Horse Girl (2020): A Brief Review

Now that awards season is behind us and Parasite officially a Best Picture winner, I can get back to doing what I started this blog to do: reviewing movies.

My first official review of a 2020 release is for Jeff Baena’s Horse Girl, which premiered at Sundance before finding its home on Netflix. I didn’t get to watch it immediately due to the Oscars weekend and generally being busy with life, but last night I finally sat down to give it a go. I’m going to be very open and admit the only this interested me was because of Alison Brie. I’ve loved her since Mad Men and Community and I think she’s a great actress. I was pleasantly surprised that she was not the only good thing about the film.

Featuring significantly less horse content that I was anticipating, Horse Girl tells the story of Sarah (Alison Brie), a shy craft-store worker who begins experience bizarre events that she’s convinced are linked to the series of dreams she’s been having. Her life is upturned by her realisation that things might not be as they seem.

It isn’t the premise I was expecting given the title and poster, but there’s a fair amount of intrigue in the set-up as we’re following Sarah’s day-to-day life, anchored to the character by Brie’s compelling performance. We don’t quite understand what we’re seeing, but Brie sells it all perfectly. Her life appears to be simple. She goes to work, comes home and watches her favourite TV Show, Purgatory, not unlike our own Supernatural, and goes to bed to prepare for the next day of doing the same things. From the mundanity of her life stems the opportunity for mind-bending chaos.

Without delving into spoiler territory, because some of the things that develop in this movie are worth seeing for yourself, it’s fair to say that Horse Girl doesn’t quite live up to its exciting potential, nor does it fall flat. There are a lot of places this movie could have gone (some that are actually set up but never capitalised on) that it chooses not to and, while some are smartly avoided, there are several things that would have given a little more depth into the world-building and characterisation as well as making for some terrific scenes.

But like I’ve said, Alison Brie is the movie’s main focus and she is excellent. Definitely the best performance I’ve seen from her, she traverses the character’s fragility and uncertainty with aplomb and she’s a large part of the audience’s investment in the movie and the story. Brie also wrote and produced this and there’s an element of her performance that feels strikingly personal in regards to the presentation of mental health and family dynamic. There’s a scene with her and Jay Duplass towards the end of the movie that is really poignant and emotionally stirring and I can’t wait to see if Brie does more projects like this. She’s an extremely competent comic actress but I love seeing her dramatic side come out and she handles it wonderfully.

When I said brief I actually meant brief this time, that’s mostly what I have to say about Horse Girl. It’s one of those movies that’s worth just following along for yourself and seeing how it makes you feel. I will end on the fact that I think it’s the least likely movie to draw from Under The Skin as an influence, but it was welcome nonetheless, even if it didn’t quite make the most of its chances to draw real parallels.

Check out Horse Girl on Netflix for Alison Brie alone, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t grab you, she likely will.

As always, would love to discuss the movie with anyone who wants to, either in the comments or the usual places: Letterboxd or Twitter.

Until next time!

2010s Best Picture Nominees: Ranked

Before you say it, I know.

Another ranking, really? And with 88 films, no less!

For those of you who struggled through my Top 50 Films of the Decade list, you’ll know that I love lists. I love ranking things, and I love order. Oh, and I love films. That too, I suppose.

As the Oscar nominations were not long announced, I thought that I would see how this latest crop of nominees shapes the decade of film as a whole. I know we’re almost a month into 2020, but I’m still trying to understand a lot of what happened in the 2010’s, so give me a little time to adjust.

This isn’t going to be a thing where I do a big list of films with paragraphs about why I like them or dislike them, I’m going to just leave my overall impression about how I feel about it within the criteria of it being a Best Picture Nominee.

As always, my lists are subjective, but I am going to be doing them by quality rather than personal affiliations. So when you don’t see Joker anywhere close to the Top 50, don’t be alarmed. Obviously my personal feelings will dictate whether I think a film is ‘good’ or not, but I’m trying to be as objective as I possibly can.

From going through these films, I have noticed that there is a lot of junk and a lot of quality. Stick with me while I sort through the rubble and present a somewhat cohesive ranking order of the Best Picture nominees from the expanded-lineup era, 2010-2019.

Sidebar: Fun drinking game! Take a sip every time you see the word “great”.

88. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) dir. Stephen Daldry

Because did you expect anything else, honestly? Viola Davis was in this movie and even she couldn’t save it.

87. Midnight in Paris (2011) dir. Some Guy.

Oof, 2011 was ROUGH. Including this completely uninspired drivel. A waste of Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard.

86. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) dir. Benh Zeitlin

Three entries in and already a hot take…I’m outdoing myself. I just couldn’t get behind this, though Quevenzhané Wallis did give a terrific performance. Might be a rewatch down the line and I may feel different, but right now it does nothing for me.

85. Darkest Hour (2017) dir. Joe Wright

I’m probably being harsher on this that is necessary, but Wright can do better than this and it’s only worth watching for Bruno Delbonnel’s beautifully-lit photography.

84. Philomena (2013) dir. Stephen Frears

I have nothing against this movie, I just found it awfully boring. Performances are good, writing is fine, it just did nothing to capture me.

83. The King’s Speech (2010) dir. Tom Hooper

Ignoring its role in the egregious Oscar snub of that year, I’ve seen 4 Tom Hooper films now and I’ve decided that he can’t make films that I’m going to enjoy and this one is no different. It just feels flat and devoid of any passion. Good performances, though.

82. Dallas Buyers Club (2013) dir. Jean-Marc Vallée

Just don’t get the hype with this one, it’s aggressively average to me and I don’t even enjoy the performances. Justice for Chiwetel Ejiofor!

81. Joker (2019) dir. Todd Phillips

Oh you had to know it was coming. I have plenty of explanations in my review if you missed it and interesting in what I actively loathe this movie.

80. Green Book (2018) dir. Peter Farrelly

Two Best Picture winners in the bottom 10? Say it ain’t so! This film just screams “Misguided Intentions” and literally the only thing keeping it afloat is Mahershala Ali who continues to be a delight to watch. Everything else is quite frankly terrible.

79. Hugo (2011) dir. Martin Scorsese

Again, don’t have anything against this movie and it’s competently directed of course, just didn’t sit right with me. May be another due a rewatch somewhere down the line, but as for now I don’t feel favourably about it.

78. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019) dir. Quentin Tarantino

This movie is lucky the other 10 are more memorably bad. As soon as Twitter stops buzzing about this movie, I’m going to actively forget it exists, I’ve just never cared less about a movie before in my life. More thoughts in my review.

77. The Theory of Everything (2014) dir. James Marsh

Was surprised to find out that this wasn’t a Tom Hooper film. Redmayne is bad-to-fine, Jones is good, but Jóhann Jóhansson saves this with his delightful score.

76. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) dir. A Bad Man

Rami Malek being good doesn’t make your movie good! Rocketman outsold!

75. War Horse (2011) dir. Steven Spielberg

Thus continues the trend of 2011 Best Picture nominees being so average it hurts. This one is only slightly propped up by its execution and very nice score.

74. Lion (2016) dir. Garth Davis

Davis has a clear vision, but the pacing is all over the place and lacks focus to grab me through a run-time that even though it’s only slight more than two hours is more than it requires. Well-shot, though!

73. The Descendants (2011) dir. Alexander Payne

2011 is that one child that you have to love even though it’s a huge disappointment. 5 nominees in the bottom 15…I usually really like Payne’s movies but only the screenplay and the performances can slightly save this messy film.

72. Les Misérables (2012) dir. Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper strikes again. Way too long and mostly miscast in my opinion. Barks and Tveit keep this one running for me, which is why the first act is a drag. It gets points for having the actors sing live.

71. American Hustle (2013) dir. David O. Russell

If you’d have asked me 5 years ago this would’ve been Top 25 easily, but several rewatches have tainted its legacy. The cast is excellent, but it’s so scattered and doesn’t ever seem to be about anything, rather just a depiction of events with no meaning.

70. The Imitation Game (2014) dir. Morten Tyldum

I’ve warmed to this a lot over the years, from initially hating it to now somewhat liking and respecting it, but it’s still relatively by-the-numbers and it’s disappointing considering the good performances and great writing on display.

69. The Martian (2015) dir. Ridley Scott

Honestly, if Interstellar hadn’t come out the previous year, I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more. Even though the two have differing approaches to the science-fiction, there’s only so much of Matt Damon in space that I can handle.

68. Captain Phillips (2013) dir. Paul Greengrass

Hanks and Abdi give excellent performances, and the editing is masterful in building tension, but it’s just not one that I’ve really thought about lots afterwards. Perfectly fine in the moment, but somewhat forgettable personally.

67. The Fighter (2010) dir. David O. Russell

Let’s call this what it is. An average-to-good film boosted by impeccable performances from its cast. I would weirdly like to see this as a play, I think it would do well.

66. The Artist (2011) dir. Michel Hazanavicius

I don’t hate this film, but I also don’t love it. I respect it a lot and it’s not the worst Best Picture winner we had last decade (see the two I’ve listed below), but there’s something that makes me not really want to watch it again. Dujardin is great, though!

65. 127 Hours (2010) dir. Danny Boyle

James Franco carries this well, but I feel as though once you’ve seen this film once, it loses its value upon rewatches. The initial shock and terror of the situation soon gives way to repetition and any rewatch value. Could have been a truly incredibly short film, I feel.

64. Fences (2016) dir. Denzel Washington

Want to learn how to act? Watch Fences. Washington and Davis give two of the best screen performances of the last ten years. It’s this plus the transcendent writing from August Wilson’s source material that gives this its edge. It’s visually a little predictable and sometimes mishandled in terms of blocking, But the performances alone are thrilling and perfect.

63. Bridge of Spies (2015) dir. Steven Spielberg

Mark Rylance won the Oscar for a quiet, subtle performance and deservedly so, but there’s not too much here that I even remember. Again, perhaps a rewatch is in order, but it doesn’t tell me great things about a film when I can’t remember many details after having watched it twice.

62. Hell or High Water (2016) dir. David Mackenzie

Featuring a trio of great performances and a thrilling script, Hell or High Water gained a lot of praise and several Oscar nominations. And while I really enjoyed it, I don’t think it brought anything particularly special to the genre or the year in film itself and it becomes a little forgettable in the mix of the other Best Picture nominees from that year.

61. Argo (2012) dir. Ben Affleck

And here we have our fourth Best Picture winner on the list and we’re still in the bottom 30…just goes to show how much I hate a lot of the Academy’s choices. Then again, 2012 wasn’t the best year for the nominees considering I’ve already mentioned a few of them and none of them (spoiler) rank particularly high in this list. Affleck directs it solidly, but the script/story just doesn’t do it for me, particularly concerning the characters who you barely get to know. Quite average, if I’m honest.

60. Nebraska (2013) dir. Alexander Payne

I’m a big Payne fan, despite The Descendants being so low on this list, and Nebraska is one of his I very much enjoyed. Great performances, loved the B&W cinematography, and the script is tight. Seems like a conventional film for Payne, but it’s completely solid nonetheless.

59. Winter’s Bone (2010) dir. Debra Granik

The first of only SIX Best Picture nominees directed by a woman (something I hope changes in this new decade), Winter’s Bone caught everyone by surprise. Granik’s raw talent combined with a star-making breakout performance from Jennifer Lawrence tapped into the steeliness of having to fend for yourself, and made one of the humblest nominees on this list. Still think this is great and a rewatch should be on the cards should for me soon.

58. Hidden Figures (2016) dir. Theodore Melfi

Okay but imagine if this was directed by a woman! Not that I don’t really like this film, I just like to have hope for the future. Everyone gives a great performance, the writing is stellar, and it’s such a crowd-pleaser but in the best way. The direction was a little straightforward, perhaps due to letting the script do the heavy-lifting but it got across its messages and gifted us with Taraji P. Henson’s powerful lead performance.

57. Life Of Pi (2012) dir. Ang Lee

I don’t like this film. The reason it’s so high up is because it’s visually breathtaking and if I ever watch this again, I would watch it on mute if it wasn’t for Mychael Danna’s luscious score. Lee’s films are hit or miss with me and this one is a definite miss in almost every other aspect, but its strength of craft is undeniable.

56. The Help (2011) dir. Tate Taylor

Not to get TOO repetitive but why was this directed by a white man? If you were to get a black woman to direct this, it would undoubtedly have been much better. Taylor did a decent job, even though he’s carried by how incredible this cast is and they are the reason it works. Davis, Spencer, Chastain, Stone, Janney, Dallas-Howard, the list goes and they are all really great. Viola Davis in particular gives an exceptional performance as usual. It’s these performances that shoulder the movie’s conventional burdens and take it to heights of actually being any good.

55. Django Unchained (2012) dir. Quentin Tarantino

It’s absolutely no secret to anyone that I’m not Tarantino’s biggest fan, but there are things about this I actually like! The performances, certain moments of the scripts, and the editing to name a few. Even though it remains one of his strongest works, I’m still relatively ambivalent to it. It neither has my curiosity or my attention.

54. The Revenant (2015) dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Basically just re-read my thoughts on Life of Pi. This film is visually incredible, but what else do you expect from Lubezki at this point? I’m not a huge enthusiast of DiCaprio’s performance and it’s a shame he won his Oscar for something so basic and repetitive. The craft of this movie stands on its own though, and Iñárritu’s directorial prowess is something to be admired.

53. Amour (2012) dir. Michael Haneke

I love that this film is a Best Picture nominee. I’m not even totally sure why but I really like that it got nominated that year. It’s very solid, even if it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever rewatch again unless I’m doing a big Best Picture nominee marathon or something. Haneke directs this so so well and Emmanuelle Riva is pretty brilliant in this.

52. Dunkirk (2017) dir. Christopher Nolan

Herein lies a problem with this sort of film: it has little rewatch value. My experience watching this in an IMAX cinema was breathtaking and I instantly hailed it a masterpiece of filmmaking. Subsequent rewatches outside of that finely tuned space suggest that I was wrong. It’s still technically impressive in just about every way, but has Nolan’s signature hollowness that I’m hoping he works on in time for Tenet. Even with films like Interstellar, I don’t feel anything emotional when I watch a Nolan film and even though this time it was intentional, it’s still a problem for me with this movies.

51. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) dir. Martin Scorsese

Very, very good, it’s so needlessly long in my opinion. Unlike another one of Scorsese’s BP nominees of this decade, Wolf manages to be bold and thrilling yet it takes a lot to actually sit down and watch it. Boasting great performances and an awesome script, it could have been much higher if I didn’t have to sit through three hours of it. Sometimes, it’s just excessive.

50. American Sniper (2014) dir. Clint Eastwood

Yes, I actually like this movie. Cooper gives a great performance, the sound work is impeccable, and seeing the fake baby always brings a smile to my face. I’ve read up on the controversies and they’re valid, but this is still Eastwood’s best filmmaking in a very long time. Sienna Miller also doesn’t get enough overall praise, not just for this movie but in general, so I like to mention her.

49. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) dir. Martin McDonagh

For a while, this was our presumed Best Picture winner, and everyone had something to say about it. I think McDonagh tackles a lot of things in a not-so-great way but his character work is pretty spot on. While I think a lot of the script is very good, some of it does fall a bit flat and some of the subplots don’t always work well. But overall it’s a pretty good black-comedy/drama with some great performances. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but a pretty good movie.

