Top Films of the Last Decade
2010 - The Social Network
I biked to see this movie 3 times when it was in theaters (once on mushrooms but spoiler alert it was film school and it was delightful). When I visited a friend in New York later that year, I bought a bootleg DVD from some dude on the subway & rewatched it over 100 times. All of the movies on this list are flawed. But I love them because they do things extremely high.
The Social Network felt like a new movie experience: It indulged in the digital-ness of its cinematography, and elevated it to its own art-form; the direction at times reaches Kubrick-like mastery; the score is immersive & psychedelic; the story was timely & novel — a biography movie about a dude who was still young, but fetishizing his early 20’s, which happened only a few years prior to the movie’s release lol. And then, it’s about a social media company…
2011 - Girl Walk // All Day
This movie really stands out to me because of the way it captures cinematic-ness. Despite being a relatively small release, and its distribution held down a bit by oppressive music copyright laws, this was the most interesting movie experiment that year. The movie features a girl dancing her way across New York City — which combines the cinema of full-body dance and the intensely ephemeral documentary qualities of modern day New York City. At some point she crosses paths with Occupy Wall Street, which gives it an added historical significance. It’s funny when you think about it: Imagine if Busby Berkeley made a documentary dance movie and crossed paths with a Great Depression bread line lol.
There’s also the novelty of a classic film rom-com triangle (ala Lubitsch), happening through dance. The score is provided by mashup artist Girl Talk (based on one of his albums). So technically the entire movie is illegal & can’t be distributed using classical methods lol.
2012 - Comrade Kim Goes Flying
I saw this film in a festival with the director present. It’s such a beautiful story that brings me to tears every time (even the trailer always gets me). But the cinematic qualities of this film are extremely high as well: It was shot in North Korea. It uses a North Korean cast. But it was made in collaboration with European film partners. So it’s this strange admixture of Disney style underdog storytelling and North Korean official state propaganda. I love this movie.
2013 - iSteve
Another strange Internet movie appears on this list. This is my favorite version of the Steve Jobs story. I guess iSteve is also the second film on this list about a Silicon Valley tycoon. I love this film because, again, it has a high cinematic expression to it: the celebrity starring in the film, Justin Long, not only is a charismatic figure to follow but he also starred in some of Apple’s pivotal advertising campaigns under Steve Job’s direction. It’s a bit of an ouroboros.
But I also love how this film doesn’t that reverence to the subject matter. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all. And yet it doesn’t fully fall into the slap-stick territory of most satires. It somehow maintains an aura of dramatic authenticity despite clearly being a silly comedy. It wears its lo-fi production proudly & makes it work: like a modern Elizabethan play.
2014 - Tales of the Grim Sleeper
The first documentary on this list. I love Nick Broomfield’s work, and this one especially spoke to me. The vicarious cinematic experience of watching Broomfield enter dangerous neighborhoods and gain the trust of the residents, in order to shed light on an injustice is thrilling to watch. He talks with street prostitutes, continues interviews despite nearby shootings, and approaches crowds of men shouting obscenities at him. He also befriends a few characters along the way who carry the cinematic charisma of the documentary themselves.
Outside the cinematic quality, the story is so profound. Broomfield tells the story of a serial killer that’s been working the impoverished streets of Los Angeles for decades. And how the police have helped brush aside these killings without investigation, as they see it as making their work easier. It turns out the serial killer is somebody endeared from within the neighborhood. The question arises: Would the police have allowed a known serial killer to operate on their streets for a decade if he was targeting rich white women?
2015 - Inherent Vice
When I first saw this movie in theaters, I hated it. I was so bummed one of my favorite filmmakers was making stupid movies. But (for me, at least) my relationship with this movie has evolved. I feel like it made no sense under an Obama America. But once Trump started doing his thing, this movie became crystal clear to me: A paranoid political conspiracy mystery centering around the FBI, Nazis & a real-estate tycoon. The lack of sense in the film reflects the lack of sense under Trump’s America: this aggressive, harsh irrationality mixed with the opiatic haze of self-medication (marijuana, mostly). It took me 3 viewings: Once to let it wash over me; Twice with subtitles (so I can figure out what the hell everybody is saying); and then a Third time without subtitles, letting it wash over me again. It’s a brilliant work of art.
My favorite thing about this film is that I can re-watch it like candy & experience it on just a sensory level. By doing this, it massages all the parts of my brain that get clogged throughout the day by all the Trump-nonsense. It’s a brain balm in that sense.
2016 - Trump Rally
Speaking of which! The whole movie is linked below. This is the second documentary and the third weird Internet movie to make it on this list. It’s short at under a half hour. And even though that doesn’t really count as a feature, it’s the movie that stuck in my mind the most that year. 2016 is obviously the year of that horrific election lol.
I’m really inspired by how the filmmaker captured this slice of history. He dispersed multiple cinematographers to shoot an event with small unobtrusive cameras (in this case, I believe it was shot with iPhones). Edited together it feels like it’s all shot by the same person, but it isn’t. That’s a nice touch as it increases the probability of good footage being captured, while still maintaining the audience’s authorial identification with the “director documentarian."
He interacted with the people in a spirit of curiosity. He let the camera linger on the subjects verite style. It was released for free on the Internet, as a bit of news content. He made a moment of history (a Trump rally) a cinematic character study of the people who attended it — so that’s double the cinema. The movie is also funny from beginning to end.
2017 - Manifesto
I saw this film twice in theaters. I’m not entirely sure why because looking back it was a really weird movie! A lot of good stuff came out this year too. But this was the movie that spoke to me. I love how “fuck you” it is — and yet it’s still a classic Hollywood movie thanks to the powerhouse celebrity-star Cate Blanchett. It’s a series of avant-garde vignettes that are highly art designed… And in each vignette, Blanchett plays a different person, in a different environment, discussing an entirely different artistic manifesto completely out of context.
The movie is so dreamy, and the parts you catch that make sense have snippets about truth, aesthetics, sincerity, reality, surreality. The score is intense & the titles hell-yah bold. It’s the movie I thought about the most that year. It wants to burn it all down — I’m in.
2018 - Hereditary
Finally, this flick. I saw this courtesy of Moviepass lol (RIP). This movie had my heart racing with anxiety the whole time. I never experienced a horror movie like this in theaters. The cinematography is beautiful; the acting is intense; the scenario is nightmarish. That it deals with an otherworldly cult makes it extra endearing to me. Unless something better comes out this year, I’m giving 2018 to Hereditary.
I also love the title & how that resonates as a theme — The idea that we all have something deep inside our genetics, our heredity, which determines our fate. This idea in a major movie during the era of Nazis marching on the streets of America, demanding to turn it into a white ethno-state, their ideas founded on slave-era racist-mysticism, which claims white people are hereditarily superior to black people… It’s all so spooky & resonant. Fitting for horror.