The Top 100 Films of the 2010s: Commentary #50-25

To quickly reiterate, ten days ago I decided to provide a little extra commentary about my top 100 films of the decade list and give a little bit of behind the scenes insights into how I put the list together.  As I said at the time the definitive listing of the list can still be found on its dedicated page and these posts should largely be viewed as an appendix.

50. Dunkirk (2017)
49. Mustang (2015)
48. Leviathan (2014)
47. Clouds of Sils Maria (2015)
46. Black Swan (2010)

One of the things that made this list a lot more challenging to put together than my 2000s list was that I re-watch movies a lot more infrequently than I used to just as a matter of time management so there are a lot of movies like Black Swan which I haven’t seen since its theatrical release ten years ago.  That particular movie kind of sticks out to me more now than it did at the time because of how it acts as a precursor for another Aronofsky film and just because it increasingly interests me that it became a huge hit despite being what it was.

45. Roma (2018)
44. The Past (2013)
43. Embrace of the Serpent (2016)
42. Beyond the Hills (2012)
41. The Favourite (2018)

Romas was one of only three Netflix films on the list and it was also a movie whose placement I debated quite a bit.  I suspect it’s a movie that I would have placed a bit higher if it came out earlier in the decade and had more of a traditional release but its place in the discourse still looms kind of large for me.  I will also admit that Beyond the Hills posed a bit of a challenge for me as I have less clear memories of it than some movies and that I never wrote a full review of it.

40. Blue Valentine (2010)
39. Ida (2013)
38. The Irishman (2019)
37. Eighth Grade (2018)
36. The Lighthouse (2019)

Blue Valentine has a slightly infamous place on this blog as it was one of only a couple of movies I saw in theaters but didn’t manage to write a full review of. The other major examples of this were The White Ribbon and Waltz With Bashir.  All three were movies that came out very late in their years when I was deep into the Golden Stake writing process and I didn’t have time to write reviews of super challenging movies like that.  I think that’s the last time this happened and I must say it still proved to be an oddly tough movie to write about, I haven’t done exact word counts but I think it’s the shortest of all the captions I wrote for this thing.

35. Dogtooth (2010)
34. The Revanent (2015)
33. Django Unchained (2012)
32. Phantom Thread (2017)
31. Melancholia

This little stretch is interesting in that there’s a set of three films in a row (The Revenant, Django Unchained, and Phantom Thread) that happened to have come out on Christmas day, at least on the coasts.  The only one of them I personally saw on Christmas was Django.  Melancholia also bears discussion as it’s the movie I took my title card from.  My idea was to choose something that would match the Benjamin Button clock I used for my 2000s title card and a sundial seemed like a fun interpretation of that.

30. Before Midnight
29. Burning
28. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
27. The Witch
26. Moonlight

Moonlight is a movie that probably would have been higher on the list if not for the fact that I wanted to give a little extra space between it and another Barry Jenkins movie… though in retrospect I realize that a last-minute change I made put some Quentin Tarantino films a little closer together than they probably should be.  Burning is also a movie I have trouble being objective about because I at one point ended up driving all the way to Chicago in order see it on the big screen in time for the Golden Stakes because of Well-Go-USA’s incompetent release strategy and I kind of lump the film in with that whole adventure.


The Lodge(2/20/2020)/The Invisible Man(2/27/2020)

Horror has almost always run in trends whether it’s the slasher movies of the 80s, the post-modern slashers of the 90s, or the torture porn of the 2000s.  Mini-trends would exist alongside these larger macro-trends and there would of course always be one-offs that exist outside the bigger waves, but generally speaking it wasn’t too hard to spot what’s been in vogue with the genre.  For much of the time I’ve been reviewing films the most dominant trend was haunted house movies with lots of jump scares, not a trend I welcomed, and while I’m sure some of those movies are still being made things do seem to finally be moving on but what are they moving on to?  Well there seem to be two tends that may be contenders for the title of “next big thing.”  Within my personal viewing patterns the most noteworthy trend is almost certainly the emergence of indie horror films like The Witch and Midsommar from studios like A24, which perhaps represent a sensibility more than a specific sub-genre of film.  None of these have been bona fide blockbusters but amongst those who know they loom large and I can only assume that they continue to penetrate the culture after release and that they may well become bigger with time.  The next trend, the one that is likely in the lead if we’re going to view this as a race, is to make horror movies in the mold of Get Out that tackle social issues in a very direct way that more or less make subtext text.  So if these two trends are going to the shape of horror to come it makes sense to take a look at the first two movies of the  year that are seeking to represent each trend: the indie horror film The Lodge and the social issue tackling The Invisible Man.

