Uncut Gems 2019 ~ Josh and Benny Safdie 75 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #4 on 1 ballot
The Safdie Brothers burst onto the forefront of the indie cinema scene with their high-octane 2017 thriller Good Time, but that was merely a warm-up for their masterful passion project, Uncut Gems. The glorious culmination of the directing duo’s career thus far, the Safdies continue to follow in the cinematic footsteps of the urban grittiness and intensity of Lumet and the cosmic romanticism of Mann, adding in an Altmanian approach to dialogue mixing for good measure, and ultimately wind up carving a fully unique voice for themself, one that is very indicative of who Josh and Benny are as people: very loud, very loquacious, and very New York. Featuring a knockout ensemble of non-professional actors, a killer synth score from Daniel Lopatin, and frenetic editing that is as anxiety-inducing as the life of a compulsive gambler must be, the Safdies bring together all their trademarks for one hell of a climax. Yet it’s the central performance of Adam Sandler -- a turn both unlikely and inevitable, both absurd and honest, both over-the-top and down-to-earth -- that is the crown jewel of this chaotic, riveting instant classic.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 ~ David Fincher 75 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #4 on 1 ballot
I could go on about how this film's takedown of bullies is so invigorating in a post-Weinstein world, or how it has the patience to allow the two protagonists to follow their own paths for over an hour before they meet. But more than anything, TGWTDT stands out in my mind because of its empathy for the oppressed. The crippling defeat of hopelessness, the understanding of how the isolated are devoured by predators because they see no way to escape. The movie is full of the most palpable pain, but also the joys and heartbreaks of friendship. Lisbeth's love for her original guardian saves his life. Mikael's treatment of Lisbeth as an equal gives them both new power that they would never have on their own. This is a story that understands what it is like to be lost, and what it is like to realize that you are not alone.
Lincoln 2012 ~ Steven Spielberg 77 points from 4 ballots Highest Placement: #1 on 1 ballot
Making a film about one of the most revered people in history is no easy feat but it’s been Steven Spielberg’s longtime dream to put the story of Abraham Lincoln on celluloid. The project which spent years in development hell must’ve been prematurely thought of as yet another of those ‘a lifetime of greatest hits’ kinds of biopics but instead Spielberg and his magnificent writer Tony Kushner wisely decided to limit their focus on a specific time period which encompassed everything that the legacy of America’s 16th president has stood on. A powerful picture of utmost class, Lincoln showcases a level of restraint that its filmmaker is not always known for. It is a spectacular time capsule that lets go of the symbol and allows us to get to know the man behind it with his turbulent family life, forceful political ways and a knack for storytelling which endeared some and annoyed others. One of the keys to that is of course Daniel Day-Lewis’s titanic performance which is completely transformative and multi-layered but also very generous to his on-screen collaborators all of whom get their chance to shine.
20th Century Women 2016 ~ Mike Mills 77 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #8 on 1 ballot
One of the films that struck the biggest chord with me, 20th Century Women is an affecting tribute to those most vital relationships in our lives, following a group of fully realized, honest characters trying to understand themselves as much as they try to understand others. Often breaking its characters into smaller groups as an excuse to play with different dynamics, the interplay and chemistry of its cast - namely the revelatory trio of Annete Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig features not a single weak link, making the characters all the more engaging as they navigate a world rapidly changing around them, with the novelty of a freshly dug up time capsule. In such a crowded decade, this was a true diamond in the rough.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 2018 ~ Joel and Ethan Coen 78 points from 7 ballots Highest Placement: #6 on 1 ballot
In this world, nothing can be said to be certain... except death and taxes. Oddly, I've never seen a movie about taxes (I'm sure a masterpiece about the subject shall be published one day). On the other hand, death is amazingly prevalent in our stories. It is the one omnipresence that men of all creeds and religions shape their existence by. The Coens examine how we process our lives based on our understanding that they will end. Buster Scruggs sends so many to Heaven that he never contemplates that he could be there today. The Prospector has so much to do that he never sees its shadow standing over him. Alice knows that Death, like happiness or unhappiness, can come at any time, and without warning. Everyone shapes the stories of who they are by how they approach the only certainty of what will happen in their narratives. Whatever twists our own tales may bring, how we interpret them is based on the hangman's noose we all wear.
Spotlight 2015 ~ Tom McCarthy 81 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #4 on 1 ballot
“This is our town, Jimmy. Everybody knew something was going on, and no one did a thing.”
Spotlight is two things: a somber tribute to boots-on-the-ground investigative journalism and a story about a city’s crisis of faith, and what elevates the film from harrowing docudrama to something more profound and all-encompassing is that it never loses sight of the latter. Through the Spotlight team’s meticulous research and interviewing (wonderfully edited by Tom McArdle to give the scenes a montage-like flow), they come to discover how closely the Catholic Church’s systemic cover-up of rampant child sexual abuse by priests skirted the margins of their own lives and the lives of everyone in Boston. McCarthy and Josh Singer's laser-focused script credits the work itself while exhibiting how that work shook the lives of everyone it touched and sent ripples throughout the entire world.
The film takes on an even greater significance in a post-MeToo world and is currently the greatest cinematic example of how brave journalism can incite the kind of cultural seachange embodied by that movement, making Spotlight one of the defining American films of the decade.
