It’s been an awesome decade in many respects, so I wanted to look back and see some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed the most. As such, here’s a post of my thoughts and lists of some top times I had imbibing some content that gave me inspiration and joy.
May it find you the same, or remind me of that which you already got.
Presented in a form that matches my brain tonight, at least, here are the flicks from the past decade that really really stuck with me. These are my favourites!
My absolute #1 flick of the decade. Guaranteed to make me cry, a heartstopper of emotional truths for the entire family, and funny as hell on the side. I’ll be watching this one until the day I die because it’s so truly exceptional. The big story, a girl and her emotions, is a great idea, but it’s handled with such deft care and precision. The fact the film is hilarious and also breath-takingly sad shows that it can do what it pushes.
It also has the mind-kicking of the kid’s brain being run by happiness, but the father’s brain being run by anger, and the mother’s brain being run by sadness. And it doesn’t push those points, they’re just there.
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Well, okay, unless this is my #1 flick. I mean, it’s a spectacular feat of storytelling, inspiration, and ingenuity. Taking the broader range of Spider-characters and telling the origin story of Miles Morales, alongside Spider-Gwen, with an amazing soundtrack, and wild cartoon style, leaning heavily into the comics in all the right ways. I get the feeling I’ll watch this flick another 50 times over the next decade as I’ve already watched it half a dozen times just this year.
The key to this one is the script: see how so much gets called back in all the right ways.
THE WINTER SOLDIER
I’m always amazed that Captain America isn’t a character I tend towards loving in the comics but Chris Evans made me absolutely dive into the character in the big screen. So take that actor/character, put them in a more intrigue/espionage story, add some Robert Redford, and I am absolutely all in on this flick. The action is great, the tone and visuals are superb, it’s easily my favourite live action superhero flick and I think it’ll be difficult to top because of how well it matches so many of my personal likes.
Protip: watch it in greyscale, it’s a hell of an old school trip. That elevator scene just gets better.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
It took me years to eventually check this out, and I have no specific reason why, but boy am I glad I did. This is the Coen Brothers content that resonates with me, it’s quirky, it’s heartfelt, it’s “small,” and it’s got Oscar Isaac absolutely crushing it. This shot up my ranks to be one of my favourite Coen flicks of all time because it’s all heart, emotion above plot, and plot pushing emotion before it does any kind of logic. I often think I saw Barton Fink too young to truly get it, but this came at exactly the right time in my life to stick right in my brain.
It’s a dance horror flick, and not the only one on this list. Darren Aronofsky retells the classic ballet Swan Lake and makes it creepy and sexy and brutal and I absolutely fell in love with this flick. 100%, this was a special piece of art that makes me want to create better stories myself on a visual and a visceral level. It’s a piece that uses colour and music and tone to make you fall in and feel, and that’s so hard to do at this level, and I want to learn how.
HELL OR HIGH WATER
I also missed this one at first and can’t remember what made me watch it, but I caught it on my flight to Seattle for ECCC and I swear I talked about this flick all damn weekend with all sorts of creators. The script is airtight, the performances are pitch perfect, and the whole flick just reminds you how damn sad male toxicity is, and how it doesn’t stop and will consume you eventually if that’s what you commit to. It also inspires me in that the plot itself isn’t too intricate, but the way the characters honestly and openly navigate it all is what makes this sing.
This is a weird inclusion, because I recognise it isn’t perfect, but it’s something I just personally dig so so much. The decision to put JGL into the Bruce Willis face is jarring and isn’t something I love, but I love the commitment to trying it out. The concept and the script and the performances are all wins for me.
Another one where I won’t say this is Pure Cinema™ but I will say it’s something I dig so much because it sits right at the intersection of things I always enjoy wholeheartedly on a variety of levels. The cast is quality, the concept is hugely my jam, and I dug the layers of the script [whether they always made sense or not]. It’s fun AND leaves you thinking and spinning, what else can you ask for?
Only saw this the other week, and yet still, I know this belongs on the list. It’s just so damn well constructed and executed. I know counteless mystery writers no doubt fill shelves with business this good every year, and it’s nothing new, but it felt so fresh on the screen. It’s not a franchise flick, it’s a genre you don’t see all that often, and it’s so damn enjoyable the whole way through. There are dozens of classic little moments that are going to stick with me a long long time, and that’s often what I love most about cinema. I saw this with my wife and then went to lunch and we spent most of it just talking about this flick.
