RN&R’s film guy reviews the best and worst of the 2010s
So, why am I sitting at home watching the return of Twin Peaks with my dog on this week’s cover? This is supposed to be one of those year/decade-end movie wrap up things, right?
This past decade, and quite noticeably in 2019, you’ve probably seen a shift in your moviegoing practices. There have been lots of nights spent at home watching Netflix, HBO Now, Showtime Anytime, Amazon Prime My Ass for Home Viewing, Hulu-Whenever-the-Fuck-You-Want, Video-On-Demand-or-I-Will-Kill-Somebody-Because-Patience-is-not-a-Virtue, Disney-Eternity + Because-We-Own-You-Now-So-Surrender-to-the-Mouse, Bitches!, and more.
We are progressively eschewing the practice of hauling one’s ass to the local Thousand-Plex, fighting for seats with the guy who likes to fart, and spending $973 on salty popcorn and flat soda out of that convoluted drink machine that has a billion varieties in it. Granted, some chains, like AMC, have come through with nice membership incentives. Sadly, most of the chains offer meager incentives, like “We will give you 5 percent off your gallon of Sprite if you come out tonight and sit next to Fart Guy, Projectile Snot Face and Talking-Texting Asshole Person.”
Yes, streaming is providing you with all kinds of options to watch your favorite classic films. But now—with Netflix and Amazon, especially—your arthouse cinema new releases are often in your living room, where popcorn and soda are a lot cheaper and the farts are far less harsh dependent upon what you are feeding your dog. Big-budget blockbuster-type movies (The Irishman, 6 Underground, Triple Frontier) have been premiering on Netflix, too.
It’s getting to a place where directors like Martin Scorsese shop something around to studios, and when the studios hem and haw, the directors just say, “Fine, I’ll ask Netflix you cheap, cowardly bastards!” Then, boom, art movies like the ones some of us used to watch in theaters like the Keystone II Cinema are now coming to you via the internets instead of movie screens.
In short, people who stay at home are rewarded with coolness like Marriage Story and The Irishman, while those who venture out are punished with Cats and The Justice League.
My choice for best movie of the decade (revealed later in this article, but hinted at heavily in brother Mike Grimm’s cover art) is a prime example of how a cinematic god—backed by a gigantic home entertainment company—produced a piece of filmmaking for TV screens superior to anything that played on movie screens in the last 10 years. It also never would’ve played on big screens in wide release given today’s studio atmosphere.
Funky 3D glasses and arcade game soda machines aren’t saving the movie house. Plus, there ain’t nobody sneezing in my face in my house other than the dog. She does that a lot, actually. She and I need to have a discussion about boundaries.
Here are the best and worst films of 2019. Those lists will be followed by the same for the decade, a decade in which yours truly has—partially—given into the Streaming God.
The best of 2019
1. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood:
Quentin Tarantino said a lot on his rounds for this movie, including the threat that he will only be directing one more film (and he's backing away from that being his R-rated Star Trek idea, to the surprise of absolutely no one). So, this could end up being the last “big” movie from QT. If so, I'd say it's a fitting finish. It's also the best movie of the year.
2. Uncut Gems:
Adam Sandler goes full throttle nuts in what is easily the best performance within the best film of his career.
The horror genre had a banner year thanks very much in part to Ari Aster, who took much of the terror out of the night and put it in broad daylight for this warped breakup movie. Florence Pugh, who gets my vote for Performer of the Year thanks to this, Little Women and Fighting With My Family, establishes herself as a sure bet if she's in your movie.
4. The Lighthouse:
While more of a psychological thriller, there's plenty of horror in watching farty Willem DaFoe and squirmy Robert Pattinson driving each other crazy on a remote island during a lighthouse watching stint.
5. Marriage Story:
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver break hearts in Noah Baumbach's best movie to date, courtesy of Netflix.
Startling performances all around and a tremendous visual flair make this a solid step forward for director Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night). Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (also great in this year's Luce) sparkle in this film.
7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood:
The year's most heartwarming story, with Tom Hanks playing Fred Roger and director Marielle Heller creating sweet vibes.
