Top 100 Movies of 2010 – 2019

 

I am going to be counting down my favorite  Movies of the 2010-2019 decade until December 31st, one entry at a time. I tried to be fair to each year, and only 100 was hard to narrow down to. There are English language and foreign movies, so its all fair game. Enjoy!

 – more movies are being added each day as i count up to #1

-work in progress 🙂

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54.Killer Joe (2011)

 

            Before he won his Oscar and stared in True Detective’s first season, Matt McConaughey’s true acting renaissance began with his role in Killer Joe. Originally a stage play written by character actor Tracey Letts, the cast is fully formed and ready to tackle a story that could be made by the Coen Brothers where no one is spared from being desperately stupid or stupidly desperate. In a plot to gain a minuscule amount of money , something like $100k, these characters are willing to betray and maim members of their own family, and its fun to watch McConaughey’s corrupt detective take advantage of these losers. Destined to be forever underrated, movies like this never win awards but are important to the fabric of cinema.

               Director William Friedkin is great at directing the horror of human nature, from the overblown evil of The Exorcist (1973) to the psychological fever dream of Bug (2006). He lets his actors shine here, each person diving deep into their role including a starring turn by Juno Temple as the not so innocent Dottie; Thomas Church as the clueless Ansel (“I am never Aware”); Emile Hirsch as Chris the only character with a lick of common sense; Gina Gershon as trailer park step-mom Sharla who can’t be trusted. This movie is rated NC 17 and for good reason, it pulls no punches in its depravity of how dark people will go just because they never learned any better. Stage plays can really make for some powerful cinema, and this is one of the best and bleakest modern noirs ever crafted.

 

 

 

 

55. Long Shot (2019)

 

               Long Shot is a gem of a movie, a nice throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930’s. It reminds me of the mismatched couple films of the black and white era and is a fun change of pace from such dire political climate of today. Of course, some things have been updated as it’s definitely a hard “R” rating with some raunchy comedy and an odd opening scene that has little to do with the main focus of the movie. But I don’t mind some randomness thrown into any movie plot as unpredictable twists are what make movie more fun upon rewatching. Charlize Theron deserves a medal or something, the woman is a chameleon who can play just about any role. She is beyond hilarious and stunning in this film, especially in the scene where she talks to a foreign leader while high in the war room- it is one for the comedy history books, for sure.

               Seth Rogen is great too, as he plays his usual slacker/clown role to perfection; some actors are known for their diversity and others for their dependency of playing themselves – Rogen falls into the latter category and there is nothing wrong with that. Jon Levine directs the movie, and the more films he makes the better he seems to get at pinpointing comedy movies that also can shake the heart up a bit. His films 50/50 (2011) and The Night Before (2015) tackled cancer and Christmas in ways that I had never seen before and worked really well by adding new ways to laugh at traditions. Long Shot got some good reviews for its day but I’m pretty sure as time goes on it will gain the comedy classic status it deserves. Just as we wish there was an honest decent candidate for political office these days like Theron plays here, we also hope for honest good movies that play to humanity’s strength of character.

 

 

 

56.Trust (2010)

            Trust is a movie that shows how the art of seduction can be used in the most horrible way. About gathering a person’s trust even though you are lying to them the whole time. And its about the unfairness of life, how there is no real justice in the world, and how evil exists in the heart of men often hiding in plain sight. Its rated R probably for disturbing content but i’d like to imagine a world where a well made movie like this could very taught in schools or seen with parent’s having to raise children in a world filled with predators on the internet.

               It is directed by David Schwimmer, and stars a bunch of awesome actors (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Jason Clarke) and of course a fifteen year old Liana Liberato in a very brave lead performance. The movie flies along at a breakneck pace and deals with traumatic subjects in a very real way. The world has a way of saying some subjects are taboo for society and want to brush them under the rug, but the way Trust deals with real life issues in a family setting makes it more than just another Hallmark type movie. The movie survives as a testament to the real threat of evil in the world and stands the test of time better than most. “We can’t control what happens to us or our loved ones.” A character says towards the end, but they also say “but we can be there for each other to pick ourselves back up.” Trust turns tragedy into inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

57.The Bad Batch (2016)

               The plot of The Bad Batch is one of the classic cinema: saving the damsel in distress from the kingdom of evil. The way the movie goes about it involves all sorts of plot twists and role reversals, with the male and female roles switched and said kingdom of evil ruled by a psycho who believes because he lets people take shits in toilets, they have to belong to him. I mean, I don’t know another way to try and describe the plot of a movie where plot matters so little; this movie is all about psychedelic colors. It hardly needs words at all to tell its twisted tale, like any good movie it could be silent and still work. IT also contains some of the greatest slo mo action set pieces in any movie I have ever seen. It’s a grim violent affair but also a hilarious one if you are wired the right way.

               It is interesting to watch this little indie production now and see how many stars act in it: main characters are Jason Momoa who went on to become Aquaman and Suki Waterhouse who is a rising star that will be huge this coming decade, not to mention key roles by Giovanni Ribisi as “The Screamer”, Jim Carry as a wordless drifter in the desert and Keanu Reeves as a bizarre cult leader who gives speeches like:  “ Cows stand in their shit…. because they are cows. We don’t do that because I would never let that happen. Isn’t that nice of me?” But the interesting casting is a big part of the movie’s success, as these mega stars give their passion to a project that otherwise not many people would see. In a sort of Road Warrior Mad max type dystopia, people who have been kicked out of modern society are quarantined to the Bad Batch an area filled with cannibals and other horrors in a desert. Suki’s character states at one point, “Here we are in the darkest corner of the world, and we’re afraid of our own kind.” Stands as some kind of interesting testament on the human race for sure. Odd, that a movie about a bunch of cannibals makes astute lessons of what it means to be alive.

 

 

 

 

  1. Taxi Tehran (2015)

 

               Taxi, renamed Taxi Tehran later on for legal reasons, is Jafar Panahi’s most perfect film of the decade. He is a risk taker, for those that know him his This is Not a Film from 2011 got him BANNED FROM MAKING MOVIES in his home country of Iran. He is not as controversial of the Iranian govt in this movie (directly), but he does dissect what a movie is in the way he makes it. The movie is literally him driving around with a mounted phone camera in a taxi and documenting “real people doing real things”. So technically it’s not a movie…..or a completely new kind of movie? Much like other films simply about talking, My Dinner with Andre (1981) comes to mind, the movie takes on a life of its own as people complain about their lives and discuss their hopes, dreams, and the oppression of their government.

               Panahi makes it look easy to edit and make a low budget movie that is a joy to watch but im sure it was anything but. Least of which was getting people’s consent for filming them after he had already done the fact. It makes you wonder if his brand of filming is legal or ethical, but that is precisely the point. Keep in mind the people that did not consent for their taxi rides to be in the movie…..are not in the movie…or can we even trust that? So a bunch of unrelated conversations in a cab in Iranian you may ask yourself: why watch this at all? All i can advise is open your mind and your heart and prepare for a journey through a deep realness of human nature. By the end of the movie you won’t care that it seems so alien at first and you will be rooting for the director to finish yet another experiment in film. People like Panahi open the medium of cinema up to an unlimited potential, and he was literally putting his life on the line to make this movie possible.

