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A long-winded list by a big jerkface - feel free to include your own lists

Contentious C

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So, I noped out of actually sending @RIPPA a ballot because I am a colossal prick who clearly spent way too much time this spring & summer pimping movies.  I also had kind of a not-great eye injury in July that has made it a little difficult to watch *as* much stuff as I did, so I slowed down considerably.  But, that wasn't the biggest reason I didn't/won't submit a ballot.  It's mostly because, when it comes right down to it, I feel like that misses the point.  Without some discussion of what works in a film, aggregating this stuff seems like a waste.  Plus, like others, I knew I would have 2 or 3 homer-ish picks that would be in my top 10 or 15 that would skew certain movies into maybe being in the top 100 even though I might have been the only voter for it.  So, with that in mind, I think it would *really really cool* if it were possible to, say, copy & paste at least *someone's* review of a given movie into the actual list itself, or provide a link.  I know that's a ton of work, but we could make it easier by - ta-da - reviewing stuff here, as I will do with my entire list.

But, my list is not 100 movies.  It is perilously close to that - I think it's at 90, but I left gaps because I felt like I was probably missing things here and there that would eventually fill in the blanks. So, you will see *actual numbering gaps*.  These are not typos.  I consider it a bit of a living document, because I watch way too many movies and I feel like I will never see everything I want to. Good example: I still haven't brought myself to finish watching The Act of Killing because it's one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen, but it's also undeniably a top-20 or higher pick if I ever get around to watching the last half.  This will take some time to write up, since I'm doing it on the fly, so I'm basically consulting my Letterboxd list (which I will link to) and pumping these out 10 or 20 at a time as I go along.  Buckle up, kiddies.

Also, like some others, my first 10 choices (91-100) are less "these were that good" and more things I felt like recognizing for other reasons.

See the full list here: https://letterboxd.com/contentiousc/list/badly-attempting-to-rank-the-2010s/


100. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, J. Johnston)

I can’t justify putting this higher and I can’t justify leaving it off entirely.  I came out of the theater thinking I’d watched a pretty solid film that was ultimately a 2-hour advertisement for a different film.  But, as time has gone by, the quality of this has shone through, thanks to Evans’ decade-long work as the backbone of the MCU, and this film lays the groundwork for nearly all of that.  He and Hayley Atwell somehow divert a superhero movie into one of the better romances in recent memory.  Every other actor has something fun to add, even jerks like Weaving, and Johnston was probably the perfect choice to direct this, given how the film looks from start to finish, and given how ably he shifts the focus from origin story to punchline to throwing punches.

99. Prometheus (2012, R. Scott)

Oooowee, let’s have some fun, shall we?  Michael Fassbender may just be the actor of the decade (or is he?  I'll revisit this...) when you stop and look at his output (even if he is an abusive piece of shit).  You could (and probably should) leave off his whole run as (a far better than Ian McKellen) Magneto and still have half a dozen great movies of his – pretty much all of which will end up on this list. But he’s easily the best nuts-and-bolts part of this film, with Noomi Rapace not too far behind. 

But the real beauty of this movie, despite the plot holes you could drive a tractor-trailer through, is how divisive it is.  It’s crazy how people failed to notice what they experienced as the audience was *what the film is trying to say about its characters*.  It’s a fun piece of meta-analysis: Person X sits down to watch some movie about xenomorphs, has a fantasy built up in their head about How Everything Began, is disappointed and flails horribly when the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy.  That’s the message of the plot, too!  Except replace “watch some movie about xenomorphs” with “go on a space mission to meet God” and “flails horribly” with…no, nope, still flailing horribly, just flailing to death.  Love it.

98. These Final Hours (2013, Z. Hilditch)

This sounds about right.  If you’re looking for apocalyptic suspense that strips down to its barest form and gets at the meaning of our choices and ourselves, you can do a lot worse than this.  It's less allegorical than other, similar movies, but it's as humanist as a movie like this can get.  Jessica de Gouw might be the only familiar face to anyone in the U.S. – she played Huntress on the first couple of seasons of Arrow – but a lot of the rest of this feels right, in a way that’d be strangely comforting if it weren’t about such creepy material. I’d expect things to go this way if, say, the events of the Fallout game series happened on the other side of the world: everyone else would go apeshit, but they’d eventually come to their senses just a little and take a long, hard look at who they truly were.  But, far from the best film of the decade where the film ends when the world does.

97. The Cabin in the Woods (2011, D. Goddard)

The 2010s might be the decade that simultaneously proved that satire was not dead (this, Parasite, Sarah Cooper TikToks) and also proved that it totally was dead (literally everything else for the last 4 years).  Schrodinger's Satire?  Whatever.  I doubt I have anything remotely original to say about this that hasn't already been said.  It's one of those films I heard a lot of good things about, but nothing overtly spoiler-y, and then when I finally saw it, I wanted to bounce my head off a brick wall for not watching sooner.

96. Blue Ruin (2013, J. Saulnier)

I greatly prefer this to the also-color-titled and absurdly-plotted Green Room, and I think its dearth of recognizable faces helps in that regard.  I went it with no expectations and I was fucking absorbed like the cover art to Videodrome inside of 5 minutes.  The desolate quiet of that hopeless perspective sucks you in and stays with you, no matter how crazy the movie becomes. 

95. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, E. Wright)

I can't believe you guys ranked this # 4 for the halfsies list.  Jesus.  But I've rarely ping-ponged as hard on any film as this one: saw it in the theaters and loved it.  Bought it years later and practically had to hold my nose.  Saw it again for this project and suddenly saw the charm again.  But great?  Nah.  Definitely a "had to be there" sort of movie, though, as I think the humor would not have aged very well were it not for Edgar Wright knowing exactly how to play it.  The comics were frankly never as appealing to me.  The casting is also close to perfect, which never hurts. 

94. Skyfall (2012, S. Mendes)

There are 5 or 6 Bond movies I have a soft spot for, and while I can't really say this is the best Bond movie - Hell, it's not even Daniel Craig's best - this is certainly the best-looking one anyone's ever done, and it's way better than Spectre was (which others hated and I actually didn't mind so much).  Given this was the Decade of Tentpole Bullshit, it seems fitting to take the time to recognize one of the better entries in the original tentpole franchise.

93. The Death of Stalin (2017, A. Iannucci)

I can't say that Veep is my cup of tea - there comes a point with some satirical work where it cuts so close to the bone that you're really only laughing because otherwise you'd cry - but this strikes the right balance.  I think it's got maybe 1 or 2 too many characters in it to work as tightly as it could, but hey, I guess they were trying to be at least passingly accurate with respect to history.  This doesn't approach the level of the best Christopher Guest movies, but at least it's a little comforting to know that there's someone else out there trying, and reminding us not to fall into this trap (even though clearly we've been too stupid to listen ever since).

92. Sorry to Bother You (2018, B. Riley)

This was just too enjoyably ridiculous to leave off.  This definitely pushes into the "laughing because you want to laugh" end of the satire spectrum, which I appreciate.  It feels like 80% of the movie was done, and Boots kind of ran out of ideas by the end, but going as far as he did at least makes that ending feel like it's still of a piece with the rest, since he found a way to up the ante on his own absurdity. 

91. Thor: Ragnarok (2017, T. Waititi)

God, the Thor franchise.  When this one was lined up, I dreaded it.  I figured it would just be another cocked-up movie involving Thor.  And I really hoped there'd be a stand-alone film based on Planet Hulk.  But, I can still remember seeing the trailers for this during Guardians Volume 2 and thinking, "They're finally going to do a good Thor movie!"  And they did a lot more than that.  Taika Waititi probably deserves more credit than anyone (aside from Chris Hemsworth himself) from turning the most boring Avenger into the most interesting Avenger in the span of 2 movies.

90. Young Adult (2011, J. Reitman)

I feel like this is relatively interchangeable with the later Diablo Cody/Jason Reitman/Charlize Theron collaboration, Tully, and it sort of depends on what you value the most.  The latter movie is more of a two-woman show (sort of, watch it and you'll see what I mean), but Young Adult has a little more breadth to it, even if the relationship with Patton Oswalt is a bit hard to fathom.  But Charlize Theron, despite being an actual goddess, somehow breathes a metric ton of realism and emotional depth into these roles that she should probably be classed right out of based on her looks.  I mean, she does her share of total garbage work, like Umpteenth Furious Fastness Whatever, but I guess that pays the bills so she can shine in things like this.

