or make them think about stuff or do work when they’re watching it. But I loved this. I think it’s an incredible piece of work. Not one of those I’m gonna rewatch a whole bunch, but one I love because of what it tries to do and what it accomplishes from a technical standpoint. This is definitely something to revisit just to make you feel like people do get some stuff made that’s not your typical kind of studio film.
191. Out of the Furnace
I’ve brought up this movie so many times on these lists and anyone who’s read me blather on this site at all over the past seven years knows I consider a scene from this movie as the single best acted scene of its year. So I think it’s well established on where I stand on this one. But, just in case you are somehow coming upon this film for the first time — it’s Scott Cooper’s sophomore feature after Crazy Heart, stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard. That alone should give you enough reason to see it, sight unseen. However, it’s about Bale and Affleck as brothers — Bale’s the stable one. He’s with Saldana and they’ve got a future together, and Affleck is the wayward one. A vet with PTSD, he’s always getting into some trouble that Bale needs to get him out of. And during one of these times, Bale accidentally gets into an accident that kills someone. So he ends up in jail for a certain amount of years. And now he’s out, he’s lost Saldana, he’s lost years of his life essentially for his brother, and now he’s gotta do the same shit, help his brother out once again when he gets into some deep shit with the wrong people. It’s so good. It’s an incredible movie with, as I said, what I consider the best single acted scene of its year. Which is not to say that the entire film has the best acting of the year in it (though the acting is all around great), but I just love that one scene so much, from a writing to a directing to a performance standpoint. I keep bringing it up so often because it’s stuck with me so much over these years.
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