It’s been a wonderful decade for cinema.
In the ten years BLANK has been in business, the art of film has grown immeasurably. The art of three-dimensional film has exploded and, in some ways, come back down to Earth a bit. There have been record-setting blockbusters and there have been unlikely award night heroes. These facts make it hard to dissect the entire cinematic landscape since 2007, and there are dozens of films that could have made this list, but in the end we narrowed it down to our ten favorites of the last ten years, in no particular order.
No Country For Old Men – The Cohen Brothers
The Cohen Brother’s gripping abstract crime drama could pass for a new episode of this year’s Twin Peaks reboot simply for its cold tension and dry communication strung from start to finish. Following a trail of cash with ties to drug suppliers through the American Southwest; the film meditates violently on the American lottery dream and the inherent evil of ruthless murder through a pensive cowboy and an otherworldly assassin. Even with some hit in their bag, this is peak performance for Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and possibly even Tommy Lee Jones. –Andy Vinson
Submarine – Richard Ayoade
It might be safe to say that you only needs one good coming of age story every decade. The type where a teenager thinks that virginity is the only barrier to adult hood and that they must shed it at all costs is played out, sure. Somehow, Richard Ayoade makes it feel fresh and intimate while simultaneously speaking to higher problems of love and sex in an age group vastly different than the baby boomers behind them. Coming from the British comedy hit The IT Crowd, it’s safe to assume most people didn’t see such an successful outing from England’s version of Shelton in his first go at it, but nevertheless Ayoade quickly stepped to the plate with this decade’s sexual blossoming classic. -AV
The Wrestler – Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky is known for his over-the-top, often gruesome portrayals of the human condition. But with The Wrestler, he relaxed a bit and presented his most straightforward cinematic endeavor. It’s also his best. Mickey Rourke stormed back into the Hollywood limelight in this tale of a warrior past his prime and for good reason. No one else could have played Randy “The Ram” Robinson with the conviction that Rourke showed. Some folks say that’s because a lot of “The Ram” could be found in Rourke’s real life. The casting is perfect throughout, with Evan Rachel Wood as his oft-forgotten daughter and Marisa Tomei plays a hard-working mother just trying to find her footing. -RO
Take Shelter – Jeff Nichols
Jeff Nichols has put together four incredible pieces of southern homage thus far into his career (which I have already written about extensively in this paper), but Take Shelter remains his most human. Even through visions of the apocalypse, the film is very simply about a man protecting a family he holds dear. In the face of dark visions of destruction, Michael Shannon is driven crazy more by the judgment of the sleepy Arkansas town-folk than the four horsemen coming. Thank God for Nichols keeping Southern culture true and alive. –AV
Beasts of The Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin
Staying in line with that Southern charm, Beasts of The Southern Wild plays the opposite side of the line, living in such a world of fantasy and wonder that it feels ethereal while having Cajun charms like a fishing boat littered with chicken biscuit wrappers and shanty shacks precariously pivoting on two by fours being the most realistic aspect of the whole piece. It’s remarkable that a story with beats following the likes of Winnie the Pooh has so much to say about global warming, race, and father issues, but the whole thing is held together with unexplainable magic anyways, so why not. It’s beautiful and perfect. -AV
99 Homes – Ramin Bahrani
Michael Shannon might be the most underrated actor in the game today. His credits include a wide array of television and film. From Groundhog Day to Vanilla Sky to 8 Mile, he took on all comers on his way up. Now as a legitimate Indie lead, he most often plays the antagonist, and no one does it better these days.
In 99 Homes, he is Rick Carver, a real estate predator whose evil knows no bounds when it comes to evicting people from their homes and then selling them for a profit.
Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, the movie’s everyman. Nash struggles to make ends meet while taking care of his mother and son. As you might guess, the two main characters meet when Carver comes knocking on Nash’s door to kick he and his family out. The cat and mouse that ensues between the two main characters takes myriad twists and turns and in the end, you’re left stunned. It’s about hard work, the housing crisis, betrayal and what’s most important in life, and it’s gripping for the whole ride. -RO
Mistaken for Strangers – Tom Berninger
Mistaken for Strangers is one of the sneaky best documentaries of the last decade because it’s never clear about what it is. What starts as an inside look into indie rockers The National helmed by the lead singers overshadowed little brother turns into a bizarre breakdown of family ties and adversity through mental illness, but never really becomes entirely about any of it. The found footage style has never felt more appropriate and the both sloppy editing and incredibly meticulous meta-storytelling is disorienting in a dumbfounding fascinating kind of way. -AV
Under The Skin – Jonathan Glazer
It takes a lot to be more existentially void than No Country For Old Men, but somehow Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi dissection of humanity is somehow the coldest film on this list. Shot partially incognito in order to pull unknowing performances from strangers on the street, Under The Skin asks what it means to be human and then leaves in disgust. Sleek minimal graphics keep humanity always just out of reach in this beautiful demented trip. -AV
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Offering another mirror in this list, Boyhood looks for humanity and finds beauty in everything. Linklater’s career defining epic took not just 12 years to make but also a lot of smart planning and organic beautiful moments culturally and geographically all around Texas. The film could have gone wrong in a million little ways, but true to the thesis of the film itself, the beauty made it through the ringer. The last twenty minutes of this film packs as much of a punch as the first fifteen of Up, without letting you know it. -AV
Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
A gathering of some of our favorite flicks of the last ten years would be wholly incomplete without representation by the Kendrick Lamar of the film world, Paul Thomas Anderson. The real problem is picking which one. Inherent Vice stands out in particular for its sheer enjoyability and comfort with its medium. It’s a weird mish-mash of both Golden Ages of cinema and it’s a cinephile’s dream worth hundreds of viewings with everything, and nothing, in the details. -AV