The Top Ten Films of the 2010s!

Top Ten of Decade

For some reason, 2019 does not feel like the culmination of a decade. It never really occurred to me that we had reached this milestone until some of these “Best of the Decade…” lists started rolling out. Looking back personally, I’ve gotten married, changed careers, had two children, and bought a house, sold a house, and bought another …so I guess that’s about 10 years of life. As a whole, the society reflected in the cinema of the 2010s is one of reflection, nostalgia, and innovation. Reboots, sequels, comic books, and throwbacks were aplenty, but the best films of the decade rarely fall into those categories. Political unrest, the proliferation of the Internet, Social Media, and streaming entertainment as well as incredible strides for minorities, feminism, and civil rights were also a sparked that will continue to define the 2020s. I’ll admit, personally, 2019 carried with it some of the highest highs in my life as well as some of the lowest lows, and the same can be said about the films released this decade. That being said, let’s focus on the positives as we optimistically embark on a new decade. Here are The People’s Critic’s Top Ten Films of the 2010s!

Dark Knight Rises

10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Appropriately, the best director of the decade starts this list off with the final film of Christopher Nolan’s phenomenal Dark Knight trilogy. There is no understating the impact these films had on cinema, most notably 2008’s The Dark Knight. With The Dark Knight Rises, we have a fitting end to one of the strongest trilogies in cinema history. There is so much to appreciate in this film. The menacing tone that lies beneath the surface of Gotham City is felt for all of its 165 minutes. For my money, the plot of The Dark Knight Rises is the best of the three. I think, taken as a whole, what Christopher Nolan can be most proud of is that he has captured the attention of a massive audience and taught them that escapist entertainment can be thoughtful and precise. He may present some of this grandiose and complex content in a simplified and somewhat self-important/preachy way, but he achieves his grand design of getting us all thinking about our own morality, our limits, and our duties. This is miles beyond what any other so-called “comic book” movie has achieved or has even been capable of so far (PS, this will not be the last we hear of Christopher Nolan on this list).

Baby Driver

9. Baby Driver (2017) – Is it uniquely original? On paper, maybe not so much, but it’s a different story on the screen. It is hard not to discuss Baby Driver in the context of other similar predecessors about getaway drivers and/or villainous lynchpins orchestrating a series of heists. But the execution of Baby Driver is unlike any of those films. On the surface this is a heist film about a getaway driver, but on a larger scale the driving is an instrument to explore music, or more accurately, the act of listening to music. It’s the music that helps push the narrative. Writer/Director Edgar Wright does a superb job using music, actually the act of listening to music, to drive an otherwise classical narrative structure. This film really invited me to analyze exactly what it is that makes movie narratives work, an analysis I further explored in my commentary piece, “It’s All About Choice.” Like so many classic narratives, we don’t learn much about Baby in the film, or about any of the other characters for that matter. Baby is a man of few words, denied the necessity of choice by Doc (a pre-self-destructed Kevin Spacy), and committed to no real set of values given his almost “island-like” existence. Like I mentioned in “It’s All About Choice,” knowing so very little about Baby actually drives the narrative because he is the ultimate individual who can form his own values and not be labeled or expected to act in any particular way. What a cool movie!

Blade Runner 2049

8. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – Blade Runner 2049 is a visual achievement, but it is also a triumph of science fiction and exploration into the flawed emotionality of the human being. Denis Villenueve and original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher deepen the themes and ideas introduced in the 1982 original, creating a superb overall film that demands repeat viewings. Villenueve is the runner-up to Nolan as director of the decade. Catching my attention in 2013 with the exquisite Prisoners, and then putting out one great film after another with Enemy, Sicario, Arrival and then Blade Runner 2049, we have seen the evolution of an auteur and true visionary of cinema whose next film, an updated adaptation of Dune should prove to be even better!

Inception

7. Inception (2010) – He’s back. Nolan’s second films on the list of the best of the decade actually kicked the decade off in 2010 with one of the most visually complex and narratively multifaceted films of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio takes on a journey through time and mind in a trippy, wild mind heist. Nolan’s imagination is on full display with a film that is inspired and outrageously original. It’s said Nolan spent 10 years on this script, and it shows! Theories abound about what unfolds in this twisted story, but in true Inception style, the means justify the end.