Like a lot of elevated horror movies, The Lodge opens with a major moment of trauma as a woman leaves her kids with their father, who tells her the time has come to formalize her divorce.  She then goes home and shoots herself.  We pick up shortly thereafter as the father (Richard Armitage) is trying to blend his new girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough) in with his teenage son Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and tween daughter Mia (Lia McHugh) and decides that the best way to do this is to have the whole blended family go to a lodge for Christmas, which Aiden and Mia are strongly resistant to partly because they blame Grace for the death of their mother and partly because they know that when she was a child the lone survivor of a fundamentalist cult that went Jonestown.  His ultimate plan is to leave her alone at the lodge with the two children for a couple of days while he takes care of some business, but this proves to be a very bad idea.  Meanwhile The Invisible Man deals with a very different kind of trauma from its onset, namely the extensive trauma that its main character Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) experienced prior to the film’s beginning when she was apparently the victim of extensive domestic abuse at the hands of her boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).  Griffin is someone who has earned millions in the “optics” business, but is by all accounts a controlling sociopath and Cecilia needs to literally break out of his home at night in the first scene.  Two weeks later she’s in hiding and receives news that Griffin has killed himself, but she starts to wonder about this when strange things start to happen around her.

The thing about the “elevated horror” movement is that it’s definitionally an alternative movement, which is a dynamic we’re perhaps more used to seeing in music than in movies, and when alternative things become popular there’s always the looming threat that they’ll be coopted by the mainstream.  That’s something I worried about when I saw the advertisements for that Gretel & Hansel movie, which kind of looked like the Silverchair to The Witch’s Nirvana.  Granted I didn’t end up seeing it and that impression could be wrong, but it’s a distinct vibe I got from it.  I had a little more hope for The Lodge but that was misplaced as it is very much the Bush to Hereditary’s Pearl Jam.  In fact it’s kind of remarkable just how specifically the film is trying to be Hereditary what with its focus on a grieving family and its tendency to cut to a symbolic model house.  That said it’s not trying to be a satanic cult thing and instead focuses on the tension of whether this woman is crazy and will go after the kids or whether the kids are the crazy ones who are going to go after her.  There’s some interest to be found in that dynamic but it’s kind of lessoned by the fact that this whole setup is patently ridiculous.  Blending families is never easy but trying to go about it through the trial by fire of leaving traumatized and clearly resentful children alone in an isolated building with an also traumatized woman is about the stupidest and most contrived thing imaginable.

The Invisible Man was released by Universal Pictures and is ostensibly meant to be the remake of the 1933 James Whale movie which was in turn based on the H.G. Welles novel of the same name, but the more telling logo in front of it is the Blumhouse Productions logo.  Blumhouse does a lot of things and I wouldn’t go so far as to say he has a house style, but one of the things he tends to do is give his horror films a certain social edge that goes beyond the more subtle allegories that have existed in the genre in the past.  Sometimes that comes in the form of silliness like their The Purge series, sometimes it just kind of feels like desperate pandering like their recent take on Black Christmas, but in general they’re really interested in getting the people who fight about stuff on Twitter into watching their scary movies and when they strike a chord like they did with Get Out there are high rewards.  The Invisible Man’s strategy to do this is to make no bones about the fact that its protagonist is a victim of an abusive relationship and to make her plight through the movie to be an extreme manifestation of the kind of controlling behavior that exist in these relationships and also to show the bad guy’s scheme as essentially a form of gas lighting where he’s trying to make her look and feel crazy when he is in fact being supernaturally awful.

