Skip to main content

Who would want to be stuck in a dream for ten years?

Top 10 Films
2010-19

Now, you may glance down the following and blanche at its apparent Yankophile and populist tendencies. I wouldn’t seek to claim, however, that my tastes are particularly prone to treading on the coat tails of the highbrow. And there’s always the cahiers du cinema list if you want an appreciation of that ilk. As such, near misses for the decade, a decade that didn’t feature all that many features I’d rank as unqualified classics, included Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Tron: Legacy, The Tree of Life, The Guard and Edge of Tomorrow.

10. The Social Network
(2010)

Okay, The Social Network admittedly fails to document how Facebook was actually created by the CIA and that Mark Zuckerberg was nothing more than a stooge, and David Rockefeller’s grandson at that. Or alternatively, how Zuckerberg was “just sitting around with his friends in front of his computer ordering pizza”. But apaaaart from that. David Fincher’s filmmaking chops are unlikely ever to desert him so much as become shopworn by repeatedly returning to the well of serial killers and B-thrillers. It takes something like this, an Aaron Sorkin think piece about the seductiveness of success and status to evidence why he’s really in a class of one as a director. The specific Facebook conversation here may have been left in the dust by subsequent events, but there’s always room for a sequel…

9. Cloud Atlas
(2012)

Flawed but frequently stunning sixth feature from the Wachowski sisters, a meditation on the “continuity of souls” across hundreds of years via juxtaposed stories, timeframes and actors in multiple and contrasting roles. All the plotlines aren’t created equal (although, that goes back to the David Mitchell source material), and some of the prosthetic decisions are, shall we say, not entirely convincing, but as a visionary whole, aided by a gorgeous score from Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and (co-director) Tom Twyker, it has conceptual scope to spare.

8. Inside Llewyn Davis
(2013)

The sole Coen Brothers picture of the decade to stand with the very best of their work. Not that they aren’t head and shoulders above most filmmakers even on an off day. Inside Llewyn Davis tells the unpropitious story of the musician title character (Oscar Isaac in an increasingly necessary reminder of how good he can be), more often than not the artist as his own worst enemy. But as per the Coens’ work generally, we’re still willing to stick with him (see also Barton Fink). A melancholy affair, one that appreciates the fickleness of the swing doors of success and failure.

7. Only Lovers Left Alive
(2013)

Another melancholy picture, Jim Jarmusch’s goth chic vampires may be impossibly cool (I mean, they go to Tangiers on their hols) but they embody cup of blood half-full/empty attitudes. Tom Hiddleston’s dashing, despairing grump may reflect Jarmusch himself, aghast at the state of the modern world, ultimately unable to avoid the edicts of his own “humanity”, while Tilda Swinton contrastingly sees the positives in embracing their existence. The director uses the eternal knowledge aspect to touch magpie-like on a number of his pet subjects, but the couple’s prevailing need for each other overrides such side bars. 

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
(2017)

The McDonagh brothers have run a relay of at very least interestingly pithy (Seven Psychopaths, War on Everyone, Calvary) and at best caustic, sharp and clever (The Guard, this) over the past decade. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the most fully formed, balancing a tendency to revel in the luxury of form (quick, cutting, biting characters trading barbs to often hilarious effect) with unearthing substance that sometimes doesn’t quite yield gold (Calvary’s main problem). Martin McDonagh hits the bullseye in a manner not seen since his outstanding debut In Bruges. Perhaps too accurately. Possibly the picture received too much in the way of awards attention, as it meant his irreverence was suddenly held up to the lens of how he “should” be addressing the themes therein, particularly of race, in an approved and certified manner. 

5. Bad Times at the El Royale
(2018)

Drew Goddard’s delirious neo-noir multi-plotted thriller is a delight that keeps you surprised and guessing, showing off the kind of narrative sleights and dexterity that might fool you into thinking this kind of thing comes easy. It’s superbly directed and cleverly cast too. There’s a touch of Tarantino about Bad Times at the El Royale, if Tarantino had honed his story skills rather than given in to his addiction to genre referencing. Goddard may not garner an ounce of the adulation, but his creations are much more satisfying. 

4. Blade Runner 2049
(2017)

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t as good as the first film – it pushes itself into areas of too traditional plotting, with the foregrounded Deckard genealogy and replicant uprising, that were largely bypassed in the anti-detection detective story of Scott’s original – but it is still a remarkable achievement. The only serious mistake (one also made with Tron: Legacy) was somehow thinking there was an enormous waiting audience for it that justified the budget. Sir Ridders may have complained that Denis Villeneuve’s sequel was slow and overlong, but his days of making films of this quality are far in the past.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
(2014)

Will this be seen as peak Wes Anderson? It would be ironic if it does, as The Grand Budapest Hotel finds the director flourishing a broader, slapstick approach compared to his previously established, wryly distanced tableau observations. As such, the film motors along infectiously and often hilariously, Anderson making vivid use of a selection of faces both new and familiar to his repertory in a variety of cartoonish guises, and accompanied by a masterpiece score from Alexandre Desplat that perfectly reflects the piece’s exuberant energy. 

2. Inception
(2010)

Did the top keep spinning? Is there a spoon? Another that may eventually be seen as its director’s peak picture – although we can hope for the best from Tenet – as his subsequent trio have been decidedly lesser affairs. An outstanding, immersive, Russian doll envisaging of dream reality by way of a heist format. Nolan’s deftest move is not to treat his dream logic as dream logic but rather as a state of consciousness with clearly defined rules and relationships. If there’s a yardstick for the intelligent blockbuster, this is it.

1. Mad Max Fury Road
(2015)

And if there’s a yardstick for the blockbuster as pure, cinematic experience, this is surely it. Mad Max: Fury Road is an astounding piece of work, a kinetic kaleidoscope of sound and fury, of colour and chaos. And edited to within an inch of its life, such that it shows off George Miller as the aging master of action cinema. All else should kneel before the master. The shame of it is that we’ll have to wait so long for a follow up, while he goes off to make his next Lorenzo’s Oil.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

Farewell, dear shithead, farewell.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) (SPOILERS) I saw Highlander II: The Quickening at the cinema. Yes, I actually paid money to see one of the worst mainstream sequels ever on the big screen. I didn’t bother investigating the Director’s Cut until now, since the movie struck me as entirely unsalvageable. I was sufficiently disenchanted with all things Highlander that I skipped the TV series and slipshod sequels, eventually catching Christopher Lambert’s last appearance as Connor MacLeod in Highlander: End Game by accident rather than design. But Highlander II ’s on YouTube , and the quality is decent, so maybe the Director’s Cut improve matters and is worth a reappraisal? Not really. It’s still a fundamentally, mystifyingly botched retcon enabling the further adventures of MacLeod, just not quite as transparently shredded in the editing room.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.