A week ago I put out my Top 10 Favorite Movies Of The Decade. Now it is time for another subjective top 10 list.
My “Top 10 Best Movies Of The Decade” list is based solely off of how well made a movie is made. In terms of directing, acting, cinematography and overall scope of a project; these 10 movies are what I consider the cream of the cop. Not all these films are rewatchable. Not all are award-winners. But these movies bring measures of cinematic excellence that are impossible for me to ignore.
I only considered moves that I rated “A-“ or above. Additionally, I only picked one movie per director, which was considerably more a challenge on this list compared to my “Top 10 Favorites Movies Of The Decade” post. Much like that list, there will be regrets, of that I have not doubt, but what better time to reflect then at the end of decade.
Without further ado, here are (of the movies I’ve seen) the best 10 movies of the decade…
Call Me By Your Name (2018)
Director: Luca Guidagnino
Writer: James Ivory, André Aciman
Cinematographer: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Staring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet
Oscars Won: Best Adapted Screenplay (1)
Oscars Nominations: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Picture (4)
Release Date: January 19, 2018
Acting. Acting. Acting. Armie Hammer is great in Call Me By Your Name, but Timothée Chalamet steals the show.
There are two scenes that are just stuck in my mind as downright perfection. First one…is right at the end. Elio, crying into the fireplace is heart wrenching. The smile he has that just starts quivering once he begins to remember and reminisce on the romance he has lost. The title comes up and all the audience is left with is the haunting feeling of wishing what could be. As a man who usually doesn’t stick around for the credits, it’s impossible to not watch Call Me By Your Name all the way through to blackness. Chalamet is tearing at everyone’s tear ducts with this closing.
Then there is this.
This is on par with Matt Damon’s and Robin Williams’ “It’s not your fault” speech in Good Will Hunting (1997). The idea of emotional bankruptcy that’s brought up is profound and true. But just the honesty and true emotion spoken is inspiring. Having a heart broken is something nobody can prepare for. It’s often inevitable sorrow everyone has to deal with. But what is conveyed in this turning moment in Call Me By Your Name is one of the best monologues of the past decade.
Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5.0 Stars)
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan, Ian Fleming
Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
Staring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
Oscars Won: Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing (2)
Oscars Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing (5)
Release Date: November 9, 2012
The Danial Craig era of James Bond has been back-and-forth in terms of quality. Casino Royale (2006) set the tone in the rebirth and after the disappointment of Quantum of Solace (2008), it was time to give the audience what they wanted. Enter in Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins. Those two bring us Skyfall, one of the most though-provoking, nostalgia-giving and all-encompassing action movies of all-time. Skyfall is arguably the best James Bond ever. There, I said it.
There are two variables that make Skyfall rise above its comrades. One, it tackles a real concept of fading out and how that messes with one’s psyche and perception. Entangled in that is acknowledging expendability and simply being used in achieve a purpose. Two, it has Javier freakin’ Bardem as Silva. What a bad guy. What a performance. Between this over-talkative and extra-expressive terrorist and his silent moody portrayal of Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men (2007), Bardem is one of the best bad-guy actors this millennium.
Skyfall combines class with entertainment. It explores a new area of the Bond persona and gives depth to a multitude of formally side characters. Add in a sprinkling of nostalgia and some kick-ass dialogue for some extra fun.
Before closing out on Skyfall, just have to share my favorite pair of lines from the show that really spotlight the microscope Mendes and crew put on the story.
“Age is no guarantee of efficiency.”
“Youth is no guarantee of innovation.”
Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5.0 Stars”
The Favourite (2018)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Cinematographer: Robbie Ryan
Staring: Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone,
Oscars Won: Best Actress (1)
Oscars Nominations: Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Supporting Actress (2x) (10)
Release Date: December 21, 2018
Nominated for 10 Oscars…but only won one. It’s a shame.
The Favourite is the best movie I saw in 2018. The trio of performances from Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are all outstanding. The look of the movie is unique, but the story itself is what’s most riveting.
The Favourite is a story about friendship; the different types, the evolution, the decaying and sometimes the ugly realizations surrounding the idea. Lady Sarah, played most impressive my Weisz (my favorite performance from the movie) is the long enduring friend of Queen Anne, played by Coleman. However, when a new maid by the name of Abigail enters the equation, Lady Sarah’s formula for appeasement is forever changed.