It’s still a little staggering that they were able to make the invisibility effects work as well as they did for the 1933 film using a variety of camera tricks.  I’ve come to understand how they did them through a photochemical tick where things are shot in front of black screens but their challenge is still palpable.  Even when Paul Verhoeven was making Hollow Man in the year 2000 and had a variety of CGI effects it still felt like a showcase of cutting edge ideas.  The effects in this new invisible man movie are probably going to be less mind-blowing to anyone who knows anything about visual effects (I’m pretty sure it was a dude in green spandex on set who was digitally removed) but the scenes are shot with conviction just the same and director Leigh Whannell does seem to understand that he isn’t going to get away with just stringing together a bunch of invisibility gags.  Where the production falters a bit more is in the acting, specifically the supporting performances.  Elizabeth Moss is obviously great in the film and is well cast in her role, but a lot of the other actors here kind of seem like they got their job because the filmmakers were trying to keep their budget under control.  None of the performances are terrible necessarily but a lot of them felt a bit “syndacated television” to me.  I got the same feeling from Whannell’s last movie Upgrade, which didn’t even have a great lead performance at its center, so maybe something in his direction is to blame for that.

The acting is actually one of the stronger aspects of The Lodge.  There isn’t anything in it as noteworthy as Elizabeth Moss’ performance but the cast in it is able to make the material work better than it might have otherwise.  Riley Keough does a reasonably good job of keeping the audience in suspense about whether or not her character is the crazy one and the kids aren’t bad either.  However a lot of the psychology the script gives them really does not pan out.  The movie is trying to create a mix of trauma, mental illness, religion, and isolation to turn the titular lodge into a sort of pressure cooker for its characters but a lot of it just kind of feels like bullshit.  Granted, a lot of “psychological thrillers” probably don’t hold up perfectly but those movies are entertaining and this one is not, in fact it’s quite boring at times.  The movie is trying to do a sort of slow burn sort of thing, which can be thrilling when done right but I don’t think it’s done particularly well here and it’s all leading up to a twist that’s kind of predictable and also completely preposterous in the number of things that would have had to go exactly right and the logistics don’t go together at all.

The Invisible Man is less pretentious but I do think it has some ending problems as well.  The movie is a little too quick to confirm that Cecilia’s suspicions rather than playing out that ambiguity and is far too quick to explain Griffin’s means of becoming invisible and they look kind of silly.  The movie also takes a bit of a turn towards being more of an action piece in the vein of Upgrade, which is kind of fun in its own way but it lacks some of the primal terror that the first half was gesturing toward and I found the film’s final climax to be rather oddly staged and anti-climactic.  None of this is a deal breaker, but it does hold the movie back a bit and keeps it more in the realm of the elevated B-movie rather than any sort of true horror classic.  The Lodge by contrast is a movie that’s trying to be a serious horror classic but is just a complete non-starter for a variety of reasons.  If these movies represent the shape of horror to come I’m not sure either makes a perfect case for their respective approaches.  The Lodge shows that good ideas are not above being misused by wannabes and The Invisible Man kind of shows the limitations of what Blumhouse is going to be able to do at times, but as a movie unto itself The Invisible Man is plainly the stronger of the two and the one I’d much more quickly recommend.

The Lodge: *1/2 out of Five

The Invisible Man: *** out of Five

The Top 100 Films of the 2010s: Commentary #100-50

Earlier this month I made a post announcing that I’d created a list of the 100 best movies of the 2010s decade and posted a link to the page I’d be updating with the films and my various captions about them.  At the time I’d posted the first twenty-five movies and had planned to just leave it at that and let that page be the last word on the subject and let people know to keep an eye on it.  However, with movie release schedule having been paused due to current events I need not dwell on it’s become apparent that I’m going to need to ration out content, and as such it made sense to me to do a bit more with this list I’ve created.  As such I’m going to do a little piece where I post some of my choices and write a little bit about what decisionmaking went into the choices.  This will not, however, replace updates to the main page on the subject, which I intend to be the definitive showcase of the list so don’t forget to check that out.