La La Land

6. La La Land (2016) – I tried people. I tried not to toe the line. I tried not to be all “critic-y,” but goddamnit, my toes are still tap, tap, tapping to this beautiful, heartwarming, goosebump inducing, musical masterpiece. La La Land has the best first and last five minutes of any movie in the last 10 years! What puts it on this list is that between those amazing first five minutes and outstanding final five minutes are 118 exhilarating, beautifully crafted, musical minutes. La La Land is a simple story of Jazz musician meets struggling actor, Jazz musician loses struggling actress, etc., but that’s ok. If the plot were any more dynamic, it would take away from the sensory experience of this film. Gosling and Stone are captivating as the leads and while their voices may not be meant for Broadway, they are perfect for a film that “dances” between worlds. Half nostalgic and half prognostic, La La Land shows us that writer/director Damien Chazelle is more than the real deal. He’s the next big thing (next to Nolan and Villenueve)! La La Land puts a nice bow on 2016 as well as the decade as a whole.

Silver Linings Playbook

5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)– The film that started the renaissance for director, David O. Russell. His movies are traditionally about passion, and none have better successfully illustrated that theme than Silver Linings Playbook. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play Pat and Tiffany, two people full of passion who have lost their way. Both turn out Oscar worthy performances, and while Lawrence won, Cooper was given the impossible task of facing a Daniel Day-Lewis performance. He would have won any other year for sure with this performance. This was the best acted film of the decade bar none. Furthermore, Russell’s screenplay is excellent as he also manages to give Robert DeNiro a role that could be indirectly related to his having such a prolific 2019 with Joker and The Irishman.

Django Unchained

4. Django Unchained (2012) – Django Unchained is void of any superfluous substance. From the opening scene of dialogue where Django and Schultz are introduced all the way to the final “showdown,” Django Unchained has momentum and remains in stride. Tarantino won his second Original Screenplay Oscar for this because no other film that can be nominated for this category combines such compelling dialogue with such a spirited and ambitions story. The film unfolds in a series of distinct acts. Furthermore, Tarantino takes his flair for the irregular timeline to a more subtle place by interjecting small contextual flashbacks at key points to reveal critical or entertaining pieces of background that enhance an approaching scene. Christoph Waltz gives Tarantino another Oscar winning performance as the film’s moral compass, Dr. Schultz. Schultz’s character also works to deepen and broaden Foxx’s turn as Django. Django has a goal, but lacks direction and Schultz literally provides that for him, which gives Foxx some real dimension and power. However, the film’s crown jewel is found in the film’s closing acts when Leonardo DiCaprio appears as Calvin Candie, owner of the massive and legendary plantation known as Candyland. DiCaprio’s performance is a sneaky one, and while initially campy, it becomes very real all too quickly. His character shows a severe authenticity as a symbol for the evils of supposed “gentlemen” during a deeply deranged time in American history. As fun as Django Unchained is to watch, it is still a Quentin Tarantino movie, which implies vulgarity and violence. It delivers on both of those qualities to excess, which is a good thing in this case. As part of the Western genre, a lot of justice is sought out against a lot of bad people, and a six-shooter is basically the only tool. The balance between good acting, strong writing, unpredictable circumstances, and sudden bursts of violence creates a suspenseful tone that could not otherwise be achieved.

Blue Jasmine

3. Blue Jasmine (2013) – While 2019 has been a tough year for arguably my favorite filmmaker and entertainer of all time, Woody Allen was still churning out classics in the 2010s. First in 2011, he had his greatest box office achievement of his career with Midnight in Paris, and then just two years later, he puts out one of his greatest films of all time, Blue Jasmine. Allen’s film may be contextually set within the confines of financial crisis; however, the film is actually about trust and fate. The strength of the story rests on the complex and fractured relationship between two adopted sisters, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine and Ginger were separately adopted, raised together, but fate sent them on wildly different paths. Allen explores this element throughout the film while also examining Jasmine’s sense of entitlement regardless of the fact that she has no skills and simply fell into wealth. Furthermore, trust is a dynamic issue presented in the film. While mostly known for his impeccable ability to create fascinating female characters (and Blue Jasmine is no exception), Allen also presents the damage of deception through his uncharacteristically diverse set of male characters. Bobby Cannavale is especially indicative of this as Ginger’s current boyfriend, Chili. Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K., and Peter Sarsgaard join Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay in developing the vital effect of trust, or lack thereof, on the human condition.

