Thursday, February 6, 2020

The best movies of the past decade (2010s) - Part 2 - The top 10

Before we get to the top 10, I want to start with the best short film of the decade...

Best short film: 
Inside No. 9 - The 12 Days of Christine (season 2, episode 2)

Technically this is a show and not a movie, but every episode of this show really can work as a self contained movie. This is a masterful drama, where you see a one day snapshot of 12 years of Christine's life, through all her triumphs, happy moments and optimism to her crushing disappointments, tragedies, and things in life that didn't pan out the way she hoped.

And that ending...fuck. Look, it may not be the most original twist, but here's my thing on twists. There's a difference between a twist that's all, "ha I tricked you!" vs. how it makes you feel. And no twist gutted me emotionally like this one. And while many twists don't quite stand up to scrutiny postmortem, this twist ending makes you think back to the episode, and absolutely everything holds up under scrutiny; in fact, it strengthens the entire episode.

Okay, now on to the top 10...

10. Tangled

Never did I imagine that an animated movie based on the age old fairy tale of Rapunzel of all characters, would one day end up on my best movies of the decade list, but here we are. It came out the same year as Toy Story 3, and when I wrote my top 10 list, I had Toy Story 3 ranked higher. Since then, I've maybe re-visited Toy Story 3 one more time; Tangled I've re-visited a good 5, 6 more times. If I'm flipping through channels and Tangled is on, I gotta watch that shit till the end. It's simply one of the most entertaining, delightful, beautifully animated movies and I think it's criminally under-rated when it comes to its comedy writing. Even its musical numbers don't get enough appreciation, from the delightfully hilarious "I've Got a dream" to "I see the light" which may one of the most scenes ever.

Rapunzel is the most charming, lovable, hilariously neurotic protagonist of any Disney movie. The evil godmother is a wicked villain and hilarious in the way she passively aggressively puts Rapunzel down. You have to love lines like, "How'd you find me?" "Oh, I just listened for the sound of complete and utter betrayal and followed it." Flynn is so full of witty one liners, and I absolutely bought into the romance between Rapunzel and Flynn.

When Flynn gets brought back to life, his first line of dialogue...that is inspired comedy writing that most Disney writers would never think up. Tangled is probably the #1 best case of a movie with mediocre source material that transcends it every way imaginable.

9. Temple Grandin

90% of the time, biopics are just meh for me. Despite how different so many people's lives were, they all often tend to feel exactly the same and go through the same formulaic beats. Going into a biopic about a woman I had never heard of before...then reading a synopsis on how Temple was an autistic woman who revolutionized slaughterhouses to be more humane for animals...can't say that excited me much. But, HBO makes good movies, it got good reviews, so I gave it a chance.

As you can see, this is my #1 highest rated biopic of the decade. It's so refreshingly original compared to almost every mainstream biopic. No movie out there explains autism in a more informative, fascinating, visually interesting way than Temple Grandin, with a style of directing that puts you in the head of an autistic person, to see the world the way they see it. Hell, even slaughterhouse efficiency and the reason why cows moo was fucking interesting. The struggles that Temple went through, seeing both sides of how autism was both a massive hindrance, but also a gift was wonderful. What I also love is the focus on her mother, a woman who had very little knowledge of autism at a time that no one really got it, and the tough choices she had to make for her daughter.

Now we know a lot more about autism, and Temple and her mom really are to thank for the wealth of knowledge. The movie's happy ending may be among the best of the decade, and absolutely well earned.


8. The Voices

Marjane Satrapi directed Persepolis, an autobiographical story about herself - a rebellious girl growing up in the Islamic revolution in Iran in the 1970s and how a rebel like herself had to escape such an oppressive society ruled by fundamentalists. She then went on to direct The Voices which just might be the most fucked up, deranged, darkly hilarious serial killer movie ever made. Kudos to her for going from Persepolis to this. It's like..."Now that I got my life story out of the way, here's the batshit crazy ass stories I really want to tell!"

I'm not exaggerating when I say that The Voices makes the show Dexter look like a Disney show. Ryan Reynolds gives easily his best career best performance as a psychotic man who really is trying his best to live a normal life, but when he's off his meds, all bets are off. You have never seen a human - pets friendship like a psychopath off his meds with his cat who's the evil, scolding character and his dog who's the dumb and loyal optimist. Hell, even conversations with decapitated heads isn't off the table. The Voices is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but for those of you who really love the darkest, most fucked up gallows humour, there is no other movie like The Voices. Leave it to a woman to make the craziest serial killer movie of all time. On another note: this film also has the best musical number of the decade; the fucking audacity of this movie!


7. Short Term 12

Maybe the rawest, emotionally gut punching, but in a completely realistic, non-sentimental un-Hollywood drama. There's a lot of tears to be shed, and it all feels so real. While it's a work of fiction, it feels so authentic. Brie Larson gives the best performance of her career (she won an Oscar for Room, but I still think this one is better), and re-watching the trailer, I didn't realize that Rami Malek and Lakeith Stanfield were in this movie, but who knows if Short Term 12 was their launching pad?