8. Ho ney Boy:
Shia LeBeouf returned with a vengeance this year, supplying both the screenplay and a gripping performance as his own dad in this autobiographical take on his pre-adolescent and teen years. Talk about public therapy. Produced by Amazon and coming to streaming soon.
As I said above, horror had a nice year, and Jordan Peele continues his march away from comedy guy towards scary guy with this chilling doppelganger thriller.
10. Dolemite Is My Name:
Eddie Murphy's triumphant return to comedy is also a solid dramatic offering from the master, who is enjoying a nice renaissance at the moment. It's his best work in many years, and yet another Netflix film. Bravo for his recent SNL hosting gig, too.
11. The Irishman:
I guess a Martin Scorsese epic this far down the list constitutes a failure of sorts, in that he is one of my favorite directors, and I feel this fell short of masterpiece. Still, there's a lot to love in this Netflix offering, especially the return of Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino's first Scorsese gig.
12. Ford v Ferrari:
This might be my favorite “Vroom-Vroom!” movie ever!
Yes, the alligator movie makes the top 20! Best use of cinematic alligators since one got flushed in the Lewis Teague camp classic Alligator.
14. Avengers: Endgame:
Marvel capped off a fine decade with this fitting final chapter for some beloved characters. It also opened some of those beloved characters to bigger stories. Hello, Disney+!
15. Little Women:
Greta Gerwig takes a classic story and updates it with a near classic film. Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are terrific in an adaptation that will make you forget the Winona Ryder version and accept this as the optimum Alcott presentation.
16. Pain and Glory:
Antonio Banderas will make your back hurt just watching him as a troubled movie director dealing with aches, pains and a strangely whimsical heroin habit.
17. The Farewell:
Awquafina is awesomeness in this sweet family dramedy.
Olivia Wilde's directorial debut is a funny triumph featuring breakout performances by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever.
19. The Art of Self-Defense:
One of the nastier comedies of the year features career best work by Alessandro Nivola.
20. The Mustang:
Matthias Schoenaerts is excellent as a convict/prisoner tasked with taming a wild mustang. Filmed in Carson City, Nevada.
The very worst of 2019
So, I've heard people say that movie reviewing is a dying art form, and the blame is being put on the advent of blogs and social media. (Incidentally, blogs and social media are where I've heard such things!)
Quite the contrary! Movie reviewing is a dying art form because of movies like those listed below, all of them slowly but surely sucking the life force out of me through my head holes. I will die young, as will other critics, and the medium of film reviewing will die with us. Screw you, J.J. Abrams!
1. Star Wars: Episode IX-The Rise of Skywalker:
The Force Awakens was written by Lawrence Kasdan, the guy who wrote The Empire Strikes Back. This one was co-written by J.J. Abrams and the meathead hack who penned Batman v Superman.
That's right, they handed the storytelling power for one of cinema's all-time great storylines over to the man who crapped that monstrosity out of his computer. You thought the Return of the Jedi Ewok hoedown was a bad conclusion to the first trilogy? Well, say hello to Palpatine's Hellraiser Disco Rave Extravaganza.
As you might've noticed in the cover art, C-3PO has been turned around to face the wall on my knick-knack shelf. I urge all true Star Wars fans to put their Star Wars toys in time out in solemn, silent protest of this travesty J.J. Abrams hath wrought and bestowed upon us. Screw you, J.J. Abrams!
2. Rambo: Last Blood:
It's been fun seeing Rocky again in the Creed films. As for Sylvester Stallone's other HGH enhanced alter-ego, the last two efforts in the series have seen, let's say, diminishing returns as his hair got shorter (just like Samson in the Bible)!
Just when M. Night Shyamalan was starting to restore faith in his abilities, he unleashes this, a case study in how not to invent a movie franchise on the fly.
So I was watching this and just trying to stay alive. Suddenly, things picked up a bit when a song that actually contained a pretty melody sprang from the speakers. As it turns out, it was the song Taylor Swift wrote, a blossoming flower in the middle of Andrew Lloyd Webber's sewage dump. Taylor came out of the sky later in the film as a CGI human cat monster and tried to save the movie, but all was lost by then.
