Saturday, February 8, 2020

Top 10 Favorite Movies Of the Decade

While pondering my favorite movies from the past ten years, I second-guessed myself as always. Should I choose movies that I re-watch the most because they're comforting? should they be movies that impacted me the most the year they were released, but I haven't watched in a long time? should they be movies that are considered perfect by everyone and sit at the top of countless Best-Of lists?

Narrowing down the past decade of movies was nearly impossible, so it's a good thing I made a back-up of all my runner-ups on letterboxd. And for the lucky ten that made the top spot, I went with a combination of all of my doubts- there are movies that I re-watch the most when I'm down, that impacted me when they were initially released and still do in some ways, movies that might not be technically perfect to other critics but ones that I wouldn't change. Here are my top ten-ish favorite movies of the decade.

2010 - Inception

A team of dream extractors are hired to plant a new idea in a multi-millionaire's mind by an industry competitor. The script delicately constructs how the dream space works in pure exposition for the first hour before letting the plot unfold in the second hour, so you can (hopefully) follow everything as it happens. As well-regarded and anticipation Christopher Nolan's films are, this film gave a lot of wanna-be thrillers reason to copy his format - layered world-building that leads to an ambiguous ending. Even though Inception was massively popular when it was first released, the film was treated like an underdog against the clamor for Black Swan and The Social Network (and rightfully so). Ten years later, it's my favorite movie for 2010.

2011 - Captain America: The First Avenger

This isn't going to shock anyone, honestly. Like Iron Man and Thor, this movie was a gamble in trying to get The Avengers off the ground.  Now that the comic book genre has hit a stride in style and formula, not a lot of future superhero movies will match this old-fashioned comic book approach, the time period, or an ending where we had to wait ten years before the series ended with true love's dance. Similar to another superhero pick down the list, Captain America's arc and how it ended gives me something to believe in on my worst days.

2012 - Cabin in the Woods

What's there not to love about The Cabin in the Woods? Similar to 2019's Ready or Not (which you should check out Cinematic Corner's visual parallels of both), this manages an extraordinary balance between campy SYFY flick to a genuine crowd-pleasing horror. It subverts expectations with its tropes while they're trapped in a delicious mix of meta-horror and comedy. When the end of our world hits, I'm gonna tell myself the prophecy is the reason why instead of President Cheetos.

2013 - Philomena

Gravity had the biggest impact on me in 2013, but Philomena owns my heart. Not only does Steve Coogan step outside of comedy in a lovely supporting role, but he had a real grasp of Philomena and working class Irish women like her. His script is a perfect mix of humor and intrigue as well as exploring religion and the Catholic Church's atrocities that too often gets lost in the shuffle. Judi delivers a rare performance that encompasses a true vulnerability and strength we don't see often on-screen anymore. Philomena's  twist is heartbreaking because everything comes full circle after all that time of searching and missed time- you might have seen it coming, but it still punches you in the gut. The film's simplicity is what makes it memorable.

2014 - Wild

Wild shows the most raw and vulnerable sides of the author Cheryl Strayed's life after she loses her mother and scales the Pacific Crest trail to deal with substance abuse and promiscuous relationships that destroy her marriage. Another director could've made this a melodrama. Another script could've skimmed over the tough details. Another actress could've not fit the role at all. But director Jean Marc Vallee's handles the story intimately, the writer doesn't shy away from Strayed's experiences at all, and this movie kicked off Reese Witherspoon's renaissance. It became one of my favorite books and movies that changed my idea of what a women's journey in life can be like - dirty, messy, heartbreaking, lonely, pushing yourself to your limits, knowing that you can always come back to yourself no matter what you go through.

2015 - TIE: Creed and Carol

Similar to the category below, 2015 was a tough year to pick favorites - Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, Sicario, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. As many amazing movies as there were released in 2015, it boggles my mind both Carol and Creed weren't recognized for Best Picture.

Every classic movie is getting rebooted left and right, and here comes along Creed that perfectly updates the original story but respects its legacy. Similarly, Stallone rightfully earned his Oscar here, but Michael B. Jordan was sorely overlooked here. And, director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti pulled new ideas for one-take boxing sequences we won't see the same way again.

And, I mean. Carol. It's Carol.

2016 - Jackie

This year was the hardest choice to make. It all came down to Lion, Moonlight, Arrival, and Jackie. While I still love those movies, Jackie ultimately won me over. Sometimes there are movies that you wait years for, and a biopic on Jackie Onassis was mine. I never quite expected a film about her set before, during, and after John F. Kennedy's assassination could flow so hauntingly through the PTSD she endured, establishing his legacy, questioning her faith and worth as a woman, and becoming a powerhouse figure in her own right. A woman controlling the narrative of her legacy. Almost everything about this film is *chef's kiss*.

2017 - TIE: Wonder Woman and Get Out

Of all the comic book marathons and movies I've attended, I'm not sure I ever had such a visceral reaction as I did with Wonder Woman. I swear to the Amazonian gods I cried seventeen times seeing this in theater (which I actually did see five times in theaters total). It's one of those rare films from the past decade where it wouldn't have been the same if it wasn't for the women in charge because director Patty Jenkins fought for scenes like No Man's Land and Gal Gadot's perfect performance. It's the adventure-war flick that helps me escape, the romance I want to get swept away by, and the kick in the pants to be stronger than I am.

And for Get Out, horror movies are stepping up to the plate with their intensity and subversion. I think this is one of a few that started it all. Even though I've seen it before, it still manages to be brilliantly suspenseful on its own. Given that Hollywood will probably never nominate a film like this again for a million years, the sweet success while this was on top is unforgettable.

2018 - Blackkklansman

Blackkklansman sticks with me every single day. From John David Washington and Adam Driver's performances to the incredible cinematography and script, Spike Lee and the whole production was just robbed at the Oscars.

Honorary Mention goes to Mission: Impossible Fallout. It was the best send-off I could've ever hoped for with Ethan Hunt. I'm trying to have faith in director Christopher McQuarrie to keep his streak going, but depending on how the next two installments do, I'm hesitant to say this was my favorite of the year in case this just ends up being another ruined fandom for me.

Also, sorry A Star Is Born. If that damn script was stronger, you'd probably be at least a contender here.

2019 - TIE: Knives Out and Dolemite is My Name

Not only do I still have a lot of movies to catch up on, but to be honest, I usually give myself a year before feeling confident in picking a favorite movie from the past year. Sometimes I fall in love with a movie because of the hype, it's just something I'm excited for in the moment, or I finally miss out on something I didn't see in theaters. So, it'll be interesting to see if these two stay in this slot this time next year.

Knives Out just screams living a Clue board game for two hours with fantastic performances from a cast that are loving the opportunity to chew up the scenery. I think the secret to a great script is being able to listen to it as background noise and still feel engaged, and Johnson certainly manages that. Despite knowing what happens, I felt like I was watching it for the first time seeing it in theaters three times.

Dolemite is My Name celebrates an era of cinema that mainstream Hollywood doesn't acknowledge often. But it built a genre that black actors could thrive from and open doors for themselves. Everything about the production design and performances just makes my heart feel damn good.

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