89. Booksmart (2019, O. Wilde)

This is this decade's Superbad, if Superbad had believable characters, actual emotional resonance with its audience, real creativity from the director, and wasn't a cheap knockoff of every other "great" teen movie for the last 30 years.  Let's face it, practically that whole genre was born as tired and boring as the facial expression of a 15-year-old convenience store clerk.  This is one of the only films to do it well; the last couple of plot points get a bit out of hand, but the rest is so well-done it's hard to ding it just for that.

88. Magic Mike (2012, S. Soderbergh)

A strange number of lists actually seem to think the sequel is better, so I suppose I should get around to watching that.  But, frankly, I went into this with no expectations whatsoever that it would be good in any way, shape, or form, and it really surprised me.  I thought about sticking a pun in there about how it knocked my socks off, but then you'd be asking yourself where I was wearing the sock, and no one needs that mental image, right?  Hey, wait...I mean, no movie featuring Joe Mangianello using a penis pump should legitimately be this good, but somehow it is.  Is this Soderbergh's best movie of the decade?  He's pretty polarizing for me; I either love his stuff or want to throw my TV out the window.  I don't know for sure, but I liked it better than Contagion or Side Effects by a wide margin.

87. Chronicle (2012, J. Trank)

Maybe the best found-footage movie anyone has done, and still pretty far up there as far as superhero origin stories go.  Too bad Trank pissed away this goodwill, and I wonder if the stench of the Fantastic Four debacle means that people end up ignoring this.  It's weird how so many others in the movie kind of peaked here, except for Michael B. Jordan, who somehow was in F4 and yet could probably buy and sell the careers of everyone else at this stage.  I haven't watched this but the once, but once was enough to appreciate how good the slow burn was and how the death spiral is both delicately and incredibly indelicately woven.

86. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, J. Gunn)

I think a part of me likes Vol. 2 more, but I can't honestly say that it *works* better, because there's the whole Taserface bit and a lot of jokes that don't land (aside from Mantis and Drax being PURE COMEDY GOLD AT ALL TIMES).  This is thinner with respect to the plot, and the Thanos bits feel tacked-on (because they were) other than Ronan leveling himself up, but there isn't anything about it that is less than a home run.  I was a massive fan of the Annihilation: Conquest storyline that underpins the whole movie, and I was really banking on this being the film that finally crashed and burned Marvel's run of relatively quality movies (in retrospect, Iron Man 2 already had!), but instead, this ended up being the one that propelled it forward even more.


OK, that's the first 15, which is enough stuff for this post (and I've been typing for like a damn hour here).  I'll re-up the list link for the subsequent posts I do as well.

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21 minutes ago, Contentious C said:

So, I noped out of actually sending @RIPPA a ballot because I am a colossal prick who clearly spent way too much time this spring & summer pimping movies.  I also had kind of a not-great eye injury in July that has made it a little difficult to watch *as* much stuff as I did, so I slowed down considerably.  But, that wasn't the biggest reason I didn't/won't submit a ballot.  It's mostly because, when it comes right down to it, I feel like that misses the point.  Without some discussion of what works in a film, aggregating this stuff seems like a waste.  Plus, like others, I knew I would have 2 or 3 homer-ish picks that would be in my top 10 or 15 that would skew certain movies into maybe being in the top 100 even though I might have been the only voter for it.  So, with that in mind, I think it would *really really cool* if it were possible to, say, copy & paste at least *someone's* review of a given movie into the actual list itself, or provide a link.  I know that's a ton of work, but we could make it easier by - ta-da - reviewing stuff here, as I will do with my entire list.

You do realize that the likelihood of me doing that would have been far greater if you had actually submitted a ballot right?

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24 minutes ago, RIPPA said:

You do realize that the likelihood of me doing that would have been far greater if you had actually submitted a ballot right?

*shrug* If you say so.  But is anyone else really going to go to the trouble of writing up their whole list like this anyway? I mean, I hope they will; it's certainly more interesting to me than the alternative.  But I wouldn't count on it.  Not like I really consider it part of what you were signing up for by volunteering to do these masochistic sorts of things in the first place; it was just an idea.

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I guess the discussion on what works in a film and various topics of film theory is something that could have been done if you (or anybody) made a thread for it. I know @caley and I had a good convo on a film we disagreed with in one of the pimping threads. It all came about because he quoted me and made an excellent post and I was inspired to do my best to respond with my thoughts. The beauty of these types of projects is the openness of conversation allowed. Everyone was pretty easy going with this. However, if you were to make a thread on your thoughts on film, there are a lot of great posters on here that I bet would have loved to join you in a discussion.

As for the concept of lists by committee: they’re fun. The most interesting part is to see people’s individual tastes on their own ballot. If everyone has the same tenth favorite film, does it make it the greatest? It’s all to see where our cinematic Venmo Diagram meets. Plus, maybe there is something I didn’t think I’d enjoy but now see someone with similar taste enjoyed on their ballot. It’ll happily jump up my watch list.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: sorry about the eye injury. Hope you’re doing alright.

Edited by Octopus
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I was holding back when it was brought up in another thread, but I must say the shit-talking on aggregating misses a point. That would be fair if you didn't feel inclined to throw your lot in with the IMDB cesspool. But you're among a tight-knit group looking for some fun, some shit talk, and some potential discovery of things worth watching or reappreciating. Live a little!

I'd like to think I have a good deal to say about movies that both do and don't show up (both positive and negative), some of which are on the list you've already revealed. But I also really want those points for Magic Mike (which is the only thing Soderbergh directed this decade that can compete with The Knick; Also, I'd like to get my rant on The Laundromat in, so please vote...).

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I do understand this line of thinking. I used to be on another message board and our EOY poll would be pretty deep and users were recruited to write blurbs about their top films and you'd get all these great discussions about movies that might make you reevaluate your opinions on said films or really excite you about tracking down some others on some occasions.  Everyone submitted their list in thread (no PMs), often with quotes and photos and videos and write-ups.  That said, more often than not the discussions would lead to petty arguments ("Go back to your Michael Bay movies if you can't enjoy actual art!"), fights over the rules ("I only saw 4 movies last year, thought one was okay and hated the other one, but I want them to be ranked 1-4 and have the exact same standing as the other ballots on here that go 50 deep, including the movie I hated! I refuse to any compromise and if you try to make me, I will withdraw my ballot, complain incessantly on every page of the results"), political voting ("I liked 'Drive' but other people have it #1 and I like Drive Angry better so I'm going to leave it off my ballot completely") and a massive delay when someone wouldn't submit their blurbs so that right in the middle of the Top 10 there would be a massive delay, everyone would lose interest and by the time the guy who ran the poll either tracked down the blurbs, solicited someone else to write them or just gave up, everyone had already lost interest in the project and there would be almost no discussion about #1.

Which is a long-winded way of saying, I like the polls here. I wish more people participated, especially some women and younger folks (Because that's when it gets good) and I wish there were more discussion (But I'm as guilty here as the next guy, lots of time I end up going "I like this. It's good. I don't want to spoil it. Good acting" and that's about all I get) but everyone here is a little older with responsibilities and the like, so we have to take what we can get.

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I think we already have evidence of how aggregating doesn't work.  Look at the 90s wrestling polls.  Granted, there was more of a functional paywall to Japanese stuff, given we didn't have the Glorious Tubes to share everything, but if I want to look up matches I might have missed or try to appreciate the build of something, I go straight to JDW's pimping posts for AJPW & NJPW and nowhere else.  The women's stuff is arguably more of a biased crapshoot, and certainly a product of its time, and in another lifetime I worked on correcting that, but...that was then.  I'd take one explained, detailed list that explains what someone cares about, and that results in something like Sammy/Ohtani 1/96 being a protest pick - and a legitimate all-time great match - over a collected list that barfs up Sasuke/Pegasus because 50% of the viewers just watched the J-Cups.

Anyway, more of the list, since this is going over precisely as well as I thought it would!

85. Captain America: the Winter Soldier (2014, A. Russo/J. Russo)

If I had to make a list of my favorite MCU films, this would top it.  I can recognize others are better, more artful, more important (see future entries), but this movie just works.  Of course, it's a slim margin between this and Guardians of the Galaxy for which one I prefer.   I think Winter Soldier takes the edge here due to the variety of elements at work; GotG has weird characters, zaniness, abundant slapstick, and some feel-good moments, but Winter Soldier has to feel like it could work within - and perhaps more importantly, speak to - a world we inhabit.  Some of those beats are a little too short, like Cap's flirtation with Sharon Carter or Robert Redford's...everything, but I'm typically too busy rewinding the elevator fight or the knife fight with Bucky to care.

