2020 Academy Award Nominations Predictions

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Oscars Popularity Contest, Beverly Hills, USA - 6 Feb 2017

Yesterday, I broke down my personal picks for this year’s Academy Awards nominations, and today I’m listing my predictions for the nominees in some of this year’s major categories.

 

Best Picture

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2. 1917

3. Parasite

4. The Irishman

5. Marriage Story

6. Joker

7. Jojo Rabbit

8. Ford v. Ferrari

9. Little Women

If there’s ten:

10. The Two Popes

Possibilities:

11. Knives Out

12. Bombshell

13. Uncut Gems

14. The Farewell

15. Rocketman

16. Dolemite Is My Name

17. Pain & Glory

18. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

19. Booksmart

20. Richard Jewell

 

Best Director

1. Sam Mendes, 1917

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

3. Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

4. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

5. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Possibilities:

6. Todd Phillips, Joker

7. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

8. Pedro Almodovar, Pain & Glory

9. Greta Gerwig, Little Women

10. Josh and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems

 

Best Actor

1. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

2. Adam Driver, Marriage Story

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

4. Taron Egerton, Rocketman

5. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems

Possibilities:

6. Robert De Niro, The Irishman

7. Christian Bale, Ford v. Ferrari

8. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

9. Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory

10. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

 

Best Actress

1. Renee Zellweger, Judy

2. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

3. Charlize Theron, Bombshell

4. Cynthia Ervino, Harriet

5. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Possibilities:

6. Awkwafina, The Farewell

7. Lupita Nyong’o, Us

8. Ana de Armas, Knives Out

9. Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart

10. Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose

 

Best Supporting Actor

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2. Joe Pesci, The Irishman

3. Al Pacino, The Irishman

4. Song Kang-ho, Parasite

5. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Possibilities:

6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy

8. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

9. Sam Rockwell, Jojo Rabbit

10. John Lithgow, Bombshell

 

Best Supporting Actress

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story

2. Margot Robbie, Bombshell

3. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

4. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

5. Florence Pugh, Little Women

Possibilities:

6. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell

7. Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

8. Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

9. Annette Bening, The Report

10. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

 

Best Original Screenplay

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2. Marriage Story

3. Parasite

4. The Farewell

5. Knives Out

Possibilities:

6. 1917

7. Uncut Gems

8. Booksmart

9. Bombshell

10. Ford v. Ferrari

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. The Irishman

2. Jojo Rabbit

3. The Two Popes

4. Joker

5. Little Women

Possibilities:

6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

7. Just Mercy

8. Hustlers

9. Richard Jewell

10. Toy Story 4

2020 Academy Awards- My Personal Picks

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oscar2020

A fun tradition I’ve done the last few years on my blog is filling out a personal ballot of what I would nominate if I was voting for this year’s Academy Awards. These are not predictions, as my taste is unlikely to line up completely with the Oscars (although there may be some overlap), but are rather what I’d like to see get nominated in some of the major categories.

 

Best Picture

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

1917

Parasite

Marriage Story

The Irishman

Honey Boy

The Farewell

Jojo Rabbit

The Two Popes

Rocketman

 

Best Director

Sam Mendes, 1917

Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

 

Best Actor

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

George McKay, 1917

Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

 

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Florence Pugh, Midsommar

Awkwafina, The Farewell

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Lupita Nyong’o, Us

 

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Song Kang-ho, Parasite

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Shia Labeouf, Honey Boy

Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

 

Best Supporting Actress

Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell

Taylor Russell, Waves

Julia Butters, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Julia Fox, Uncut Gems

 

Best Original Screenplay

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

Marriage Story

1917

The Farewell

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

The Two Popes

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Motherless Brooklyn

 

Best Original Song

“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” Rocketman

“Turning Teeth,” Under the Silver Lake

“Daily Battles,” Motherless Brooklyn

“One Little Soldier,” Bombshell

“For You My Love,” Blinded by the Light

 

Best Original Score

1917

Ad Astra

Marriage Story

The King

Motherless Brooklyn

 

Best Editing

Parasite

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The Irishman

Waves

Apollo 11

 

Best Cinematography

1917

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum

The Lighthouse

Parasite

 

Best Visual Effects

Ad Astra

Avengers: Endgame

Rocketman

High Life

Doctor Sleep

 

Best Sound Editing

Rocketman

1917

Ford v. Ferrari

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum

Avengers: Endgame

 

Best Sound Mixing

Rocketman

1917

Ford v. Ferrari

Yesterday

Blinded by the Light

 

Best Production Design

1917

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Dolemite Is My Name

Midsommar

Knives Out

 

Best Costume Design

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Dolemite Is My Name

Little Women

1917

Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Rocketman

Midsommar

Judy

Bombshell

The Lighthouse

 

Best International Film

Parasite

The Farewell

Pain and Glory

Les Miserables

The Best Films of the 2010s: #10-1

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Over the past ten days, I’ve counted down the top 500 best films of the past ten years. Now, we’ve finally reached the end. Here are the top ten best films of the 2010s.

 

  1. You Were Never Really Here

you were never really here

The sight of Joaquin Phoenix carrying his mother’s corpse to the bottom of the lake is one of the most striking images in the history of cinema. When people talk about movies being an experience, this is what they’re talking about.

 

  1. First Reformed

First Reformed

“I know that nothing can change, and I know there is no hope” isn’t just the truest line in any film ever written, but also the catalyst for the most honest depiction of faith to ever come from the medium.

 

  1. 1917

1917

The “all in one shot” style of filmmaking is more than a gimmick, and is the only way to tell this story and depict war with this amount of grace and brutality. The physicality of the performers is absolutely astounding, and the film’s potent, yet never obvious commentary on the small victories of war is powerful. Sam Mendes has time and time again proven to be auteur who can reshape any genre in his own image- it’s an astounding achievement.

 

  1. Skyfall

Skyfall

The best James Bond film ever made, Skyfall delivers on any visceral thrillers we could’ve asked for from this series with phenomenal set pieces, whilst literally deconstructing Bond’s origins, because after over twenty films, we’re still wondering who this guy really is. Roger Deakins has shot one of the most beautiful looking movies of the decade, but credit is due to both Javier Bardem as the villain that really got under Bond’s skin and Judi Dench as the only woman he ever saw as his better.

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049

blade runner 2049

Quite simply, the greatest sequel ever made; this is a film that looks like a visual painting and utilizes every element of noir to be engrossing, shortly before dumping an emotional wall on anyone who’s ever wondered why the most beautiful things never last.

 

  1. The World’s End

The world's end

A critique of nostalgia from the perspective of someone trying to relive their youth, The World’s End is the crowning achievement of Edgar Wright’s career, both as an emotional gut punch to all those who wish their life had been better and a joyous expression of an artist reveling in their own mythology.

 

  1. The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

No film deserved to be a franchise more than this; I cannot express the amount of joy I’ve gotten from Ryan Gosling’s catalogue of great quotes in this film, or Shane Black’s eclectic mix of violence and sex into a film that manages to be both cynical and sincere.

 

  1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

A collection of thoughts, musings, and misadventures about the Golden Age of Hollywood and the innocence that ended with it, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a complete celebration of the era that doesn’t mock its history and codes all its humor in a warm blanket of sincerity. The end if among the most provocative things Tarantino has ever done, molding history into a more optimistic version of what it was.

 

  1. The Social Network

The Social Network

Whip smart and stunningly cool, The Social Network holds up a decade later as the film that disassembled what it’s like to communicate in a more connected world, and the doomed friendship that shaped the internet as it is. It’s scarily prophetic.

 

  1. The Big Short

TheBigShort

The crowning achievement of modern cinema. Thrilling in its approach, hilarious in its presentation, and ultimately crushing in its finality, The Big Short is the epitome of what this decade was. Whether you view it as a pitch black satire, a searing political indictment, a meditation on failure, or a dark comedy about the consequences of greed, this was the film that presented the chaos of the world into a breathless surge of energy.

 

The Best Films of the 2010s: #50-11

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Starting at #500, I’ve counted down my favorite films of the 2010s, and now we’re almost at the end of my list. Here are entries #50 through #11 on my list of the decade’s best films.

 

  1. Brigsby Bear

brigsby bear

Creativity is all about weirdness, and Brigsby Bear is crazy weird and appeals to the age old idea of “what if we could just run into the woods and make something?” It’s a movie about an adult man who’s sheltered from the real world by his insane adopted parents who keep him trapped in their confines by producing a children’s television show made for only him, and the man’s escape from that world, his adjustment to normal life and family, and his journey to recreate the show his parents made for him with the help of new friends. It’s just as incredible as it sounds.

 

  1. Honey Boy

honey boy

An unprecedented look of on screen introspection, Honey Boy was written by Shia Labeouf as a means of coping with his own childhood trauma, and Labeouf gives the performance of his career as a character based on his own father. Noah Jupe gives one of the greatest child performances of all-time in this affectionate retelling that ends with a bitter, not quite conclusive note.

 

  1. The Irishman

the irishman

This is Martin Scorsese’s Unforgiven, a return to the genre that gave him his name that shows how these larger than life characters can give a lifetime of service and age into nothingness. The brilliant deaging digital technology allows Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino all live out and live past their own glory days, visualizing a legacy that passes them by.

 

  1. Gone Girl

gone girl

Gillian Flynn’s novel is one of my all-time favorites, so to say I was nervous about this adaptation is an understatement; fortunately, David Fincher really knows what he’s doing an understood that media circus, unhappy marriage, murder, botched police investigations, and celebrity can all be funny if we think about it. The perfection of the casting of Ben Affleck as the hapless and morally dubious husband who becomes an icon cannot be overstated.

 

  1. Dunkirk

dunkirk

War is chaos and survival is victory. Dunkirk explores the experience of war more than any one person. It shapes the overall vision based around individual struggles, giving us a journey that allows sucks us into the chaos before treating us to the tapestry.

 

  1. Jackie

jackie

As history becomes myth and people become characters, it’s easy to forget the real ramifications and consequences of an event that occurs after it has faded from the news cycle. Jackie is a testament to the end of Camelot, but from the perspective of those left in King Arthur’s wake.

 

  1. Brad’s Status

brad's status

There’s so much wisdom packed into this heartwarming, introspective father and son story; Ben Stiller’s character wrestles with how his son’s success may or may not fulfill the perceived gaps in his life, and the film expertly pokes holes in middle aged cynicism and the wide-eyed innocence of college.

 

  1. Everybody Wants Some

everybody wants some

I’ve never wanted to hang out with characters in a movie more than I’ve wanted to hang out with the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to sing “Rapper’s Delight” with anybody in a car more than the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to go to a theater kid party more than I’ve wanted to go with the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to sleep through classes with anyone more than the characters in Everybody Wants Some.

 

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

the grand budapest hotel

Wes Anderson redefined his own style but telling a story about what stories are; he allows us to dip into the most exciting, most accessible, most satisfying version of what a real story could be, showing that the past is a fun place to be for a little while, but isn’t a place to stay.

 

  1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

tinker tailor soldier spy

The best spy film ever made. Real life espionage has a lot less explosions and car chases, but in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the realistic is made to be gripping. Also, the best ending montage in any movie ever, and I’ll stand by that.

 

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody

bohemian rhapsody

The music of Queen has always energized and inspired, and Bohemian Rhapsody channels this inherent energy into a fast-paced blast through the life of the legendary frontman, crossing through his major life events at the speed of “Don’t Stop Me Now.” It’s an energetic romp that navigates gracefully between the extremes in the life of Freddie Mercury, portrayed by Rami Malek in the role that rightfully earned him an Oscar. 

 

  1. Inception

inception

Like Hitchock before him, Christopher Nolan has developed a real relationship with the audience in which he draws us in, demands we pay attention, and still pulls the rug out beneath us. This is a journey into the mind of someone who has an incredible imagination.

 

  1. Good Time

good time

I don’t have a take on what the underlying message of Good Time is, but for a film that takes on the “one wild night” premise, Good Time ups the ante on the wildness in every situation, managing to feel sporadic in a way that is always satisfying.

 

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max fury road

This is what movie reboots and sequels should be; stripping away the nonsense and delivering the visceral thrills that only a master filmmaker could, Mad Max: Fury Road is absolutely the best version of what a Mad Max movie could be.

 

  1. Her

her

Her is perfectly attuned to the future of what our world today may look like, not necessarily because of the technological angel, but because the honest depiction loneliness feels authentically suited to where we are headed.

 

  1. Argo

argo

This is a movie about a fake movie that was used to rescue real people, and of all the true events that feel suited to be adapted into a movie, none feel as perfect as this movie. A movie for people that like movies, not just because of the effervescent references to other movies, but because it mines all the possible dramatic and comedic situations that could occur considering the premise of this movie. Movies!

 

  1. Call Me By Your Name

call me by your name

Luca Guadagnino understands that relationships can’t be formatted into a three-act structure or a series of tear-ridden exchanges; Call Me By Your Name just lets us sit back and watch emotions develop and letting the inevitable occur.

 

  1. Burning

burning

The genius of Burning is that it’s a thriller where we’re not entirely sure what we should be dreading, calling into question what we should see as real and what is just a byproduct of the characters’ fantasy. Burning lets us linger within its world long enough that we guess how every action will have consequences, leading to a jaw dropping ending that both recontextualizes the entire story and question what was important and what wasn’t.

 

  1. Lady Bird

lady bird

Being a teenager really, really sucks, and a film like Lady Bird is all about the juxtaposition of hilarity, regret, and heartbreak that everyone experiences during their transitional years.

 

  1. Phantom Thread

phantom thread

Daniel Day Lewis’s career has been a gift to cinema like no other, and there’s perhaps no better way to let him go out than as an obsessive, caustically witty, imminently selfish, and gloriously watchable. The film buff’s rom-com.

 

  1. Roma

roma

There are a lot of films that have attempted to explore the day to day experiences of life, but given that most of them aren’t directed by Alfonso Cuaron, they don’t have the pitch perfect composition or devastating reversion to routine that Roma does. 

 

  1. Django Unchained

django unachained

Darker, richer, and more fulfilling than nearly everything Tarantino has ever done, Django Unchained is a deep genre flick rooted in uncompromising anger. Cinema has never seen a villain like Calvin Candie. 

 

  1. 12 Years a Slave

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

Essential in a way that only this story could be, this is a film that everyone should see, not because it is a totality of the ugliest period in American history, but because it is an example of the countless stories that could be told.

 

  1. Cold War

cold war

As Tommy Wiseau might say, “love is blind,” and in Cold War, it’s also fatal.

 

  1. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

birdman

“Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige”- Mike Shiner.

 

  1. The Tree of Life

tree of life

The most ambitious take on the vastness of time and the entirety of existence since 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Tree of Life is one of, if not the most beautiful looking movie ever made.

 

  1. Marriage Story

marriage story

Marriage Story doesn’t try to explore what every divorce is like, but gives us a lot of insight into one specific one. What’s important is that we don’t end up hating either party, and we’re left wishing they could get back together while knowing that it will never happen. A refreshing update of Kramer v. Kramer for a new audience.

 

  1. Whiplash

whiplash

What are the lengths we’d go to achieve perfection in any given medium? Whiplash makes us realize that all aspirations are based partially in obsession, and leaves us to question whether it was all worth it.