48. Ford v Ferrari (2019) dir. James Mangold

The next 2019 nominee is one that a lot of people predicted, but nobody was really quite sure why. It didn’t seem to have been inundated with passionate support, but it’s just a very solid movie. Bale and Damon have great chemistry, Noah Jupe is also there which a bonus to any movie, and the driving sequences are truly stellar. The craft on display is commendable, even if this movie failed to hit most of its emotional beats for me.

47. Vice (2018) dir. Adam McKay

Now here’s another controversial one that I actually like. McKay alienates a lot of people with his work but, so far, I’m on board with what he does. It’s bullish, arrogant filmmaking depicting bullish, arrogant characters. I always love when the style of the film matches the tone of the characters and the situations. It’s unsubtle, a little cringeworthy at times, but displays sharp writing and great performances. I had a surprisingly great time at the cinema for this one, even though most people around me despised it/fell asleep.

46. The Kids Are All Right (2010) dir. Lisa Cholodenko

Domestic dramedies seem to be my thing, and this one is pretty great. Featuring great performances, a solid script, and an energy that manages to be warm and slightly hostile at the same time, Cholodenko hits every nail on the head. Annette Bening’s lesbian energy is truly thrilling to behold, and a lot of the questions and themes presented in this make for great viewing and rewatches.

45. Selma (2014) dir. Ava DuVernay

Helmed by one of the most impressive filmmakers we have today, Selma is a powerful look at a powerful story, and it was directed perfectly. David Oyelowo is stunning and absolutely should have been nominated. While it has all the ingredients of a biopic, it never truly feels like one, better resembling a portrait of a life rather than a preachy, over-the-top mess as it could have been in less capable hands.

44. Jojo Rabbit (2019) dir. Taika Waititi

“But Jamie, you love this movie! Why is it so far down?”

Because although it rocked me emotionally, there is an embarrassment of riches to be found on this list and I still need to rewatch this to really nail down how I feel about it. Recency bias is real and while I love it, I know there are “better” films on this list. Still tonally ridiculous in the best way and Thomasin McKenzie is a treasure.

43. Get Out (2017) dir. Jordan Peele

Here we have the converse of the above problem. I don’t personally love this film but I recognise its brilliance, both in terms of the filmmaking and its road to becoming a Best Picture nominee and a potential winner. It’s a horror film released in February that managed to be so objectively good that it stayed with voters for eleven months and became a dark horse contender. For me personally, the third act unravels a perfect first and second act, but it can’t be denied praise for how good it is. Even though I prefer Peele’s follow-up, Us, this is one of those Best Picture nominees that defied the odds and holds up completely on rewatches. Can’t go wrong, really.

42. Moneyball (2011) dir. Bennett Miller

A 2011 picture so high up? Yes, I’m serious. I’m a huge Bennett Miller fan, and Aaron Sorkin is one of my heroes, so the two of them teaming up to give me a genuinely great Brad Pitt performance based on a subject I have no interest in but yet remained engrossed and compelled for the entire runtime? Yeah, that’s gonna be a win from me.

41. Lincoln (2012) dir. Steven Spielberg

Daniel Day-Lewis unsurprisingly gives one of the best performances of his career in a beautifully written and designed movie that really should have been quite dull but manages to be really great. The supporting cast are wonderful too, and honestly there’s not much more I have to say about this one. Just really good Spielberg.

40. The Post (2017) dir. Steven Spielberg

Speaking of really good Spielberg with a great ensemble cast in a a movie that really should have been quite dull but manages to be really great? Sensing a theme? It’s The Post! With a really great script, and a third-act that employs some of the oddest tension I’ve ever seen in a movie that actually works, The Post is engrossing historical drama at its finest. And with such a satisfying ending!

39. True Grit (2010) dir. Joel & Ethan Coen

One of my favourite Coen brothers movies and I think one of their best technically. Great performances, editing, and cinematography. Shame it didn’t win anything at the ceremony.

38. Black Panther (2018) dir. Ryan Coogler

A genuinely great movie and also a really, really good pick for a Best Picture nominee. Not only did it defeat heavy genre bias, but this is a film heavily composed of people of colour on screen and off screen, which made it a step in a more inclusive direction for the Academy. And it’s a very well-made film to boot, can’t really go wrong.

37. The Big Short (2015) dir. Adam McKay

This late-in-the-race dark horse (after its PGA victory) alienated audiences with its brash filmmaking and almost obnoxious approach, but it’s a sharp script that is both entertaining and informative with a great ensemble. Perhaps not my personal pick for a nomination, but I won’t complain that it’s there.

36. Inception (2010) dir. Christopher Nolan

Despite problems I have with the characters and the third act, Inception remains a very well-made movie and fits right in with that year’s crop of nominees, even if some were perhaps more impressive. Nolan’s mind-bender is going to live in for a long time, and I think the Academy knew that and wanted to immortalise it in their own way.

35. Toy Story 3 (2010) dir. Lee Unkrich

While not my favourite of the quadrilogy (that honour remains with Toy Story 2), the third instalment of this beloved franchise had the honour of being the third and most recent animated film to be nominated for the Academy’s highest honour. An acclaimed fan-favourite with a gut punch of an ending, Toy Story 3 remains one of the landmarks of animated feature films and rightfully earned its place in that year’s line up.

34. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson

One of the night’s big winners in the technical categories, and Anderson’s first and only (so far) inclusion in the Best Picture and Director categories, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his best films and makes for a really fun and quirky addition to the mostly super-serious Best Picture line-up of that year. Think about this film vs. American Sniper and you’ll understand the tonal dichotomy.

33. Hacksaw Ridge (2016) dir. An Anti-Semite

Created with such brilliant craft elements and a dynamic lead performance by Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge is the exact type of war movie the Academy would typically eat up. It’s a proficiently made war film that doubles as a biopic of a man of faith. What more could they have wanted? The story might be a little simple, but the immense sound and editing design is enough to carry this film into greatness.

32. A Star Is Born (2018) dir. Bradley Cooper

Speaking of typical nominees, A Star Is Born is the fourth iteration of a multi-nominated story. And with two brilliant lead performances and a kickass soundtrack, this was never not going to be nominated. It may have slightly cooled due to becoming the very early frontrunner, and it may have had much more success at the Grammys, but one of the finest directorial debuts of recent memory deserved it’s place fully in the line-up. It’s just a shame they failed to nominate its director.

31. Brooklyn (2015) dir. John Crowley

I know most of you won’t agree, but I think this movie is brilliant. Perhaps a little more could’ve been put into the direction, but the script is gorgeous and Saoirse Ronan delivers perhaps her best performance (they’re all flawless so it’s hard to pick one) in a charming novel adaptation which feels like a strange choice considering the rest of the nominees, but it’s hard to knock the choice and the proof is in the pudding (or the emotional monologue).

30. The Irishman (2019) dir. Martin Scorsese

On the complete flip side to the last Scorsese entry, The Irishman more than earns its run-time, boasting terrific performances from everyone and a whip-smart editorial effort that really makes the movie breeze along. Everything lines up to create a truly brilliant films, and Scorsese’s handling of themes manages to make it more than just a greatest hits collection. Also, De Niro should have been nominated, end of discussion.

29. BlacKkKlansman (2018) dir. Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s best film in quite a long time was always going to be commended heavily, but it’s truly brilliant. It’s Oscar-winning script is faultless, and Lee handles it in such an excellent way with an ending that will absolutely stay with me until the end of my life. Haunting, timely, and a really well-executed film all around. Such a worthy nominee and I wouldn’t have complained if it had won.

28. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) dir. Kathryn Bigelow

If not quite as good as its predecessor, The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s look into the hunt for Osama Bin Laden captures tension and unease unlike almost any other film I’ve ever seen. Featuring a boisterous performance from Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty manages to outweigh most of its controversies with really great filmmaking. In a relatively weak line-up (I only have one film left from that year), this was one of the standouts.

27. Boyhood (2014) dir. Richard Linklater

Definitely one of the most innovative directorial achievements of our time, Boyhood thrilled audiences with its unique perspective and execution on growing up. As with a lot of films that have “gimmicks” (I hate that word I just can’t find an appropriate stand-in), Boyhood has been criticised for being nothing more than its “gimmick” which I find correct as it has a lovely script, great performances and an emotional hook at its core that makes it one of the defining coming-of-age films of its generation.

26. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) dir. David O. Russell

Okay, maybe this is subjective and I’ve cheated a little bit, but when I thought about putting this any lower, it hurt. Russell’s best film by a long shot, Silver Linings Playbook has a cynical charm to it, capitalising on a smart script and great performances from the whole cast. The ending dance sequence will always one of my favourite moments, but I think it’s genuinely objectively great. It’s well-paced, performed, and edited. Doesn’t wholly feel like a Best Picture nominee but it’s definitely worthy.

25. The Shape of Water (2017) dir. Guillermo Del Toro

An enchanting look at the way we treat one another through similarities and differences, The Shape of Water is as beautifully written and acted as it is crafted. Featuring career-best work from Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins, Del Toro’s Best Picture-winning fantasy remains a high point of our awards system.

24. Gravity (2013) dir. Alfonso Cuáron

This might not be my favourite film on this list, but its prowess is undeniable. Cuáron displays complete command of his craft and unwavering skill as he achieves feats that had yet to be achieved by filmmakers. Gravity remains a technical marvel, boasting a terrific performance from Sandra Bullock.

23. Room (2015) dir. Lenny Abrahamson

Considering how small this movie was, I love that it was nominated. It’s also one hell of a good movie. With Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay providing some great acting moments as well as chemistry that’s rarely seen between children and adult actors. With one of the tensest scenes in recent memory, Room solidifies itself as one for all-time.

22. Marriage Story (2019) dir. Noah Baumbach

Emotionally devastating, flawlessly acted, and written with a rare sharpness that Baumbach has been working to master, Marriage Story will likely devastate you, while providing a rare look at marriage and divorce through the lens of love and timing and regrets.

21. Birdman (2014) Alejandro Gonzálex Iñárritu

I always think of this film as the Bertolt Brecht masterclass, and it’s an impeccable achievement – a somewhat strange pick for the Best Picture win, given its competition, but a worthy winner nonetheless. A truly great film.

20. The Favourite (2018) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

I never knew a movie that uses the word “cunt-struck” would be nominated for Best Picture but here we are and I regret nothing.

19. Manchester by the Sea (2016) dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Representing a streaming service’s first big Oscar win in a major category, this film feels like both a typical and an atypical Oscar nominee, but I’m glad it made it. The performances and writing are the standouts of course, even if I wish Lonergan had directed a little more decisively.

18. 12 Years a Slave (2013) dir. Steve McQueen

Ranked this high due to being an almost perfect film, even though its rewatchability is very scarce. As harrowing as it needed to be and then some , 12 Years A Slave demonstrates how to tell a true story with grace and care but also the necessary emotional punches. Terrific performances from everyone, and Steve McQueen handles this film like a champ. 

17. Phantom Thread (2017) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

A somewhat surprise nomination on the day, but absolutely as deserving as the category’s front runners. Deliciously constructed and wonderfully acted, Phantom Thread is one of the best surprises in the major category for a long time now.

16. 1917 (2019) dir. Sam Mendes

A lot more than what it makes itself out to be. With heavy mention of the one-shot feature, it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be an engrossing, layered movie about survival and friendship, and a look at how we always have to keep going even in the darkest of situations.

15. Spotlight (2015) dir. Tom McCarthy

Quite possibly one of the best screenplays of the decade, Spotlight imbues its journalistic depiction of trauma and systemic abuse with a tenderness and grace that is rarely seen in these sorts of films. It doesn’t hide from the gruesome facts but it doesn’t use them for emotional payoffs either, which is a tricky tightrope to balance on. One of the best winners on the list.

14. Black Swan (2010) dir. Darren Aronofsky

A horror/thriller masterpiece where all of the elements line up pretty perfectly, including a performance by Natalie Portman that ranks up there with the decade’s best and displays such an impressive range of depth and emotion. Also, a perfect ending.

13. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) dir. George Miller

While admittedly not my favourite of my Top 20 here, the sheer level of technical mastery is impossible to ignore. This film is working so brilliantly on every level that it’s a thrilling, beautiful adventure that’s lovely to look at as well as being effortlessly entertaining. Charlize Theron also did not get enough credit for her performance here. 

12. Roma (2018) dir. Alfonso Cuáron

A stunning personal exploration from Cuáron and actually a more impressive directorial feat than Gravity. It might not be as flashy, but the staging and the sound work are impeccable. One of the best ever.

11. Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig

Despite what some losers have said about the “confusing” timeline, Little Women remains a massively strong movie with a lot of heart and some interesting changes to the source material, which is shown through Greta’s perfect script and seamless direction, as well as a group of strong performances from its cast.

10. Arrival (2016) dir. Denis Villeneuve

Good god, even trying to talk about gives me a headache. Even though Amy Adams was SNUBBED, this film remains a sci-fi masterpiece and one of the best films of the last few years. You can find more intelligent, coherent takes on this film elsewhere, I’m too stunned by this film to comment.

9. Lady Bird (2017) dir. Greta Gerwig

Around 90 minutes of perfect filmmaking and a script that gets better on every rewatch. Saoirse Ronan yet again gives a terrific performance and made Lady Bird many people’s favourite film.

8. Call Me By Your Name (2017) dir. Luca Guadagnino

Okay but the last 10 minutes alone deserved to win Best Picture.

7. The Tree of Life (2011) dir. Terrence Malick

In a year of truly dreadful Best Picture nominees, this movie is the year’s crowning achievement. A truly masterful achievement in every way. Malick’s career-defining film in every way. And also the introduction of Jessica Chastain, which is an added bonus.

6. Whiplash (2014) dir. Damien Chazelle

Heart-stopping from beginning to end, showing the beginning of Damien Chazelle’s cinematic mastery. The best film of that year, should have been a bigger contender for the top prize.

5. Her (2013) dir. Spike Jonze

Go find my favourite films to the year post. That will explain a lot better.

4. La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle

Chazelle strikes again, but I genuinely hope this movie is remembered for more than its part of the Oscars 2017 envelope debacle. Despite its awards season backlash, it’s a genuinely wonderful movie.

3. Parasite (2019) dir. Bong-Joon Ho

Not much to say that hasn’t been said already but this might end up being the best film of the 2010’s, and I’m writing this before the Oscars ceremony so I’m just praying that it wins.

2. The Social Network (2010) dir. David Fincher

Probably the defining film of the 2010’s both in terms of what the decade offered and what it depicted – our relationship with social media innovation and how it affects our personal relationships. Eisenberg and Garfield kill it, and it has rewatch value like not many other films I’ve seen.

1. Moonlight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

Not only is this one of the best films of the decade, it’s also probably the best Best Picture winner we’ve ever had in terms of what it is. It’s a low-budget movie about a gay black man with a main cast comprised entirely of black people, as well as those behind the camera. A truly monumental victory at the Oscars that was not only full deserved, but a reflection of the potential the Oscars can have in terms of showcasing a range of voices in their represented works. A true must-see and I hope it’s something this new decade can continue.

Even though I may dislike a fair few of these films, it has been a brilliant decade for films. The Academy may not have always represented the best films, but I’m hoping that as more attention is brought to highlighting new voices rather than the same tired choices.

Thank you all for bearing with me through this fairly long post, and I hope you found at least something you agree with in this post.

PS: Parasite for Best Picture tonight!!!!

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Waves (2019): Review

Probably spoilers. Read at your own discretion.

Waves lives in me now.