I just couldn't get behind this movie. The central character is a plagiaristic asshole, and I hated his renditions of Beatles music. Stay home and listen to the reissue of Abbey Road.
6. Dumbo/The Lion King/Aladdin:
While Aladdin was just slightly bad, Dumbo was terrible and The Lion King was a waste of time. So I'm giving this trio of live remakes of animated Disney classics a failing grade. Disney, I love you, but you have to stop with this nonsense. Don't worry, you will still make money. Hell, the amount of dough I drop on coffee mugs in your souvenir stores rivals what these stupid movies made.
Maybe they should've let David Harbour be funnier in the title role? He kicked comedy ass when he hosted SNL. He's a total dud as Ron Perlman's replacement.
8. Mary Magdalene:
Jesus was a lot of things, but super boring probably wasn't one of them. This pretentious slog was just an excuse for Joaquin Phoenix to hang out with girlfriend Rooney Mara and get paid.
9. The Dirt:
The only thing cool about watching this shitshow was the knowledge that Mötley Crüe was over as a band. Now comes the news that those fuck sticks will be touring again, which takes away any good vibe that could be experienced watching this.
10. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot:
Some critics had the audacity to call this one of the year's best. To those folks, I say, mushrooms can apparently be a fun recreational drug sometimes, but you shouldn't take them when you are writing your reviews or operating a band saw.
While they didn't make the year's worst list, shout outs to Godzilla: King of the Monsters for being soul crushingly dull, and Joker—perhaps the year's most overrated mediocre film. I was very excited for both, almost as excited as I was for the new Star Wars. Screw you, J.J. Abrams!!!
The best of the 2010s
I want to take this moment and praise the horror genre in the 2010s. A lot of maverick directors stepped up with new ways to scare us, while directors like David Gordon Green resurrected Michael Meyers in grand fashion for Halloween. Jordan Peele, David Eggers and Ari Aster are the new horror heroes!
Throughout this list, some of the entries will contain multiple films, due to them coming from the same director or containing the subject matter, etc. We're breaking format here a bit. Why not? Who cares?
And now…the best of the decade.
1. Twin Peaks: The Return:
This Showtime series was 18 hours of pure David Lynch bliss, and as cinematic as anything I saw on the big screen in the last 10 years. This was also the culmination of a quarter century mystery, and the start of a great new one. If you love Lynch, it's all here, including an eighth episode that echoes the great Eraserhead. I'm just so happy Lynch was able to make this, uncompromised and unhindered by pencil pushers and number crunchers.
2. The Tree of Life:
Terrence Malick got busy in the past decade and, quite frankly, delivered some stinkers (To the Wonder, Song to Song, Knight of Cups). He also delivered the greatest film he's ever made, a movie that successfully encapsulates the history of the entire universe and our existence on this planet into one movie starring Brad Pitt. The decade's most ambitious—and successful—piece of “traditional” filmmaking.
3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood/The Hateful Eight:
As Quentin Tarantino allegedly winds down his feature directing career, two of his 2010s offerings rank high as decade bests. In many ways, the past decade represents career heights for the most maverick of maverick directors. He also released his weakest film—the well done but not up to his usual standards Django Unchained (2012). Tarantino's weakest movie is still better than most filmmakers' best effort.
4. The Revenant/Birdman:
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu had an amazing decade, topping two of my year end lists (2014 and 2015) with his tremendous visionary efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio scored an Oscar for one of them, and Michael Keaton should've gotten one for the other.
5. True Grit/The Ballad of Buster Scruggs/Inside Llewyn Davis:
The Coen Brothers didn't do much other than simply deliver three of the best films of the decade. They also captured perhaps the best youth performance of the decade when they cast Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. She should've gotten an Oscar that year.
6. The Witch/ The Lighthouse:
The decade's best new director award goes to budding horror maestro Robert Eggers, who stunned with The Witch and followed up with the maddeningly great The Lighthouse.
When I originally saw this in 2011, I thought Nicolas Winding Refn was going to be one of the greatest directors to ever walk the planet. He's made one decent (The Neon Demon) and one terrible (Only God Forgives) movie since then. This might wind up being the best movie he ever makes, and that's OK.
