Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (180-171)
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:
Of the three ‘regular person decides to become a superhero’ films, this one’s right in the middle in terms of notoriety, between Kick-Ass and Defendor. It’s my personal favorite, just because it’s the most fucked up. James Gunn has a really twisted sense of humor, and completely brings it to bear on this one. It’s about a regular guy whose wife leaves him for Kevin Bacon (as one’s wife would). And, mid-mental breakdown, he has a vision from a local Christian superhero on TV who tells him God has ‘chosen’ him. So, he gets a costume and becomes a masked vigilante. And he goes around town, defending injustice, which for him is all the stuff that annoys him, like people who cut in line. And when he comes across people doing these things, he hits them in the face with a wrench and shouts, “Shut up, crime!” It’s really dark and hilarious. It really gets into what would happen if an actual person chose to do this sort of thing. And it’s got some really fucked up moments — for one, it features the only female-on-male superhero rape scene. And, as you can imagine, with moments of someone hitting another person with an actual wrench… the violence is punctuated when it does happen. It’s… not gonna be for everyone, this movie. It takes a certain sense of humor to go for this. But fortunately, I am one of those people, so I really like this one a lot.
179. The Beach Bum
Harmony Korine’s followup to Spring Breakers. And, having seen that, I had a good idea of what this would look like. And then I found out it’s Matthew McConaughey as a stoner who wanders around Florida, I knew it was gonna be amazing. And sure enough, it’s amazing. The movie is just a series of vignettes of McConaughey, fully in character, just embodying this guy, going around and getting into some shit. Sometimes it feels like he’s just around non-actors and letting stuff happen, and other times they parade celebrities in and he goes scenes with them. Isla Fisher is there as his wife, Snoop Dogg is there as his friend — Linge-Ray — Martin Lawrence shows up, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill plays his agent and does this hilarious southern accent the entire time (oh, and did I mention that McConaughey’s character is a renowned poet and a millionaire?). It’s amazing. And the film is about this guy, seemingly doing absolutely nothing the entire time, having all this great shit just happen to him. He’s one of those people for whom life works out all the time. And it’s just one of those hangout films. It’s got all the gorgeous colors of Spring Breakers and this happy-go-lucky kinda narrative that I love. This is my kind of movie, through and through.
178. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. I suspect just about everyone knows about this movie and most people have seen it. So there’s not much in the way of trying to sell it to you. ‘Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers’ pretty much does all that work for me. So I’ll just say that it’s a lovely film and I feel like, while the story of the journalist having his outlook changed by meeting Mr. Rogers is not the story you’d expect going into this, but it was the right call. I think they did right by having Rogers be a supporting character that pops in and out rather than the focus of the film. Plus there are some really incredible scenes with Chris Cooper as the journalist’s father. It’s one of those movies that’s just really great, really watchable and will leave you feeling happy. And it pairs really well with the documentary about Mr. Rogers, which you know is still to come on this list.
177. The Post
A Tom Hanks two-fer. And Matthew Rhys. This is Steven Spielberg’s film about the Pentagon Papers. It’s mainly about the Washington Post getting their hands on the papers and having to decide whether or not to publish them. And ultimately the film is a love letter to journalism and also about the media standing up a a bully of a president with fascist tendencies who is keeping vital information from and lying to the American public (sound familiar?). But a lot of the film is journalists doing their jobs. And one of the big moments in the film is when Meryl Streep, as the owner of the paper (because this isn’t a huge corporation-owned paper, it’s just a mom and pop paper that really could have gone under if they got the story wrong and their reputation was tarnished), decides to go with the story. It’s a really strong drama, even if it’s not one of Spielberg’s flashiest films and one that’ll be considered among his very, very best.
176. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The first entry in this new Harry Potter spinoff series, centered around Newt Scamander and his array of magical creatures that he studies. It feels a bit like The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings — meant for a younger age — though I always found it odd that she took this angle to tell the story, as it’s clear the story she wants to tell is about Dumbledore and Grindelwald. So, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with future films. But this one as a pure movie… lots of fun. It begins like a 30s screwball comedy, with Scamander and his suitcase getting swapped with another one after he arrives, and him running around trying to get it back (because there are magic creatures inside and it’s in the hands of a muggle). That part is really charming. The rest is a lot of kiddie humor of him running around to get the creatures back, plus them setting the seeds of Grindelwald’s rise to power and basically putting all the same pieces in place as the original franchise with easter eggs to all that stuff that’s to come. Ultimately, it’s a fun film, but no one would ever confuse it with the original Potter films. This isn’t as good as the worst of those, but if you just take it as it is, it is a fun experience that brings you back into the wizarding world once again, after we thought that perhaps we were finished seeing new stuff from it.
