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127 Hours (2010)
Director: Danny Boyle. 127 Hours is very nearly a documentary of one man’s harrowing struggle to survival. The title refers to the time from the main character’s accident to when he was rescued and put under anesthesia. It is an entertaining and a true story.
The American (2010)
Director: Anton Corbijn. The American is a long, slow, artfully-made espionage film about an American spy hiding out in a small Italian village. George Clooney plays “Jack” a gunsmith who is hiding out with a girlfriend in a remote part of Sweden. When his identity becomes compromised he is forced to kill his girlfriend and live in paranoia as he moves from place to place and falls in love again.
Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky. The film stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in a plot focused on the deeply psychological struggles faced by ballet dancers fighting to achieve notoriety and perfection during a New York City performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Copie conforme (Certified Copy) (2010)
Despicable Me (2010)
The Fighter (2010)
Hævnen (In A Better World) (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010)
Director: Christopher Nolan. Inception is an unforgettably mind-bending thriller and an extremely disorienting film. The film has an all-star cast. It is about a ‘dream builder and stealer’ who mines deep into the subconscious of people -and in the end we are left wondering how much is dream versus reality.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Best Picture (2010): The King’s Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper. The film tells the story of the soon-to-be King George VI or “Bertie” (Colin Firth) prior to his kingship, as he struggles with a speech impediment -namely stuttering. He goes to visit Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who plays classical music for him through headphones, while he successfully completes Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Despite some minor historical inaccuracies, The King’s Speech is a personal favorite film from the 2010s.
The Social Network (2010)
Director: David Fincher. At any rate, The Social Network tells a biased story of the founding of “TheFacebook”, the social networking website. It details the rise of a robotic and antisocial Mark Zuckerberg as he founds (or perhaps steals) a college networking site at Harvard University. The story of the business is told via a lawsuit.
The Town (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director: Lee Unkrich. Toy Story 3 is a delightful film about a grown up Andy who goes away to college, and his toy collection is donated to a daycare center, where the toys build a happy new life at first, but the kids soon become burdensome and abusive. Andy’s toys devise a plot to escape.
True Grit (2010)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
A Separation (2011)
Best Picture (2011): The Artist (2011)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius. The Artist is a French, modern silent film. It takes place in the late 1920s as an aging silent film star in Hollywood loses his appeal during the advent of “talkies,” while a rising young star (his lover) gains popularity. The story was written as a love letter to the cinematic art, drawing on inspiration from Hitchcock, Lang, Lubistch, Murnau, and Wilder. The film is at once fun and silly, as well as tragic and beautiful. We only hear sound about halfway through the film when the main character cannot speak, but he hears his glass set down on the table, and he appears confused. The scene is extraordinary. It is a remarkable film, though it has been criticized as being “oscar-bait” and is bit self-indulgent and melodramatic.
The Descendants (2011)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Director: David Fincher. The story is based on the famously best-selling novel series by Stieg Larsson. The film stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. The film takes place in Sweden. A disgraced journalist is being sued for libel by a wealthy businessman. Suddenly, an odd researcher and hacker, Lisbeth Salander, appears offering detailed information on the plaintiff, in exchange for his promise to dig into a 40-year old murder mystery story that had gone cold, on behalf of another wealthy man. It is a dark but compelling tale of modern revenge.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011)
The Help (2011)
Director: Tate Taylor. The story of The Help comes from the best-selling novel of the same name. It takes place during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. It tells the story of “Skeeter” Phelan, a graduate of Ole Miss, as she tries to document black and women and their experiences providing service to white families – they are “the help.”
The Iron Lady (2011)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd. The Iron Lady is the story of Margaret Thatcher, the great prime minister of England during the 1980s. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, as she works in her family’s grocery store, resents her mother as a housewife, struggles to break into the Conservative Party, and her marriage to businessman Denis Thatcher.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Director: Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s late masterpiece. It follows Gil, an uninspired writer, who is on vacation in Paris with his horrendous fiance. While out walking one night, he comes upon a miraculous situation wherein he travels back to the era of the postwar expats in Paris. He meets Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dali, and many others. The film is a beautiful and sentimental exploration into the desire to return to a fabled “golden age.”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
The Tree of Life (2011)
War Horse (2011)
Best Picture (2012): Argo (2012)
Director: Ben Affleck. Argo is the unique and amusing thriller film based on the story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative during the 1980s. The story of the film is based on a true story of CIA operatives infiltrating Iran during the hostage crisis in the late 1980s as they go undercover as film-makers for a science fiction movie called “Argo” which they claim to be shooting in Tehran. It is an entertaining film, yet somehow it won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Director: Drew Goddard. The Cabin in the Woods is a bit of a trip. It is a highly meta film that contemplates the horror genre, and reorients the audience’s mindset right up until the very end. The film is actually funnier than it is scary or horrifying.