8. The Wolf of Wall Street:
This is Scorsese's best of the past decade. No, I will not include The Irishman in this ranking. It's a very good movie but too flawed to mention in the same entry as his decade best. Leonardo DiCaprio trying to get in his car after taking Quaaludes is the decade's best physical acting scene.
The second best directorial debut of the decade belongs to Ari Aster and his Hereditary, a spellbinding family drama in which Toni Collette delivered a career best performance as a mother fraying at the ends. His sophomore effort, Midsommar, contained more of the decade's best horror and an incredible performance from Florence Pugh.
10. Blue Valentine/Marriage Story:
I will go ahead and list these two films together, some of cinema's all-time greatest depictions of marital discord. Not necessarily something to celebrate but, man, are they well made movies. Prepare to be gutted.
11. Uncut Gems/Good Time:
The Safdie brothers have made their presence known in the past decade, taking Robert Pattinson well beyond his Twilight days and giving Adam Sandler the sort of vehicle for a performance his fans always knew he had in him.
12. The Social Network:
What film did a better job encapsulating the current state of the business world and social interaction in the new century than David Fincher's masterpiece?
13. Get Out /Us:
Jordan Peele delivered a one-two solid horror punch to your face with his directorial debut and gripping follow up.
14. 127 Hours:
Basically just a couple of hours down in a hole with James Franco, not a bad thing when the man is at the top of his game.
One of the decade's most ambitious projects as director Richard Linklater filmed his cast over 12 years and delivered something that wasn't just cohesive, but powerful.
16. Whiplash/La La Land:
Some truly badass, minimalist filmmaking from director Damien Chazelle (a man, his drums and his insane teacher) followed by a terrific musical that deserved an Oscar, and actually got one, for a moment, when they gave poor Warren Beatty the wrong card to read! Chazelle capped off his excellent decade with the very good First Man.
17. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri/Seven Psychopaths:
Was there a more shocking, heartbreaking moment in the past decade than Woody Harrelson's bloody cough in Three Billboards? Nope, and the movie surrounding it is further proof that playwright Martin McDonagh is a real deal film director. Seven Psychopaths (and last decade's In Bruges) are further proof of this.
This one makes the list not only because it is a great film, but because it returns the great Spike Lee to masterful form, firing on all cylinders.
This is one of those animated gems that nobody really saw, and will most likely never take time to watch because it's stop motion animation, and we want our animation computerized and shiny now. Take the time and watch this. It's a marvel.
20. This is the End/Frank/Popstar: Never Stop Stopping:
You might be noticing that there aren't a lot of comedies on this list. Seth Rogen's apocalyptic experiment with his pals, and Michael Fassbender wearing a huge fake head and declaring “The music is shit!” amount to my favorite laughers of the 2010s, along with the vastly underrated Lonely Island comedy. I still don't know how that bombed so hard.
The very worst of the 2010s
1. Star Wars: Episode IX-The Rise of Bile In My Throat:
Oh, I still have plenty of things to say about this. How do you get sizable, relatively pristine Death Star wreckage after it was blown to smithereens in Return of the Jedi? Why is Leia suddenly some sort of Jedi master capable of training Rey? Who gives a shit about anything Finn or Poe have to say and do? Where did Rose go? Who is Luke's stylist in the Force afterlife because he's a little too fluffed out and looks like he belongs in a Whitesnake cover band?
Hey, Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, that movie was still an overall dick move, but at least you tried to do something different. The Last Jedi is Blade Runner compared to Rise of Skywalker. I no longer fear your proposed stand-alone trilogy.
As for Abrams, this last chapter is a jumbled attempt to make a sequel to The Force Awakens rather than continuing the saga after The Last Jedi. It's cinematic white out. It's wrong. It's all just so wrong.
2. The 50 Shades of Grey Cinematic Torture Gauntlet:
Mercifully, this trilogy only spanned three years, its diseased cocktail of bad sex and melodrama only tainting one third of the decade. Still, it did enough damage to romantic dramas that its negative effects might be felt for centuries to come at cinema's and in our livers.
