Best of the decade so far (60-31) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
7Feb/150

Best of the decade so far (60-31)

AndrewCommentaryBannerWe're approaching the five-year anniversary of Can't Stop the Movies. Throughout our near five years here at the site we've gone through a large amount of changes in style and content.  It's only in the last year that we've finally set on a style and schedule that combines long-term studies, looks at experimental film, and releases both new and DVD.  With a founding date of 2010, it puts us in a unique position to take a break every few years to look at the cinematic best achievements of the last few years.

A word about format, these films are in ascending order of quality.  Nothing here is sent in stone so, depending on the day, I might find myself enjoying the family insanity of Silver Linings Playbook more than the painful economic comedy of Win Win.  Not all the reviews written for this section are mine and we weren't able to review everything on this list.  For those films I'll include thoughts about why it's on the list instead of a quoted excerpt from the review itself.  If you want to read the full review on each film you can either click on the title or the accompanying photo.

60-31 will be released today, and 30-1 tomorrow.  Hope you enjoy looking back at the last for years with me!

You're Next (2013)

Self-explanatory

You're Next is just a solid entertainment through and through.  There's enough creativity and zest in the slashing to keep your average horror fan engaged, and for those looking for a nuance the material is filled with nasty zings.  Chekhov's gun doesn't apply just to firearms, but axes too.

Wild (2014)

Facing it all together

So we get lost in the trail with Cheryl. We receive every reminder she does about the pain she’s trying to leave behind. At any point she could fall into that open expanse and end her miserable existence. Or she could put her old pains to rest in the hopes of being reborn into something more. Wild is transformative, painful, and exhilarating. I hope it uplifts you the same way it did for me.

Take This Waltz (2012)

2a

Those sort of complications thrill me, because I love when movie characters are found to be as weak and flawed as the rest of us.  Polley shows Margot as the kind of person who will never be satisfied, but seems to find relationships that will never satisfy her.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

1

It all comes down to the love these people have for each other.  Even when we meet Pat's younger brother, the "sane one", we see his life has been an obsessive pursuit of the kind of perfection that would win his brother's love.  That's what makes this one of the year's best films and a perfect anathema to the horror we've witnessed lately.  We're all a bit crazy, what luck that there are people in the same situation who love us all the same.

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12 best

It could have ended up as a solemn slog through bad feelingsville, but director Destin Cretton (who based the material on his 2008 short film, which was based on his own experiences as a worker at a similar facility) finds humor and humanity in the characters as opposed to letting their pain become the sole focal point. The structure and length of the movie demand that a lot of conflict is crammed into perhaps too brief a period, and this hurts the film a little—it starts to seem like everything that can go wrong has gone wrong, but then again, in many of these characters' lives, it has.

Pride (2014)

Strength in solidarity for best of

But that bit of exhaustion I felt only goes to show how hard it is to make a feature-length film filled with so much optimism from start to finish.  Pride is the sort of film where our heroes get bricks thrown through their windows and they see it as an opportunity to raise even more awareness for their cause.  Pride's bit of glitter, sunshine, and intelligence is a rare and welcome alternative to the usual spread of dour anti-heroes.

Obvious Child (2014)

Obvious best of

Obvious Child, through no fault of its own, will likely be ignored by the award circuit as time goes on because we still don't seem ready to deal with abortion in ways that aren't dramatically intense.  But Obvious Child has already found a supportive audience for good reason.  Robespierre's film is the sort we can all learn from, a feat made more impressive by how she refuses to preach to the audience.  She teaches from example and we laugh, cry, and sometimes hide in giant boxes, right along with Donna.

The Impossible (2012)

Another sign of a happy ending

There is so much to love about The Impossible that I can only list a few more lest I go on for too long.  I love that Bayona did not cut between the two stories because that would still give the audience comfort that both are surviving.  I love that he treated the indigenous population not as a mythical problem solving other but another group of terrified people who are also trying to find a way to survive.  I love his frequent and direct approach at forcing us into the characters minds through the soundtrack.  I love that this film is utterly without fantasy and reminds us every step of the way that we probably don't have what it takes to live through what we see the Bennet's go through.  I love the shot of a split and rapidly decaying corpse of a dog that almost instantly answered any preemptive concern I had about this being an unrealistic fantasy.

