It is December 2019, I am looking forward to the new year. The hope that 2020 will bring a fresh start perhaps has added weight due to the events of the last decade. What my Top 20 of the Decade list will be, is a personal list. If you know me, some of these choices will not be a surprise, but hopefully there are enough ‘left-field’ choices to have you, the reader, surprised.
So, lets get going. 20 to 16.
20. INSIDE OUT (2015, Pete Doctor)
2015 was not a good year for me. This is the film that single-handledy made me confront the trauma I was going through, and come to terms with the feeling of loss and grief. It is at this moment where I would like to thank my sister for being there after my first viewing of the film, hugging me on the bridge above the dual carraigeway as I broke down in tears.
Which in roundabout terms is me saying that of all the films on this list, the purity of the emotions inside Riley’s head and the journey that Sadness and Joy take together meant that INSIDE OUT is an original film that hit me the hardest. And without it, I wouldn’t know how I would have confronted my loss.
19. BLACKHAT (2015, Michael Mann)
Dragging (imagine dragging someone to see a Michael Mann film? Inconceivable) my two best mates to the only cinema in the area screening BLACKHAT. A 45 minute drive. Watching the 2 other people walk out after 15 minutes. Smiling with glee when my mates said “This is the worst film ever made”. BLACKHAT is perhaps the most divisive film on this list, but it is the one I always hold in higher esteem everytime I see it, and always defend it.
History will prove me right, much in the same way that MIAMI VICE is getting a reappraisal now. Chris Hemsworth as a hacker, like a proper MR. ROBOT hacker, and is the criminal that gets away at the end. This is a different kind of masculine criminal to that of de Niro in HEAT and James Caan in THIEF. Mann’s visual and obsessive attention to detail pay off. And the violence and impact of death is perhaps more poignant than exploitative. Also, the Directors Cut is the superior version.
18. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018, Peter Ramsey, Bob Persicetti, Rodney Rothman)
This is not just about the animation, its about the story, the adaptation, the characters, the humour, and the Stan Lee cameo. This is the shot in the arm that mainstream Hollywood blockbusters needed. I am a massive Spider-Man fanboy (Marvel Zombie from way back), and I did not expect this film to hit me as hard as it did.
When Miles launches off the side of the building, ‘Whats Up Danger’ on the soundtrack, the flashbacks to Peter B. Parker (a fantastically cast Jake Johnson aka Nick from New Girl) saying that a “leap of faith” has to be taken, the animation slows down, it takes a breath Miles hangs in the air before falling. But he is in control. He is Spider-Man. Anyone can wear the mask.
17. NIGHTCRAWLER (2014, Dan Gilroy)
When putting this list together, knocking off favourites from 2011, 2018, 2019 etc etc, this film kept surviving the cut. When placing it here at number 17, I have been trying to figure out why. It is the debut film from screenwriter Dan Gilroy (THE FALL, THE BOURNE LEGACY), and it is such a confident debut. It is perhaps the only film bar COLLATERAL which has made LA look so unique at night. The supporting cast, Rene Russo and the late great Bill Paxton bring their A-Game.
But the film belongs to Gylennhaal. NIGHTCRAWLER has an absolute powerhouse of a performance from Jake Gylennhaal. Leo Bloom is a chilling creation, and the absurdly horrific thing is, he isn’t too far removed from the truth. The era of FOX News is here, now in 2019, but in 2014 Bloom captured the verocity and blackness of the media. Somehow he wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for this (Eddie Redmayne won FFS). If you want to win the lottery, you have to earn the money to buy a ticket. Leo earns that money.
16. EX MACHINA (2015, Alex Garland)
I had to basically flip a coin to decide which Alex Garland film would be on this list, and even though ANNIHILATION is as good as EX MACHINA, EX MACHINA came first. After writing some of the best screenplays I have ever read (conversion rate dependant on whether Danny Boyle decided to be a good director or not), his first directorial effort did not disappoint. Starring Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander as Ava, the film has a killer score from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow.
But the film is not just a cerebral sci-fi thriller. It asks extremley blunt questions on the nature of A.I., whether what we do regarding creation is morally right. Do we as humans have a right to play God, and do we deserved to get punished if our creation fights back? I think because this was an original script, and had such a unique aesthetic to it, is the reason it is here on this list.
15 to 11 will be arriving shortly.