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The Ultimate Choice #8 – Top Film of the Decade

Silver Linings Playbook
Chosen by Amy Smith (me)

The 2010s was a vital decade for me discovering everything that the film industry had to offer. There were some weaker years, but there were some incredible films that did come out. I did not start caring about films and the industry until 2012, and that is all down to one film that I fully connected to: David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.

As a film that handles the tough subject matter of mental health, I thank the film for handling it in the way that it did. Not only does this film touch on several types of mental illness, from Bipolar Disorder to OCD and Depression, these illnesses are not handled lightly or for comedic matters. Russell shows the dark side of these illnesses but also reflect how they do not define a person.

The cast are utterly superb here, with Jennifer Lawrence giving the performance of her career in a role that deemed her worthy of the Best Actress win at the Oscars. This is the film that introduced me to Bradley Cooper, but I immediately fell in love with him. He gives a heart-breaking performance here and his role alongside Robert De Niro is captivating with both of their energies coming to life whenever they appear on screen together.

There have been many films this decade since that have emotionally impacted me, but I always think back to that moment watching Silver Linings Playbook and falling truly in love with the film industry for the first time.

Take This Waltz
Chosen by Chris Watt: Twitter | Book (Peer Pressure)

There can be no doubt that the last decade proved a turning point in the larger conversation about women in film. It’s overdue and there is still a mountain to climb in terms of equality and respect, but the ‘10s saw a shift that cannot be denied. That much of this conversation had to be instigated by the Weinstein scandal is perhaps the bitterest pill to swallow, but a positive respite to such horror is certainly that women’s contribution to the cinematic artform is being reassessed and given the value that any sane cineaste has known it had for the past 100 years.
And yet, my choice of film of the decade came along before the scandals and hashtags, appearing and disappearing with little fuss and a little critical respect, but no box office, despite starring one of the best actors of her generation, not to mention one of the biggest comedy stars of that time.
Make no mistake, women in film have been ignored far longer than we should have allowed. Take This Waltz is written and directed by Sarah Polley, who has quietly spent the last 20 years producing small, intimate, remarkable films. Released in 2011, it’s the story of Margot (an exceptional Michelle Williams), a married woman thrown into emotional turmoil when she develops an attraction to Daniel (Luke Kirby), an artist who lives across the street. Delicately painting a portrait of the constant tug of war between love and lust, Polley’s film is a haunting piece full of yearning and erotic tension, Margot’s desires coming from a far more complicated place than mere boredom. Her relationship with husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is loving but you can feel every awkward beat, as the challenge of mundanity starts to set in. Cliché free and beautifully shot (with reds and oranges suggesting both home comforts and forbidden fruits), it’s a heart-breaking, quiet masterpiece, the kind of cinema that explores the inner lives of ordinary people and it has stayed with me since the very first viewing, perfectly encapsulating a decade that, like Polley’s characters, showed us that there is no good and bad.
There are only choices and consequence.


Shadow
Chosen by Owen Dumigan of The Pope in the Pool Podcast: Twitter | Podcast

At the core of Zhang Yimou’s epic, set during the 3rd century in China, is the idea of duality and opposites. This is represented through the Taijitu (The Yin and Yang symbol), which features frequently throughout the film. There is even multiple action set pieces that take place on top of the Taijitu. In fact, the majority of what we see in this film is black and white, which makes the blood extremely vivid in the later stages of the film when the action is in full force. The black and white visuals are not filtered to look this way, but instead brought about by using outfits and settings that consist of just these two colours and the greys in between. In this way every scene looks as if it were painted in the same art style as the Taijitu. The level of complexity this brings to the cinematography just makes it even more impressive that each shot is so stunningly beautiful. Then there are the action sequences, which are likely the only time I have been so extremely excited by some umbrellas. This one weapon brings a uniqueness to the fights that ensures they are entirely unpredictable. In these scenes, you will feel every slice leaving no one unharmed, whether injured by murder, duel or warfare. But this film is more than just technically impressive. Even though it is definitely that. The most clever and engaging thing about this film is how the interests of each character plays out. Everyone has their own schemes and many characters would like to rule, but watching this unfold is just as engrossing as the action. This starts quickly as we begin by finding out that one character even has a “Shadow”, referring to a doppelganger who is pretending to be them in public. Both played by Deng Chao Commanders, strategy and umbrellas aside, this movie is not only my favourite of the decade, but also shows how great modern filmmakers are doing things today that wouldn’t have been possible in a previous decade. It uses what has always been great about film and also makes me excited for what will be possible in the next decade.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Chosen by Shark Wrighter: Twitter | Blog

