Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (160-151)
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:
160. John Wick
The O.G. And I mean both the film and Wick himself. It’s such a great premise. On two fronts. On the basic front of — hitman goes out for revenge after asshole steals his car and kills his dog — and then with the incorporation of the whole secret society of contract killers and the Continental and the whole thing. That’s what allowed this to become a franchise rather than a one-off, badass action movie. But it’s so good. They’ve added the bells and whistles and completely escalated the things that happen in these movies, but the original has such a simple charm to it and still sort of remains the best one. Plus, at this point, you just watch them in order because it’s almost impossible to watch one and not want to watch the others. So the ranking is kind of irrelevant for all of them because they’re all amazing. It’s like Mission: Impossible. I ranked three this decade, but you know what you’re getting there. The entry is just to remind all of us of how great it is.
159. You Were Never Really Here
One of the most surprising great films of the decade. I mean, Joaquin, since he came back to acting with The Master (after the I’m Still Here detour) has been very picky about his projects and generally has picked very good stuff. So that mixed with Lynne Ramsey directing (this being her first film since We Need to Talk About Kevin) let me know the movie was gonna be of a certain quality regardless, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be what it was. Because the film is based on a novella and the premise is something… it lends itself to being very Liam Neeson-y. That’s the tone you’d get probably 8 out of 10 times you made this movie with a different filmmaker. But here, you get something so different. So evocative. You don’t even really notice the limitations in budget and scope of story. The film is not completely even interested in the violence, because most of those sequences are either shown in a way that’s removed from the audience (on security cameras, etc) or just straight up not shown. It’s incredibly well done. The plot, in case you don’t know, is about Phoenix is a man with his own trauma who rescues girls who have been captured for sex trafficking. He’s very underground, gets his jobs through a contact at a local store, and just goes out and does things in a vigilante style, brutally and swiftly. And the film is about him getting involved in a bit of a larger conspiracy that goes much higher than it normally would. Only, like I said, when you think of a plot like that, you expect a much bigger scope of movie. But this movie is very much the ground level of things. A fistfight in a kitchen, that sort of thing. But it’s incredible. I love that it doesn’t take any of the pitfalls and routes that I’d expect to see in a movie like this. Lynne Ramsey directs the hell out of it and it’s one of the more exciting efforts I saw this decade. I hope people go out and see this one.
Bong Joon Ho. Yeah, buddy. He’s made three movies this decade and all are in the top 160. This movie is so incredible. It’s such a metaphor for consumerism and the environment and the moral depravity of mega corporations. It begins with a company creating a genetically modified super pig that is meant to stop world hunger. They are beginning with test subjects that are sent to farmers all around the globe. And after a certain period of time, they’re gonna have a ‘contest’ whereby the farmer with the largest pig will win and get some sort of money and fame or whatever. And then we focus on one particular farmer, in Korea, where his daughter has become best friends with the pig. She’s grown up around the pig and it’s really her only friend. But then, the corporation shows up to look at the pig and finds that it’s the biggest. So now they’re gonna transport the pig to New York, which means away from the girl. So she’s determined not to let that happen. And so she goes on an adventure to get her friend back, which leads to all sorts of other stuff. It’s really amazing. There’s so many different layers going on here. But you’ve also got Jake Gyllenhaal playing an incredible character of a wildlife nature documentary host (which a somehow perfect accent), Tilda Swinton as the head of the corporation (I spent about 2/3 of the movie wondering where the extra shoe was in terms of this being a ‘Tilda’ character… and then they reveal it and you go, “Oh, okay, that makes sense.”) But there’s just so much humor and adventure and heart and also the movie has something to say. It’s the total package. It’s so great. And now that people know who Bong Joon Ho is, if they haven’t seen this yet they have all the reasons in the world to go back and check it out.
The one film on this entire list that I am 99% certain that, unless you read about it here (or happen to live in France) you probably know nothing about it. I happened to come across it by chance at one point, didn’t think much of it when I put it on, and came out thinking it was hilarious. I’m pretty sure this is nearly impossible to see, so I’ll keep this brief, but I just have such fond memories of watching this movie that it needed to go fairly high for me on this list. The premise is very much something you’ve seen before: guy working a desk job, wants to get somewhere and show his boss his stuff. The boss, self-centered, doesn’t give a shit. But, he needs a babysitter for his kid while he goes to get an award. So he tells the guy, “I’ll look at your stuff if you do this.” Problem is, guy’s birthday is that weekend and his friends are determined to help him celebrate (especially since the girl he’s had a crush on is gonna come to the party). So they bring the party to the boss’s house. And shit gets crazy. It’s not reinventing any wheels, but it’s a very short movie (80 minutes) and moves. The movie works in about 15 minute chunks and changes gears every time, in really fun ways. I was watching it with subtitles but the humor completely translated and it got me to laugh in places I just was not expecting whatsoever. I’ve shown this to a bunch of people over the years and must have seen this about a dozen times in the past five years and it’s still funny to me. And each person I’ve showed this to has come out surprised at how funny it was. But it’s really not something that is easily seen, so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.
I love this movie. Because it’s literally just Tom Hardy in a car for 90 minutes. That’s it. That’s the movie. He’s in the car, driving to an unknown destination, and through a series of phone calls he has during the trip, you start to find out what’s going on, where he’s going and what the circumstances of the trip are. It’s a one-man show, and it reminds us that Tom Hardy is one of the finest actors we have. It’s just one of those really great movies because it’s contained, it’s simple, it’s not trying to trick you in any way and it’s different from everything else out there so it’s easy to remember. I love movies like this.
