The closing months of the decade leads us to contemplating the cinematic landscape from 2010-2019.
A few years ago, we ran a list of the decadeâ€™s best so far, which, taken with this entry gives you a good overview of 20 films which deserve attention, acclaim and, most importantly, your eyeballs. Of course, there are hundreds of films in contention and these things are dictated by personal taste as any other consideration.
How we watch films has changed dramatically this decade. Hollywood is more and more reliant on remakes, sequels and comic-book movies, but the rise of streaming and video on demand services such as Netflix, Amazon and Mubi means a lot of the good stuff gets a limited theatrical run or goes straight to home release, buried in a pile of â€ścontent.â€ť We now also watch films on our smartphones and tablets. Does size matter anymore? In general, cinema looks at times to be in rude health yet strangely fragile. Will the big screen experience die off in the next decade? Is the future all about home entertainment?
Above: Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf in â€śAmerican Honey.â€ť
The Warboy party in â€śMad Max: Fury Road.â€ť
Mad Max: Fury Road
Released thirty years after â€śMad Max Beyond Thunderdomeâ€ť (1985), expectations were high for George Millerâ€™s return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland, but few could have expected the delivery of the decadeâ€™s best action film. Essentially a two-hour chase movie, which rarely stops for breath, â€śMad Max: Fury Roadâ€ť (2015) reinvented the action cinema wheel and put Hollywood blockbusters to shame. Another unexpected element in the mix proved to be Charlize Theronâ€™s kick-ass Imperator Furiosa, a warrior attempting to save a group of women from the clutches of a tyrant. Audacious, extraordinary and unforgettable, Maxâ€™s return to the big screen was a triumph.
Juilette Binoche as artist Camille Claudel, in Bruno Dumontâ€™s masterwork.
Camille Claudel, 1915
â€śCamille Claudel, 1915â€ť (2013) isnâ€™t interested in the traditional biopic format or narrative at all. A chamber-piece drama, set over the course of a few days, â€śCamille Claudel 1915â€ť is the story of the artist as abandoned person. Starring Juliette Binoche as Claudel, her forgotten years locked away in an asylum for the mentally ill is as famous as her (surviving) sculptures. Binoche is on electrifying form as the artist, showing us a woman as if made of glass than flesh and bone, while Dumontâ€™s frosty direction creates a stifling atmosphere of gloom and tragedy.
The kids arenâ€™t alright in â€śNocturama.â€ť
Itâ€™s been a great decade for Bertrand Bonello. 2011â€™s â€śHouse of Toleranceâ€ť made our mid-decade list of favourites, but his masterpiece is undoubtedly â€śNocturamaâ€ť (2016). A group of young radicals carry out a terrorist atrocity in Paris and hide out in a department store. Like George A. Romeroâ€™s â€śDawn of the Deadâ€ťâ€”replacing zombies with consumerist materialismâ€”the latter half of the film, set almost entirely in a shopping mall, is a tour de force of precision filmmaking and powerful subtext. Thereâ€™s really nothing else like it made this decade.
SebastiĂˇn Silvas class conflict comedy is a dark delight.
Todayâ€™s preference for tribalism over egalitarianism principles is put to satirical use in SebastiĂˇn Silvaâ€™s â€śNasty Babyâ€ť (2015). Freddy and Mo (played by Silva and Tunde Adebimpe) are a gay people hoping to have a baby via a surrogate (their friend, Polly, played by Kristen Wiig). Eventually, the trioâ€™s self-involved lives clash with a mentally ill beggar, to disastrous results, but where the film really hits home is in its portrayal of gentrification, tribal politics and lack of communication and community. â€śNasty Babyâ€ť is the finest and most on point portrait of our generation this decade.
â€śDespite the Nightâ€ť is an experimental odyssey.
Despite the Night
Philippe Grandrieux is an experimental filmmaker who treads similar territory to Claire Denis, in that both directors are sensualists and their work heavily focused on bodies. â€śDespite the Nightâ€ť wonâ€™t be everybodyâ€™s cup of arthouse tea, but its narrative evokes Greek mythology and fairy tales, with a man searching Paris for a woman he loved, only to find himself distracted by two other women and entering a Hades of vice. A tough ask for a general audience, for sure, but â€śDespite the Nightâ€ť is mesmerising, elusive and deeply dark in a way that has drawn comparisons to David Lynch.
Joaquin Phoenix in â€śYou Were Never Really Here.â€ť
You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsayâ€™s hitman movie subverted genre expectations to delirious effect. Just when you think youâ€™ve seen every hired assassin movie under the sun, along came â€śYou Were Never Really Hereâ€ť (2017). Joaquin Phoenix is outstanding as a contract killer with post-traumatic stress disorder, whose latest job goes immediately south and lands him in deep trouble. â€śYou Were Never Really Hereâ€ť premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and met with instant acclaim for its filmmaking prowess and poetic depiction of a man drowning in the troubles of his past.
Money, sex and power fuel Martin Scorseseâ€™s epic comedy.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorseseâ€™s black comedy about how a Wall Street banker fleeced the public of millions featured a barnstorming performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. It seems astonishing he didnâ€™t pick up an Oscar for his role, instead winning it for â€śThe Revenantâ€ť (2015). A play on the rags-to-riches story, featuring some of the most repellent and obnoxious behaviour ever put on screen, â€śThe Wolf of Wall Streetâ€ť (2013) demonstrated Scorseseâ€™s typical mastery of cinematic craft, but also his knack for staging physical comedy. This is a very funny film about very horrible people.
Andrea Arnoldâ€™s â€śAmerican Honeyâ€ť won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2016.
Andrea Arnold was robbed of the 2016 Palme dâ€™Or. Ken Loachâ€™s â€śI, Daniel Blakeâ€ť winning the coveted film prize still rankles a few years on. â€śAmerican Honeyâ€ť is both a traditional road movie and authentic representation of a working-class girl exposed to life outside the confines of her poverty for the first time. Itâ€™s a coming-of-age saga, which increasingly becomes an examination of Americaâ€™s underclass, the forgotten and left behind. The Academy ratio format and handheld camera work make this an intimate and exhilarating experience.
Francis Ford Coppolaâ€™s gothic tale is the directorâ€™s most personal film.
Barring an obscure experiment in â€ślive cinemaâ€ť (2015â€™s â€śDistant Visionsâ€ť), Francis Ford Coppola hasnâ€™t made a traditional film since â€śTwixtâ€ť (2011). His breathtakingly beautiful American gothic drama harks back to his days starting out in horror, for Roger Corman, which therefore dovetails beautifully as a career start and career end point. â€śTwixtâ€ť is arguably his most personal work, as it uses the death of his son in a 1986 boating accident) as the emotional centre of the narrative; its dramatic and confronting revelation. This is an incredibly brave thing to do, but Coppola has always been a fearless artist. The fact â€śTwixtâ€ť drew mostly negative reviews is baffling.
â€śTempestadâ€ť is a captivating look at the drug wars plaguing Mexico.
Tatiana Huezoâ€™s bravura documentary is unusually structured and impossibly sad. Mexicoâ€™s war on the cartels has unleashed untold misery on the country in the first decades of the 21st century. â€śTempestadâ€ť (2016) tells two stories of women caught up in human trafficking and how they became caught up in the jaws of corruption and terror. Moodily photographed and using extensive voice-over, the stories of the two women, Miriam and Adela, are haunting and cruel. Only a few films ever stick in your head after watching them, but â€śTempestadâ€ť is guaranteed to linger for daysâ€¦ maybe even months.
Images Â© respective film studios.