100. The Shape of Water (2017)
99. Baby Driver (2017)
98. Cloud Atlas (2012)
97. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
96. Blue Jasmine (2013)
95. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
94. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
93. The Life of Pi (2012)
92. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
91. Midsommar (2019)

The first ten on pretty much any top ten list I do are going to have a couple of movies that represent some trend or another that I feel needs to be acknowledged but which doesn’t necessarily have that one representative that’s number one with a bullet.  Not a line of thinking I normally want to indulge in list making, but it is necessary in certain situations.  Here Avengers: Infinity War and Blue Jasmine are largely functioning as that in order to represent the output of the MCU and Woody Allen respectively. And to some extend Moonrise Kingdom is also doing that for Wes Anderson.  The rest are movies that have some really good qualities but which I have reservations about like Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi, and then there’s The Shape of Water, which I singled out early on as the movie I wanted to put in the number 100 slot less because it’s worse than the movies that would be higher in the 90s but more because it just felt like it set the tone for the list to come well.

90. Whiplash (2014)
89. The Raid (2012)
88. Ash is Purest White (2019)
87. 127 Hours (2010)
86. Our Little Sister (2016)
85. Julieta (2016)
84. Captain Phillips (2013)
83. The Tribe (2014)
82. Marriage Story (2019)
81. The Martian (2015)

With my choices in the 90-80 range I was still including some films that were meant to be stand ins for certain filmmakers and movements (Julieta for Almodovar, Our Little Sister for Kore-eda) but they were very much films that were going to make the list one way or another regardless of that.  I also placed The Raid here despite maybe liking a couple of the movies in the 90s better just because I didn’t want my first ten dominated by genre movies that weren’t overly representative of the film to come.  I should also address the 2019 films on the list, which stick more closely to the order in my recent top ten list than movies from other years and were added to the list late in the process and had to be sort of distributed slightly awkwardly over the length of the list.

80. True Grit (2010)
79. Birds of Passage (2019)
78. Gravity (2013)
77. Little Women (2019)
76. Shame (2011)
75. Contagion (2011)
74. Mr. Turner (2014)
73. No (2013)
72. Uncut Gems (2019)
71. Ghost Story, A (2017)

True Grit was another movie that probably got bumped up a little in order to keep the 90s and 80s filled with genre movies.  Gravity was also a tricky one to place because I needed to balance the fact that I think it’s very technologically impressive, but also a tad shallow.  It’s placement in the bottom half of the list is probably indicative of why I backed off from including the recent film 1917. Beyond that this tier and some of the ones in the 80s mostly speak to the fact that they are movies that I had a strong reaction to but which I haven’t watched again and am not necessarily planning to watch them again any time soon.  I would also like to point out that the placement of the movie Contagion was already chosen before recent events made it newly relevant.  I liked that movie before it was cool.

70. Carol (2015)
69. Gone Girl (2014)
68. To the Wonder (2013)
67. Us (2019)
66. The Square (2017)
65. La La Land (2016)
64. Poetry (2010)
63. First Reformed (2018)
62. Selma (2014)
61. 20th Century Women (2016)

This is where I ran into some surprisingly controversial choices.  I might be one of the only critics to much prefer Ruben Östlund’s The Square to Force Majeure, and it’s also kind of strange to really like Us but not like Get Out.  In general, I seem to have a bit of bias towards follow-ups rather than debuts which may have also played into my choice of 20th Century Women over Beginners, though that’s probably a less controversial opinion.  Aside from that this chunk is pretty straightforward except that Gone Girl might have been placed a touch high simply because I wanted it to get some separation from Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

60. Silence (2016)
59. BPM (Beats per Minute (2017)
58. The Babadook (2014)
57. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
56. Nymphomaniac (2014)
55. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2012)
54. Annihilation (2018)
53. Amour (2012)
52. Lincoln (2012)
51. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Silence and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia stand out to me as movies that got relatively high slots, in part because I felt like I owed them second viewings that I still haven’t done which may have pushed them even higher (or lower).  Nymphomaniac was also a tricky one because it was the only movie of the decade that I found myself invoking the Kill Bill/Che rule for by considering them a single film despite it having been released in two parts.  That wasn’t too much fo a stretch though because that was a movie that was pretty arbitrarily cut in two for commercial reasons without even an added cliffhanger like we got in Kill Bill.  The other placement I was a bit nervous about was of course Mad Max: Fury Road, which is a lot lower than a lot of other outlets are placing it, but that’s just kind of how I felt about it and I swear I wasn’t trying to make some sort of statement by placing it just outside the top fifty.