 

  1. Manchester by the Sea

manchester by the sea

Possibly one of the most depressing movies ever made, but there’s insight in the banality of Manchester by the Sea, and the discussion regarding grief doesn’t ask questions as much as it explores its own complexity.

 

  1. La La Land

la la land

Forget the cynics, and forget the Oscars; this is a bombastic and expertly crafted musical that pays tribute to the classics, whilst pushing the genre closer to the future.

 

  1. Parasite

parasite

Equal parts disturbing and hilarious, Parasite shows how deep the wealth gap cuts into family priorities, allowing us to laugh at the absurdity and shake our heads at its relevance. The final act is an elegantly sinister coordination of brewing tensions that finally rise to the surface.

 

  1. Thunder Road

Thunder Road

Jim Cummings writes, directs, and stars in this hyper-realistic take on a small town police officer’s mental breakdown following a series of traumatic events- like its opening twelve minute shot, Thunder Road lingers longer than should be comfortable and makes us laugh when we don’t have any other way to express ourselves. Cummings’s performance is affectionate and brave in its excruciating honestly; this film is proof that a crowd pleaser doesn’t have to be entirely comfortable.

 

  1. First Man

First Man

Envisioning the Moon Landing as a parent’s journey to cope with the loss of a child, First Man is a highly emotional experience that is elevated by Justin Hurtwitz’s operatic, all-time great score. Space can be exciting, but in First Man it’s also terrifying, as a group of brave astronauts venture into the great unknown with tragedy in the past and only shaky technology to aid them.

 

  1. The Favourite

THE FAVOURITE

As someone who has never related to period pieces and their attempts to humanize the most privileged, I found The Favourite to be a hilarious take on how we can be caught up in the bizarre maneuvering of the worst of people.

 

  1. Boyhood

boyhood

It may resonate with those who grew up in this decade the most, but the simple collection of moments that constitute growing up should be enough to resonate with anyone.

 

  1. The Revenant

The Revenant

Revenge and obsession feel more like destiny than fulfillment, and this epic odyssey of a tale is a testament to the everlasting relevance of revenge stories; they appeal to our darkest instincts, but the realized fantasy is often a grueling and fraught conquest.

 

  1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

No, there’s probably never been a movie made for me more than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, but I’ve rarely been more aware that the creators of a film really love films more than this.

 

  1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Life is ultimately a series of conversations, and Steve Jobs condenses the life of its titular lead into three really great ones. Michael Fassbender is brilliant, but you already knew that.

 

  1. Baby Driver

Baby Driver

Baby Driver is an age old story attuned to the specificity of today; this is a gimmick movie that knows how to use its gimmick, and gives a lot of great actors the chance to have a blast with some really wacky characters. If you don’t like Baby Driver, I’m assuming you’re either deeply cynical or just don’t like movies.

 

  1. The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wold of Wall Street

It’s influence that draws people into something. The seductive cries of slickness. The Wolf of Wall Street is a rise and fall story that pans the audience for indulging, yet still leaves us wanting more. Sell me this pen.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #100-51

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I’ve been counting down the best films of the decade all the way from #500 to #1, and today we finally reach the top one hundred best films of the last ten years. Here are entries #100 through #51.

 

  1. Submarine

submarine

As blunt and aware as its protagonist, Submarine is astute to the aspirational yearning and desire to compartmentalize relationships that come with being a young person, and how crossing things off lists and defying expectations are signs of achievement, but not necessarily progress.

 

  1. The Ides of March

ides of march

The most important figures in a political campaign are -those who have the least visibility- Ides of March is a depiction of one such figure, a staffer played by Ryan Gosling who suffers a crisis of faith when he discovers something about his Presidential candidate, played by George Clooney. It’s taught and suspenseful in its breakdown of morality throughout a campaign, and Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are seemingly having a contest to see who can steal the most scenes.

 

  1. Enemy

enemy

Dabbling in the surreal but grounded in a perplexing narrative, Enemy is the sort of film that prompts immediate rewatch thanks to the eerie, perpetual dread that Denis Villenueve perpetuated throughout the course of the mystery. The groundwork for its meaning is all there, but even on its surface level this is a gripping mystery that is perplexing without being frustrating.

 

  1. Paterson

paterson

Sometimes it’s nice to just relax and let the beauty of the world surround us- Paterson doesn’t go looking for the huge and exciting, but examines the passive wonders of everyday life through the eyes of a bus driver and poet. Adam Driver is the perfect lead for this; on the surface he seems normal, and slightly goofy, but as an actor he’s developed a unique voice that slowly shows us how special he really is.

 

  1. Frances Ha

frances ha

Greta Gerwig’s performance is infectious; the black and white world of Frances doesn’t play by the rules or adhere to any discernible structure, and its Frances’s charming frankness and warmth that makes this collection of moments so enjoyable to watch. As a massive Bowie fan, the use of “Modern Love” has got to be one of the greatest Bowie drops in any film.

 

  1. Waves

waves

One of the most cathartic and emphatically personal films I’ve seen; beginning with the crushing final moments of youthful innocence and ending with an artistic journey of healing, Trey Edward Shults is able to use this bifurcated structure as an immediate message of love and restraint for families in crisis. 

 

  1. While We’re Young

while we're young

Ben Stiller remarks that Adam Driver’s character isn’t “evil, he’s just young”- this brilliant generational comedy about a middle aged couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) and a younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) perfectly navigates the idealized vision of youth, in all its excitement and its lack of wisdom. 

 

  1. Spotlight

spotlight

I don’t think there’s ever been a movie that understands the journalistic process better than Spotlight– it’s a movie that dives deep into the details of fact checking, legal red tape, getting sources, and navigating public opinion, and the details are only exemplified by the fact that they’re dealing with material this sensitive. It’s the actors that bring these roles to life, because behind each journalist is someone who really is passionate about the truth and believes that people have the right to know.

 

  1. Logan Lucky

logan lucky

Nobody does ensemble movies like Stephen Soderbergh. Each character in this movie is letting an actor show a different side to themselves, be it Channing Tatum as a downbeat, out of work dad or Daniel Craig as a goofy, wisecracking recent convict. It’s a blast of fun about those that try to screw the system that screwed them, and it has the best use of a John Denver song in any movie. 

 

  1. Nightcrawler

nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal takes his performances really seriously, but any interview he does makes it seem like the guy really likes to laugh and have fun. Thankfully, Gyllenhaal’s greatest role to date is a combination of both- the idiosyncratic character of Lou Bloom makes us laugh as he cons and tricks everyone, and sometimes we’re not even laughing because its funny, but laughing because we cannot believe what we are watching.

 

  1. Silence

silence

Purposefully punishing, Silence defeats us with its length, beats us with its will, and berates us with the power of its scope- a literal comparison to the point where Andrew Garfield is in the closing moments of the film. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater that got this quiet during the ending of a film- it’s a story that literally takes our breath away.

 

  1. Hugo

hugo

It surprises me that it surprises people that Martin Scorsese made a great family film- he’s someone who has never been able to be put in a box, and it’s no shock that he wanted to make a film that celebrated the magic of movies for a new generation. It’s about kids discovering the magic of movies, and hopefully, it’s a movie that will introduce the medium to a new generation.

 

  1. The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

David Eggers has shown a Kubrickian level of talent when it comes to building at atmosphere; this is an overbearing, loud, and visceral jawdropper that is unnerving with a wicked sense of humor. Robert Pattionson gives one of his best performances as a wickie slipping into madness, and Willem Dafoe is damn near unrecognizable as a wacky lighthouse keeper.

 

  1. Last Flag Flying

last flag flying

I don’t think there’s a single person in this country that doesn’t have at least one personal relationship with someone who was a service member- it’s such an important part of so many lives, and Last Flag Flying is an exploration of just that. Here we have characters who have moved on, done other things since their time in Vietnam, but their days in uniform will always be a part of them, and they’ll never forget what they saw and did.

 

  1. Captain Fantastic

captain fantastic

Captain Fantastic doesn’t have to explain to us what the family dynamics are like in Viggo Mortensen’s unique household, and it doesn’t stop the story to iron out the details for us. We understand what’s happening because every actor slips effortlessly into the role of a real family member; this cast works as a unit and we feel a part of it as we travel on this adventure.

 

  1. Game Night

game night

What a revelation. What a wonderful surprise. In a time where most major studio comedies pander to the masses and refuse to innovate, Game Night has a great concept and is really well made- its composition is specific and creative, its characters are fun and relatable, and its ending is fulfilling, yet ironic. It’s simply a marvel that it exists- this is a movie about grown ups who have real things going on, but also want to have some fun.

 

  1. Bridge of Spies

bridge of spies

Among many things, including being one of the greatest filmmakers and artists to ever live, it’s clear that Steven Spielberg really cares about his country. Bridge of Spies emulates everything that works about this justice system and the dignity it grants people, as well as the spoken word and its power, and who better to represent these qualities than Tom Hanks?

 

  1. Vice

vice

“I can feel your incriminations and your judgment, and I am fine with that. You want to be loved, you want to be a movie star. The world is as you find it, you gotta deal with that reality and there are monsters in this world. We saw 3,000 innocent people burned to death by those monsters. And yet you object when I refuse to kiss those monsters on the cheek and say pretty please. You answer me this: what terrorist attack would you have let go forward so you wouldn’t seem like a mean and nasty fella? I will not apologize for keeping your families safe. And I will not apologize for doing what needed to be done, so that your loved ones can sleep peaceably at night. It has been my honor to be your servant. You chose me, and I did what you asked,”- Dick Cheney.

 

  1. Foxcatcher

foxcatcher

At the beginning of Foxcatcher, Channing Tatum sternly explains his status as an Olympian to a group of elementary school students and passively corrects those that would confuse him with his brother, another champion played by Mark Ruffalo. It’s a perfectly unnerving opening to a film that is designed to be distant- Steve Carrell makes for a chilling, yet also sad coach turned killer that, like everyone else in the film, questions what victory even means.

 

  1. Ad Astra

ad astra

Brad Pitt is one of my all-time favorite actors, and Ad Astra is a performance of an actor who knows restraint; through means of a rough exterior, Pitt breaks down someone desensitized to feeling by pulling them into the deepest moments of isolation, and becomes a powerful lead for this masterful space epic. 

 

  1. The Spectacular Now

spectacular now

To call back to the Roger Ebert quote that I used in my intro, this is a movie of great empathy (coincidentally enough, this is one of the last films Roger Ebert reviewed and the last one he gave 4/4 stars). It’s a movie about teenagers who have big hearts and do dumb things, about young people who look for the absent figures in their lives and want for a better life. Is a better life one that involves them being together? Who’s to say. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley bring an authenticity to the uncomfortable nature of growing up that elevates the entire picture because they feel real.

 

  1. The Hateful Eight

hateful eight

Tarantino has always had a knack for playing around with genre, and here he’s clearly having the best time with the premise- stick a lot of great actors in a room and have them just riff off each other. Among the best is Walton Goggins as the seemingly simple lawman who may have just outsmarted everyone, and Samuel L. Jackson who gives one of the best monologues in memory that leaves us screaming for more at the end of the first half.

 

  1. Rocketman

'Rocketman' Film - 2019

The music of Elton John is like no one else- it’s broad, yet specific, and bombastic, yet intimate. Perfect for a musical! Rocketman is structured like a transitional biopic, but it takes the key moments and adapts them as fantastical, visually engrossing numbers that show us all we need to know about the icon. Taron Egerton commands our attention as a performer and showman, but allows us to see the real pain it took for Elton to reach his status as a legend.

 

  1. Inside Out

inside out

The best thing Pixar has ever made, Inside Out would probably be great enough if it just played into how emotions affect us as adolescents and how memories shape us, but beyond the fun gags there’s a great message here- it’s okay to be sad sometimes, and it’s also okay to let go of the past.

 

  1. Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

ghost protocol

Perhaps they should start naming Mission: Impossible movies like episodes of Friends– this would be “The One Where Tom Cruise Climbs the Dubai Tower.” Outside of that incredible stunt, Ghost Protocol showed a future for what Mission: Impossible could be, where we have an equally great team to play off of, action scenes that consistently improve themselves, and a sneaky sense of humor that revels in the glorious absurdity of the situation.

 

  1. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation

rogue nation

“The One Where Tom Cruise Hangs Off the Side of a Plane”- and that’s how the movie starts! Rogue Nation doubled down on the relentlessness of the previous installment by giving us examples of different types of action we could see, from an opera scene that feels right out of Rear Window to a one-shot underwater escape to one of the greatest motorcycle chases of all-time. It’s also the best that Alec Baldwin has been in a long, long time.

 

  1. Mission: Impossible- Fallout

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

“The One Where Tom Cruise Flew a Helicopter Into a Mountain,” or “The One Where Tom Cruise Broke His Ankle Jumping Off a Building,” or maybe just “The One That Was A Masterpiece.” Fallout operates with a scale and artfulness that action movies haven’t been before, with the most eye popping color and most haunting score of any of the series. This is a film that wrestles with saving your friends or saving the world, a dilemma only someone like Tom Cruise could have.

 

  1. I, Tonya

i tonya

Ever since her emergence at the beginning of this decade, I’ve felt that Margot Robbie deserved better than what she was given; here is a very funny, very nuanced performer who’s been regulated to side roles and non-characters. Here Robbie is given the role of her career, making Tonya Harding into the sort of relatable, yet still unlikeable smart-talking schemer that is both funny and tragic. Paul Walter Hauser is so good in this movie that they should invent some special award just for him.

 

  1. The Two Popes

the two popes

A delightful buddy comedy about the papal succession that considers these monumental figures as people; seeing these two Popes go about their everyday lives and talk in contemplation of each other is just fascinating, and surprisingly humorous and touching. 

 

  1. The Martian

the martian

Pro-science, pro-NASA, pro-America, pro-globalism, and just pro-humanity, this is what a great crowd pleaser looks like and envisions a future where the best of us work together to help each other. It’s cheerful and gleefully optimistic, and while there are events that divide its characters, they’re brought together for a mission that values one person- credit is due to Matt Damon and the flawless ensemble in making us believe something like this could exist.

 

  1. Arrival

arrival

There’s a lot to unpack in this mind-bending sci-fi thriller about what communication is, but for all its twists and turns, it’s the gorgeous final moments about the power of choice that left me in an emotional wreck. Arrival dazzles us with its own achievements and payoffs before closing with a statement about its humanity.

 

  1. Ex Machina

ex machina

This is smart, sexy sci-fi, a sleek and stunning take on the consciousness debate that never fumbles its own sense of claustrophobia. Domhnall Gleeson is great, and Oscar Isaac is weirder than he’s ever been, but the film’s breakout performance is from Alicia Vikander who brings all the dramatic levels out of an A.I.’s transition from object to person.

 

  1. Captain Phillips

captain phillips

To say that Tom Hanks is one of the treasures of American cinema isn’t a new assessment, but even this deep into his career he’s still able to surprise us. Captain Phillips is his greatest exercise in restraint; after two hours of edge of the seat thrills, Hanks breaks down in a haunting finale as the suppressed emotions of the previous hours wash over him.

 

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis

inside llewyn davis

All artists are struggling, and Inside Llewyn Davis is the epitome of what a daily struggle in the life of a beaten down folk singer could be. Oscar Isaac is just phenomenal, and beneath the melancholy of his miserable struggle to make it is a warm humor mined from the irony of all those that fight against impossible odds to achieve their dreams.

