Been a while since we’ve had a blog post from me so I thought to ring in the decade, I might write a bit about some of my favourite films of the last decade. I hesitate to call this list a best of, because there are some big blind spots, most notably in foreign film. When it comes to foreign film I tend to watch classics, to catch myself up on the canon, so to speak; looking at this list now I might have to change that attitude, because there are some films that I haven’t seen that I feel, had I watched, probably would have knocked a few of the chosen films off the list.
Anyhow! Here’s the list. Would love to hear from you all what your favourites of the decade have been. And if there are any that you’d suggest me to watch, please write me a comment and let me know.
The list is not ranked, and films are presented in release date.
Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Slow, methodical, and meditative, Meek’s Cutoff is a gloriously beautiful 4:3 western by Kelly Reichardt. The natural light suffuses the photography, especially the night scenes, with a glow not too often seen in contemporary cinema. Standing in stark contrast to the “classic” visuals employed, the narrative is a tightly-wound Hitchcockian spring of a thriller – as the search party in Oregon gets desperate for water, they take an Indian captive. Whilst the men make all the important decisions, Michelle Williams’ Emily Tetherow watches everything. Fascinating and a true feminist western.
The Artist (2011)
Dir. Michael Hazanavicius
A polarising pick for a top 20 of the decade I’m sure, but there’s just something about the sweep of history in this film that knocks me off my feet. The way Hazanavicius combines traditional silent film technique with modern sound design to tell a story of sparkling romance and artistic genius – its just completely enthralling. Jean Dujardin absolutely embodies the tragedy of the silent film star in his Oscar-winning role.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Dir. Terrence Malick
Not just one of the best films of the decade but one of the best films ever made. Terrence Malick’s cosmic oddysey tells the intimate story of a family in 1950s suburban America. The real star of the film is Brad Pitt as the fascistic father who looms over his children, and who’s brutal love etches itself into the face of Sean Penn’s haunted son. Absolutely transcendent and magnificent.
Dir. Paddy Considine
Olivia Coleman’s best performance? Quite possibly. A violent, disturbing look at one man’s disgrace and the hope that follows a chance encounter with Olivia Coleman’s charity worker. Their enduring friendship lifts them both out of the misery of their lives.
The Act of Killing (2012)
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer
A heartbreaking, disturbing, and painful film about the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s. Oppenheimer’s brilliance is in creating empathy for the victims in the perpetrators, and watching them as, decades later, they start to realise the true horror of their own actions.
The Master (2012)
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman trade off in that “scientology” film that you may have heard of, but somehow it becomes so much more than that simple premise. It’s a Steinbeckian tale of the search for love and the corrupting influence of father figures. I sort of hate how the dialogue around this film reduced it’s importance to simply criticising scientology, because there is so much more to be gleaned from here.
Dir. Alexander Payne
I was at an odds about whether to include Nebraska or The Wolf of Wall Street on this list but ultimately went with Nebraska; of the two I think it’s a more empathetic film and less likely to glorify the inner workings of neoliberalism. It’s the defining film of the post-2008 crash era, exploring how the American economy affects one small family. One of Bruce Dern’s very best performances.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Dir. Jim Jarmusch
I won’t spend too much time on this one cosnidering I’ve already extensively covered the brillaince of Jarmusch’s neo-gothic-rock-vampire flick, but I will say that Jarmusch’s reinvention of the romantic vampire film was a taste of fresh air (blood?) after 4 years of stale and corny post-Twilight films. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton absolutely rock it here. Also, the soundtrack is to die for.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Another romantic vampire film? Ah yes, but this one is different. Because it’s also a spaghetti western and an exploration of gender in Persianate society. Fucking brilliant, and Sheila Vand’s chador-clad vampire roaming the streets on a skateboard has to be one of the most important images of horror cinema in the last 20 years. And yes, once again, the soundtrack is brilliant.
Dir. Richard Linklater
Boyhood just has the edge over Greta Gerwig’s much-compared Lady Bird for a spot on the list because he does something no-one has ever done before, or had the patience for; filmed a childhood across 12 years. It’s remarkable in it’s unremarkableness. Patricia Arquette delivers the performance of her career.