Somewhere around the forty-minute mark, it crawled inside my veins and made a space for itself in my bloodstream. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, perhaps you’re right, but that’s what it felt like to me. In fact, there weren’t many things I didn’t feel during this movie. I sat and I absorbed every moment with rapturous attention, each emotional beat hitting me harder than the last.

I know a lot of people have problems with this, but it became exactly what I had anticipated and I’m so glad that this movie exists. Despite the issues it most definitely does have, I never detached from its grip. Every soundtrack choice hit just right, every performance was so special that each of them does something that gives it a spot in my favourites of the year.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. echoes his other impressive 2019 performance in Luce playing the teenager with massive amounts of potential. Luce was mostly straight-laced, whereas Tyler is under immense pressure both from his father and himself. It’s a vicious characterisation and his performance matches that expertly. Here’s an actor who bites into every facet of his role and clings to that. Harrison clearly understands the journey of his character and how each moment builds on top of the last to affect Tyler’s psyche and it’s truly riveting to watch. Usually accompanied by a pulse-pounding soundtrack or Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ brilliant score, Harrison brings a much-needed gravitas to the role and he becomes impossible to take your eyes off.

Almost the antithesis (for a reason I’m going to touch on later) is Taylor Russell’s Emily. Russell started 2019 delivering the standout performance in a not-so-great movie Escape Room, and she ended 2019 delivering the standout performance in a pretty great movie, Waves. She’s certainly one to watch, in part down to her control of her performance. She never lets Emily get away from her, even when the script sometimes demands Emily to fly free and let go of her bindings. Russell dominates every scene she’s in, even if it isn’t focused on her. There’s a particular scene with Emily and Tyler in a bathroom and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the film. Harrison and Russell both bring their A-games, but Russell surprised me in the best way. Her tender delivery complements her expressive facial features and they work together to create a beautiful portrait of quietness in a world where everything comes crashing down around you.

Sterling K. Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry give duelling performances as the Williams family parents, Ronald and Catherine. Goldsberry feels like a steadily beating heart of the movie, whereas Brown delivers his usual emotional texture that he delivers weekly on This is Us. There’s an unexpected ferocity to a lot of his scenes with Tyler as they evoke issues of pressurised masculinity and living up to expectations. Brown and Goldsberry have a handful of really touching scenes together and their chemistry is so believable and it really drives home a lot of their moments together. There’s a history to these characters and, even though you don’t see it, you can feel it through their performances and it’s terrific to watch. Brown also has his “should-have-been-Oscar-nominated” scene and it helps that his partner is Russell as they both delivery eye-opening moments of character development.

Lucas Hedges also has some great little moments here and there, but that’s par for the course with him. He doesn’t have too much depth to work with aside from a few scenes in the latter part of the movie, but he really delivers and his chemistry with Russell is convincing in a way that the writing doesn’t often lend them during their first scenes together. Alexa Demie is also quite excellent as Tyler’s girlfriend Alexis, and it was a pleasure to see her light up the screen in the way she does.

If I’m being totally honest, I knew I was going to love this movie as soon as the first trailer debuted. Featuring Frank Ocean is an obvious way to get me on board, and with its beautiful colours and terrific-looking performances, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop thinking about when I was going to be able to see this movie and I’m so glad that I finally did. Now, I can’t stop thinking about when I might be able to see it next.

Shults imbues this film with such vital energy that the first half is impossible to look away from. The vibrant colours, the pounding soundtrack, and the electrifying pace make this something you’re going to want to see. That said, when it fades into the gentler second-half, it takes a minute to adjust to. There’s no longer a raucous R&B soundtrack kicking in, but the gentle effect of the score as well as Russell’s compelling screen presence. Without going into too much spoiler-talk, Harrison is gone from the second-half almost entirely and Russell picks up where he left off quite admirably. This is a brave directorial choice from Shults and it didn’t work for a lot of people, who have their preference about which half they prefer, almost as if they are two movies connected by shared characters and the impression of a shared aesthetic, but not much more. The pandemonium of the opening gives way to a gentle breeze and it’s very refreshing to see something so ambitious actually work for me. I had a problem with this type of structural switch-up during In Fabric, but Waves somehow made it work. After being so on edge for the first half, it allowed me to absorb the consequences of the plot points and understand how they seeped their way into these characters. Admittedly, I would’ve liked more of Emily with her family trying to deal with the events of the first half of the movie, but I understand why it wasn’t like that. Shults was attempting to show distance, the lack of connection after a traumatic event. It works because you assume a situation like the one the Williams’ family face is going to bring them closer together, but the movie codes itself in such a particular way that I was fine by Emily going off on adventures with Luke and dealing with things in her own way, and Shults makes sure to bring it back to its roots by the end.

I do understand why the duality turned people off though, I really do. If you loved the first half, the second half could potentially feel like a completely different film and thus a disappointment. Alternatively, if you hated the first half, the second half might feel insignificant if you haven’t adjusted to connecting with the characters just yet. Either way, I get it. But I was on board from moment one, perhaps due to my own hype for this film for about a year now, but nothing disappointed me.

Let’s talk about that soundtrack. While people thought that it was cheap or overbearing, I thought the choices really worked for getting inside the heads of Tyler and Emily. With endless access to an enormous library of music whenever they want, young people today can be dominated by the art form. If you look around on a train, most people have music plugged into their ears, letting it wash them away. The soundtrack creates another way of connecting to Tyler and Emily, as a lot of the songs describe their current emotions either in lyrical content or the musical atmosphere. I was particularly struck by the SZA inclusion as Taylor Russell leans out of a car window and experiences releases from the life she once thought she had. And the Frank Ocean content attacked me in ways I didn’t expect or ask for and I’ll be thinking about them for the longest time.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say as a lot of my feelings for this movie are those indescribable swells of emotion you get and you can’t quite explain why. I just know that I’m in love with this movie and I want to watch it every day and I’m enamoured by everything it contains. However raw and painful some of it might be, it’s produced in such a creative way that it doubles down on what you feel because it’s telling you how important it is to feel and connect even at the impossible parts of life.

I could say much more about Waves, but it’s going to take a few more rewatches to truly figure it out. I wanted to get my first impressions out there because of how passionate I am about this film, something that has touched me so deeply and I know it’s going to change the way I think about things and the way I watch films in the future. A future favourite, of that I’m certain.

I know there’s division on this movie, so let me know what you thought of it, either in the comments or on Twitter!

Twitter: Jamie_Carrick_
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Reacting To The 92nd Academy Award Nominees

So today, whilst I was at work, the latest batch of Oscar nominations were released. I refrained from looking on my breaks and instead waited until I was in the comfort of my own home so I could react to what was inevitably going to be a messy, yet predictable set of nominees. There were a few big shocks which I will address in due course, and some delightful surprises along the way. I will be writing a piece closer to the time about my personal ballot and who I think should have been nominated, but that’s to come the week before the Oscars I think.

I’m going to go through the categories, examine the nominees and give my take on what the category looks like. I won’t be doing predictions just yet, that’ll again come later, I just want to give my thoughts on how deserving the nominees are in my opinion. And remember, this is just my subjective opinion and it does not count towards factuality.

I will be “ignoring” the docs and the shorts simply because I haven’t seen any of them yet, but I will be trying to so maybe I can write about them in my next Oscars post.

Going in reverse order to build suspense as always, here are the nominees for the 92nd annual Academy Awards.

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

I think all of the nominees somewhat deserve to be here, as they all displayed some stunning effects and creative use of digital technology to complement the story rather than just flashy effects. Star Wars feeling just like a nom the franchise usually achieves rather than as an indication of its prowess, but it still had some great effects going on. I’m not sure I’d kick up a fuss about any of these nominees winning, but I do think some have the edge over others for going above and beyond to successfully delivering what they needed to. Two saga finales, a live-action remake, a Scorsese epic, and a war film. Surprisingly light on the franchise blockbusters, but that’s a good thing. It means that intelligent visual effects work can be rewarded.

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

For me, this category nominated three instances of immaculate editing, one good film that was artfully strung together, and one with use of editing I barely even recall. It won’t take a genius to figure those categories out, but I’m quite satisfied with this category, even if films like Marriage Story and Little Women probably deserved to have more a shot for the work that was done on those films. But hey, I like 4/5 of these movies and would be happy with them scooping the prize for this category. The clown can stay away.

Best Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Every year, there are one or two truly deserving winners in my eyes, and then a nomination that I don’t quite understand. Then there’s one that makes me think again about the costuming in the film and go “Oh yeah, that was pretty good, wasn’t it?” This absolutely applies here, and I think that not including films such as Rocketman and Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a huge missed opportunity as they used their costuming work to contribute to theme, character, and storytelling which is more than can be said for, you guessed it, the clown who won’t leave me alone.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Finally, this category has rightfully expanded to containing five nominees rather than three for no apparent reason. Within the actual nominees themselves, I would say that all five somewhat belong in the conversation (you thought I was going to exclude the clown again, didn’t you?) and it’s a pleasant surprise to see Maleficent: Mistress of Evil show up amongst the more awards-focused movies. Once again, I would’ve loved to see Little Women or Rocketman here, but overall I’m not too discouraged by the state of the nominees. That will not last long.

Best Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

All of these films contained something good in terms of their cinematography. Jarin Blaschke’s work was one of my favourite things about The Lighthouse, a film I admittedly didn’t love. Deakins’ work speaks for itself, and Prieto and Richardson are stalwart contenders in this race. Joker wasn’t shot badly, I just had problems with the colour palette. Not to sound like a broken record, but Little Women and Portrait of a Lady on Fire were right there, Academy! As well as Parasite, Midsommar, and Ad Astra. It just feels very safe and repetitive in a lot of categories this year, which is disappointing and could have been an avenue to showcase some more alternative styles as with The Lighthouse.

Best Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite

Despite the much-deserved love for Parasite, this feels like safe category once again. There was nothing noteworthy about The Irishman‘s production design in my opinion, same with OUATIH (refusing to type the whole thing AGAIN). Jojo and 1917 both displayed some great period-typical designs, while Parasite blows all four of them out of the water with its thematic approach to production design, resulting in what will be one of the most iconic movie houses to ever grace the screen. Also noteworthy in this category could have been the likes of Knives Out, Little Women, and Ad Astra. But you do you, Academy, nominate the same things ten times just for the hell of it.

Best Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Finally, a reason to write about Ad Astra legitimately being considered for an award it deserves! This category quite closely matches my personal ballot, with the two exceptions being glaringly obvious. Joker I can more understand for its final moments, but OUATIH? Over films such as Rocketman, this just feels, again, like throwing away a nomination to a film they loved without considering the parameters of what the category calls for. 1917 is a no-brainer, Ford v Ferrari is so well mixed that I wouldn’t even mind it winning, and Ad Astra speaks for itself.

Best Sound Editing

Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

This also brings back a trend I hate with these categories. Four nominees show up in both categories, and then the last one is entirely different. Although the distinctions are quite different, it feels like the Academy’s attempt to ‘shake things up’ and be different. By throwing another nomination to OUATIH for very little reason at all? There were plenty more films to see, AMPAS! I’m too mad about these categories to comment more. Justice for Ad Astra.

Best Original Song

“I’m Standing With You” from Breakthrough
“Into The Unknown” from Frozen II
“Stand Up” from Harriet
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4

Yes, finally something for Rocketman, and a fully deserving one this is. But this also means I’m going to have to see Breakthrough, so thanks for that Diane Warren! Into The Unknown isn’t close to the best song from Frozen II, that honour would go to “Show Yourself”, I can’t even remember how the Toy Story 4 song goes, but there you go. Quite happy for Harriet/Rocketman to win, but will be mourning the snub of Beyoncé for the spectacular “Spirit” from The Lion King. Also gutted I won’t be seeing Jessie Buckley belt one out at the Dolby in a month’s time.

Best Original Score

Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Finally a category I have no qualms about! While I would have LOVED to see Avengers: Endgame make it in here for it’s chilling, pulse-pounding polyphony, I enjoyed all five nominees this time, even Joker. Hildur created some beautiful music for the film, my problem was with how it was mixed (see the previous objection to Sound Mixing above). Little Women and Marriage Story provide some gorgeous accompaniment to beautiful dialogue, Star Wars sees John Williams back in his comfort zone, but 1917 accompanied a thrilling experience with an incredible score that is still ringing in my ears even now. Despite the ineligibility of Ad Astra and losing Parasite to the bake-off, this is a solid category and I’m excited to see who triumphs. Let’s hope Thomas Newman can beat his cousin Randy and win on his fifteenth outing to the Dolby.

Best International Feature Film

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

Okay, admittedly I’ve only seen Parasite so far (will be working on that before the Oscars) but I can’t see a world in which it loses. Unfortunately, Portrait was not eligible due to the one-film submission policy per country, but I’ve heard great things about Les Miserables. Will have to provide an updated look at this category soon.

Best Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Quite a boring category every year, but I have two things to say.

I’m shocked at the Frozen II snub.

I LOST MY BODY BETTER WIN. Seriously, go check it out on Netflix if you haven’t yet!

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

Four great screenplays and one of the worst I’ve ever come across in a film. Yes, of course I’m talking about Joker. A truly amateur script and easily the worst thing about an already mediocre movie. While The Two Popes suffers in its second hour, the remaining three thrive on their liveliness. Gerwig makes you feel like you’re watching your friends for two hours, Zaillian breathes new life into a tired genre, and Waititi delivers the most original script of the year. Any of those three would be worthy winners, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of Hustlers and The Farewell, two scripts I loved a lot and would’ve been thrilled to see.

Best Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite

While JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio are being derided for their latest script fails, Rian Johnson shook off the dust and became an Oscar nominee. Sorry, needed a minute to indulge in the pettiness of it all. But seriously, this is such a win for original storytelling and I’m so glad Knives Out got a chance to shine. Mendes and Wilson-Cairns’ lovely work on 1917 is a welcome addition, but Tarantino really dropped the ball and is still being showered with praise. Again, the script was the weakest part of the movie and failed to grasp character or theme without being as obvious as a clown jumping out a cake. It’s Baumbach and Bong who stand out for me here. Both do exceptional work with character, theme, and genre while delivering a multitude of memorable moments that build on the last. It would have been nice to see Booksmart or Portrait of a Lady on Fire here, but this is the category that matches my personal ballot the most closely with 4/5 matching.

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern – (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

I haven’t seen Richard Jewell yet, but I didn’t expect Bates to actually make the Oscar five. Dern, Johansson, Pugh, and Robbie all earn their places, but this is definitely quite a controversial category indeed with the omission of Jennifer Lopez for her towering work in Hustlers. I’m fully on the Pugh train, but Lopez would have indeed been a welcome addition to the group. Not much to say other than that though, just that I’m glad Robbie wasn’t nominated for her other work this year. Bombshell wasn’t a good film, but she was terrific in it. And they actually gave her things to do!

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood)
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

One average performance, one good performance, two very good ones and one great one. Three guesses who isn’t winning my love this award season. Yes, it’s the runaway winner so far, Brad Pitt, who did FAR better unnoticed work in Ad Astra. It’s nice to see four actors who won acting Oscars in the 90’s recognised here, as none of them have been nominated in the last two decades. Pesci is delightful, Hopkins and Hanks do beautiful work, but Pacino is the most charismatic I’ve seen him in a long time and balances character and grandiosity in a beautiful way. Would have been nice to see Song Kang-Ho recognised or, less likely, Jonathan Majors for his gorgeous performance in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. But I’ll take what I can get.