Life of Pi

2. Life of Pi (2012) – First of all, if you like to enjoy a film in its purest and unanticipated sense, just know Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a spectacular cinematic experience. Now stop reading and go see it. From the moment the map of the Mariana Trench appears on the screen, hold on to your seats! No film, including Avatar, has achieved this level of visual grandeur with 3D technology. What is more, Life of Pi exists right here on our own planet. Lee’s careful precision as a director, takes full advantage of every opportunity to amaze the audience with wonder. Many films have explored the survivor element of what the limits of human endurance are. What allows Pi to rise above those is the spiritual depth that is created from the film’s opening act and the awe-inspiring visual effects that are second to none. Life of Pi is a low-key masterpiece. It sneaks up on you and while not complicated, welcomes multiple viewings. The opening credits depicting animals happily living in captivity holds new meaning after experiencing the film for the first time. Lee presents a very enjoyable and thought-provoking version of Martel’s widely admired source material. It was said that Life of Pi was one of those unfilmable stories- that it can exist in the mind of the reader and nowhere else. Lee has proven those skeptics incorrect; however, this film is more than a companion or adaptation of the novel. It has surpassed that into something much more special and distinctive. 

Interstellar

1. Interstellar (2014) – This is it; the big one! For six years, I’ve been waiting to see if anyone can take this film down as best film of the decade. No one came close. Interstellar is a phenomenal film. It is the most immersive film of the decade. Nolan does not treat the audience with kid gloves and allows us to observe and appreciate the film without needless exposition or over-explanation. Clocking in at 3 hours in running time, the film actually moves with a deliberate and intrepid pace. Like successful cinematic space operas of the past such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Star Wars, Interstellar is enriched with thoughtfulness, theoretical rhetoric, and intensity! The film is also quite beautiful and awe-inspiring. Nolan, one of the last filmmakers still shooting on 35mm film, uses the technique to his stunning advantage. Darkness, color, perspective, and beauty are all heightened by Nolan’s camera work, and the film resonates with a voracity that feels appropriate for a quality depiction of interplanetary space travel. Like Steven Price’s Oscar winning score from Gravity, the score in this film, composed by Has Zimmer, plays an equally pivotal role. Swells and crescendos of synthesizers and pipe organs counter-balance equally ominous moments of complete silence, all of which emphasize the overall mood. Like most Christopher Nolan films, the true strength of Interstellar is not in its cast but in its atmosphere and ambition. For a science-fiction film, Interstellar feels very authentic and while the film’s final act may challenge some viewers, everything works. It’s a masterpiece.

Well that’s it. 2019 is not yet finished, and some great films are slated to release at the end of the year, so if somehow something blows me away, I will update this list post-haste. That being said, it is just about time to start looking forward to what a new decade of film will bring, and I for one am encouraged and excited to find out!

Man Caves, Movies, and Muscles!

Man Caves

The decisive right of passage for any adult male is the inevitable construction of the “man-cave.” Though its name suggests prehistoric connotations of Neanderthal-like quality wherein a man might exhibit all of his stereotypical gruffness, the truth of the matter is that a man-cave is a place in the home devoid of any and all purpose other than comfort. It is not for cooking, not for showing, not for entertaining, not even necessarily just for a man. The man-cave, conceptually, should be nothing more than an immersion of interests without the pressure of “fitting in” with the rest of the home’s décor.

I have recently begun the formidable undertaking of transforming my basement into a lair worthy of The People’s Critic’s name. Obviously, its design is based on gloriously accentuating a single focal point that is as large a projected movie image as possible. Comfy seats, a big screen, carpet, popcorn machine, mini-bar – everything was in place for the laziest and most epic screening room I could imagine (and afford). Once that task was accomplished, however, a funny thing happened. The lonely treadmill that was the previous, albeit ignored, focal point in the basement suddenly yearned for a new purpose and I guiltily sitting on my comfy leather couch watching The Dark Knight Rises for the fifth and time climbed aboard with a zeal for exercise previously unknown to me. My heart pumped as Batman and Bane battled it out; my adrenaline kicked in to high gear as Bruce Wayne fought to escape The Pit…and then there’s Catwoman! The next thing I knew, exercise and movies were deeply intertwined; free-weights, a jump rope, and a rowing machine suddenly joined the once lonely treadmill as the man-cave evolved into a theatrical gym with no membership costs.

The Nautilus T614 Treadmill is my recommendation.

In the past seven months, I’ve worked out to 35 complete movies. While many are action/adventure films, others are dramas, comedies, westerns, and sci-fi/fantasies. I don’t say all of this to be pretentious or to brag. Rather, I want to establish some element of credibility before providing a list of the top 10 movies to work out to, since I am not a person who is known for or claims to know much about exercising.

The List:

A note before I begin. All of the films on my list I had seen prior to watching them while exercising. Unless it stars Jason Statham (which several of them do), I find the experience is much richer if you’re familiar with the film ahead of time.

10.  The Transporter, The Transporter 2and The Transporter 3 – 3 movies? I know, I’m cheating right out of the gate, but they do star Jason Statham. Still, these movies are made for this kind of list and while not necessarily “good,” (especially in the acting category – That’s right Transporter 3, I’m talking to you) they are the perfect series to show your treadmill who’s boss.