 

  1. Interstellar

interstellar

If the warm, emotionally resonant and exhilarating adventure of Steven Spielberg and the cold, austrist introspection of Stanley Kubrick are the pinnacle of cinematic achievement, then they’re also direct opposite. Somehow, Interstellar captures the essence of both with a mind blowing space adventure that asks the biggest questions whilst also giving us all the heart of a father’s love for his child.

 

  1. Zero Dark Thirty

1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

There’s been a lot of discussion about what is or isn’t justified in this war epic, but I don’t think Kathryn Bigelow is arguing one thing in particular as much as she’s presenting the tremendous effort, maneuvering, and manpower taken to go on the greatest manhunt in history. Jessica Chastain makes us care about this journey not because it’s personal, but because it’s her job, and she’s really, really good at it.

 

  1. The End of the Tour

the end of the tour

This is one of the most honest depictions of what it’s like to be a writer- writers hate other writers, they hate people who talk about writing, and they certainly hate writers that talk about their writing. I didn’t know Jason Segal had it in him to bring out the prickly genius of David Foster Wallace, but the way his character inspires both genius, tragedy, and humor is immensely rewarding.

 

  1. Jojo Rabbit

jojo rabbit

Unabashedly sincere, Jojo Rabbit is keen to show kids how to confront hate through heart and humor, with Roman Griffin Davis’s all-time great child performance serving as the epicenter of adolescence and war. It’s comic timing is in line with Chaplin, Keaton, and all the greats, but the child’s perspective never distracts from the gravity of what’s going on.

 

  1. The Farewell

the farewell

A terrific family drama that both questions the nature of a traditional cultural practice and celebrates the idea of a family unit, The Farewell is an observant film that unites a strong ensemble to illuminate a family of different backgrounds and experiences. In particular, Awkwafina’s lead performance and that of her grandmother, played by Zhao Shuzhen, bring a warmth and love to the screen.

 

  1. The King’s Speech

the king's speech

Yeah, The Social Network should have won Best Picture, but that’s not an indictment of the similarly excellent The King’s Speech. A story of friendship between the highest and the lowest born, this is just a fun, touching story about how wisdom transcends class and optimism overcomes trauma.

 

  1. Comet

comet

My pick for the single most underrated and underseen film of the decade; Mr. Robot auteur Sam Esmail showed a relationship in crisis over six alternate realities, each reaching different interpretations of the same conclusion. Maybe Emmy Rossum and Justin Long can’t end up together, but Comet gives us a complete portrait of what could have been.

 

  1. Sing Street

sing street

How could anything be more fun than this? Sing Street deserved to be a colossal hit, but sadly that’s not how it went. The soundtrack is truly fantastic, building up all the aspirations and energy that fuel both teenage angst and 80s rock into a charming personification of everything that coming of age stories should be.

 

  1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

ballad of buster scruggs

Talent is making a film with a great story, genius is making one with six. The Coen Brothers are geniuses, and this gorgeously shot series of cinematic memories of death is a great summation of all that makes them unique. I don’t think there’s been a more perfect twenty minutes of film this decade than Tim Blake Nelson’s opening stint as the fast talking, singing bounty hunter that grants the film its title. 

 

  1. Hell or High Water

hell or high water

Hell or High Water is a western where we’re on the side of both the cops and the robbers- at the end of the day we’re just watching them play out the game, because the banks control things either way. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are great as the brothers who devise a plan to beat the system, and Jeff Bridges tunes into every element of a stereotypical lawman to make an often uproarious, yet tragically antiquated icon. There’s a tremendous awareness of southern culture, and as a Texas resident, I can confirm that “only assholes drink Mr. Pibb.” 

 

  1. Lincoln

lincoln

As a depiction of politics, Lincoln has an unparalleled awareness of the difficulty of the process, but also a gripping sense of emotion- there’s something potently powerful about the duty of a representative to better the lives of those they command. Abraham Lincoln sure is great at playing himself- it’s weird that this Daniel Day Lewis guy gets all the credit.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

the last jedi

The most spiritual and thought provoking of all the Star Wars films, The Last Jedi wrestles with legacy and the fallouts of the past whilst paving a vision of the future that looks different, but emulates the same values and feelings that the Jedi Order always had. Mark Hamill is just brilliant; this is the Luke Skywalker that would exist following the transpired events, and his triumphant third act return is the perfect thematic closure to everything that Yoda taught in The Empire Strikes Back.

 

  1. Moneyball

moneyball

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin really knows how to make boring things interesting- who knew that baseball stats could be thrilling, emotional, and thought provoking? Brad Pitt has always been one of the best actors of his day, and here he channels the middle aged crisis of a man who’s potential has passed him by.

 

  1. Drive

drive

Drive is pulp, but it’s expertly done pulp; the idea of a lonely grifter who flirts with the idea of a normal life and fights back against his seedy companions is not unique, but Nicholas Winding Refn turned the genre’s greasy roots into an operatic, idiosyncratic experience anchored by some of Ryan Gosling’s most sensitive and endearing work.

 

  1. The Town

the town

Ben Affleck sure knows how to direct exciting movies, sure knows how to make you like a character, and he sure loves Boston. The Town is a great summation of these skills- an old-fashioned bank heist thriller with a strong sense of character, and a killer performance by Jeremy Renner as Affleck’s wilder, dangerous brother.

 

  1. The Lost City of Z

lost city of z

If there’s any worry that we’d never seen another great historical epic, James Gray brought us along for the adventure of a lifetime as Charlie Hunnam’s explorer character scoured the Amazon in search of a mythic city. Gray’s command of the environment is unparalleled; we feel as if we’re trapped within this dangerous, sweaty rainforests, yet we’re willing to continue the adventure for the chance to see what’s on the other side.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #150-101

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I’ve been counting down my 500 favorite films of the decade, and we’re getting closer to seeing what films will take the top few spots. Here are entries #150 through #101.

 

  1. Wind River

wind river.jpeg

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan, who also penned Sicario and Hell or High Water, clearly has an interest in telling neo-noir stories relevant to today’s issues, and Wind River draws us into a mystery that involves an enigmatic tracker played by Jeremy Renner before transitioning into an affecting message about a widely acknowledged atrocity. This is Renner’s best performance to date; the role that starts off as a hard-wired stoic badass proves to be more devastating than we may have thought.

 

  1. Philomena

Philomena

Judi Dench has a warmth to her that is hard to match, and in Philomena she brings a depth and specific humor to an elderly Irish Catholic woman searching for the son she gave up years ago in order to be a nun. It’s a role that is beset by tragedy and should inspire anger, but Dench’s joyous bewilderment as a character exploring new experiences is infectious, as is her wonderful co-star Steve Coogan as a jaded writer who begins to change his mind.

 

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness

star trek into darkness

I’ll boldly defend J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek sequel; reimagining the story of the 1982 classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a cautionary tale about militarism and post-9/11 reactions to terrorism, Into Darkness is a breathless action spectacle that starts with an Indiana Jones style exploratory heist gone awry and ends in a thrilling chase throughout a reimagined San Fransisco. Bookended by scenes that explore the depths of the Kirk and Spock relationship, Into Darkness allows Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to breath new life into the characters that have stood the test of time.

 

  1. Detroit

detroit

Detroit’s depiction of the police brutality in the fallout of the 1967 12th Street Riot torments its characters in a confusing, claustrophobic nightmare that puts us right in the middle of the atrocity, enrapturing us within the characters before subjecting them to unimaginable pain. Props in particular are due to Will Poulter, who finds the blunt rage within a racist cop that instigates the conflict.

 

  1. The Old Man & The Gun

the old man and the gun

Utterly self-reflective and completely charming, Robert Redford grants his singular charm to his role as longtime bank robber Forrest Tucker as he refuses to retire from the profession that has summed up his life, despite its consequences. It’s a very old fashioned charmer filled that is a more than obvious tribute to Redford’s career, and as a goodbye to one of the most iconic movie stars of all-time, it’s a thorough and beautiful send off.

 

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk

if beale street could talk

If Beale Street Could Talk is a love story that contrasts its tale of first love against the crushing injustice of law, showing the spark that love gives in a time of innocence and its hopefulness within times of anguish. It’s hard to say whether If Beale Street Could Talk is necessarily an optimistic work, but its is undoubtedly an affectionate one that paints a portrait of the great moments of beauty found in James Baldwin’s novel.

 

  1. Warrior

warrior

A family drama told through the means of a sports story, Warrior follows two sides of a rags to riches story as estranged brothers Joel Egerton and Tom Hardy fight their way to the top of a mixed martial arts tournament that ultimately pits them against each other. The anxiety within Warrior is that as each succeeds we know the eventuality that they’ll be pitted against each other, and it goes without saying that the final act is emotionally exhausting.

 

  1. Moonrise Kingdom

moonrise kingdom

The idiosyncratic, quirky world of Wes Anderson it often worth exploring because it’s simply like no other, but Moonrise Kingdom utilizes these charms to detail the difficult process of growing up, exploring the impact that both love and neglect can have on a coming of age tale. Anderson’s films often feel innocent, yet hint at a lurking darkness, and no story represents that more than the tale of fleeting young romance.

 

  1. 22 Jump Street

22 jump street

A clever, self aware sequel to a clever self-aware film, 22 Jump Street is a sequel about sequels that is in on the joke regarding its own unoriginality. Redoing the original, only slightly different, the film puts Hollywood’s laziness on blast, but seeing the way in which it redoes it predecessor in a different scenario also highlights the brilliance of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hills’ relationship, and the legitimately thoughtful story of two compatible losers. 

 

  1. 21 Jump Street

21 jump street

Who would’ve thought that guessed that a 21 Jump Street movie would be one of the most irreverent and cleverly satirical films of the decade? Lampooning the idea of redoing the past, as well as the absurdity of grown men pretending to be high school students, 21 Jump Street is consistently innovative with its visual gags and uproarious action, yet remains wrapped up in a genuinely affectionate on-screen duo of Hill and Tatum.

 

  1. Brooklyn

brooklyn

This is an old-fashioned romantic drama that harkens back to a more innocent time, and while the film chronicles the life of Saoirse Ronan’s character through her relationships, it’s also a great coming of age tale about an immigrant adjusting to an unfamiliar world that is challenging, yet ultimately beautiful.

 

  1. At Eternity’s Gate

at aternity's gate

Vincent van Gogh was a complicated figure, and At Eternity’s Gate is more than a biopic, but a series of musing and anecdotes on inspiration, mortality, fate, isolation, and commitment, told in often jarring works of handheld footage and off putting color choices. Its hypnotic and dazzling to the senses, with Willem Dafoe bringing softness and wit to a figure that is uncompromisingly himself.

 

  1. Only God Forgives

only god forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn is an uncompromising filmmaker, and he makes it clear from the inciting incident in Only God Forgives that this will be a descent into hell, complete with sickening violence, stoic and unemotive characters, and the occasional impromptu musical number. One of the best looking movies of the decade- the heightened reality of Bangkok is equal parts western, hellscape, noir, and fantastical dream, it’s a film that could be paused at any moment and look like a frame of art.

 

  1. Green Book

GreenBook

Although often criticized for its rather simplistic view of racial conflict, Green Book isn’t aiming to make any sweeping statements about the world we live in, but rather detail one hopeful friendship as an example of how we can be. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershela Ali are so good together, with Mortensen delivering more physical comedy than he’s ever before, and Ali playing the stern foil whose dignity is able to mask the great pain he is burdened with.

 

  1. Rush

rush

The goal of any great sports rivalry movie is to make the audience equally invested in both sides, and Rush achieves this with its gripping racing sequences and detailed history of drivers Nicki Lauda and James Hunt. As Hunt, Chris Hemsworth delivers his best performance to date and proves himself more than just Thor, and as Lauda, Daniel Bruhl brings a sensitivity to the seemingly stoic and enigmatic figure.

 

  1. Blue Ruin

blue ruin

A revenge thriller where the lead character isn’t a Liam Neeson type super assassin, but a normal guy with a motive and little skills; Blue Ruin turns the revenge itself into a stepping stone into a deeper cycle of violence and the thrills are sparse amongst the building tension of biting off more than you can chew.

 

  1. Avengers: Endgame

avengers endgame

One third post-traumatic brooding in the vein of The Leftovers, one third self reflexive time travel gimmicks that enhance and entertain the established universe, and one third unparalleled action spectacle with just a ridiculous amount of characters, Avengers: Endgame is as satisfying of an end as we could have ever asked for to the core saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

  1. The Artist

theartist.jpg

Using the format of a 1920s silent film to explore the changing film industry and beginning of the “talkies,” The Artist is more than just a burst of nostalgia, but a full on recreation of all the melodrama, comedy, and joy that can be found in an era that must not be forgotten. Ludovic Bource’s joyful score is one of the best of the decade, and the film also features one of the greatest movie dogs ever.

 

  1. The Avengers

the avengers

A perfect balancing act, The Avengers somehow managed to combine the arcs of six separate heroes into a cohesive story of outsiders that gives each hero their chance to steal scenes and fulfill their potential. Utilizing all the wit and quips that he perpetrated with Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon brings all these characters down to earth and finds dialogue that is often uproariously funny, clever, and sometimes even touching.

 

  1. The Dark Knight Rises

the dark knight rises

It was nearly impossible for Christopher Nolan to follow up to his 2008 masterpiece The Dark Knight, but the 2012 sequel expands the scale of the universe into a large, bombastic emotional journey that tests the will of Batman as he’s called back into a world that’s seemingly passed him by. Epic in its action and filled with a wealth of amazing supporting characters, The Dark Knight Rises gives us an emotional intensity that simply hasn’t been matched in comic book movies since.

 

  1. The Descendants

the descendants

George Clooney is unquestionably one of the best actors and biggest stars of the past twenty years or so, and in The Descendants he channels all his movie star qualities into a role unlike any other- his role is Matt King, a rich land baron that’s seemingly perfect life in Honolulu is upended when his wife is found to be both unfaithful and dying. It’s Clooney using all his charisma to fuel our perception of a character, and then pull back the curtain to show us a struggling father and husband. 

 

  1. Love & Mercy

love and mercy

The lives of musicians as portrayed in biopic films are often a balance of two extremes, and in Love & Mercy the life of Brian Wilson is literally shown as such, with Paul Dano starring as a young Wilson who’s drive for artistic individualism drives him away from his family, and John Cusack as an older Wilson who’s been trapped in a cycle of abuse from his physician. Both actors make the tragedy palpable, and in turn make the success of Wilson’s legacy feel all the more potent.

 

  1. Under the Skin

under the skin

A transfixing cycle of seduction and silencing that draws from the existentialism of Kubrick and the visceral horror of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers era, Under the Skin is a film that begs for further analysis to understand its themes of human identity, sexuality, and mortality as seen through the eyes of a predatory alien played by Scarlett Johansson. The search for answers draws me deeper into the film; this is a work of art that was made to stand the test of time.

 

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

john wick chapter 2

Replacing the passionate vengeance quest of the first John Wick film with a relentless chase sequence, the second film in the now iconic action franchise increases the sense of desperation for the titular assassin whilst never sacrificing the stoic empathy that makes Keanu Reeves’s performance so resonant. Bonus points for the terrific reunion between Reeves and his The Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne, who appears as the quirky crime lord The Bowery King.