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renée Zellweger (Judy)

Finally an actor of colour nominated! One out of 20 is seriously not good work, Academy. With all the heat the BAFTAs got, the Oscars haven’t done much better. Anyway, five good performances, can’t complain! Honestly, I think there’s one good performance and four excellent ones. Ronan is my personal standout and I would have loved to see Awkwafina here for her turn in The Farewell. There’s a lot of talent on display here, that’s for sure. Can’t really go wrong no matter who wins.

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

This is what I like to call “Snub City”. Instead of DiCaprio and Phoenix, it would have been all too easy to insert MacKay and Egerton. And Pitt and DeNiro could’ve easily taken those slots. I haven’t seen Banderas yet, but I’ve heard all great things. Driver is the clear winner in my eyes, but it’s so nice to see Pryce recognised for his patient work in The Two Popes. And where is Eddie Murphy?

Best Director

Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Out of petulant protest, I am only congratulating Bong and Mendes for their towering achievement.

Two words, Academy. Greta. Gerwig.

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite

Here’s the main thing. 2019 was the best year for film I’ve witnessed in a while and I consider six films on this list 5-stars. But it’s the other end of the spectrum that is letting the side down for me. Joker and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (I’ve copy and pasted this title in several times in this post) were disappointing personally, and I’m surprised Ford v Ferrari garnered enough first-place votes, especially over critical favourites Knives Out or The Farewell. Considering I like Ford v Ferrari quite a bit, I have a 7/9 chance to be at least satisfied with the result of this category, but I’m guessing one of the disappointments is going to run away with the crown. If it’s Joker, I officially retire from awards season next time. If it’s Parasite, consider me impressed.

I hope you enjoyed reading ten minutes of me saying “I hate Joker and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” and praising Little Women and Parasite the entire time. I’m going to check back in when I’ve seen as much as I can and deliver my personal ballot which should be very exciting!

Come react to the nominations with me on Twitter @Jamie_Carrick_

1917 (2019): Review

I love movies. Gosh, I love movies.

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves may have proclaimed those words, but I have co-opted this as a placeholder for what I want to say about Sam Mendes’ latest release, 1917. Of course I have more to say, but wouldn’t that be an uncharacteristically succinct review from myself?

No such luck, I’m afraid. My thoughts about this movie have been swirling around in my head for six hours now and they’re about to be splattered all over this webpage like a bullet to the heart.

1917 tells the story of two soldiers tasked with delivering a message to a battalion who have planned an attack on German forces for the next day. With a time-sensitive, life-threatening mission on their hands, these two soldiers must fight tooth and nail to intercept the attack and save multitudes of soldiers from a deadly ambush.

With a premise like that, you could easily have written this off as just another World War I movie. I wouldn’t blame you. Then comes the directorial input.

Mendes’ decision to place the film in real time and have the film look as though it unfolds in one continuous take was certainly a bold one that even shocked master cinematographer Roger Deakins when he first read about it in the script. To say that it paid off would be a colossal understatement.

War movies typically try to place you in the mind of the solders as they encounter perilous situations and horrific psychological trauma. 1917 does this, of course, but the long takes truly lock you into this experience and deep immersion is the result. You’re with these characters for two hours and experiencing everything that they do as it happens with no opportunity to release yourself from its clutches. Everything is precise, meticulous, and set up so that you’re on this journey with them, viscerally feeling everything they do. The movie is packed with moments like this, that feel more like virtual reality than any movie I’ve ever seen. You feel yourself gasping, cringing, leaning forward in your seat, trying to calm the anxiety that swells inside of you.

Having the movie be in real-time definitely helps the intended effect that Mendes wanted. Every single step these characters take could be their last, every sound they make could alert the enemy, every second that passes could bring something new to the table. And by letting us be a voyeur into this, only seeing what the characters see for the most part, it gives us a sense of unease. There are moments where the camera pans around them, allowing us to see what’s behind them seconds before they turn around. It’s one of those experiences where you tense up and long to shout at the screen for them to protect themselves before it’s too long. The creeping pace really does immerse you in this hell-scape and it’s one of the tensest experiences I’ve had at the cinema for a long time.

Roger Deakins cannot be praised enough for his work on this film. He’s likely our greatest living cinematographer and he continues to prove why. There is one scene that I think will be etched in my brain forever due to his talents, and I won’t spoil it but if you’ve seen the film you know which one it is. (Hint: it’s not the one from the teaser trailer, although that is also a remarkable scene.) Deakins cleverly plays with his angles here, choosing where to position the camera and how to move it so we stay parallel with our protagonists. Likely drawing on Paths of Glory and Atonement for inspiration, the long takes are truly masterful, effectively using the background space of the screen to add to the raw, unflinching world of battle in a way that is subtle yet powerful. His use of natural lighting to accentuate the time-sensitivity is genius and no doubt would have created a plethora of production issues due to having to do numerous takes with the same lighting and having to portray the course of a single day.

Mendes’ praise also needs to be piled on top on him in large heaps like shrapnel from a collapsed building. Not only his decision to shoot the film in such a way, but the execution is flawless. The blocking of the actors, the building of tension, the setups and payoffs, everything Mendes touched turned to gold with 1917. He’s already proven himself a capable director, having won an Oscar for American Beauty and produced what I think is the best Craig-era Bond film, Skyfall (also with the assistance of Mr. Deakins), but 1917 is his crowning achievement, and I’d love to see what he could do top it if possible.

The sound work on this movie is incredible, as is to be expected with immersive war films. Every single bullet fired feels like a shot to the heart, every explosion invokes nothing but sheer terror, and even the sound of the squelching mud and crunching footsteps helps to unnerve you as you realise that anything can be their downfall and you’re on the edge of your seat watching it all unfold hoping that nothing they step on blows up or any of the bullets fired hit them. Exceptional work.

The script is the most pleasant surprise of them all, though. Co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Mendes ensures that the technical innovation isn’t the only worthwhile thing to focus on. To follow these soldiers for two hours means we have to feel connected to them, we have to like them and their dynamic and that’s something 1917 accomplishes with aplomb. Blake and Schofield strangely feel like people we know, and their relationship is created instantly, unlocking a key part of the film: allowing us to care.

Here’s the part I’m least looking forward to talking about, it’s obvious comparisons to Dunkirk. It’s already happened and it’s going to continue happening. A war film edited by Lee Smith that plays with the idea of time to convey the horrors of war? Checks out. What Dunkirk purposefully did was alienate us from the characters by never really building up development or relationships, potentially as anti-war statement about the disposability of soldiers during wartime. Just a theory, but it’s interesting how 1917 went for the exact opposite approach and nailed it.

For a war movie to be character-focused is a dream come true. For it to display technical mastery, a new way of telling that type of story with actual stakes, and make us care for the characters as individuals rather than as a microcosm for the entire army, is staggering. 1917 rarely puts a foot wrong when dealing with these characters and every single gesture, every single line of dialogue spoken enriches them and makes us want to follow them and make sure that they are safe.

Of course, these characters are going through some things, and that requires a lot from their portrayers. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman give delightful performances and manage to convey completely different portraits of soldiers in war. Chapman’s Blake is the one assigned the mission, as his brother is part of the battalion and it’s mentioned that he’s rather good with map-reading. MacKay’s Schofield is his unwittingly chosen partner, who follows his best friend into the depths of the horror to protect him and the lives of 1600 soldiers. Chapman’s range is a pleasant surprise, having only seen him in Game of Thrones and The King. He manages to deliver a spirited performance through his character’s jokes and anecdotes, while also switching to a serious display of determination without missing a single beat. His emotions are clear on his face and he does a great job of selling them.

But George MacKay has to be the standout here. He went from being an actor I’d seen in a few things and thought he was good, straight to ‘I am going to watch him in anything he does from now on’. He’s that good. Giving one of the best performances of 2019 (and probably 2020), MacKay shines as the unknowing tag-along in a race against time to save the lives of many. MacKay goes through a lot in this movie and you can physically see the weariness on his face and through his physical expression. Honestly, it’s mastery of the craft and it’s a performance I’m going to be thinking about for a while. His range is spectacular and he sells every single moment exceptionally and his lack of awards love is baffling, especially when the film is garnering praise and, for me, he’s a large part of why it works so well. He’s a conduit for our fear, hesitation, and our emotional journey which is something that needed to work well for the film to succeed. Immersion is key and MacKay provides something to hold onto during this film. I will never stop singing his praises for a mature performance that signals the true start of a tremendous and long career.

1917 boasts superlative technical craft controlled by masters of industry, a solid and effective script that glides along the real-time pacing and absorbs you into the world, and a duo of terrific performances that work at evoking the tension and fear war films are supposed to thrive on. One of the best films I’ve seen in a while, and I can’t wait to see it again.

1917 is in UK cinemas nationwide now!

My 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2020

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a great holiday break and New Year and is killing 2020 so far (I know I’m not so someone needs to).

As the last few 2019 releases finally bring themselves to the UK (Waves, I’ve been waiting forever!), I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past year in film. You can see my Top 20 on my Letterboxd list here (follow me while you’re at it), but I personally think it was one of my favourites in recent memory. While there was some bad stuff, some of which are Oscar frontunners and if you read this blog at all you know what I’m talking about, there were also some incredible movies put out this year and even some outside of my Top 20 are some of my favourites and that’s when I know that it’s been a good year. When films like A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood and Shazam! (two of my favourites) don’t make the Top 20, it has to be stacked.

While it’s nice to reminisce, it’s a brand new decade and it’s a time for looking ahead to what comes next. 2020 looks to be a big year in film, with a lot of great directors making their returns to the big screen, and a lot of interesting blockbusters that are sure to cause a stir when they finally hit cinemas across the globe.

I compiled a shortlist of 20 and there were a few that I was reluctant to strike off and they’ve basically become honourable mentions at this point.

A Quiet Place Part II
Birds of Prey
First Cow

I can’t wait for all three of these films, but there are 10 others that I’m more excited for, all for a variety of different reasons as you’ll see below. Hopefully I’ll keep this concise, but if you read my Top 50 Films Of The Decade list you know that it’ll be hard for me.

10. The Woman in the Window (dir. Joe Wright)

Okay first up is a film that, from its trailer, has one redeeming quality and that is the queen of acting, Amy Adams. From her Variety ‘Actors on Actors’ interview with Nicole Kidman, she stated that Wright wanted to explore the root of anxiety and how it manifests itself within a person. Amy Adams playing that sounded to delicious to even fathom.

And then it got pushed back from its awards season release date back to a safer May slot due to negative test reactions to the third act. That makes me lose a lot of confidence in it.

The trailer didn’t wholly convince me, even though I’m a big fan of Wright’s work, mostly his earlier works but we’re not here to talk about Darkest Hour. We’re here to talk about Amy Adams-I mean this movie and all the talented people in it!

It feels like the culmination of the female-book adaptation-thriller genre, which opened with 2014’s Gone Girl and continued with 2016’s admittedly lesser quality The Girl on the Train. The Woman in the Window (while sounding like a Bones episode title) feels like it could round out somewhere in the middle of these prior two. I’m doubting it’ll live up to Fincher’s classic, but for me will probably surpass Tate Taylor’s should’ve-been-better Emily Blunt showcase. I like these sorts of films, but they’re becoming a little been-there-done-that for my liking and I’m hoping that Wright manages to put a new spin on something that might get tired very quickly.

Anyway, the cast is great, but the reason that is at number 10 is because of what won’t be there…an original score by Reznor and Ross which would have most certainly uplifted the film. The super-talented Danny Elfman stepped in on their behalf, but I would have loved to see Amy Adams peering through her blinds with Reznor and Ross’ likely blood-pumping score zapped through the film.

I guess we’ll see when it opens May 15th.

9. Run (dir. Aneesh Chaganty)

Remember in 2018 when we all rolled our eyes about another movie that was made entirely on technology screens and was probably going to be groan-inducing? And THEN remember our surprise when Searching turned out to be one of the year’s best, gorgeously blending its cool style with a genuinely gripping thriller/mystery with a great John Cho performance and a killer ending? Yeah I remember that.

So to hear that Chaganty is following that up with a suspenseful thriller starring SARAH PAULSON is thoroughly exciting and I genuinely did not need to know any more because I gave it a spot on this list. Chaganty has proven himself to be an exciting up-and-coming director/writer, and with the divine talents of Ms Paulson, it’s no doubt in line to be a terrific movie. Paulson always picks interesting projects, so I’m very intrigued to see where she does with this type of material, especially given Chaganty’s talents for thriller films. You get the sense that he just knows film and that’s really pleasing to see in an era where some of the most highest grossing films are just carbon copies of their predecessors. Chaganty is a fresh new voice in both the genre and the industry and I cannot wait to see what he does to follow up Searching.

I’m not sure when Run is set to come out in the UK and I have literally no other details about it, but it comes out in the US at the end of this month, January 24th! Go see it, Americans, and support original movies!

8. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (dir. Charlie Kaufman)

Oh boy, this had to make the list.

Let’s review shall we?

-Charlie Kaufman is adapting an acclaimed psychological/horror novel.
-The cast includes Jessie Buckley (hello), Jesse Plemons (HELLO), and Toni “I am your mother” Collette (HELLO!)
-Not to mention that secret rising star Abby Quinn also makes an appearance. Go watch After The Wedding.
-It’s being photographed by Łukasz Żal, the genius behind the cinematography in Cold War and Ida.

What more could you want?

Thankfully, I don’t know too much about the story or the characters (hence why it’s so low down on the list), so it’ll be a total surprise and I think I’m going to try and avoid the trailer for this one, although that’ll be near impossible since Netflix insist on showing you every trailer for everything as soon as you open the site. Fingers crossed though.

Again, not sure when we’ll see this considering it hasn’t been in post-production for too long, but Netflix have said to expect it in the first quarter of 2020 which is highly exciting!

7. Antlers (dir. Scott Cooper)

Okay, let’s be honest with ourselves here. Pretty much the only reason this film was even on my radar was because of Keri Russell. I can admit that, but I saw the trailer and I genuinely can’t wait to see it.

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Antlers is what is described as a “supernatural horror film” which aren’t typically up my alley but there’s enough intrigue in the trailer, as well as the talents involved in the film, to keep my excitement levels high. Any crew that recognise the extraordinary talents of Keri Russell deserve my attention. And while this may turn out to be another sub-par horror film, my initial reaction is positive, because it seems like it’s something a little fresh which is always good. Cooper is plenty capable behind the camera so that won’t be an issue, and there’s a lot of talent supporting this film, including Academy Award-winning editor Dylan Tichenor to keep the film in place.

So while Antlers might not be the next Hereditary in terms of modern horror’s quality, it’s one that I’m looking forward to all the same, and seeing Keri Russell in a movie on the big screen will never get old.

Like most movies, there’s no word on a UK release date yet so I’ll likely have to wait a while, but it’s scheduled for April 17th. Get excited and go see it.

6. Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell)

Can we just take a second to talk about how this came out of nowhere and looks absolutely terrific?

It was on my radar, like most things that Carey Mulligan does, but I wasn’t truly excited about it until I saw that trailer. I knew from the second it finished that this was probably going to be one of my favourites of the year. With a stacked cast and a really cool premise, Promising Young Woman may shape up to be something truly special.