84. You Were Never Really Here (2017, L. Ramsay)

Whew, this film has got some *strange* interpretations out there.  I don't buy into the weird, incest-driven, unreliable-narrator tinfoil crap that's out there.  I think what you see is what you get, but what you do with it is still up to the viewer.  Compared to We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay's other well-known film from the 2010s, this feels incomplete somehow, but not in a way that detracts from the film.  Instead, it's more like something Yorgos Lanthimos might have made, except with a (somehow) even more loathsome-than-usual protagonist and a worldview irretrievably warped by violence.  Watch it, go make dinner, do something else, go to work the next day and let your mind wander...and this will drift back in, like distant bells a hunchback chose to ring.

83. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011, D. Fincher)

A part of me feels like I shouldn't reward a film that might have been better in its original form, nor should I reward a movie whose opening credits *almost perfectly* encapsulate the feel and plot of the movie (thereby rendering the watching of the rest to be moot), but here we are.  I just can't quite bring myself to say this was in any way *worse* than any of the films below it, so it has to be included.  I don't think the 2010s were Fincher's best work, and I can't remotely say he was the best director in the decade - that would be Denis Villeneuve and everyone else can pound sand - but he still managed to crank out 3 pretty different adapted works that strike the right notes.  What feels particularly memorable about this is its strange speed.  The way the trains move, the way the conversations feel rushed, the way the camera tracks automobiles: all these things feel like life itself is moving by so quickly that notions such as truth and justice are too old and sturdy and immobile to keep up anymore; and so they can be easily lost, or obscured, or discarded altogether.

82. Bone Tomahawk (2015, S. Zahler)

This is probably the best Tarantino movie ever that Tarantino didn't make (and better than a few that he did make).  People have tried for 25+ years now to hit that spot, and practically everyone else has failed miserably; That S. Craig Zahler, of all people - he of the film whose title describes the dialogue, Dragged Across Concrete - managed to succeed feels almost like dumb luck.  But, that's kind of what this movie is about anyway: the dumb luck for a few unfortunate souls to find themselves in a special kind of Hell, and the dumb luck it takes to escape with your life.

81. Animal Kingdom (2010, D. Michôd)

As great as Bone Tomahawk was, particularly in its unflinching willingness to treat extreme violence so matter-of-factly, I think this might be the most uneasily violent film of the decade (among works of fiction at least; as ever, real life manages to be stranger, and worse).  But, that's more an emphasis on the "uneasy" than the "violent".  Ben Mendelsohn, who's fucking great in everything, was really at his best here, and wider audiences have benefited from that ever since (not to mention Joel Edgerton being another standout import thanks to this movie).  Given the strange dynamics of this family of criminals, it's blatantly obvious how the movie will develop and how it will end, but the process of getting to that ending is as bleak and unsettling and haunting as any film in a long time.

80-78.  Not entered yet; feels like there's a bit of a gap between everything listed so far and what's just above this.  Feels like a good place where other movies could slot themselves as I continue watching more (working on Inside Llewyn Davis tonight).  But, as someone else said months ago, no one cares what anyone's 78th-best movie was.

77.  If Beale Street Could Talk (2018, B. Jenkins)

Speaking of bleak films with a strange relationship to violence, I think what EVA wrote about this summed up a lot of its best qualities.  As I watched it, I found myself rather surprised that Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for this, when I felt like Teyonah Parris breathes molten lava every time she's on screen for the first half.  But, that last big, gut-punchy section (the one that she pretty much won the Award for) just before the film wraps is pretty...I don't know.  Terrifying? Awful? True to life 50 years later?  Pick one.  I'm not sure how I feel about how the film ends, but I suppose that's the point: avoid giving audiences a clean finish, and emphasize the fact that some people don't have a choice about walking away from a story.

76. Blue Valentine (2010, D. Cianfrance)

OK, OK, fine, Bleak Run is pretty much over as of this movie.  But HOLY SHIT is this seriously bleak.  I don't know if I'm more shocked or more disappointed that Michele Williams hasn't had more great roles like this in the last 10 years.  I don't know how much of that is just her decision to prioritize her kids instead, but her output for the decade seems...light.  My Weekend with Marilyn was her only other Academy Award nomination.  She might be the best currently-working actress to not win the award, and this might be her single best role.  If character studies with great actors are your thing, and you just really fucking need to cry right now for a lot of reasons, then this could be your jam.


And here's the list again with (most of) the blurbs included: https://letterboxd.com/contentiousc/list/badly-attempting-to-rank-the-2010s/detail/

Edited by Contentious C
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Hey, more of the list that literally no one else gives a fuck about.

75. Gravity (2013, A. Cuarón)

Even though Sandra Bullock annoys me like few others, and even though this has physics and plot fails in abundance, it's still a heck of an experience, and if the point of a movie is to use visual techniques to create a subjective feeling in its audience, this is a pretty great movie.  I feel like the comparisons to Jurassic Park are rather fitting, but the premise of the film conveniently draws off all the ways in which someone like Spielberg managed to turn JP into something of a schlock-a-thon.  Maybe 2020 isn't really the year to reflect upon how merely surviving seems like a major accomplishment, but at the time, this was an exhilarating reminder.

74. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011, G. Olsson)

It's hard to fault the filmmakers for the choppiness of this, given that it couldn't have been easy to obtain a lot of it in the first place, so sometimes the narrative either doesn't dive as deep as you'd like, or it picks up a tread only to fail to follow it to the end.  But really, the only thing truly wrong with this is that there isn't more of it.  I'm a fairly standard-issue suburban White guy, so fuck me if I really know as much about civil rights as I ought to, but films like this definitely make you want to start asking questions (as if our current landscape of unequal justice isn't enough to do the same).

73. The Descendants (2011, A. Payne)

This is probably something I should rewatch to see if I still feel like it's worth including, but for now, it stays.  I'm not much of a fan of George Clooney, but despite the fact that he's George fucking Clooney, he strikes a lot of right notes with how normal he seems.  But, I'm not certain how much credit he deserves for that, since Alexander Payne kind of wrings that relatability out of many of his characters (even the jerkoffs like Thomas Haden Church in Sideways, or Beau Bridges here).  When I watched it, I felt like this was easily the best Best Picture nominee from that year (and it was one of the last ones I had left to watch); I no longer feel that way, but it's still something that feels oddly right somehow.

72. The Sunset Limited (2011, T. Jones)

I...actually didn't know Tommy Lee Jones directed this until I looked it up.  But if him & Sam Jackson doing a Cormac McCarthy play can't get your attention, I don't know what to tell you.  Jackson's another guy who perpetually annoys the fuck out of me - granted, he just *works* so much that some of his stuff is going to be total dreck - but this might be the best non-Pulp Fiction role he's ever done.  I don't know; given how much he has to work with here, this might be *better* than Jules Winnfield.  And I dig how this feels like a play from the onset; nothing fancy, nothing unnecessary, just two masters chewing the dilapidated scenery together.

71. Cold War (2018, P. Paweloski)

I watched his other notable entry in the decade, Ida, and I profess to not getting it.  Movie just bounced right off me.  This?  This is a different animal.  It takes a little bit to get past the initial conceit and into their lives, but once it does, woof.  It's just gut-wrenching and beautiful and awful and stupid and inevitable all at once.  The episodic nature of it is something I could live without, especially since some of the most terrible things the film alludes to are just suddenly there and never get set up (get 2/3s of the way through and you'll know exactly what I mean).  But everything else is special, in particular that last scene. 

70. The Fighter (2010, D. Russell)

Rewatching this helped me both appreciate it more and also put it lower on my list; I think I dropped it about 20 spots compared to where it was initially.  But cripes, the acting.  When Mark Wahlberg is the absolute worst thing about a movie but you're still sitting there thinking, "This is the best thing he's ever going to do his entire life and I didn't know he had it in him", you're watching something really good.  And maybe I take back what I said before; Amy Adams might be the best actress to not win Best Actress - or, at least she's put the most chits forward to get there, and so her lack of recognition seems more egregious.  And somehow this is still only David O. Russell's second-best movie of the decade. 

Annnnd we're back.

69. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014, D. Zellner)

Speaking of movies that are likely to bounce off of people...well, I'm not one of those people, because I don't know that I've ever seen a Rinko Kikuchi performance I didn't enjoy.  Even in crap like Babel, or super-crap like The Brothers Bloom, she's great.  This is so weird, and it's not even weird because it's an urban legend once-removed: it's weird because, how do you even make that idea relatable to an audience?  Well, in this instance, you do it by showcasing the isolation and loneliness and distance between Kumiko and just about every single thing that isn't her tape of Fargo or her poor rabbit Bunzo.  It's surreal and difficult and doesn't really end so much as it drifts off, but there's never a moment where you don't feel the threads of Kumiko's life fraying little by little.

68. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, J. Jarmusch)

There were times while watching this that it felt a little bit thin; not much happens, not many people come and go, and the next-to-last scene of the movie, where Adam watches a singer and seems re-invigorated, doesn't quite drive home what it's trying to say about art in general.  But every other aspect of its mood couldn't be better.  Jeffrey Wright gets about 5 minutes on screen and is completely wonderful the whole time; Mia Wasikowska is gratingly, perfectly petulant.  The locations - a hollowed-out, creepy Detroit and a claustrophobic, twisty Morocco - are as good as anything else at manipulating your sense of dread and unease.  Oh, and it doesn't hurt having Tom Hiddleston & Tilda Swinton as your leads.

67. Black Swan (2010, D. Aronofsky)

I'm probably not as high on Aronofsky's movies as others.  The Wrestler is really, really good, but it's a far cry from his typical weirdness.  Pi is just fucking weird, as is The Fountain, as was mother!, which I thought about including but couldn't quite bring myself to do, since it's too blatantly allegorical (and let's face it, the source material fucking sucks).  And Requiem for a Dream is something I'll admit is great and will absolutely never watch again.  This, on the other hand, feels like the one time he managed to mix the weird with the good to produce something properly weirdgood.  So, in addition to career-best performances from basically everyone in this, I think I was waiting for Aronofsky to make a movie like this, and I'm pleased that he did.

66. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018, M. Neville)

Hahaha, Rippa.  I loved this movie!  I'm so getting banned now, aren't I.

As a tail-end Gen-Xer, I freely admit to thinking, as I was growing up, that Fred Rogers was the lamest motherfucker to put on a cardigan (everyone else who's ever worn a cardigan is tied for a close second, though).  I gave this a shot because hey, the last 2+ (at the time) years have been awful, and why not try to enjoy something positive for 2 hours, right?  I'm not a big documentary fan, but one that takes a relatively uninteresting topic (to me, at least) and turns it into something I can't look away from is a sign that the movie is basically brilliant.  It got dusty multiple times in that theater, and it completely changed my opinion of its subject.  Bravo.

65. Another random blank spot - just how my list worked out. Actually, I think I know what I'd put here, but I need to cogitate on it a little.

64. Room (2015, L. Abrahamson)

Brie Larson puts on (yet another) one-woman show.  Somehow, Jacob Tremblay managed to not be the stereotypical annoying kid who ruins an otherwise excellent film, so there's that, too.  And although his character is obviously the worst, I feel bad for Sean Bridgers, since he's always playing slimes like this.  It's to the point that when his name pops up in the credits, I expect it to say "Sean Bridgers (who only portrays rapists)".  I feel like the second half of the film isn't as good as the first, but as long as you're willing to weather the emotional rollercoaster, it's well worth seeing.  But, despite my tendency to be fanboyish about Brie Larson's work, I, uh...I'm not sure she deserved the Academy Award that year.  More on that later.

63. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, G. Edwards)

Kind of fitting; in The Force Awakens, they finally employed a star as a plot point, so the next movie they make is the first real war movie in the Star Wars universe.  This probably isn't nearly as good as a lot of things below it, but there was something special about how this felt watching it at the time.  TFA remains an enjoyable reboot/remake, and this being the follow-up really got me excited about where they could go next.  Of course, The Mouse managed to cock-and-balls that completely with Rian Johnson's "nothing really matters" pretty shitshow and the somehow-even-worse debacle of whatever that last movie was.  But just thinking about this movie summons up that sense of things going in the right direction, even though I know how everything ended up.  Oh, and Jyn Erso is light-years ahead of Anakin or Luke as the most compelling protagonist these movies have ever had.

62. 12 Years a Slave (2013, S. McQueen)

Ooof.  This fucking movie.  That'll teach me to buy Best Picture winners sight unseen.  I don't have anything to say about this that 5000 other people haven't already said.  But, I love Lupita Nyong'o.  Oh, right, 50000 people have said that.  Crap.

61. The Witch (2015, R. Eggers)

Robert Eggers is probably the only other director, aside from Denis Villeneuve, who will, without question, pandemic or not, get a movie ticket from me every time he releases something.  I don't much like Anya Taylor-Joy, but I think that's probably colored by the fact that I saw her two M. Night Shamalamadingdong movies prior to getting around to this, and it's fairly obvious that Dingdong's notes to her were, "Do something like your Witch character, minus the going nutty and plus some lame exposition, OK?"  I could watch Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie in anything, but them with awesome atmosphere, dialogue, and tension?  Yes, more of that, please.  And yeah, honestly, I still think this movie is actually quite sympathetic to its main character, despite what her choices would insinuate.

OK, done for now I think.

Edited by Contentious C
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More things! 

Here is the full list again: https://letterboxd.com/contentiousc/list/badly-attempting-to-rank-the-2010s/

60. Black Panther (2018, R. Coogler)

I really didn't think we'd be here with this movie, of all movies.  Fuck 2020.

But as for the film itself, this is only as low as it is because of that generally dreadful last third of the film.  Killmonger's last line is maybe one of the greatest fuck-yous in cinematic history, but aside from that, the last 40 minutes of this are unoriginal fight sequences, broad jokes, and that *TERRIBLE* bit where Ross & Shuri & Ramonda sneak into Shuri's lab.  By wearing scarves and balaclavas. I mean, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THAT?  The guards aren't going to notice the WHITE PERSON under that balaclava?  They seriously couldn't take an extra 30 seconds out of a 135-minute movie to shoot a scene where Shuri has her own backdoor to her lab that no one knows about, or a way of using the Kimoyo beads to briefly employ some stealth?  No, we just get Dipshit Guards Being Dipshits instead, because it's easier to make the bad guys look stupid than it is to make the good guys look smart.  ARRRRGGH I hate that fucking scene so much because it kills the suspension of disbelief so badly.  Otherwise, this movie would out-Bond James Bond and out-Marvel the rest of the MCU.  And that's without even touching on the social impact and implications it has.  Great movie, mostly awful ending, not Ryan Coogler's best work - but maybe it should have been.

59. Gone Girl (2014, D. Fincher)

If I made a list of movies I like but never want to watch again, this would probably go higher than 59.  Man.  Is there another film that trades as heavily as this one does on the real-life actor playing a character?  Would it work as well with someone less inherently slimy than Ben Affleck?  I don't know, and maybe that's a mark against it.  But Rosamund Pike may never do anything this good the rest of her career (and if anything, that's a compliment), and Fincher's insistence that the whole world is full of perverts may never be as sharply pointed at his audience as it is here.

58. John Wick (2014, C. Stahelski)

There's a part of me that wants to ding this for having cast old-ass Keanu Reeves in the first place, because as much as people salivate over the fight sequences, he moves like he's operating in Jell-o half the time, but it's just too much good, stupid, goofy, crazy, satisfying fun to be That Guy about a movie like this. 

57. Winter's Bone (2010, D. Granik)

If The Killing of a Sacred Deer was about how fucked-up the Greeks are, then what even-further-over-the-top superlative would you need to describe this?  It's great this put Jennifer Lawrence on the map, but the more I think about it, this might be her best role thus far.  Having John Hawkes and Dale Dickey along for the ride sure doesn't hurt, either.  There's one brief bit in the middle that feels out of place and a bit jarring, but otherwise, this just grabs you and doesn't let up, no matter how much you wish it would.

56. The Social Network (2010, D. Fincher)

The thing about this that's aged the worst, by a wide margin, is its piss-poor attempt to make Mark Zuckerberg into a complicated but ultimately sympathetic person.  Fuck that.  The last 10 years have taught us that, no, he really is a giant asshole.  Leave it to Aaron Sorkin, I suppose.  But it's certainly better than the Steve Jobs movie, and that's thanks to Fincher and Eisenberg and Armie Hammer and Andrew Garfield (in one of his considerably less annoying roles).  Was this better than The King's Speech?  Sure, but ultimately it wasn't really the best film that year, either, so, eh.

55. The Babadook (2014, J. Kent)

Every gushing dollop of praise people heaped upon Her Head Hit a Tree, one of the most ridiculous allegedly-great movies in recent memory, could be more correctly and more deservingly applied to this.  Essie Davis owns every minute of it, the kid is a plus rather than a distraction (like Jacob Tremblay in Room), behaving so annoying that you almost understand how someone could go crazy with that life, and, best of all, this movie actually follows its own rules (a rarity for horror). 

54. Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood (2019, Q. Tarantino)

Tarantino finally hit the sweet spot with this.  Everything that felt flat about Inglourious Basterds is stronger and more compelling here, and the over-the-top moments of Django Unchained, which had me laughing at it (rather than with it) the first time someone's head exploded in a gooey paste, are reined in until the very, very end.  I'm surprised people seem to think there's some sort of misogynistic message in the details of the finale, but I'd say it's just the opposite of that.  I think it actually underscores the litany of male insecurities that are on display throughout the bulk of the film, especially for Rick Dalton.

53. What We Do in the Shadows (2014, T. Waititi)

It's funny that the two best vampire movies of the decade are both cases where a compelling story plays out and, oh, yeah, by the way, these guys also survive by drinking human blood.  I love how the different monster tropes are so easily adapted into what it's like to deal with shitty roommates and shitty friends, which is really what's at work here.  Jemaine Clement is one of those guys who I never even think to seek out his work, but every time he's in something, he just makes it better.  I feel like the ending tails off a little, but it also works the same way the ending of Spinal Tap does, where nothing's actually resolved, but the characters really only have each other so...*shrug* what are you gonna do?

52. Drive (2011, N. Winding Refn)

This is a movie that definitely bounced right off me the first time I saw it, after reading a large number of comments about how incredible it was.  I think I just wasn't ready for something quite so muted - because, let's face it, the real storytelling in this isn't happening in the chase scenes (which are great) or in the ultra-violent moments (which are also great); it's happening in little expressions and shared moments between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, where one very different world seems briefly, tantalizingly possible.  Without that, there's not enough contrast for the elevator scene, or for Ron Perlman's trip to the ocean, or for the little talk between Cranston & Brooks to really hit you the way they should.  But, once I was watching for that...goddamn.

51. BlacKkKlansman (2018, S. Lee)

Once in a while, a movie like this comes along, where I recognize how good it is but I don't really love it at all.  I haven't watched enough of Spike's stuff to know if that's on him - in fact, the only other thing I've seen of his is Oldboy, and I doubt that's in any way representative.  I think a lot of it is John David Washington, who feels like he zero-summed his dad's charisma by having negative charisma.  He's pretty great in the few scenes where he has to stare down someone for being a racist piece of shit at his own job, but mostly, I saw Corey Hawkins' turn as Kwame Ture and wondered how much better the movie would be if they'd swapped roles.  And yet somehow the rest of this is still just really, really, really well-done.

50. Avengers: Infinity War (2018, A. Russo/J. Russo)

Midway on the list feels about right for one of the bigger cinematic achievements in recent memory.  But, then again, given this took 20 movies to get here, it better damn well have been this good, right?

49. Nightcrawler (2014, D. Gilroy)

I also take back what I said about Michael Fassbender.  This was Jake Gyllenhaal's decade.  And I used to fucking hate this dude.  Good God, he had some really great stuff, and I left off things like Enemy or End of Watch without a second thought.  There's really something impressive going on here, watching him play a character who is so utterly and thoroughly amoral and yet completely captivating the entire time.  In that sense, he's like a living embodiment of the terrible things he records - a walking, talking car crash of a person that makes us all rubberneck and hate ourselves more than a little bit for it.

OK, that feels like enough for today.  The upper echelons have actually quite a few blank spots - about 5 or 6, because I wouldn't be surprised if some other things sneak into my top 20/30 as the years go by.  So, probably 2/3 more posts and that should wrap it.  Not that anyone cares.


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”The movie treats Zuckerberg sympathetically” is a common but nonetheless way-off-the-mark misread of the movie.  He’s definitely presented as a *tragic* character (in the sense that he’s a would-be heroic figure brought low by an innate character flaw), but “tragic” isn’t synonymous with “sympathetic.”

It’s all spelled out right there in the opening scene with Rooney Mara, which is one of the best things Sorkin ever wrote.  She spells out the movie’s theme from the jump (paraphrasing): “You’re going to be alone because you’re an asshole.”  And the rest of the movie is spent proving that out.  Zuckerberg succeeds by every conceivable measure; he has everything you could seemingly need to finally win acceptance and connection and love...but in the end he’s just as isolated and alienated and alone as he’s ever been.  Why?  Because he’s an asshole.  He’s still governed by the same inferiority complexes he had when he was a nobody sitting in that bar with Rooney Mara.

You’re not supposed to feel sorry for him when he’s left alone in that board room, clicking refresh on a friend request that’s never going to be accepted.  It’s his just desserts.

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It's almost like I didn't say "piss-poor attempt to make Zuckerberg sympathetic"...

And while the lonely shot in the conference room may be the last scene of The Social Network, the existence of Rashida Jones' character would argue otherwise about the movie's intent.  She's the one who gets the last word in: "You're not an asshole; you just try so hard to be one." 

Didn't know about the Jon Hamm thing for Gone Girl - I've never seen any indication that he's anything but a good guy, but it'd certainly be repackaging Don Draper to play off *that* notoriety.  I don't know; I think Affleck is better at "insecure wannabe Alpha" so it was probably the right casting choice. 

48. Birdman (I'm not typing out that stupid subtitle, even though I'm clearly willing to type something even longer) (2014, A. Iñárritu)

This is probably Iñárritu's only movie I like.  The Revenant was compelling, but I felt like it was a little self-indulgent and could have been shorter.  Babel is one of the more Oscar-baity, turgid piles of crap in the last 15 years.  But Birdman is those things, too - and somehow it works.  I think the critical mark in its favor is that it's so much less self-serious than either of the other two.  I think I was hooked on this, though, from the outset.  Even before the acting or the surrealism could get me interested, the music is the first indicator that this is going to be something of a strange trip, certainly stranger than even the trailers let on.  And those jazzy notes are wry and jokey and put you in the right frame of mind to appreciate Michael Keaton's nervous breakdown.  It runs out of steam just a little bit by the end, but it's relatively short so that that doesn't hamper the effect too much.

47. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012, L. Scafaria)

I probably love this more than anyone.  From the moment Steve Carell's wife (played by his actual wife!) runs off into the wilderness, I can't find much of anything wrong with this.  The bits with Adam Brody feel a little perfunctory and are maybe the only pieces that don't work, but afterwards, it's one of the sweeter and more believable love stories you'll find, with enough zaniness - from the dinner party at the start to the Friendly's that serves as a sort of Homeric bacchanalia - sprinkled here and there to keep things moving towards a totally predictable, but also very satisfying, conclusion.

46. Happy Hour (2015, R. Hamaguchi)

I'm still kind of blown away that this is 5 hours long - easily the longest movie I've ever watched - and yet it doesn't drag.  I think its real brilliance, though, is how well-written all of these women are.  Sure, it takes some small adjustment to realize how different Japan is to the U.S., but the world over is full of people who are together to avoid conflict, people who seek one another out because something comfortable and easy is preferable to something beautiful that takes work.  At least, that is, until it's no longer easy, because there's really nothing any of them can do about the conflicts they feel within themselves - and just as dutifully ignore as those of their friends. 

45. Free Solo (2018, E. Vasarhelyi/J. Chin)

I think it speaks volumes about this film that you pretty much know the ending before you start it, but it still terrifies you completely on about 46 different occasions.  Though honestly, I found the cliff to be a more interesting protagonist than Alex Honnold and kind of wanted it to win.  This is also one of the best-looking movies of the decade.  I have to stop thinking about this movie now so I stop feeling like I'm falling while sitting safely in my chair.

44. Blue Jay (2016, A. Lehmann)

Pretty much the diametric opposite of the prior two - super small scope, super short, grainy black and white footage - but does this ever hit like a ton of bricks.  Since Mark Duplass wrote this, I wonder if he had Sarah Paulson in mind all along.  Regardless, there might be more talented pairings, or prettier pairings, but I'm not sure there's a more right pairing if you're trying to have bucketloads of chemistry between two people.  Every moment of this movie is lovely and terrible and lived-in, and it stays with you.

43. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019, C. Sciamma)

Take everything I just said about Blue Jay, but make it absurdly gorgeous and make the love story even more tragic.  If I get around to watching this again, or re-thinking some of these, I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up going higher.  Good God is this just a sensory onslaught of beautiful scenes and beautiful shots and feeling a Hell of a lot of yearning and agony in equal measure.  Sciamma might also make the list of directors whom I will seek out in the future no matter what - and this is the only movie of hers I've seen.  That's how great it is.

OK, more later.


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I just did a drive-by on this earlier because I was short on time, but I do want to circle back around to SOCIAL NETWORK and the idea that Rashida Jones’ character is voicing the movie’s perspective on Zuckerberg with her final line.  A few points to consider:

1.  While she speaks the final line, she does not get the last word—that belongs to John Lennon singing “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” a song that could not be more plain in its contempt for people like Zuckerberg.  Lennon literally rains mockery and scorn on Zuckerberg from on high as he endlessly mashes the refresh key.  It couldn’t be more obvious how Fincher wants you to feel about him as you walk out of the theater.