3. Rambo: Last Blood:
I'm thinking Sylvester Stallone voted for Donald Trump. I dunno … just a hunch.
4. The Twilight Saga:
While Twilight started in the “aught decade,” plenty of it leaked into the 2010s (Eclipse, Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2), resulting in painful cinematic wheezing and the violent coughing-up of celluloid mucous.
5. The Hobbit movies:
The failure of all three of these Peter Jackson efforts marked a real turning point for me as a film reviewer. I had given “Movie of the Year” titles to Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies and King Kong the decade before. Jackson tried to move technology ahead with this effort, but it backfired, and his movies looked like sloppily filmed stage dramas. The Hobbit warranted one, maybe two, films—but not three. This was padded more than a horse jockey's butt.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody:
A guy won an Oscar for this? Bad writing, bad wigs and hilariously overdone teeth made this a painful thing. I love Freddie Mercury, but I don't love this overrated lip synch nightmare. I'm dubbing Freddie's doctor's office visit, where he gets his AIDS diagnosis, the most laughably bad scene of the decade.
7. Batman v Superman/Suicide Squad/Aquaman/Justice League:
The DC universe got itself a little boost with Wonder Woman and Joker. (I thought Joker was overrated, but I was alone in the wilderness on that one.) The goodwill built up by Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, which ended in 2012, was mostly squandered afterword. We should all stop hoping that the Snyder Cut of Justice League gets released because, I assure you, it will be as bad or worse than the theatrical cut. Steppenwolf will still look like a design for a bootlegged Meat Loaf concert T-shirt.
8. Jack and Jill, Blended, Grown Ups 2:
While 2019 saw the release of the best film Adam Sandler has ever taken part in (Uncut Gems), the 2010's offered up some of the very worst Sandler, as well. We get the good with the bad.
9. The Green Inferno:
I remember back when Eli Roth was one of the most promising horror directors, thanks to Cabin Fever and the first Hostel. He's been a mixed bag since then, and this cannibal movie was his very worst. Hey Eli, thanks for the diarrhea scene! Very memorable and quite poetic.
10. The Lone Ranger/Pirates of the Caribbean:
On Stranger Tides and Dead Men Tell No Tales: Johnny Depp is a whore—a dirty, stinking, useless, expensive wine drinking, Amber Heard offending, once great but steadily fading, filmdom whore!
2019 Grimmy Awards
Florence Pugh (Midsommar), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Lupito Nyongo (Us), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best supporting actress:
Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Margot Robbie (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Scarlett Johansson (Jo Jo Rabbit), Taylor Russell (Waves)
Best supporting actor:
Willem DaFoe (The Lighthouse), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Wesley Snipes (Dolemite Is My Name), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Performer of the year:
Best screenplay (original):
Best screenplay (adapted):
Most overrated Yes album:
Tales from Topographic Oceans (It’s so ponderous!); Runner up: Relayer
Best film editing:
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Best animated film:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Worst Yes album:
(It’s a tie.) Tormato and Big Generator
Best foreign film:
Pain and Glory
Best actor in a bad movie:
Adam Driver (Star Wars-The Rise of Skywalker)
Best actress in a bad movie:
Tie: Taylor Swift and Francesca Hayward trying their best in Cats
Worst actor in a good Movie:
Richard Kind (Bombshell)
Worst actress in a good movie:
Lena Dunham (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood)
The Joker, Captain Marvel
The Dead Don’t Die, Under the Silver Lake
Most divisive Yes album:
Drama (No Jon Anderson! Trevor Horn was not an adequate replacement!)
2010s Decade Grimmy Awards
Best actors of the decade:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson
Best actresses of the decade:
Michelle Williams, Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan
Most mediocre Yes album:
Going for the One
Worst actor of the decade:
Johnny “the dirty whore” Depp
Worst actress of the decade:
Dakota Johnson … but her resume is improving!
Most awesomest Yes album ever:
Best directors of the decade:
Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Robert Eggers, Alejandro G. Inarritu
Worst director of the decade:
Screw you, J.J. Abrams!
Nicolas Cage’s favorite Yes album:
I have no idea, but my best guess would be 90125