One of my favorite gems of the decade. I love this movie. And no one’s seen it. The film is based on Christine Chubbuck, a news anchor who killed herself live on the air in I think 1974. And the film is about her and her mental state in the time leading up to that fateful broadcast. It’s a slow burn of seeing her with clear issues and watching them start to bubble to the surface and take over her mental state and her work. It features what I feel is the single best acting performance of its year by Rebecca Hall and one of the best acting performances of the decade. It’s incredible, and it’s one of those movies that isn’t so much about where it’s going (since if you know the story, you know how it ends) but rather how they show you the steps to how it got there. And that all falls on the great writing and directing and Hall’s absolute stunner of a performance. Truly an incredible film that deserves a wider audience. If you’re looking for a great character piece to watch, this is definitely a film for you.
I’ve always loved the Rocky franchise. Even when it’s not at its best (V), it’s still entertaining. But then Stallone came back with Balboa in 2006, and that was really entertaining. And you figured, “Okay, the character’s done now, he’s too old to get in the ring.” And then they announced that they were gonna reboot it as this, focusing on the son of Apollo. And you think, “Okay, I guess.” But you’re always leery of how its gonna use Rocky and whether it’s gonna feel exploitative to what we’ve seen before. You never know. And Ryan Coogler had only done Fruitvale Station before this. Which was solid, but also not something that made me automatically certain this could work. But, it’s Rocky, so I know it’s gonna be fine no matter what. And man… was this movie great. They create this wonderful story around Adonis — he’s an illegitimate son conceived through an affair Apollo had when he was champion. Creed’s widow takes him in and soon he’s trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. And, just like Rocky in the first film, he goes from a nobody to a title contender. But he also knows he needs guidance, so he goes to Rocky for help and advice. And that’s where the movie ties in really well. Because they find a really amazing way to keep Rocky in the forefront without having to fight himself. At least not in the ring. Because they bring you back immediately to why you love him as a character, with him at the cemetery talking to his dead wife and working at the restaurant. And then they add the subplot about him getting cancer and having to go through all that, all while training Adonis for the big fight. It’s a really great film. Coogler directs the hell out of it, adds a real layer of emotion to the whole thing all while disguising the fact that he’s basically just redoing the plot of the first Rocky again. But it works. And it’s great, and it breathes new life into a franchise that we all love so dearly.
153. The Battered Bastards of Baseball
One of my absolute favorite documentaries of the decade and one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen. It’s very short — 70 minutes — and I think is maybe the second documentary ever put out on Netflix? Something like that. It’s incredibly early. It’s the story of Kurt Russell’s father, Bing Russell, best known as an actor on Gunsmoke, who went up to Portland and bought a minor league baseball team for something like $26,000. Major League Baseball had decided there was no market in Portland so they abandoned it. And legally, if MLB doesn’t want to be there, anyone is free to start a team. So he did. And he held open tryouts. Like Major League. And so you get this complete rag tag group of guys, some castoffs from the pros, others random people who came out of the woodwork. And the end result is this crazy team of misfits. But two things come out of it — 1) they’re fun. People love this team. They’ve got charm and they make baseball great to watch. There are pictures of them during one game where the entire seventh-inning stretch turned into a stadium-wide conga line. But also, 2) they’re good. They’re good and they’re outsiders. So other clubs (backed by MLB) start trying to stack the deck against them because they don’t like that these outsiders have gotten somewhere. Plus they were the first team to have both an Asian and a female GM, Kurt Russell was on the team. Todd Field, director of In the Bedroom and Little Children — he was the batboy! Two guys on the team started Major League Chew. The stories that came out of this team are nuts. Plus, at the end, MLB decided they had enough and wanted to take the team back, which led to Russell suing them… and WINNING. Do you know how impossible it is for a single person to sue an entire sports league and win? They pack so much story in these 70 minutes and it’s one of those stories where you go, “This needs to be a movie, and immediately.” And I really hope it becomes one, because it’s truly one of the best things I’ve seen this entire decade and is something I want everyone to see in some form, even if it only is ever just this documentary.
Bong Joon Ho #2. This one is just an incredible premise. Yet again, a movie you can watch on its own terms as just a narrative, but also something that has larger implications in terms of what it’s trying to say about society and wealth inequality. That’s the beauty of him as a filmmaker. The film takes place entirely on a train. The planet has become uninhabitable and the outdoors have become a toxic wasteland, the air unbreathable. So they’ve taken the last of the survivors and put them on this train that never stops. It is constantly in motion and takes an entire year to encircle the globe. So we follow the train as a rebellion starts from the back of the train (which contains the poorer residents) and begins making its way to the front of the train, where the wealthier people inhabit. And just watching how they treat the poor people and then see what life is like for those who are ‘privileged’ really lets you know what this film thinks about the disparity of wealth in the world. But it’s also this great action movie too. It’s really fantastic all around. I think most people have seen this, but as I said with Okja, now that we’ve all seen Parasite, it’s a great opportunity to go back and see these other movies that you may not have checked out before, knowing that you’re gonna get something great here as you did there.
151. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé is the king of the ‘experience’. Which is — his films actually feel like you’ve gone on a roller coaster or something. You will feel something by the time you get done with one of his films. It’s not always a positive experience, but you’ll feel something. This one is a real acid trip of a movie. It’s about an American drug dealer living in Tokyo. The film announces what it’s gonna be like pretty early, from a very epilepsy-inducing opening credits sequence followed by the main character doing drugs and the entire image turns into a series of colors that look like an old Windows 95 screensaver. So you’re already primed for what’s to come. Because, at one point pretty early in the film, the main character dies, and the rest of the film is his spirit flying over the city in this ethereal dreamlike kind of existence. It’s… it’s something. I was stone sober when I watched this movie for the first time and by the time it was over, I felt like I was on drugs. It’s a hell of an experience and just one of those movies I really love because it’s so different from anything else and actually feels like it’s trying to make me feel something as opposed to just going through the usual motions.
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