The 2010s Lists: Episode I – The Phantom Feeling

So I’ve carried in my pocket drafts of lists regarding the 2010s decade that is coming to a close. And like any sane person, I’m gonna keep the most superlative of these lists open for edit until early next year. But in the meantime, I figured it was alright to go and drop two of the lists that actually make sense to drop this early.

A year is already a lot of time to think and look back on films in a way that makes you re-examine and re-evaluate them. And sometimes you find those feelings are not positive anymore, so here is my list of 20 MOVIES FROM THE 2010s THAT HAVE NOT HELD UP FOR ME.

Some of these movies, I still like but like less that I once did. Some of these, I already disliked and it went down to hatred. Some have taken that heel turn from “movie I was positive on” to “movie I am now negative towards” in various levels of severity. Listed below in alphabetical order are the 20 movies that took that turn for me, with enough hot takes to ensure that some of y’all probably won’t want to stick around for the next installment of these lists. Let’s go!


Blackfish (2013/dir. Gabriella Cowperthwaite/USA)

Left my mind so completely that when I was showing my friend Josh (Yes, THAT Josh) a Key and Peele sketch, he had to identify a Blackfish reference for me. Josh… had to identify a movie reference… for me. I’m very proud of him. In any case, there’s advocacy docs that use the form and there’s advocacy docs that just talk to you and Blackfish on review is sadly the latter. And what makes it worse is how tough it is to parse what its thesis is: I think it has three but they’re all giving their sympathies to polar opposites.


Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013/dir. Abdellatif Kechiche/France)

I won’t dismiss any queer folk who were moved by the movie (of whom I know a few), but it took not nearly as long for me to look back and find it pretty gaze-y and exploitative. The exploitation worked, since the whole power of the movie is in the honesty of the two performances and that stands just as well for the sex scenes, but they’re so long and the camera lingers very much on their bodies. And frankly, Kechiche himself has said and done nothing to help his case as a Tunisian version of Larry Clark. And I already hate American Larry Clark.


Borgman (2013/dir. Alex van Warmerdam/Netherlands)

Ah, now we get a movie I still love with pretty much all of my heart. It remains a gleefully weird (yet mean-spirited) allegory that I would probably recommend more than any other movie on this list. I was expecting it on my Top 10 movies of 2014 list. And then… something crazy happened and I kept realizing I liked so-and-so movie more than Borgman and such and such film and by the end of it, Borgman wasn’t even on my honorable mentions despite not dropping a bit in retrospective quality in my opinion. This spot on this list is more in respect of its memory. Pour one out.


The Dark Knight Rises (2012/dir. Christopher Nolan/USA & UK) 

I’m gonna have to make an impish confession here: 3 out of the 4 Christopher Nolan movies that released in this decade are on here, though I expect this entry is probably the easiest to swallow as the red-headed stepchild of the Dark Knight trilogy. What I walked away from thinking it was a perfectly fine and ambitious if flawed movie started losing all excuse of it as “ambitious” once Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had the same sloppy writing but… in a more thrilling way.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011/dir. David Fincher/USA, Sweden, & UK)

A case of “it’s better than the mediocre original (and possibly even the book) so that must mean it’s good” in my mind, despite the fact that it’s the coldest work by a director I’m already pretty cold with. And I do stand by the fact that this is better than the Swedish version in almost all aspects (the sole exception being Salander, but Rooney Mara is still excellent despite being no Noomi Rapace), but we got a film no less music video-y than any of Fincher’s other movies except with extra nihilism.

NBThe Social Network almost ended up on this list (and would have certainly been the best movie named) but I don’t want to be murdered for these takes, especially regarding a movie I still love.


Goodnight Mommy (2014/dir. Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala/Austria)

It’s simple: I walked out of the movie feel cold as shit and told myself “it’s definitely a miserably austere genre film” and “I had a good time” and then realized those two thoughts cannot be the same with me and this film. Austrian cinema, y’all. I just can’t with it most of the time.

Hop (2011/dir. Tim Hill/USA)

No, I never thought that this was anything more than one of the worst movies of the year. It has come around now to looking like one of the worst movies of the decade and it just depreciates more and more.


