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. 2: Wonder Woman

Regardless of your opinion on the merits (or lack thereof) of Batman vs Superman, there was a clear winner that came out of it all. Though only in the film for a handful of scenes it was immediately obvious that Diana, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), was going to be a force to be reckoned with in her own solo film. This film also came at a perfect time for the DCEU. While the MCU was racking up critical and box office successes, they were yet to have a solo film for any of their female characters or a film directed by a woman. DC decided to buck that trend and handed the reins of one of their trinity to Patty Jenkins. It came as a bit of a surprise, given the last film she had directed was "Monster" in 2003, and a far cry from a superhero film.

ITOL Top Films of the Decade, Entry No. 3: Booksmart

n Olivia Wilde’s 2019 directorial debut “Booksmart”, two bright high school seniors learn that they mess up. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are Ivy League school-bound and learn on their last day of school that the partiers and burnouts, also got into those same schools. That is because, as one character said, they are “incredible at handjobs but got a 1560 on the SATs.” They did both. Molly, more distraught than Amy, resolves that their last night of high school should have the two most studious girls go to a house party. The plot sounds simple. The early presented troupes seem familiar. But “Booksmart” is more than just your typical high school movie. It is a wild ride about self-discovery, learning that the cover doesn’t always match what’s inside, and love.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 4: You Were Never Really Here

Most of us have at least a little trauma in us. Be it something minute or something colossal, these pockets of pain have the potential to fuck us up beyond our wildest dreams if not taken care of properly. And it’s on this note that master-filmmaker Lynne Ramsay – featured previously on this series with “We Need To Talk About Kevin” – brings us “You Were Never Really Here”. 

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No.6: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

With awards season in full swing and director Marielle Heller’s newest film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” being a big name in all the awards buzz, it’s the perfect time to look back to last year when she brought the story of author Lee Israel to life with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”. There wasn’t a film that I backed as hard last year to win any and every award possible as much as this film because I truly think it’s perfect. It tells the fascinating and true story of Israel (Melissa McCarthy) falling out of touch with the modern world of literature and turning her talent for being factual into a forgery.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No.7: Leave No Trace

I had the unique privilege of reading My Abandonment in Pete Rock’s creative nonfiction class during my junior year at Reed College, a tiny, liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. I already knew that I wanted to write a creative thesis my senior year, but I had not yet taken a creative writing class (oops). Pete was kind enough to take a chance on me, accepting me into his mostly full upper-level course. It was in this course that we read a vast array of creative nonfiction, a unique genre that Pete capped off with one of his own works. The writing of My Abandonment is solid, of course, the story of a weathered Iraq war verteran and his thirteen-year-old daughter imbued with the rough Oregon life that I myself had been growing accustomed to for the past two and a half years.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 8: We Need To Talk About Kevin

The Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 saw 26 people murdered – 20 kids and six members of staff. It remains the largest school shooting at an American primary or secondary school, and is the second-largest school shooting in American history (the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 saw 32 people murdered). Coming out one year prior, “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is a film that explores one of life’s more terrifying recurring nightmares. Based on the 2003 novel of the same title by Lionel Shriver, “We Need To Talk About About Kevin” focuses on successful travel writer Eva (Tilda Swinton) and the relationship with her son, Kevin (Rocky Duer, Jasper Newell and finally Ezra Miller). Kevin seems to antagonise and loathe his mum from birth: crying only in her arms as a baby, being entirely uncooperative with her as a young kid when they’re alone, and taunting her frequently as a teen.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 9: Selma

Director Ava DuVernay has, over this last decade, established herself as one of the most important filmmakers in the business, thanks to her incomparable body of work across mediums: from her shocking and vital documentary “13th” on the perpetuation of slavery in the US to the powerful, sensitively constructed series “When They See Us” about the wrongly convicted suspects in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case.  Of all of her work over the last ten years, “Selma” is DuVernay’s very best. The film describes the events leading up to and including the 1965 marches from Selma, Alabama to the state’s capital, Montgomery, conducted by Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and others, as part of a movement to give African American citizens the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. 

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 10: Zero Dark Thirty

We often associate the “male gaze” in cinema to how female sexuality is portrayed, but I would argue that it exists when it comes to modern military movies, as well. This is one of the thoughts that found itself moving through my brain rewatching Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” There is a jingoistic, action-driven version of this or “The Hurt Locker,” Bigelow’s Oscar-winning drama about bomb diffusers in Iraq, that could be made by a Michael Bay or Peter Berg. It would have been empty thrills compared to the contemplative work Bigelow does in both films.

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