 

59.Before Midnight (2013)

 

               Some movies move beyond mere romance and pick apart what it’s like to be in a relationship from both male and female perspectives. This does not always make for a fun watch, but it makes for a true one. As one character says to another in the film: “This is true love, real is not perfect but this is it.” Make no mistake, Before Midnight is an emotional brutal movie that dives into a marriage between characters played by Ethan Hawke and July Delpy that goes to places we might not always enjoy. It’s also full of so much passion that it impossible not to care about. Linklater writes the movie in a way that the dialogue feels improvised but it is actually meticulously constructed.

               The third movie so far in Richard Linklaters “before” series, predated by Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). If its not the best movie trilogy ever made, it’s for certain among the most interesting, as all 3 movies dive into what it is like to find your soul mate. It sounds corny, but it is anything but. This movie will no doubt spark a conversation between couples that view it together and nothing is black and white, its about the grey areas that define relationships. The pain and the joy we can cause another person without even trying. The film examines more than it preaches and that is why it works so well.

 

 

 

60.You Were Never Really Here (2018)

            This is a film that focuses on the aftermath of violence, and the whole thing feels like a dream. The title of the movie has multiple meanings, as a hitman played by Joaquin Phoenix is focused on being invisible to those around him and not detected in his work being the most obvious. He is the sort of super hero that exists in our reality, protecting the innocent from the evil of man. When he goes to Home Depot, its to shop for weapons. The haunting, pulsating score to the movie by Johnny Greenwood might be his greatest one yet, acting like the inner workings of the lead character Joe’s brain synapses.

I like to think of the whole movie as a dream of sorts though, perhaps he is a man that still lives with his parents that just dreams of an exciting life? Perhaps he committed suicide and wished his life was more meaningful? It sounds grim, and while it can be shockingly violent like the best films of master director Lynne Ramsey, it is also beautifully shot and completely original. It’s the rare movie I could watch three times in one day and get three different interpretations of what happened

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

61 – 70

 

 

 

 

61.Top Five (2014)

       Chris Rock writes and directs his best movie yet that plays like a hip-hop loving version of a Woody Allen film. That’s a compliment in Rock’s eyes as he is obviously obsessed with Allen the way he combines humor with pathos so openly. It is as unique and good as it sounds, and it is a joy to watch Rock turn into a great filmmaker before your eyes. He had always been an interesting actor, turning in significant roles in Dogma (1999) and Nurse Betty (2000) most effectively, and as a director his movies were always solid but hardly mind-blowing (2008’s I Think I Love My Wife). But in this film which is easily his best ever, you can almost feel his appeal becoming universal in the best laugh-out-loud movie of the year. He attracts the best comedic actors of the mid 2010’s and uses all of them in perfect albeit small roles.

        It is irritating that comedies don’t get the same amount of credit often that dramatic films do, even the Oscars don’t have a category for them, though they often use comedians as hosts luckily the Golden Globes to their credit awards comedies right along side dramas. Even still, the TYPE of comedy often rewarded is never along the outrageous or gross out type and there is plenty of that to go around in Rock’s movie. For all of his solid plotting throughout the movie about trying to be taken seriously while being hounded by a reporter (an amazing Rosario Dawson), there are interludes of debauchery and raunchiness to turn off most critics. Not that Rock cares about awards or critics in reality, he just wants to be the best he can be while remaining uniquely himself and Top Five does that. Also, it’s the only movie you will ever see DMX singing a Charlie Chaplin tune or Jerry Seinfeld making it rain at a strip club. In its own universe it’s a perfect little film.

 

 

 

 

 

62.Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

 

               This is a movie about resilience. I know most people view it as a negative portrayal of what it took to capture Osama Bin Laden or even a kind of glorified war movie, but at its core its about being certain about something and having faith in yourself. Jessica Chastain’s owns her role, even though she is surrounded by great character actors, she dominates every part of the film as the person behind the scenes in the government that made this raid on the Obama complex possible. Whether you believe these events actually happened like they did is besides the point; a great movie is fascinating sometimes just because of the motions it goes through.

               It is directed by Katherine Bigelow, the only female director to ever win a Best Director Oscar. That is an interesting fact for many reasons, mainly because her movies tend to be action oriented and not the typical Oscar drama fare: Strange Days (1995), Blue Steel (1990), Point Break (1991), and The Hurt Locker (2009) which is the ones that won. She gives Zero Dark Thirty a constant pulse of eeriness that is watchable again and again, and it’s a great movie with many rousing speeches and scenes that take us to the depths of human nature. The world was put into a shadow state after 911 and there have been many films about what happened to our world afterwards (some overly sentimental), but this is by far the best and most meaningful of them. It is long, hard hitting, and intense, but some movies earn their right to be.

 

 

 

 

63.Moonlight (2016)

 

               Moonlight tells a powerful dramatic story in a poor, hopeless setting but it has never been done quite like this. The structure of the movie makes it unique not just because it tells the story throughout twenty or so years of the main characters life but how it makes everything matter in the setting it focuses on. It is set in three acts: one when lead character Chiron is a child in the projects of Miami, one where he goes through awkward teenage years, and one as a confused adult trying to find himself. Chiron is a young, homosexual black male whose mother (played by an amazing Naomie Harris) is a crack addict, so you could say the deck is stacked against him to have anything close to a normal existence.

                It is a snapshot of life filtered through an arthouse lens, brilliantly edited and directed by Barry Jenkins. Moonlight has scenes that are supremely honest, like when innocent questions asked by a child at a dinner table to surrogate parents Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae have heart wrenching answers. The story is one that hardly ever gets told but opens the floodgates for many more movies of its kind. It won the Oscar for 2016 in a rather bizarre fashion (with La La Land accidently being announced before it as the winner then changing movies on stage awkwardly) but hopefully that factoid will not overshadow how subtle and amazing this movie is. You don’t have to be Chiron to empathize with his struggle, you only have to have a heart.

 

 

 

64.In the Fade (2017)

 

               In the Fade is a film about the injustice of the world, starring Diane Kruger in perhaps her best cinematic role. Faith Akin directs with own unique point of view like he always does and provides us with a humble beginning of a woman with a lovely family whose life is destroyed in a senseless act of Neo Nazi violence. What happens next I wont reveal, but its more of a realistic and tragic take on what real life person might do instead of a Hollywood steroided out Death Wish type movie. Which is a nice change of pace.          

               So much time is devoted to the judicial process and how it does not always work, its easy to see how Kruger’s character comes to the conclusion that she does. What she does for “revenge” will not please everyone who watches the movie, but its very true to her character and that is what matters. Akin is a director that has made some of the most puzzling character portrayal of the last decade, including Head-On (2004) and Soul Kitchen (2010) and his movies are always touching / tragic. He puts forth the harsh reality of life in a very fun, accessible way. We don’t see a lot of violence in this film, but we feel the aftermaths deeply. No doubt this story will someday get an American remake, and no doubt it will miss the point entirely (in a way they already did it with Jennifer Garner’s Peppermint in 2018).

 

 

 

 

 

65.Enemy (2013)

Enemy is a movie filled with bizarre moments, from the duplicate main characters to the substitution of huge spiders for our fears (ahhh!), that just crescendos and doubles over on itself all the way to the end. It’s a dense film, one that demands rewatches almost immediately after viewing it. There are conclusions we can draw and an ending that makes the most sense, but that is hardly the point. It’s a movie about what it means to be in a relationship viewed from first a man, then a woman’s point if view.

Denis Villeneuve is probably the best filmmaker to emerge this decade on a grand scale, though he differs strikingly from Steven Spielberg and even Christopher Nolan in that I’m not sure he is a crowd pleaser at all. He is a great storyteller, but the audience meets him on his own terms for sure. His movies drill into your mind, mess up your heartbeat, and stain your soul. In some way a Villeneuve movie will always effect you once you leave the theater. I had to limit myself to only 4 movies per director for this list, so though Incendies (2010) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) didn’t quite make it, and they are great movies in their own rights, it only goes to show how much I love Enemy and the 3 films way higher coming up. I have seen Enemy about 5 times at this point, and I’m pretty sure Jake Gyllenhaal is my MVP of the decade acting wise….just look at how he plays these two characters as yin and yang versions. It keeps you guessing what all means long after the shocking ending is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

66.Vice (2018)

 

        Vice has brilliant acting and portrayals of real life people….but I struggle to view it as a typical bio-pic. If anything, it is making fun of bio pics in the way it is directed by Adam Mckay. He has a great habit of making everything insanely funny, from Nascar racing in Talladega Nights (2006) to the housing crisis in The Big Short (2015) to news casting in Anchorman (2004). The movie never forgets to let the audience know they are watching a movie, and that is a hard trick to pull off well. The twists and turns are too good to spoil, but it is riveting to watch Christian Bale and Amy Adams lead the way through some interesting characters the public found hard to get personal with. How annoying it is to live in a time where are world leaders are colossal idiots not colossal role models like the Abraham Lincolns and George Washington’s of the past.

Oddly, it’s not a very political movie, as many people I think “wanted” it to be a diss on Dick Cheney and his reign of terror. It shows some interesting insights into how people who are power crazy work in their manipulations. A key scene involving Dick Cheney watching Don Rumsfeld speak to which he asks someone, “Which one is he Republican or Democrat? Republican? Ok, that’s what I am too.” People can decide to be different politically unless they are FORCED to be one or the other, whether by the job they have or the company they keep. If Vice has any kind of relative point at all, it’s that politics are complete bullshit- the liberal/democrat and the conservative/republican are just traps to keep us all compliant and uninterested while the rich get richer and struggle for control behind the scenes. Apathy as the “vice” of humanity- I couldn’t agree with this more, and it’s a brilliant movie.

 

 

 

67.Room (2015)

Room is a great albeit depressing film, that shows how to adapt a novel into a successful movie. It showcases a great child actor, Jacob Tremblay, as the main character trying to make sense of his five year old universe. It’s a coming of age story, in the way it shows a child can survive some insane hardships in order to live a normal life. His illusions are shattered when he discovers the world he knew in side “Room” is not the real world at all but a prison in which he must escape. Brie Larson is always a great actress and in her role as Mom she finally gets a movie that matches her talents.

The main reason this story works is because it focuses where moist stories are afraid to- The beginning of a brand new universe and the aftermath of a tragedy. Most stories would be about the chase and thrill of escaping from the prison, but Room is different. In fact so much time is given to psychoanalysis of the victims that it becomes a different kind if movie: a story about how we must press firward even when it seems like life cant get any Worse. As rough as my own life can be at times, I think of Room and get inspired by the strength of a 5 year old child. Quite an accomplishment, when the grandparents played by William h Macy and Joan Allen are mere afterthoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

68.Contagion (2011)

Contagion is a disturbing movie about what would happen in the modern world if an uncontrollable virus started infecting us. It takes into consideration which people would be immune to the virus, how to find a cure, and how to cease widespread panic. Details about how many times we touch our face a day (thousands) and how many people the average person comes in contact with which could spread the disease world wide…..and even better at the end we find out the random chance event which CREATED this virus. We come out with the information that this kind of mutant virus is inevitable every couple hundred years, like the Spanish Flu in the 1910’s that wiped out 1% of the known world’s then population (70 million people!). Society as we know it starts to spiral out of control and break down in a matter of months.

It’s a kind of horrifying movie because it is a harsh reality we as humans must face. There is nothing we can do to stop random chance in our lives, no way to control certain things from happening. All we can do is hope the people in charge at the disease control centers can find a cure. The cast is all-star Hollywood filled with familiar faces to make it seem more poignant and it’s a constantly engaging story with a pulsating soundtrack. Director Steven Soderbergh is a pioneer in how movies are made, constantly using new cameras and technology to innovate but he is also just a very human storyteller, and in movies like this one, Logan Lucky (2017), Unsane (2018), High Flying Bird (2019), and his tv series The Knick this past decade he shows us his amazing ability to entertain no matter what the subject. Few people can be so mass appealing while bolstering weird, prophetic ideas.

 

 

#69. Diane (2019)

Diane is a very moving portrayal of a 70 year old woman who takes care of everyone, from her older parents and cousins to her 30 something son (Jake Lacy) strung out on drugs. It is interesting and all too rare to see such a giving portrayal of a human being who is far from perfect, but tries so hard to be. As the film jumps through time we see the results of her efforts but are also confronted with things she cannot change, as people in the end are always going to fall back to what their true nature is.

The movie is directed by Kent Jones, a film critic and long time supporter of character actors like Mary Kay Place, who plays Diane almost too knowingly. The movie is full of only character actors, and so becomes a study of what it means to be a person who is often forgotten and over looked in our lives. Some actors start off in small roles and grow to become movie stars, recent examples might be Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Taraji Henson to name a few….but so many actors become people that we look at and say: “hey I know that persons face, but what’s their name again?” Diane is an example of what it’s like to be a caregiver in life, and a caregiver in acting. It is a film that I wouldnt call “happy” but I would call life affirming, with a really nice ending. Movies that truly mean something and portray ordinary people well are all too rare.

 

 

 

 

 

70.Doctor Strange (2016)

               Years in the making and troubled production from the outset made this movie seem like an impossible task. Finally it got made, with a generous budget and with a director with the right kind of sensibilities for the project, Scott Derrickson. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast in the lead role, a joy for fans old the comics since the 1960’s. The special effects took from movies such as Inception (2010) and dialed it up even more crazy. Doctor Strange has a different tone than many of the Marvel movies because technically he doesn’t operate in the same realms- he deals with mystical beings from multiple dimensions on a level most people would not understand, more akin to an adult version of Harry Potter than a superhero from The Avengers. For the first 1/3 of the movie, this is a hospital drama.

               So forget Doctor Strange as a superhero movie and just watch it as a series of images. The movie undoubtedly still works, and that is probably it’s biggest strength. All of the training montages, the hero facing off against the big villain planning on world domination, and the mentor that is doomed to a tragic fate so that the hero can avenge them – we have seen a hundred times before. Throwing in time reversal, mystic dimensional shifts, magic vs. hard science – even all that has been done to death. But these visuals, not to mention the great acting by the entire cast, are what make Doctor Strange a story worth telling and it is less a superhero movie than a psychedelic experience.

 

 

 

 

71 – 80

 

 

71.Burning (2018)

               Director Chang-dong Lee’s Burning is an amazing film that sneaks up on you. It’s lengthy and starts off with a simple boy meets girl kind of tale, but soon the intricacies of the plot come to light and the mystery builds to an epic showdown of wills. The most interesting thing about the movie is that much is left to our imagination, nothing is spelled out plainly. Everything is a metaphor and “Barn Burning”, the title of the short story the movie is based on, is given a very dark meaning. These types of films hark back to Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960’s classics L’Avventura and Blow Up, where clue upon clue of crimes that might of happened but we have no proof.