9.  Cloud Atlas – What? That’s right, this nearly three hour Wachowski sibling brain scramble of a film is one of two films on this list that if seen REQUIRE at least a second viewing, so why not set the treadmill to “Walk in the Park” and hit those free weights every time Tom Hanks shows up as another character.

8.  The Departed – One of the best films you can watch anywhere, but it’s the great use of music that earns it a place on this list.

7.  Rambo First Blood: Part II – I resisted the urge to cheat again and include First Blood, but really this is the Rambo movie to see, but avoid Rambo 3 in all circumstances.

6.  Death Race – Jason Statham returns to the list in a remake of the 1975 camp classic, Death Race 2000. This one is worse than the original and yet much better for the purposes of this list! Lots of heavy metal, explosions, cars racing, and Ian McShane.

5. The Dark Knight Rises – This is the one that started it all for me. So you want to be Batman? This movie is the Rocky III of the Dark Knight series. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, just know Batman ain’t in fighting shape; he’s a little worse for ware, which of course leads to several training montages that allow YOU to train with Batman himself!

4.  The Wolf of Wall Street – This is probably where I lose my woman audience. Like The Departed, Scorsese fills this movie with great music choices, which I think is key to a good work out movie. It’s also a party on film and a bit of a man’s movie, but with a 3 hour running time, it’s not easy to find time to watch it.

3.  Mulholland Drive – When I listed Cloud Atlas, I mentioned there are two films on this list that REQUIRE at least a second viewing; this is the second one. Certainly one of David Lynch’s finest achievements, this bizarre Hollywood mystery offers so much to interpret, it is easy to get caught up in it and lose all track of time. Beware, Lynch originally planned Mulholland Drive to be a television show, but when that deal fell through, he rewrote it as a film.  He used some footage already shot, thus he has specifications for aspect ratio and volume. If you can’t meet the volume requirements, the movie might be too quiet to watch while using any noisy equipment.

2.  No Country for Old Men – Certainly one of the finest films ever made. This dark, intense allegory for violence is beautifully filmed by the Coen Brothers and presents a film virtually devoid of score and music yet absolutely hypnotizing.

1.  Minority Report – Throw Minority Report on the screen and as the intensity builds, so will your muscle. This one was made in 2002, 5 years B.iP (Before iPhone), but watch how realistically Spielberg imagined some of the futuristic advances.

So there it is, a fun list to help make exercise less of a chore and more of an event. I included the full list of all 35 movies I’ve watched so far in the order that I watched them below. PLEASE consider adding to this list here or on my Facebook page!

The People’s Critic’s Full List of Workout Movies

  1. The Dark Knight Rises
  2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  3. Magnolia
  4. Boogie Nights 
  5. 300
  6. The Departed
  7. Children of Men
  8. Royal Tenenbaums
  9. Death race
  10. The Transporter
  11. The Transporter 2
  12. The Transporter 3
  13. The Bourne identity
  14. Rambo: First Blood
  15. Rambo: First Blood Part II
  16. Sin City
  17. The Bank Job
  18. The Matrix
  19. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  20. The Avengers
  21. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
  22. This is the End
  23. Mulholland Drive
  24. Cloud Atlas
  25. Paul
  26. The Wolf of Wall Street
  27. Unforgiven
  28. Midnight in Paris
  29. Midnight Cowboy
  30. The Man Who Wasn’t There
  31. No Country for Old Men
  32. Minority Report
  33. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  34. King of New York
  35. Baby Driver

2019 Oscar Predictions

oscars91For those of you eagerly awaiting my annual predictions, your wait is over.

Like I do every year, my 2019 Oscar Predictions include all 24 categories and their nominees along with my humble (yet educated) opinion and commentary on who will bring home the gold at this year’s ceremony, held Sunday February 24th, hosted by… NO ONE!?

I will say that having no host under the pretext that there were no quality choices is just, plain lazy! I present to you, exhibit A:

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That’s right, The People’s Critic tossed his hat into the ring a full two months ago, and nary a jingle has he heard from the Academy. So there it is: laziness. So on we go, hostless, but the show must go on!

Visit my Awards Spotlight Page for links to Oscar Predictions and Menus past and present as well, and be sure to check out the highly anticipated 2019 Oscar Dinner Menu.

So make yourself a Spiked LeeMonade, and check out my predictions for the 2019 Oscar winners! I know it’s a long post, but it’s only 500 words longer than than last year!

2019 Oscar Predictions
2019 Oscar Dinner Menu
2019 Printable Oscar Ballot
Awards Spotlight Page