 

  1. John Wick

john wick

A kickstart to the entire action genre, John Wick merged eastern kung fu influences with the best gunplay of the Stallone era into a spacious, neon-soaked noir with a downright brilliant character motivation- who wouldn’t want revenge for the death of the cutest dog ever? With the unmatched blunt charisma of Keanu Reeves, John Wick built a world of double crossing assassins who operate under a specific code of rules, granting the series with an Arthurian sense of chivalry and mythology.

 

  1. John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum

john wick chapter 3

The John Wick franchise asks the immortal question of all cinema: what can you show me next? In his third installment, Mr. Wick battles knife-wielding assassins, makes lethal use of a public library, travels a desert, and engages in one of the greatest hand to hand combat sequences in action history. Actors work for years to master delivery of lines, but 99% of dialogue is nowhere near as satisfying as Keanu Reeves saying “yeah!”

 

  1. The Peanut Butter Falcon

peanut butter falcon

An old fashioned, Mark Twain inspired crowd pleaser in the vein we haven’t seen before; Zak, as played by Zack Gottsagen, is a young man with downs syndrome who sets off on a cross country adventure with Shia Labeouf. The beauty of the friendship is that Labeouf teaches Zak that he has limitations, but he’s also able to learn and better himself, a belief that allows Zak to attain his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

 

  1. The Disaster Artist

the disaster artist

This shouldn’t be an inspirational story, at least not the one we were expecting, but James Franco crafted an uproarious and often genuinely touching film about the creative spirit in us all and the friendships that make it all worth it. Franco’s take on the legendary Tommy Wiseau is spot on, and the film recreates the magic of what makes The Room a phenomenon without taking for granted the efforts of anyone involved.

 

  1. Darkest Hour

darkesthour

In today’s climate there’s something inspiring about seeing a great leader with self conviction fight for the good of his people when no one else would. Gary Oldman isn’t just doing a great impression, he’s captured the essence of Winston Churchill; he’s blunt, witty, obnoxious, and often goes out of his way to irritate others, but the conviction in which Oldman explains why it’s necessary to fight the greatest evil known to man are utterly convincing.

 

  1. Midnight Special

midnight special

The end of Midnight Special took my breath away in a way that few sci-fi films ever have; this is clearly a work of detailed mythology with well developed ideas about how our world would interact with extraterrestrial figures, but beneath it is a simple story about the lengths a father would go to love his son. “I’ll always worry about you, Alton,” Michael Shannon says. “That’s the deal.”

 

  1. Logan

logan

Superhero films are often compared to westerns, and in an apt comparison this would be the superhero equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven; the best of this decade’s comic book movies, Logan stripped back the nonsense and plotiness of the superhero genre and delivered on a hard, introspective lone gunslinger story that pitted Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine against his own demons and the curse of his own immortality. 

 

  1. American Hustle

american hustle

The con in American Hustle isn’t the sting itself, per se, but what the sting leads to- this is an absorbing film that relishes in its 70s aesthetic and allows each actor to show off big personalities with exuberant costumes and impressive makeup. There’s an intentional incoherence to what the sting even is or what the exact motivation of each of these wheelers and dealers are, but American Hustle relishes in the depth of its performances and the fact that these actors seem to be having a great time.

 

  1. The Fighter

the fighter

Inspirational true sports stories are often bound by a signature story and style, so in order to differentiate, a good one really needs to make you care about the characters. In The Fighter, success isn’t just for its own sake, but for survival’s sake, and Mark Wahlberg’s down on his luck boxer would never be as potent if it wasn’t for the shocking performance by Christian Bale as his drug addicted, constantly screwing up brother who is usually the only one to believe in him.

 

  1. Thoroughbreds

thoroughbreds

Originally designed to be a stage play, everything in Thoroughbreds is designed to be blunt and stark, from the nearly motionless shots to the short, cutting dialogue, and the clear contrast from the warmth of Anya Taylor-Joy to the coldness of Olivia Cooke. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I love the way Thoroughbreds is made- this is a dark comedy that elevates its pulpy concept into something observant and shocking.

 

  1. Life Itself

life itself

Roger Ebert’s writing is one of the cornerstones of my love of film and my interest in film criticism, and Life Itself does him justice. What starts off as a great collection of Ebert’s best one liners and peculiar friendship with Gene Siskel becomes something more powerful as we see Ebert wrestle with his own mortality onscreen.

 

  1. Source Code

source code

There’s a lot of ways to interpret the Groundhog Day story, and Source Code does it as an exciting science-fiction thriller where Jake Gyllenhaal has to relive a scenario where a train is bombed and place himself in an eight period time to find out what happened. The rules of what’s happening are well explained, and the repetition isn’t just great tension building, but a clever way to show how someone is literally able to undo their past experiences. 

 

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

three billboards

This is a movie about how we are all flawed, and raises questions on what we can do to fix a crumbling world and if we’re willing to forgive and forget. None of these are easy questions, and the film encodes its melancholy in an icing of pitch black comedy that laughs at the chaos that surrounds us. It doesn’t endorse anything in particular, but it doesn’t depict it.

 

  1. Get Out

get out

One of the boldest and most confident debuts this decade, Get Out imagines the real horror of the African-American experience as an actual nightmare in which the marginalized are trapped in a never ending cycle of subjugation. It can be rewatched and examined for the deeply developed themes, but as a visceral horror film its engrossing and terrifying regardless of the context. 

 

  1. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

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Adam Sandler can really give a great performance when he’s given the chance, and The Meyerowitz Stories allows him to channel all his manchild, hapless antics into a sympathetic guy in the midst of a dysfunctional family that includes Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffaman. It’s a great movie about family, the people we love and care for, who are often the most annoying and vexing.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars the force awakens

Using the format of the original film as a kickstarter to introduce new characters, The Force Awakens draws us into the familiar feelings of Star Wars but leaves us with the instant charm of its new heroes Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, and the unexpectedly nuanced and introspection of Kylo Ren, who ranks as the greatest Star Wars villain in history.

 

  1. Margin Call

margin call

The economic crisis is simultaneously one of the most terrifying and confusing phenomenons of this century, and Margin Call channels all out pent up frustration, confusion, and anger into a literal summation of how the entire system could collapse overnight. A unique cast electrifies the whip smart dialogue, with Zachary Quinto as the wide-eyed everyday man who discovers the crisis and Jeremy Irons as the face of the corporate indifference that caused this.

 

  1. Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Solo: A Star Wars Story harkens back to the pulpy western roots that inspired George Lucas to begin with- what if you could see gangsters, smugglers, bounty hunters, femme fatales, and heists in space? Solo celebrates the pure joy of what Star Wars emulates by reimagining the universe in the style of its direct influences. Alden Ehrenreich’s interpretation of Han Solo is criminally good, he has the confidence and charm of the iconic smuggler without the experiences to back them up.

 

  1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

won't you be my neighbor

This film will leave you an emotional wreck; it’s not toothless in its exploration of the life of Fred Rogers, and examines how a truly kind person could be such an oddity within the world we live in. Rogers and his optimism is powerful because perhaps it doesn’t make sense to us, and we’re not entirely sure how to react to it.

 

  1. 20th Century Women

20th century women

“Wondering if you’re happy is a great shortcut to just being depressed.”

 

  1. 127 Hours

127 hours

Yes, this is the movie where James Franco cuts off his own arm, but this inspiring true story is so much more than that; Franco is completely isolated and faced with a seemingly inescapable predicament, yet instead of dwelling on his misery 127 Hours celebrates his survival through reflections and dreams, paving the way for a tense, yet cathartic ending.

 

  1. Motherless Brooklyn

motherless brooklyn

A loving tribute to both noir stories and the rich history of New York, directed beautifully by Edward Norton. It’s a good thing that Motherless Brooklyn is a period piece because I don’t think it’s wistful sincerity and nuanced consideration of social issues would fit for modern audiences.

 

  1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Instead of being a Fred Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood uses Mr. Rogers as a means for another character (a cynical journalist played by Matthew Rhys) to cope with his familial relationships. Expertly framed around perfect recreations of Rogers and his show, it’s an unabashedly earnest look on how people choose to express their feelings.

 

  1. The Rider

The Rider

The Rider could be seen as a condemnation of rodeo culture, but it’s so heartfelt and respectful of it to ever be an outright attack. Brady Jandreau stars as a rodeo rider who sees the tragedy among the sport and all that have been affected, but The Rider shows that changing culture is pretty challenging when it’s so deeply ingrained.

 

  1. BlacKkKlansman

blackklansman

BlacKkKlansman is a great example of a filmmaker using indulgence to better a story; the world of BlacKkKlansman is so well defined as each group, character, and perspective is depicted with unflinching attention. It’s a film that revels in absurdity of its true events and gives way to the genuine horrors of its impact today, drawing us into a story about the past to tell us about the reality of the present.

 

  1. American Animals

American Animals

Films based on true stories are all just essentially reimaginings, and American Animals is a true crime all about the idea of that. Different people interpret events in different ways, and in the end it’s as much a search for truth as it is a search for meaning. By combining documentary interviews with the reenactments of actors like Evan Peters and Barry Keoughan, American Animals features all the excitement of a heist with all the stress and regret that would follow.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #200-151

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We’re getting closer to the end of my series on the best films of the decade. Here are entries #200 through #151.

 

  1. American Sniper

american sniper

Among Bradley Cooper’s best work as an actor is his performance as Chris Kyle; we get the sense that Kyle was a subdued guy who had a strong foundation in his family and brothers in arms, and the fleeting moments of happiness amidst the isolation of war make the film’s ending tribute to the life cut short all the more impactful.

 

  1. Patriots Day

patriots day

There’s no one way to view a tragedy, nor is their one point of view, and Patriots Day is a compelling retrospective of the chaos following the Boston Marathon Bombing as an entire city is left in shock and then is spurred into action.

 

  1. The Stanford Prison Experiment

stanford prison experiment

Based on the true story of a college prison simulation that got too real, The Stanford Prison Experiment does an excellent job at showing how authority can corrupt someone’s judgment and the power that control grants. These young stars never fail to feel authentic, both in the helpless prisoners and the ruthless guards.

 

  1. Under the Silver Lake

under the silver lake

A film made to be analyzed that’s also critical of over analysis, Under the Silver Lake draws us in with its wacky sets and mysterious dangers, and while the common threads of the Hollywood loss of innocence and obsessive behavior draw many of its misadventures together, it’s also a testament to the films own weirdness that we can keep asking “what will you show me next?”

 

  1. The Sisters Brothers

the sisters brothers

There’s an odd sense of sensitivity within The Sisters Brothers and its depiction of outlaws; Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly certainly didn’t intend for these sorts of action to define their lives, and when violence hits the screen it’s often sickening, as if to remind us of the ramifications that these two charming, affectionate brothers have.

 

  1. Straight Outta Compton

straight outta compton

An inspired look at the creative process from inspiration to impact, Straight Outta Compton is the type of music biopic in where we feel the energy that N.W.A. inspired, both in the electric concert footage and the depiction of the events that inspired the groundbreaking music.

 

  1. Widows

widows

Widows is an example of what happens when an auteur makes a genre feature outside of a pre existing model; while it has its roots in the heist formula of Ocean’s Eleven, Widows uses the setpieces to envision a modern day Chicago wrought with corruption, and the uniformly excellent ensemble helps the film achieve a sense of hyperrealism.

 

  1. Midnight in Paris

midnight in paris

Hands down, the best thing that Woody Allen has ever made; Midnight in Paris skewers the fleeting nature of both materialism and nostalgia, both of which are charismatic escapes, but only provide temporary pleasures. Allen’s idiosyncratic humor is perfectly fit to Owen Wilson’s role as a self loathing, existential screenwriter.

 

  1. Molly’s Game

molly's game

Aaron Sorkin sure knows how to write snappy, specific dialogue that wows us with its clever asides, but a midnight scene on a park bench between Kevin Costner and Jessica Chastain is among the best things he’s ever written; beneath the ruthless strength of the leader of the world’s most notorious poker empire is a broken familial bond, and Chastain’s realization of her father’s affection ties the chaotic frenzy of her schemes into something more profound.

 

  1. Us

us

Us is evidence that Jordan Peele is simply a born filmmaker who loves both his influences and his audiences in equal measure. What starts as a family drama becomes an epic survival thriller that retains the power of the family unit, never backing down from it unsettling tone. I wish more filmmakers were as judicious with their time in the way Peele is; we get so much about these characters early on that the near constant scares that follow feel all the more authentic.

 

  1. Uncut Gems

uncut gems

135 minutes of pure anxiety. Adam Sandler proves once again that given the chance, he can transform into a character unlike we’ve ever seen before.

 

  1. Dolemite Is My Name

dolemite is my name

While it revels in the goofiness of Rudy Ray Moore and the chaotic, bad scientist way he made films, it never treats him like a joke, and is able to celebrate the way he completely uprooted the film industry. Eddie Murphy is as good as he was in his glory days, and Wesley Snipes is just one member of a great ensemble of character actors.

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy

For something considered to be so subversive, Guardians of the Galaxy feels like a throwback; this is a story of a group of outsiders and losers whose actions and attitudes place them outside the realm of traditional heroes, and the chemistry between the characters makes us feel like we’re watching an instant classic. And yes, the soundtrack is as great as you remember.

 

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, l-r: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, 2014, ©Walt Disney Company/co

How do you envision a simplistic, pro-America propaganda tool for the modern day? The Winter Soldier places Captain America in a modern day America that he no longer recognizes, in which the enemy isn’t clear and the fight for freedom is more than defeating a bad guy, but protecting personal freedoms that are slowly being trampled.

 

  1. Room

'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

The great skill of Room is that it is able to tell its story entirely from the point of view of a child; a traumatic story of a captive life unravels as Jacob Tremblay’s character becomes aware of his situation and enters the real world for the first time, discovering all the life that was denied to him.

 

  1. Beginners

beginners

It shouldn’t have taken this long for Christopher Plummer to win an Oscar, but this is anything but a career win; Plummer is charming as a dying father in search of acceptance as he enters the end of his life, and Ewan McGregor is equally tremendous as his loving son who uses his father’s transformation as a hope to better himself.

 

  1. Slow West

slow west

A fairy tale of a western, Slow West is anything but what its title would suggest; this is a fast paced, action packed 84 minute western thriller that treats the banality of the western trail as a means for a great coming of age story and its own dark comedic fodder. Young Kodi Smit-McPhee excels as the young traveler in search of his lost love, as does Michael Fassbender as the veteran gunslinger that joins him.

 

  1. Southside With You

southside with you

Imagining the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama as a Before Sunrise style indie romantic drama, Southside With You is just that; a charming, endearing tale of young love that rakes in all the energy and culture of 1989’s Chicago. The genius of the film, of course, is that we’re not just watching a random culture, and that we can see the groundwork for what these two would do throughout the conversations they have.

 

  1. Locke

locke

It takes a great actor to get us engaged in a 90 minute car ride, and thankfully Tom Hardy is a great actor with a knack for playing compelling, yet tragically flawed characters. Steven Knight also deserves credit for his direction; the car ride feel increasingly claustrophobic as the pressure mounts on Hardy’s character.

 

  1. Weiner

weiner

Anthony Weiner remains one of those larger than life figures that is so exaggerated and confounding that if he were a fictional character we’d immediately dismiss him as a first draft parody. Weiner, however, is a documentary about the farce that was his mayoral campaign in excruciating detail with an astounding level of access into the frantic offices that tried to save Weiner from the media circus.