Emerald Fennell, as stated in the trailer, is best known for her work on Killing Eve, show-running the second season and executive producing. That should tell you all you need to know about good this is going to be. Fennell is writing, producing, and directing this and I for one cannot wait. Mulligan seems to be turning in a performance like we’ve never seen from her, and she has an army of talented actors at her disposal including Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Molly Shannon, Connie Britton, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge, Alfred Molina, and Chris Lowell just to name a few, there are definitely some I’ve missed.

With a take on revenge that calls to echo what’s happening in the world, Promising Young Woman is, well…promising.

Oh and the trailer using Archimia’s string quartet version of Toxic? EVERYTHING.

After premiering at Sundance, the film will open seemingly on the same day as Antlers, April 17th, so there’s an amazing double feature for you all!

5. West Side Story (dir. Steven Spielberg)

I can’t think of more of an odd couple than Steven Spielberg and West Side Story. The two just don’t mesh in my mind. But considering how much I love the original movie and the musical, there’s very little that Spielberg could do to ruin this.

Headed by Ansel Elgort as Tony and newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria (who by the way is so funny on Twitter I already love her), this remake is one that I’m not immediately discounting. I’m a fan of Elgort’s singing voice and I consider myself cautiously optimistic to hear how he takes on Something’s Coming. From what I’ve heard of Zegler, she seems to be an exceptional find and I’m very excited to see what she can make of the character. And yet another seemingly great casting choice is Brian D’Arcy James as Officer Krupke. I can already see it in my mind.

With Kaminski obviously back to shoot it and Kushner penning the script, Spielberg has assembled his usual crack squad to hopefully produce what it going to be one of the year’s most entertaining movies as well as a worthwhile remake. I’m not sure it’ll surpass the original in my eyes, but I’m hoping to have a good time and consider it worthy of being made.

4. Mank (dir. David Fincher)

The dead speak! Father Fincher has returned to bless us with a new movie, his first in 6 years.

As with any David Fincher release, I am excited. One of my favourite directors, Fincher is a force to be reckoned with in the industry, his meticulous craft producing some of the finest work of the 21st century. But here it’s the story I’m not too sure about. Written by his late father, Mank tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz and the problems he faced writing the classic Citizen Kane.

Armed with some of his usual team, Baxter, Reznor, and Ross, Fincher looks to make another modern masterpiece, this time by recounting a tale of old. The cast looks pretty great too, you just know Gary Oldman is going to eat this up. And more exciting, Amanda Seyfried is back! I know, I know she’s been consistently acting forever, but I’ve missed her taking on exciting projects like First Reformed and Lovelace. Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, and Charles Dance are also in the movie, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a great ensemble.

I don’t really know much more, but the mere mention of David Fincher’s name invokes some reaction within me and I’m instantly excited by whatever he’s going to give us when Netflix release it at some point this year.

3. Black Widow (dir. Cate Shortland)

Yes, I’m aware of how predictable I am.

Yes, I know there’s a good chance that this movie will amount to just being ‘good’ rather than the masterpiece I’m expecting.

But Queen of 2019 Florence Pugh is in it and who am I to resist her?

I always love seeing Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and she’s provided some of my favourite moments of the MCU and it’s about time she got her own movie. I know she’s said that if it wasn’t for the development of the prior movies she wouldn’t have had as good a grasp on the character so the standalone came at the right time, but we’ve been waiting for this. While not the prequel I anticipated as it’s supposedly set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, I’m still looking forward to seeing more than a glimpse of Natasha’s past as hinted as in Avengers: Age of Ultron. She’ll be reuniting with her family and people from her past and that’s just exciting. Plus…Rachel Weisz!

So yes, I’m MCU trash and will be seeing this movie as soon as humanly possibly and probably multiple times, but what are you gonna do? I have to stan.

2. Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Okay, I’ll come clean.

I’m a moderate Nolan fan. Not a huge Nolan fan because a lot of his movies have very obvious flaws that always manage to take me out of them and rarely do I feel connected to his movies and that’s something I need.

As I’ve stated in my Joker review (go read it), The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. But I’m in the minority when I say that it’s his only one. Some cite Inception and Interstellar and Dunkirk, or even The Prestige, but they’re all bogged down by a different facet that means I can’t love them as much as I might want to. Interstellar came very close, but a lengthy first act and a deeply flawed screenplay can’t save amazing visuals and great performances (plus young Timothée Chalamet).

But Tenet looks like it might have a little bit of all of these movies which hopefully spliced together might make Nolan’s second masterpiece.

Or maybe Elizabeth Debicki is in it and that’s enough for me.

I joke, but that really is a contributing factor…

Tenet looks to be the right amount of mind-bending and the right amount of entertaining, something I didn’t find with Inception even though I find it to be impeccably crafted. Tenet is something I still don’t know the story of and I don’t want to watch any more trailers if I can avoid them which I probably can’t considering cinemas love playing Nolan trailers. With an exciting cast, a compelling set of behind-the-camera talents, Tenet looks like it might be another extremely solid flick from Nolan, and hopefully it goes above and beyond and becomes something I love.

Tenet is scheduled for release on July 17th.

1. Dune (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Do I even have to say it? Let me just list some of these cast members for a second.

Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgârd, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa…

And that’s not even all of them.

And with a score by Hans Zimmer, cinematography from Greig Fraiser, and editing from Villeneuve’s trusty Joe Walker, there’s not much that can prevent this from being a technical marvel and just an all around masterpiece.

Maybe the fact that the novel is deemed unadaptable might cause issues, but if I’m right in thinking that they’re planning to do it in two parts, that might just work.

I don’t know a lot about Denis’ plans on how to make Dune work, but I’m extremely confident in a director who hasn’t a set a foot wrong in his career and who, in 7 years, make 6 films that range from ‘great’ to ‘masterpiece’.

Dune is currently set to open on December 18th.

What films are you guys excited for in 2020? As always, come talk to me about them on Twitter @Jamie_Carrick_, I’d love to hear them!

Here’s to a great year in film and a great year of semi-consistent posting on this blog…a guy can dream.

My Top 50 Films Of The Decade

I’m going to open with a bit of an explanation and a disclaimer of sorts. This is subjective. My opinions are my own and I’ve put a lot of thoughts into them. I probably won’t agree with a lot of your personal choices, but I have reasons for every film that’s on this list. That being said, this list is an amalgamation of my ‘best’ of the decade list and my ‘favourite’ list. Some films got a boost for being “better” than others, and some films are included for sentimental value or rewatch value, or simply because I like them more. Not every film on this list is going to be a 10/10 masterpiece (though I think a lot of them are), but I love every film I’ve included a lot.

Oh and also before I forget, I’ve compiled this over the month of December, and there are a lot of movies I haven’t seen that have been critically acclaimed this decade. Nobody can see everything, and there are a lot of films that I have yet to see from 2019, but I wanted to get this list out before 2020 rolls around, so unfortunately they’re going to have to wait. If I see them in 2020 and feel very strongly about them being in this list, I will just update it accordingly. If I’m being honest, the only film I’ve yet to see that I think could make this list is Waves, but I haven’t been able to see it yet, so it’ll have to stay off for now. If anything changes, I’ll let you all know. I know some people complain about ‘Best of the Decade’ lists being done without having seen as much as possible, but it’s just how the timing works out. My decision is to release it while I’m still in 2019 and I’m sticking to that.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s dive right in because there’s a lot of ground to cover and I have a feeling I’m going to go way overboard in talking about the films that I love. Some of the placements and results may surprise you, and they surprised me too. But I’m mostly happy with how I’ve ranked them and I hope you all enjoy reading about my favourite/best films of the 2010 decade.

It’s been a great decade for film, though admittedly some years weren’t as great as others (looking at you, 2011). The 50 films you’re about to see are some that I believe represent the best of what the decade had to offer that I’ve managed to see. I do want to run through some honourable mentions quite quickly, because I had a very tough task in cutting down my shortlist that was originally 120 films long. So I feel as though 10 honourable mentions is worth, well, mentioning because there’s a lot of great films that I missed off.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Nocturnal Animals (2016) dir. Tom Ford
  • Blade Runner 2049 (2017) dir. Denis Villeneuve
  • The Handmaiden (2016) dir. Park Chan-Wook
  • Nightcrawler (2014) dir. Dan Gilroy
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) dir. Céline Sciamma
  • Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig
  • Burning (2018) dir. Lee Chang-Dong
  • You Were Never Really Here (2018) dir. Lynne Ramsay
  • The Favourite (2018) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Short Term 12 (2013) dir. Destin Daniel Cretton

I love the above 10 films with all my heart, but a lot of hard decisions were made and they unfortunately didn’t make the cut. It was a close thing, though, but the 50 I’m about to list have a little something special that make them stand out in a decade full of brilliant cinema. Without further ado, here are my picks for My 50 Films of the Decade.

50. It Follows (2014) dir. David Robert Mitchell

It Follows kicks off this list with one of the most impressive opening scenes of the decade. Mitchell’s camerawork is stunning throughout, his positioning genius in terms of how it relates to the audience’s experience, making us feel as though we’re being followed too, as things often walk straight towards the camera which is some of the most chilling stuff I’ve seen. Maika Monroe delivers a brilliant breakout performance in one of the most original horrors of the decade, which almost doubles as an effective PSA about teenage sexuality. A terrific score and solid direction make this a fantastic introduction to both this list and the directorial talents of David Robert Mitchell. Even though I didn’t love his follow up Under The Silver Lake, I have faith in his abilities once he can provide a story that’s on par with his vision. Here’s to more great stuff from him in the 20’s.

49. Drive (2011) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

If one thing is for sure, it’s that Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the decade’s most controversial directors. All three of this films this decade (Drive, Only God Forgives, and The Neon Demon) have been subjected to similar criticism regarding style over substance. In Drive, it almost doesn’t matter. I’m someone who loves a good story and I usually don’t want to sit through a plotless film that looks nice. Drive combines its breathtaking visuals with a heart-pounding synth score that locks you into the aesthetic Winding Refn planned. Ryan Gosling stars as The Driver, clad in his iconic jacket, who performs getaway services for less than morally upstanding characters. The films contains some brutal violence which turned some off, but the engaging production values and talented cast make this a memorable watch, and one that is as technically proficient as it is controversial. Also, a film with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Hendricks in it? Of course I’m going to watch it a million times.

48. The Avengers (2012) dir. Joss Whedon

Anyone who knows me at all knows that this was coming. The culmination of four years worth of world-building and character introductions resulted in a marvellously paced (sorry), high-adrenaline superhero movie that became the cornerstone of the ‘shared universe’ dynamic that studios are attempting. Marvel brought together its six iconic heroes for a comic book fan’s wet dream. Combining these wonderful actors in this wonderful team up with an interesting fan-favourite villain in Loki, The Avengers brought Joss Whedon’s signature comedic style to the genre, utilising the rest of Phase 1 of the MCU without alienating those who weren’t avidly following along. One of the highest-grossing films of all time, The Avengers should probably never have worked. But with the combined efforts of the cast, crew, and the developers at Marvel Studios, it became a celebration of collaboration and the gateway to the rest of Marvel’s cinematic canon, and still remains one of their best.

47. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) dir. Stephen Chbosky

You would think that a movie adaptation of a beloved yet controversial epistolary novel from the 90’s would collapse and fail to make an impact. But Stephen Chbosky’s Perks, adapted from his own novel, utilises its picture-perfect casting and the nostalgic soundtrack to inject a lot of heart that is drawn straight from the pages of the novel. Logan Lerman’s Charlie is flawless, a true case of casting magic. It is also credited, along with the fabulous We Need To Talk About Kevin, with launching Ezra Miller into stardom. Sure, there were complaints of the movie being too cloying and Emma Watson’s accent not being great, but she truly detaches herself from the Hermione Granger image in this film. Perks is smart, well-acted, stunningly written, and knows exactly what it is and what it wants to do. Incredibly heartfelt and pretty faithful to the source material for the hardcore fans of the novel.

46. Leave No Trace (2018) dir. Debra Granik

It’s difficult not to launch this way up the list and have it sat in my Top 20, because I truly think this film is pretty much close to perfection. Debra Granik’s (of Winter’s Bone fame) first feature in eight years, Leave No Trace is a study of isolation and being alone together. Beautifully performed by Ben Foster & Thomasin McKenzie, the film is an incredibly heartfelt expression of the necessity of independence in a world where everything is controlled. Written and directed to perfection, Granik doesn’t shy away from the emotional beats and she knows just how to grab you. With authenticity dripping from every beautifully composed shot, Leave No Trace will transfix you before punching you square in the face during the third act. A mesmerising film that should have seen an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at least. I know that I’ll continue to revisit it many many times to come.

45. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) dir. Kathryn Bigelow

This list really is ripe with controversy so far, isn’t it? Bigelow’s historic, Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker remains one of my favourites of the 2000’s, so it’s no surprise that Zero Dark Thirty, her acclaimed follow-up makes my list here too. The Hurt Locker featured a greatly explosive lead performance, some great action moments, and tension that’s just as good as anything you’ll see. Zero Dark Thirty has a lot of the same. Bolstered by Jessica Chastain’s fierce, dynamic performance, the film dramatises the search for Bin Laden, so was obviously going to attract controversy. Detractors claimed that the film presented a pro-torture stance, but Bigelow and Boal have defended this, claiming that it was an unfortunate part of the history that was necessary to question the use of force in gathering intelligence. I’m not one to weight in on this issue, but the filmmaking stands for itself. It’s gripping, shocking, and brutally shot. The third act sequence is one of the most tense things I’ve ever seen. It’s not one that I’ll watch over and over again because it’s very heavy, but it’s stuck in my mind after 7 years so that must count for something.

44. 12 Years A Slave (2013) dir. Steve McQueen

Without a doubt one of the heaviest, emotionally draining films on this list, 12 Years a Slave is nothing short of masterpiece filmmaking from McQueen and an assortment of fantastic performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, and Sarah Paulson. As harrowing as it is necessary, 12 Years a Slave is smartly directed, superbly written, and expertly performed. Filled to the brim with shocking moments of true evil, yet manages to find hope in the darkest of sequences, due in part of the relentless dedication of the cast and crew. 12 Years a Slave is a very difficult watch, but will also stand the test of time as one of the most poignant, realistic depictions of racism and slave-owning ever put to film. McQueen’s masterwork. Again, the only reason it’s not way higher is because of how truly hard it is to watch.

43. A Separation (2011) dir. Asghar Farhadi

A Separation isn’t what you think it is. The titular ‘separation’ is a multi-faceted inclusion in the movie. Sure, there is an actual issue of a separating couple, who are faced with the decision to leave Iran for a better life for their child or stay to care for a parent suffering with Alzheimer’s. The ‘separation’ is the true genius of the movie because it not only refers to this, but also to the class divide, gender politics in contemporary Iran, and even the physical space between people. Farhadi shoots the film in such an intelligent way, using the space to create these boundaries and reinforce the themes. The issue of actual physical contact sends the naturalistic plot into a tailspin and creates moral and ethicals quandaries that globalise the film and open up Iranian culture to everyone. These struggles aren’t esoteric by any means, A Separation is actually largely relatable when you really look at its themes and motifs. It doesn’t hurt that the two central performances by Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi are as captivating and nuanced as anything you’ll see. Farhadi has made a masterpiece that will absolutely stand the test of time. A must-see.