               Burning is a movie that stays with us for weeks or even years later, but never really leaves you once you have viewed it. The reason to rewatch it is to try and unlock the clues within, to find out what really has happened within our own lives, to try and recall what we may have overlooked. Chang-dong Lee is one of many Korean new Wave directors of the 21st century that are revolutionizing cinema with the way they make movies, including Joon-Ho Bong, Chan-Wook Park, among many others. His Peppermint Candy from 1999 was basically Memento only made a year before. This wave of directors all have complex styles and deep, resonant characters. Though some of their movies require more concentration they are definitely worth more in the end and take us to places in our hearts and minds that we never knew existed before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

72.Middle of Nowhere (2012)

            this is an independent movie that tells a universal story, about a woman who tries to stop being a pushover in life. With a husband in jail, she tries to live her life for both of them on the outside while finding out who she is along the way. The journey of her life is accompanied by the music of the movie, which is incorporated in a way I had never felt before. After watching this movie at Belcourt theater in my Native Nashville tn, the director held a one on one questionnaire via skype. A lot of people asked important questions, but mind kind of took Ava by surprise when I spoke of the way the music fit into this movie like no other movie I had ever seen. Ava was humble in her response, but gave me a knowing look of someone who had paid attention to a detail that not many notice. I patted myself on the back for making an impact, of course this impact seems silly years later as the director became one of the greatest ever.

            Director Ava DuVernay is the first African American woman to win best director at Rob Redford’s Sundance Film Festival; an important landmark. Her movies through this decade have propelled her to stardom and she is easily the most important director to emerge from this decade- the trailblazing Selma, the no holds barred Oscar winning documentary The 13th, recent netflix Mini Series When They See Us, the magical A Wrinkle in Time. Also important is Emayatzy Corinealdi in one of the best female performances of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

73.The Conjuring (2013) 

 

 

               With Films like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring director James Wan has established himself as the new master of horror for the 21st century for mainstream cinema. The fact that he can also direct Fast and Furious 7 and Aquaman should not be overlooked, and he is the kind of guy who is subtle with his versatility. His name is synonymous with Wes Craven or William Friedkin as directors who really understand what makes people scared and make us love to go to these types of movies to get our fix.               The Conjuring is his best work and the one franchise he “controls” the most, as many other have spiraled into sequels and projects out of his reach. It makes sense because this movie tells a personal story we have all seen and heard before, one of ghost hunters (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and one of a family possessed and troubled by a spirit, with mother played by a fragile Lili Taylor. It is a movie steeped in the tradition of the haunted house genre, but it is executed very well and the actors are GOOD enough to sell the story as a disturbing one. For those who get their fun from tales of jump scares, haunting nightmares, and ghastly possession, The Conjuring was an instant classic.

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

74.Ex Machina (2014)

 

               A haunting look at the not so distant future and the fear of creating artificial life, the small-scale beauty of this film outshines many more of its action movie blockbuster cousins by being true to humanity’s flaws and curiosities. The a.i. played by Alicia Vikander is kept in a chamber to be studied by a series of tests by creator (Oscar Isaac) and a new protégé (Domhnall Gleeson). What follows is a series of experiments and intelligence tests, and it plays out exactly as you think it would, but is still fun to watch. Glesson feel actual loving emotions for the machine which was given a female face of beauty, but can it actually feel love? Does it actually have a gender for that matter?? The story starts as familiar but quickly presents itself as something far more disturbing akin to a horror movie or the best hard sci-fi.

               This movie actually beat Star Wars the Force Awakens for best Visual Effects Oscar (the equivalent of best Sci Fi movie) since it didn’t premiere in the USA until April 2015, and that was a wise decision: Ex Machina holds up years later as a premiere example of a terrifying sci-fi concept superbly executed. The fact that we enjoy the trickery is a credit to Director/writer Andrew Garland, who also crafted the dense Tarkovsky-ian world of Annihilation (2018) and the screen plays for Sunshine (2007), zombie romp 28 Days Later (2002) and Never Let Me Go (2010) all great stories with supernatural elements included. Garland is one the better sci fi directors around today, and his movies are always intellectually curious and emotionally devastation. The point Ex Machina makes absolutely clear is we as a species are truly doomed if artificial intelligence is not controlled properly.

 

 

 

 

75.Logan (2017)

               Logan is a superhero movie on the surface, but a Western movie at heart. It brings the kinds of stories that are already present in comic books of the last 60 years to the screen in ways that are accessible to people who don’t already know them, but even BETTER for those of us who have this kind of character memorized. A lot is made about how this movie is rated R and finally a violent claw-ripping Wolvie, but im not sure that matters so much. Sure, some important truths can get conveyed on screen, and it allows for a more adult story, but with the inclusion of the New Mutant children characters it seems to be aimed at teenagers so what does it all even mean in the end? In the actual comic-book version of Logan’s fight with The Reavers, he gets crucified and left for dead- too much?

               Most importantly, this is the closest to the actual character of Wolverine the movies are ever likely to give us, so it deserves to be listed among the top movies of the decade. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal was already iconic for sure, but this movie makes it the permanent one in our generation. Jackman seems to know the character inside and out and even more than Superman was for those 20th century minds, Wolverine is the greatest comic hero of my life. IF its hard to see “the guy with claws being the most popular” to  paraphrase Roger Ebert, one viewing of this movie should make it clear. Logan struggles with his past, which makes him sympathetic to people who do the same. He doesn’t really fight for good at the beginning as much as react to evil deeds by assholes, but by the end he is surely fighting for other people. It’s a lesson taught not only once but many times in our lives, how there is injustice to the world and whether it was done to us or not, it must be fought and it is a dream worth fighting for. The underlying of this point in Logan, makes it my favorite X Men movie ever made.

 

 

 

76.Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

 

               Nuri Bilge Ceylan is perhaps the best World Cinema director of the 21st Century. His movies take their time for sure, but whatever the plot is we all finish the movie questioning our own existence. Perfect mixture of Akira Kurosawa and Krzysztof Kieslowski in the way he views human nature and choices. This story is a simple one, a who-done it of sorts about detectives and thieves, but its existential nature punctures us right down to our souls. Though there is great dialogue also written by the director by the director, what we remember are the images. The awesome cinematography paints a dark and dreary world, where the landscape comes to life and everyone plays a sort of truth-or-dare game with each other.

               I have a theory about movie length, and that theory goes: no movie is too long if it leaves you wanting more. The length of a movie is arbitrary, and usually when people complain about length it is because they are either not invested in it OR because it actually is too long. By the end of this film, I can safely say I am satisfied with the length but I could definitely watch more. It is more about the characters, and the lead detective played by Muhammet Uzuner makes a startling choice at the end of the picture. This decision effects his police case, and effects his life, but we would not understand this choice if the film didn’t take time to explain it. Great directors can show us a window into anyone’s life, make us feel sympathy for any kind of person, and that is what Ceylan does for this tale of a city in Turkey. IT earns its comparison to the original once upon a time movie (Sergio Leone’s Once upon a time in the west from 1968) and one ups it in its own unique way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

77.Inside Out  (2015)

 

               Inside Out tried something new in the land of children’s movies: to make a movie about the emotions inside your brain, give them personalities and have them learn and grow with you into an adult. It’s a movie that sinks into different types of feelings with characters we lose (BING BOOONGGGG!) and some that have to learn to live together in peace- you can’t have joy without a little sadness. The bizarre scenes of wondering into abstract dimensions is one for the history books, and the reality of moving to a new state or city and leaving everything behind rivals any Toy Story movie in my book.