 

  1. Midsommar

MIDSOMMAR

I’ve never seen a horror movie set entirely in the sunlight, and Midsommar is certainly different in its approach to ritualistic sacrifice than any other. This is also just a great breakup movie, and Florence Pugh makes the anxiety of loss and neglect realistic, both within the context of dealing with realistic family tragedy and the absurd surrealism of a Swedish cult.

 

  1. The Florida Project

the florida project

Rarely has poverty been depicted with such ferocity; The Florida Project explores how a seemingly normal week can be the tipping point in a family’s livelihood. Bria Vinaite’s role as a young mother who uses scams to survive doesn’t always come off as upstanding, but she nonetheless earns our sympathy, and Brooklyn Prince’s role as her young daughter easily ranks among the greatest child performances of all-time.

 

  1. Lone Survivor

lone survivor

Peter Berg clearly has a lot of respect for the armed forces, and Lone Survivor confronts the banality of combat with its visceral depiction of the brutality, as well as the strong sense of friendship between brothers in arms. While he is often inconsistent in his performances, Mark Wahlberg excels here as a patriot whose world is upended in the wake of a tough decision.

 

  1. Apollo 11

apollo 11

The reconfiguration and restoration of real, unseen footage of the moon mission is downright stunning; this is a documentary that plays out like a narrative, and the real time structure places us firmly within the moment that changed history forever. 

 

  1. The Report

the report

The best types of informational films are the ones that make the case for their importance by asking questions- if the C.I.A. torture program was legal, then why were so many desperate to cover it up? Adam Driver gives another revelatory performance as a senate staffer who becomes tormented by larger forces trying to silence him.

 

  1. Knives Out

knives out

A delightful modern spin on the whodunit that replicates classic Agatha Christie tropes with big personalities and delightful satire of the rich elite. Daniel Craig’s southern drawl may be enough to draw the audience in, but it’s Ana de Armas’s heartfelt depiction of pure goodness that gives the film its soul.

 

  1. Nebraska

nebraska

The black and white of Nebraska feels like we’re living within a memory, and as Bruce Dern and Will Forte travel into a tumultuous series of misadventures, we get a better sense of how this father and son duo came to leave the past behind, despite being forced to relive it. Forte proves why he’s one of the brighter stars of comedy today, and Dern, of course, is a legend.

 

  1. X-Men: First Class

x-men first class

Reimagining the Shakespearean comic book epic into a slick, exciting 60s thriller, First Class director crafted a brilliant central conflict within the X-Men series that centered around the dynamic between Professor X and Magneto, and how the experiences of each informed their feelings on a conflict with the rest of humanity. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender elevate these characters into a heartbreaking friendship, and the dissolving and acceptance of their roles as hero and villain make for one of the best told superhero origin stories. 

 

  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past

x-men days of future past

The best of the core X-Men films, Days of Future Past delivers on everything you could want from an X-Men film; seamlessly blending the two timelines into a post-apocalyptic survival thriller and a 70s period piece with a strong heist element, this one goes all out in introducing new characters and fulfilling existing characters’ arcs from previous movies. The most potent of these dynamics is the one between Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and James McAvoy as a younger, disillusioned Professor X, and Wolverine’s desperate attempts to make the X-Men’s leader hope again.

 

  1. Looper

looper

Looper is a mind bender that simultaneously well explains its own mythology and perfectly plays with a really cool scenario: what if you had to kill your future self? The attention to detail in explaining time travel is appreciated, but it’s the nuanced work from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis that bring humanity to this stylish thriller.

 

  1. The Master

the master

Whether or not it’s really about Scientology is beside the point; The Master is an acute depiction of how seductive cult-like causes can be, and how the promise of answers in the wake of chaos can be attractive to even the strong-willed ones. This is one of the best performances that the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman ever gave; the face of the “The Cause,” Hoffman has a magically enticing charisma that shows the promises that a belief system like this could give, and the unraveling of his true nature is the very definition of what makes a great performance.

 

  1. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

popstar

Lonely Island’s ability to make satirical music that is genuinely great is notorious, and this skill translates beautifully to Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; this is a razor-sharp satire of the ridiculous celebrity culture that surrounds the music industry, but the story of Andy Samberg’s eccentric pop icon makes for a genuinely great character piece. The music is just terrific, with hits like “Karate Guy,” “I’m So Humble,” “Mona Lisa,” “Legalize It,” and “Incredible Thoughts” making for an instant classic in original soundtracks.

 

  1. Bad Times at the El Royale

bad times at the el royale

A retro bottle thriller that crams nearly every 60s genre into its illustrious runtime, Bad Time at the El Royale has a lot of fun with its great soundtrack, shocking violence, and terrific cast (Chris Hemsworth is a sociopath! Jeff Bridges is a bank robber! Jon Hamm is a spy!) This is an indulgent movie that takes its time; we slowly learn about why each of these characters are here, and the confined setting pits them against each other in a battle of wit and will.

 

  1. Sicario

SICARIO

Day 01

The ending of Sicario is a masterpiece of patience and trust; in this story of how the cycle of violence permeates the Mexican border, director Denis Villenueve teases us with clues to what is really going on before letting the story unravel and allowing Benicio del Toro’s deadly hitman carry out his plans.

 

  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 cloverfield lane

The original Cloverfield was a fun gimmick, but 10 Cloverfield Lane has elevates the series into a claustrophobic suspense bottle thriller, building up nauseating tension between the three leads as their funny, touching, and terrifying time together in an underground bunker leads to a dynamite conclusion. John Goodman has always been an incredibly versatile actor, but this is a side of him we haven’t seen before.

 

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

war for the planet of the apes

Perhaps the saddest, darkest, and most depressing summer blockbuster ever made; this is a “war” that takes the form of an exodus journey about the apes’ journey away from captivity and enslavement, taking a somber tone as humanity is forsaken around them. Michael Giacchino’s excellent score elevates the emotional weight of each scene, particularly the final action sequence.

 

  1. Wildlife

wildlife

One of the most impressive directorial debuts this decade, Paul Dano avoids many mistakes that first time directors make with a slow, meticulous film in which each shot looks like a portrait (an intentional choice, I’m assuming, because the film literally ends with a portrait being taken). This is an age old story about a marriage falling apart through the eyes of a child, but the conviction in which Ed Oxenbould shows this wide eyed innocence as his parents (excellent Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan) grow apart makes it all the more moving.

 

  1. Toy Story 3

toy story 3

Bookending a story of childhood, Toy Story 3 does the hardest thing- it says goodbye, and shows us that moving on is never easy, but can be rewarding. On top of the emotional gut punch of an ending, Toy Story 3 is also a surprisingly great prison movie that pits Woody, Buzz, and the other toys in a race against time to get back to Andy.

 

  1. True Grit

true grit

Despite the iconic performance by John Wayne, 1969’s True Grit isn’t particularly good, and the Coens’ 2010 remake easily ranks as one of the best remakes of all-time. Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfield make for a terrific duo as a gunslinger past his prime and a child out for vengeance, and the Coens’s signature sweeping cinematography and blackly comic violence are the perfect means to elevate this classic western story.

 

  1. The Theory of Everything

the theory of everything

The story of Stephen Hawking in of itself is inspiring, and The Theory of Everything takes his incredible story and turns it into something more meditative; here is a man who despite his own confinements pondered the meaning of life and the origin of the universe, and The Theory of Everything attempts to make sense of these notions through a potent romance between Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

 

  1. The Imitation Game

imitation game

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”- Alan Turing.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

thor ragnorak

After his more mythic appearances in the Marvel Universe’s previous installments, Thor was kickstarted with a Led Zeppelin-laced reinvention of Flash Gordon with Taika Waititi’s comic genius. While the humor was different and the more colorful, oddball environments differentiated Ragnarok from the previous Thor movies, it also continued its themes into a thoughtful conclusion for Asgard, particularly nailing the Thor and Loki relationship that is fraught with conflict but bound by brotherhood.

 

  1. Blindspotting

blindspotting

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal not only star in Blindspotting, but also wrote the screenplay together, which they based on their lifelong friendship. This makes Blindspotting all the more authentic as a film about race relations in Oakland and the reality of violence within their community, but also in its depiction of how friendships evolve and the hardships of seeing a friend go down a darker path.

 

  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

hunt for the wilderpeople

Taika Waititi has a great ability to make films that feel like fables; they are filled with wacky scenarios, quirky characters, and awe inspiring moments of adventure, and in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, these sensibilities are channeled into a comic manhunt romp following the charming duo of breakout star Julian Dennison as a rebellious child and the legendary Sam Neill as his grizzly adopted uncle.

 

  1. Eye in the Sky

eye in the sky

There’s nothing easy about warfare and the split second decisions it requires, and despite its advances technology doesn’t make it any easier. Eye in the Sky details the painstaking decisions involved in the calling of a drone strike, memorialized through a terrific ensemble that includes the late great Alan Rickman, who delivers the film’s best line- “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.”

 

  1. Hereditary

hereditary

The scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Hereditary is a chilling exploration of guilt, grief, and familial ties between them, leaving images of pure horror that are forever seared within the viewer’s memory. If you’ve seen Hereditary, you know what I’m talking about when I reference “that scene”- a horrifically suspenseful moment that escalates the film into a visualization of our worst anxieties and builds a horror mythology on our worst nightmares.

 

  1. The Death of Stalin

the death of stalin

Reimagining the Russian regime’s reaction to the death of its leader, The Death of Stalin finds the humor in the evils of Communism through swift, bickering character actors whose selfish desire for power and influence would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t at the expense of the lives of so many innocents. One scene in particular, in which Steve Buscemi tries to pass information on to an ally during Stalin’s funeral and attempts to disguise it as a ceremonial practice, is perhaps one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

 

  1. Captain America: Civil War

captain america civil war

One of the greatest comic book movies, Civil War took a break from the extraterrestrial threats and focused on the characters that defined the Marvel universe, exploring how the ideological differences between Captain America and Iron Man impacted everyone caught in the crossfire. While it deals with weighty themes about freedom and security, Civil War also allows each character to have their moment to shine, with particularly great introductions to future Marvel stars Spider-Man and Black Panther.

 

  1. Moonlight

moonlight

What can I say about Moonlight that hasn’t been said already? A creative coming of age story told in three distinct stories of love and nurture, Moonlight explores how moments of affection and passion echo throughout the rest of our lives.

 

  1. A Ghost Story

a ghost story

Meditative and meandering, A Ghost Story uses simplistic ideas of the supernatural to let us observe the passage of time through multiple eyes. Everything old is new again, and as we try to make sense of visual poetry that director David Lowery has created, we become lost in poignancy of how beautiful these fleeting moments can be.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #250-201

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In the past week, I’ve counted down my picks for the best films of the decade. My list continues today with entries #250 through #201.

 

  1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

scott pilgrim vs the world

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is Edgar Wright’s worst movie, which is to say that it’s still really great. Structured like a video game that proceeds with difficulty, the film gives Michael Cera seven distinct adversaries to face off against, each bringing a different sense of personality and humor to this idiosyncratic story.

 

  1. Filth

filth

If there was ever need for more proof that James McAvoy is one of the best leading men of his generation, than Filth provides it; Bruce Robertson is an immediately iconic screen character, someone with the sarcastic wit, general nastiness, and pitch black comic timing to match the crazy sex, drugs, and violent shenanigans of the film that surrounds him. A film so shocking requires this sort of performance to work, and McAvoy strikes a balance between sardonic swagger and complete vulnerability. 

 

  1. Toy Story 4

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After the emotionally devastating Toy Story 3, the fourth film in Pixar’s most iconic franchise is a more subdued, episodic affair that introduces great new characters and gives a sense of closure to the character of Woody- one that will still pull on the heartstrings by the end. Forky for President.

 

  1. Stronger

stronger

Nothing about tragedy and disability is convenient, and Stronger shows the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing through the eyes of a down on his luck, irresponsible yet well intentioned man child; the character isn’t made better because of his disability, but he becomes more aware of his environment and those who care for him, with Jake Gyllenhaal doing some of the best work of his career.

 

  1. Much Ado About Nothing

much ado about nothing

This is a story that’s been told countless times, and for obvious reasons, but Joss Whedon turns the story into a noir, complete with a black and white backdrop that turns the story’s intrigue and betrayals into an engaging mystery, complete with Nathan Fillion’s terrific performance as the hapless Keystone Cop Dogberry.

 

  1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

rise of the planet of the apes

A very clever take on a series I didn’t think needed the rejuvenation, Rise of the Planet of the Apes shows how the sentience of the ape Caesar, who’s played marvelously by Andy Serkis in motion capture, is both a blessing and a curse; he feels the warmth of being accepted into a family, but with this knowledge is also the knowledge that abuse is rampant and his situation of love is an isolated one. 

 

  1. Gravity

GRAVITY

I’m not usually a fan of 3-D, but Alfonso Cuaron uses the medium to capture both the beauty of rebirth and existentialism, as well as the terror of isolation and the fear of the unknown.

 

  1. Gifted

gifted

Mackenna Grace gives a terrific child performance; despite her obvious intellectual prowess she still has the mind and soul of a young girl, and having the mental capacity of a genius won’t exactly allow you to fit into a normal environment.

 

  1. Saving Mr. Banks

saving mr banks

Perhaps there’s not an inch of truth to the story, but nonetheless this is a very charming film about the creation of a classic film, and Emma Thompson is affectionately charming as a rigid, cynical author who learns to open her heart.

 

  1. American Honey

american honey

Three hours long, yes, but American Honey isn’t meant to be structured in a traditional way; we witness the climaxes and cataclysms of an average few weeks in the lives of a group of impoverished teenage magazine sellers who travel between neighborhoods, and once we let go of the idea that anything will be resolved with a bow, we’re lost in the rhythms of the film’s loose structure.

 

  1. Little Women

little women

This creative reinterpretation of the classic novel imagines past and present all at once, allowing memories and their ramifications to coexist as they are presented. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlen are thoroughly convincing as on screen sisters.

 

  1. Green Room

green room

From the very beginning, the environments of Green Room feel distinctly off the grid and sleazy, the perfect backdrop for this edgy gorefest that pits low caliber punk rockers against neo-Nazis. The late great Anton Yelchin gives one of his final performances, and he’s transfixing as the lead of these punks who lead the ultimate fight against the man.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

spider-man into the spider-verse

You had me at Jake Johnson as a washed up version of Peter Parker, but Nic Cage as a noir inspired, private eye Spider-Man? John Mulaney as the appropriately named Spider-Pig/Peter Porker? This is everything I could have asked for.

 

  1. Snowpiercer

snowpiercer

Realizing the class system as a society that is literally divided between classes on a train, this post apocalyptic thriller examines the struggle between the haves and the have nots as a revolution rises from the lower class and the stylized action sequences get even more insane as it reaches the front.

 

  1. The Witch

the witch

Using the backdrop of religious anxiety, and the issues related to blind faith, The Witch explores how these anxieties can destroy a family from the inside as suspicion and fear guide all decision making, and the real palpable horror that lurks beneath is all the more terrifying when it’s able to so easily tear apart the fabric of logic.