Inception (2010/dir. Christopher Nolan/USA & UK)

I still like it a lot. The heist central to the film is a Russian nesting doll of action setpieces bursting with imagination. But I’ve come to recognize something that niggles my teeth regarding Christopher Nolan: whenever we has to create his own internal logic, he’s dedicated to it in an exhausting way – many of his films function with extended exposition in place of dialogue – and it doesn’t hold much water. I only need movies to set their rules up initially and allow me to meet them halfway, but Nolan’s scripts continuously bring attention back to those rules and I think he doesn’t do it enough to outweigh all the great visuals and momentum the movies have… but he does do it more than I realize every time I rewatch his stuff.


Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015/dir. Leigh Whannell/USA, Canada, & UK)

A clear instance of pleasant surprise in two instances: Leigh Whannell is a much better director than writer (a fact furthered by his second film Upgrade) and this movie is a miles better than Chapter 2. It still is. And it’s still perfectly fine but it evaporates from my mind more and more each day besides Lin Shaye’s presence (which admittedly is something Chapter 3 keyed me in towards more than any Insidious movie prior). I mean, it’s one of the few Whannell scripts that doesn’t piss me off when I think about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good script.


Interstellar (2014/dir. Christopher Nolan/USA)

I swear this is the last Christopher Nolan movie on this list and I feel everything I have to say about this entry was said with Inception so I don’t have much to add besides acknowledging how lengthy the first act felt up until the movie really got into the awesome space adventure of it all. And on the very bright side, I love the infamous tesseract climax and think it’s one of Nolan’s all-time best moments.


Isle of Dogs (2018/dir. Wes Anderson/USA & Germany)

I love dogs and I love Japanese cinema and I love animation (especially stop-motion animation). And I particularly feel like ⅔ of these things have a great affect in Isle of Dogs (the Japanese cinema element… less so). And yet the movie feels so less natural in its assemblage of these things that Anderson loves than anything else. It results in a movie that is occasionally chilly and distant in an inadvertent way, something I don’t find welcoming of Anderson’s aesthetic (The Darjeeling Limited feels more gracious to both Indian cinema and Indian culture).


It (2017/dir. Andy Muschietti/USA)

A movie that has at once appreciated and depreciated in years between its release and the infinitely worse It: Chapter Two. The stuff about the kids being kids in a 1980s summer is phenomenal and I only enjoyed more on rewatch. What brings on this list is dysfunctional it is as a horror film: there is one type of scare Muschietti knows – get chased by something ugly – and he hammers it over and over and over until we’re just too numb to even care how hard Bill Skarsgard is trying to bring creepy atmosphere to the proceedings. Probably a worthwhile revisit on a lazy summer afternoon, not something I’m going to reach for on a still October night. And its failings as a horror movie are still digestible compared to the head-spinning endurance test of boredom and anti-humor that is its sequel. I’m convinced Muschietti and his collaborators knew less about making a horror movie than than they knew about King’s flagship novel itself and I weep for the alternate universe where Cary Joji Fukunaga had made it instead.


It Follows (2014/dir. David Robert Mitchell/USA)

Still a movie I’m fully in love with, just not as much as I was since Cannes. Every time I watch it, the less I’m interested in the central metaphors (of which there are more than people talk about, not necessarily that deep though). I am instead fully devoted to it as doomed atmosphere for very very young people, something helped by both the framing and the soundtrack (as a reversal to this entry, I’ve actually come to admire the score a lot more with each viewing). I’m just not interested in talking about what “It” represents anymore.


Lawless (2012/dir. John Hillcoat/USA)

I don’t know, I just don’t recall having the same power with it the way that Hillcoat and Nick Cave’s The Proposition had and while I’m aware that that is a ridiculously unfair comparison, it’s also a ridiculously unearned comparison that my brain made at the first watch. So maybe this entry is all my fault and nothing else’s (but no, it is the children that are wrong).


Maleficent (2014/dir. Robert Stromberg/USA)

Sleeping Beauty means a lot to me and Maleficent in particular is one of my all-time favorite movie characters so I had walked in fearing disaster – like on the level of Alice in Wonderland – and was pleased that the movie was at least salvageable on the back of Angelina Jolie (which was the only sure-win element of this movie). She is the only element that held up on rewatch and the story decisions are not nearly as intelligent as I first thought they were. It’s still not a disaster but it’s not a good movie either. 