2.  Consider the source of the line.  Rashida is playing a member of Zuck’s defense team.  And a junior one, at that.  She’s just given him a hard truth—that the defense is going to settle, primarily because he’s unlikeable.  When she says he’s not an asshole, he just acts like one, she’s *telling him what she thinks he wants to hear*.  It’s a specious statement (suggesting there’s a difference between one’s character and one’s actions, when in fact our character is nothing but the sum total of our actions), but she’s just hoping to soften the blow.  Saying something nice.  Her career may depend on it.

3.  And it works!  He latches onto it.  The point of the line, narratively, is to get Zuckerberg thinking about Rooney Mara’s character again and then—hoping that Jones’ character is right—move him towards attempting to reconnect with her.  It’s a trap of his own making.  The point, thematically, is that he’s still in denial of who he was to begin with and that’s why he’ll keep making the same mistakes that leave him alone instead of changing.

I just don’t see how “Zuck isn’t really an asshole” is the takeaway from that scene at all.

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Good to see my Skip Bayless impression worked...

Meant to edit the prior post and throw more stuff on last night, but then I got to reading the new Jim Butcher book - no, the other one, he put out 2 in 3 months - so that never happened.

42. The Rider (2018, C. Zhao)

Really, this whole stretch of movies from here till about 35 or so is so nebulous for me, because they're all so good and it becomes difficult to really put a finger on what genuinely separates one from another.  Like Portrait going ahead of Blue Jay is kind of easy, because the cinematography is mind-blowing.  But how is this better?  Well, like I said last night, maybe it isn't, but it stands out as another case of untrained actors bringing authenticity that can be harder to find or appreciate with the usual people you've seen 50 times over in other settings.  There's one *tiny* slip-up in this - the main character's real name is shown on a Youtube video that he watches of his own accident - but it's the only misstep in something that's otherwise brave in its weakness, and uncomfortable, and touching: terms you wouldn't expect to use in a film that dwells so heavily on the nature of masculinity.

41. Under the Skin (2013, J. Glazer)

While flipping through some of the other comments on Letterboxd, one hit upon the best word to describe this movie: disquiet.  There's just...nothing easy about it.  It's repetitive, but that's with the purpose of slowly revealing the horrible things happening under the surface (literally and metaphorically).  It drips with sexual desire and has a notable (if not memorable) nude scene we talked about elsewhere, and yet it's the least sexy movie I can think of this side of, I don't know, Audition.  The Toy Story franchise has more sex appeal than this movie, a movie which has Scarlett Johansson totally naked, so wrap your brain around that.  And yet, all those strange things and all those moments are there to show you the interior monologue of a being that's so far from human, as that creature slowly takes steps towards understanding *us*...and by extension, itself a little bit...and then that ending.  You watch something do things we consider terrible, things that are supposed to be morally unambiguous, and yet, by the end, I still felt empathy and horror when the tables were turned.  Nothing easy.

40. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, R. Rothman/P. Ramsey/B. Persichetti)

I didn't really want to believe the hype about this, but cripes, this is good.  Leagues better than any other Spider-Man movie, so much so they're trying to bring the Spider-Verse to live-action, by the looks of it.  I definitely don't like the cookie-cutter bullshit ending, because no, kids, believing in yourself is NOT enough, but this is just so much fun otherwise.

39. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018, T. Gilliam)

Gilliam's best movie in 20 years, probably longer.  This is also the movie that sold me on Adam Driver.  I really, really, REEEEEEALLY disliked him as Kylo Ren, which, if we're being honest, was my first major exposure to him, quickly earning him the nickname "Han Emo".  And let's face it, that role is trash.  But he's amazing in this, and when you get to the Eddie Cantor bit...holy crap.  The ending of this is a little weak, too, but Gilliam's really the only guy who could make a movie like this, with so much weirdness and satire and zaniness underpinned by incredible actors and a beautifully-shot film.  So glad this actually got made.

38. Madeline's Madeline (2018, J. Decker)

Christ this movie is bonkers.  The best kind of bonkers, but bonkers.  There were times it felt like a chore to get through, mostly because the theatre bits get repetitive and are really just preamble for the 3 central characters to air their dirty laundry in the most self-destructive ways possible. But it's got those moments where you think to yourself, "This is why I watch movies: this is the only place you can see stuff like this, see the thoughts spooling out of someone else's head into an image you can relate to."

37. Her (2013, S. Jonze)

Is it bad I was mostly happier throughout this movie because Joaquin Phoenix had a mustache and so I didn't have to stare at his lip THE ENTIRE FILM?  That's bad of me, right?

I get why people think this is pretentious.  I get why it bounces off them.  But, I'm not one of those people.  I can invest in what it's saying, and it does the rare thing that a great movie does: it lets you down, but it reminds you there's still the future, and there's still hope, there's still something else to believe in.  It rejects the self-immolating passion of something like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, because real love doesn't do that - even when it ends.  Maybe especially when it ends. 

36. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, W. Anderson)

The summation of all the things Wes Anderson has been trying to do his whole career.  I still think Fantastic Mr. Fox is his best movie, but this is a really close second.  It's also the only really outstanding Ralph Fiennes role since he did Schindler's List, and I don't know who's failed us more in that respect: Fiennes for doing crap, or Hollywood for not giving him better parts (or letting him do more comedy).  Wes certainly has his films that fall flat (Darjeeling, Life Aquatic) or are a more than a little overhyped (Rushmore) or that just basically suck (Bottle Rocket), but when he gets stuff right like this, no one else can make something so weird be so joyful and easy to love.

35. Prisoners (2013, D. Villeneuve)

The lowest Villeneuve movie, and the one I almost didn't rewatch; so glad I did.  I really didn't care for this the first time.  It felt a little slow, a little repetitive with the visits to the worksite where Keller Dover tries to discover what's really happening, but the second time, it was like it all made perfect sense from the word go.  This might be Hugh Jackman's best performance - at least, among roles he only played the one time.  He's just a wonderful burning wreck of a broken person.  Jake Gyllenhaal is such a breath of fresh air playing the world's twitchiest detective, like he took everything from having been in End of Watch and gleefully burned it before doing this role.  The script is great, it looks great, it's just great any way you slice it.

34. The Florida Project (2017, S. Baker)

Willem Dafoe continues to be the most screwed-over actor in the business.  How has he not won an Academy Award yet?  Granted, Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri is one of the bigger skips I had for putting this list together, so maybe Sam Rockwell really kicked the shit out of that, but still.  I guess maybe part of the problem is the story's not about him, and he's not the biggest revelation anyway.  Everyone else is just as good if not better, and it does such a great job of putting us in the perspective of its main character, as it feels, even to us, like everything big is happening around the edges.

33. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013, I. Takahata)

I wasn't sure I was going to like this very much, as I watched it in a couple of sittings, and the first 40 minutes hadn't really captivated me (although the art style is wonderful), but then...it happened.  That wonderful bit where Kaguya flees the castle and you just *feel* her experience - the wind rushing, her hair blowing, the need to be somewhere, anywhere else, the rejection of the life everyone says is "for her" but is never actually hers.  And from then on it's just eyes glued to the screen and close to perfect.  This isn't as good as some of his other work - but what is as good as Grave of the Fireflies?  Well, not a damn thing, that's what - but it's a heck of a final movie.  If it takes a decade to make something like this, it just takes a decade. 

32. The Master (2012, P. Anderson)

I think others have talked about this a lot, so I doubt I have anything particular to add.  It's one of the rare movies where I was just as blown away by it on a rewatch as I was seeing it in the theater.  I think I found myself really appreciating Philip Seymour Hoffman in this more than anyone else, as he's just such a great, blustery, redfaced geyser waiting to pop.  It's another movie in this long stretch where you could just marvel at how good it looks and be content with just noticing that.

31. American Hustle (2013, D. Russell)

The best black comedy in a long time.  Did people just forget this was fantastic?  Are we canceling it because Louis C.K. is in it, and that's why WhatCulture has Youtube videos about how people hate it now? Because screw those videos and screw those people.  This is three of the best at their craft - with able help from Bradley Cooper and a not-godawful turn (for once) by Jeremy Renner - taking a great script and just running.  I probably should rewatch this sometime, but I can recall seeing it in the theater and just stifling a laugh the whole way through; nothing in particular was so funny on its own, but the moral arc of this movie was definitely bending towards absurdity so much that I could hardly contain myself.


30. Fruitvale Station (2013, R. Coogler)

We're still here.