Post by Johnny_Hellzapoppin on Apr 19, 2020 15:43:06 GMT
Wow, interesting bunch. When it opened with Uncut Gems I was pleasantly surprised, although a little high for me. Still it's the best film of the weakest group so far. I don't like Lincoln much, and Buster Scruggs is quite overrated in this Top 100 at least. The others are fine / quite good.
Toni Erdmann 2016 ~ Maren Ade 82 points from 8 ballots Highest Placement: #9 on 2 ballots
Ines, a rigidly career-oriented young consultant, is knee-deep in an all-important business project in Bucharest when she’s suddenly visited by Toni Erdmann, the buffoonish alter-ego of her eccentric and oddly prank-obsessed estranged father Winfried. Following the death of his dog, Winfried is determined to reconnect with his daughter and help unburden her from the stresses of her high-profile job. What follows is an often cringe-inducing spectacle of comedy and tragedy that navigates the inner turmoil of strained familial bonds. Writer/director Maren Ade, over the course of a lengthy but strangely perfect 162-minute runtime, effortlessly threads the needle between naturalism and absurdity to concoct a searing and uproarious experience that’s as heartbreaking as it is deliriously hysterical. In her assured hands, a showstopping finale boasting an immensely creative utilization of graphic nudity will have you bursting in tears of uneasy laughter, and an impromptu belting of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” will shatter your soul. This is TONI ERDMANN.
Margaret 2011 ~ Kenneth Lonergan 84 points from 4 ballots Highest Placement: #2 on 2 ballots
Margaret, Kenneth Lonergan’s sophomore film that almost never saw the light of the day, is fundamentally a movie about the desire for finding meaning and purpose in the face of senseless death – a template tailor-made to tackle the post-9/11 New York of 2005, the year it was supposed to come out. In it, the young Lisa sees her life change after she witnesses an unknown woman die, and she has to wrestle the feeling that she was guilty of this fatal accident. As the picture unravels into nearly three dense hours, audiences are invited to a somber and devastating mediation on the unintentional effects that mundane, everyday actions can have on the lives of strangers. The internal disputes that delayed its release by six years might’ve prevented it from being handed properly to audiences, but ensured that its themes could live longer than its social background.
Elle 2016 ~ Paul Verhoeven 84 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #5 on 1 ballot
Adapted from a novel by Philippe Djian, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle toes a remarkably risky tonal and thematic line, sure to alienate and scandalize large portions of its audience: it is a pitch-black comedy about a middle-aged woman, daughter of a mass murderer, intent on uncovering the identity of the man who sexually assaulted her. It takes the exhausted bare bones of the rape revenge thriller and drastically subverts them to create one of the boldest, most endlessly fascinating character studies of the decade. David Birke’s screenplay, which mines unexpected humor and pathos from the absurdities of desire, sprawls in multiple directions to explore how its lead character Michèle negotiates the violence and misogyny that define every facet of her life, in the bedroom and outside of it, wrestling and quashing male aggression at every turn in her ferocious battle against subjugation.
An existence defined by a relentless pursuit of control means taking radical ownership of the base impulses of primordial men by whatever means necessary. Every single one of them must be mocked, commercialized or otherwise objectified in order to serve Michèle (and absolutely no one else), which is why the twist that follows the reveal of her attacker’s identity, shocking though it might seem, is nothing if not the inevitable conclusion of the film’s logic. Verhoeven would have a hard time selling this material if he didn’t have a phenomenal performer spearheading the cast, but he does: Isabelle Huppert’s towering, decade-best barnburner of a performance capitalizes on her inimitable gifts as an actor to bring Michèle’s maddening contradictions to life in devilishly beguiling, painstakingly human fashion. It’s killer entertainment.
Phoenix 2014 ~ Christian Petzold 85 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #3 on 1 ballot
There's a recurring idea among many movies: You can forge a new identity, a fresh start that wipes the slate clean. You don't have to be you. Phoenix flips this on its head: You can't be a new person, but perhaps you can be an old one. Erase your worst memories, embrace the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, and you can be the person who was lost.
You want to forget. They want to forget. The mass murder of the Jews didn't happen, it's too painful to remember. The support of the Nazis by implicit consent or explicit action is too painful to bear. Forget it. Don't move on, but move back. We were friends once. Dye your hair the way you always liked it. Put on that red dress and the shoes from Paris. You can go back again.
If we moved forward, that would mean looking in the mirror. Would we recognize ourselves?
I Saw the Devil 2010 ~Kim Jee-woon 85 points from 6 ballots Highest Placement: #1 on 1 ballot
A brutal revenge thriller out of South Korea… where have we heard that one before? But what separates I Saw the Devil from been-there-done-that territory (outside of its two excellent, committed lead actors -- oh wait, both of ‘em had already starred in highly esteemed revenge thrillers before this… ) is its unique set-up and completely unrelenting nature. Your jaw is on the floor after the savage opening scene, and the fucked-up-factor never stops ramping up until the very end. Director Kim Jee-woon is so unafraid to go to extremes that after establishing Jang Kyung-chul as an iconic and legendarily demented villain, it’s not too long into the runtime before we’re introduced to a goddamn cannibal living in a madhouse of fuckery. If one thing’s for sure, no one could accuse this movie of being tame!