Man of Steel (2013/dir. Zack Snyder/UK & USA)

Another very weird case of ups and downs: it started with every subsequent viewing making me less and less interested and then suddenly getting more and more and more interested and now it’s been petering away again. I’m very hot and cold on this one: reminiscent of an AI-like film where instead of Spielberg pretending to be Kubrick, it’s Snyder pretending to be Nolan and sometimes that gets me kind of interested in the places it goes and sometimes I realize “yeah, people were right to call this kind of miserable”. In any case, Hans Zimmer’s incredible score does not falter and it might very well be the case that this movie loses its spot by the end of the year.


The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2010-2019/prod. Kevin Feige/USA)

I mean, I’m sure the surprise is less that this is on here and more that it was ever high enough in my esteem to make it here. And I’m not necessarily talking about crap like Thor: The Dark World or Captain Marvel, but pretty much the consensus favorites like Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies that try to break free from the stylistic and narrative uniformity of them all successfully enough for me not to regret my time spent in the theater as I walk out (miraculous because these movies are all much longer than they deserve on top of their other problems). And then I look back and I see all my other issues with the series: the soul-dead attempts at impersonable humor, the deteriorating ability to provide even a remotely satisfying action setpiece, the various mix of demanding “required reading” as previous movies while acting as trailer to the next movie, the lack of depth to any imagery for even the best shot among these films (again… Black Panther and the Guardians movies) so the (occasionally vibrant) color has to pop enough to distract from that. Ever since Thor: Ragnarok turned out to feel tortuously long on second watch, I’ve never found it in me to as enthusiastic about any MCU movie and I don’t think I ever will. There was a time when Captain America: The First Avenger would have me standing on tables defending it and now I have no energy.


Sabotage (2014/dir. David Ayer/USA)

Similar situation to Hop, just to a lesser degree. I first watched it thinking it was a toxic vomit of genres that any filmmaker worth a damn would be able to make work together except Ayer is one of the worst filmmakers working today. Came back to it only to find no, it’s even more toxic and even less coherent about the type of cop thriller it wants to be. It’s a combination of all the biggest failings of Ayer as filmmaker and storyteller and would be his worst movie if Bright didn’t disabuse it of that title, so instead I’ll just stare at what a low-rent Walmart Redbox type of movie this was.


The Star Wars films (2015-2018/prod. Kathleen Kennedy/USA)

I’m not going to pretend that EVERYTHING I said about the MCU applies here (The Last Jedi and Rogue One are remarkably good looking movies for the most part), but it’s kind of the same core: the Star Wars movies put out since the Disney purchase have been lacking in personality and feel like the products they are. And the sad thing is that when I say “least held up”, I often mean it in the least span of time possible: it took a year to see The Force Awakens was less than the sum of its parts, it took one rewatch away to see The Last Jedi is not as good as I tried to convince myself, and it took a night’s sleep to realize that giving Solo a letterboxd rating above The Last Jedi is a fucking joke (maybe the most grievous offense of these films: forcing Bradford Young to underlight the fuck out of Solo. I don’t know if it’s Lord/Miller, Kennedy, or Howard responsible for it but I’m really pissed off about it). The only movie I’ve been able to muster a net positive attitude for is Rogue One and even that’s pretty clearly a fan-pandering object that underused its cast (one of the few triumphs of these movies: the ensemble assembled for them) and didn’t need to exist. Honestly, when I want to go see a Star Wars movie, I want to be satisfied by the visual effects and the music and anything else can take a hike. The music is at an all-time low for the franchise (Giacchino’s Rogue One score being my least favorite work in the catalogue of either Giacchino or Star Wars) and while the effects mostly maintain themselves, there are some deeply bad betrayals happening on the CG in the most infamous sequences. And those are the foundations in which I can’t keep staying positive about the direction Star Wars is going.


Suicide Squad (2016/dir. David Ayer/USA)

If there was a single movie this decade that I was more devoted to convincing myself it was good when I first saw it, I can’t remember it. And certainly I had a good time and believe that not a single member of the cast – almost uniformly actors I despise – has anything to be embarrassed about, it is the biggest and loudest trashfire from the burning building that was the early DC Extended Universe and if it’s not my least favorite of the franchise, it’s solely because it is relatively bouncy compared to the miserable Justice League. But a good cast does not salvage what a structural disaster and logical ruin it is.

Anyway, those are the 20 movies in which my attitude depreciated over the past decade. If I still have any shred of credibility for you all, the next list in this series (possibly posted by the end of this coming weekend) will be much more positive, I promise.

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