                I admire this movie because it can appeal to children and adults in different ways, but doesn’t fall prey to dirty jokes or adolescent humor at all. Amy Pohler is the perfect choice to play the title character Joy, as her jovial personality shines through the screen but also her sort of obliviousness in the beginning. Think of how rare that is for a big budget mainstream animated movie? My favorite scene may be the one where it shows the two people that pick and choose which memories are important to keep and which ones should be erased, because the mind can only hold so many!

 

 

 

78.The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

 

            The Wolf of Wall Street could never be made today, and it was only made 6 years ago. I am not saying I forgive or agree with any of the profane, awful, hilarious, crazy things this real-life movie portrays, its just that we as a society used to laugh at it all and now it is frowned upon in a Politically Correct world. I feel bad more anyone uptight enough to not allow themselves to enjoy this kind of human depravity because wow, what a movie, especially the tight first 2 hours telling of the rise of Jordan Belfort before the fall. The film suggests he once had scruples and some sort of semblance of a conscience before drugs and decadence lead to his downfall. It’s a story Martin Scorsese loves to tell, but I think this might be the most humorous movie he has ever made, mostly thanks to Terrance Winters (The Sopranos) clever screenplay.

            Everything is on point though, crazy camera angles, tracking shots, bravura acting from everyone, hilarious situations going waayy over the top, and a somewhat preachy ending. The fact that it may all go on too long (its over 3 hours) is fitting of a story like this. The fact that it all moves along so fast is a credit to the actors and the director and let’s face it: the editor Thelma Schoonmaker.  Scorsese and his crew feel at home making these kind of movies and we feel at home watching them. His other movies so far this decade, the PG Rated Hugo (2011) and the bizarre religious Silence (2016) are good movies in their own ways too, but something is just so freeing about Martin Scorsese at his most over the top and freewheeling, and this movie has it in spades. No one does decadent excess better than Scorsese and I don’t know if anyone ever will, he is the master.

 

 

79.The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

               Ah, the Coen Brothers, always making the most unique movies. They are always so entertaining and always so consistent. This “movie” is a series of short stories/films that do not tie together in any way except the are all sort of Westerns. I mean….it’s also sort of a musical. Each chapter is interesting for sure, though some stand out more than others at least on first viewing. The Coens cast the best character actors and defy easy categorization, and on Netflix they seem to have found the perfect medium for their daring natures (believe it or not they have always had issues with getting their films into major theaters, when they don’t cast a huge Hollywood actor at least).

Each of the 6 stories asks an important question in a different way: What is the meaning of life? Where does life begin and end? If someone is born different and it is too hard, should they go on living? And it asks these questions in such subtle controlled ways as this is definitely a movie to treasure. In all the movies the Coen Brothers made this decade, they certainly surpassed the last decade of 2000-2009, the exception being No Country for Old Men (2007) which is still the best they have done this century. True Grit (2010), Inside Llewyn Davis (20103) and Hail Caesar (2016) are all respectable movies on their own, but if I had to pick a favorite among them this one is closet to why I like the Coen Brothers. Take the moment of the chapter where the wagon rancher is defending the lady from the Native American attack (spoilers), it’s a sad but inevitable end. Like any Flannery O’ Connor story, the characters are always true to themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 80.Morning Glory (2010)

 

               Taking in the specter of the greatest movie about the newsroom, Broadcast News (1987), this movie adds kind of a twist on top in that it focuses less on a romantic relationship and more on the relationship between a stubborn old pro and a upbeat new personality as his boss. There is a line early on how one should give up on their dreams by late twenties if they hadn’t achieved them, and its one that resonates through the whole movie, to prove the nay-sayers wrong. Rachel McAdams is the embodiment of “happy”; she will do what it takes to make things happen in her career and she deals with everyone’s problems in a way that makes things work. Movies about workaholics are always interesting to me because I have that noting-can-get in my way personality, for better or for worse. The personal life often falls by the wayside when there is a career path in mind.

            The performance by Harrison Ford is telling, marking his return to serious acting after he went away for a good ten years or so, then went on to do Star Wars and Blade Runner sequels. Ford is the rare actor that always does a credible job often even going above and beyond expectations, his role in this movie as an all too serious Newscaster that only reports “hard” news rings true to the way he approaches acting. I haven’t seen many roles he takes on for the all mighty dollar as opposed to say…Nicholas Cage 😊 The film is full of great actors / actresses in minor roles and the movie is a throwback to a late 80’s style romance comedy. But even there, Morning Glory has more on its mind as it manages to be funny and charming and heart warming, while also being conventional, meaningful, and great too look at. It only has one flaw: who ever picked the songs for the soundtrack should be shot! It is very distracting…..

 

 

 

81 – 90

 

(7) 81.Dragged Across Concrete (2019)

 

               This is a perfectly cast movie, with every actor playing a sort of version of their real-life selves. Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson redeem any recent questionable press they have had with these lead roles, rebranding themselves as serious dramatic actors. It’s a shame movies like this aren’t more successful in movie theatres these days, that they have gone out of fashion somewhat and go more straight to home video. I kind of feel like 20 years ago, this would be a mainstream Mel Gibson thriller like Payback or Conspiracy Theory, but times have changed. Even more so, it’s a well constructed story, with fully developed characters so when events happen to them later on, they MATTER. Craig T.  Zahler is a rare director that makes every moment of the movie entertaining, as every facet of what these characters do make sense.

            That said it’s a harsh story about cops n robbers, the blurry line between right and wrong, blah blah. We’ve all seen that kind movie before, but I assure you it’s never been quite like this. The dialogue is deep and well thought out, unique but very memorable. It reminded me of a current gritty TV show like Bosch, another old fashioned detective story with well rounded characters. Each twist and turn is well earned and well deserved, but be warned some of the deaths that happen are violent! For those who have seen it, that bank robbery…..ouch……might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a long journey through the lives of two well meaning cops who have taken too many wrong turns life, and its brutal in its depiction of violence and its honesty in what how characters would act in their situations. If you make it to the end, you will surely be impressed.

 

 

 

82.The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

 

It is interesting to compare Christian Bale’s Batman to Robert Downey’s Iron Man. Both heroes match their characters personalities. Iron Man portrayal was universal, loved and people could relate, kind of like Downey. The Dark Knight movies, while admired and mysterious are not particularly relatable, kind of like Bale. A man who is known for taking risks, having a volatile temper, and will often appear as a villain….i mean Bale is perfect casting for Batman. This third movie in the best superhero trilogy ever made is usually viewed as the weakest….kind like eating three of the same amazing sandwich. The first time its an amazing surprise, the second time confirms it, and the third its still a good sandwich we are just used to it by now and kind of spoiled. Yes, this is the Batman / Sandwich analogy.