 

  1. Don’t Think Twice

don't think twice

There’s a lot of movies about struggling actors and comics, but Don’t Think Twice zeroes in on the community of those hoping to make it, and the heartbreak of watching a career fall behind as others get ahead.

 

  1. Chronicle

chronicle

The best found footage movie ever made, Chronicle uses the format to get up close and personal with teenagers who gain superpowers, and explores how these powers only amplify the struggles of growing up and build as Dane DeHaan’s character is crushed over the lust for his newfound power.

 

  1. A Quiet Place

a quiet place

If this was the movie that finally inspired audiences to shut up and watch a movie without talking, then it was all worth it; beneath the nearly unbearable tension of this silent sci-fi thriller is a contemplative story about the responsibilities of raising a child in a world in crisis, and the familial bonds shine through John Krasinski’s terrific directorial effort. 

 

  1. Mudbound

mudbound

Examining the systematic effects of racism over a generation, Mudbound is a slow, methodical drama that takes it time to sink its teeth into each individual character’s story, the most moving of which is the bond between soldiers played by Garret Hedlund and Jason Mitchell, both of whom return to a much different home than they had remembered.

 

  1. It

it

Realizing the trauma and fears of adolescence into a literal manifestation of nightmares, this excellent Stephen King adaptation brought together an excellent young cast who all nail their roles as kids whose worst fears and secrets are brought to life in the form of Pennywise. A great horror film and a great coming of age film.

 

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawn of the planet of the apes

After the franchise was successfully reinvented in 2011, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continued Caesar’s role as a leader as he was forced to cope with a series of grievances and conflicts that restarted conflicts between humans and apes. Props are also due to Toby Kebbell, who’s role as a rival Ape leader hell bent on destroying all humans makes for an interesting counter to Caesar.

 

  1. Prometheus

prometheus

Before Alien: Covenant butchered the franchise in 2017, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus took the extraterrestrial series to its roots with a contained, claustrophobic gore fest, this time asking big questions about the search for a creator and the ability to create life. While Covenant was nostalgia bait for the Alien imagery, Prometheus took the best parts of the mythology and channeled it into a new and exciting sci-fi mystery.

 

  1. Young Adult

young adult

In the first few minutes of Young Adult, it’s made clear that Charlize Theron is an extremely talented actress who can make the worst, most transparent character both humorous and tragic, and by the end of Young Adult, I was convinced that Theron is one of the best actors in history and that the uncompromising narcissism of her character here unlocked a profound message about whether people can change.  

 

  1. Edge of Tomorrow

edge of tomorrow

Sometimes you can create a great movie by just lumping two other great movies together, and in this case it’s Groundhog Day and Aliens. Combining a time loop with an alien invasion plot, Edge of Tomorrow delivered on the original summer blockbuster we had all been waiting for, with heart, laughs, and the unmatchable star power of Tom Cruise.

 

  1. Macbeth

macbeth

How can you attempt to capture the wit, depth, and rhythm of Shakespeare’s dialogue? Macbeth lifts these iconic words into a new medium and tells the story of the Scottish King as a striking visual feast, drawing into Macbeth’s isolation and using the breathless action sequences to illuminate the political intrigue that surrounds the character.

 

  1. Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw ridge

Mel Gibson sure knows how to make epics, and the union of overt religious themes with an unflinching portrayal of the brutality of war make Hacksaw Ridge into an unexpectedly awe inspiring work of art. Andrew Garfield possesses a charming small town boy charm, and seeing the character’s self inflicted morals develop over the course of unimaginable violence makes his message even stronger. 

 

  1. Zootopia

zootopia

Zootopia is peak Disney animation, a joyous buddy-cop adventure set in the world of a hierarchy of zoo animals. Combining eye popping visual spectacle with an inclusive message and a good series of animal puns, Zootopia is the perfect film for a world that isn’t any less cynical, but is at least willing to listen more.

 

  1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

the girl with the dragon tattoo

While this source material has been adapted before, never has it been as jarringly brutal, unflinchingly scary, and bleakly thrilling as David Fincher’s 2011 rendition, with Rooney Mara utterly transforming into the role of the titular hacker. It takes a lot for a movie this gruelling to remain engrossing at three hours of length, but Fincher spins the nuanced mystery into an epic that’s stressful to watch, but rewarding.

 

  1. A Monster Calls

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A therapeutic story of loss through the age old means of coping with loss: storytelling. A young boy battles the idea of his mother’s impending death by learning lessons from an imaginative monster, who is perfectly voiced by the gravel, yet soft tones of Liam Neeson.

 

  1. 50/50

50:50

Comedy is often the best therapy, and 50/50 explores the traumatic experience of going through cancer treatment through the eyes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, who gives his most down to Earth performance to date as a friend who wants to treat his friend the same way he always has and give him a reason to power through what could be a limited time left alive.

 

  1. Leave No Trace

leave no trace

Graceful and patient, Leave No Trace explores the lives of Ben Foster and his daughter Thomasin Mckenzie as they live off the land away from society, and while the premise may seem like the setup for a high stakes drama, the film’s rambling, non structured format makes the case for their lifestyle. The film simply shows the journey between different environments and stages of life, engrossing us on the everyday battles that these characters face.

 

  1. Blinded by the Light

blinded by the light

Blinded by the Light shows the pure joy of finding inspiration in anything, in this case the music of Bruce Springsteen, but at the same time it’s also a story about creating your own legacy; the film’s hero Javed finds direction when he finds that The Boss understands him better than anyone else, but ultimately it’s his actions and initiative that begins his story of self discovery.

 

  1. Tully

tully

Charlize Theron gives one of the best performances of her career in Tully as a mother whose family life is given a boost of energy when a young nanny, played by Mackenzie Davis, helps take care of her kids and relive her youth. The depiction of middle aged slumps and the unrewarding nature of motherhood is crushing in all its chaotic energy, and the surprisingly ambitious ending is the perfect thematic closure to all the film’s themes.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

spider-man-homecoming

We’ve seen Spider-Man movies set in high school before, but this is the first that really feels like a high school movie; Peter Parker is still just a kid figuring out his identity, how to talk to girls, and how to fit in, and the pressures of growing up is only increased when you’re also saving the world. This one keeps the action low key and mostly focuses on the characters, expanding the supporting cast into what feels like a modern day John Hughes ensemble, complete with a villain with a genuine motivation that fits within this world. It goes without saying that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man in history, but he is.

 

  1. Joker

joker

There’s an inherent tension within this origin tale; we know where it’s heading, and seeing the ways in which the stigmatization of mental illness and vast class differences mold the greatest villain in comic book history is fascinating. Joaquin Phoenix allows us to feel deeply distraught as Arthur Fleck is brutalized by a system that doesn’t care about him, and is still able to shock us with his use of violence as self realization.

 

  1. The Intouchables

the intouchables

An instantly iconic depiction of friendship, and how friendship transcends age, class, race, or ability. Of course it’s cheesy, but The Intouchables never comes off as insensitive; Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy have amazing chemistry, and their touching relationship clearly resonated with viewers around the world. 

 

  1. Pain and Glory

pain and glory

Pedro Almodovar’s personal reflection is tremendous in the extent to which he draws on his own experiences as a great artist looking back at his work and life. Only a signature filmmaker could make this film, and Almodovar treats the past with a distanced sense of humor, an insightful approach to finding wisdom in regret.

 

  1. Ford v Ferrari

ford v ferrari

When building up to the final race, James Mangold is eager to break down and explain how everything works and the mechanics that are at play, but by the time the film’s epic final lap takes place it’s clear he still has more to show us. Bale and Damon bring unexpected heart to this pleasantly old fashioned buddy duo.

 

  1. Cloud Atlas

cloud atlas

One of the most ambitious and complex movies ever made, Cloud Atlas wasn’t made for gut reactions, nor was it made to be completely understood on a first viewing (hell, I’ve seen it at least three times and I still have a lot of questions). This mosaic of six different timelines (with an ensemble cast playing different roles throughout each timeline) can be viewed as a commentary on how individual actions ripple into the future, as a message about nothing is new and time is a cycle, or just a means to get lost within these different stories- either way, it’s a different experience each time its viewed, an example of how an $150 million movie can be a weird, esoteric epic.

 

  1. Frank

frank

It is said early on in Frank that “it’s best if you just go with it,” and if you can buy into the premise of Michael Fassbender as an enigmatic singer of an experimental band who wears a paper mache head, than you can find the weirdly inspiring message beneath the highly satirical, pitch black dark comedy of Frank.

 

  1. The Guest

the guest

The premise sounds like a fairly conventional drama: a soldier returns to normal life by visiting the family of his friend who was killed in Afghanistan- but this is a slasher film, and Adam Wingard’s wildly entertaining, neon-lit noir thriller quickly descends into visceral thrills. Dan Stevens is fantastic as the seemingly noble soldier who sinks his control into each member of the family and becomes a key figure in their lives.

 

  1. The Big Sick

the big sick

The most important thing in a rom-com is that the romance feels authentic, and in The Big Sick the autobiographical story from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon couldn’t have a better pulse for the moment. Navigating Kumail’s journey to gain his family’s acceptance and maintain his stand up career as Emily is stuck in a coma, The Big Sick shows Kumail’s journey to satisfy all aspects of his life and discover what is really the most important.

 

  1. Paddington

paddington

Most kids movies suck because they talk down to kids, and thankfully Paddington is an example of how to make real great family entertainment- just because the themes of kindness and family are simple doesn’t mean they can’t be well done. Writer and director Paul King makes visual poetry out of the world of Paddington the bear, with 21st Century London unfolding like portraits from a children’s novel. 

 

  1. Paddington 2

paddington 2

As if Paddington couldn’t be more perfect, the sequel is even better, putting the Brown family under more strenuous circumstances after Paddington is framed for stealing a book. It’s a testament to the power of the character that he is able to make the best out of each situation (even prison!), and the selfish, self absorbed art thief played by Hugh Grant couldn’t have been a better adversary.

 

  1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

sherlock holmes a game of shadows

Maybe Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t imagine Sherlock Holmes as a wisecracking action hero who rain in slow motion and foiled international war schemes, but that what Guy Ritchie envisioned: a period piece that feels like a modern action movie. The direction many be different, but the technology is intact, with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprising their great chemistry as the famous sleuth and his sidekick.

 

  1. Black Swan

black swan

Darren Aronofsky uses the guise of a ballerina’s obsession with a role to explore the very nature of identity, exploring how sensuality and inner darkness shape someone’s nature. For a director whose not known for his subtlety, Aronofsky shows restraint in the reveal of his visceral thrills and the slow breakdown of his lead character.

 

  1. Blue Valentine

blue valentine

We only understand something’s value when its taken away; Blue Valentine shows us that behind every blowout and breakup is a spark of passion, and the gruelling juxtaposition of palpable attraction with a slow burn breakup is just horrific to watch. Perhaps one of the most depressing movies ever made, but Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are fearless in their depiction of intimacy.

 

  1. The Place Beyond the Pines

the place beyond the pines

What a genius way of telling a story; The Place Beyond the Pines is truly a film in which I had no idea where it was going, but looking back this story couldn’t have been told any other way. Using a chance encounter between Ryan Gosling’s bank robber and Bradley Cooper’s cop to kickstart the story, The Place Beyond the Pines shows how each character and their family are affected across three distinct, but intertwined stories.

 

  1. Hostiles

hostiles

A grim salute to the cycle of violence that permeates the American west, Hostiles questions if there will ever be a solution when hatred of one another is so ingrained within our history, and does a great job at showing the similarities between a U.S. soldier and a Native American chief forced to survive together on a long journey. Christian Bale and Wes Studi are excellent in their respective roles.

 

  1. Shutter Island

shutter island

Martin Scorsese is so good at what he does that it’s fun to see him try his hand at something that he’s never done before: a haunted house thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio has a whole lot of range as his character becomes increasingly lost in his situation in this twisty mindbender.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #300-251

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We’re now halfway done with my list of the best films of the decade. Here are entries #300 through #251.

 

  1. Shazam!

shazam

Shazam! brings back superhero movies to their core; these are movies about people with incredible abilities that help people, and seeing this realization through the eyes of a young boy looking for an escape from his hardships makes for great comedy and drama; Shazam! celebrates these ideals and doesn’t satire them, and the point of view of a kid who wants to fly away from his problems is about as relatable as a story like this can get.

 

  1. Lion

lion

An incredible true story that would be too unbelievable otherwise, Lion shows the sharp contrast between the hopeful yearning of childhood and the regretful hardship of adulthood by two distinct segments, one with a young boy, Sunny Pawar, and the other with Dev Patel; completing the story of an Indian child lost from his home who lives his whole life searching for answers, Lion chronicles the obsession of loss that can haunt someone’s entire life.

 

  1. Anthropoid

anthropoid

While it excels in its thrilling final act, in which Czech soldiers carry out their doomed plan to assassinate one of Hitler’s top lieutenants, Anthropoid uses the espionage story to show what life is like under tyrannical rule, and thus why this mission was of top importance.

 

  1. The Edge of Seventeen

the edge of seventeen

If John Hughes was around to make a film for the social media era, it would look something like this, as The Edge of Seventeen is realistic and compassionate to the point where there are scenes so uncomfortably familiar that you want to look away. Everybody should have a teacher like Woody Harrelson in this film.

 

  1. The Shape of Water

the shape of water

A monster movie by way of an Old Hollywood romance, The Shape of Water is Guillermo del Toro’s fairy tale tribute to the outsiders and mistreated, with each actor bringing a sense of freedom and individuality to these roles that feel lifted from folklore. Alexandre Desplat’s score brings a beautiful sense of yearning and majesty to the story.

 

  1. The Post

the post

While the parallels to today’s modern political climate are overtly obvious, this is still a Steven Spielberg movie and as such is expertly crafted in every conceivable way; from gaining sources to affirming data to the make or break moment of publishing, The Post has a potent grasp of the journalistic process. 

 

  1. J. Edgar

j. edgar

Maligned upon its initial release, I think there’s actually a lot more thoughtfulness in Clint Eastwood’s depiction of J. Edgar Hoover; the film shows a rise and fall story through the eyes of someone who’s constantly at odds with himself and his identity, and the contrast of someone who lies to themselves with the world of espionage makes for a pointed critical study. 

 

  1. Outlaw King

outlaw king

We don’t see a lot of epics like this anymore, and Outlaw King doesn’t skimp on the big, massive action sequences with thousands of English and Scottish soldiers running to kill each other. It’s easy to get lost in the facts or the dates or the who’s who of many historical movies, but Outlaw King centers these big setpieces around a race against time, putting the pressure on Chris Pine’s Robert the Bruce to save his people.

 

  1. Demolition

demolition

Using idiosyncratic characters and a meandering plot to communicate the response to profound grief, Demolition allows Jake Gyllenhaal to really shine as a grieving husband who both literally and figuratively takes an axe to his life; not only does he face his grief, but his own insecurities about his purpose, and the film explores these ideas in playful misadventures.   

 

  1. Trumbo

trumbo

There’s a very “Old Hollywood” feel to Trumbo, and not just because it’s actually set in Old Hollywood. A very simple message about the importance of standing up for one’s ideals as told by a communist screenwriter blacklisted from the industry, Trumbo is made to entertain and inform more than it is to challenge, and the scene chewing gravitas of Bryan Cranston evokes some of the great actors of the Old Hollywood era he is representing.

