Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (190-181)
So, here are my 500 favorite films of 2010-2019:
190. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
One of the absolute best hidden gems of the decade, and based on one of those stories that I think most movie people know: it’s based on the urban legend of the Japanese woman who died in Minnesota, with reports saying she went there because she thought the sack of money buried in Fargo was actually real and went to look for it. It’s directed by the Zellner brothers and has a Fargo-like sense of humor to it. It’s weird and wonderful and features a terrific performance from Rinko Kikuchi. It’s so great and is one of those real treats of a film that I hope people come upon at some point.
189. The Old Man and the Gun
If this is the cinematic swan song for Robert Redford (and all signs point to it being that), it’s a really fitting finale. It’s just one of those really low-key, cool films, going out with class and not with a bang. The film is based on the story of a real guy, a seventy-year-old man who kept robbing banks. And that’s the film, nice older gentleman who goes into banks and robs them and keeps eluding the cops. Redford gets to use all his charm and screen presence in all the right ways, and you just get this really lovable little movie. It doesn’t care about the bank robberies — the ‘big’ job that gets pulled in the middle of the film… we don’t even see it happen. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s not that kind of movie. There’s such charm here and such a great hand behind it in David Lowery, who crafts this beautiful love letter to Redford as a movie star. I really love this movie quite a bit and hope people start to discover it, because it really is one of Redford’s best.
188. Before Midnight
This franchise is so great. I love how Richard Linklater has taken to crafting these pieces that exist through time. He started with this story, releasing an entry every 9 years (1995, 2004, 2013… fingers crossed for 2022), then did Boyhood and is now doing Merrily We Roll Along. This one though… it’s beautiful. It started as this nice story of two people meeting on a train and then spending a day together with the knowledge that they’d probably never see each other again. And then they continue it nine years later with them meeting again. And now we check in with them again, nine years later. It’s beautiful. These movies are such a treat when we get them. Because it’s both the characters and the actors. It’s a snapshot of these people’s lives, and Linklater has always had a way of making the mundane feel special. So there’s something really special about coming back into these people’s lives and seeing what they’re up to.
187. Seven Psychopaths
Somehow, from the moment it came out, this was destined to be the ‘lost’ Martin McDonagh film. Sandwiched between In Bruges and Three Billboards, both of which got lots of acclaim and are generally loved. This one… no one really saw it. I imagine it has a fair amount of fans owing to the cast and the fact that it’s Martin McDonagh, but I don’t get the sense that people care about this as much as they care about the other two. And I’m not sure why, because it’s awesome, just like all his other stuff. Colin Farrell plays a screenwriter with writer’s block who is friends with two guys who steal dogs and return them to their owners for rewards for a living. And they get into some shit when they steal the beloved dog from an unstable crime boss who becomes hell bent on getting it back. And it’s a typical McDonagh comedy with hilarious moments, great dialogue and fantastic performances. Sure, it maybe doesn’t hold up as well as the other two do, but it’s just as worth seeing and just as entertaining.
186. The Guest
I love this movie. I’ve talked about it a bunch and I hope maybe it’s done some good to getting some people to check it out. It’s a really fantastic piece of work. I guess you could classify it as horror, but if anything it’s more of a thriller with horror-type elements. But it doesn’t feel strictly like horror to me. It starts with a setup you’ve seen before and will immediately identify as ‘I know where this is going’. And that’s good. The movie wants you to think that. It’s about a grieving family who lost their son in Iraq who get a knock on the door. It’s another soldier. “I served with your son,” he says. “And I promised him that I’d check in on his family after he died.” So of course they have him come stay, and what is supposed to be just a day or two turns into an indefinite stay. And pretty soon the entire family (save the daughter) is in love with him. Great things seem to be happening to them — the dad’s boss wouldn’t give him a promotion, but he surprisingly died and now the dad got his job! And we, as an audience, clearly know what’s going on and keep waiting for that other shoe to drop. And then it does. And holy shit does it drop. This movie takes the turn we were expecting… and then another turn, and another one. And by the time you reach the third act, you have no idea how you got to where we got, but you don’t care because it’s so goddamn fun. I was laughing gleefully at some of the anarchy of the third act, and then they boil it down to a really tense chase sequence and a final moment that’s just a cherry on top of the whole experience. It’s an amazing movie that reminds you of why you love movies. It’s the kind of movie meant to be watched around people. This is everything I want out of a filmgoing experience.