A Coffee in Berlin (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Director: Christopher Nolan. The plot takes place eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, in which a powerful criminal, Bane, forces an aging Bruce Wayne out of retirement as the Batman in order to save the city of Gotham from a nuclear holocaust. It is another terrific film in this great series, though The Dark Knight obviously stands out as the best in the trilogy.
Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino. Django follows the pattern of other recent Tarantino films – a historically revisionist revenge film that is entertaining, extremely violent, and playfully rife with allusions to classic cinema. The story takes place in the antebellum American south as a German bounty hunter teams up with a slave named Django to hunt down men, and eventually rescue Django’s wife from her evil slaveholders.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Director: Gary Ross. The Hunger Games is based on Suzanne Collin’s 2008 novel of the same name, a remarkable teen/family bestseller. It is a science-fiction film, taking place in an imagined future dystopian world wherein one boy and a girl each are chosen as tribute to participate in the hunger games -a brutal, simulated battle royale created for entertainment. One girl, Katniss Everdeen, rises as a heroic warrior in the games.
Director: Steven Spielberg. Lincoln is loosely based on Goodwin’s highly successful historical account of President Lincoln’s cabinet, Team of Rivals. The screenplay was written by the successful writer, Tony Kushner. The story covers the last four months of Lincoln’s life and his efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment -Lincoln’s battles with Democrats, the radical Republicans, and Confederates as he attempts to bring freedom to disenfranchised black Americans.
The Master (2012)
Les Misérables (2012)
Director: Tom Hooper. It was a rare bit of class on the modern Hollywood silver screen when the artfully made Les Misérables was released -a film of the musical version of Victor Hugo’s famous novel. This is despite less than stellar musical performances from Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Director: Wes Anderson. The plot takes place on the fictional New England island of “New Penzance.” It tells the story of a young romance – two lovers find their way together: a boy scout and his new girlfriend who escape their lives to found a new world, “Moonrise Kingdom.” The scenery and cinematography is carefully, geometrically choreographed, as is standard-fare in the well-organized, highly stylized Wes Anderson film. It is a top-notch movie.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Director: David Russell. This surprisingly charming film stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano, a man struggling with bipolar disorder. He is released from a psychiatric hospital only to move in with his parents in Pennsylvania. He hopes to reunite with his ex-wife, but instead develops a new relationship with Tiffany, an equally troubled girl played by Jennifer Lawrence.
James Bond #23: Skyfall (2012)
Director: Sam Mendes. Skyfall is a brilliant James Bond, perhaps the greatest ever made. It re-introduces Bond into an era of advanced technology, with many questioning the need for “old-fashioned” spies a la the Cold War. At the beginning of the film an accident occurs in which Eve MoneyPenny accidentally shoots Bond on a train while he battles his opponent. Back at home, MI6 is under scrutiny for the incident and is facing threats of closure. Suddenly, MI6 is hacked and riddled with explosives. At the last moment, Bond returns and follows the trail which leads to Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent who was abandoned by M. Silva is seeking revenge against MI6 and M. Bond takes M and they take refuge at his family’s country estate as Silva and his men close in on Bond culminating in a dramatic confrontation in an old cobble-stoned church, killing M (Judi Dench) as well as Silva. In the end, Moneypenny formally introduces herself to Bond and a new M is brought on board.
Stories We Tell (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Best Picture (2013): 12 Years a Slave (2013)
All is Lost (2013)
American Hustle (2013)
August: Osage County (2013)
Before Midnight (2013)
(Lee Daniels’) The Butler (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Fruitvale Station (2013)
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Director: Baz Luhrmann. This film takes considerable liberties from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s far superior novel. It is a forgettable and unfortunate cinematic version of the brilliant novel.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street is a different kind of crime film, telling the story of crime on Wall Street. The film is a cocaine-fueled binge that looks into the grotesquely indulgent life of Jordan Belfort, the mostly true account of the founder of a brokerage firm on Wall Street in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He rises from being a clever salesman of penny stocks, to becoming the founder of an explosively successful firm that deals in illegal trades.
American Sniper (2014)
Director: Clint Eastwood. The film is loosely based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography, his memoir of his time as an American soldier abroad. It tells the story of his his experiences that led him to become the most deadly sniper in American history, and the toll his many tours in Iraq took on his personal health and his family life.
Best Picture (2014): Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Birdman is a modern surrealist, experimental, and deeply psychological exploration into the mind of a washed up actor in New York City. The film is edited to appear as if shot in a single shot, to give it a blurred, dream-like quality. I did not care for this film, not being a fan of the surrealist style.