It becomes a renascence-aged high school battle, but instead of the oldest party taking the high road, it’s Queen Anne who is most immature and shifty. Coleman’s mood swings test both Abigail and Sarah, but despite the toxicity, neither want to cave in to the other. Back stabbings are revealed with quirky dialogue and delicate precision.
The scene I remember most from The Favourite involves Weisz being deliciously confident. Lady Sarah is shooting guns in the backyard with Abigail, as one does in the early 18th century.
She is doing the best she can to intimidate her counterpart and pretends to shoot Abigail after being insulted. There is no doubt that the character of Lady Sarah is a bitch, but she is the type you want by your side. She speaks the truth. Let’s just say Abigail was late to the knowledge party come the end of The Favourite.
Stanko Rating: A+ (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Cinematographer: John Seale
Staring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Oscars Won: Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing (6)
Oscars Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects (10)
Release Date: May 15, 2015
I made this my favorite movie of the decade. It’s a god damn manifesto of action and adrenaline.
Mad Max: Fury Road is of the best made action movies of all time. It may very well be on top of the pedestal. Other peers of it are Aliens (1986), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Die Hard (1988), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and The Dark Knight (2008). There is an art to making an action movie that appeases both the masses and the critics, and George Miller painted his mechanical portrait in 2015.
It’s a concert combined with monster trucks, all crowded into a venue that’s seating millions when it’s meant for just 250. Mad Max: Fury Road wastes now time throwing that atmosphere at you with Mad Max’s first attempted escape from Immortan Joe’s deviants.
The movie speeds like a getaway car on nitro yet highlights every little subtle detail of subtle exposition. What do I mean by that? For example, there is no explanation for the idea of Valhalla or why a silver substance induces maniac confidence. But you notice the stuff every time it is used.
But let’s just be real. It’s the action that makes Mad Max: Fury Road one of the best of its genre ever. Whether it be the CGI storm scene or the practical explosions, Miller’s massive dedication to making this movie is incredibly evident. A simple story is enough of an excuse for an explosive two-hour chase through dystopia. You will not forget Mad Max: Fury Road, and after multiple viewings, the appreciation grows only more.
Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5.0 Stars)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Staring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, James D’Arcy
Oscars Won: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing (3)
Oscars Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Scoreal Score, Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing (8)
Release Date: July 21, 2017
First of all: the trailer for Dunkirk is an all-timer. Just tick-tick-tick-tick. Anxiety inducing. Christopher Nolan, you are a genius from the get-go.
Dunkirk excels in two different ways: sound and timing.
To everyone who worked on the sound mixing and editing on Dunkirk, bravo. There is something to creating natural suspense with natural sounds, and that was accomplished exquisitely in this World War II tale. For example, the high-pitched whirring of the planes dropping bombs and annihilating the bridge and medic ship. There is no score, it strictly the natural sound that makes it all terrifying.
How Nolan writes such complex screenplays and keep his head on straight is beyond me. Dunkirk is running on three different timelines, all joining for the climax like a beautiful knot. Rather than the usual untying of a plot to try and understand it and having that sense of finally getting the metal slack at the end of a movie, Nolan instead is trying a bow on a story that secures itself with the human traits of dedication, desperation and hope.
The scene where George is pronounced dead, rather unceremoniously, is heartbreaking. Peter has no time to mourn the loss of him, not even for a second. He has just learned that George is dead, but he puts on his staunchest face. The glace over at Mr. Dawson and seeing his eyes, soulless for a second, shows the pain that the people involved in traumatic moments like those of Dunkirk had to endure.
Random tidbit: I love how this movie didn’t feature any major actors besides Tom Hardy, who has of course covered his face as he is one to do quite a bit. It’s a movie about normal everyday people doing the extraordinary, and it was acted out by a cast that is more average in terms of notoriety compared to other epic war movies.
Dunkirk is the best directing work of Nolan’s career in my mind.
Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Cinematographer: Lee Daniel, Shane F. Kelly
Staring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke,
Oscars Won: Best Supporting Actress (1)
Oscars Nominations: Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (6)
Release Date: August 15, 2014
12 years in the making. Literally 12 years in the making. Director and writer Richard Linklater takes the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and lets the audience see him grow up from early childhood to his arrival in college. Somehow, someway, Linklater got a dedicated cast and financer to allow for the long view method.
What makes Boyhood so remarkable is that it weaved in the changes the cast and crew went through. Linklater said in an interview with Time that “If something crazy happens, we’ll work it in. It was designed to work in who everyone was becoming. I could subtly go with where they were at developmentally.”