According to my Letterboxd stats, I watched 542 movies in the recently defunct decade. It’s probably more but I have forgotten some. Selecting one feels like I’m turning my back on so many old friends. But I can only put one film on the raft, Jack.

The envelope, please… my favorite movie of the decade is 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Why? First off, I love animation. And while I adore Pixar, that studio has a certain look that makes all of its films aesthetically similar. Spider-Verse relies on a novel animation style to tell its story. It’s not only visually diverse, but it is also a story that is filled with representative ethnicities. To be fair, it would have been a gigantic error if a film set in New York City was racially monochromatic. It’s all “genre-ally” fresh. We get a noir Spider-Man, a future Japanese robot/person Spider-Person. We get a drunk loser Spider-Man. It’s a vibrant collage.

The story is also great. I’m a comic nerd but I took decades off from reading them so I was not familiar with the Spider-Verse story at all. At its core is the multiverse theory. The theory’s creator, Hugh Everett, didn’t live long enough to see it become the accepted vision of existence. Simply put, there is an infinite number of universes where every possible thing we can (and cannot) conceive exists. This allows for a limitless thematic palette. A confluence of these multiverses, spurned on by the broken heart of a cruel man, brings together and propels this film. But, Kingpin is no two-dimensional prop. His suffering can be understood by anyone who was lost someone they love. It’s not a given that a film makes you feel for the heel. But it’s also rare that a good film doesn’t.

To the cast: your voice work is perfect. I cannot remember a false note.

I don’t want to say more about the plot because, like Frank Costanza, I want you to go in fresh. Just trust that it’s clever, witty, heartwarming, and tremendously satisfying. And most remarkable of all, it is a new brush on an oft-visited and beloved character. In a decade that gave me so much, this is the gift I will cherish the most.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Chosen by Swamp Thing: Twitter | Blog

I had a serious problem choosing only one favorite movie from the past decade. Over the past 10 years, there have been many excellent productions to which I have returned many times, such as Cabin in the Woods, La La Land, Nocturnal Animals, Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy or our Polish Demon. However, due to the current geopolitical situation and the threat of a possible armed conflict between the United States and Iran, I decided that my choice should be the Persian-language film directed by Ana Lily Amirpour titled A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night which is often described as the first Iranian vampire western. I fell in love with this movie! It’s not only beautifully shot, unique, very atmospheric, hypnotizing, stylish and sophisticated but also brilliantly plays around with our expectations. In short, this movie is exactly what fans of independent cinema always dreamed off. A crazy, yet fully satisfying mix of genres and cultures where emancipated, melodramatic opposition to Iran’s policy meet with the unconventional and fresh vampire horror film. A textbook example of cinema, which focuses not so much on the destination as on the journey itself. Amirpour is constantly mixing styles, pushing the boundaries of convention, and all of this takes place within a clearly self-imposed, rather eclectic and surreal language of communication with the audience. Black and white style of this film is not just a simple trick to stand out from the crowd and draw attention. This is an intended and well-thought-out artistic move that reminding me of the achievements of my beloved Jim Jarmush, especially his wonderful Only Lovers Left Alive. It is also worth paying attention to the main character superbly played by Sheila Vand. Thanks to her performance, A Girl is an enigmatic character who seems inconspicuous, shy and lost in the modern world and yet hides a bloodthirsty nature.