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher. The story for the film is based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name published in 2012. It is a disturbing take on a crime/mystery story, one which leaves the audience guessing ‘who dunnit’ until the very end.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson. As with all Wes Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a meticulously crafted film with extraordinarily precise camera movements and shots. The narrative of the film is framed in several ways. In many ways the film is a contemplation on the recollections of Zero Moustafa, a bellhop at the Grand Budapest Hotel during the war period. He shares his reflections with a writer staying at the now decaying hotel that Zero has purchased. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the best films I have seen in recent years.
The Homesman (2014)
Director: Christopher Nolan. Interstellar is another complex epic, science fiction film from Christopher Nolan. It takes place in a dystopian future as a former NASA astronaut who passes through a wormhole in search of a more habitable planet on a short time continuum, but he finds the planet, he must return home but he accidentally crosses into the fourth dimension.
Into the Woods (2014)
The Theory of Everything (2014)
The Big Short (2015)
Director: Adam McKay. The Big Short is based on Michael Lewis’s famous book of the same name. It tells the story of the notorious financial and housing collapse in the United States in 2007-2009 -Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager, bets against the housing market at its height, and wins a 489% gain for his fund when it finally collapses.
Bridge of Spies (2015)
The Danish Girl (2015)
Ex Machina (2015)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Release Date: December 14, 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie to be created without George Lucas involved, after the controversial acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney. The Force Awakens is an entertaining film, certainly better than the dreary “prequel” films like Attack of the Clones. However, it follows a familiar pattern -a new powerful force has arisen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire called the First Order, which battles a lowly band of rebels called the “Resistance” while constructing a new weapon called “StarKiller Base.” The most interesting new character is Kylo Ren -the child of Leia Organa and Han Solo. The other intriguing character is Finn, a disillusioned stormtrooper who inadvertently joins the Resistance. The plot essentially recreates the story of A New Hope, but it is still an enjoyable film, at least, despite an over-reliance on digital effects and action sequences to the detriment of pacing and character development.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino. This slow-building, highly intense film is entirely based in one place. The entire movie takes place in a remote cabin at a stagecoach stopover during a blizzard sometime shortly after the civil war. Ennio Morricone completed the score for the film, his first major film since 2000 and first Western in 34 years. The film centers on several bounty hunters and a letter from Abraham Lincoln that turns out to be a forgery. The tension builds gradually throughout the film until one final and dramatic shootout.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The Martian (2015)
Inside Out (2015)
The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. At any rate, the film is based on the 2002 Michael Punke novel of the same name. based on the life of Hugh Glass, a 19th century frontiersman. In the film, Glass leads a group of trappers as they are attacked by Indians and Glass is brutally mauled by a bear and left for dead. His story is a struggle to strike revenge on his betrayer. The movie is largely remembered for giving Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar for Best Actor.
James Bond #24: Spectre (2015)
Director: Sam Mendes. Spectre is a sophomore follow-up to the brilliant Skyfall, also directed by Sam Mendes. The film continues the story from Skyfall as Bond receives a posthumous note from M instructing him to prevent a criminal deal in Mexico (featuring a memorable dia de los muertos scene) just as the 00 program at MI6 is facing cut-backs in favor of a new international intelligence group. The trail leads Bond to SPECTRE, a familiar organization from the early Bond films headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (the last time it was featured was in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever). It turns out that SPECTRE is behind the villains from the three previous Daniel Craig Bond films, and it is also behind the new intelligence group at MI6. Bond is captured and tortured but he explodes his watch in the face of Blofeld, causing his signature scar. In the end, Bond escapes and Blofeld is captured and arrested after a helicopter chase.
Best Picture (2015): Spotlight (2015)
Release Date: September 3, 2015
Director: Tom McCarthy
Spotlight is the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the devastating scandal involving numerous Catholic priests who were abusing children for many decades. Hearkening back to the gritty journalistic style of All The President’s Men, Spotlight delivers a compelling film. It features an all-star cast of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber).
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Sunset Song (2015)
Director: Denis Villeneuve. Arrival is a surprisingly fresh take on the alien invasion cinematic trope. It inverts the War of the Worlds narrative. In this case, the aliens come to earth bearing a gift, but humanity interprets it as a hostile act and begins war preparations. The gift is a new language that allows humans to see the future, and experience it in real time. It is a powerful picture.