But The Dark Knight Rises remains an amazing movie, compared to anything else of its time. I wouldn’t even have called myself a fan of the character of Batman before Batman Begins (2005) hit the screen, but these movies moved me as good movies have the power to do. The stories are universal, the characters are well developed, the acting is the best in the business, the situations are true to life, the battle sequences are mind blowing. And Nolan makes it look so easy its almost annoying! More importantly, its one of the greatest thrillers to involve superheroes ever made and villain twists and turns throughout. Comparing Tom Hardy’s Bane character to his other film incarnation in Batman and Robin…..yeah, no comparison. In this movie Bane is a well developed necessary evil (his own words), a fearsome opponent. Tom Hardy’s voice is of much debate as to whether it works or not with its odd, hard-to-understand the words coming out of his mouth effect but honestly i like it, it adds to the characters mystique. there is also Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway as down to-earth and very believable as well, well cast and well acted. Joseph Gordon Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Gary Oldman, Marion Coltiard and many other round out a great cast of character actors.

After the more recent, depressingly awful DC attempts at Batman movies, it even more obvious that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy’s quality will never be repeated again. Watching it again today was eye opening, it really holds up well! We will be lucky if anyone comes close, but luckily this final part of the trilogy remains as great of an ending as we need. I find all 3 movies of similar quality (though Dark Knight is probably the best) and look at them all as kind of an 8 hour mini series, it’s about the same length. It a world now over saturated by farrrrrr to many superhero type, this movie stands as the shining example of how to end a trilogy in the right way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

83.Victoria (2015)

            Holding the current record for longest single scene shot in movie history at two hours and fifteen minutes, the whole movie is one giant take filmed in REAL TIME and one unstoppable thrill ride. With a running time that honestly zips by, Victoria demonstrates the vitality of modern movies like nothing else around. Even without the element of filming everything at once, the story behind Victoria is an entertaining once, of a girl who starts out innocent and then has to overcome unspeakable things, being sucked into a robbery by her new boyfriend.

            In the history of cinema, from Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), to the great Russian film Russian Ark (2002), to the Oscar winning Birdman (2014), movie’s filmed in (seemingly) one take have become more and more daring. Victoria takes a about 30 minutes to get going I will admit, it starts a tad slow….but once the story picks up it rushes into a great ending I wont spoil. You feel worn out by the end, but its like you are part of the movie, and Victoria is the direction I hope more cinema goes in the future.

 

 

 

  1. Visitors (2013)

               Time has not been very kind to Visitors and I am not sure why. It had a quite famous director Godfrey Reggio (of Koyaanisqatsi (1982) fame) and great reviews of its time, but I try to bring up this movie in conversation a lot and its lost on people. I don’t know why, perhaps because it is hard to explain why it is so fun to watch. Some people say its just a bunch of pictures in black and white of people faces, but that’s not true either: there are faces are not blank but staring at the screen, there are buildings, landmarks, planets, hands making motions, and many other things and an awesome Phillip Glass soundtrack to move things along. Soundtracks are so important to silent movies, it gives them a lot of their character, and I would argue that Visitors is the best silent movie of the 2010’s contrary to the more populist choice The Artist (2011). 

 

               There is no mistaking this is an art movie meant to be seen on the big screen. Luckily that is how I saw it, but it still works as a silent, wordless film of images on a smaller screen (Visitors now on your cell phone! Oh boy!). People thinking a movie like this is too cerebral or intellectual are wrong about that, there’s nothing cerebral about it; it is all gut reactions, images, and open to interpretation. It could be shown to middle schooler’s in school as a discussion on what it means to be alive. Described by the director as humanity’s relationship with technology, I would say that’s kind of misleading and its more about language. How people communicate using non-verbal communication, and not just people but animals and possibly aliens too. The people in the movie have definitely been “directed” to convey something, and the camera movements are intentional; people that write this movie off as random or incoherent are missing the point. What could the title Visitors imply, that extraterrestrial life has appeared and we are all looking at it? That it is looking back at us and we can’t see it? Or maybe the visitors are us, and we are just watching whatever movie is on the screen at the time. The point of any great art is not to answer any questions, but to ask them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

85.Another Year (2010)

 

               A movie about a happy aging couple named Tom and Gerri, played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen that basically severs as a year in their life. Geri is a counselor that tries to help depressed people, and her best friend that works with her fits that category as well, played by Lesley Manville as some kind of force of nature of awkwardness. Her performance is one or the ages for sure, and many movies have tried something similar (Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (2013) comes to mind) but none of them quite nailed it like Manville. A lot of the movie is improvised, as in a lot of Mike Leigh directed movies, meaning there is a basic script and the actors are allowed to dance around the dialogue a bit. Any scene at a dinner or picnic table with Leigh’s charters is always a treat.

               Mike Leigh directs movies that feature great happiness and/or bleak sadness. His first movie from the early 70’s was even called Bleak Moments, which is an apt title of his subject matter. Movies he has made throughout the years such as Naked, Happy go Lucky, Topsy Turvy, and the amazing Secrets and Lies really pinpoint the amazing qualities of the human heart, how it can love regardless of reason or how when it breaks it can affect the human psyche. Tom and Geri are a well-balanced, almost perfect couple in love and all of their friends and family are flawed people, but very REAL people. Some people will come out of Another Year thinking “wow that was depressing!”, however everytime I see it I say “Yep. That sounds about right. This is my life too, this is how life really is.” I think 99.9% of films made today are afraid to show the harsh reality of…..reality.

 

 

86.The Big Sick (2017)

               This is a movie that presents itself as one kind of story but quickly becomes something else entirely. Kumail Nanjiani wrote the movie with his wife Emily and they use the personal story of how they met as fuel for an insightful comedy, one full of painful truths but also an inspiring tale. The odd balance of cringe humor and uncomfortable truths is one the movie does really well, sucking you into a story with a great cast as well, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter doing amazing work as the parent’s of the sick Zoe Kazan, and how every one deals with an awkward situation.

               The film spends more time with the parents’ bonding and acceptance of the main character than with the main couple’s turmoil, which is the secret to the movies success; it is not a typical romantic comedy in any sense. It’s also about working at a comedy club, a past time I am somewhat familiar with. The struggle to survive in the face of adversity, whether it be on stage or in the face of potential in-laws, is what the movie is actually about. And to face the biggest sick of all, intolerance, it takes a defense mechanism triggered by humor. Holly Hunter should have been nominated for a best supporting actress oscar, no question.

 

 

 

 

 

87.Widows (2018)

               As certain as I was when I was watching this movie that it would polarize most viewers, it didn’t seem to have that effect on the audience. I guess its partly because it features like 10 huge movie stars, but also because it’s a heist movie that plays like a thinking person’s version of Fast & the Furious. In addition to the brilliant acting turns by Daniel Kaluuya as an insane hit man, Robert Duvall as a racist old politician, Brian T Henry as a kingpin on the rise, Colin Farrell as his campaigning son, and Liam Neeson as….well I can’t say without spoilers….you also have the most fierce cast of women on the year, hence the name of the movie.

               Viola Davis leads the heist gang as a woman who is fighting for her very way of life, after her husband who has let her down in many ways; I can’t think of a better actress who could have portrayed  this role. Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo play the backbone of the group, the epitome of women tired of being pushed around by society’s constrictions. Elizabeth Debicki blows everyone else out of the water with her character who is just FED UP AND NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!! Yes, it took me two paragraphs to just describe the cast, and I didn’t even mention John Bernthal, Jacki Weaver, and many others.

               As you can guess if you have not seen Widows, it packs a lot into its 2 hour run time. It is based on a British miniseries, but Director Steve McQueen and writer Gillian Flynn cuts out allll the fat and gave us a lean, awe inspiring cops ‘n robbers flick about the validity of finding your place in the world! The Cinematography is catchy and flashy too, as on scene flows effortlessly into another. Every scene matters, which makes me think perhaps the key to keeping movies interesting these days is to pack in as much plot and character as possible. It works for Superhero movies, why not old fashioned ones?