Warrior
Chosen by Joseph Morrow of Color Positive Movies: Twitter | YouTube

I will come right out and say it. Warrior (2011) is my favorite movie of the decade. Warrior is a Gavin O’Connor written, produced, and directed film. It tells the story of two estranged brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy), who enter the same mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament. On the surface Warrior looks like a standard sports movie. However, within a few minutes, you quickly realize this is going to be an in-depth and emotional depiction of family. As the story of these two brothers unfolds O’Conner masterfully exposes further layers of the brothers’ past to keep you riveted to the screen. Tommy is a former Marine holding onto a lot of anger and resentment. As a kid, Tommy ran away with his sick mother to escape their abusive alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte) as his older brother Brendan stayed behind. Thus, Tommy still blames his older brother for bailing on him. Brendon is a physics teacher. He is struggling to pay his mortgage and resorts to fighting in smaller MMA tournaments to earn extra money. Brendon is a dedicated family man with a wife and two young girls. He is determined not to let what he saw growing up happen to his family. As fate would have it the two brothers find themselves in the same MMA tournament heading for a possible collision course. O’Conner could have played it safe and gave us the hero versus the villain but he did no such thing. What separates this movie from other sports-related movies is there is no villain, no one to root against. You have two brothers, both driven by honor and pride, having to come to terms with a heartbreaking past. You are cheering for them. You are hoping that both find peace and redemption. There have been some great movies in the past decade but I keep coming back to Warrior. I have watched it multiple times and it keeps getting better. I connected with it on numerous levels. I was asked to pick my favorite movie of the decade and I did, it’s Warrior, it’s just that good.


The Babadook
Chosen by Mike Markayzee: Twitter

My favorite film of the decade is The Babadook (2014). Director Jennifer Kent’s psychological horror film works fine on a surface level, but dig deeper and you’ll see there is way more to this film than a caped, black-hatted figure terrorizing a mother and her son. At the start, we learn that Amelia (Essie Davis) was involved in an auto accident on her way to delivering her baby. In that crash, her husband was killed instantly. Six years later, we see a physically drained and emotionally exhausted Emilia raising her troubled son, Sam (Noah Wisemen) alone. Through this period, Amelia “discovers” a children’s book called “The Babadook” in her home. As she reads the book to Noah, The Babadook appears for real and the waking nightmare begins.
This film is really about repressed guilt, loss, anger and resentments. All that, coupled with sleep deprivation, is where The Babadook lives. Kent uses an increasingly oppressive atmosphere and odd camera angles to draw the viewer into Amelia’s troubled world. In the film’s best sequence, Amelia watches television as her sleep-deprived brain sees terrifying images that evoke the silent German Expressionist era. Kent gives us a couple subtle clues as to what is “really” going on and how The Babadook came to be, and whether it is real or some part of shared psychosis. It is really open to interpretation and that is where the greatness of this film lies. It rewards re-watches as I glean something new from it with each viewing (it wasn’t until a third viewing where I caught a throwaway line where Amelia says she used to write children’s books *hint hint*). Most negatives I’ve read about this film say the kid is “annoying” but that is the point. How does a mom deal with her son when she blames him for her husband’s death? How does a child deal with that burden? The Babadook asks more questions than it answers, and that’s what makes it a cut above the rest.


Captain Fantastic
Chosen by The Unknown Critic: Twitter | Blog

Juxtaposition is one of the best ways to subtly illustrate an idea in a morality play. Putting extremes together, without editorializing, letting them interact and clash is organic and an approximation if not representation of how we humans make sense of our world.

Matt Ross does this exceptionally well in Captain Fantastic. Cut from the same literary vein as Robinson Crusoe or the drop-out culture of the 60’s, he makes a case for the road less travelled. Initially, it may be idyllic, but that’s the point – it’s meant as an extremity which he’ll later set right next to another. If you begin this film thinking it’s a benevolent Lord of the Flies or well-manicured Mosquito Coast, you’ll be wrong.

Unlike many of its contemporaries, this film unfolds on its own time. one sees, make judgments about the characters and then realizes one has it wrong. It’s an amazing troupe of actors, young and old – Ross is to be credited for costing and directing them, there isn’t a self-conscious performance in the movie, which clearly could be a pitfall for a film of this type. We learn about the hard by fair father, the awkward oldest boy, the precocious children, the rebellious boy and the child wise beyond her years.

