Tyler’s Top Ten of the 2010s

2 Jan

10. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

A film that manages to be both straightforward yet oddly dreamlike, this film by Derek Cianfrance stars Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, along with a stable of great character actors. The lives of a novice bank robber and an ambitious cop crash violently into each other, with ramifications that echo into the next generation. An engrossing meditation on the ghosts of the past and our decision to let them dictate our actions in the present, The Place Beyond the Pines is an intimate film of epic proportions.

9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

With so many modern action movies feeling pre-packaged and safe, George Miller brought Mad Max screaming into the 21st century with this messy, relentless wrecking ball of a movie. In this film, Max – now played by Tom Hardy – witnesses the liberation of a tyrant’s concubines and the furious attempts to get them back. The constant forward momentum of the film, along with the gritty, fully-realized world that Miller creates, elevates a fairly familiar story to something that is horrifying, inspiring, wearying, and invigorating. 

8. The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

Orson Welles may have died in 1985, but he left behind an unfinished passion project; a puzzle of footage just waiting to be assembled. Using Welles’ notes, several collaborators worked for years to piece together The Other Side of the Wind just as Welles wanted it. The result is a manic fever dream of faux documentary footage taking place in a single day in the life of an eccentric, Hemingway-esque director, played with affected gusto by John Huston. It is a film that is oddly prescient in its depiction of an overly-documented world full of narcissists, yet oddly personal in its portrayal of loneliness in the midst of chaos.

7. Whiplash (2014)

Director Damien Chazelle burst onto the scene with this scrappy, stressful manifesto about the cost of greatness. Following a young music student (Miles Teller) who is tapped to join the jazz band of an abusive taskmaster (J.K. Simmons, in an Oscar-winning role), the film puts our main character and the audience through the emotional ringer. The film has a coldly-efficient pacing, as an alarming co-dependent relationship forms between teacher and student, leading the viewer to debate within himself what true greatness is worth. 

6. Force Majeure (2014)

With all the recent talk about gender roles, Ruben Östlund’s pitch black domestic comedy has grown more relevant since its release. A family on a ski vacation must confront their feelings for each other after surviving an avalanche, resulting in quiet meditations and histrionic accusations. At the core of it all is a mystery, not just about who did what when, but about the expectations that men and women have of each other and what we do when we fail to meet them. 

5. The Act of Killing (2012)

“History is written by the winners”, as the saying goes. And in Joshua Oppenheimer’s harrowing documentary, the winners in Indonesia appear to be the country’s most savage politicians and gangsters. The director helps these men write their own history, as they reenact the terrible crimes they committed on their way to power. This leads to some of the most absurd, delusional short films ever conceived, leading to a surprising conclusion, which suggests that even the most monstrous among us can’t escape their own guilty conscience. 

4. Under the Skin (2014)

Saturated with ominous style and an unsettling tone, Jonathan Glazer’s ambient horror film follows an alien disguised as an attractive woman, played with cold determination by Scarlett Johansson. As she goes about harvesting the innards of easily-tempted young men, her curiosity about the human condition grows until she learns the true meaning of empathy. Featuring a haunting score by Mika Levi, Under the Skin is both undeniably creepy and unabashedly humanistic at the same time. 

3. A Separation (2011)

It’s hard to believe that one of the best movies of the last ten years is also one of the most minimalist. Asghar Farhadi tells the story of a put-upon Iranian couple as their relationship devolves into paranoia and resentment after a devastating accident. With no music to underscore the emotions, Farhadi relies on the focused screenplay and restrained performances to draw in the audience. The result is an intense docudrama that toys with subjectivity and the role that it plays in the social contract. 

2. The Tree of Life (2011)

If any movie could ever approximate God’s perspective of the world, this ambitious portrait of a midwestern family is it. Many will find the whispered inner thoughts of our main character – a young boy on the cusp of adolescence – to be distancing, and many others will be outright dumbfounded by director Terrence Malick’s inclusion of the creation and evolution of our physical world. At first, these images may seem to have nothing to do with each other, but by showing the intimate and the cosmic, Malick emphasizes both the insignificance and vitality of the individual in the grand scheme of things. If you’re a person of faith, as I am, this film helps to visualize the sheer grandness of the Almighty while providing the comforting thought that the same God who created the heavens and the earth is still interested in the daily struggles of His people. An unforgettable film. 

1. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Anybody that has ever experienced grief knows just how surreal and isolating it can be. In this strange and beautiful film by Joel and Ethan Coen, talented folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) attempts to navigate his life after the sudden death of his songwriting partner. While only occasionally referencing his loss, Llewyn is clearly rudderless, looking for any kind of professional or relational stability, often being met with antagonism by those around him. Given that Joel and Ethan Coen have always been each other’s most reliable artistic muses, the story of one half of a duo suddenly forced to fend for himself may reveal Inside Llewyn Davis to be among the most personal of the Coen Brothers’ films. 

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