I have no clue what it would be like living in a group home, but for this movie, you experience it all, and you feel everyone's pain. And then you learn about the past of the couple running the group home, and your heart aches for them too. But in all its rawness, Short Term 12 still manages to end on an uplifting note. They've been through a lot, but maybe life has a lot of promise for their future. Love, compassion and people in your life who truly give a fuck can go a long way.


6. Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass accomplishes a lot. It manages to explore classical philosophy while poking fun at the pretentious of academia, a Coen Brothers-esque crime thriller with a wickedly dark sense of humour, but better than any Coen Brothers' crime thriller, and my pick for the best stoner comedy. Just thinking about the plot and the master plan that is pulled off and I have to applaud the audacity of the plan. Crime thrillers where characters fuck up their plan up badly has made for some comedy, but I challenge you to find a fuck up that's funnier than one pulled by Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson in Leaves of Grass. Right, I haven't even gotten to Edward Norton playing twins, and the best example of one actor playing two roles just behind Nicolas Cage in Adaptation. He completely disappears into the twin brothers: both the highly accomplished philosophy professor who lives a very structured life vs. the hedonistic hillbilly pot grower who runs "The Taj Mahal of hydroponics", but also creates a storm of chaos for himself and everyone around him.

A special mention to I think one of the most under-rated actors: Tim Blake Nelson. He loves playing dumb hillbillies and he's amazing at it and he even has such a redneck name...but the dude also wrote, directed and produced this movie. Here he plays yet another hillbilly, in a funny, but also thoughtful, nuanced performance. Despite all the violence he's involved in, you just can't help but love the guy by the end of the film.


5. Doctor Strange

This movie has fallen a bit down the chart from before. I will admit to being very stoned when I saw Doctor Strange in Imax 3D and declared it one of my favorite movies of all time. A few re-watches later (still stoned), it's not quite as good as the first time, but...this movie still fucking rules!

I imagine this conversation in my head with the studio and the director: "Alright, here's a giant fuckload of money. Now deliver something absolutely fucking epic, blow people's minds and make them trippy crazy balls too."

When action scenes are done with such creativity, there's nothing better. Inception teased at having a city fold onto itself, but then did nothing with that. Doctor Strange said...fuck it, if Inception, couldn't do shit with it, we're gonna take that and go absolutely balls to the wall. Then as action scenes follows action scene, it feels like they're trying to top the last scene, and you just never know what you're gonna get. People's souls fighting in a hospital? Why the fuck not? And Rachael McAdams pulls off a masterful comedic performances in that scene. "And how do we top the stuff we did before? How about a giant battle scene where time moves backwards." While some films are guilty of putting their best shit too early in the movie and the rest of the movie suffering, Doctor Strange just gets better and better as it goes along.

Yes, the script has its fair share of bad writing. Some of its drama is poorly written (though Rachael Mcadams is so fucking good with her mediocre dialogue), but when the writing is good, it's really fucking good.

So Doctor Strange reads a forbidden book with super powerful, dangerous sorcerer spells. He casts a spell, then the librarian and his teacher catch him in the act and scold him:

Mordo: "Tampering with continum probabilities is forbidden"
Doctor Strange: "I was just doing what it said in the book"
Wong: "What did the book say about the dangers of performing that ritual?"
Doctor Strange: "I don't know. I haven't gotten to that part yet."
Mordo: "Temporal manipulations can create branches in time. Unstable dimensional openings. Spatial paradoxes! Time loops! You want to get stuck re-living the same day over and over forever or never having existed at all?!"
Doctor Strange: "...They should have put the warnings before the spell"

Come on! That dialogue is absurdly delightful and hilarious!

4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

If I had to pick the best theatrical experience of the past decade; a movie that you absolutely fucking missed out on by not going to the theatres, it's Into the Spider-Verse in Dbox 3d (the chairs that move and vibrate according to what's going on in the movie). Okay fine, yes, I was very stoned, but that was the most fun, entertaining, tripping the fuck out ride of an experience. On top of that, an extremely creative script, and just absolutely on the point comedy writing.

Miles Morales and Peter Parker would have such great comedic chemistry. Nicolas Cage playing Spider-Man Noir... please make a fucking Spider-Man Noir movie and cast Nic Cage, god damn it! Hell, Spider-Ham would be great too. This movie has so much fun with the spider-verse characters, the awkward teenage stuff with Miles is hilarious, the relationship with his dad has surprising dramatic depth, hell, Miles relationship with Peter Parker and the way it ends up changing Peter's outlook on his own life is so well done.

Into the Spider-Verse has such a grand, epic plot that's so refreshingly different than any other spider-man movie or superhero movies in general. I wish Into the Spider-Verse could be brought back to Dbox theatres. I've yet to watch it on a regular TV, but I'm sure it'll still be great. While its trippy visuals are a huge part of its appeal, the script is every bit as good.