Boyhood is the movie that made me respect the process of filmmaking. How does one possibly plan all of this?? How does one think to accomplish a movie like this?? I seriously think that looking back at movie history in two decades, Boyhood is going to revered as one of the most crowning achievements of all time.
Most profound little speech I took from Boyhood: “Don’t hand over the controls of your self-esteem to Sheela. It means you are responsible for you. Not your girlfriend, not your mom, not me. You.”
Stanko Rating: A+ (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Director: Nicholas Windlng Refn
Writer: Hossein Amini, James Sallis
Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel
Staring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston
Oscars Won: N/A
Oscars Nominations: Best Sound Editing (1)
Release Date: September 16, 2011
The epitome of cool. Ryan Gosling as The Driver in Drive is the epitome of cool.
A man with no name strictly for hire falls in love with a vulnerable, yet confident, lady and finds himself in more trouble that he wished for. It’s a western tale, told in the dark, dank, depraved hidden streets of Los Angeles.
A man who says nothing, but always seem to have something to say. As The Driver, Gosling has so many moments of quiet savagery. The most famous of these is the elevator scene. It starts with him having to explain to Irene that her ex-convict husband was in some trouble and he did everything he could try and make it better. Then the elevator opens, and the conflux of directing excellence comes through. The dichotomy of that romantic soft kiss with the violence of The Driver’s boot hammering through the hitman’s head is jarring. Then the look that he has when facing back towards Irene is fantastic; it’s like a predator bringing home a piece of prey to its mate, hoping that the way it was mauled doesn’t offend.
The question for the audience is this: is the kiss in the elevator real? The lights dim, the natural sound fades to blissful music. Would The Driver really turn his back on trouble in the heat of the moment like that? Objectively, probably not. It’s a theory, and frankly it makes sense. But what makes it fantastic is that there is no obvious answer. It isn’t explained. It isn’t coached to the audience watching. Ambiguity is a wonderful thing.
Drive doesn’t treat the audience with kid’s gloves. It takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate it. Nicholas Windlng Refn’s style is unique and not for everyone. Those who know of Only God Forgives (2013) are aware of the controversy surrounding that violent opera. He doesn’t shy away from violence and he likes the highlight the worst aspects of people. The Driver’s self-identity crisis of deciding whether or not he is a good man is emblematic of the kind of story Windling Refn likes to share. There isn’t black and white, it’s a shifting grey space where perspective dictates which way you lean.
Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Lady Bird (2017)
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Cinematographer: Sam Levy
Staring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracey Letts, Timothée Chalamet
Oscars Won: N/A
Oscars Nominations: Best Actress, Best Directing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (5)
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Greta Gerwig’s writing and directing made me relate to a female character more than almost any other movie has. Saoirse Ronan follows up her breakout roll in Brooklyn (2015) with one of the most honest portrayals of young adult vulnerability.
Lady Bird McPherson, as she calls herself, is constantly battling with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. The two argue nonstop and the idea of compromise seems way to unlikely for optimism to seek in. The “give me a number” moment is crushing. That only comes after the father, who is trying to stay out of it playing solitaire, is dragged into the feud when Marion McPherson (Lady Bird’s mother) as a guilty ploy. I personally related to that argument, realizing that I was on the worse end of that.
When a director can take a broad topic, flip it around, and make it so you are looking at your own self in a critical microscope…that is damn fine story telling. Wonderful job Greta Gerwig.
A mother daughter relationship is something that I am not going to be able to relate to as well as others…for obvious reasons. Lady Bird is the closest I’ve gotten to understanding that bond while watching a movie. Taking teenage angst and combining it with a parent’s stress of reliance to make such an impacting story is an unbelievable achievement for a first-time director. The performances from Ronan and Metcalf are out of this world.
The story is haunting in its realness. And what’s part of reality is that it is funny at times. Lady Bird sews in lines of comic relief throughout the story, but it’s not the laugh-out-loud type. It’s a kind of dark humor…like now I have to laugh at my past self for my horrendous priorities in high school. The scene that sticks out most in terms of traversing awkward learning experiences and comedy is after Lady Bird loses her virginity.