 

88.Beats, Rhymes and Life: Tribe Called Quest (2011)

 

               One of the really great music documentaries, regardless of subject matter. Directed by Michael Rapaport with a passion that is rarely seen with these things, the story of Tribe Called Quest is as interesting as the music. Starting out as passionate teenagers who went to high school with a lot of the right people with connections for sure, but the music they made was really special and pushed all of hip hop, jazz, and rock music forward. An interesting point Q Tip makes during the documentary is the difference between melodic pop and hip hop – that even though pure rap music has no sung melodies it still develops unique patterns. That is a good point, even the best melodies I think are about patterns – how things are said rather than what they are saying. I’ve always thought that’s why even music in other languages works so well.

               Not to take away from any of the group’s lyrics because obviously that’s where the main focus is, and the main thing that makes it great. A lot of music docs are about the crazy personalities that often conflict, like between leaders Q-TIp and Phife dog here. And there is a some background about their families, just enough not to get sick of it really, the main focus are the albums they made, as it should be. There have been a lot great music docs this decade (Slint’s Breadcrumb Trail, Nas’s Life is Illmatic, Residents’s Theory of Obscurity, etc.) but this one is my favorite. Especially with their reunion album in 2016 and Phife Dog’s passing right before it. Director Michael Rapaport found the perfect mix of documentary, live concert footage, and lasting influence and it’s a great catch for fans of the group or new converts.

 

 

 

89.Hell or High Water (2016)

 

            This is a great, modern 2010’s western and just the fact that its story works makes it worth a mention. The western is more confined than most genres to a time period and placement, and the world has largely forgotten the old-fashioned stagecoaches, horseback riders and cattle wranglers of one hundred years prior. A philosophical western is even more rare, but it is always a genre that has lent itself to telling great stories about the law of the land and the lengths one goes to for their family.

That’s one thing the movie tells us (sometimes at point blank range) is that the times have changed: it is no longer foreign invaders and land expansion we have to worry about but the loan companies, casinos and hidden interest payments that threaten to bankrupt our culture and way of life. The bank robbing brothers that Chris Pine and Ben Foster eloquently portray are not good guys by any means, but they are definitely sympathetic and desperate characters that are rebelling against a corrupt system. Which is a tale at the heart of any good western. Jeff Bridges doing his usual amazing western sheriff is just icing on the cake, especially when the story is this good, written by Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone TV show, Wind River, Sicario) truly one of the best writers working today.

 

 

 

90.99 Homes (2014)

               Ramin Bahrani’s take on the housing crisis of the late 00’s plays along with The Big Short as a wakeup call for America. Michael Shannon’s brilliant performance as a manipulator of people and their misfortunes definitely dominates the movie but the ensemble cast does a great job overall of portraying the American middle class in a hopeless situation of endless debt and loss. Repossessing houses is an awful business, but people can thrive at any business, and what do you of you are offered the job of repossessing said homes even if you just got kicked out of one yourself?

               For Andrew Garfield’s character, it brings up a lot of moral ambiguity. He is able to provide for his family at last, but at what cost? It’s a mesmerizing story and even though it is hard to watch people suffer, we can’t take our eyes off of it. We can imagine this happening to ourselves because in a world of debt, we as Americans are always afraid the debt collectors (or the government) will come and take our homes away. The line between having something and being out on the street is a very thin line in today’s society.  There is not a lot of hope in 99 Homes, just brutal honesty, which we need a reminder of sometimes.

 

 

 

 

91 – 100

 

 

 

 

91.Upstream Color (2013)

 

I would like to begin my review by quoting super smart user Blaze BOY from Google reviews:

 

Is these writers or directors think we r their slaves to interpret whatever senseless de do?ok every movie shd nt necessarily give answers but what is this? I think one need no BRAIN  to make such pictures;means make anything senseless u want and call it as something new n breaking n make  people to interpret your fool acts, its like spitting on wall n asking others to appreciate ur artwork;so does it require brain or thoughts to do so?,And whats d relations of WALDEN with this junk,why only walden? include war n peace, hamlet or bible or Geeta or guide on pig farming or any other book in this story n it will make no difference as there is no justification or relations or meaning of waldens inclusion,seriously l think d director or writer saw walden first or got hands on walden in dark and included..thats it…simple.

I always like thoughtful n thought provoking n complex movies but this is one of the d most fool n trash l seen.”

To be fair, this articulate user did just watch a movie about a farmer who plays god by implanting worms in people, pigs, and rivers that turns people into mind-controlled zombies. So….for everyone?

     All that can really be said about Upstream Color, only the second movie directed by Shane Carruth in his 20 years career, is that it is a trip. His other movie Primer (2004) is much more my speed but I admire his desire not repeat himself. Much like Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) or Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (2002), the director did not want to repeat himself. I admire its huge ambition but it goes in so many directions there is no way it could be perfect; I guess traditional movie plot sometimes needs to be thrown out the window. The relationship between the two characters is comparable to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) but with the coherency of a Goddard movie, each scene cut up specifically to lead/mislead the viewer. It is a beautiful series of film images though and would totally work as a silent movie just as well. Even on subsequent viewings I have no idea what the guy with “the sun for a head” is all about. I know Walden is a great book though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(8) 92. Us (2019)

               Jordan Peele could have rested on the fame and good credit he got from his breakout hit Get Out in 2017, but he decided to go deeper into more risky territory. Of course this is going to be met with mixed results, and Us is a beautiful mess: too ambitious for it own good trying to flesh out an idea that probably would have been better as a 6 part mini series. But you have to admire the results, which is a mash up of so many things at once its kind of awesome to watch. I can’t remember the last time I was watching a movie and I had no idea where it would go next.

               The acting helps, and like all successful movies having good child actors is key. The trick here is all 4 main actors in the family have to play two roles at the same time. They all succeed: the masculine husband, the caring mother, the ingenious daughter, and the volatile little boy. The mirror images projected by each personality in the horror movie has many different interpretations and none of them lead to a typical happy ending. Great horror movies work because they mess with out minds and not merely our eyes, and in the weeks after I saw Us I have not stopped pondering its implications. Can’t wait for Peele’s next movie!

 

 

 

93.Mississippi Grind (2015)

 

 

               A film about two lost souls trying to find their way using the world of gambling, Mississippi Grind is a very moving character study. Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds play the loser versions of themselves as these two men are meant for each other despite a gap in age. One man asks the other “what does he need the money for?” the truth is he doesn’t need the money, they are addicted to gambling as a lifestyle. It gives them thrill like no other, more than the women around them, more than their families they have abandoned. Of course, this is all presented as humorous and mainly lighthearted despite the bleak subject matter. The two characters are fascinating to watch and both actors do some of their best work in their roles, both Reynolds and Mendelsohn are underrated character actors.

               The male and female team of directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are filmmakers of quiet but powerful Independent films Half Nelson and Sugar, and after Mississippi Grind (though it was a little below the radar to be a critical success) impressed the right people they were drafted for the blockbuster superhero movie Captain Marvel in 2019. Whether they were the write choice for that is debatable, but Mississippi Grind stand as their best film to date. It doesn’t play out in a way you would think and remains entertaining on repeat viewings. In most Hollywood movies, everyone is redeemed in the end and wrapped in a tidy little bow, but here Mendelsohn’s character has not necessarily shown signs of improvement, the only thing consistent about him is that he tends to lose all of his money and be irresponsible. Can people with addictive personalities really change for the better? Not an easy thing to answer, and in this movie it is left for us decide.