175. The Death of Stalin
I love Armando Iannucci. And the beautiful thing about this film is that this, kind of like Hunt for the Wilderpeople for Taika Waititi, is the film that brought him in to the mainstream. He had In the Loop last decade, and that was incredible, but not enough people saw it. Then he had Veep, which everyone knew but not everyone attributed to him. This allowed everyone to put all those pieces together and solidify him as one of those filmmakers whose films are a must watch. This is, as the title suggests, about the death of Stalin, and the political turmoil in Russia that followed it. It is — and I do not exaggerate when I say this — fucking hilarious. I dare you to watch this and not laugh. It’s just an objectively funny movie that is brilliantly written and acted and just one of the real comic delights of the decade. At this point, we know what Iannucci brings to the table. So just see it. It’s one of the best comedies you’ll see.
174. The Lighthouse
Ah yes, the movie that began with the idea of ‘bad things happen when two men are trapped inside a giant phallus’. That was Robert Eggers’ original idea for his sophomore effort. The Witch, as I said earlier on the list, is a really strong debut, filled with great atmosphere and clearly the sign of a terrific filmmaker. So this, as a followup, really follows up on that promise. I remember he was also considering a Nosferatu remake and instead wound up doing this. It’s an incredibly weird and wonderful film that features just Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe on screen (save one other person who only appears very briefly). It’s a bold film. The visuals are so strong it could be told as a silent film with intertitles. I mean, sure, you’d miss Dafoe’s old timey sailor accent and those amazing speeches he gives (and the farting. Oh lord, the farting), but that’s how tightly controlled the look of the film is. It’s a stunning piece of work and one I love going back to just because of the amount of things you could watch it for. I’m so excited to see what Eggers gives us next.
173. The Light Between Oceans
A completely overlooked film, which is mainly for two reasons: 1) melodrama is not a genre that does well in big budget movies, and 2) it’s the final film to be released by both DreamWorks and Disney, as DreamWorks left the agreement for another studio. So Disney basically said ‘fuck you’ and dumped the film over Labor Day for no one to see. That said, it’s a really wonderful film. It’s unabashedly bold and romantic. Michael Fassbender (speaking of lighthouses, from the previous film) plays a lighthouse keeper who falls in love with Alicia Vikander. They marry and start living on the island together. And things are wonderful. Except for the fact that she loses two children in miscarriages and it seems like she may be unable to bear children. But then a miracle happens — a rowboat washes ashore with a baby and a dead man. So they, seeing it as a sign, take the baby in as their own and act as if it was one of the ones she was carrying. And so things are great again… until they find a woman in town who sure seems like the baby they’re raising is her baby. So now of course you have to struggle with the knowledge of that and the guilt of potentially depriving a mother of her child, and the film becomes about the drama between these people and what choices they make in this situation. It’s a tremendous piece of work. Fassbender and VIkander are both terrific, as is Rachel Weisz. Derek Cianfrance directs it beautifull, and Alexandre Desplat has such an incredibly beautiful score (no surprise). Truly one of my favorite films of the decade, and it’s maddening to me that no one’s seen this (and that even if they did, most people probably wouldn’t even care).
Ah yes, this movie. Most people have seen it, most people love it, and it fully ushered in the era of ‘weird Jake Gyllenhaal performances’, a gift that keeps on giving. What I love most about this movie is how much of an unabashed B movie it is. From top to bottom. This would be the second half of a double bill in the 50s, which they’d have put behind some costume drama or musical but ended up being the film that people ended up remembering down the line. It’s exactly what a B movie noir should be — seedy underbelly of a city and focusing on an aspect you don’t really ever hear about, which, here is the people who travel around getting footage of accidents and murders so they can sell it to the local news, who as we know follow the motto ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. So Gyllenhaal, a low rent hustler/thief, takes up this profession and becomes really great at it in a short amount of time, mainly because of a willingness to skirt around the moral and legal and ethical gray areas. And so he enters into an unsavory business partnership with Rene Russo, a news exec desperate to keep her job despite changing times and her advancing age. It’s really great stuff. Gyllenhaal is incredible here and it’s just one of those movies everyone likes. I feel like if you’re just getting into movies now, this is one you’d come across really quickly because it cross lists with everything else you’ve seen already and liked.
I love this movie. This, to me, was always what Bridesmaids should have been and is the better version of that movie. It’s so much darker, so much funnier, and so much less ‘studio raunchy comedy’. And I know people love Bridesmaids, but for me, I vastly prefer this movie to that one. Twice over. It’s about three friends who reunite for their fourth friend’s bachelorette party and wedding. Only, in reality, they never particularly liked her all that much and really only hung out with her to feel better about themselves, but now she’s the first one to get married, which no one would have suspected. Kirsten Dunst is the alpha of the group and is actually the maid of honor (she’s in full active bitch face mode and it’s wonderful). Isla Fisher is the flighty party girl who still hasn’t gotten over her clubbing and binge drinking days and Lizzy Caplan is the one who lives out in LA and is sardonic, indifferent and has the cocaine. And so the three of them go out for a night on the town (as the planned bachelorette party is a little too tame for their tastes) and shit goes a bit sideways. But in a really realistic kinda way. Not some madcap comedy. It’s really wonderful. It’s just a really funny movie with great performances and just a movie I would tell people to watch over Bridesmaids, even though I’m sure only about 10% of people would agree with me that it’s a better film.
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