This is another script I’d love to map out and deconstruct. The way things are revealed, and obscured, and hinted at, the balance is near on perfect.
I absolutely fell in love with Captain Marvel on every level. The flick, the tone, the character, and the actress. Yet another notch in the Crazy Enjoyable Marvel Movie column, I don’t think it’s perfect, or a piece of high art, but it is something important. Hot on the heels of Wonder Woman, it showed a huge appetite for female-led cape movies because you could see the eighth quippy smirking white guy with abs in another costume, or you could see this, and people overwhelmingly showed they wanted to see this. And not because it’s legacy, Captain Marvel was once a dude no one knew about, and now it’s Carol Danvers, who realistically no one knew about, so you’d think she’d perform less than a founding Avenger [Ant-Man, let’s say], but she didn’t.
Brie Larson was key to this as she stone cold nailed this role, able to carry the action and the desert dry humour, and I will happily watch her lead the MCU into the next decade.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
By the time this came out, I was well burnt out on Tarantino. Django Unchained did little for me, and while I can see Inglorious Basterds is quality, it just wasn’t my jam. Hence why I didn’t catch this until stuck on a plane years after its release, and even then it took an entire trans-Atlantic flight to get through this while pausing constantly to walk my kids around, but by the end I knew this one was going to stick with me. Maybe it’s Kurt Russell. Let’s be honest, it probably is. But it’s also the script, something a little more back to basics in his approach, characters in a locked box conversing, and Tarantino made every character shine in their own sick way.
THE IDES OF MARCH
Gosling, Clooney, old school politics. I knew this one was for me from the shot with the title card. Just a good political thriller to stand up there with some of the best, and this script is really engaging. The kind of thing that’s just words and faces and it doesn’t need theatrics and helicopters and pyrotechnics, it just needs quality acting.
This was some nasty business. Saw this with my two brothers, all three of us veterans of video nasties, and we all walked away quietly contemplative. It’s not just the gore, but it’s the overall tone. This is some dark business, and I never thought I’d want to see Argento updated, but this worked on so many levels, from camera angles, to colour, to pacing.
Plus, that score on vinyl.
THE NICE GUYS
If this had come out earlier in my life, I would have seen it 20 times. Cracking script, great buddy leads, the plot is great but it’s the airtight structure that gets to me. The kind of movie that should come with a six pack to enjoy it all the more.
Right in my wheelhouse of great journalist stories, this is exceptionally well made, but also treats the plot and subject matter with the tone it deserves. Everyone fired on this, it felt like the kind of thing to stand up there with Zodiac and JFK.
Brutal stuff, a great adaptation. Chris Evans reminds us he has range, and the grime oozes off the screen. It’s not always an “enjoyable” flick, but the themes will cut close to home, and you’ll wake the next day still thinking about it, and, yes, you absolutely should hunt down the original comics, utterly grand stuff.
Still remember walking out and my wife declaring, “Well, that was better than The Avengers.” I think time’s going to stand with her on that one. Gal Godot joins the few of this earth who will now forevermore embody the superhero they brought to the screen. Even with a janky third act, this flick is so enjoyable elsewhere that it gets a pass.
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Matches the original in so many ways: music, tone, moments. Maybe not overall as good, but certainly a worthy addition and something I’m excited to revisit. And, yes, everyone says it, but it’s true, the colours are insane eye candy.
The best crime flick masquerading as a kids’ cartoon…ever? Another script where I want to map it out and study it, for its brilliance, for its simplicity, for its smart joy. Animals and wonderful character arcs and real world commentary: yes, please.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Yeah, not the top of my list. Not even close. But this flick is so good I understand why people declare it #1 – it’s a masterpiece, but it’s down here because it’s not something that completely resonated all the way through me. I mean, the bass did, but there’s something about this flick that has made me hesitant to revisit it. I will, because it’s stupidly great, but it’s not like the things above it.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Oh, man, did this flick ever surprise me. I mean, I haven’t even seen Cloverfield yet, but this was so damn tight I had to give it a go, and I’m very very glad I did. I was completely caught on the edge of my seat, never really knowing, and I’ll forever love the script for that. Tension + characters + wild premise + John Goodman + that final scene = all my love.
That’s the list, hope you dig it – either by agreeing, or wanting to chase some down. If I missed something you dug, know that I probably just didn’t see it, or that I hated it and we should battle, as per the Rules of the Internet. Be seeing you.