42. Booksmart (2019) dir. Olivia Wilde

The first 2019 film on this list and one of my favourites of this year. Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is on one hand your typical coming-of-age movie that has drawn comparisons to Superbad. Conversely, it’s a whip-smart look at teenage rebellion as well as the expectation of stereotypes. Booksmart is a hilarious entry into the genre’s canon, solidifying itself as one of the decade’s standouts already. Performed to perfection by leads Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, Booksmart plays to its strengths at every turn, showing off its witty dialogue and reinforcing the strength of the female friendship. Some have claimed it to be predictable, and perhaps it is, but Wilde ensures that it remains fresh and exciting and expertly paced, and it is one of the most impressive directorial debuts of the last few years. This one is more of a personal pick, as it is intensely relatable and there’s an assortment of characters with a surprising amount of depth to see yourself reflected in. Here’s to more female-driven high school movies and to Olivia Wilde’s hopefully extensive directorial career.

41. Jackie (2016) dir. Pablo Larraín

Another entry, another masterpiece. Jackie is, obviously, the story of Jackie Kennedy following the assassination her husband, but it’s not the biopic that it could have been. Larraín smartly utilises Noah Oppenheim’s brilliantly-written script in a non-linear structure that only benefits the storytelling. It breaks down the traditional ‘biopic’ conventions and becomes its own thing. Of course, none of this would be on this list without Natalie Portman’s stunning portrayal of Jackie, less a vocal imitation than a transcendent immersion of the highest quality. Portman is a delight to watch, delivering not only Jackie’s essence, but only the emotional stakes of the movie. Tie this performance with the luscious costuming work and production design, not to mention Mica Levi’s gorgeous minor-key compositions, and you’ve gotten yourself a bonafide masterwork.

40. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This is me we’re talking about, of course we’re not done with Marvel movies just yet. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favourite films of the decade because it’s barely a superhero movie, it blends into the political spy thriller genre so incredibly well. With Chris Evans truly nailing down the intricacies of Steve Rogers, and Scarlett Johansson’s first time truly digging into Natasha Romanoff’s complexity, the Russo brothers’ first outing into the MCU creates an interesting relationship between the two Avengers as well as setting up some interesting stakes and payoffs for future movies. Winter Soldier stands on its own as well though as a movie about acclimatising in a world where you don’t know your place, and who to trust when everybody seems to have an agenda. With some smart casting choices, and a great script, Winter Soldier stands out amongst the sequels in the MCU for following up an origin story with terrific character development and some greatly direction action pieces. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention how brilliant Sebastian Stan is in this.

39. Ex Machina (2015) dir. Alex Garland

Ex Machina boasts one of my favourite screenplays of all time, including a third act that is so pleasing to watch from a screenwriting standpoint that it automatically registers itself as one of my personal favourites. Led by an exciting trio of performances by Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina explores the nature of humanity through how it contrasts with artificial intelligence. Ava (Vikander) possesses several of the things that identifiably make us human and it’s interesting to see how her growth affects the actual humans, Nathan and Caleb. This really should be higher up my list but, unfortunately, I’ve watched it way too many times and isn’t as fresh as some of the higher films. Still, I have a deep love for this film and is one of the only screenplays I will actually read for fun, because it’s beautifully written and complex and intelligent and it’s everything I love about a piece of writing. Garland is a true talent.

38. I, Tonya (2017) dir. Craig Gillespie

Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya is a biopic that doesn’t deal with facts. It deals with perspectives, three of them to be precise. Led by three incredible performances by Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Oscar-winner Allison Janney, I, Tonya cleverly plays with structure and convention to tell a story of class, truths, and how the media can shape a narrative to their own viewpoints, perhaps persecuting the wrong person in the process. We don’t know the full truth around the Nancy Kerrigan scandal, but that works to the movie’s advantage. Unreliable narrators shrouded in doubt and uncertainty, Tonya, Jeff and Lavona tell the infamous story led by Steven Rogers’ smart script, tackling strong social issues and pushing a startling array of conflicting emotions upon the audience which all contributes to the idea that we never really know anything for sure, from our own emotions to the truth behind a national news story. One of the most entertaining, well-performed ‘biopics’ in recent memory.

37. Jojo Rabbit (2019) dir. Taika Waititi

The newest film on my list, having only seen it a week ago yet it’s going to become entrenched in my memory for a long time to come. Having never properly acclimating to Taiki Waititi’s directorial style or his offbeat comedic sensibilities, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Jojo Rabbit, his Nazi satire movie in which he stars as a 10 year-old wannabe Nazi’s imaginary friend. Sounds incredibly risky and not at all divisive, right? Well, you’d be correct in thinking that. The film portrays a lot of Nazi symbolism and some anti-Semitism, all in the name of making a point through satire about hate groups and the state of the world as we know it. The film has a surprising amount of heart, some moments of euphoria and some of bleak tragedy, and a collection of great performances from Scarlett Johansson, newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, and the previously mentioned Thomasin McKenzie. Not for everyone due to some occasional attempts at Nazi redemption, but if it hits you the right way, you’re in for a treat.

36. Steve Jobs (2015) dir. Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle movies are hit and miss with me. I hated Slumdog Millionaire and Yesterday, but really liked Sunshine and Trainspotting. His style either really works for me or doesn’t at all. Steve Jobs is an occasion where it really works, though I’m giving considerable credit to Aaron Sorkin’s fluidly masterful script work, as well as every single member of the cast. Michael Fassbender gives a tour de force performance as the titular tech mogul. He doesn’t try to imitate, neither physically or vocally, but instead he evokes Steve Jobs. He hits all the right beats, and elevates the script to even higher levels. Kate Winslet is also thoroughly effective as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ right-hand woman. Supporting players Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels, and Katherine Waterston also put in pretty great work in their roles. Boyle’s direction doesn’t quite make the script leap off the page but it does a good enough job that Sorkin’s script is allowed room to shine to the best of its ability, particularly in the first sequence. It’s a wonderful piece of film that depicts one of the world’s most controversial cultural icons with a flourish that remains impartial and presents a really interesting character study outside of Jobs’ technological accomplishments.

35. Hereditary (2018) dir. Ari Aster

I remember hearing about this movie when it played at Sundance, with people saying that it was a unique, special kind of horror film that would shake you to the core. I avoided the trailer and booked my ticket off the back of those glowing reviews. It twists the horror genre into a family drama about grief and survival, while providing enough vitality to get you through the initially perplexing plot turns. As brilliant as it is unconventional, Hereditary thrives on Aster’s balanced script, his exciting visuals and ideas, and the performances. As you’ve likely heard, Toni Collette gives the best performance of her career so far in a role that explores so many avenues that it’s a feat of genius just to pull it off, let alone perform it with such aplomb that you make an already brilliant movie even better. Alex Wolff also deserves a lot of praise for his measured, mostly physical work. Ann Dowd also out here killing it as usual. I love Hereditary because it’s deeply emotional yet the plot dissolves into an absurdly appropriate ending that might have been jarring to some, but for me it was the only way it could have ended. Grief can ruin a person if not handled correctly, and Hereditary shows that you can find comfort in the oddest of places.

34. Blue Valentine (2010) dir. Derek Cianfrance

If you’ve seen Blue Valentine, you’re probably missing a piece of your heart that you haven’t quite managed to get back. This movie will chew you up and spit you out a little more cynical that you might have been before. The way Cianfrance structures it, Blue Valentine is half a love story and half a tragedy. The non-linear elements work nicely with the thematic content, showing how even if something seems perfect, or someone seems perfect, people change and things might not work out the way you want them to. Bleak, right? Blue Valentine is a draining experience, right up until the last gut-wrenching scene. The movie is helpfully anchored by two perfectly cast and delivered performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Their chemistry is appropriately effective in every scene and it’s always what it needs to be. The actors play off each other wonderfully and helps the script flourish until it plunges you into abject heartbreak. It has a magnetism to it, though, helped out by the tremendous performances. Once the relationships descends, it’s hard to look away. And despite how sad it gets, you never want to.

33. Bridesmaids (2011) dir. Paul Feig

Oh yeah, Bridesmaids maid the list (spelling mistake intended for the pun). A delightfully hilarious comedy bolstered by a side-splitting lead performance by Kristen Wiig, supported by standout turns from Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne. A glorious celebration of female friendship, independence, and how to survive hitting rock bottom. The ensemble are perfectly cast and Paul Feig was definitely the right person to direct Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s rhythmic, hilarious script. Bridesmaids, while depicting the utter meltdown of its protagonist is also one of the funnest films of the decade, providing a whirlwind of laugh-out-loud moments, great character work, and an arsenal of quotable moments that ensure Bridesmaids won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Just going to say it, Kristen Wiig deserved an Oscar nomination.

32. Wildlife (2018) dir. Paul Dano

I love films, but it’s not often that they emotionally hurt me like a bullet to the heart. Each year there are a handful of films that I find pieces of myself in, that affect me so acutely that I become a little obsessed with them. Wildlife is such a film, the sensitive, wise directorial debut from actor, writer, and now director Paul Dano. Featuring a trio of great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and especially Carey Mulligan, Wildlife paints a delicate picture of a family torn apart by circumstances, a sense of obligation, and a confined sense of gender roles. Mulligan’s Jeanette is given freedom to find herself outside of her marriage when Gyllenhaal’s Jerry goes off to help the efforts to fire the wildfire that has spread. Dano crafts a gorgeous picture, exquisite cinematography complementing the wonderfully rich dialogue. It’s a film that seems to do everything right and one that will last in my mind for years and years to come.

31. The Shape of Water (2017) dir. Guillermo del Toro

You know The Shape of Water: that movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars when the main character is a mute woman who has sexual relations with a fish-human creature in her flooded bathroom. For the Academy to bestow the highest honour in film unto a distorted fairytale like this has to mean something. And it wasn’t for nothing. del Toro’s masterpiece, The Shape of Water, boasts just about everything you want in a movie. Great performances from Hawkins, Jenkins, Spencer, and Shannon, an array of luscious visuals and editing techniques that feel so well-graded that it’s like you’re looking at water sometimes, the way shots flow into their successors, the intricate production design that feels as offbeat as the movie itself does. The script, co-written by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, explores the nature of being different and how it’s not circumstance that defines you, it’s the things you do and what you make of them. As well as being well made, it has so much heart and tenderness that you’re locked into this bizarre romance and you find yourself rooting for them due to how Del Toro portrays intimacy between the characters. And as strange as you might feel, it’s unstoppable. Not to mention Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score that floats in and out of the scenes, adding to the fairytale atmosphere that the cinematography creates. It’s a film like no other, and it’s embedded in film history for all the right reasons.

30. Shame (2011) dir. Steve McQueen

The second McQueen film on this list, Shame might not be his best favourite, but it remains my favourite for how internal it all is. It allows Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, two perennial key players on this list, to utilise their full range of talents to communicate their emotions. Fassbender’s Brandon is struggling with sex addiction and how he is unable to form emotional attachments to people. Mulligan’s Sissy is a lounge singer with much the same problem. She is depressed with suicidal tendencies and doesn’t know how to cope. She tries to lean on Brandon for support, but he is in no position to provide it to her. The movie interestingly explores their relationship as they try to understand each other while also dealing with their own issues. Fassbender is brilliant once again, providing a much different performance to those mentioned before in the list, this one being largely internal without a lot of dialogue to deliver. Mulligan impresses once again, haunting in her portrayal of a woman struggling on the edge. Shame has a lot of interesting plot developments, but McQueen’s daring direction and the duo of hypnotic performances make this one such a worthwhile watch.

29. The Way Way Back (2013) dir. Jim Rash & Nat Faxon

I couldn’t not include a movie I once watched three times in two days because I finished it and then missed the world it pulled me into so I watched it again later that day. Was I okay? Probably not, but The Way Way Back is something I don’t think it a particularly excellent film. Sure, the script is good and the performances are terrific, but it feels loose and a little trite in a lot of places. A large part is relatability, as I so easily replaced Liam James’ Duncan with myself, immersing myself in the world of the summer at the waterpark. Sam Rockwell delivers a spirited, vigorous performance, delivering witty dialogue with such a chaotic energy that it really, really works. The rest of the ensemble are well cast and includes some of my favourites: Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, all who have featured on this list in some capacity already. The Way Way Back is an experience movie, a hot summer dreamscape that has a surprising amount of heart to it. I expected it to be just a dumb coming-of-age movie and perhaps it is, but it’s also an ode to those who feel undervalued with no way of knowing how to become the person people around them want them to be, and instead focusing on the person they really are. Personal escapism of the highest order.

28. Easy A (2010) dir. Will Gluck

So apparently I love it when classic texts are reimagined as high school movies. Between this and 10 Things I Hate About You, the technique seems to work. Easy A reworks The Scarlet Letter and makes it a story about a precocious teenager, Olive Penderghast, who lets a small misunderstanding become a school-wide gossip topic, sending her life into a tailspin that she must endure. Emma Stone basically carries this movie, and does so with aplomb, but the supporting players all put in great work. Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgeley, Aly Michalka, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, and the best movie parents ever Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are all excellently cast. Stone’s dry delivery of the witty script ensures the movie is a lot of fun and an excellent addition into the high school movie canon for the decade. Basically, we have realised today that if there’s a high school movie with an intellectual protagonist, I’m all in.

27. First Man (2018) dir. Damien Chazelle

Ah and now we arrive at another series of Great Oscar Snubs: First Man in a lot of categories. First of all, the fact that Justin Hurwitz’s impeccable score was not nominated is a travesty of international proportions and I will never forgive the entire Academy for letting it go with a nomination. Awards season aside, First Man is a technical masterclass, and Damien Chazelle has complete control over how it flows. Perhaps the slightest bit overlong in places, but the landing sequence is one of the best sequences of the decade in every aspect, the score and sound design are key to this being successful, but Ryan Gosling’s patient, internal performance really adds another layer to what’s happening. There are moments where the film isn’t really about Neil Armstrong, it’s more about the actual achievement of landing on the moon, but it still really works as a biopic of sorts. The fragile masculinity on show really pays off in the third act, a dizzying half-hour or so that boasts some of the best technical work I’ve ever seen. Sandgren’s impeccable camerawork helps a lot here, aiding Chazelle in emulating the feel of being in space as best as he can. And it works, Tom Cross’ spasmodic editing creating a hyper-sensational experience like no other. The film proves that Chazelle can tackle literally anything he wants to and pull it off and make it fantastic. Here’s to anything that man wants to do in the 20’s.

26. Before Midnight (2013) dir. Richard Linklater

The third movie in my favourite trilogy of all time, Before Midnight had one hell of a task on its hands. Reuniting Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for the third instalment of their decades-spanning love story was something that was necessary and also really, really successful. Where its predecessor Before Sunset may be my favourite of the three, Midnight elevates the tension in the relationship. Whereas the previous two were about getting them together, Before Midnight has to deal with what happens when they’re actually a couple. Jesse and Celine are one of modern cinema’s greatest couples and this movie tests them in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of existential angst tied up in this one, rather than the usual romantic wonderment and philosophy of the previous two films. Hawke and Delpy are superb once again and their chemistry is undeniable, and the way the third act develops and unfolds is a joy to behold as an acting masterclass and also a culmination of three movies and 18 years of storytelling. Still fantastic beyond words, with one of my favourite endings to a film probably ever. It’s so effective and honours the entire film and trilogy in pretty much one really brilliant scene. I love this trilogy and I love this movie so much.