You can read the entire review here: Captain Fantastic (2016)

Get Out
Chosen by Isaiah Washington: Twitter

When it comes to the greatest films of the decade, there are many that come to mind. Films are subjective and there are many to choose from. There are dozens and dozens out there that you could probably argue are masterpieces. But if I had to choose one, it would be Jordan Peele’s directorial debut’s Get Out. Get Out follows the story of a young black man named Chris Washington who spends the weekend at his white girlfriend’s parent’s house(The Armitage Family ) where his feeling of uneasiness starts to come to pass as weird, skeptical, and horrific unfortunate events come to play. First and foremost this movie is incredibly intelligent as Peele brings true originality to this film, as we live in a world where people constantly question the number of original films we see come out per year. But never have I ever seen something like this on the big screen, whether it’s the way how racism can come off in modern times without being clearly directed while having an undertone. Jordan Peele also does not shy away to deliver a very unpleasing terrifying atmospheric tone that comes off very striking from start. And the way how he keeps the consistency with perfect comedic timing to give us the fantastic relief in stressful situational, harassing, goosebumps like circumstances that our main character Chris goes through is so satisfying. The acting is also a big highlight too. Daniel Kaluuya’s Academy Award-nominated performance really shows off his acting chops as the lead character Chris Washington as he starts off mild-mannered man but slowly drives down an abyss of insanity and plays of well with the members of the Armitage family as they come off very charming/likable presence yet are come off as complete psychos later on in the film including Allison Williams as Chris’s girlfriend Rose as she takes a very dark route with her character and being able to deliver a performance that truly defines less is more with scenes that require terrifying acts. Lil Rel Howery also delivers great comedic timing as the hysterical yet clever loyal best friend Rod, giving us a very emotionally satisfying ending to the film’s resolution. Get Out is not a perfect flawless movie, but I believe when it comes to masterpieces, this film definitely joins that list. The way how our actors are able to display the creative unforgettable script to screen was amazing. From the sunken place scene, giving the true ideas of fear and how it operates and preys on humans. The psychological and physical struggle between our main characters as we root for our main characters to escape this horrifying experience and attempts to slay and conquer fear itself. The irony used throughout the film including the cotton-picking scene of Chris using that reference to save his life, to the intense amazing attention to details that the director puts to this project is all the more reason why get out is my favorite film of the decade.


Moonlight
Chosen by Simon Whitlock: Twitter | Blog

This decade has been an incredible period for cinema, probably the best since the 1970s in terms of the calibre of films being made. With that in mind, it’s hard to pinpoint a choice to a single “best of” the last ten years. For me though, nothing has topped Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.

The film’s legacy to the wider public will probably be boiled down to the fiasco at the climax of the 2017 Oscars when it was eventually declared Best Picture by Academy voters, but it’s a piece of filmmaking which deserves so much more. Moonlight is the story of Chiron, a young African-American man, told in three parts to depict the three significant periods of his life. Each part is named after the name by which the young man goes at that moment (Little, Chiron, Black), as he tries to understand his place in the world in which he has been raised.

The film is an intensely personal one, based on a semi-autobiographical account by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, which wrestles with the difficulty of a gam man accepting his sexuality against expectations of masculinity. The names by which Chiron goes also manifest as different identities: loneliness, anger and ultimately acceptance of who he is.

From this description, watching Moonlight can sound like a rather fraught prospect. However, Jenkins’ direction and the stellar performances – not least from Ali, fully deserving of his first Oscar win – makes the film a beautiful, hopeful coming of age tale with one of the most emotionally gripping love stories of the last ten years woven into Chiron’s journey to maturity. Moonlight is the very best of a fantastic era of filmmaking.


The Fable of Isabella
Chosen by Sarah MacGregor: Twitter | Facebook

A successful novelist Guy Renfield isolates himself from his fans, family and work colleagues preferring to hang out in the remote fishing village of Whitby, struggling to create his first film script by adapting unfinished documentary footage about historical murders and a local Yorkshire child witch.

