It’s been said a million times and in a thousand different ways, but movies bond us. As a culture, as a society, as friends and as family. And a love of movies is something my uncle and I shared. Prior to the Streaming Wars, my personal movie collection was my prized collection. And Uncle Jer, as usual, set the bar and showed me the path. His collection was not just flawless, it was beautifully cataloged. I followed his lead, and showed him how he could modernize his archives by using my go-to tool, Microsoft Excel. To my knowledge, he never made the transition, because why change a work of art?
Long before I had a blog, we used to share our love of movies through emails. Along with cousins and dear friends, who are practically family, our annual Top 10 email threads, were priceless. Sadly, as I’ve aged, priorities have shifted, ticket costs soared, time slipped, and the Streaming Wars made me lazy causing my consumption of movies has drastically been reduced. So while there won’t be a Top 10 of 2019 list, I’ve decided, in honor of Uncle Jer (known as Hashibag-san to his colleagues at Nissan), to share my Top 10 Movies of the Decade.
Top 10 lists are a tricky thing to tackle. It’s sort of like voting for a Most Valuable Player award. It’s tough to define, is the most valuable the best player on the best team? Or just the best player from the year? So I’m abandoning any attempt at using an algorithm, and I’m simply using my gut. I expect the result will be a mash-up of movies that I thought were just really amazing and those that I just loved. And please keep in mind that I confessed to not seeing as many movies as I used to, so I’m sure I missed a few great movies that probably would have made my list.
Honorable mentions: The American, Nightcrawler, The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lady Bird, Deadpool, Warrior, Gone Girl, Hell or High Water, Molly’s Game, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Manchester by the Sea, Silver Linings Playbook, The Martian and Lion.
10. The Wolf of Wall Street: Hilarious lines I’ll use the rest of my life? Check. Fully fleshed out characters that I equally love and despise? Check. Margot Robbie? Check. Supply and demand, my friend.
9. Drive: The coolest movie of the decade. In a decade where CGI and huge set pieces dominated the marketplace to the point that there is almost literally no room for anything else, Drive reminds us that quiet and confident is way cooler than loud and cocky. Drive belongs near the top of best car movies as well as best Los Angeles movies, and has a kick-ass soundtrack to boot. My personal favorite Ryan Gosling performance. We never learn his name, there are maybe three instances where he says more than three sentences in a row, but he owns every inch of the screen. Which is really a feat, considering that Bryan Cranston is larger than life in his phenomenal supporting role, where his Bernie has all the charisma that Mr. White lacks.
8. Arrival: Beautifully shot, a powerhouse performance by Amy Adams and just an all around great sci-fi film. Probably the most realistic depiction of how we would react if we were visited by beings from another world. Yet it doesn’t get stuck in the science of the fiction, and instead makes the humanity of the characters the focus. But still manages to stick the tricky landing, and leave you questioning everything you thought you understood about time.
7. Get Out: Forget, for a second, that it’s the most important movie about race in America since Do the Right Thing. For my money, you won’t find a better made psychological thriller or horror movie. I didn’t just bite my nails till I hit bone, I chewed a hole in my cheek and I’ll never again use a metal spoon to stir my wife’s coffee. And I still can’t believe that Daniel Kaluuya is from London.
6. Whiplash: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’” J.K. Simmons served up the most memorable performance of the decade and Miles Teller arrived as one of the best actors of his generation. Perfectionism, devastating ambition, psychological and physical abuse shouldn’t be so mesmerizing. But when you watch Whiplash, there’s no need to hide your phone, because you’ll never even think to check it. And in 2019, that’s as good as it gets.
5. The Irishman: No, this isn’t recency bias talking. This movie was made to hit all of my sweet-spots. Robert De Niro, as the Robert De Niro we deserve (as he also was in The Joker), restored my faith in humanity. Reuniting him with Al Pacino was great, but seeing him share the screen again with Joe Pesci was better than I could have ever expected. Pesci came out of retirement for this film, and he’s never been better. Three and a half hours is quite a time commitment, and I’m pretty sure they could have trimmed it down to two and three quarter hours to three hours, but why? I want to spend more time with these characters, not less.
4. Moneyball: A risky movie, pardon the obvious pun, that hit a home run. Yes, it was based on a hugely successful book of the same name. A movie about how nerds changed America’s pastime is one risk, but making the players and games supporting characters was doubling down on a six. Aaron Sorkin’s script was a brilliant mix of his signature rapid fire dialogue, inside baseball jargon, and was still able to make a revolutionary approach understandable for the masses. As a data analyst, Moneyball is an inspiration that influences my work every day.
3. Sicario: A perfectly named movie, for how it completely snuck up on me. I remember thinking that the trailer looked interesting. I had hopes that Josh Brolin would return to the great work he did the previous decade (Milk, In the Valley of Elah, American Gangster, No Country for Old Men) compared to his poor choices at the start of this decade (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Jonah Hex, Men in Black 3 and Gangster Squad). And I always felt pretty confident about Benicio Del Toro, but this Emily Blunt was still a bit of a wild card.
2. The Social Network: The best made movie of the decade. One of the most important movies of the decade, in terms of telling us where we are and where we are going. One of the most enjoyable movies of the decade. There’s never a dull moment, and based on the subject of the movie, that’s remarkable. The combination of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin was the most exciting pairing in movies, since De Niro and Pacino teamed up in Heat.
1. Chef: It didn’t have the most unforgettable performances and it wasn’t the most visually stunning movie of the decade. It was just simply delightful, and personal, and sweet, and funny, and charming. And every time I watch it, it leaves me happy and wishing there were more films like it. The Wolf of Wall Street, Get Out and The Social Network will all tell you everything that is wrong with our world today. But Chef reminds of me of the way things should be. And after these last 10 years, that’s exactly what should be savored.