ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 1: Lady Bird

The titular character of Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age classic, “Lady Bird” (2017) is equal parts pretentious and endearing.  Lady Bird – as stated above, a name given to herself by herself – navigates her senior year of high school and the many relationships encompassed within it. The premise of the film is simple. A coming-of-age story. But what is extraordinary is how it taps into the humanness of growing up. “Lady Bird” for me is what “Boyhood” (2014) did for my brother. It held up a mirror to my most vulnerable truths, and actually made me feel okay about that. Lady Bird, portrayed so earnestly by Saoirse Ronan, is dramatic. “Come here often?” she asks her crush in the grocery store as if they are gender-bending roles in an old Western. She calls herself from the wrong side of the tracks when there are literal railroad tracks to get to her house.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 14: The Farewell

In 2000, we learned that my grandfather had cancer. He went through chemotherapy, and my mother and I went up to help him and get him to doctor’s appointments as he ended up in assisted living. I was there the day he received his terminal diagnosis, and 7 of the next 10 weeks were spent trying to comfort him, and get things prepared for after the inevitable happened. It finally did in late July. I was very close to him- he was like another parent to me. It was devastating. Those months come to the forefront of my mind in contemplating Lulu Wang’s beautiful dramatic comedy, “The Farewell.” Inspired by her own life, Wang tells the story of her family whom, when they find out the worst about their beloved Nai Nai, they do what is unthinkable to most of us- they don’t tell her.

Review: Knives and Skin

There is a strangeness to “Knives and Skin” (2019) that makes it difficult to put into words precisely what it’s about and how it made me feel. Jenifer Reeder’s film is eerie, bright but dark, funny but upsetting. It puts you on edge but also has you really feeling for the people on screen. If you like films by Peter Strickland or David Lynch you’ll love it. If not, I recommend pushing your cinematic comfort zone. Fifteen year old Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley) has an encounter with sexually aggressive Andy (Ty Olwin) which ends badly. She goes missing and the town is shaken. Her mother Lisa (Marika Engelhardt) slowly loses her mind but others in the community have just as tenuous a grip on reality.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry 36: A Silent Voice

Seeing that Naoko Yamada’s “A Silent Voice” made our list for the Top 50 Films of the Decade was an absolute treat. Not only because it’s always nice to have some anime appreciation, but it’s also great because the film isn’t talked about as much as it should. Yamada’s adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name is easily one of my favorite anime films as it pulls no punches in delivering a timeless story about redemption, understanding others, and finding your voice.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 40: I Am Not A Witch

A dry humour. An uncomfortable satire. A stunning fairytale tableaux. “I Am Not A Witch” (2017) has an impact that’s hard to describe. The film starts with a young Zambian girl Shula (non-professional actor Margaret Mulubwa) being accused of witchcraft. She is given the choice of being turned into a goat or declaring she is a witch. She chooses to say she is a witch and is taken to live in a ‘witch camp’. At the witch camp Shula is cared for and encouraged by the other women who all remain attached to long white ribbons at all times lest they fly away. Tourists arrive by minibus to leer at them as a local attraction and they’re loaned out to work long hours for someone else’s benefit.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 41: Pariah

The Forever Young Film Club is a British organisation whose primary activity is to host screenings of coming-of-age movies. "Girlhood", "Booksmart" and "Mid90s" have all attracted large crowds, and the Club is clearly going from strength to strength. The main reason for this continuing success is down to the hard work of the three women behind the screenings, but there’s also the fact that, sooner or later, pretty much all of us have to grow up. Changing friendships, sex, sexuality, hopes, dreams and discovering your parent/s’ flaws are all part of moving from childhood to adulthood, which means that coming-of-age is perhaps cinema’s most relatable subgenre. Dee Rees’ 2011 feature debut “Pariah” is one such film.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 46: The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola’s American Southern Gothic film, “The Beguiled” (2017), is an atmospheric drama that takes place at a girls’ school in Virginia in 1864. The American Civil War rages around the house, ever-present despite the lack of action. The film features a trio of talented blonde women -- Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning -- in addition to Colin Farrell. While it’s not the masterpiece that some of Coppola’s other films like “Marie Antoinette” (2006) or “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) are, it’s a moving and aesthetically beautiful portrait of women in wartime.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No.50: Late Night

Given how much the late night talk show has been revitalised in recent years with the advent of online video, it’s shocking it has taken Hollywood this long to make a modern comedy set within that world. After all, there’s nothing more tantalising for a comedian to write than a movie about the nature of comedy. But with "Late Night", the filmmakers have gone beyond merely dramatising the ins and outs of putting on a show and made something of a landmark to the current state of media; an encapsulation of everything both great and terrible about it, and a clear vision of how we can make it better. "Late Night" hits a lot of the expected beats of the workplace comedy: the fresh-faced newstart comes in, the veterans are dubious of them, they make their early mistakes but learn the ropes, they bring fresh ideas to the table, and eventually gain the trust of their new colleagues. However, getting past the formulaic structure, it’s clear that the filmmakers are using the familiar platform as a building block to share topical ideas.

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