185. The Disaster Artist
The Room is, as we all know, a cult classic. I remember when the film started gaining traction as this insane thing you had to watch. And now it’s become its own Rocky Horror, with midnight screenings and people throwing spoons at the screen and just something that feels like a rite of passage for everyone who gets into movies. And here we are with this movie, which felt like a joke all while they were making it. It’s based on Greg Sistero’s book about the making of The Room, and has James Franco and all his friends recreating all these people and these scenes. And it’s just a joyous experience. The entire movie is worth it for the montage at the end where they do a split screen of the actual scenes and the actors recreating them. And it’s incredible. The entire film is incredible. It only works in its purest form if you’ve seen The Room and at least have a little bit of an affinity toward it. But on its own, it’s still this crazy movie with weird ass scenes (“Stella!”) and great moments that’ll make you go, “Holy shit, did this actually happen?” It’s so good.
184. Bone Tomahawk
S. Craig Zahler came out of nowhere to make one of the best horror films of the decade. What a piece of work this is. You know how, in Apocalypse Now, there’s this sense of increasing doom as he gets closer and closer to Kurtz? That’s the mood in this film. It’s a horror-western about a group of cannibals that kidnap some people from a town, so the sheriff and his posse go out in search of them. And the majority of the film is their journey as they get closer to encountering the cannibals. And when they do… holy shit. The first 2/3 of the film is engaging and really strong. But that final act, when they get to the caves, my god. It’s some really intense shit. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. It’s such a treat.
183. Wreck-It Ralph
I’ve generally been critical of Disney moving entirely into the realm of CGI as opposed to hand-drawn animation. But what I can’t argue with is the quality of some of the films that have been released this decade that use it. This movie… I wouldn’t think I’d care about it from the outset. This feels antithetical to the kind of Disney movie I’d expect them to put out. Especially with them coming off Tangled and Winnie the Pooh. And yet… this is an incredible film. It’s about a video game arcade villain who hates the fact that he’s a villain and everyone hates him. He wants to be the hero. So he leaves his game in search of one where he can be a hero. And it’s just a really wonderful story. They have great references to other games and most of all, a story with heart. By the end of this movie when the entire narrative comes together, you really care about it. The joy of a great Disney movie is when it actually makes you cry. And usually that reaction is reserved for Pixar alone, but they achieve it with this one. It’s a beautiful film.
Steve McQueen. Michael Fassbender. They’d made Hunger together, and that was a film that got Fassbender a career (he booked Inglourious Basterds right after it), but this is the one that really put him on the map as an actor. It’s an incredible performance. And McQueen again proves what a fantastic filmmaker he is, which most people knew from Hunger and then this film but then everyone knew by the time he made 12 Years a Slave. This film, though — it’s the story of a successful Manhattan man who is also a sex addict. And that’s the film. His sex and porn addiction and his relationship with his sister, who’s got issues of her own. So the film is largely Fassbender and then Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, who is also incredible here. It’s a drama you wouldn’t think you’d be as invested in as you are, and it’s one of the best films of the decade.
181. St. Vincent
This is a movie that, when I saw it I went, “How come this hasn’t caught on yet?” I knew instantly this was gonna be one of those really charming movies that most people would enjoy if they saw it that was gonna be so rewatchable. The kind of movie people discover when it’s on TV and you just put it on and start watching no matter what point it’s at. And yet… I’m not sure most people ever bothered to see this. It’s the debut of Ted Melfi, who right after this would make Hidden Figures, which is a similar film that’s also very rewatchable and great. It stars Bill Murray as a very Bill Murray type character — a grumpy dude who lives in Brooklyn who drinks, smokes, regularly hires a Russian prostitute and generally just doesn’t give a fuck. And he ends up befriending the lonely kid next door and taking him under his wing, teaching him stuff you’d never teach a kid that age. Really charming film, very much a character piece and coming of age film. It’s the kind of script that could be very schmaltzy and cheesy, and you can see elements of how the film could go that way, but it never feels like it. The film never allows itself to give into those instincts. And that’s why I like it. It just is. It’s really entertaining. Murray, as always, is awesome, and Naomi Watts is great and you’ve just got these really fun moments along with some great stuff along the way that’s a lot more complex than you might think of a narrative like this. I really love this one.
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