Posted on December 22, 2019
As a way to acknowledge the end of this amazing decade of film, we're asking our programming team to round up their favourite movies of the last ten years. Here's CIFF's Artistic Director, Brian Owens, who has done his *best* to narrow down a list of the best films of the 2010's. Be sure to keep an eye out for more "Best of the Decade" lists coming soon!
Brian: I sincerely apologize to those expecting a Top 10 list. I tried. I truly did. But when you’ve seen over 1,000 films (not counting ones seen exclusively for work - that would be over 10,000) trying to pick just 1% of them to honour proved too difficult. So, I ask that you oblige me my top 2% - or Top 20 of the 2010’s. Oh, and putting them in order also proved to be too great a task, so here they are in alphabetical order.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directed by Benh Zeitlin (USA, 2012)
I caught this film at Sundance and I was the next to last person to get into the theatre, and it’s an experience I will never forget. This is one of the most auspicious debut features in recent years.
Directed by Richard Linklater (USA, 2014)
It will always be remembered for the gimmick of filming with the same cast over the course of nearly twenty years, but the cumulative impact of the film is as emotionally overwhelming as it is beautiful.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Italy / France, 2017, CIFF 2017 Selection)
The films I’ve selected are here because they’ve seared their way into my memory. Three things I’ll never forget about this film: the beautiful Italian countryside, Michael Stulbarg’s monologue toward the end, and Timothée Chalamet staring into the camera as the credits roll. That expression on his face says so much about first love, heartbreak and the realization that there is only more pain (and joy) to come.
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland / United Kingdom / France, 2018, CIFF 2018 Selection)
Craft, story and performance all blend perfectly and to devastating effect in this bleak and gorgeous, intimate and epic, passionate and painful post-World War II tale of star-crossed Polish lovers.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland / United Kingdom / USA, 2018)
Dark, oozy and absurdly hilarious. Olivia Colman pulled off the upset of the decade when she bested Glenn Close at the Oscars to take home the trophy for Best Actress, but it was deserved.
Directed by Paul Schraeder (USA, 2018)
A fantastic performance by Ethan Hawke grounds this tale of faith in crisis. As the film spirals toward its terrifying conclusion, you might find yourself wanting to turn away, but Paul Schraeder’s filmmaking doesn’t allow you to. It’s a crowning achievement for one of cinema’s great artists.
Directed by Sean Baker (USA, 2017, CIFF 2017 Selection)
Six-year-old Brooklyn Prince delivers a great child performance and Willem Dafoe gives one of his finest a sensitive hotel manager in this exhilarating story about a mother and daughter who exist on the fringe of society.
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland, 2014)
After decades of submitting and frequent nominations, Pawel Pawlikowski’s IDA gave Poland its first win for Best Foreign Language film (now International Film) at the Oscars with this beautifully crafted tale of identity in Communist Poland.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland / United Kingdom / Greece, 2015. CIFF 2015 Selection)
The plot alone is enough to sell this film: In a near future world, people have 45 days to find a partner or they are turned into the animal of their choice. But the script, direction and acting take the witty concept and turn it into a darkly amusing tale of love and humanity.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller (Australia / USA, 2015)
Simply put, this is action filmmaking at its very finest. The films hear beats as loudly as the percussive score and the effects (nearly all practical rather than digital) are awe-inspiring. I’ve seen this film about a dozen times and marvel it with each viewing.
Directed by Lars von Trier (Denmark / Sweden / France, 2011)
The end of the world has never been so ravishingly gorgeous. When von Trier gets it right as a filmmaker, there are few working today who can do better. We’ll discuss when he gets it wrong at another time, because with MELANCHOLIA, he gets it nearly perfect.
Directed by Barry Jenkins (USA, 2016, CIFF 2016 Selection)
A devastatingly beautiful portrait of a young black man struggling with his sexuality and identity told in three distinct chapters that merge into one universal story about how we all struggle to find our way in the world.
Pain and Glory
Directed by Pedro Almodovar (Spain, 2019, CIFF 2019 Exclusive Screening)
PAIN AND GLORY is the semi-autobiographical tale of a filmmaker worried he is past his prime. Let it stand as exhibit A that Almodovar is not. Add in a career-best performance by Antonio Banderas and you have an immensely satisfying effort from one of world cinema’s greatest filmmakers.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho (South Korea, 2019, CIFF 2019 Selection)
One of the highest grossing non-English language films of the past decade, PARASITE is deservedly gobbling up awards left and right. This genre-bending film satisfies on all fronts. The comedy bites. It’s occasionally terrifying. To top it off, it’s one of the finest commentaries on class warfare I’ve seen in quite some time.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Mexico / USA, 2018)
Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical tale of one family’s life in 1970 Mexico City leaves you with the impression that it’s a movie people will be talking about and film studies professors will be teaching in coming decades. It is a rare and moving work of cinema.
Directed by John Carney (Ireland / United Kingdom / USA, 2016)
Probably the most fun I’ve had watching (and re-watching) a movie in the past decade. Sure, it helps that this Irish musical a 15-year-old lad in 1985 (I was 15 in 1985), but the infectious music (Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall & Oates - not the mention the fantastic original tunes) and the charming debut performance by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo make it a hit with everyone who sees it.
Stories We Tell
Directed by Sarah Polley (Canada, 2013)
The only documentary to make the list and my favourite Canadian film of the last decade, Sarah Polley’s personal story about her family becomes a more universal tale about the myths and fables families create for themselves and the motivations for crafting those stories.
Directed by Maren Ade (Germany / Austria / Monaco, 2016, CIFF 2016 Selection)
The thought of a 165-minute comedy might make you shudder, but rest assured, the length is worth it. Maren Ade’s tale of a practical-joking father trying to reconnect with his conservative hard-working daughter is honest, down-to-earth and an outright blast. I won’t go into details, but it contains the funniest scene of the decade.
Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich (USA, 2010)
The perfect capper to a perfect trilogy, TOY STORY 3 is everything that Pixar gets right in one great film. Great set-pieces, warmth, humour and if that scene in the incinerator doesn’t make you ugly cry, you may not have a heart.
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, 2011, CIFF 2011 Selection)
Boonmee spends his waning days on a farm in Northern Thailand with his wife’s ghost and a red-eyed forest spirit that is the embodiment of his long missing son. The fact that none of this is treated as strange or unusual is why I love Weerasethakul’s understated and ethereal work.
Save the date for February 9th, 2020 - CIFF's annual Oscars watch party and fundraiser, A Red Carpet Affair. Can't wait for next year's festival? We've got year-round screenings to tide you over until then, and our newsletter will keep you up to date on all the goings on.
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