 

 

94.Moneyball (2011)

               I don’t think anyone that knows me would describe me as a fan of sports of any kind, but I’ll be the first to admit that sports make great topics for cinema, mainly for their habit of rooting for the underdog or using said sport as a metaphor for real life. It’s also not true that all sports moves are crowd pleasers, as with Director Bennett Miller on staff Moneyball has many signs of being rather depressing at times. But its a beautiful movie, with a revolutionary idea at its core. Trusting statistics and math over old fashion Baseball scouts, Moneyball is a movie about a Baseball manager and his aide (brad Pitt and Jonah Hill) as revolutionaries.

               The movie is as good as it is mainly because of its two screenwriters, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorki, quite possibly the two best screenwriters working today. Based on their track record, im guessing Zaillian provided the depth of the subject matter and Sorkin the humorous approach. The result is pretty magical to listen to, creating a very rewatchable movie about overcoming the odds. There is a moving speech Pitt gives about how all that matters is that they try to change the game and that they DO SOMETHING with their life, and I’m not sure if the reason is life is not fair (and he has no budget to work with) or just to take things up because the old ways must be changed. Out with the old in with the new. Seems to be a good enough reason to do anything I guess, to add a little creativity to a stale system. This lesson is present in Moneyball for those who are willing to listen.

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Cloud Atlas (2012)

            2012 was a year where big budget, 2 hour plus movies were the norm, and this was the longest and most spectacular of them all. Weaving 6 stories together over the entirety of human history (and the future of it), Cloud Atlas paves the way for storytelling, special effects, and bravura acting in movies. It was truly a wonder to behold, and one of the most complicated and ambitious movies ever made. It had routes in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) and possibly Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), and was able to balance great drama with great humor.

            Tom Hanks, Hallie Berry and Hugh Grant and others in the cast take on multiple roles and also make harsh language and “made up” languages work, when both could come off as offensive or humorous. After Cloud Atlas debuted, like many book to film projects that were deemed “un-filmable” (Watchmen, Dune, Life of Pi, ) the reviews were mixed but I remember watching it in the theater and being amazed. Just like their other big budget success with The Matirx, sometimes The Wachowskis’ ambition does pay off.

 

 

 

96.Twentieth Century Women (2016)

               A coming of age tale of a teenage boy that is a substitute for the film’s director, Mike Mills, this kind of story has been done to death quite frankly. The difference here is the tale of an art school kid who discovers what life is all about through his kooky yet determined mother (beautifully played by Annette Bening) who tries to understand his bizarre music choices (a soundtrack full of the best of 1970’s punk and new wave music), totally works as an authentic trip. All of the characters are very well fleshed out, the unique trick the way the movie is split into different segments for each character, and it’s just great screen writing.

               At the end of the day, wanting to spend more time with this dysfunctional family is a very good sign and a journey I want to take again very soon. It helps that the soundtrack is one of the best ever created as well. The movie exists in a genre that often produces forgettable movies about a “slice of life from fill-in-the-blank decade” but through care and a well-developed script, this film rises above the competition. Others great movies this decade almost made my list with similar subject matter (The Spectacular Now, Eighth Grade, Ladybird, Frances Ha) but this one was by far my favorite. This film comes from Director Mike Mill’s true life experiences about growing up with his mother, and it rings true where most other’s fall apart.

97.Red State (2011)

               Anyone coming into a Kevin Smith movie expecting it to be one exact thing is fooling themselves. Smith has so much to say, his films tend to be all-the-things at all times. So sure, the set up for this is a horror movie, then it runs into a gruesome tortuous religious satire, then it becomes an action thriller ultra serious movie about the magic of faith. So most people are forgotten, as Smith only makes movies for himself and his fanbase…..which is exactly as it should be.

               In a world where the studio’s biggest chance of getting money is to make sure they film an action scene in Hong Kong so they can tap into an international market, movies like Red State are getting more rare. Characters that take a stance on something, in this case making fun of the holier-than-thou Westboro Baptist church cultists, are not going to always be as successful as the all-time great performance by Michael Parks in this movie. People will consistently underrate Kevin Smith as a great film maker, but that won’t effect me: I’m already in the fanbase and I have seen the light.

 

  1. The Forbidden Room (2015)

               Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room takes short films lost during the silent era of movies and webs between them a common thread: a hint of amnesia. That’s as coherent a synopsis as you are going to get for a film that is, politely called, a fever dream. People that like their movies to be risk taking adventures of visuals and insanity should flock to directors like Maddin who has been at this kind of mad movie making for close to 30 years now.

               Most movies made are lost to time, whether it is because they are awful and not meant to last, or because people in the early days of cinema didn’t preserve them properly. How long should a movie last? Why are some considered classics and therefore more preserved then others? What I like about all of Guy Maddin’s movies is he keeps it entertaining all the way through, and you can tell the man is not only dedicated to his craft but knows exactly the movies he satirizes. Bizarre, heartfelt movies like this are seen by too few people, only the most dedicated people can say “I love this”, but again its not art for arts sake. The Forbidden Room will last longer than the latest summer blockbuster, because it actually has something to say.

 

 

 

99.X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

               When this movie debuted in 2014, my initial response was “Finally! A movie that does justice to one of the better X-Men comic stories. It is a joy to live in an age were good comic book movies can actually be made, and sometimes even be great!” I was very excited, and this was a time before knowing how saturated the next 5 years would be with super-hero movies.  What this movie gave us was a fairly grounded story at its core about hope and redemption, very much in the spirit of the original 1980 storyline in the X-men comics. The scene where Professor Xavier communicates thought the timestream with his younger self is the best scene in any of the X-men movies and demonstrates why they work so well.

               But it’s funny what only 5 years can do. At the end of the 2010’s, the X-men movie franchise has fallen out of favor to Avengers overriding everything and also the public’s general fatigue with this kind of movie (some of them…. not the super comic book nerd crowd). Time has a way of letting the good prevail though, and I have no doubt when looking back in the decades to come, this movie will be the one to stand out from the crowd. It combines both casts of each X-Men timeline (and it’s an impressive cast) and a story that holds up to multiple viewings; magical feat in any genre. This could have been an abysmal failure but to all people involved’s credit, it holds up. If big budget superhero movies are made with this kind of creativity and care then there is hope for the genre to be taken seriously.

 

 

100.The Wind Rises (2013)

               Hayao Miyazaki is most likely going to be remembered as the greatest director of animated movies, even more so than Walt Disney. He is a person who animates in a very human way, and The Wind Rises is his final statement before he retired. About a man who dreams of making airplanes during the second world war Japan, only to see them used as vehicles of war. The scene showing the perversion of his creations is a metaphor for how animated movies themselves have been turned into commodities, at some point only viewed as vehicles to entertain children. Animation can be made for people of all ages, and Miyazaki’s movies have the power to move us as adults or children, as they move beyond time and language to grab us by the hearts.

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mention

 

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

The Decedents (2011)

Frank (2014)

The Kids are All Right (2010)

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Sully (2016)

Spring Breakers (2012)

Hereditary (2018)