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Dueling Critics: Best Movies of the Decade (2010-2019)

09:44 January 15, 2020
By: David Vicari, Fritz Esker

Fritz: The decade is over, which is always a fun time for film critics because we get to revisit our favorite films of the decade. The first I'll bring up is Mad Max: Fury Road. At first glance, it might seem like it was yet another drab attempt to cash in on a popular franchise from the past. But George Miller's film is one of the most impressive action spectacles I've ever seen. But it's anchored by two great performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron (the gold standard for feminist action heroes this decade).

While it was better to see Fury Road in theater, the film still plays very well at home. However, in terms of spectacles, I feel the need to mention the almost entirely forgotten Robert Zemeckis film (from 2015, the same year as Fury Road) The Walk. It's based on the true story of a man who walked a tightrope between the two World Trade Center towers in the 70s. This one does not play as well at home, BUT...on the big screen in IMAX 3-D, it made me sweat, gasp, and clutch my arm rests (and I'm not someone who's normally terrified by heights). It's a shame so few people saw it in the theater.

The other one I want to mention in my first salvo is Damien Chazelle's La La Land (2016). Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have fantastic chemistry, the songs are good, the cinematography is gorgeous, and it's a moving story about how the way we hope and dream our lives will turn out does not match the way our lives actually do turn out. Even those of us who have good lives on aggregate don't get to see all of our dreams come true. It's not a fashionable sentiment, but I think the Oscars got it wrong when they gave the Oscar for Best Picture to Moonlight instead of La La Land.

I have a few more I want to discuss, but how about you? What are some movies that leap to mind when you think of your favorites of the decade?

David: I wholeheartedly agree with your above choices. In fact, I will go further and say if I had to pick one movie, Mad Max: Fury Road would be my favorite film of the decade. And yes, it is a shame that The Walk didn't do very well at the box office. Most films shown in theaters in 3-D these days are usually converted to 3-D in post and the effects are ineffectual. These converted 3-D films are just a gimmick to get you pay more to see the film. The Walk, however, is a true experience. I do hope that someday there are revival screenings of the film in IMAX 3-D. And I am glad you mentioned La La Land. It did deserve Best Picture, but maybe the spectacle of those wonderful musical numbers made Academy viewers gloss over the fact that the movie did deal with heavy themes and that there was a conflict in the story that the lead characters had to seriously deal with.

Now, for my first pick I am choosing a picture you don't like from a filmmaker you don't care for. Admittedly, the films of Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven) are an acquired taste, but I am a fan. I feel that Tree of Life (2011) is his masterpiece. The story of an emotionally distant man (Sean Penn) thinking back on his childhood is only the jumping off point of a movie that explores the mysteries of the universe and the existence of the soul.

Director Martin Scorsese explores his love of cinema in Hugo (2011), a wonderful tribute to Georges Méliès (A Trip to the Moon) as well as an engaging fantasy film. Like The Walk, Hugo was shot in 3-D, which really enhances its many eye-popping visuals.

Before La La Land,Damien Chazelle wrote and directed the frenzied fever dream of a movie Whiplash (2014), about a young drum student (Miles Teller) squaring off with the bullying, sociopath of a music teacher (J.K. Simmons). This is more intense than most so-called thrillers.

Back to you.

Fritz: I do like Hugo and Whiplash a lot. I think Hugo got overlooked because it can be dismissed as a kids' film, but it's deeper than that (just like La La Land is not the fluffy musical its detractors said it was during the Oscar race).

My next picks are two other movies that were nominated for Best Picture, but fell short. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017) is a film by Martin McDonagh about a mother's (Frances McDormand) efforts to find justice for her raped and murdered daughter. It's funny and heartbreaking in equal measure, but what's refreshing about it is the empathy it shows to all of its characters. A lesser movie would've just turned McDormand into a righteous saint and the characters around her into cardboard obstacles in her path. But no one in this movie is entirely an angel or a devil, even its least likable character (Sam Rockwell).

Director David Fincher told the story of Facebook's birth with The Social Network (2010). It's another movie without saints or devils, but it's an endlessly fascinating look at how people turn on each other when money's at stake and at an awkward young man's (played to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg) attempts and failures to find human connection.

What are some others on your mind?

David: Again, excellent picks.

My next choice is one of those gosh darn feel-good movies you can't help but fall in love with. Sing Street (2016) is yet another personal comedy/drama centering around music by Irish filmmaker John Carney (Begin Again, Once). Set in the mid 1980s, a Dublin teen (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) forms a band and attempts to make a music video, all with the sole purpose of wooing his beautiful neighbor (Lucy Boynton).

We just saw it in July of 2019, but Quentin Tarantino's love letter to the last glimmer of Hollywood's golden age, Once Upon a Hollywood, has really stayed with me. It's a masterpiece.

It was a good decade for cinema.

Fritz: Sing Street is a wonderful movie, and I'm glad you brought it up. I hope someone reads this and decides to rent it online. If we're going to talk about feel good movies, I think we need to acknowledge Pixar's continuous mastery of that genre. Inside Out (2015) is probably my favorite of theirs this decade.

Once Upon a Hollywood has stayed with me as well and has gotten even better with repeat viewings (I've seen it three times).

It was a good decade for cinema, and I hadn't realized this until we started to write this. There's several other movies I'd want to discuss but we can't for space reasons (Boyhood, Moneyball, Arrival, Before Midnight, The Death of Stalin, among others).

David: Right. Here's a few more of my favorites from the past decade - Won't You Be My Neighbor?, The Favourite, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Youth, The Sessions and Silver Linings Playbook.

So, to the reader, if you haven't seen some of these movies, please check them out.

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