The Fable of Isabella was written before the UK’s shock Brexit vote and explores superstition and fear of the “other” (albeit through dark humour). There is a comedic and frustrating group dynamics via a documentary crew who can’t agree on anything, coupled with writer Guy Renfield’s obstinate isolationism the film becomes a fable for the UK’s current perplexing mindset. The horrors of folklore never seem to be buried that deep.

Horror’s enduring popularity is in part due to the challenging of traditional roles. In an industry which depends on a female audience, decent women’s roles can still be few and far between. The Fable of Isabella offers the audience some pretty decent women characters to get their teeth into.

Newcomer Kris Darrell gives a feisty performance as Svajone the enthusiastic paranormal researcher who appears at Guy’s door late at night, claiming to have special knowledge of mysterious child witch Isabella. Documentary producer Elaine Hirsch (Felicia Bowen) brings fearless dark humour to the screen as the final girl trying to unravel the enigma of the unsolved murders, whilst charismatic Jonathan Hansler brings an unexpected vulnerability to his role as the reclusive writer Guy with a hidden family tragedy.

Another treat that this micro-budget indie film serves up is the location shooting around the haunting landscapes of Yorkshire and Whitby. The knowledge that these coastlines are the fastest eroding in Northern Europe brings a tinge of ghostliness and wistfulness to a story based on the folklore of the local area and featuring good and bad spirits.


Inception
Chosen by Ram Venkat Srikar: Twitter | Blog

Editing is the most invisible craft in Cinema. Unlike cinematography and music where colours are evident beats reverb, editing goes unseen, when done masterfully. Its noticeability is inversely proportional to the quality, making it the most arduous and tricky craft to judge. And, the marriage of editing and screenplay is the strongest one I’ve come across, ever. It almost feels like the film took a rebirth on the editing table, especially in the last act, where it actually means a lot when one particular shot precedes the other. Every cut and shot selection makes a difference, which editor Lee Smith and writer/director Christopher Nolan, meticulously shape into a compelling drama. And that was unlike anything I’d seen before.

A lot has been argued about the film’s narrative which a some find ‘purposelessly complex’, and backing it is not concerning me by any means. But for me, when I watched the film as a 13-year old to whom the existence of films confined solely as escapism media, Inception was emancipation. Cinematically putting it, the film took the form of an angel, held me with its one-hand and walked me to a door that had ‘look deeper’ carved on it while pushing my ignorance to death with its other hand. Inception changed the way I looked at Cinema. It was no more about making me go WOW with the visual effects or action set pieces, but the emotional resonance while watching those unfold. 

Beneath all the layers of dreams and exotic locations, it is a human drama about a father who wants to get to his children, whose biggest adversary is his own guilt that he has to overcome. It’s about the emotional manipulation of a son groping with inferiority. Amidst the incredibly staged action pieces going in hand with what could be one of the greatest soundtracks ever put together with cuts making us curious whether the film was written this way or the editing rewrote, there is a film suffused with brilliant ideas.

I think we take this for granted, but Cinema, as an art form is still in its adolescence banking heavily on literature and on the verge of falling prey to capitalism basis the ‘demand & supply’ theory, it’s films like Inception which keep the magic of Cinema alive.



Ford v Ferrari
Chosen by Liselotte Vanophem: Twitter | Recent Post

Le Mans ’66 (or Ford v. Ferrari) from director James Mangold (Logan) was one of the last films I saw during the previous decade. However, it was certainly one of the most impressive ones. Why? Well, let me tell you!

Just for those who haven’t seen the movie, Le Mans ’66 is about Henry Ford II taking on Enzo Ferrari on the racing tracks. The apotheosis of this thrilling battle is happening during the 24-hour race of Le Mans ’66. Behind the wheel of the Ford car is Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who has incredible support from American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and his team. Who will win the race?

