Another decade has gone, and once again it took me a week to understand the significance. ‘Nanny McPhee’ haunted our dreams, while Vera Farmiga fought in the ‘Conjuring‘ franchise to save us. ‘The Social Network’ trailer cursed all future trailers with its acapella rendition of “Creep,” thus ensuring that “Rock Lobster” will someday — somehow — be slowly slowed down for us, the audience. Because it’s what we want.
But there were plenty of non-cursed offerings. Here are the ones that stuck with me. This is in no way comprehensive, but films that came to mind without much brain digging.
- 13 Assassins (2010)
- I Saw the Devil (2010)
- Attack the Block (2011)
- The Raid (2011)
- The Master (2012)
- The Avengers (2012)
- Dredd (2012)
- Sinister (2012)
- The Loved Ones (2012)
Genre was bigger than ever, with “cape” films being consumed by the masses. As for the sanctity of Marvel movies, I don’t think they need defending. Look to the box office of every year — they’re doing fine. By the way, I did love Ragnarok, Homecoming, and Winter Soldier. Seeing the Avengers assemble was a lifetime in the making, and even though it’s not my favorite, it meant a lot.
The Master let Joaquin Phoenix shine long before The Joker made everyone pee themselves, and the former is a career-best performance that I’d put up against anyone. He’s infantile, cruel, and completely animalistic juxtaposed to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s L. Ron Hubbard-ey character. Close relationships between men strike some as truly sci-fi, and this film is a wonder.
Asian imports caught my attention out the gate, with I Saw the Devil being a favorite that I’m hesitant to rewatch due to its brutality and nihilistic tone, something that 13 Assassins director Takashi Miike is known for — yet the man gave us a quiet journey that ends in fire. We also got two building-centric pulse-racers with Raid and Dredd, and guess what? They’re both excellent representations of their genre. Sinister and Loved Ones did the same for Horror. Both hold up to repeat viewings.
- Enemy (2013)
- Lords of Salem (2013)
- John Wick (2014)
- The Guest (2014)
- Ex Machina (2014)
- Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
- Tangerine (2015)
- The Lobster (2015)
I found more variety as the decade proceeded. The John Wick series gifted us more Keanu, while Adam Wingard’s The Guest concocted a stew of horror and action (with one of the best soundtracks of the decade). Fury Road screamed at Oscar voters and makes one wonder what George Miller could have done with the Justice League.
Sean Baker’s Tangerine broke my heart but also broke the tradition of having a queer narrative end in tragedy. Baker’s exploration of friendship and minority lives remains one of the most joyful films I’ve experienced.
Ex Machina unsettled me, and Lords of Salem marked a turning point for Rob Zombie’s film career — one in the wrong direction. Lords is silly, creepy, and experimental, but folks wanted another Devil’s Rejects, going hard at Zombie’s ode to Seventies devil worship movies (which are now in vogue). Zombie teased retiring, then gave in to the online hate, having since returned to his familiar bag of tricks. Hopefully, 2020 will right his course, but I doubt it.
The sad sack Lobster drags its teddy bear in the mud, yet somehow put me in stitches (what does that phrase mean? My stomach split from laughing, therefore stitches are needed?). Yorgos Lanthimos is a treasure.
- Green Room (2016)
- Moonlight (2016)
- Beach Rats (2016)
- The Love Witch (2016)
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
- The Handmaiden (2017)
- Logan (2017)
The latter years of the 2010s put a magnifying glass on the human body itself. The above films all celebrated or questioned how we see each other on film, with the bold sexuality of Beach Rats and The Handmaiden, the resilience and mutilation of Green Room and Logan, and the lusty glow of 2049 and Love Witch. Moonlight had a glow of its own, showing people of color in a way those past representations did not.
- Annihilation (2018)
- Sisters Brothers (2018)
- Midsommar (2019)
- Knife + Heart (2019)
I saw Ari Aster’s pagan horror Midsommar three times in the theater, and it continues to offer me fresh flowers. Florence Pugh is a must-see actor, and I’ll be backtracking her filmography. The under-seen Sisters Brothers portrayed chemical horror in ways I’d never seen before (sick, poisonous illness that gave me nightmares) when the men of the film attempt to get rich quick. Annihilation pulled a similar trick, with cam footage of slithering intestines that is just horrifying.
Knife + Heart gave an unflinchingly-queer look at the Giallo, with all the sleaze and heart one could ask for when dealing with death and pornography. As usual, Horror gave me the most to think about, and to keep up with. I have yet to see Parasite, as every screening sold out before I could, but I can’t wait.
Regardless of which genre is your go-to, the decade had plenty to offer. 2011 is a“lost” year, where I was either disappointed (the Conan reboot) or just hid from Hollywood altogether. I’ll have to revisit the year sometime (it did produce the stellar Young Adult after all). Of course, there were disappointments across the years, like the Hobbit trilogy, or Hateful Eight. Into the Woods cemented my belief that James Corden’s being is composed entirely of garmonbozia (pain and sorrow). No doubt Cats is ninety percent creamed corn.
And speaking of David Lynch, it’d be dishonest of me to leave Twin Peak: The Return (2017) off this list. The massive work was created as a film but broken up for Showtime, so I feel okay cheating. Like it’s predecessor Fire Walk With Me, The Return dealt with the ugly underbellies of mankind and their spiritual counterparts while offering new beauties like the White Lodge. I continue to be amazed at what Lynch gave us, and just how much of it there is. My cup runneth over, as it were.
Still, my viewing habits need work. I plan to see more films directed by women in 2020 after a sad realization that I can’t name 10 female directors, especially those who directed more than one film. I can easily do so with men (if we’re talking in binary terms).
I backtracked to find Karyn Kusama’s excellent The Invitation (2015) and caught up to Greta Gerwig’s growing filmography. Anna Biller’s Love Witch is astounding in its craft. I can’t wait to see more from her.
And so, bring on 2020. The future holds Moon Knight, another Robocop reboot, and maybe foul-mouthed Federation officers. There will be more James Corden, but also moving pictures that intend to make us cry.
Welcome to a new year and a new decade, everyone.