25. Avengers: Endgame (2019) dir. Anthony & Joe Russo

Oh, like anyone really expected me not to include this! Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of 20+ films that all led to one epic conclusion, spanning multiple planets and timelines and bringing together all the characters you’ve known and loved for 11 years and giving a great deal of them either a brilliant resolution or an open door for more content in the next Saga of the MCU. A three-hour movie that doesn’t feel like three hours, Endgame barrels along with very little filler, exploring how the characters deal with the traumatic events of Infinity War, and how they’ll risk everything to reverse them. Sure, the solution is a little convenient, but they only had three hours to wrap this up, they couldn’t spend an hour trying to solve time travel so I’m not too bothered about it. The third act, while it could have felt like an overloaded barrage of visuals, instead had genuine stakes and emotional impacts while providing an entertaining battle scene that blows everything we’ve seen so far out of the water. For a long-time Marvel fanboy, it was everything I could have asked for and a surprisingly emotional experience reflecting on the last 11 years of filmmaking and watching these movies. That definitely contributed to Endgame‘s positioning, even though I still think it’s an excellent film and the best the MCU have produced, there’s a lot of personal love for it that I couldn’t help but bump it up a bit.

24. Room (2015) dir. Lenny Abrahamson

Room is an unusual film for me. It made me love a child performance which I never usually do, but the undeniable maturity in Jacob Tremblay’s performance sold me from the get go. He’s curious, because he grew up in a small room which he thinks is the extent of the world. Patiently attended to by his Ma, Joy, who has been captive in that room and gave birth to Jack while being held hostage. The strength in Brie Larson’s performance is mesmerising, and you can tell that Larson and Tremblay genuinely connected with each other while filming. Abrahamson has a good grasp of the camera and how to film such a claustrophobic environment. He also completely nails the key scene of the film (spoilers) which is Jack’s eventual escape from Room. It’s one of the most tense sequences of the decade and leads into the emotionally resonant third act and really ties you to both of the characters, making what comes next successful in its emotional endeavours. Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her own novel is a triumph too, capturing the desperation of the world around Joy and also the lengths she goes to to protect her son. It’s a parental bond like no other and it’s translated to the screen so beautifully it’s hard not to consider Room a total masterwork.

23. Birdman (2014) dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu

Where a great screenplay meets great production values. The long takes emulate the constantly flowing nature of fame, notoriety and what it means to be in the public spotlight. The actors are fast-talking, wildly gesticulating, emotional beings. They’re angry, they’re sad, they’re melodramatic. They’re people without being humans. And all of this is exactly what Iñárritu frames and that’s exactly why it works. Using a plethora of cinematic tricks and tropes to provide a flippant commentary on its own media whilst also having something to say besides that? This is where Birdman takes its place as one of the greatest filmic achievements of the decade. The cast are excellent too, everyone plays their part to a tee. Keaton delivers one of the best performances of the decade, and Stone, Norton, Watts, Ryan, and Riseborough all follow suit and are aptly cast in their roles. I love this movie because it feels new and exciting and surreal that a film like this actually worked. Iñárritu has solidified himself as an auteur, and one of the best we currently have, but it’ll be hard for him to top Birdman in my eyes because it’s a stroke of pure genius, lightning in a bottle type stuff. An inspired choice from the Academy to award this Best Picture (even if there were better films that year, but we’ll get to that). It’s exciting that they are still able to recognise the more offbeat films and aren’t too stuck to their conventions. This should be studied in depth in film schools everywhere.

22. Marriage Story (2019) dir. Noah Baumbach

Is this just recency bias? I don’t think so, because Marriage Story is one of the most affecting movies of 2019 and seemed pretty much tailored for my specific tastes. A movie that highlights extraordinary writing and performances that capably toes the line between drama and melodrama, all while telling an interesting story about connection, communication, and the dissolution of a marriage? Sign me up! Driver and Johansson deliver career best performances here, each taking a decent chunk of the movie to make you feel for them, which makes it all the more conflicting when they face off against each other. Like their son, you feel as though at some point you’ll end up picking a side, and Baumbach can make it hard to know which side you fall on. Of course there’s the heavily memed argument scene, which despite the discourse around it, it heavily impressive and displays some of the duo’s finest acting in the film. There’s also the indomitable Laura Dern to consider, who balances the tightrope of flashy Renata Klein and sensitive nuanced character so very well and announces her presence very effectively. Baumbach’s use of camera has never been better to support his magnificent screenplay and there are several moments of high emotion that will go down as some of my favourite moments of the year and decade. Perhaps I’ll grow to love this even more over time, having only seen it once, and I can imagine I will because this is something that’s emotionally impactful and also very well made. Has the best of both worlds, really.

21. Manchester By The Sea (2016) dir. Kenneth Lonergan

From one emotionally draining movie to another, Manchester By The Sea is one of the only films to have me either on the verge of tears or full on crying for the whole movie, pretty much. It’s down to Lonergan’s fantastic screenplay and the trio of perfect performances from Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams. Affleck carries the movie very stoically, only periodically letting out bursts of emotion. But it’s the pain behind his eyes that he’s trying so hard to contain, the ghosts that swim around in his mind that make the performance and character so impactful. Williams is a true supporting queen in this movie, coming out in a few key moments to really remind us why she’s one of our greatest living actresses. Lucas Hedges really knocks it out of the park, too, embodying the confusion of a young person dealing with grief and growing up at the same time. He’s terrific in a movie full of great moments of acting. Admittedly, there isn’t much to be said about the craft here, but the focus is rightly on the performances and script which are about as good as you could ask for. If you want to cry, watch this (or basically any pre 2017 Michelle Williams movie). If you want to see a masterclass in acting or writing, watch this movie. I promise you, it will deliver on both fronts in spades.

20. Black Swan (2010) dir. Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan is so cinematically brilliant that I devoted half of my dissertation to dissecting it. Darren Aronofsky crafts a dance-horror-psychological thriller movie like no other, capitalising on the vast talents of Natalie Portman to explore the pysche of obsession and mental illness, projecting the undoing of the White Swan onto Nina Sayers, a devoted ballerina at a prestigious company. The films also gifts us the talents of Mila Kunis, who completely smashes her part as Lily, the mysterious free spirit who is the antithesis of Nina, yet the one who threatens to destroy her. Barbara Hershey is also excellent as Nina’s overbearing mother and delivers a few of the film’s best moments. Portman is transcendent though, and there’s a very good reason she won the Best Actress category for her work, which is heavily physical and also incredibly vulnerable at the right moments. Aronofsky’s exploration into this twisted psychosis is the definitive study of duality in cinema for me, using the cinematography and lighting to accentuate the theme yet still making it subtle enough that it has rewatch value. Aronofsky never leaves all the answers in plain sight, hence audience interpretation has a lot of merit with this one. An all-timer and a great way to kick off the Top 20 of my list.

19. Brooklyn (2015) dir. John Crowley

Brooklyn is a film that I have grown to love more and more with each rewatch. It’s a film that provides a universal sense of home, all told through the god-tier performance by Saoirse Ronan, who completely embodies Eilis, using her personal experience to communicate her struggles more effectively to the viewer. Hornby’s endearing script is expertly performed, using Crowley’s tight, sensitive direction to really capture a spirit of closeness wherever Eilis is, making it that much harder when she has to make a choice between two countries and two men in her life, played by the charming Emory Cohen, and the ever-talented Domnhall Gleeson. Her choice is seemingly obvious to the viewer, but Ronan deftly communicates Eilis’ state of mind through her expressive eyes and she makes us feel exactly how she feels. It’s a very warm movie that gets better every time you see it. Watch it if you’re ever away from home and you won’t survive it. I think it’s a masterpiece and I’m obsessed with Saoirse Ronan’s performance.

18. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) dir. David O. Russell

Absolutely one of my favourite go-to comfort films, Silver Linings Playbook is both an interesting study of support systems for mental illness sufferers and also an offbeat comedy about two people trying to get by who eventually fall in love. It’s excellently performed by both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and their chemistry started a ‘4 films in 3 years’ trend together for a good reason. The other films might not have fared as well as this one did, most likely because Silver Linings Playbook feels fresh and has a warm energy to it that makes me fall in love with it. The writing is great, O. Russell is in full command of his actors as usual and it really works here. DeNiro and Weaver give great supporting performances, but this show belongs to Cooper and Lawrence, who are as good as each other and have such good organic chemistry that the romance falls into place so well and it doesn’t feel forced like it could without their connection. The dance sequence is literally one of my favourite cinematic moments because of its electricity, and there are genuine stakes for the results and the way the film develops you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. Pat and Tiffany are two very likeable characters who seem to be doing the best they can with what they have and it becomes such an easy film to love.

17. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) dir. Barry Jenkins

Just look at that image. Look at the use of colour and then imagine 2 hours of that. Barry Jenkins continues his masterful control of material with his own directorial flair that continues to improve with every film he makes. Beale Street is a poetic, beautiful story of love that impresses in every single avenue of filmmaking. The script is among the best I’ve ever experienced, and James Laxton’s luscious cinematography pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. Nicholas Britell makes hands down the best film score I’ve ever heard and I’m on the verge of tears every time I listen to ‘Agape’. The performances are aptly brilliant from everyone: Layne, James, Domingo, King, Tyree Henry, Parris, and Ellis to only name most of the cast. It’s a testament to Jenkins’ adaptation of the legendary novel that it really works and doesn’t feel too controlled. Everything works so very well and combines together to create one of the most visually and aurally pleasing movies I’ve ever seen. The first time hearing that score watching those colours on the big screen was a very special moment for me and I’m waiting in anticipation for anything that Barry Jenkins is going to do in the 20’s.

16. Spotlight (2015) dir. Tom McCarthy

If you haven’t seen the Best Picture winning Spotlight yet, allow me to tell you why you should. Look at the five incredibly talented actors on that poster above. Now imagine them performing a flawless script that is patiently, tenderly directed and edited with some truly exquisite dialogue that studies an interesting yet controversial topic about sexual assault in the Catholic Church. Picture Mark Ruffalo as a tamer version of Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac. Picture Rachel McAdams using her immense range to become both a hardcore journalist and a support network for the survivors. Hear Howard Shore’s beautiful piano-led score as the truth about what happened is exposed by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. Spotlight is a very important movie that using Josh Singer’s powerful screenplay to highlight the necessity of dedicated investigate journalism. It’s a wonderful movie with a gut-punch of an ending that never fails to shake me to my very core. A worthy Best Picture winner that unfortunately will probably always have thematic and societal relevance.

15. Carol (2015) dir. Todd Haynes

Carol is a heart-rending masterpiece. Led by two of the decade’s finest performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes’ magnum opus delves into the achingly gorgeous world of Therese Belivet and Carol Aird, and how their lives become intertwined forever. Edward Lachman’s masterful cinematography portraits their lives beautifully, while Carter Burwell’s best score to date swells around the frames like a beating heart. Dripping with a luscious melancholia, Carol is the one of the best films of the century and one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. I discover new things I love about this movie every time I see it and I become more impressed every time. The screenplay by Phyllis Nagy is tender and masterfully written, letting Mara and Blanchett show off their incredible talents. Mara is the window to the film, her wide, expressive eyes letting the audience into this luscious, seemingly unavailable world. Blanchett is the dynamite behind the movie, the assertive presence to Mara’s steadily beating heart. With great supporting performances from Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson, Carol is an essential exploration into being able to love who you love no matter what. God-tier!

14. Phantom Thread (2017) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

As Tina Fey once said at the Golden Globes, “Enough silliness…Daniel Day-Lewis is here” and she had a very good point. Day-Lewis is perhaps the greatest actor of all time and here he shows us why once again. His character isn’t as wild as Daniel Plainview or as iconic as Abraham Lincoln, but Reynolds Woodcock is so idiosyncratic that Day-Lewis has a field day becoming him, dominating the screen and immersing himself so deeply into Reynolds’ routine that it’s hard to take your eyes off him. That is, until Vicky Krieps’ Alma comes onto the scene and she is just as good as him and frequently goes toe-to-toe with the acting legend. PTA cast this movie to perfection as Krieps brings the perfect amount of innocence and vulnerability so the third-act switch up is all the more shocking, but it really works. Lesley Manville also does great work and has some scene-stealing moments that are genuinely iconic. Reinforced by a terrific script, and perhaps Jonny Greenwood’s best score to date, Phantom Thread is a delicately crafted movie about power, but it’s also somehow a love story? Only PTA could produce something as deliciously savage yet tonally potent as this. The costume design is glorious, Mark Bridges creating very specific pieces that help the movie to flourish within its context. Anderson continues to make masterpieces and he’s so amazingly in control of his craft that everything about this movie works.

13. Arrival (2016) dir. Denis Villeneuve

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I can never write something coherent about this movie, but I will try my best. Arrival is a unique type of sci-fi story because it doesn’t focus on the aliens coming to Earth and the humans trying to work out how to destroy them before they destroy Earth. No, Arrival concentrates on what makes the humans and aliens similar, and how they can communicate through language. It’s thoroughly intellectual and Eric Heisserer’s script adapts Ted Chiang’s complexities in a surprisingly accessible way. Of course, Actress of the Decade Amy Adams heads up the charge here and she’s electrifying. Delving into so many different states of mind and situations in this one, she is at the top of her game, bolstered by Denis Villeneuve’s assured direction and Bradford Young’s delicious cinematography. The production design is intriguing and unique, and the third-act twist is truly something to behold. The way the film plays with structure and editing is ingenious and Arrival will go down as one of the best sci-fi classics of our time. There, was that coherent?

12. Roma (2018) dir. Alfonso Cuarón

Probably the deserving Best Picture winner of last year, Roma is one of the most exceptionally crafted films I’ll ever see. Cuarón gets incredibly personal here, telling an emotional story through light plot points and a lot of assumed introspection. Led by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, who does a stunning job at playing Cleo, a housekeeper to a middle-class family. We see everything through Cleo’s perspective, except Cleo herself which is a smart move. It’s only towards the end we start to learn a lot about her through her traumatic experiences later in the film. Despite Cleo’s demeanour, Roma is a loudly presented film, with some of the most stunning cinematography I’ve seen and sound design that is unexpectedly brilliant for a film so internal and hushed. It got a lot of complaints for being slow-moving and uneventful, but that’s part of what I love about Roma. It glides along through time and space, observing and following the mundanity of Cleo’s life. It helps us to empathise with her, and Marina de Tavira’s bold turn as Sofia, the matriarch, helps Cuarón to explore gender roles within that society and what was expected of women. It’s a sensational film that just screams “masterpiece” in every single frame and every single camera movement. The fact that this is on Netflix for everyone to see is truly special and everyone should see this movie.

11. Gone Girl (2014) dir. David Fincher

A smart, stylish thriller with all the makings of a classic. A strong cast, a supernova of a screenplay and a directorial turn from David Fincher that elevates the already god-tier writing from Gillian Flynn.The main thing a lot of people take away from this movie is the dynamic performance from Rosamund Pike. And it is phenomenal, I’d even say one of the best ever put to screen. Amy Elliot-Dunne is a complex, twisted woman and one of the greatest cinema characters of the century so far. Pike plays her effortlessly, switching from persona to persona even through voiceover. Her style keeps turning, changing, so you don’t know quite who this woman is, even when you think you’ve got a handle on her. The same can be said for the story. Whilst a lot of people guessed the twists and turns, it still manages to be shocking. The revelation of how it turns out is beautifully handled and perfectly written. Some say this movie drags and that the final act loses the best parts of the previous sections, but I disagree. I think that every part of this movie is efficient and the runtime does not drag, the writing, directing and acting are so stellar throughout that you almost forget how long you’ve been sat there for, tense and nervous as the plot unfolds. Gone Girl is a stunning piece of filmmaking from a man who knows exactly what he is doing. Also, Rosamund Pike should have easily taken the Oscar for this tour de force performance.

10. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) dir. Joel & Ethan Coen

I’ll admit, I originally had this a lot lower down the list. Then I started thinking about and it kept moving up until all of a sudden it was in my Top 10 and I couldn’t stop it. By far my favourite Coen brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis is a searing study of making it in a tough industry, and how to live as opposed to just surviving. Is success the key to that change? For Llewyn Davis it seems to be. Portrayed flawlessly by Oscar Isaac, Llewyn Davis is a messy, borderline unlikeable folk singer who has a lot of talent but cannot break through following the suicide of his partner. The Coens explore isolation and a sense of place beautifully by captalising on Bruno Delbonnel’s exquisite yet bleak cinematography to immerse us in their story world and help us to follow Llewyn on his journey. Supporting players here including a bunch of talented actors such as Carey Mulligan (who might as well just be the face of this list at this point), Adam Driver, the eternally overlooked Garrett Hedlund, and F. Murray Abraham. It’s a story about endless cycles and the inability to escape from the humdrum life Llewyn lives in. And no matter how combative Llewyn was, I never stopped loving him and supporting him throughout and a large part of that is due to how truly masterfully compelling Isaac is in the role. Magnificent all around and a film that continues to surprise me.

9. Lady Bird (2017) dir. Greta Gerwig

I’ve seen Lady Bird a lot of times now and it never once loses its freshness. Gerwig injects so much soul into the screenplay and the directorial effort that you pick up on new things every time and it’s a testament to how good it all is that it never becomes trite or boring on multiple viewings. Saoirse Ronan is, once again, incredible in the lead role and turns in a surprisingly effective comedic performance, balancing the coming-of-age aspects with the comedic moments with the dramatic moments like a champion. Laurie Metcalf is this film’s secret weapon because Lady Bird is supposed to have a conflicting relationship with her mother and Metcalf’s ability to switch from critical and brutally honest to kind and caring is astonishing and helps us to ground ourselves in their world, where not everything is perfect but they’re going to be alright. Lady Bird wants more for herself, while Marion continually reminds her to be a little more thoughtful and think of the things that truly matter. It’s exceptionally paced, utilises fantastic emotionally-based editing to trace the beats of the script, and boasts a lot of talented actors including Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, and a scene-stealing Beanie Feldstein. I’ve always said that Lady Bird is the filmic equivalent of a really tight warm hug from your mother and that’s something that’s so special it will cement its place in modern film history forever.

8. The Tree Of Life (2011) dir. Terrence Malick

Yes, yes this is heavily pretentious but I do not care. I often consider this the greatest film ever made, but it has perhaps one problem. It’s so good and so complex that I can’t watch it as often as I want to. It’s probably the best shot movie ever made, literally pause it at any moment and you’ll find something to blow up and put on your wall. Emmanuel Lubezki is a God amongst men, and Terrence Malick’s impressionistic genius peels back the layers of every frame, each one in a window into a new life. This film is primordial, honing in on our natural instincts in a way that accentuates the story of family being presented to us. Pitt and Chastain are our leads here and they are sublime. It’s unfortunate that they take a backseat to the one-of-a-kind cinematography and vision for this movie. Malick has created something so raw yet sprawling that it was always going to be polarising, but for me his vision and execution wins out over any flaws it may have. This is bold, dynamic filmmaking on a scale like I’ve never seen before, truly exploring the origins and meanings of life and the way we think and how it stems from evolutionary thinking and natural instinct. I’d like to think I understand the world a lot better than I did before seeing this movie and I daresay that I’ll never find one more impactful, or one that’s better. Let’s see what the 20’s bring.

7. Parasite (2019) dir. Bong Joon-ho

Parasite is by far the best film of 2019. It’s so good that it rocketed up this list no problem and cracked the Top 10 without even a shadow of a doubt. I’ve seen it three times and I still cannot find a single thing that I don’t like about it. The writing is sharp, urgent, and deeply intelligent. The performances across the board are top notch, especially Song Kang-Ho who delivers an exceptional turn as the family patriarch. But the direction…it’s truly something special. Bong Joon-Ho has expert control over this movie from the camera positioning to the movements to the timing of every single thing that happens. The pacing is unbelievably good and it’s one of those films where you immediately want to watch it again as soon as it finishes. It’s thematically solid, backed up by its craft in terms of how it wants to portray its themes, the key being the luscious production design which shows the class disparity and sets the stage for the third act shift which could have lost my attention but instead had me gripped, on the edge of my seat. It’s genius-level stuff and Parasite is going live on for decades to come as one of the best films probably of all time. The only reason it’s not Top 5 at least it because of the ‘favourite’ aspect of this list. The next 6 films all have a special place in my heart which I’m positive Parasite is going to claim over the next few years.

6. Call Me By Your Name (2017) dir. Luca Guadagnino

Shocking, I know, considering I’ve widely and publicly cited this as my favourite film of all time. So why, you ask, does it sit in 6th place? Allow me to elucidate. I was thinking about the variables used to compile this list, and it got me thinking about the decade as a whole, both from a personal and objective point of view. What shaped my decade? What shaped the decade in the film industry? This may be one of my favourite films, but there are more shall I stay important films that lie atop this list. Anyway, let’s get on with the usual spiel about this movie.Call Me By Your Name almost feels like a dream. A dream of one perfect summer that I woke up from and can only remember fragments of it, feelings that I know to be truer than reality. The movie doesn’t just dance around the feelings and ideas it presents, it embraces them, pushing the audience headfirst into Elio’s thoughts, emotions and experiences and letting the perfect, groundbreaking performance by Timothée Chalamet do the rest. It lets us inside his mind and his heart, tricking us into thinking we ARE him, making us remember things that never were, simply because we’re experiencing it so deeply through Elio that we are completely immersed in that one summer of ’83. The writing in this movie is some of the most near-perfect, tonally exceptional I’ve ever come across in all of cinema. Though the dialogue is superb and performed well by every actor (in all languages), it’s the little moments that really strike hard. Those little pieces of a summer that don’t necessarily add up to anything, but on their own they tell a story. Whether it’s a look in Elio’s eyes, a note played on the piano or a kiss, every lingering feeling captures more depth than the last, leading us through a trail of false nostalgia and wondrous adrenaline. The monologue at the end speaks for itself as one of the best scenes of the decade, in my opinion. Michael Stuhlbarg cements himself firmly as one of the greats. This monologue speaks for everything Elio needs to hear, the reassurance he needed, the calm for the apprehension he felt. The words hit hard, their impact both emotionally stirring and poignant, the calm aura that lingers throughout the dialogue really places us in the scene. The camerawork here is simple, nothing fancy, just focusing on the words and performances, where the heart of the scene really is. Call Me By Your Name, with its lush scenery and beautiful cinematography along with the music that flows through every scene, creates a realistic yet idealistic image of growing up and self-discovery. Using its central performers as a handhold for the audience, we are guided along a beautifully complex journey of what it’s like to find a connection with another person and what it feels like to lose it. Oh, look I took it too far as usual!

5. Moonlight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

I’m going to call this the best Best Picture winner of all time so far, simply for what it invited, for what it became. Despite the controversy of how it won, it became a symbol for the future of representation within cinema. Oh yeah and it’s also a perfect film. That’s becoming a trend with my Top 10, but Moonlight is everything you want in a film. It’s exquisitely written, gorgeously shot, and scored to perfection. Jenkins’ vision to cast three separate actors as Chiron and depict his life from childhood to adulthood in three acts was truly inspired as a directorial choice and man he did cast them well. Alex Hibbert really captures the quiet intensity of young Chiron (or Little). You can tell he’s always thinking, always feeling every way too hard. Chiron is a highly internal character, he doesn’t get as many lines as your typical protagonist would. But Jenkins ensures that he doesn’t even need them. Ashton Sanders takes on teenage Chiron and does it fantastically. He’s a little more confident, a little more aware of the world around him now and he knows exactly what to expect from it. It’s now we’re definitively introduced to his struggle with his sexuality, encapsulated with a wonderfully effective scene on the beach with Jharrel Jerome that is so tenderly written and directed that it speaks volumes without actually doing a whole lot. Jenkins makes the most of every moment of this second part, helping the viewer to adjust to Chiron before it switches in the third iteration and Trevante Rhodes steps into the role. Rhodes is fantastic, taking on board idiosyncrasies from the other two actors whilst adding a maturity to his own performance, showing that Chiron has learned and is his own man, finally. You don’t get much better supporting performances than those of Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, whose impacts are largely felt even if we’re mostly with Chiron. Ali possesses a quiet strength which imbues his character Juan with so much unspoken backstory it’s scary how good Ali is in the movie. Harris plays somewhat against type here as Paula, Chiron’s drug-addicted mother. It’s a fierce, scary performance as Harris somehow shows the love she has for her son while also accepting the mistakes she made parenting him. It’s beautiful, beautiful work. But I would expect nothing less from a flawless movie such as this one.

4. La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle

Funny I should mention Moonlight winning Best Picture, because for a whole 30 seconds, so did La La Land. From January 2017, when I saw this, until November 2017 (when I saw Call Me By Your Name), I championed La La Land as my favourite film of all time. You probably know the story by now, I saw it in the cinema three times in the same days and a whopping 10 times overall. I was and am obsessed with everything about this movie and the way Damien Chazelle injects so much passion into every aspect of it. I sat there, rendered speechless by how much I connected with the material, how much each element of the craft had so much influence on the storytelling. Ryan Gosling puts in a committed performance, but this movie belongs to Emma Stone who is truly wonderful as Mia. Justin Hurwitz’s work on both the soundtrack AND the score is impeccable, with “Audition” being one of my favourite and the best scenes of the decade. The technical crew are all on another level with this one: Mary Zophres’ illustrious costumes, Tom Cross’ exquisitely dexterous editing, Dave Wasco’s gloriously appropriate production design, just to name a few. Each tell their own micro-narratives within the bigger story. We usually get the narratives about the only thing more powerful than dreams is love, but Chazelle flips that on its head and creates what is probably the most gob-smackingly brilliant ending to a movie I’ve seen, perhaps ever. There is so much passion that fills this movie, and Chazelle’s love for cinema shines through. This film is an all-timer.

3. Whiplash (2014) dir. Damien Chazelle

Whiplash is a truly electrifying movie. Yes, I have two Damien Chazelle films back to back because he’s my favourite director of the decade. He tells stories about the struggles of those who yearn to be the best and how they deal with the obstacles they face. Whiplash takes this to the extreme and presents a picture of a teacher/student face-off of manipulation and abuse. The other film I wrote about in my dissertation, Whiplash is full to the brim of interesting ideas presented in such a pleasingly cinematic way that every aspect is working to say something about the themes and the character dynamics. From lighting, costumes, camerawork, everything means something. It helps that it’s led by a dedicated Miles Teller performance, undoubtedly the best of his career so far. He effectively communicates Andrew’s passion for music, and the dizzying range of thoughts and feelings he encounters throughout. But as you probably know, it’s JK Simmons who steals the show here. He notches the intensity up to 11 and delivers a monstrous villain performance up there with the best of them. He’s truly terrifying in this film, his acerbic wit showing off the nuances of Damien Chazelle’s tremendous script. Whiplash will, like it does with Andrew, build you up, break you down, build you up again, and leave your jaw hanging on the floor at its climactic finale, a maelstrom of music, anxiety, and still more character development as everything you’ve been watching falls into place during a grand musical sequence that shows Andrew and Fletcher butt heads for one last time. One of the greatest endings to a film and one of the most impressive, alive movies of the decade.

2. Her (2013) dir. Spike Jonze

Oh this so easily could have been first. Despite how much I’ve rambled on for the past 48 entries about how much I connect with films, Her is the movie that speaks to me in the most raw way imaginable. Jonze presents his ideas of humanity and communication in such a unique, beautiful way that I can’t help but be drawn to it. The script has an innate magnetism to it with the futuristic setting that’s supposed to distance you and force you to relate to the relationship presented instead. And even though that’s between a man and the voice of his new computer, it’s one of the most realistic relationships of the decade. Joaquin Phoenix delivers another stunning performance, really showing Theodore’s ennui and his dichotomy of wanting to find love after his relationship with Catherine ended, and still missing the woman he fell in love with in the past. It’s a thoroughly nuanced performance and my favourite of his. Scarlett Johansson also impresses in her vocal capacity. We never see her, but she’s always present, her voice becoming a vital force in the movie. She runs the full range of human emotions using just her voice and that’s extremely impressive. We don’t need to see her cry or laugh or yell, we just hear her and that paints enough of a picture to understand her. The rest of the supporting cast are well-chosen, including frequent list dwellers Amy Adams and Rooney Mara. Her will indeed break your heart, because it’s so surprisingly relatable and that’s the genius of Spike Jonze’s legendary script. There’s so much heart and depth packed into the characters and their relationships with one another that it doesn’t matter that it’s in the future or one of the characters is artificially intelligent. Jonze is telling a story about human connections and that’s something everyone can relate to. Her is one of the best movies of the decade and quite possibly on its way to becoming my favourite.

Yes, you guessed it, there’s one cinematic juggernaut that stands out above all the rest and for that we have to journey back to the very beginning of the decade for one of the most important, impactful, and impressively made films of all time.

1. The Social Network (2010) dir. David Fincher

I thought about what film I wanted to be at the peak of this list because it had to tick all of the boxes: be genuinely great, have a special place in my heart, and also represent the decade in film. And I think, out of every movie on this list and the honourable mentions, only Moonlight had as much impact as The Social Network did. David Fincher’s masterpiece cleverly uses what we know about social media to tell the story of its origin, at least in the modern era. Again breaking the rules of typical biopic structure, The Social Network creates a complex non-linear style that jumps back and forth to different points in Aaron Sorkin’s masterful screenplay to highlight the progression of Mark Zuckerberg’s accomplishments juxtaposed with the consequences of his decisions. With Zuckerberg notoriously back in the spotlight over the last few years, The Social Network continues to have relevance. And it will for as long as we remain obsessed with social media. Jesse Eisenberg continues the trend of not going for an impression of Zuckerberg, instead an evocation of the man, which lends itself well to his fantastic performance. His natural fast rhythm suits Sorkin’s style well. Eisenberg is matched by the talent level of Andrew Garfield, who blazes through the film as Eduardo Saverin, demonstrating his huge range and talent for understanding the characters he plays. Fincher rules over The Social Network with his signature precision and interesting directorial visions. Accompanied by Trent Reznor and Atticus’ Ross terrific electronic score, Fincher uses tight cinematography and sharp editing to communicate the different viewpoints on display here and it’s fascinating to witness. What could have been a “boring” movie about depositions and some guy sitting at his computer becomes a thudding, whip-smart film about what is now one of the most basic communicative methods, and how the empire of Facebook started in a college dorm room. The Social Network is vital viewing for anyone and everyone, and will stand out as being not only one of the best films ever made, but also one of the biggest Oscar snubs in recent history. Yes, I had to bring it up, the Academy chose wrong here and I will never forgive them.

So there we go, my Top 50 films of the decade. It’s been such a wonderful time for film, with new innovations being tested around every corner and some of the most wonderful performances on display. Films are going to come and go, but I believe that these 50 are going to stay with me forever.

I’d love to see all of your decade-end lists if you’ve made them! Link them below in the comments or just let me know some of your favourites!

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Hope everyone has a great New Year and I’ll see you in 2020 with more posts!