Hanna (2011)

Hanna best of

This movie is rife with so many different layers of subtext that much praise is due to Seth Lochhead for crafting the story and David Farr for assisting in writing the screenplay.  There's the delicious psychological subtext of Hanna entering her adolescence just at the point which her father should not be the only man in her life, combined with the intensity of Marissa's hunt for her hinting at an Electra Complex in the making.  Then there's the way it mixes so many cultures with some amazing used of scenery to create a palpable sense of anti-xenophobia present in many thrillers.  There's so much more and the screenplay alone makes Hanna more than worthy of repeated viewings.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Grand Budapest best of

Those looking for a return to The Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore aren't going to find it here, but looking at Anderson's last decade as a director, it's unlikely we're going back there any time soon. I'm kind of ok with that, especially if it means the further development of the techniques and types of stories we're seeing here and in Moonrise Kingdom. My favorite of his movies is still The Life Aquatic, but I don't necessarily want more of the same—that movie felt like a fun and uninhibited embracing of his usual goofy tropes. It has the raw joy of a kid in a candy store. With The Grand Budapest Hotel he seems more confident in telling a story that has more to it than his trademark quirks. There is no way anyone could mistake this for anything but a Wes Anderson film, but it also hints at more, and that's exciting.

End of Watch (2012)

It takes two to make a thing go right.

The film is so refreshing because we’re watching good, flawed, people at the high points of their lives both personally and professionally.  Even the crime ring they find themselves embroiled in is more a result of their day to day lives than the grinding of a plot machine.  By the end I loved these characters just as much as Ayer and living right alongside them.

Boyhood (2014)

No less realized

Too often we're preoccupied with that question.  Even Linklater's tried to answer it with his previous films.  In Boyhood, he's let go.  There is no universal truth here, just a boy who grew to embrace photography, loved a girl for a time, experimented in the backseat of cars, and worried his mother.  That's just the background.  The erosion, the fleeting life, that's the subject, and one that only cinema, where we can watch the cautious stare of the boy at six evolves into the lens of the man at eighteen, is able to fully articulate.  Those images can either be comforting vapors of a life well-lived before death, or constant reminders of how life fails to give easy meaning to anyone.  How lovely it is to embrace that uncertainty, to go gently into the night, and wonder what will come next.

The Book of Eli (2010)

Book of Eli best of

There’s a mercurial point at which great trash becomes great art.  Sometimes, in spite of a film’s intentions, it starts off in one category and veers into the other.  The Hughes Brothers have been without film work for nine years now, and the last movie they released was the art/trash straddling From Hell.  They’ve returned to the film scene with The Book of Eli, a movie that is assuredly great trash and, after some developments toward the end, I’d like to say pretty good art as well.

Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive (2013) - no on-site review

Ansari buried alive

Aziz Ansari has grown from the source of some nice laughs in Parks and Recreation to a stand-up artist of surprising depth.  Buried Alive is the third Ansari special I've seen, but is the first where we see the depths of Ansari's curiosity into human relationships.  From talking about the ephemeral nature of love to negging the audience, he brings a strong sense of warmth, sadness, and humor to his musings.

The Butler (2012)

This shouldn't say as much as it does

The Butler is not a film for cowards who are afraid of grand emotions or unwilling to confront the recent truth of our country.  It is dignified and powerful, ending on a note of hope but not for a second implying that the struggle ended in 2008.  I loved this movie and every tear it got out of me.  Films are so rarely have the potential to be as powerful a bonding experience as this and I hope you, too, find someone's hand in the end.

Winter's Bone (2010)

Winters Bone best of

Many times a movie that has been relentlessly talked up and praised by critics and audiences has a way of underwhelming you when you finally see it. Winter’s Bone is one of those rare movies where they hype and praise is 100% right on and deserved. This movie is worth searching out and driving if need be to see. I will not be surprised when I hear the movie, Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes mention often during awards seasons and with critics top ten lists. Do yourself a favor and see the movie as soon as you can, that way, when it is named to countless best of lists for the year, you can nod your head in agreement.

The Turin Horse (2011)

The Horse

I am sad that I will never be writing a new review of any Bela Tarr film.  Even when I started my retrospective, I was not certain Tarr would actually finish The Turin Horse.  Now I'm faced with the prospect of never seeing any work from him again.

I'm satisfied with that, if only because he can go out as strong as he does with The Turin Horse.  It is a pure cinema.  It is a world philosophy distilled into two and a half hours of pure visual and audio philosophy, subject to whatever life experience you bring to it.  Even if the films philosophy of nihilism is not one I agree with, it is one I still respond to.

Rampart (2011)

Hell

Rampart is the kind of film that gets overlooked precisely because it looks and feels too real for this time and place.  When the subject of that reality is an officer ok with seducing a black woman in the dark, but can't stand to look at her in the light, and justifies his racism through the law, it's a bitter pill to take.  It shouldn't be, and Rampart cuts through that pain in every disgusting second.

