2018 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
5Jan/200

Forever connected: a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade

I am not a fan of lists, and when I decided to do a list covering the best and worst films of the last decade it became clear that I needed to do the whole thing or none at all.

With that in mind, here it is, a comprehensive list of the best and worst films of the decade. This list covers 2010 to 2019 and, starting from the top, goes from the best on down. Each section is broken up with an image of reviews that reflect my best as a writer or a film that has earned special consideration of some kind.

The exception are my picks for the two best films of the decade, tied at #1, and a brief explanation about why they are at the top. After that, I hope that you'll join me through this decade of writing and growth. I've had stumbles, to say nothing of trying to figure out my voice, and haven't been able to review much recently. But I'm hoping to change and get back on my feet again starting with this overview of the last decade in film.

Let's begin at the top.

Our always-connected age means that we are more directly in contact with one another's feelings than ever before. It's overwhelming. One minute you could be happily watching a puppy play in snow then scroll down to find live camera footage of someone being killed. Scroll further and you'll see someone trying to sell you hair grooming products then further down a friend talking about the crippling pain they live with. It's overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with yourself amidst this never ending deluge of feeling. Good, bad, elated, traumatic - if you want to live in this world there's no way of turning it off anymore.

The best two films of the decade both confront what it's like to live in our always-connected age but take vastly different approaches. Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz's Upstream Color approaches our connection with experimentation and uncertainty. Zack and Deborah Snyder's Man of Steel mythologizes the open nerve of connection with grandeur and spirituality. Upstream Color is the angrier of the two, seeing those that would profit on our pain as aloof emotional vampires. Man of Steel is the more hopeful, watching the savior we don't deserve experience the worst of humanity while still finding the strength to go on by our ability to sacrifice for one another.

It feels impossible to discuss these two films in some kind of neutral state. In Upstream Color's case, the film has so few that have seen it and those that have struggle to find the words for the pain it so directly confronts. For Man of Steel, passions between what it did or didn't do to the legacy of Superman have become so embedded in neverending cultural and political warfare. Neither benefits from languishing in relative obscurity or being the cultural battleground for online liberals and conservatives alike.

Both have exquisite music that highlight our connection while confounding it. Upstream Color's melodies shying away from catharsis as one of Carruth's messy tracks bleeds into the next. Man of Steel never shies away from hope, finding the note to soar even in the most militant-sounding of Hans Zimmerman's compositions. One might seem sonic years away from the other, but in each I hear the same yearning to be felt and touched. To be reminded that what we feel is not what makes us alone.

The images match their conclusions. In Upstream Color, two people huddled in fear that don't understand their connection grow to accept the mystery, and one another, while they reach beyond species to comfort all living things. In Man of Steel, the scared boy who doesn't understand why his sacrifice frightens others grows to draw strength from that sacrifice as he inspires the best in his fellow humans. We are always connected and, many times, we are scared. But there is hope at the end of that painful connection.

Let their examples guide us. Do not accept the vultures that seek to profit off of your misery. Do not accept those in power who would deny the possibility of a messiah because they weren't born in your homeland. Accept that we are all that we are and, even if it doesn't feel like it, we have the capability of inspiring the best of one another in our darkest moments.

The Best

Great

Good

Zone of Indifference

Bad

Wretched

14Mar/190

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

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Matias' new laptop will finally make connections easier with his loved ones. What he doesn't realize is that his new laptop hides secrets and connections to a vile world full of people ready to do what they want to Matias and his friends. Stephen Susco wrote the screenplay for and directs Unfriended: Dark Web, which stars Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, and Betty Gabriel.

The worst thing I can write about Unfriended: Dark Web (just Dark Web moving on), is that it's the exact kind of film I thought 2015's Unfriended was going to be. Dark Web has more excellent sound design, some creepy detours into internet vaporwave aesthetics, and chilling implications for the way our "always on" technology has continued to ingrain itself into our lives. But it lacks the moral and cultural punch of Unfriended with Dark Web's characters not having much at stake going into the terror they're about to experience.

The biggest problem is that Dark Web's main characters are, for the most part, innocent of the kind of wrongdoing that warrants punishment from an international criminal cabal. Aside from main character Matias' (Colin Woodell) laptop theft that kicks off the night, no one has much of a life - digital or otherwise - that weighs in on what happens in multitude of screens in Dark Web. They're little better than blank slates and it's hard to get invested in what happens when the only expected response from each is, "Oh my god," or, "Why is this happening?" in various combinations. We're just waiting for the next scare instead of being drawn in by the character's reactions to what's going on.