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
The Girl on the Train (2016)
Director: Tate Taylor. Emily Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic who rides the train every day past her ex-husband’s home with his new wife. The story is about Rachel being gaslit and publicly accused of being crazy, until we experience the surprising truth in the end. It is a well-done film.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
The Handmaiden (2016)
La La Land (2016)
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Best Picture (2016): Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins. Moonlight is a warped bildungsroman film told in three separate parts about a young black boy and his extraordinary struggles through adolescence and adulthood.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Director: Gareth Edwards. Rogue One is Disney’s first foray into a side-story that takes place in the Star Wars universe, but does not follow the Skywalker saga. It is easily the best of the recent Disney Star Wars movies. It tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance in the original series acquired the plans for the newly constructed Death Star.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Director: Christopher Nolan. Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s great war film about the Battle of France in which allied soldiers were pushed back to the beaches at Dunkirk awaiting evacuation across the English Channel to Britain. The plot is told in several different situations from varying time signatures. Dunkirk is an excellent war film, another triumph from Christopher Nolan.
Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele. Get Out is the fantastic directorial debut of Jordan Peele, former comedian turned film buff aficionado. The film is a psychological horror film that plays on certain racial fears and resentments in the popular culture.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Lady Bird (2017)
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Release Date: December 9, 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
The Last Jedi is riddled with errors and plot holes that are obvious even to the most novice of audiences. Almost everything from the previous film, The Force Awakens, is wholly discarded in The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson introduces all manner of silly moments: Leia flying through space while on the verge of death, Luke behaving like a jaded and disappointing loser who can apparently hologram himself to other parts of the galaxy, awful characters like Admiral Holdo, a frivolous side-plot to a Las Vegas-esque planet, ridiculous slapstick jokes, ships suddenly hyperdriving into other ships, new secret Jedi books are introduced and then promptly destroyed, the great mystery of Rey’s background is destroyed as irrelevent, the central villain is suddenly killed off with no explanation of his background, and on and on. Apparently, Johnson was merely hoping to “subvert expectations” with this film. The Last Jedi is a film to be resoundingly disregarded as one of the worst sequels of all time. The only redeeming parts of the film are the visually stunning effects and shooting locations. Instead, we should focus our cinematic appreciation on the far superior original Star Wars trilogy –The Empire Strikes Back being one of the greatest sequels of all time.
Best Picture (2017): The Shape of Water (2017)
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Star Is Born (2018)
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Director: Julian Schnabel. Julian Schnabel, an American artist and film-maker, pursues a controversial theory about the death of van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, in which van Gogh is the victim of foul play, rather than suicide. Willem Dafoe plays van Gogh in this beautifully inspired film. The scenery and settings for the film are awe-inspiring. The film tells the story of van Gogh’s life as he ventures out into the rural part of Arles in southern France.
Black Panther (2018)
First Man (2018)
Best Picture (2018): Green Book (2018)
Leave No Trace (2018)
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
Director: Josie Rourke. The tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots has been played out many times -the story of a woman who fought for power, trying to move the appropriate chess pieces, however in the end, she loses her love and her life. Her political life is greatly overshadowed by her nemesis, Queen Elizabeth I. This film is a somewhat historically revisionist account, but it is nevertheless an entertaining flick.
Private Life (2018)
Director: Sam Mendes. 1917 is an incredible epic war film that takes place during one day in April of 1917. The film is brilliantly shot as one long, continuous take; and the story follows two soldiers from the British frontline in Northern France as they are called on a dangerous mission through German-occupied territory to deliver a message: call off the attack at dawn. The film is extraordinary.
A Hidden Life (2019)
Downtown Abbey (2019)
The Irishman (2019)
Little Women (2019)
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino. The first half of the movie is about Rick Dalton, a washed up 1950s Western film star from an old series called Bounty Law. He is an alcoholic, and a vain, emotional wreck who lives up in the Hollywood hills next to Roman Polanski. The plot shifts to focus on Cliff Booth, Dalton’s stunt double, and their confrontation with Charles Manson’s group.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Release Date: December 16, 2019
Director: J.J. Abrams
After inheriting a mess from Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams was able to cobble together a halfway decent conclusion to this train wreck of a Star Wars series. The plot: a voice recording of the Emperor is echoing throughout the galaxy which leads to a race between the First Order and the rebels to find a secret planet where the Emperor reveals himself to be covertly conducting the First Order, now renamed the Final Order. How the Emperor has managed to survive remains a mystery. Kylo Ren faces a choice between good and evil -to save his future in the First Order or save the Resistance. The Rise of Skywalker is a mildly entertaining film that seems decent in contrast to its terrible predecessor.
The Souvenir (2019)
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Director: Jordan Peele. Us is the follow-up to Peele’s celebrated contemporary horror film Get Out. Us tells the story of Adelaide Wilson and her family on vacation in Santa Cruz, California when they are mysteriously attacked by a group of Doppelgängers at the Boardwalk. As the Doppelgängers emerge from underground, we ask ourselves a variety of questions – who are the true “tethered?” It is another excellent psychological horror film from Jordan Peele.