As Father Time turns the clock hands to 2020, I got to thinking about the movies I’ve seen over the past decade. Which were the best?
Rather than impose my plebian taste on you, I turned to a respected source of entertainment information for the answer. Variety, that is.
“Ten years ago, Netflix was an innocuous DVD-by-mail company, the Marvel tsunami was just testing the water with “Iron Man” and “Thor,” and the “Star Wars” empire still belonged to George Lucas, not Disney. The only celebrity to become President of the United States was “Bedtime for Bonzo” star Ronald Reagan …” Variety set the stage. To me, it was just a blur.
Here are Variety critic Owen Gleiberman’s picks of the Top 10 movies of the past 10 years:
10) “Lady Bird” (2017) — Some viewers who didn’t hook into the splendor of Greta Gerwig’s drama about a Sacramento high schooler going through her fraught senior year said things like, “It’s a good coming-of-age film. But haven’t we seen that before?” Yes, but we haven’t seen it done like this: as a series of exquisitely staged memory snapshots, all leaping forward to create a whole sublimely larger than the sum of its parts.
9) “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011) — When Tom Cruise, wearing electronic-suction-cup gloves, crawls like a spider over the towering glass surface of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (and make no mistake, he’s really up there, on the tallest building in the world), he’s like one of Hitchcock’s ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances; like a comic-book superhero whose powers are of this earth; like a movie star doing the polar opposite of going through the motions — he’s living the motions, turning them into the measure of his stardom.
8) “The Tree of Life” (2011) –—After taking a 20-year sabbatical from cinema, Terrence Malick came back with “The Thin Red Line.” But it was in “The Tree of Life,” a magnificent tale of growing up in small-town Texas during the 1950s, that Malick, at long last, made a drama that lived up to the dark incandescence of his two fabled films of the 1970s. Malick’s camera caresses each moment, turning life in the ’50s into a diorama of Proustian poignance.
7) “Amour” (2012) — In most of his films, the Austrian director Michael Haneke uses his imperious, ice-cold voyeurism to play funny games with the audience. But in this staggering tale of an octogenarian Paris couple, played by the legendary Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Haneke takes his drop-dead style — the probing silences, the gawking camera, the suspense built out of the fear of what’s coming next — to tell a tale of the mysteries of old age that’s driven by an alternating current of horror and heartbreak.
6) “Bridesmaids” (2011) — True confession: I don’t laugh out loud at very much screen comedy because I always feel like I’ve seen the jokes before. But no matter how many times I watch this tale of friendship in the age of passive-aggressive one-upmanship and topsy-turvy class imbalance, I laugh uncontrollably … It’s not the first movie to prove that women could play the raunchy comedy game, but it’s one of the only movies to turn raunch into screwball art.
5) “Hell or High Water” (2016) — Sheer genre-movie heaven. It’s about two brothers, one noble (Chris Pine) and one no good (Ben Foster), and it’s also about stealing, gambling, racism, the thorny destiny of family and the stubborn mystique of West Texas, as embodied by an aging Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) who may be the most delectable slow-poke crime-solver since Columbo. The ultimate effect is that of a classic film noir told in sunlight, with a punch of humanity that will knock the wind out of you.
4) “Before Midnight” (2013) — After sharing a moony night of conversational bliss in “Before Sunrise,” then a reunion that takes stock of the love they didn’t have enough belief in in “Before Sunset,” Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) are now a veteran couple, with twin girls, a backlog of memory, and a love so marbled with affection and resentment that they can see each other completely … and, in another way, not at all.
3) “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) — There has never been an action poet like George Miller, who returns to the hell-on-wheels grandeur of “Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior” to create a movie that builds on their nihilistic excitement, using speed … to express a vision of existence – of men and women hurtling past the void, hanging on for dear life, wondering what besides the power of their velocity will save them … Miller creates a demolition-derby spectacle for the 21st century, as Max (Tom Hardy), a blunted shell, makes way for the women warriors (led by Charlize Theron) who now lead the fight for freedom as the rubber hits the road.
2) “La La Land” (2016) — The most joyful movie of the decade, and joy is not a quality we should take for granted (especially these days). But in great musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Moulin Rouge!” or “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” joy is often the flip side of a kind of rapturous melancholy, one that allows us to take stock of how beautiful (and fleeting) life and love can be. And Damien Chazelle’s new-style version of an old-school Hollywood musical has a core of sublime sadness that lets it blossom into a bittersweet symphony.
1) “The Social Network” (2010) — It’s one of those perfect films, like “All the President’s Men” or “Dazed and Confused” or “Sweet Smell of Success,” that you can watch again and again and again. It hurtles, fascinates, scintillates and resonates; every moment is nimbly entertaining and essential. Tapping into the tale of Facebook’s creation, this David Fincher/Aaron Sorkin masterpiece touches the inner story of our time: how the new mode of connecting to others via the Internet was invented by people — like the visionary geek Mark Zuckerberg, played with a magnetic fast-break chill by Jesse Eisenberg — who had serious problems connecting in any other way. So, they invented a brave new world by syncing it to the spirit of their own detachment.
That’s Variety’s take on the past decade at the movies. What’s yours?