Movies of the Decade

The curtain closes on another decade of cinema and despite the pull of both money and talent towards the small screen, there were still many delights to be had at the movies.

I’m not sure whether the last ten years produced more great psychological horror than usual or I just found myself watching more films in the genre but, alongside the great picks below, I could easily recommend It Follows, You’re Next, Hereditary & Midsommar.

Looking back on my lists from the last ten years, it seems 2014 was the stand out. Best Actor has to go to Joaquin Phoenix, excellent in Inherent Vice, Her, You Were Never Really Here & The Master. Most impressive director was Richard Linklater, for perfectly wrapping his Before trilogy, giving us the wonderful Everybody Wants Some!! and finishing his 12 year project Boyhood.

In chronological order –

Dogtooth
Dogtooth (2010)
Three twenty something siblings living in a very pleasant Greek country house play games all day and seemingly want for nothing…but it turns out they have never left the house: their knowledge of the outside world formed by the increasingly bizarre lies their parents invent to keep them pure and unspoilt. Things only start to get out of control when an outsider is brought in to ‘service’ the sexual needs of the young brother.

Secret in Their Eyes
The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)
Fluidly moving between Argentina’s dictatorial ’70s & laid back ’90s and between chronicles of unrequited love & unmet revenge. The ending was so fulfilling I could barely move when the credits rolled.

The Guard
The Guard (2011)
A movie that far exceeded my expectations. If you were to judge this from the poster and trailer you might imagine it just another goofy fish-out-of-water buddy cop film. Ooo, tough black cop Don Cheadle is dropped into rural west Ireland with doofus Brendan Gleeson and hilarity ensues?

As it turns out the script is transcendent. Typical criminal / lawman cliches are largely avoided and it’s rather incredible to hear a tale of criminal intrigue where every character (bar the bent cops) is totally honest with everyone else around them.

Both McDonagh brothers have proved themselves adept at characterisation and dialogue and almost all of their films have appeared on my lists this decade. This is the best.

Sightseers
Sightseers (2012)
Tourism in Britain suffers massively from the enormous cultural pull of its capital so it’s rather nice to see a picture like Sightseers which serves as a love letter to Yorkshire and the Midlands. Two sweethearts in a bucolic setting, what could go wrong?

Well, if one of them has a continental size chip on his shoulder and the other develops a jones for killing then quite a lot.

The Master
The Master (2012)
The first half of this film meanders as much as its protagonist as it follows the listless Freddie Quell, who boozes and fights his way toward some semi imagined purpose in his life.

He thinks he may have found it when he crosses paths with new age guru Lancaster Dodd – the Master of the title and a sort of mash-up of Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard and Mormon founder Joseph Smith – and from there the film firms up too. Quell grows into his role as right hand man, principal case study & violent enforcer hoping he can ultimately rid himself of all inner demons.

Her
Her (2013)
This could be the most prescient film of the millennium. Certainly nothing outside of Black Mirror has come close to understanding AI the way Spike Jonze does here. The fabulously named Theodore Twombly plays the introvert loner who buys and falls in love with an AI assistant. That she is only a voice in his ear is one thing but when she returns his love things become serious.

The Babadook

The Babadook (2014)

The most terrified I’ve been in a movie theatre for years.

The title character is a simple yet fantastic invention who inhabits the most frightening children’s pop-up book ever created. Even six years later I am still slightly wary of turning the lights out when I’m home alone.

Leviathan

Leviathan (2014)

The tale of corrupt officials making a grab against an innocent land owner is a oft told one in film. Once Upon a Time in the West, Wild River, The Castle and others have tackled the subject but none so crushingly as this.

Kolya’s family home is coveted by a degenerate mayor so he calls in a lawyer friend to help him. They both soon find out just how venal the state can be.

As an allegory for modern Russia this is about perfect.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Anyone depressed by virtue-signalling care workers or flummoxed by safe spaces and microaggressions will love the social services officer in pursuit of juvenile runaway Ricky in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Sure, she wants to ‘leave no child behind’ but she also wants to kick his ass when she does get her hands on him.

How does a city kid weaned on nothing more than the wise words of Tupac Shakur survive in the jungle with the entire New Zealand army on his tail? Well, he does have Sam Neil and his pitbull to hand but still, it ain’t easy.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Of course you’d expect a film directed by a fashion supremo to look beautiful, more surprising is that Tom Ford can effortlessly construct a film that blends current events, a series of seismic flashbacks whose consequences echo through the present and the chapters of a novel that bridge both eras. Expertly done, in the closing moments the codas of all three stories chime perfectly.

Handmaiden
Handmaiden (2017)
Superstar director Park Chan-wook transposes Sarah Waters’ The Fingersmith from Victorian London to 1930s Korea and loses nothing in the journey. Intricate long cons and schemes within schemes unfold toward an unexpected ending. Probably the best looking picture of 2017 with near every scene resembling a renaissance masterwork.


The Next Eleven

  • Get Out
  • mother!
  • Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
  • Under the Skin
  • Upstream Color
  • Arrival
  • Boyhood (Cinematic achievement of the decade)
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Force Majeure
  • Martha Marcie May Marlene
  • Train to Busan