Mark Whelan Best of the Decade

The Best Films of the Decade 2010-2020 by Mark Whelan: Introduction

The Best Flms Of The Decade Splash CardWhen James Camerons Avatar smashed into cinemas in late 2009, its immediate success promised a new era in motion pictures: a third dimension. This wasnt an antiquated novelty of red and blue shaded lenses, but a technological leap ushering in a revolutionary and exciting way to experience moviegoing.

However, try as it might, that evolutionary step in modem storytelling didnt seem to find an audience speak. Cameron cant be faulted, however, as its only natural for an artist, filmmaker or otherwise, to push the foundations of their craft to places unknown…if only on a technical level.

Truthfully, there hasnt been any great upheaval in film innovation these past ten years. The same stories are told time and time again carrying on the traditional archetypes of their thematic elementscomedy, romance, tragedy, etc. those that defy these conventions often fail, and not gracefully, falling into the pits of eyerolling pretense and heavyhanded high art.

It makes sense that most of the films that do succeed tend to envelope a more modest and simpler aesthetic. In a decade where gargantuan bigbudget clunkers like Cloud Atlas (2012) and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) are vying for boxoffice records, gems such as A Separation (2011) and Like Father; Like Son (2014) dare to play it straight. This doesnt suggest quieter films dont hold the same level of ambition or visual fidelity that the heavyweights offer, but rather they formulate a softer yet more focussed narrative.

Aside from visual pomp and circumstance, it hasnt helped that the standard running time for the exemplary Hollywood blockbuster has significantly elapsed. What used to take ninety minutes to tell a story now, apparently, needs an extra hour. Theres absolutely no need for any Transformers or Marvel Studios film to be closing in on a three hour benchmark, yet through this “more is moreand “sound by the pound” mindset we’ve adopted a new norm. Fortunately, we have a few films and filmmakers that cohesively and efficiently given us works vast in scope with a fraction of the running time: Alfonso Cuarons Gravity (2013) is a prime example.

The 2010s trailblazed a new form of media to the masses: streaming. While the openended possibilities of ondemand viewing brought about a higher accessibility rate for motion pictures, the practice also invited new dilemmas. We now live in a world where one of the greatest filmmakers of all timeMartin Scorsesechose to showcase his film The Irishman (2019) on Netflix with only a limited run in cinemas. Ditto for Alfonso Cuarons Roma (2018); one of the decades finest. While I had reservations about The Irishman, I do not deny Scorseses understanding of an art form he helped establish, and it makes me wonder, had I actually seen The Irishman in theaters, if I might’ve been more enthusiastic about my opinion of the picture. Im in the minority as The Irishman remains one of Scorseses highest reviewed films, and it certainly shouldnt demerit a production based on its choice of venue. To each their own.

Motion pictures have always played an integral role in our society. Much more than simple escapism, films aid in maintaining a reflection of the times; a looking glass to which we ultimately encapsulate a fraction of our daily lives. If I can describe the 2010s in a single word it would be…well…strange.

Any decades that have films like A Separation and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) are reason enough to applaud, but those films were the exception to the rule. It was an era adorned with giant robots and robust superheroes, not to mention countless remakes and reboots.

I might sound pessimistic in my observations, but theres always diamonds to be excavated in the perpetual rough of Hollywoods tried and true. The How To Train Your Dragon trilogy and the spectacularfor the most partMission: Impossible films are thrilling examples of intelligent and funfilled entertainment ideally suited to their perspective audiences. Id be remiss if I didnt admit having more than a little bit of delight watching some of the Marvel films (one of which actually made my list).

The 2010s changed the traditional landscape for the modem moviegoer. No matter the venue you opt to partake, whether it be streaming from modem devices or entering the hallowed halls of your favorite cineplex, its never been easier to discover and enjoy the innumerable stories and visions of contemporary filmmakers. While its true that not much has changed outside the realm of technological convenience, there’s no denying that the enduring might of movies is as prevalent and essential as it ever was. Im still thrilled to be along for the ride.