 

  1. A Most Violent Year

a most violent year

Slow doesn’t have to mean boring, and J.C. Chandor’s meticulous epic about the corruption and decay of a city finds an impressive scope by showing the city’s impact on one family; the restrained ambition of Oscar Isaac’s dutiful businessman and the righteous anger of Jessica Chastain as his long standing wife makes for palpable cinematic energy.

 

  1. Chef

chef

Jon Faverau writes, directs, and stars in this wholesome personal tale about a bigtime chef who quits his day job and goes to run a small time food truck with his son and best friend (a great Jon Leguizamo performance); the analogy to Faverau’s own life, and how he stepped away from doing massive blockbusters to do this smaller independent film, are obvious, but Chef is more than self indulgence; and the clear passion Faverau has for foodie culture (and the heartwarming father and son bonding over a shared interest) make this one of his best films. 

 

  1. The Wind Rises

the wind rises

A great artist reflects on art as a whole; while perhaps this will no longer remain Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, there is a sense of finality to it, and the loose and creative structure of this animated biopic says more about the nature of creation than most artists can say in their lifetime.

 

  1. Dallas Buyers Club

dallas buyers club

Here you have McConaughey at the apex of what he can bring to the screen, bringing empathy and growth to a character whose life altering diagnosis inspires him to make real changes, and Jared Leto receiving a role that actually fits his self indulgence and weirdness.

 

  1. The King

the king

An engaging take on the militarism and imperialism that spanned the Henriad Shakespeare epics, The King gives Timothee Chalamet the chance to break out of his sad boy personna and deliver impassioned monologues and engage in dirty sword fights. He’s captivating, and sells all the strain of moral duty that haunt Henry V. 

 

  1. Annihilation

annihilation

I’ve watched Annihilation a few times, talked to numerous people about it, and read many articles, but I still haven’t found a definitive answer to what its about; the search for answers within the text is compelling in of itself, and it helps that the grizzly, surrealist horror is so creative and genuinely unsettling.

 

  1. Triple Frontier

triple frontier

The type of action packed star vehicle that we just don’t see anymore, Triple Frontier may seem like its going down a familiar action movie path, but quickly turns into a morally ambiguous thriller about fractured characters whose loss of meaning and ulterior motives turn into grim consequences; The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal nails the coarse, yet thoughtful dialogue of the military guys.

 

  1. The Lobster

the lobster

A pitch black comedy that is as equally disturbing as it is funny, The Lobster offers searing satire on all forms of family and relationships, and at the end of the day doesn’t give an answer to loneliness or attempt to romanticize the notion of searching for a soul mate.

 

  1. 99 Homes

99 homes

Examining the greed of the American housing crisis from the point of view of an everyman who rises through the ranks, 99 Homes turns the sick consequences of economic inequality into a thriller of understandable anger, with Michael Shannon’s slick realtor as the epitome of belligerent materialism.  

 

  1. Super 8

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This was Stranger Things before Stranger Things; J.J. Abrams really knows how to make emotional, action packed Spielberg tributes, and Super 8 combines elements of The Goonies, E.T., and War of the Worlds into an 80s movie tribute, that like Stranger Things would later perfect, understands that the creative spirit of the 80s movie kids live within us all.

 

  1. War Dogs

war dogs

While it certainly owes its dues to the work of Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma, War Dogs also manages to leave its own mark as pitch black historical dark comedy, a very funny movie about the very not funny world of arms dealing. Miles Teller does great work as a supposed “average joe” warped into the situation, and Jonah Hill is uproarious as his delusional, wilder sidekick.

 

  1. Complete Unknown

COMPLETE UNKNOWN

This is a mystery that takes its time, because at first we’re not even entirely sure what we are watching is a mystery; exploring the life of a femme fatale whose knack for creating new identities has spurned her from every social group, Complete Unknown gives Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon the chance to act out of their comfort zones, with Weisz in the introspective character role and Shannon as the straight man.

 

  1. Ant-Man

ant-man

Self awareness is the key to most superhero movies; Ant-Man fully recognizes how lame and weird its own premise is and uses it to its advantage, and makes a film that is purposefully low scale and in the wake of larger, bigger, and more important things. The stakes that are as simple as a father trying to help his daughter are perfect, and Paul Rudd brings a charm and self deprecation that is welcome for the role.

 

  1. The Kings of Summer

the kings of summer

A film that understands the dream of every teenager to run away and live in the woods, The Kings of Summer shows this by following a group of teenagers that, well, run away and live in the woods. Nick Robinson in particular is great as the lead boy whose fed up with his father’s attempts to control his life.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Far From Home

spider-man far from home

Once again, Tom Holland has proven to be the best version of Peter Parker we’ve ever seen on screen; using the new responsibilities placed on Spider-Man by Tony Stark to amplify Peter’s own anxieties, Far From Home centers on Peter’s attempts to talk to MJ as he’s constantly derailed by the world of superheroes. The idea of a kid trying to balance being a superhero and a normal teenagers is the truest adaptation of Stan Lee’s original vision, and the film also features a whimsically weird performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio.

 

  1. Fruitvale Station

fruitvale station

We know how this movie will end, and as the tragic fate of Oscar Grant comes closer to fruition, the film brings the injustice of this tragedy alive as Grant’s last few days alive give him the chance to rectify his mistake and mend the broken family life he’s endured.

 

  1. Ingrid Goes West

ingrid goes west

Of all the films to come out in the “social media age,” this one actually speaks to the destructive nature of relationships built on lies and perception; you can never trust someone’s supposed best version of themselves, and Ingrid Goes West, for all its crazy plot developments, feels rooted in a genuine problem of what happens when a troubled person, in this case played tragically by Aubrey Plaza, tries to turn Instagram into real life.

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

guardians of the galaxy vol 2

It’s truly incredible that a sequel like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even exists; instead of retreading the heroic get together of the first film, Vol. 2 feels more like a hangout movie where each character has a chance to reflect on their own loneliness in ways that are often funny, but also deeply human and sad. It’s a melancholy movie that comes together to celebrate the idea that these characters are together, using a rough layer of humor and dazzling visuals (that stand out as distinct among the Marvel films) to build towards an emotionally devastating conclusion of “Father and Son.”

 

  1. Black Mass

black mass

Although this decade saw Johnny Depp hiding behind makeup for many roles, this is a performance where the makeup is incidental; Depp returns to his dramatic roots as the infamous mobster turned FBI informant Whitey Bulger, and the conviction in which Depp delivers his monologues about the rules in which he operates are perfectly contrasted with how he betrays and belittles everyone around him.

 

  1. Mistress America

mistress america

Director/writer Noah Baumbach and writer/actress Greta Gerwig are among the best collaborators working today (it helps that they’re married in real life); Baumbach’s astute, chaotic depiction of family dysfunction are the perfect match for Gerwig’s mischievous wit and fluid behavior, and Mistress America is a great example of how these two chaotic creatives have combined to create something truly unique.

 

  1. It Comes at Night

it comes at night

It Comes at Night isn’t scary because it’s about how bad people will take advantage of a situation; it’s scary because it shows that good people wound up in their own anxieties can mistake selfishness for bravery, and the post apocalyptic backdrop provides a stark and simple setup for how the interaction between two families would change both of themselves forever.

 

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

avengers- infinity war

Seriously, how the hell did they fit so many damn characters into one movie? It may have been easy to format Infinity War into a simple “characters are all divided and then all meet to stop a bad guy” storyline, but the Russo Brothers show restraint by perfectly dividing each character’s screen time and sending everyone off on their own adventures, never letting one storyline get too dull and giving each character a moment to shine. 

 

  1. Robot & Frank

robot & frank

This one is simply delightful: Frank Langella is a veteran bank robber who is granted a domestic robot by his children to take care of him, but uses his new friend to aid him in a new heist. It’s playful but also profound, as Langella’s character yearns for the days where he was on the top of his game, and uses this robot to help him live out the fantasies of being young again.

 

  1. Kick-Ass

kick-ass

Yes, it’s a gimmicky movie that makes jabs at other comic book franchises and cliches, but Kick-Ass also has all the elements that make a great comic book movie: a reluctant hero whose in over his head, inventive action scenes that mix graphic novel stylizations with grim brutality, and a window into a world in which superheroes and superhero comics exist and impact each other.

 

  1. Beasts of No Nation

beasts of no nation

A situation this horrific is hard to imagine as anything more than a talking point, but Cari Fukunagua goes deep in this story of child soldiers to show the systematic effects of war in West Africa have forever conditioned generations into war, and Idris Elba is terrifying as the vicious warlord who brings these children into the bloodbath. 

 

  1. Star Trek Beyond

star trek beyond

After the first two action heavy installments of the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Beyond brought the series back to the roots of the original series with an exploratory mission that allowed each character to shine as they are divided following the crash of the enterprise; key character beats include Chris Pine’s Kirk maturing into the character William Shatner perfected, and Spock wrestling with his own mortality, which serves as a touching tribute to the recent passing of the great Leonard Nimoy.

 

  1. Selma

Selma

As history becomes legend, it’s easy to forget that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a complex guy, a family man who had an unparalleled ability to speak to people and raise them up, and Selma explores the nitty-gritty of how a movement takes root within a people and changes the landscape forever.

 

  1. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

the man from uncle

Style over substance isn’t always a bad thing, and Guy Ritchie tells a story you’ve seen before (involving overcomplicated plots to start nuclear war and a budding spy duo), but everything is brought together by big personalities. There are scenes dedicated to a single joke as Henry Cavill’s character goes out of his way to be the coolest, suavest, and slickest spy in the world, and the film’s ability to diverge so often makes its world come alive.

 

  1. T2: Trainspotting

t2 trainspotting

No, it’s nowhere near as good as the original Trainspotting, but then again, few movies are. THat being said, T2: Trainspotting is a different type of sequel, one that remixes our nostalgia as frequently as it remixes the original soundtrack, and as we grow out of our old habits we find new and more destructive ones (some of which are normalized to the point that we wonder how much has actually changed).

 

  1. Mud

mud

Arriving right at the beginning of “The McConaissance,” this was the film that showed that McConaughey was capable of more than his rom-com roots, and in this film serves as a deserted loner who provides sagely advice to a pair of young boys.

 

  1. Deadpool

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This could have easily been just a collection of inside baseball gags aimed at ripping apart the notion of the modern superhero movie, but the central love story at the heart of Deadpool between Ryan Reynolds and Morean Baccarin is actually quite compelling; these two morally flexible weirdos deserve each other, and the intentionally over the top action all feels like its in service of getting them back together.

 

  1. Life of Pi

life of pi

Was it real, or was it all just a story? I don’t think it actually matters; like the film itself concludes, the details themselves won’t change the fate of the characters or the things they never achieved, but an exaggerated version of history is surely more exciting and speaks to the imagination of its storyteller.

 

  1. Creed

creed

Yes, its nearly a beat for beat retread of the original Rocky, but Creed infuses a new mythology to the story by having Sylvestor Stallone’s iconic boxer serve as a mentor to his rival’s son; Stallone brings an unexpected honesty to what is assumedly a self reflexive role as a mentor wrestling with his legacy in a world that’s left him by.

 

  1. The LEGO Movie

the lego movie

Well, no one expected this one to be THIS good. What seemed like nothing more than corporate branding extended into a 90 minute commercial ended up being anything but; this is an argument against falling into a preordained path and falling in line with what is cool and popular, and I certainly didn’t expect a film with this many known brands and properties to be such an argument for individualism and weirdness.

 

  1. Isle of Dogs

isle of dogs

Wes Anderson’s quirkiness and idiosyncratic style are well known at this point, and while his colorful, detailed visuals would general be enough to satisfy, Isle of Dogs uses a premise as age old as “a boy and his dog” as the kickstarter of an argument against fascism and traditionalism.

 

  1. Seven Psychopaths

seven psychopaths

Put Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrel, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrelson in a movie together and your guaranteed gold; these are character actors that always bring big personalities, and this violent, sharply funny comedy plays out like a collection of the worst people who break out of the format of what a hangout movie should look like. You’ve never seen anything quite like this.

 

  1. The Discovery

the discvoery

Time travel is an incredibly hard thing to depict on screen because of all the complications that can arise from established rules, but The Discovery focuses in on how loss can cause someone to want to redo their past, and how the endless loop of trauma and tragedy will forever leave us unsatisfied.

 

  1. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

don't worry he won't get far on foot

There’s a grim honesty in which Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot depicts the effects of alcoholism and trauma; as Jonah Hill’s character remarks towards the end, this is something that will stay with you throughout your life, and despite moments of clarity and insight, the pain never leaves.

 

  1. All the Money in the World

all-the-money-3

Kidnapping. Ransom. Time limit. These are simple elements, and Ridley Scott knows how to do scope like no other, and this breathless thriller is made all the more intense by Christopher Plummer’s stoic, immovable depiction of the wealthy grandfather unwilling to pay his own grandson’s ransom.

 

  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

can you ever forgive me.jpg

Melissa McCarthy has been in a lot of truly awful movies, but every now and then she gives a performance like this, where her cynicism and anger feels built around a character who has trouble communicating and relating, and even her most egregious qualities become oddly charming.

The Best Films of the 2010s: #350-301

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This week, I’ve been counting down the best films of the decade, fifty films at a time. Here are entries #350-301.

 

  1. Creed II

creed 2

Creed II is the perfect legacy sequel; drawing from the hoaky subtext of Rocky IV and setting it within the same tone of the first Creed film, this is a sequel that fleshes out and expands the rivalries between the Balboa, Drago, and Creed families into a complex of competing legacies and sons living in the wake of their fathers. Stallone and Michael B. Jordan once again bring their A-Game, but it’s surprisingly Dolph Lundgren who steals the show; while his character in Rocky IV was nothing more than a one-note cartoon, the ramifications of the character’s failure make for an interesting take on someone who has lost the respect of all around him.

 

  1. Chappaquiddick

chappaquiddick

Ted Kennedy is unquestionably a complicated figure who deserves a nuanced portrayal, and Chappaquiddick takes the time to be thorough in its depiction of the event that would shape his legacy; the details of the evidence are laid out in excruciating detail, as is the pressure put on Kennedy himself, who has inherited a burden and privilege from his family and stands as their last hope for the presidency.

 

  1. The Neon Demon

the neon demon

In many ways, Nicolas Winding Refn’s depiction of the backstabbing, violent underbelly of the glamorous appeal of Los Angeles is pure schlock, but he also isn’t trying to fool us; the neon lighting and glitzy slickness makes for the perfect contrast with the stark violence of his images, and Elle Fanning’s transformation from the epitome of innocence into another brick in the Hollywood machine ranks as some of her best work.

 

  1. The Wife

the wife

Glenn Close’s performance is one of righteous fury; her restrained, quiet behavior for the majority of the film sets the stage for an explosive burst of energy that represents a lifetime of pent of frustrations. Jonathan Banks is similarly brilliant in his restraint, as his character’s seemingly minor offenses build towards the depiction of a true monster.

 

  1. Carol

carol

While many period pieces struggle with drawing us into a different place and time, 1950s New York comes alive with this story, and serves as the perfect backdrop for this story of first love, one that excites with the energy of youth before striking us down with the reality of adulthood and the consequences of its period.