4Mar/190

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

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How the hell did we end up with Trump? Michael Moore's latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, tries to make sense of the conditions that allowed for his rise and neutered those looking to resist.

Michael Moore just had to start Fahrenheit 11/9 with that goddamn song. "Fight Song". The song performed by a cavalcade of celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in a spectacle that gave me severe pause that the Democrats had my interests in mind. That was when the idea of Donald Trump as President seemed a terrifying but distant possibility. Then the months rolled by, Hillary Clinton lost, and Trump began carrying out (at my time of writing) 2+ years of absurd and abhorrent policy.

If you want Fahrenheit 11/9 to make sense of these last two years, or function as a no-holds-barred assault on Trump, then you need to watch a different film. There's plenty of effective Trump bashing but Moore has something more affectively difficult in mind. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a snapshot of our mental and emotional condition reinforced by facts both about the Trump candidacy then Presidency along with the Democratic failures that led to his ascension. Those who have spent the last few years cogent and improving need not apply, this is a film for those who need to know someone with some power empathizes with pain.

Whether Moore is the appropriate ambassador for this communication is sometimes in question during Fahrenheit 11/9. In front of the camera, he's often the same uneven and impish provocateur as ever. An ineffective moment has him filming himself spraying water from Flint, Michigan (at least that's what's written on the tank) over then-Governor Rick Snyder's lawn. It plays too silly and considering Moore's criticism over wasting resources I couldn't help but think that someone of his means should at least have been able to decontaminate that water to provide for his fellow Flint townspeople. But that same impish quality fuels his fearlessness as he attempts a citizen's arrest of Snyder while filming a stammering aide to the office offer limp explanations to why Flint's crisis is well on its way to ending (as of my writing, again, it hasn't).

25Feb/190

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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Cash needs cash. He's stuck in his uncle's garage, tired of not being able to get privacy with his girlfriend, and takes a job at a call center to make some sales. When he turns out to be better at this than even he thought he finds himself at the center of a growing union struggle and the company that seeks to exploit him. Boots Riley writes the screenplay for and directs Sorry to Bother You, which stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer.

Sorry to Bother You's reputation preceded my eventual viewing. I read about how it's an unashamedly leftist stab at capitalism, hollow art, being beaten down by the increased exploitation of those without means, and call centers. While I'm passionate about all those subjects it's the call center bit that grabbed me. I worked at an insurance center for five years and one of the first things I experienced on the floor was a boyfriend calling in to find out if his girlfriend's policy would cover the damage he caused in a rage after killing her cat.

When Sorry to Bother You works, it's because writer/director Boots Riley understands how we end up in situations of ethical and emotional extremes that makes dealing with cat murderers the only option. He spares no one above the minimum wage, creating grotesque caricatures of ruthless management and floors of perpetual depression bathed in blue while each worker struggles to make the light of a sale shine for once. His is a world of shit jobs ruled over by shit humans while shit conditions consistently fail to improve because everyone's mired in shit.

18Feb/193

Halloween (2018)

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Laurie Strode's waited over forty years for the moment her brother, Michael, might come slashing his way back into her life. With Halloween again on the horizon she waits while her disbelieving daughter and sympathetic granddaughter struggle to understand what she's going through. They'll know soon enough. David Gordon Green directs Halloween, with the screenplay written by David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride, and stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak.

David Gordon Green, the once consistently now sporadically poetic director who seemed the heir to Terrence Malick, is at first blush an odd choice to helm the latest Halloween. Dig a bit deeper into Green's career and you'll find Undertow, Green's oozing with Southern Gothic take on the fantastic classic The Night of the Hunter.  Green can do seemingly invincible monsters with murder on their minds and he can do it with aplomb. But that was before the stoner comedies, the inconsistent creative input of co-screenwriter Danny McBride, and before our culture continued its exodus away from sincerity.

So the quality of this Halloween is suitably volatile considering the series' tumultuous production history with Green's effort frustratingly close to something great. The biggest problem is that Green's Halloween is trying to fit the inconsistent tone of the series into a single film. Green's Halloween is trapped between the traumatized caricatures of Rob Zombie's films (and I write that with love, no one does caricature like Rob Zombie), the cracked out 4 through 6 installments, making a space for the surviving Laurie Strode of John Carpenter's original, and the bit-too-goofy self-awareness of Green's work with McBride.