With the decade more than halfway over, why not look at the best the 2010s have had to offer at the movies? It’s been a really diverse decade but these five films have continued to stand out.
1. The Social Network (2010): I remember sitting in the theaters, leading up to the Oct. 1, 2010 release date of David Fincher’s “The Social Network”. An eerie, but kind of nothing, teaser trailer played for “that Facebook movie”. I went in with no real expectations either way, despite the growing buzz, and was floored. Floored isn’t the right word. Amazed? Thankful? Thankful. I left the theater thankful that Fincher did not settle for making an on-the-nose depiction of how we live now. He made a thrilling, smart and sexy movie about the creation of the social media juggernaut and how its creation ruined friendships. Obviously, a lot of the movie is fabricated for dramatic effect, but “The Social Network” works on every conceivable level. Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning script, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall’s electric editing and a cast of brilliant performances all worked in concert to create the best movie of this decade, so far (but good luck to any movie that tries to top it).
2. Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker” in 2009. She made a bit of history, becoming the first female to ever win Best Director. Her film took Best Picture the same night. There must have been an intense amount of pressure on Bigelow for her next project. Three years later, she gave us “Zero Dark Thirty”, a brilliant account of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The film found itself at the center of a great deal of controversy – regarding its depiction of torture tactics – and incited a great deal of debate. Regardless of your opinion about the controversy, this is a masterful piece of filmmaking. There is something to be said about a movie where you know what the outcome will be and it is still an incredibly tense film. Bigelow’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every frame and Jessica Chastain’s commanding performance is the movie’s beating heart.
3. Boyhood (2014): So much could have gone wrong in director Richard Linklater’s ode-to-life. Shot over 12 years, Linklater could have lost financing or the cast could have lost interest in the project. In a true exhibition of flawless directing, Linklater crafted a beautiful film that feels so organic. Ellar Coltrane stars as Mason, who we meet at the beginning of the movie at age six and watch him as he grows up and goes to college. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, in an Oscar-winning role, give career best performances as Mason’s parents. The movie is a simple and quiet reflection on life and time, growing up and adjusting to the world around you. “Boyhood” was nominated for six Academy Awards, only winning for Arquette.
4. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013): I’ll be the first to admit it; “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a dark and gloomy film. But it’s a fascinating dark and gloomy film. Directed by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”), “The Place Beyond the Pines” was the best film I saw in 2013. Told in triptych, the movie is about how the actions of one man – a ne’er-do-well motorcycle stuntman, played by Ryan Gosling – affects the lives of a future generation. His path collides with an eager police officer (Bradley Cooper), setting up the events of the second and third stories in the film. At almost two and a half hours, the whole thing flows beautifully and is edited so crisply. The movie is shocking and sad, and went completely overlooked in 2013. It’s a profound tale of fathers and sons and the sins of one to the other.
5. Birdman (2014): A dazzling combination of showbiz satire and magical realism, “Birdman” was an audacious achievement in filmmaking. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski shot the majority of the film to look like one continuous shot. Instead of coming off as a shameless gimmick, they created an immersive film, placing the audience right inside a New York City theatre, where the majority of the film takes place. Casting Michael Keaton as a once upon a time movie superhero could have been just as gimmicky but his performance is astonishing. He embodies Riggan Thompson’s desperation to stay relevant and revive his career by doing a production of a Raymond Carver adaption. Featuring a percussive score and flawless ensemble, “Birdman” took home four Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. “Boyhood” was my pick as the best movie of 2014 but “Birdman” is a marvel to behold.