The main reasons why this movie will stick with me for an immensely long time is the spot-on performances from the lead actors. That Bale isn’t afraid of going through a radical transformation already became clear during his performances in Vice and The Machinist. For this movie, he again has outdone himself. Not only by undergoing a stunning physical metamorphosis but also by getting that American accent spot on. The determination, passion, stubbornness, and flair of Miles are coming through amazingly and Bale’s acting is such a joy to watch. opposite him, we see the fabulous Damon (The Martian) who puts on brilliant and clever acting. He’s impressive as the car designer who’s fighting for what and who he believes in, no matter how much people are pressuring him to do otherwise. The scenes between Bale and Damon are just worth gold! They get great support from actors such as Noah Jupe, Caitriona Balfe, and Jon Bernthal.

Another element why the fast-placed and entertaining Le Mans ’66 is an excellent movie is the combination of special effects and real-life action. Director Mangold made this feel life-like as it’s not clear where the real driving and skilful stunts make room for the gorgeous and magnificent special effects. Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael makes us feel like we’re in the race car alongside Miles, who’s beating his competitors in the fastest way possible. Not only does the cinematography bring this delightful feeling to the movie, but also the magnificent sound design. The roaring sound of the engines gives Le Mans ’66 the vibrant and compelling element it needs.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Chosen by Michael Frank: Twitter | Blog

When you look at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl on the surface, it looks like nothing new. It follows an awkward, largely antisocial high school male who we find out is quirky and lovable. He meets a girl and they form a close bond. yet, in terms of coming-of-age comedy-dramas about high schoolers dealing with traumatic life experiences, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl still finds a way to be new and different.

The script by Jesse Andrews segments the story, allowing you to settle in with these characters spending time with them in the little moments. The chemistry between Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) sets the film apart, with their spoof movies being remarkable and memorable. You suddenly want to watch their entire collection, and actually believe they’re earnest filmmakers. An entire film composed of these miniature films would be good enough, but the rest of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl provides careful measures filled with sweetness and heart.

Here’s the key: Greg doesn’t fall in love with Rachel, the girl in the school diagnosed with cancer. He spends time with her because his parents (the dream parents of Nick Offerman and Connie Britton) insisted, and they form a friendship, built on laughs instead of love. The acting across the board won’t blow you away, but it will allow you to relax with these characters, growing with them as they grow close to one another. You feel like you’re hanging out with each of them, just eating ice cream on some steps of chatting in a bedroom. A looseness exists within these chaptered scenes, one that makes you smile and insists that you care about these people.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon takes Andrews’s script and builds a film that focuses on the moments that make or break friendships. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl gives you a different viewpoint, a reinvented wheel, and a joyful entry in the coming-of-age genre. More than anything, we should just be glad this film exists.


mother!
Chosen by Federico S.G.: Twitter | Blog

Why is mother! one of the best movies of the decade?
A married couple is living in a wooden, creaky old house in the middle of nowhere. The husband (Javier Bardem) is a poet, and her (Jennifer Lawrence) is the homemaker. The husband struggles with writer’s block while the wife redecorates the house. One night a stranger (Ed Harris) stumbles into their house; an event that progressively escalates as the themes of the movie begins to take shape. Such is the simple setup for Darren Aronofsky’s terribly underrated mother! yet the story and the way it unfolds could only be the brainchild of Aronofsky himself. In its 2 hours runtime, the movie takes us from complete tranquillity to ultimate mayhem. mother! showcases Aronofsky as a storyteller at the peak of his talent, injecting his screenplay with relentlessly captivating images that will stick in your mind for days after the movie is over. Beyond the technical mastery by both cast and crew, what elevates mother! as one of the greatest movies of the decade is its raging metaphorical urgency of climate change. It’s been less than 3 years since the movie was released and today Australia burns in a hellish fire.
A genuinely difficult watch, the movie shocked audiences out of the cinema during the time of its release, which I think is the main reason why the movie bombed at the box office. However, critics praised Aronofsky’s original vision.
If you haven’t seen this movie, please do so with an open mind. mother! is a movie designed to creep under your nerves with confusion. But once it’s over, you will be rewarded, not with comforting answers, but with profound questions.

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