110. Elena (2011, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia)
Starting to feel like this list reflects something way the fuck up with me if so many movies I’ve listed thus far are potent examinations in human awfulness, but y’know what? Good drama is good drama and Zvyagintsev’s second picture is really great drama, shoveling characters that aren’t remotely likable into shots that visually represent the oppressive environment that sort of pushes them to be so for the sake of survival. At the center of it being Nadezhda Markina’s complex and performance transforming into just another one of her awful family, a performance I confess just missed my list of the decade’s best.
109. The Deep Blue Sea (2011, Terence Davies, UK)
And on we move to another film with a powerhouse performance at the center of it: Where this time Davies lays his long-time visual nostalgia for post-war England as a means for Terence Rattigan’s stageplay to interrogate just how patriarchal that time and place truly was. And Rachel Weisz’ command of the intense central role that is Hester moves us all through the acute and severe feelings of a woman in sexual awakening during a time that looks down on it.
108. Your Name. (2016, Shinkai Makoto, Japan)
It is frustratingly easy to recycle all the praise I had for Makoto’s Weathering with You lower on this list to Your Name. since it’s not like Shinkai did much differently than experiment with how light is represented in anime (and it will similarly be hard not to recycle praise for another Shinkai film higher up). But this is higher than Weathering with You for a reason: I find that the central comet initiating the premise is one of the masterworks of CGI entering the 2-dimensional world of film, a shimmering wonderful visual floating above in the bluest night sky and an unspoken representative of optimistic yearning that Shinkai seems to believe sunlight is best at illuminating the path for. On top of which, I find it fascinating how Shinkai treats light reflected off the skyscrapers of busy Tokyo and the giant lake of rural Japan in a way that still communicates the same emotions and ties our two protagonists closer together.
107. Atomic Blonde (2017, David Leitch, USA)
Pure punk rock Cold War attitude rendered in the cinematic language of color, style (especially the costumes), and action. Quietly tragic in a way that I think evaded even this movie’s few apologists, I still find myself feeling beaten and bruised alongside Charlize Theron’s cold-faced antihero as she runs around a mystery that will mean nothing in a few days, tries to survive potential deaths that will mean nothing automatically, and deliver hurt and pain in excellent dances of choreography, camera movement, and editing that is the only thing that means anything here in this music video fantasy version of Berlin.
106. The Human Surge (2016, Eduardo Williams, Argentina/Brazil/Portugal)
At once a movie that delivers a sense of how connected everything is via the means of technology and how distanced everyone is because of that same technology without feeling contradictory about itself. I’m tempted to call it something like if an internet bot remade Koyaanisqatsi but I feel that is selling short the manner the fascination that is has with the few humans it focuses on and how their depression and personality feels just like it’s extended by the accessibility of the modern age. A movie I look forward to rewatch again once I have finished musing on all the things it left me to muse about.
105. Private Life (2018, Tamara Jenkins, USA)
I know I said prior that Kenneth Lonergan has a habit of bringing out the career-best performances out of his actors, but that’s just the same to be said about Tamara Jenkins. Her third film (and I really hope she doesn’t keep taking as long as she has been between the three) takes its title as both literal in the way it frames and cuts around the spaces of Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn’s central couple, and as ironic in the manner that it has these two spilling out their desperate wish to have a child to affect practically every facet of their social lives. And yet Jenkins doesn’t necessarily judge the characters for the decisions they make despite using it as the basis for some really funny comedy and allows the things to be learned to be learned well even at their apparent age. The sort of generosity I think makes a director perfect for both atmosphere and for directing performances.
104. 12 Years a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen, USA & UK)
Not necessarily par for the course on Steve McQueen to utilize his characteristic handle on human misery to make at least one “Important Film” since it is quite a tougher and more direct movie on the matter than you’d expect to be an Oscar darling. John Ridley’s script flies between an expectedly hard 12 years experiencing horrors that was the lifetime for many without giving us relief even in the final scenes while McQueen relegates that history to a sweating and immediate present. And our guide to this cruelty is the reliable Chiwetel Ejiofor battling an apparent losing battle for his dignity in a life he’s been thrown into after relative privilege.
103. Blue Valentine (2010, Derek Cianfrance, USA)
A couple at conjuration and then disintegration, structured back in forth in a way that makes us truly recognize the intensity of falling in love and deciding where your life is going based on it and then having that love completely blow up and failing to know where you’re going to go from there. Maybe the most devastating movie on this entire on account of how true and crude the emotions feel thanks to Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams delivering the ideal form of method acting and playing off each other in a collaborative way that helps Cianfrance recognize the flow of the movie from the end results.
102. First They Killed My Father (2017, Angelina Jolie, Cambodia/USA)
Another Important Film but one that didn’t receive any awards of attention basically, despite being the moment where Angelina Jolie finally cracked the code on making something with memory-based subjectivity and the eyes of child in delivering a wholly impactful and personal account on the cruelties of the Khmer Rouge. The sort of movie in which sparing us the direct vision of the atrocities and allowing the mind of its protagonist to return to an easier time just feels so much harsher and tragic.
101. Suspiria (2018, Luca Guadagnino, Italy/USA)
You kind of have your work cut out for you when you decide to remake one of the best movies of all time which also happens to be possibly the best horror movie of all time. But Guadagnino gives his own vision of where the premise of “dance school run by witches in the 1970s” could go and it is an epic and fascinating piece about the repression of women and the psychic scars of WWII (also, holy shit, this is the second movie ON THIS POST that takes place in Cold War Berlin, I realized) relegated in uncharacteristically cold and hard greyscale concrete and restrained gloomy browns (uncharacteristic for both Guadagnino and what we associate the name of Suspiria with). All the better to give us a mood for the harsh associative presentation of it all with the sort of sound and editing and that makes our eyes dart in a manner that asks “what was that?”, the focus of dance as an expression of dark and primal elements, and the manner in which violence finally makes its appearance to the shock of the viewer including a climax that I am entirely in love with in its gonzo dive to gauche bloodiness.