“10 years gone, holdin’ on.” – Led Zeppelin
Way back in 2010 the filmmaking landscape looked vastly different than it does today. “Streaming” wasn’t really a thing, Netflix was mailing DVD’s, Marvel was recognized as a comic book icon not-so-much a superhero movie making machine, and physical media was still being sold in most electronics stores.
In 2019, Netflix and Amazon are major filmmaking studios who are creating films that are frontrunners for major awards, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a dominant force in the box office, movies are being watched and made on iPhones, and Disney basically owns everything.
10 years gone, yet cinema is still holdin’ strong. In the last decade some beautiful, fantastic, social, historical, poignant, courageous, defiant, horrific, and timely films have been solidified into the permanent celluloid of film history. Here are ten films that I consider the best of the decade.
10. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
There is a minimalist perspective utilized in this film that permits the superb and poetic storytelling to speak volumes about youth, discovery, and innocence. Quvenzhané Wallis performance is so powerful, the maturity and explosiveness of her character is beautifully designed and executed. The film embraces magical realism throughout its journey into the southern Delta and beyond. It’s a joyful and exhilarating example of the power of the human spirit, the courage of youth, and the limitlessness of love.
9. The Witch (2016)
Robert Egger’s “The Witch” is a film that lives and breathes on manipulating the atmosphere that it lives in, building dread and creating an environment that saturates any glimmer of light with darkness. It’s hard to call it just frightening or menacing, it’s something more, something darker. It’s a nightmare that you can’t wake up from, one that lures you into the blackened world and then forces you to keep going when you want to turn back.
8. Boyhood (2014)
Twelve years of commitment to an idea and Richard Linklater accomplished one remarkable feat of filmmaking. Through a series of normal, insignificant life events a young boy grows into a man amidst the backdrop of a changing world. The most compelling and brilliant aspect of this film is the subtle influence seen in Mason’s changing character, from the socioeconomic features, to political climate, and the familial aspects that become unintentionally inherited by us all. It all works in engulfing the viewer into the familiarity of the past and the journey of growing up.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director George Miller drove this pulsing, bursting, no-holds-barred vehicle into the summer blockbuster scramble of 2015 and completely destroyed all competitors. This film completely belongs to Charlize Theron who confidently controls the film with stunning screen presence as Imperator Furiosa. George Miller executes the film with exceptional style and skill, making “Mad Max: Fury Road” feel more suited for the arthouse than the grind house…it’s the best action film of the decade.
6. Amour (2012)
Director Michael Haneke meticulously, through editing, camera framing, and painstaking guidance of performance, crafts a film about the process of love and death in the latter days of an elderly Parisian couple. Unnerving and depressing in its’ realistic portrayal of death but also transcending in its’ beautiful depiction of life and love, this film still evokes strong senses of pain, sorrow, compassion, and peace of the life and death process.
5. Melancholia (2011)
Themes of loss, despair, tragedy, and conflict abound through family, relationship, and interpersonal dynamics of a newly married couple…all this while also telling a story of Earth’s imminent apocalypse. Director Lars Von Trier weaves a story that translates into the coping mechanism and structural recovery of severe depression. It’s a complete travesty that Kirsten Dunst didn’t win an award for her performance. “Melancholia” is a deeply personal film that is crafted with calculated and methodical execution.
4. Certified Copy (2011)
The battle of authenticity and imitation has been explored in films before, however not with the passion and depth that director Abbas Kiarostami exhibits with “Certified Copy”. The questions offered to meditate on are still completely relevant. What is real and what is manufactured? Are emotions constructed as a mechanism for self-guidance or self-destruction? It’s a puzzle of subtle intrigue, composed with brush strokes so finely precise that staring at the picture will only further reveal how beautiful it actually is.
3. Phantom Thread (2017)
“Phantom Thread” is a complicated love story, one that harbors themes of dominating control, deep and dangerous emotional connections, and a passion that is not easily defined. Director Paul Thomas Anderson paints an image here that still lingers long after its release, the startling and subtle emotion portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps is still captivating and magnetic, uncompromisingly romantic, and still somehow emotional tragic.
2. Under the Skin (2014)
With a near silent and purposefully ambiguous narrative, “Under the Skin” moves with a hallucinatory yet naturalistic aesthetic through the streets of Scotland, following Scarlett Johannson’s curious and deadly alien being. The purpose of everything is never fully revealed, but the journey is so ambitiously designed that the mystery becomes nothing short of completely consuming. “Under the Skin” is one of the best science fiction films of the decade.
1. Moonlight (2016)
Director Barry Jenkins crafted the most beautiful and complex film of the decade. “Moonlight” asks difficult questions to the viewer and doesn’t succumb to easy expectations. It tells entire stories with simple body language and subtle gestures and the stillness of a camera that never flinches from a character forces the viewer to linger deeply into what the characters are doing. It’s a coming-of-age film, a film about sexual awakenings, a film exploring masculinity, a film that doesn’t surrender to easy stereotypes or simple exploitation. What “Moonlight” does is show the power that a film can possess, and how that power has the ability to transcend and destroy barriers of preconception.