 

  1. Youth

youth

It’s easy to dismiss Youth as pretentious, but this equivalent of a cinematic collage finds Michael Caine’s character at the intersection of both old age and the end of his professional career, and his lack of fulfillment in both make for a searing criticism of jaded perspectives and a jarring celebration of sensuality. Purposefully obtuse in parts, and often deliberately shocking, Youth is a film that attacks the senses on all fronts, a truly complete picture.

 

  1. Dredd

dredd

How did a Dredd remake manage to be this great? Stripping away all the camp of the previous films, Dredd pits the titular anti-hero in a blood-soaked, feature length Die Hard set piece that finds an urban, violent grittiness at the backdrop of a sci-fi utopia. The setup is beyond simple, and all the film needs to succeed is consistently stellar action and a mean, grizzled performance from Karl Urban- Dredd succeeds on both counts.

 

  1. Flight

flight

The opening plane crash is one of the most effective and terrifying plane crashes I’ve ever seen; at first we can only view this feat as an insurmountable feat of heroism, and it’s a testament to the excellent screenplay that we’re able to view the plane’s captain in a different light as the film strips away the details that led to that fateful day. To say Denzel Washington is great isn’t shocking, but this is definitely one of the best performances from one of the best actors of all-time.

 

  1. Goodbye Christopher Robin

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When we talk about stories as a coping method, a film like Goodbye Christopher Robin holds great value- it’s a story about how an entire generation remains haunted by war, and how their difficulty coping inadvertently affected the generations hence. The fact that the stories of A.A. Milne emerged from this is incredible, and Goodbye Christopher Robin tells his story with grace.

 

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers age of ultron

Yes, it’s flawed, but you have to admire the audacity of Joss Whedon’s vision here, and how he’s able to feed so many mouths here, from the poignant Hulk and Blac Widow relationship to the awe inspiring introduction of the Vision. What other modern blockbuster would end with the dialogue that “something isn’t beautiful because it lasts,” and concludes that perhaps humanity is doomed to repeat our own failures?

 

  1. Incredibles 2

incredibles 2

Perhaps it’s not as revolutionary as the first film was, but Incredibles 2 is still a stunning animated achievement, because Brad Bird treats animation just like a live action film. The action feels grounded in a genuine sense of scale and scope, as evidenced by a brilliant motorcycle chase featuring Elastigirl, and the family dynamics are as fun as ever- this superhero take on Mr. Mom puts Mr. Incredible up against the perils of parenthood, when he’d rather join his wife in fighting evil.

 

  1. Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal animals

The “story within a story” framing device is used expertly here, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, an author, presents his new novel to his ex-wife, Amy Adams. As the dark and punishingly uncomfortable brutality of the story within the story plays out, we begin to understand the seeds that destroyed their marriage, and the film’s sharp transitions to the real world make for cutting satire. 

 

  1. Rules Don’t Apply

rules don't apply

Warren Beatty certainly made a choice in making one of his final leading roles that of Howard Hughes, and it’s an endearing portrayal; Hughes’s eccentricities are fun to start off, but we soon learn of their grating nature and how his insistence of control over people and events made him blissfully out of touch with all that surrounds him.

 

  1. This Is Where I Leave You

this is where i leave you

A film that deals with the chaos of family dysfunction with an oddly deft comic touch; it has the style and accessibility of a studio comedy, but without cynicism, and whilst utilizing the best of its cast’s comedic talent, it also doesn’t shy away from the ugly and the serious. Adam Driver is a standout as the jovial younger brother of the family, whose carelessness extends to smoking weed at his own father’s funeral.

 

  1. Mary Poppins Returns

mary poppins returns

I’ve seen the original Mary Poppins more times than I can count, and the 2018 follow up gets the most important element right- it’s a musical! It should be fun! Indeed, the musical sequences are tremendous, and in an age of technical wizardry, its saying something that the film can make the scenes of childlike wonder magical without feeling antiquated.

 

  1. Danny Collins

danny collins

No one will argue that Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of all-time, with a lineup of performances only rivaled by his frequent co-star Robert De Niro, but his choice in films for the past twenty years has been disappointing, to say the least. This is the best work he’s done in years- washed up and self indulgent, the character puts Pacino right in a compelling redemption tale- he’s equally compelling in his eccentric stage performances and the touching scenes with his estranged son Bobby Cannavale.

 

  1. Silver Linings Playbook

silver linings playbook

This is a film where every actor is playing a character that helps define their career; Bradley Cooper plays a more nuanced take on the goofy frat-bro performance that permeated his early career as a guy who has trouble coping, Jennifer Lawrence channels the neurotic nature of some of her early work into an emotionally, messy vulnerable role, and the great Robert De Niro gets his best role in years as the screaming old man whose perhaps the most sane one there.

 

  1. War Machine

war machine

There’s a tragedy to which War Machine depicts its main character; while it’s obviously intended to be a satirical portrayal of General Glen McMahon (based on the real General Stanley McChrystal), Brad Pitt’s performance is often goofy, founded in somewhat misplaced idealism, and not malicious. As the film itself blatantly states by the end, if it wasn’t McMahon doing what he did, it would be someone else doing the same exact thing.

 

  1. Contagion

contagion

Contagion has a massive cast- Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston, Gwneyth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, John Hawkes, and that’s just to name a few! By having such a huge ensemble of recognizable faces, Stephen Soderbergh attempts to show the depth of how a pandemic affects a population, and his hyperlink style of balancing a cast wouldn’t work if each actor didn’t bring something to the table.

 

  1. Boy Erased

boy erased

It’s easy to understand Boy Erased and its message, but it’s not just the grim orderly nature of which the film depicts gay conversion therapy that makes the film effective, but the population that it appears to be reaching out to. Perhaps change is a hard thing to force upon a traditional community, but Boy Erased shows the urgency with which it’s necessary, and how no ideology preaching goodwill can condone the denial of identity.

 

  1. Sully

sully

The Captain Sully story is a great one, but it seems like it would be a hard thing to base an entire around. In Sully, Clint Eastwood takes a look at how one moment of heroism may forever change a normal life- Sully was a normal guy who was thrust into the media spotlight and speculated about to no end, a strange price to pay for someone who was just doing their job.

 

  1. Pawn Sacrifice

pawn sacrifice

Tobey Maguire slowly dipped out of the public spotlight, which is a great shame, because he truly is a great actor; his role as Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice starts as one that feels like the sort of obtuse, yet charismatic role he may have played ten years ago, but transforms into a hypnotic obsessive who requires victory as validation. Maguire is able to seamlessly transition between inspiring and scary.

 

  1. Judy

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A heartbreaking story of lost childhood at the crux of Hollywood’s golden era, Judy is a way of realizing Judy Garland’s legacy as it was, and not how it was framed to be.

 

  1. Bombshell

bombshell

A performance showcase for three of the best actresses of the decade; the docudrama style from Jay Roach makes the sickening elements all the more intimate and the tension all the more pervasive. In the best moments, our knowledge of the real events subsides and we’re caught up in the story the film is showing us.

 

  1. Snowden

snowden

No one would ever accuse Oliver Stone of being a subtle filmmaker, but at the same time, you could never accuse him of being dispassionate; Stone goes to extreme lengths to show how the secrecy and corruption within the NSA slowly nags away at the mind of Edward Snowden, and how his distrust overtime led to the actions that made him notorious.

 

  1. Hail, Caesar!

hail caesar

The Coen Brothers take on the postwar period of Old Hollywood that generated the rise of movie star egos, studio politics, and all sorts of new genres (from musicals to westerns to biblical epics) isn’t necessarily an always optimistic love letter, but as Josh Brolin’s character resolves by the end, it’s a place like no other, and perhaps it’s a good place to celebrate the nihilism of real life. Future Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich, who’s the most unknown person in the entire cast, steals the entire film as a goofy cowboy who is forced to become a serious actor (as evidenced by the rest of this list, I’m a fan of the guy).

 

  1. Fences

fences

Fences is by no means the best performance that Denzel Washington has ever given, but he sure is doing a lot of acting here. It’s a juicy, theater role of a father whose both a provider and destructive force within his family, and with virtually no visual invention, Washington wrings all the dramatic potential out of the role as his command every frame of our attention.

 

  1. Tangled

tangled

Forget Frozen, THIS is the Disney musical of the decade. Revamping the classic Rapunzel tale as a journey of self exploration for the princess character, Tangled seems like a response to the sort of veil around innocence that Disney puts over its lead characters. And yes, the soundtrack is an absolute banger.

 

  1. Private Life

private life

Private Life seems like a completely undramatized take on middle aged glumness, as seen through the eyes of a couple played by Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hayn; at what point are you past your prime, at what point do all your lost experiences lead to something, and when do we blame you for no longer trying?

 

  1. Oblivion

oblivion

My pick for one of the most underrated science fiction films of all-time; while it has some familiar themes, Oblivion is a work of visual poetry, expanding a post-apocalyptic wasteland into an idiosyncratic fable of a paradise, and instills fear into Tom Cruise’s lead character as his fear of answers amidst his own isolation prove to be warranted. 

 

  1. Dark Waters

dark waters

Mark Ruffalo is fantastic as real life lawyer turned whistleblower Robert Bilott; he’s able to exemplify great diligence and intelligence whilst feeling the weight of a world of responsibilities on his shoulders.

 

  1. Iron Man 3

iron man 3

SPOILER ALERT: The twist in Iron Man 3 where “The Mandarin” is a figurehead created to draw out xenophobic fears in order to mask covert business and political corruption is one of the most brilliant decisions in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe; what better way to adapt a racist stereotype than to recreate him as a villain that reflects the terrorism of today?

 

  1. Mr. Holmes

mr. holmes

A character like Sherlock Holmes has been done so many times that it’s nearly impossible to have a new take, so Mr. Holmes asks what happens when Sherlock Holmes can’t trust his own memories anymore. A touching take on nostalgia, legacy, and fulfillment, Ian McKellen is damn near perfect as the world’s greatest sleuth.

 

  1. Mississippi Grind

mississippi grind

An update of the Paul Newman classic The Hustler for today, Mississippi Grind is a bleak and realistic portrayal of gambling- behind every win is another opportunity, behind every defeat is a step down to Earth, and in this world everything seems temporary. Ben Mendelsohn is on another level here- this is a performance wrought with the rebellious charisma that evokes all the greats- Ford, Brando, Bogart, and of course Newman.

 

  1. ‘71

71

An action thriller based on true events, ‘71 shows the ramifications of chaotic spectacle in a real environment, and the resulting violence and terror sparked by a riot makes for one of the most gruesome and gripping “survive the night” thrillers ever made- Jack O’Connell makes us feel like we’re stuck with him every step of the way.

 

  1. The Magnificent Seven

the magnificent seven

Unabashedly traditional, the 2016 update doesn’t change much from the 1960 film, but considering that film is one of the best westerns ever made I can’t blame anyone. So considered in its build up to the final battle, The Magnificent Seven is roaring from the personality of its all-star cast, and by the time the classic theme kicks in it couldn’t feel any better.

 

  1. Swiss Army Man

swiss army man

There’s definitely a simpler way to bring up the mirage of philosophical ideas that Swiss Army Man does, but it wouldn’t be as fun as it is with Daniel Radcliffe as a farting, curious corpse, would it? 

 

  1. World War Z

world war z

A PG-13 zombie movie is generally something to be scoffed at, but World War Z uses the apocalypse as a methodical breakdown of the collapse of infrastructure and government, and the globe trotting adventure also takes time to take a break from the massive spectacle and focus on the intimately scary. It also helps to have an actor as capable and captivating as Brad Pitt as your lead.

 

  1. The LEGO Batman Movie

the lego batman movie

There’s nothing in Batman’s character that should make him inherently morose- this movie shows that even brooding can be fun! The LEGO Batman Movie is a near perfect movie about the character, and the idea of Batman’s one man quest as an ego-driven tour of self congratulation is the perfect model for a children’s film about learning to work with the skill sets of those around us.

 

  1. The Souvenir

the souvenir

Caustically clever dialogue often hides truly broken characters, and The Souvenir finds a couple in crisis as Tom Burke’s brash government agent slips into drug addiction and Honor Swinton Byrne’s alluring film student comes into her own as an artist. An emotionally draining mixture of addiction and inspiration.

 

  1. Booksmart

BOOKSMART

Booksmart is more than just a “female Superbad,” it’s a confident directorial debut from Olivia Wilde that takes the format of the “one wild night” high school party movie and renovates it with an ensemble of wonderfully empathetic young performers. Each teenager has their quirks but also has their moments of self awareness, and it also earns points for its fun collection of wacky adults.

 

  1. The Front Runner

the front runner

I’m always surprised why political campaigns, particularly Presidential campaigns, aren’t more often the subject of films- they seem like such great material for drama, with a clear conclusion to rocket towards. In the case of The Front Runner, it wasn’t just a scandal-ridden, nasty campaign that put a charismatic lead through hell, but a template for how all campaigns would be waged in the future.

 

  1. Drinking Buddies

drinking buddies

Between Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, and Ron Livingston, Drinking Buddies is an absolute murderer’s row of actors that deserve to be in more things. Director Joe Swanberg crafts another poignant meditation on friendship, relationships, and the search for meaning for post-youth couples.

 

  1. Beautiful Boy

beautiful boy

Nothing about addiction is convenient, nor is it built for an easily accessible, three act film; Beautiful Boy does a great job at showing the cycles of abuse and relapse, how insidious and all consuming it can be- Timothee Chalamet gives one of the best performances of his young career.

 

  1. Richard Jewell

richard jewell

Clint Eastwood’s procedural, methodical style of direction works best when there’s a deeply empathetic performance at the center of the film, and that’s exactly what Paul Walter Hauser delivers. It’s heartbreaking to see him have so much faith in the system and then see it fail him.

 

  1. Gerald’s Game

gerald's game

There’s no better way to explore a character than to make them as vulnerable as possible, and Gerald’s Game depicts the humiliation of its lead in sickening fashion that may even disturb those with the strongest of stomach, with Caral Gugino’s brave lead performance responding to the ways trauma never leaves us. 

 

  1. A Star is Born

a star is born

The sequence in which Lady GaGa first performs “Shallow” will certainly go down as one of the defining cultural moments of the decade, and perhaps one of the greatest scenes in motion picture history; rarely has there ever been a better depiction of an artist’s realization of their own talent, acceptance of their voice, and unapologetic emotion as defined by one singular moment.

 

  1. Deepwater Horizon

deepwater horizon

The horror of Deepwater Horizon is that none of these selfless everymen needed to be heroes, and they shouldn’t have made sacrifices; the BP oil spill was the product of negligence and greed, and the film shows how the decisions of few end up affecting many. Director Peter Berg turns these explosive setpieces into deathly scary, tense sequences for characters who watch the foundation of their livelihood collapse around them. 

 

  1. Doctor Strange

doctor strange

Doctor Strange follows the Joseph Cambell hero’s journey to a nearly perfect T, but what sets it apart from the other Marvel films is its incredible visual inventiveness, the time that was taken to construct the set pieces and conceive of the world. It’s great to see a third act of a comic book movie that isn’t centered on explosions and destruction, but on the hero using his wits to outsmart the villain.

 

  1. Life (2015)

life

Part of the fascination of James Dean was that more than any other icon, he didn’t last, and Life celebrates the life of Dean, as played by Dane DeHaan, in his final months, as he wrestled with the fact that he was a normal kid who became the face of a movement, a humble boy from a small town who saw the world rapidly change around him.