More tomorrow, and maybe I'll just wrap this up.

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OK onward and upward, like anyone cares.

29. Logan (2017, J. Mangold)

Mangold is a director I'm pretty hot-and-cold on.  He's done some fairly strange but interesting stuff (his first feature, Heavy) and stuff you know like Walk the Line or Ford v Ferrari, but he's also done crap like Kate and Leopold, and who wants to watch that garbage?  But this is probably the best thing he's done, and the best thing Hugh Jackman's done.  Granted, it's also got Patrick Stewart doing his best film role in...who knows how long and Dafne Keen having her breakout performance, and it certainly doesn't hurt that they're reinventing the Shane wheel only with a popular IP.  But after the wildly variable X-Men and Wolverine movies, this is just a perfect closer to its central character.  About the only thing that doesn't work all that well to me is how they presented the other kids - they could have been more interesting, or at least on a level with X-23 - but that's small potatoes.  Everything else about this is eminently watchable and rewatchable.

28. Phoenix (2014, C. Petzold)

This'll be a stretch of Herculean acting performances, and Nina Hoss definitely deserves to be in that group.  For a movie whose plot is all about deceptive surface appearances, this is about so, so much more than that, and the more you dig, the more you find.  This is another movie that, if I go back and rewatch it a few more times, it could end up being a lot higher the more I think about it.  But it has some good company here.  And that ending...still one of the best, if not the very best, endings to a film I've ever seen.

27. Ex Machina (2014, A. Garland)

If there's one thing I don't care for about this, it's Domnhall Gleeson, who is...frankly just too much of a dumb fucking patsy.  It's presented, in Lou Fontaine narrator voice, like we're supposed to Imagine a World Where People Aren't Steeped in Pop Culture where AI Goes Rogue, and it...just doesn't fly.  Sorry.  Otherwise, totally brilliant.  I think what I like the most about Alex Garland's screenplays is that they don't feel the need to be snappy.  He takes situations that could get parodied or seem over-the-top, but somehow he wields them the right way and they end up emotionally devastating, as they should (more on this later).  But this is a film that's been talked to death; hard not to love it.

26. Shame (2011, S. McQueen)

OK, I take back *again* what I said about Jake Gyllenhaal, because he didn't turn in the best acting performance of the decade; it was Michael Fassbender's decade, because he did *this*.  Another film that does a great job of turning what appears to be sexy into something so blatantly un-sexy that you almost want to turn it off.  The camera keeps its distance, and it dispassionately observes a deeply troubled pair of siblings destroying themselves.  And when Steve McQueen finally changes up the camera work and the distance, that's when the movie really sledgehammers you the hardest.  Maybe things will change?  Maybe this isn't rock bottom, but just a ledge next to a deeper abyss?  Ultimately up to the viewer to decide.

25. 45 Years, (2015, A. Haigh)

If Brie Larson didn't deserve to win Best Actress for Room, it's because Charlotte Rampling deserved it for this.  The movie builds like a volcano, with little warning tremors and blow-ups, and by God if it doesn't knock you on your ass when you see Kate's life start disintegrating before her eyes (metaphorically and literally).  So many movies waste people's time by presenting Yet Another Coming-of-Age Story, but something like this is so much trickier and, if anything, far more relevant: what do you do when you can see the end, but *that's* the moment you start questioning what anything you ever did really meant?  There are just as many people in the world facing that moment as there are coming of age, and so few tell this story.  Oh, and Tom Courtenay, who I don't think I'd seen in anything else, is nearly as amazing as Charlotte Rampling was, the perfect counterpart to her hyper-organized-but-secretly-falling-apart lead.

24. Short Term 12 (2013, D. Cretton)

Brie Larson still deserved an Academy Award for sure in this decade, but it was probably for this.  This is like a Muppet Babies of Great Actors of the 2010s, or like the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder of movies: Larson is Durant, Kaitlyn Dever is Harden, and that totally makes Rami Malek into Russell Westbrook, as he should be (leaving Lakeith Stanfield to be Serge Ibaka?  Makes sense).  This sticks with me because of what's unspoken, i.e., 90% of the details of the film.  It leaves your imagination to run wild as everyone in the film faces their own various sets of demons, and when you get smack in the middle of the film, one moment just...ooof.  Try to forget it.  You can't.  I can close my eyes and see that scene and feel the dread whenever I want.  That's how you make great drama. 

23. Dunkirk (2017, C. Nolan)

There's a part of me that wishes Nolan had just told this sequentially, rather than making this weird nesting doll of a narrative, but I see what he was going for and why it works.  This is probably the highest-ranked movie where I see how technically amazing it is but I don't have a great love for what it did with that.  But damn it looks spectacular and despite being so short, it feels a lot longer, somehow in a good way.  I think it's because all those seemingly disparate threads take some time to weave, and by the time you get to the climax, all the dominoes start falling into place in your head, and so the payoff feels much bigger than it would have otherwise.  So, pretty masterful, but what else should anyone expect from this guy?

22. Melancholia (2011, L. von Trier)

This is another movie that's been talked directly into the fucking ground for nigh on 10 years now, so I have nothing to add.  I will say that I wish I hadn't read Noel Casler's Twitter feed, because now my brain keeps substituting Nepotism Barbie for Kirsten Dunst during parts of the wedding fiasco.

21. The Lighthouse (2019, R. Eggers)

I probably like this more than anyone, too.  I have a theory that your first exposure to Eggers' work will always be what you gravitate towards, since he's made two highly similar films.  It just so happened I watched this first and watched The Witch for this project.  But jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, what isn't perfect about this movie?  The acting, the insane speeches Dafoe gives, the look, the score, my God how was the score not nominated for an Oscar?  Best score I've heard since (the also bafflingly not nominated) There Will Be BloodThe only thing I found a little out-of-place as I watched it was Robert Pattinson's accent, but the more I think about that, the more his accent makes sense (you'd just have to watch the movie to understand, but it does fit).  But otherwise...wow.  Everything is real and nothing is real.   Every detail matters, and every detail might be a fever dream.  This is a movie that fully and completely exists in that realm Robert Altman described when talking about Rashomon - all you can do is find your own way through, just like everyone else finds theirs.

OK, from here on, the numbering is kind of...off.  I don't have a full top 20, or even a full top 10, but the rankings relative to one another feel pretty clear, so I'll just go with that through to #11.

Coco (2017, L. Unkrich)

The plot beats of this are pretty well-worn since Pixar tells the same damn story over and over (aside from WALL-E), and this, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, has a really cloying and obvious message at its core, but it's too beautiful and well-done to put any lower.  I'm not often fond of movies that are so clearly trying to make the podium of Heartstring Tugging at the Emotional Olympics, but it just got real dusty in here thinking about that scene where he says, "Don't forget me, Mama Coco!" so I'll shut up now and just say this was great.  Maybe that's cooking smoke from my pancakes...so dusty...

Whiplash (2014, D. Chazelle)

I get why people can have the reaction they do to Miles Teller.  But it's not one I have.  Plus, I'm very much a wannabe drumming nerd, and this was right up my alley on any number of levels - the music, the acting, the degree of obsession and self-destruction at every turn - it's just too good.   It lacks one of the big components a lot of films ahead of it have, though, and that's the ability to really dwell on something deeper than the surface level.  You could probably spend time psychoanalyzing the relationship between Teller and Simmons, but there isn't enough heft to this to really support a lot of bigger themes, and that might be the only big mark against it.  I think that, based on how I've ranked things, this is my first Movie of the Year choice, as I don't appear to have anything from 2014 ranked higher. 

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, D. Villeneuve)

I dreaded the making of this movie; Blade Runner might be my all-time favorite film (the final cut, screw the rest of you weirdos who like Ford's reading-the-telephone-book voice "acting").  I was sure they'd screw it up.  And yeah, this is another movie with plot holes you could probably drive a truck through.  But, it lives up to the original, it's one of the 3 or 4 best-looking movies of the decade, and for a film that focuses on fake humans masquerading as humans, it sure is incredibly human.  I really just wish my first exposure to this hadn't been in a theater where two old assholes talked through 40% of it.  Completely destroyed my expectations and came out the other side loving this.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016, T. Knight)

The best animated feature since WALL-E, and it's not even close.  There isn't so much as a pixel of this movie that isn't stunning and wonderful.  It's kind of amazing to think Theron had done exactly 1 voice-acting role and that McConaughey had never done one prior to this; they both nail it to the wall like this is all they've ever done.  But, really, you're here because it's not Pixar and not computer-generated, and the craft to this is just fantastic.  Frankly, this had me hooked from the look of the trailer, which I probably saw prior to one of the Marvel movies or something, and I knew this was going to do the one thing an animated movie is supposed to do: fill me with wonder.  It did not let me down.