3. The Grey

This is the best example ever of a mis-marketed movie. The trailers made it look like a Liam Neeson karate kicking wolves in the face survival movie from Joe Carnahan, the director of the god awful A-Team. To say I had low expectations for this was an understatement, but great trick by the marketing team to tease a big dumb Hollywood movie and actually deliver an intense, powerful, existential, thought provoking, and poetic movie about coming to terms with death, and what truly matters in life. To quote Wael Khairy's review, "The Grey explores man's most frightening questions, the reason we're on this planet, if there's an afterlife or if 'dead is dead'. What makes this film so scary to me aren't the wolves, but the fact that it encapsulates so much of what we fear as human beings, our fear of heights, flights, drowning or dying alone."

Liam Neeson's performance in The Grey easily stands out to me as the best performance of the decade and the biggest robbery in the history of the Oscars. From the beginning of the movie when he's given up on life and attempts suicide to the moment he talks a dying man through his death to the moment that he yells at God (which could have gone so unintentionally hilariously bad), this movie is full of such powerful moments that have never left my memory, and I can't think of any actor that could have done it better than Neeson.

I also have to point out how refreshingly different this is from your standard survival movies. One of the biggest cliches is the giant douchebag character. We've seen enough survival movies to know how he'll fuck with other people's shit, selfishly cost people their lives and meet a horrible fate as karma for being a douchebag. The Grey decides to tease the audience with this character, but the arc that he goes through is so beautifully written.

On top of all that profound shit, it's an entertaining, thrilling survival movie. The entertainment factor is just the icing on the cake of one of the most surprisingly powerful dramas of the decade. 

2. Before Midnight

In 1995, Richard Linklater released a very unconventional romantic comedy titled Before Sunrise, a romance that had almost no structure, very little conflict, and simply followed two strangers who meet on a train, and spend the day in Venice together before they have to part ways. I imagine that any producer, agent or screenwriting teachers would have told Richard Linklater this film will bore the audience to tears. But, audiences just fell in love with these two characters falling in love, the chemistry was electric, their conversations were interesting as fuck, and it just felt magical. Then spawned into the best trilogy in the history of cinema. A rare trilogy where each installment gets better and better.

With that said that brings us to Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after their initial meet cute moment on the train. Before Sunrise perhaps had more interesting philosophical conversations than the sequel Before Sunset, but I'd say Before Sunset was a more complete, emotional movie with more at stake; once all the pleasantries were exchanged, we learned that their lives were kind of fucked up from that one magical night and things were not okay.

Before Midnight really is the best of both predecessors. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke were very profound, intelligent people 18 years ago, but they've only gotten deeper, more mature, and more intelligent with age, and the screenplay truly shows that. It has the most interesting conversations (the lunch scene is maybe the best dialogue scene of any of the trilogy, and that old lady's speech about "just passing through"...just wow), and Before Midnight has the most at stake. Their honeymoon period is way the fuck back in the past, and now we see all the cracks and complications that come with time. As much as I loved watching the characters fall in love, their half hour long argument scene truly is something else. It's not easy to sit through, it's uncomfortable, and emotionally gutting, but find me a better argument scene in any other movie. This is maybe why the big argument in Marriage Story was kinda meh for me.

I know some people who loved watching this couple fall in love were not quite as keen on seeing how sour things got, but it's realistic. It's life.

1. It's Such a Beautiful Day

My pick for #1 not only had by far the smallest budget, but probably seen by the least amount of people. I want so badly for more and more people to discover this gem. A 60 minute stick figure animated movie is not only the best movie of the past decade, but one of my favorite movies ever. A screenplay that is wildly eccentric, an animation style that is at times bare bones and at other times absolutely fucking bonkers, original, stylistic, and brilliant at conveying the fucked up shit going on in its protagonist's head. Don Herdzfeldt clearly follows no rule book in this movie.

At the beginning, Bill is the most basic stick figure drawing. By the end, I feel like I went on a journey with Bill, felt his pain, his disappointments in life, the banal moments that he realizes has consumed so much of his life, his struggle with mental illness, coming to terms with his mortality, and the beauty he discovers about the world around him as his end comes closer and closer. I hope I don't make this sound like a grim as fuck movie; it's also fucking hilarious.

It's Such a Beautiful Day not only has a wonderfully dark sense of humour, but the comedy writing is just so quirky and eccentric. The way it can go from high brow to low brow so seamlessly is wonderfully done. It captures the every day socially awkward moments of life in a funnier way than any other movie. As the movie goes back through Bill's family tree to kind of explain the people that preceded him that explain the way he is...that's some funny ass shit.

It's Such a Beautiful Day manages to be extraordinary in telling a story of an otherwise ordinary man. In a brief 60 minute runtime, I felt like I went on a life journey with Bill, and I felt like I went on a spiritual journey. Absolutely amazing to pull off this kind of depth once again...with fucking stick figures is astonishing. This movie takes #1 by a landslide.

This is not an easy movie to find, but here's a vimeo link to watch it. Rent it. Buy it. This dude deserves to make more money.

And that is all folks. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope you take some of my recommendations.

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