Dir. Todd Haynes
Cate Blanchett absolutely steals the show in this incredible romance film. The colours, the music, the performances, the warmth reminds me of what it’s like to fall in love; to find someone who becomes the center of your universe and who you can’t tear yourself away from. Todd Haynes has directed an absolute masterpiece of a film here. I’ve watched it over and over and every single time, it’s unforgettably beautiful.
Dir. Justin Kurzel
This is the Macbeth film I’ve been waiting my whole life for; blood, guts, ghosts, and misery. Controversially it gutted Shakespeare’s text and opted for a more cinematic, minimalist film, one that I think offers a new and fresh examination of the Macbeth legend and rests on the powerhouse performances of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Sean Harris. Jed Kurzel’s score has become one of my favourites to listen to and I often find myself drawing my newest comics accompanied by it’s haunting soundscapes.
Dir. Jim Jarmusch
If you’d have told me that I would grow to love a film in which nothing really happens I would have laughed at you. But I really do love this film. Adam Driver’s Paterson is such a fully-realised character. I feel like if I went to New Jersey, I’d actually bump into him on the street. Or on a park-bench. Either way. He’s a character who’ll warm your heart and who you’ll wish was real.
Dir. Barry Jenkins
I don’t know what more there is for me to say about Moonlight. It’s rightly been canonized as one of the most important films ever made, not just for it’s groundbreaking representation of queer black men, but for it’s filmic beauty and epic, intimate tone. Just go watch it and be washed away by the slow tide of it’s yearning, beautiful story.
One More Time with Feeling (2016)
Dir. Andrew Dominik
I might be a bit biased here because I love Nick Cave’s music so much, but Andrew Dominik’s documentary following Nick and his family’s process of recuperation after the accidental death of his son is important, necessary, and beautiful stuff. Whilst I applaud Dominik’s sensitivity as a director, I applaud Cave evenmore; his openness and frankness about his own trauma is an inspiration to many like myself who have struggled through life and continue to do so. He is changing what it means to be a rock star, and the sorts of dialogues that we can have with our idols. It all started here.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson brings an almost Kubrickian eye to the 1950s British fashion industry. Probably has one of the most intense scenes ever filmed to revolve around the methods of cooking asparagus. Daniel Day-Lewis bows out with one of his very best performances.
Dir. Panos Cosmatos
Mandy exists somewhere between absolute nonsense and cinematic genius, and I can’t quite figure out where. Wherever it lands, Panos Cosmatos presents a vision of weird horror that is the most innovative thing to come out of the genre since China Míeville started writing his Bas-Lag trilogy. Cosmic horror at it’s very finest.
Dir. Spike Lee
The genius of BlacKkKlansman is that the film is not just a terrifying investigation into white supremacy and entrenched racism; but also how it humanises every character, racist or not. It’s a film that will force you to re-evaluate the actions of those around you and ask yourself, is your own passivity part of the problem? What can you do to redress the imbalance? The final 10 minutes of the film are some of the most powerful I’ve seen in a while. I’ve yet to see any other film challenge the Trump era so powerfully.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Dir. Rodney Rothman/Peter Ramsey/Bob Persichetti
This decade saw me finally shake loose my love of superhero cinema; to be frank most of it is uninspired and not really up to scratch. So imagine my surprise when I see a film that feels innovative, fresh, and full of life and energy. Miles Morales modernises the Spider-Man mythology for a new generation. For personal reasons which I won’t go into here, when I first saw the film there were certain scenes that reached right inside of me and grabbed me. I wept and cried and spent a week in a haze thinking about what had happened in my own life. It was the sort of film that came right when I needed it to and spoke to me in a very deep and meaningful way. I’ll aways feel thankful to Phil Lord and Chris Miller for that.
The Irishman (2019)
Dir. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese sneaks in one of his very best films, and one of the best films of the decade, at the very last minute. It’s a film about shame, guilt, and regret, and the cost of a life. It’s an elegiac reflection on the characters and universes that Scorsese has built his career on. And it’s fucking heartbreaking.
Well, that’s it now; back to work on new comics for you folks to read. Come back in another decade and I’ll have another list for ya!