1917 (2019, S. Mendes)

I get why some people might think this was high-end trickeration rather than an amazing film, but consider me tricked.  I think this might be the best war movie I've ever seen (not that it's a genre I watch much of, or enjoy).  It also just looks vibrant and lovely when it's supposed to, in spite of its story, and it looks equally grim and claustrophobic when it needs to, as well.  I kind of wonder if this will have been seen enough to crack the top 100, but it's probably the one movie that could suffer the most from recency bias.

11. The Tree of Life (2011, T. Malick)

This has also been talked to death, so I'll only point out why I put it at exactly 11 (and would never move it higher):

1) This is probably the single most *beautiful* film of the decade.  No one else even tried doing some of the things Malick's doing in this, and it's just mesmerizing to watch.

2) I also think this is some pretentious bullshit part of the time, as basically every bit with Sean Penn just falls terribly flat for me, and that wannabe Fellini ending does nothing for me.  I know what it's trying to say, but I largely don't care. You could flush Penn's 20 minutes of the movie and I wouldn't mind.

Ultimately, I don't read this multiple ways, I think it's a self-indulgent, overly nostalgic reminiscence of childhood, a classic example of the malleability of memory, and I think that's the only way it works *well*.  But the best parts of this are just *so good* that it's hard to overstate their brilliance.  So, just outside the top 10 sounds right for me.


Top 10 (well, top 9) tomorrow!  Or...later than today, anyway!

Edited by Contentious C
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May as well get this over with.

10. The Lobster (2015, Y. Lanthimos)

This is the kind of movie where, if someone seems irritated by it or put off by its message(s), I can more or less bin their opinions on movies in general.  This is what art is supposed to do: challenge your ideas and make you question why you think and feel what you think and feel.  The obliqueness, the nastiness, the pettiness, the strangeness this brings - all those emotional digs are just there to burrow under your skin and make you ask yourself some tough questions.  And it does so with a few great acting performances centered around a script that just sticks in your head for its wonderful absurdity.  I love a lot of movies, but this is one of the very very few I've seen where I think to myself, "Shit, I should have gone to film school so I could make that movie." 

9. Arrival (2016, D. Villeneuve)

Seeing this in the theater with my (now ex) girlfriend is still one of the most emotionally charged moments of the last 5 years of my life; I watched it and knew deep down I was living a part of it.  I rewatched it recently and it still held all the resonance it had before, but I certainly appreciated the direction and look of the movie a lot more the second time.  Amy Adams didn't even get an Oscar nod for this, and it's her best role since Junebug.  This is the least smarmy and irritating Jeremy Renner will probably ever be.  I'm never a big fan of anything time-travel related, so that would be the only knock I'd have against this.  Otherwise, it would probably be a top 3 movie for me. 

8. Get Out (2017, J. Peele)

This has been talked to death.  All I'll say about putting it here is that I feel like the last third is really cookie-cutter, after we get the big reveal.  Prior to that, it's a mammoth achievement.  It would probably be higher if it weren't for that ending.  Looks like this is 2017's MotY on my list.

7. Beginners (2010, M. Mills)

I do think Mills went to the well once too often by making 20th Century Women so similar in structure and tone to this, but the original hit of this style is still a welcome, happy viewing.  Like I said in the pimping thread, all I have to do is glance at the blu-ray sitting on my shelf and I find my spirits lifted just a little.  How many things in life do that, especially these days? 


No # 6 movie; don't know why.  These other things could slide up, or maybe I'll eventually find something I really enjoy enough to drop into that slot (or to rearrange 7-10).  But for now, no # 6.


5. Parasite (2019, Bong, J.)

Got nothing much to say about this, either.  It's also been talked to death.  I think the ending is pretty weak, but I think about all of his movies I've seen, so this is nothing new in that department.

4. Never Let Me Go (2010, A. Romanek)

Surprise! If this cracks the other list, I'll be shocked.  I wonder if anyone who voted even *watched* this.  But damn is this close to perfect.  This is easily the best thing Keira Knightley's ever done, and probably Andrew Garfield's best performance, too.  And it's in the middle of Carey Mulligan being great in a bunch of stuff.  But this is kind of a tricky movie, as it's an adaptation of a great book that has an interesting challenge.  The book is particularly oblique about the world where it exists; we're left to piece together information from ancillary details, and that doesn't always work well.  But this film, much like The English Patient (a weird comparison? Maybe...), doesn't so much faithfully adapt the novel as it does complement the details there.  Some of it is a little too obvious, like the opening chyron we get to set things up, but otherwise, the scenes and development here feel like they're filling in the blanks rather than making you think, "Well, the book is better".  Plus, the mood of this is just so right for its subject matter: dreamlike, hazy, diaphanous, but also detached and bleak and joyless: a reflection of the awful things people are willing to do to one another just to eke out a few more years of life.  When fucking *driving scenes* help you understand the world the filmmakers are creating, that's something pretty different.  Oh, and Alex Garland wrote the script, if you needed more reason to see it: this is exactly what I mean by something that isn't clever or snappy or hokey but will sneak up on you and emotionally eviscerate you.

3. Moonlight (2016, B. Jenkins)

I watched this with my ex on a lark, because we had a couple of hours to kill one afternoon before going out (remember going out?).  We were both weeping by the end.  Oof.

2. Inception (2010, C. Nolan)

I get a lot of people bagging on this, but it's still fantastically made, and I think it's to this decade what The Matrix was to the 2000s: it changed the rules of what people were supposed to do with movies like this.  Every worthy action movie since doesn't bother to explain itself into the ground anymore; it expects you to keep up.  And do you think Marvel movies would have had the bravery to be longer and longer and longer if Nolan hadn't shown us that people will respond to something complicated if it's also well-done?  Granted, Nolan was the first one to try that, and The Dark Knight Rises is largely crap, but it was valuable proof-of-principle.  There are things about this that irritate me - it's one of Marion Cotillard's worst performances, and the whole "we only use 10% of our brains" trope can go fuck itself - but the rest of this is still amazing.  Plus, it really put Tom Hardy on the map, and...

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, G. Miller)

I know, what a scandalous top 3. 

I like how this can be all things to all people; it's strange that yet another Shane remake - and arguably a remake of The Road Warrior - could be so pervasively interesting.  It can be a great action movie.  It's evidence you don't need CGI.  It's feminist; it's alarmist about the future (even more so than the other Mad Max movies, which is really saying something); it's meme-worthy.  Hell, there are probably some jokers out there who think Immortan Joe was the good guy and feel this is Shakespearean tragedy about how liberals ruin everything.  And maybe they're right (well, OK, no, but the interpretation is understandable).  But, whatever level you want to appreciate this on, there's something about it to appreciate excessively.


So, top movies from every year ended up being:

2010: Inception (2)

2011: The Tree of Life (11)

2012: The Master (32) *whew, 2012 was stinky*

2013: Short Term 12 (23)

2014: Whiplash (15-ish)

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road

2016: Moonlight (3)

2017: Get Out (8)

2018: Madeline's Madeline (38) *the lowest high movie, but 2018 had the most entries total*

2019: Parasite (5)

Edited by Contentious C
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On 9/23/2020 at 4:19 PM, Contentious C said:

Is this Soderbergh's best movie of the decade?  He's pretty polarizing for me; I either love his stuff or want to throw my TV out the window.  I don't know for sure, but I liked it better than Contagion or Side Effects by a wide margin.

Since I don't think we'll get back to him in the main thread, I'll say that it's his best movie this decade, but not his best work. I hand that to The Knick, which he directed, shot, and edited all twenty episodes of. It's really interesting to see such a period of innovation and change (as primitive and barbaric as it seems looking back, and Soderbergh certainly bathes in that aspect of it) as seen through the eyes of someone who will becomes obsessed with filming on his iPhone later on this decade. (Barry Jenkins is said to be working on a new season of The Knick and I'm very excited)

He had some movies I really liked this decade, but he ended it on a sour note. As far as didactic movies about financial crime or malfeasance are concerned (and this decade has had some OK ones), I'm not sure if it was holding the audience's hand too much or too little. But anything that ends with Merryl Streep posing as the statue of liberty and directly addressing the audience about shit some of her pals are probably knee-deep in is a bridge too far and almost asking the audience to consider real-life hypocrisy in a way I don't think they intended. Stuff like this makes me understand why Elvis shot so many TVs. This might make my top ten list this decade of moments where you can tell a director is feeling their shit a little too much. 

Edited by Andy in Kansas
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