You know people like Dave, and that's the horrible truth of Rampart.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Lovers left best of

So what if the world decays around them?  Their love does not need witnesses.

The Grey (2012)

The Grey Face

 Finally, don’t go into The Grey expecting Liam Neeson to punch some wolves in the face, that is not what the film is about even though the marketing would wish you to believe that.  On the other hand, don’t dismiss this film because it came out in January and wolves are a crucial competent.  The Grey is a superb film that tackles subjects that most films would dare not do.  Although it is early in the year, I think I will be revisiting this movie in about 11 months when I do my best of list.  If it's not on there, we are in for a great year of cinema because The Grey is one hell of a film.

Frank (2014)

Frank and the Band

 Frank is more interesting in its flaws than a lot of movies are in their success. It undermines the myth that creativity and creative genius—music in this case—must come from tragedy and torment, and criticizes the myths we embrace to make said creativity more complex and romantic.

Cold Weather (2010)

Cold Weather best

What we have is an ingenious and loosely wound film made by smart people who wanted to show good characters solving a mystery.  The "villains", because you can barely call them that, are just as smartly realized.  There are no big speeches, no hero hanging by a thread moments, just the suspense of Doug thinking through a complicated situation and coming out ahead.  If Doug's may not be Sherlock, but the people that caused all this are definitely not Moriarty, and weren't counting on someone as good and smart as Doug to be on the case.

Bully for you Doug and I can't wait to see what director Aaron Katz comes up with next.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

Alan Best

Any man who prefers Wings over The Beatles should know enough to know better - lucky for us Alan doesn't.

The World's End (2013)

Dublya Tee Eff

In this way, The World's End is terribly sad with its honesty.  The only reason we survive to adulthood is because we learn the best way to lie to ourselves, and one another.  Sometimes this is hilariously portrayed, like when Pierce Brosnan delivers a too-crisp rant about the importance of conforming.  Other times its painful, like when we find out why King wants to finish this crawl so badly while making sure his arms stay covered up.  The World's End hurts like the best comedies sometimes do, switching from hilarious moments about what pronoun to use for the invading robots, and ending with tearful revelations that the fun is over.

Win Win (2011)

Win Win best

Win Win is the most conventional movie that he's made in plot only.  The conventions stem mostly from the middle-class surroundings that hang precipitously over a sudden decline that can come at any moment.  To that end, what better person is set to encapsulate that kind of fear and protectiveness than Paul Giamatti?  As Mike Flaherty, struggling lawyer and flailing wrestling coach tending to a newly born daughter, he continues to portray the kind of unique strength found in good people utilizing their situations to the best ends, even if it's not the best means.

Interstellar (2014)

Reflected in the light

Interstellar is the work of a Christopher Nolan gone absolutely mad but still could not stop taking detailed notes along the way. It's a stunning and ambitious work of science fiction that pours straight from Nolan's heart onto a desolate screen he wants to fill with images of the impossible. If I go to movies for any reason at all, it's for this.  Interstellar is a miracle.

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Bloody fate

The men that haunt Heidi's nightmares are decayed beyond recognition, the only usable part of their body left is an erect but distorted phallus.  The women are worse, the slimy pus of their sore-addled bodies wielding knifes that carve into Heidi's sex organs to claw and desecrate their unholy savior.  The climax of all this is a fever dream that uses a subdued version of Zombie's acid artwork and holy imagery in a way that is bold and grotesque.  It's a stunning finale.

Prometheus (2012)prom2

It's deep, gorgeous and it's not afraid to leave the big questions it asks still hanging at the end.

Terri (2011)

we're all too tired

I felt for them, all of them, even the tormentor's (I've had my weaker moments) though it's Terri that still gets us through.  Terri, with some strength we can barely grasp at, is the one who goes from telling how "This morning they asked me if I sucked on my own breast" to sweetly fondling a note from a new friend.

While the film is a reminder of how too many of those days are spent with the former, and less recalling the latter, the conclusion is the same.  You're no more a monster than the next person in pain, just try to remember that you don't have to have the strength to get through all the days.  Just enough.

Under the Skin (2014)

Under the Skin best

Under the Skin is seduction without the hint of release.  The universe is one where being human is to endure the potential for pleasure yet finding nothing but another flesh covered machine driven by the hope and ending in darkness.  There is nothing to reach for in the light, because whatever comes out does not have our best interests in mind, and the thrill of discovery is beaten down by the reality that we are just a collection of nutrients waiting to decay or for someone to have use of us.

Tomorrow, I list the remaining picks for the 30th through the 1st best films of the first half-decade.

Posted by Andrew

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