February 2020 Round-Up

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)(2/12/2020)

I’m not really sure how savvy general audiences are to these things but I could smell weakness coming off the “Birds of Prey” movie.  The studio was certainly treating it like it was going to be bad; it had a noticeably light advertising budget and reviews were embargoed on it right up until the day before release, something studios only do when they know they’ve got a bust on their hands, but when those reviews did start streaming in they were surprisingly positive.  You can envision a world where this could have become a hit if it had been finessed a little better.  I think part of the problem with the film in general is that it’s sort of a sequel to Suicide Squad in that it’s using the Harley Quinn character from that movie but neither the studio nor the filmmakers are really sure if anyone liked that movie given that it made a lot of money but it’s sort of reviled by the chattering class so they weren’t sure whether to advertise it as a follow up to that or to sell it as a spin-off, or as a new franchise altogether.  The result is a movie that does basically honor the continuity introduced by Suicide Squad but has a completely different tone and creative team.

After the film was released the studio, in a desperate grab to salvage the film’s prospect, changed its title to “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” (the original title is still there in the actual movie so I’ll be sticking with it here).  That is a bad title too but in a way it’s more accurate: this is basically a Harley Quinn solo movie, the Birds of Prey are barely in it and when they are in it they kind of suck.  The Renee Montoya character is alright but the other two are thinly drawn and just kind of seem lame as action heroines in the first place.  This is at its best when it’s functioning as a Harley Quinn solo movie pure and simple but even as that it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.  Despite being a Suicide Squad sequel what this movie desperately wants to be is Deadpool.  It has a similar sort of R-rated profane irreverence and operates with a voice-over which bends, but doesn’t entirely break, the fourth wall.  There’s a bit of a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” mentality to the whole thing.  Some of the film’s jokes are legitimately clever, some of them are just kind of obnoxious, and the movie is also never really sure who much of an anti-heroine it wants Harley Quinn to be.  This also extends to the action scenes, some of which are quite well choreographed and executed and some of which are just kind of messy, like the finale where the heroes are fighting through a bunch of mysteriously unarmed henchmen.  The whole movie is just messy and not really to my taste, but it’s hardly the disaster that the studio seemed to think it was and there’s some good stuff in there.

**1/2 out of Five



Beanpole was widely predicted to win the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard award but it lost last minute to Invisible Life, and having now seen both films I think the jury made the right call.  Beanpole is set in St. Petersburg in the immediate aftermath of World War 2 and concerns a woman named Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) who everyone calls “Beanpole” because she’s very tall and skinny.  Iya has been left slightly mentally handicapped by a head injury sustained while serving on the front.  She’s returned home with a the three year old child of a friend but child is killed in an accident caused by that mental handicap and when the mother of the child, Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), returns she initially seems understanding but over time she sort of goes mad and starts taking out her frustrations on Iya.  Now, I’m usually the last person to complain about a movie being “depressing.”  Movies get made for a lot of reason and not all of them are supposed to be entertaining per se and some stories are supposed to make you feel bad, and to some extent this is probably one of them, but there are limits to that and this is a story that borders into what they call “misery porn.”  The film is meant to about the way veterans came back from the war broken inside and to depict this in an unconventional way but the story they come up with feels fictional enough to be removed from any real experience and in many ways just kind of seems like a cruel story that puts its innocent protagonist through the ringer to no real end.  In this sense it almost reminded me of Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (not a movie I like) except it isn’t being made by an infamous provocateur and instead just kind of feels like a really miscalculated movie played sincerely.  There is some clear talent on the screen; I liked the performances and thought it conjured the world efficiently and I would be interested to see what Kantemir Balagov can do with different material, but this one did not sit right with me at all.

** out of Five

The Top 100 Films of the 2010s

Just going to make a quick post to announce that, like I did at the end of the 2000s, I’ve assembled a list of the top 100 films of the 2010s decade.  I’ve posted the first twenty-five films and intend to continue filling in the list in the coming months.  The list can be found at the following link: