2019 Year Enders, Film

Boston Hassle’s Top 25 Films of the 2010s

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As regular Hassle readers will no doubt know, December (through January-ish) is the season of the Year-Ender, where we invite our writers and members of the artistic community (not to mention you, the reader!) to reflect on their personal faves of the past 365 days. This year, however, marks a special occurrence: for the first time in its existence, the Hassle stands to observe not only the Year-Ender, but the Decade-Ender. To mark the occasion, the Hassle’s dogged film staff have come together to rank their favorite screen gems of the twenty-tens. As one might expect from this diverse band of cinephiles, the selections are all over the map, from children’s favorites to extreme horror nightmares, world cinema masterpieces to aching queer romances. Each represents a singular cinematic experience to add to your endless streaming queue– and to actually watch. More than anything, these films prove that the age of classic film is far from over. See you in the ‘20s! Oscar Goff, Hassle film section editor

25: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014) dir. Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch is the Elvis Costello of filmmaking, hopping from one genre to the next and injecting each with his own ineffable brand of downtown cool. In 2014, he dipped his toe into the then-hot vampire romance subgenre (the Twilight saga had wrapped just two years earlier) and turned it on its head, replacing the standard angsty teenagers with a pair of aging hipster bloodsuckers, played perfectly by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. The result is one of the decade’s great hang-out pictures, filled with entertaining performances, a killer soundtrack (featuring needledrops from Wanda Jackson and Charlie Feathers, as well as a score by Jarmusch’s own band SQÜRL), and a sprawling production design seemingly built entirely out of Jarmusch’s pop-culture obsessions. Who needs daylight when you can share a blood-popsicle with Christopher Marlowe? —OG

24: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014) dir. Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement

What would eternal damnation look like for you and your friends? Would you hunt every night, viciously feeding on the innocent? Or would you argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes and tell everyone you meet that you’re a vampire? Probs the latter. What We Do in the Shadows is like comfort food personified; you can watch it over and over without ever getting sick of it. Not only is it a brilliant vampire mockumentary with a fresh take on an overdone genre, it’s worth watching just to hear Jonathan Brugh’s character say the word “pasghetti.” Madeline Koufogazos

23: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) dir. Martin Scorsese

There is no director more versatile than Martin Scorsese, and 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street is a testament to this fact. The king of crime dramas applies his storytelling abilities to the world of illegal Wall Street trading and the selling of penny stocks, yet never does his style cease to amaze us. Following the rise of Stratton Oakmont, The Wolf of Wall Street is about how one man, Jordan Belfort, was able to inflate stock prices to ultimately become a reverse Robin Hood type figure. Sounds exciting, right? Well, on paper, no, but leave it to Scorsese to inject life into this story of the absurdly rich. Though it takes pages from previous Scorsese romps, The Wolf of Wall Street is ultimately a new voice for the legendary director. A good mix of crime, drama, and comedy makes this the most rewatchable movie in the last decade. So rewatchable, in fact, that the nearly 3 hour running time never affects my decision to put it on in the background. Top it off with a career defining performance from Leo DiCaprio and you have a good time at the movies. With all of this talk about The Irishman, a movie I could argue is technically a better made film than The Wolf of Wall Street, I still don’t think it’ll leave such a cultural impact as Wolf, which makes this the decade-defining film from Scorsese in my eyes. Kyle Brunet

22: THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017) dir. Sean Baker

A true exercise in empathy, The Florida Project is a devastating exploration of childhood. It touches on an often overlooked community, and shows a holy amount of respect towards the subject matter. Willem Dafoe gives the performance of his career as the conflicted manager of the motel in the shadow of Disney World. There’s so much authenticity with Baker’s filmmaking, you really feel like you’re leaving a world when the film ends. Trevor Howell

21: BLACK SWAN (2010) dir. Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan crossed boundaries to become a pop culture phenomenon and audience favorite, and I don’t think we ever stopped and considered just how weird and awesome that is. It’s a werewolf body horror movie disguised as a Swan Lake prestige picture! There’s literally nothing wrong with this movie. —Nick Perry

20: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) dir. Edgar Wright

The best video game movie isn’t based on a video game at all. Wright’s endlessly inventive film brings out the best in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, adding a new dimension to O’Malley’s excellent characters, music, and universe. Though some of its politics have aged poorly, few films can match the energy of Scott Pilgrim’s fight scenes, or the sheer coolness of its magical-realist Toronto. Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) remains one of the best film characters of all time. —Kyle Amato

19: PADDINGTON 2 (2018) dir. Paul King

Paul King elevates the form he used in Paddington, candy color and Wes Anderson affects, to craft his own unique vision, breaking the mold of what we’ve seen before. There’s something musical to Paddington 2, a rhythm and energy in its editing, a pacing that electrifies and soothes you in turn. The cast, too, is perfection, bouncing off of each other with an ease that brings you in like family, all led by Ben Whishaw, who captivates with charm and gravitas. It seems like such a simple story for children, about a bear who teaches politeness and niceness. Yet, there is something revolutionary in Paddington’s message, particularly in a Brexit/Trumpian world. Paddington’s story is almost necessarily tethered to the politics of our day and age, and Paul King takes this children’s story of a talking bear and crafts a deeply political story of a refugee who made a life in London, only for folks to try to take it all away because of who he is and where he comes from. It’s a movie about the strength of community, of family, and ultimately, of love. In Paddington’s London, grace and goodness are revolutionary and transformative—a type of power that can change the world for the better, if only we let it. —NP

18: MELANCHOLIA (2011) dir. Lars Von Trier

Two years after ringing out the aughts with the agonized howl of Antichrist, von Trier modulated his highly personal exploration of depression and re-emerged with Melancholia, a saturnine marvel that remains, and looks likely to remain, his best film. An ultravivid display of interplanetary Liebestod, it sets all-too-human awfulness–the context: an enormous, expensive, viper-riddled wedding reception spinning out of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s control–against the deeper madness of Justine (Kirsten Dunst), our reckless and already restless bride. Justine is a borderline (and borderland) creature, careening through life, and her wedding, buffeted by heedless mania and hopeless blues. But she sees the end true, as if she always knew–and the damned thing’s headed straight at us. In a sense, the impending disaster has always already happened, but not to worry: it eternally recurs, aping whatever dimensions our magic cave assumes, refracting whatever illumination our selves and circumstances project. In the wake of Antichrist’s fang-ringed void, Melancholia offered the tenuous, possibly pointless promise of shelter through story. Chaos, it reminds us, not only reigns, but resigns, and resumes. Matthew Martens

17: BURNING (2018) dir. Lee Chang-dong

This is a film about about hunger, and three characters with very different appetites. Jong-su finds himself on a manhunt after his childhood friend Hae-mi goes missing. His only lead is her boyfriend, Ben, a playboy with a penchant for burning greenhouses. Did Ben murder her, or has she Gone Girl-ed herself? It’s a slow burn with a sucker-punch finale. You’ll find yourself immediately wanting to rewatch it, just to catch the nuances that Chang-dong masterfully hides throughout the film. – MK

16: THE MASTER (2012) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

What is there to say about The Master that hasn’t been said before? PTA’s followup to his previous masterpiece, There Will be Blood, The Master is ultimately a story about a loss of connection between one’s own self and the world around them in a post-WWII America. The heartbreaking intensity brought to the film via Joaquin Phoenix’s PTSD-riddled Freddie Quell is absolutely incredible, and matched on point with a career-best performance by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman– who is totally-but-not-totally playing L. Ron Hubbard. On top of the performances, you have the incredible world-building that PTA is known for, as well as the beautiful cinematography and the score by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood. Nearly all of PTA’s films are perfect, but The Master holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorites. — KB

15: THE LEGO MOVIE (2014) dir. Chris Miller & Phil Lord

What could have been shameless product placement was somehow transformed into a vehicle of creativity and heart. The directing pair that shepherded Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street wrote a joyful script that blends ageless humour and tenderness. On the surface, it’s a movie that teaches the power of creativity and that everyone has something good to offer. Slightly below the surface is a film that tackles individualism, packed with consumerist criticism and marxist theory. A film for all ages in the truest form, everything really is awesome with The Lego Movie.TH

14: THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) dir. David Fincher

Leave it to director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to make a movie about the creation of Facebook not only one of the best movies of the decade, but easily the most entertaining. The Social Network follows Facebook through its early beginnings as an incredibly sexist, toxically masculine, post-break-up attack site called Facemash, created by soon-to-be scum of the earth Mark Zuckerberg, played devilishly by a punchable Jesse Eisenberg. Facemash then transforms into The Harvard’s Facebook before shooting into the stratosphere as the game changing social media site everyone and their grandmother uses today. With an electric sense of style and a punchy, dialogue-heavy script, Fincher and Sorkin get down and dirty into the (mostly bad) nitty gritty details about the phenomenon from the boring legal troubles the site got into to the constant backstabbing Zuckerberg is known for. Yet even still, these masterclass storytellers are able to take this monotonous story and create a modern masterpiece pulsating with energy and tension, something highlighted by the incredible soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross– a soundtrack I easily put down as one of the best in the last 10 years. The Social Network would go on to become not only influential, but ahead of its time in its scathing criticisms on social media and the follies it brings about. If anything, this movie becomes more relevant as the years pass. See The Social Network if you haven’t already, you cowards. — KB

13: GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (2017) dir. Francis Lee

I watched this film three times within two weeks, and I haven’t stopped talking about it. Sorry not sorry to all my friends who have received nonstop photos of Alec Secăreanu from me. Anyways, I digress. This is a perfect film. Johnny Saxby, played by the brilliant Josh O’Connor, and his family are hardy British folk who run a farm in Yorkshire, England, and they are in need of a helping hand. Gheorghe, a migrant Romanian farmer, is their answer. In the short course of a week, the intolerable Johnny falls in love. Gheorghe not only helps Johnny rebuild a wall and tend to sheep, he teaches him how to be gentle with himself and those around him. I love this film because it isn’t a coming out story. It simply focuses on the love between the two characters. Though the dialogue is sparse, I recommend watching this movie with subtitles, as the accents can be a little tricky to decipher. Ultimately, the dialogue almost doesn’t matter, as the actors do such an amazing job of using body language to get their meaning across. I cannot recommend this film enough. – MK 

12: UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (2010) dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Thai filmmaker, multimedia artist, and all-around wonder-worker Joe Weerasethakul was already several films into a well-garlanded career by 2010, when he gifted us with one of the most enchanting–and one of the most desolating–cinematic experiences of its decade, a kind of requiem for the numinous that engages Thai history, religion, and politics with sly, polemic-free understatement. Joe’s way of rigorously inhabiting the worlds his films observe even as he–with equal parts serenity, wit, and melancholy–rises above them, didn’t originate with Uncle Boonmee, but it finds its ideal, emblematic expression here. Unusually for a visionquest, Boonmee’s story is also an utterly unsentimental death-bed drama, a reckoning with echoing sin. Set in a nursing home that doubles as the natural world, it conjures a cricket-thrumming, catfish-thrashing ghost-realm that soothes, spooks, and slips away. Matthew Martens

11: FIRST REFORMED (2017) dir. Paul Schrader

Will God forgive us? Schrader’s electric thriller grabs you by the throat and never lets go. In many ways First Reformed feels like the only movie that actually understands what the decade is really about: climate change, isolation, faith, the power (or lack thereof) to change things, the tiniest scraps of hope. Ethan Hawke gives perhaps his finest performance of all time as the desperate Reverend Toller, a man besieged by grief and tormented by his cowardice. An unstoppable masterpiece. –KA

10: THE WITCH (2016) dir. Robert Eggers

The Witch was always going to be a horror classic. In a genre dominated by excess and bloodshed, its austere formalism, period-accurate dialogue, and creeping sense of dread stand out like an omnipresent hare in the woods. But a lot happened in the months following its 2016 theatrical release, and its decidedly pro-witch ending started looking a lot less like a moment of ambiguous horror and more like an anti-patriarchal fantasy. In the time since, devil-goat Black Philip and his invitation to “live deliciously” have become every bit as enshrined in the horror pantheon as anything from Freddy Krueger or Ghostface. But none of this would matter if The Witch weren’t, first and foremost, a masterful piece of work, an astoundingly assured debut that knew how to build tension– and when to go in for the shock (as in our first visit to the witch’s home). Now, who wants some butter and a dress? –OG

9: THE HANDMAIDEN (2016) dir. Park Chan-Wook

Park Chan-wook tailors the original British Victorian novel source to outfit a Japanese-colonized Korea in the 1930s, enriching the dynamic tapestry woven by the great love/scam story of pickpocket Sook-hee, heiress Hideko, and the men in between. The Handmaiden‘s masterful placements in trickery work as meticulously as a pocket watch, and we’re all in on it until we find that there’s been another set of gears set in concurrent motion. But as sinister as it seems, Sook-hee’s and Hideko’s entanglements make for a twisted love that is sweeter above all motives. —Anna Hoang

8: TANGERINE (2015) dir. Sean Baker

If an interzone is a place and/or time in which the Goldilocksian ideal of just-rightness governs relations among all variables, well, vanishingly few places or times can qualify for the title for long. Tangier can, for its few post-war years as an open city between hegemonies; and so can Tangerine, Sean Baker’s world-beating fifth feature film, shot entirely–as anyone familiar with it is tired of hearing over-emphasized–on iPhone 5S. Baker’s pre-Florida Project tour-de-force is kept both and anchored and airborn (again, in perfect balance) by exceptional performances from Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor as Sin-Dee and Alexandra, BFF transgender sex workers whipsawing around Hollywood on Christmas Eve in a hectic poetry of pursuit. Among the diverse satisfactions they seek are vengeance upon a cheating boyfriend, solicitation of street people to attend an evening of (exquisite) torch song, and an expertly executed car-wash blowjob. Tangerine isn’t squeamish about sadness or violence, and it doesn’t kid itself about any possible paradise–all toys, in the end, are misfit. But this or some other Christmas, I hope you’ll let Tangerine launder this wonderful life for you, and see what doesn’t come out in the wash. –-MM

7: CAROL (2015) dir. Todd Haynes

During the Christmas season, two women in 1950s New York discover each other and fall in love. Haynes’ passion for midcentury aesthetics comes out in full force for this warm and beautiful lesbian love story. It is not a coming out story, but a story about accepting what you’ve known all along, and realizing the lengths you’ll go to have it. There is not a false note in the cast, but special recognition must be given to Sarah Paulson as Carol’s ex-girlfriend, who subverts all “jealous lesbian” tropes common in the pulp fiction where the story originated. A queer love story for ages. –KA

6: WEEKEND (2011) dir. Andrew Haigh

Andrew Haigh’s remarkably intimate film spans only a couple days, but may as well span a lifetime. Often described as “the gay Before Sunrise”, Weekend carves out a space for itself with its matter-of-fact display of gay intimacy, something often lacking in cinema. Though Haigh’s next films may be more confident, the nervous courtship between Russell and Glen one emotional weekend continues to resonate nearly a decade after its release. –KA

5: LADY BIRD (2017) dir. Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig will drag you back into the depths of teendom — and you won’t even mind. You may not be a teenage girl in Sacramento, California, in the year following 9/11, but that won’t stop you from identifying with Lady Bird, played expertly by Saoirse Ronan. There is a Lady Bird inside of all of us, hoping, yearning, desperately trying to make ourselves known. Ronan and Gerwig are the dream team. – MK

4: GET OUT (2017) dir. Jordan Peele

When comedian Jordan Peele decided to take a swing at the horror genre for his debut feature, he wanted to make sure that his protagonist was a smart, reasonable guy –– a person that audiences have an easier time identifying with instead of alienating for making poor decisions. And in addition to being likable, Chris Washington’s (Daniel Kaluuya) keen eye for microaggressions and spotting the hairline crack in a porcelain-white scene sharpens the tension that no one wishes to have at their girlfriend’s parents’ house. But after a cool $250 million at the box office, an Oscar, and countless “I watched Get Out three times!” jokes, Peele’s first score proved to be more than a home run. The film’s cultural impact arguably caused one of the hugest ripples across the country, invoking thinkpieces and satirical material about post-racial America, allies, and noir horror. But more importantly, everyone saw a movie with an original premise and had something to carry with them –– a laugh, a scare, a side-glance at your neighbor who didn’t laugh at the joke that was probably about them. —AH

3: HEREDITARY (2018) dir. Ari Aster

While I’m still holding out for a better term than “elevated horror,” it’s undeniable that the genre had a bonafide moment in the 2010s: more than any period since perhaps the ‘70s, the decade saw a spike in thoughtful genre thrillers, from both established studios and auteurist indie houses, which garnered both critical acclaim and impressive box office. Yet even in this pack, Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary stands out. On top of being every bit as well-crafted as its peers, Hereditary is, for lack of a better word, really fucking scary. I’ve seen more than my share of horror classics in my lifetime, yet there are moments in Hereditary that sucked the air out of my lungs, that made the genre feel new again. Yet, crucially, each moment of supernatural terror was matched, or even surpassed, by moments of the everyday emotional cruelty that infect families around the world. Credit here must be given to the nuanced performances by Gabriel Byrne, Millie Shapiro, Alex Wolff, and especially Toni Collete, who delivers a barn-burning all-timer which will be included in Oscar-snub discussions for decades to come. Repeated viewings will reveal layers of nearly subliminal touches which prove Aster to be a new master of the form– but no one will blame you if you need to take some time between screenings. –OG 

2: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) dir. George Miller

If the 2010s were the ’80s resurrected, Fury Road is the maximalist tactics of a Schwarzeneggerian war hero set to the synthwave tempo of an OutRun race track. Still, no adequate words can describe the immediate cult status that this movie earned upon arrival, and no bar has been set higher than the union of a punk post-apocalyptic wasteland and high-octane action sequences that George Miller proudly calls the fourth installment of his Mad Max series. If Junkie XL’s electronic thunder somehow doesn’t help forecast a heavy-winded Valhallan storm for us mortals, then we can leave it to editor Margaret Sixel for leaving a sack of stones on the gas pedal, making sure that there is more momentum in a shot than anyone ever thought they could squeeze in. In truth, it is nearly impossible to signal a singular entity in the success of Fury Road, much in the same amount of difficulty that it’ll take to choose the best action scene (how, in the aggressive-crimson sand tempest scene, did someone decide to interject with lightning flashes of black-and-white, and do they know that they’re my hero?). Tom Hardy plays Max, but even as the titular character, he sidesteps for the all-impressive Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who deserves a throne among the greatest moral compasses in recent cinema. There is so much that Fury Road achieves –– worthy in this decade of revivals! female characters that we love! putting others of the same genre to fucking shame! –– that it is no surprise that it is helmed as one of the best action films ever. The least we can do is witness. —AH

1: MOONLIGHT (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

When we talk about cinema, which we’ve been doing way too often this year, I always believe what we’re actually talking about is humanity—of mundane and human moments captured by the camera and made extraordinary … or perhaps, revealed to be extraordinary. Moonlight is a movie full of these moments, a movie full of extraordinary, human feeling. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney use their loving hands to celebrate the everyday as foundational, cinematic, and even radical. It presents these characters and their choices without judgement, which is not to say without consequence. For there are reverberations to seemingly mundane actions and decisions—a testament to just how connected we are to each other as much as to the systems we uphold, actively or passively. Moonlight is the movie of this decade, of this particular era in film, and ultimately, of this particular era in America. It is, of course, a film of technical perfection, of form perfectly in sync with function. But more deeply, it is a film steeped in that ultimate filmic goal, that most tremendous of human responsibilities and privileges: empathy. Moonlight is a film full of empathy, asking you to choose the same. —NP

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