Friday, March 20, 2020

The WSW 25 for the 2010s

I was going to save this for August, when the tenth anniversary of WSW will come around, but I think I’ll put it up now instead. These are the 25 movies that, to me, best represent the previous decade in film, culled from my annual Top 10 lists. You’ll notice this list isn’t ranked; there’s no way I could decide which of these is the “best,” and it doesn’t matter much. Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk about it.

12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave. “...when another slave asks Northup to kill her because she just can't take another minute of being the plaything of their slave owner, he's shocked that she would even consider the idea, even after all he himself has been through to that point. Somehow, someway, Northup was able to cling to hope, even in a situation like his...”

1917. “ doesn’t take long before you stop thinking about how cinematographer Roger Deakins kept the visual flow so consistent and how editor Lee Smith made every cut so seamless and invisible and you get caught up in the story because the cumulative result bonds you with Blake and Scofield...”

Black Panther. “...I knew this film would be in good hands when I saw [director Ryan] Coogler was on board.... His is a strong new voice in American cinema, telling modern stories about the black experience his way (he co-wrote BP), and it's good to see him succeeding.”

Carol. “...sometimes you just can't help loving who you love....”

Jojo Rabbit
Jojo Rabbit. “...From the first scene and the opening credits—yes, this was a rare film with opening credits, set to the tune of the Beatles’ ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ in German—it gave us permission to laugh at it... and we did.”

La La Land. “...La La Land is feel-good in the best sense. Even the downbeat ending doesn't leave you sad or depressed. You leave with the sense things will be okay, in spite of everything.”

Life Itself. “...A portrait of the late film critic [Roger Ebert] that doesn't shy away from the not-so-flattering parts.”

Life of Pi. “...The 3D was definitely worth it.... maybe the best I've seen since Avatar.

Loving Vincent
Loving Vincent. “...I wonder whether impressionism was as easy as it looks. It's still a matter of choosing which colors you think work best, with what kind of brushstrokes: fat or thin, long or short, a bunch or a few. The difference is you're not going for a realistic look.”

Marriage Story. “...This film reminded me a lot of 80s-era Woody Allen, but his dramas, good as they are, still have a measure of gentility, of civility, as if Woody wasn’t quite willing to take his characters all the way to the edge, and maybe even over it. Marriage does go to the edge.”

Moonlight. “...I was amazed at how director Barry Jenkins was able to build two distinct characters, Chiron and Kevin, out of six different actors in three age groups. One gets the sense of consistency in the performances, especially from the three actors portraying Chiron: the guarded nature, certain head movements.”

Mother of George
Mother of George. “...Women get unfairly burdened with a lot of things in this world, and Mother makes that point artfully and with great sensitivity.”

Nightcrawler. “...[Jake] Gyllenhaal dominates the screen and embodies a morally questionable yet fascinating character to watch, because at every turn, you keep wondering, how far can he push his luck, and at every turn, he keeps on surprising you.”

Parasite. “...Every character is unsympathetic to one degree or another, and the friction between the two families produces the movie’s memorable moments.”

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “...the movie goes to great lengths to impress on you that [the ape] Caesar is a character, a self-aware individual with desires, emotions, and ultimately, a purpose.”

Roma. “...There's always something going on in the foreground or the background. [Director Alfonso] Cuarón is very conscious of space, motion and light; he wants you to linger on his compositions.”

Room (2015). “...You never really know someone until you live with them for a length of time, and Joy and Jack knew each other as intimately as a mother and son possibly could during their imprisonment in that room—a place which, for Jack, was his entire universe.”

Selma. “... seeing what [director Ava DuVernay is] capable of with a bigger budget and a major studio behind her has been breathtaking. ”

The Social Network
The Social Network. “[Facebook] was—it is—more intuitive, more interactive, more versatile, and when more and more of my friends starting becoming part of it, suddenly it was much harder to resist. But boy, can it take you over.”

Take Shelter. “... the film takes on the level of allegory.”

Toy Story 3. “... If a film like that doesn't win Best Picture, who knows how long it'll be before another animated film gets that close—even with a Best Picture nomination?”

Under the Skin. “...[Scarlett] Johansson's unnamed character emulates humanity well: she dresses like a human, drives a car like one, and talks to people like one, and no one suspects any different, even though it's all a lie...”

Whiplash. “... Fletcher believes Andrew is that one-in-a-million talent that every teacher dreams of, and he does some unforgivable things to attempt to bring that talent out.”

Winter’s Bone
Winter’s Bone. I never got around to writing a post on it in 2010, but if I had, it would’ve made my top ten that year for sure. It was the movie that introduced us to Jenny Lawrence and showed us how fierce an actress she was, and could be. Props also to director/co-screenwriter Debra Granik for crafting a visually appealing film with strong performances all around.

Zero Dark Thirty. “...along with The Hurt Locker, [director Kathryn Bigelow] has made two outstanding modern war films that will not only stand the test of time, but will be a document to this tumultuous period in American history...”


  1. Ten years! Congrats, Rich! I'm looking forward to your 10th Anniversary Bash in August.

  2. Like I said, this was gonna be part of it—a big part. Now I dunno what I plan to do! I’ll have to rethink it.


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