“I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time!?” This line still gets me to this day because it’s a genuine point of frustration that Lady Bird is making, and it’s also objectively a funny if it were thrown into a more romantic-comedy context. Instead Ronan’s acting, combined with Timothée Chalamet’s nonchalant acting as Kyle Scheible, shines the attention on how the special moments are often not what they were built up to be. Lady Bird has her romantic ideals crushed before her and that line reading acts as a punchline to the fact that live is a cruel joke at times.
If you want to relive what it was like trying to grow-up and understand the world around you, watch Boyhood and Ladybird back-to-back. It’ll be a nostalgia hit that’ll touch all the repressed memories and trigger some deep thinking. No doubt.
Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5.0 Stars)
“Lady Bird” Movie Review – Stanko Take
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han
Cinematographer: Kyung-pyo Hong
Staring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi
Oscars Won: TBA
Oscars Nominations: TBA
Release Date: November 8, 2019
Have I writing about Parasite too much? Maybe. Have you seen it yet?
Again, I will reiterate that Parasite is the best movie of 2019. It is a shoe-in for the Best Foreign Film at the 2020 Oscars and should complete for Best Picture overall. Bong Joon Ho has been hitting the campaign trail hard trying to garner attention, and I truly hope that is happening. In a year of movies that surpassed expectations in terms of originality, Parasite stands among the best.
Looking back at Parasite, what makes the entire story most remarkable is that the director is the star of the show. While all the actors are well above average and memorable playing their parts, its Bong Joon Ho who shines the most. With him going on the press circuit, he is giving insight to the movie to various outlets.
The introduction of the rock seems odd in the moment, but that little piece of stalagmite contains symbolism that persists throughout the movie. When it is referenced to as metaphorical, it’s a little foreshadowing with a fourth wall break.
No scene in Parasite is wasted. All play a part in the ridiculous story. All have a deeper meaning that is either so subtle it can’t be understood in one watch…or its strong enough that it bashes you over the head.
Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cinematographer: Sharone Meir
Staring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Oscars Won: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Supporting Actor (3)
Oscars Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing, Best Supporting Actor (5)
Release Date: October 15, 2014
Damien Chazelle is arguably the best director of the decade with La La Land (2016), First Man (2018) and the cream of the crop, Whiplash (2014). It’s up for debate, and possibly a list for another day.
Here I am talking about the best acted movie of the 2010’s, anchored by the best performance of the past 10 years: JK Simmons as Fletcher. A teacher of pure malevolence that feeds off student’s insecurities to drive his ego. It’s his way, or the highway; and not in the charismatic Patrick Swayze way of Dalton in Road House (1989).
Then as the lead, Miles Teller as Andrew gives his most heartfelt and emotional effort of his career. He got nominations from the Gotham Awards for his breakout role, and nothing has come close since. Andrew must go through hell and back, and after having all his respect drained out of him, he earns the blackened respect of Fletcher in an amazing climatic moment.
One of Whiplash’s main motives is tempo. Trying to keep tempo and at pace with the music. While watching Whiplash, Chazzelle is conducting the audience through a myriad of rhythms. From chaotic striking close ups of the cymbals, to small quiet bar room simple conversations, to the shot of the movie that sticks with me most: the descend into slow motion during the final solo. The sound is blurred, and the contradiction of Andrew’s face shaking with fervor while Chazzelle shows the drum stick slowly clanking away at the sweaty cymbal is enthralling. The close up on the ear sweating…the sweaty shirt, the bass drum beating…it’s all just gold.
Also, I only realized this upon recently seeing La La Land and rewatching Whiplash; direct references to Jazz dying. Each movie has a major character who seems to have made it their mission to save the genre, but each going about it in a different way. Fletcher is hard nose in Whiplash, doing it through brute force and shoving it down people’s throats. Sebastian in La La Land tries to make reinvigorate it but fails, then succumbs to acquiescence that it needs to evolve. However, in the end, he rediscovers his love for the “simple” jazz and its rather uplifting.
There is no happiness at the ending of Whiplash. Andrew is happy to have succumb to his obsession, and Fletcher gets the satisfaction knowing his crazy method working on his newest protégé. A pair made in heaven, both damaged and mentally broken in their own way. Their stubbornness in their desires leaves what looks like a happy ending in the end with this amazing drum solo, but when the lights do dark and the concerts over, it’s harder to know who is more lost.
Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)
Begin Again (2014)
Diego Maradona (2019)
Gone Girl (2014)
La La Land (2016)
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019)
The Raid: Redemption (2012)
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018)
Toy Story 3 (2010)