CoramDeo's Best of the 2010s

'Just 'cause things are happening right now doesn't mean they're always gonna happen.'
-Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), Eighth Grade

Since it was, shall we say, quite the year, the Agents of Doux had an extra idea to add to our annual Best of the Year posts. Most critics and sites defined the 2010s as 2010-2019, but this suits our purposes better, and there's a better argument for 2011-2020 anyway, so here we are. This is the first of (I think) two posts about our favorite media from the 2010s. This one is just me (because I write super long), and another should be on the way soon, compiling a few others' thoughts. Stay tuned, and enjoy!

The 2010s are pretty big for me. They're the decade that got me into film (and to some extent TV). The things I discovered in this decade that formed many of my most important life milestones will inform my life for many decades to come. That being said, most of the movies I was watching prior to 2018 were comic book movies and blockbusters. I didn't get into the heavier, more artsy stuff until sometime in late 2018, early 2019, and I didn't start watching movies like an addict until this year. As far as TV is concerned (this is a TV review site after all), I still haven't passed from genre to prestige. With the sheer volume of dark, prestige films I consume, I like my TV to be light and fun most of the time. My picks here will reflect that.


TV:

Best Ongoing Series (Complete): Person of Interest

Sleek, intellectual, and intense, Person of Interest is perhaps the ideal show for me. Were it not for Deep Space Nine and The Flash, both of which are personal milestones for me, it would probably be my favorite show of all time. Boasting an incredible cast led by Jim Caviezel and the great Michael Emerson, one of the most impressive things about this show is the way it changed itself over time. Villains and supporting characters became heroes and regulars. The show itself changed its own premise halfway through the third season to go from an episodic crime procedural to a serial sci-fi thriller. The change is so effective, and the latter material so good, that you almost forgive them for never sending the characters on fun adventures anymore.

Best Ongoing Series (Still Running): Doctor Who

The Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi years of Doctor Who, the ones within the scope of this article, are in my opinion the modern show's best. If you ask me, it peaked in Series 9 with an almost dud-less season and my favorite Who episode of all time. Smith's youthful energy, followed by Capaldi's grumpiness, each gave the show a unique flavor. With a rotating cast of companions that all left a mark on the show, these seasons are must-see television if you like sci-fi, and particularly time travel.

Best Superhero Series: Daredevil

Once again, my heart lies with The Flash, but Daredevil is the genre's best show. Charlie Cox's lead performance, particularly in Season 3, is deeply compelling. The series pulls none of its punches, whether in the writing or in the fight choreography. The fights are one of the show's biggest draws, and the praise for it is well deserved. Even beyond the famous single-take fights and action sequences, every fight is meticulously crafted and devastatingly real. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Vincent D’Onofrio's career-defining turn as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. The villain he crafts is so interesting and so engaging that you nearly find yourself rooting for him every time, at which point he does something so shockingly terrible that it jolts you into even further hatred before you forget again. This is darker than most TV I like to watch, but it's so good, I don't really care.


Top 10 Episodes:
  1. 'If-Then-Else' (Person of Interest
    • A time-bending stroke of brilliance that exemplifies my love of Person of Interest.
  2. 'Heaven Sent' (Doctor Who)
    • My favorite episode of Doctor Who; one of the most powerfully affecting experiences I’ve had with the show, largely due to Capaldi’s tour-de-force.
  3. 'Amazing Grace' (Legends of Tomorrow)
    • The episode that made me go ‘wait a minute, is Legends of Tomorrow, like, good now?’
  4. 'Fadeout' (Arrow)
    • This episode is the perfect end to Arrow; it’s as messy and imperfect, and yet shockingly consistent, as the show itself.
  5. 'Remembrance' (Star Trek: Picard)
    • From the perfect end, to the perfect beginning; Star Trek: Picard may not have maintained this standard, but the premiere was moving and excellent.
  6. 'Blindsided' (Daredevil)
    • Three words: that prison sequence.
  7. 'Out of Time' (The Flash)
    • An encapsulation of everything that makes Barry Allen compelling, as well as just one of the most impactful episodes of the whole show.
  8. 'Self Control' (Agents of SHIELD)
    • The culmination of Agents of SHIELD’s incredible turnaround after the third season; and a herald of the greatness to come.
  9. 'Chidi's Choice' (The Good Place)
    • No surprise that Chidi, my favorite character on The Good Place, is the focus of my favorite episode.
  10. 'Ask Not' (Star Trek: Short Treks)
    • An excellent and thrilling short, with great dual performances and featuring the great Captain Pike (Anson Mount).
TV Performer of the Decade (Male): Michael Emerson (Person of Interest)

Nobody else elevates each episode he’s in like Michael Emerson. Of the TV I’ve seen this decade, Emerson has delivered several performances that I would consider among the best of the decade. His most famous work may have been in the aughts, but Person of Interest is in my opinion his crowning achievement, and his guest starring appearances on Arrow were the highlight of that season.

TV Performer of the Decade (Female): Diane Guerrero (Doom Patrol)

Lacking a performer that delivered significant performances in multiple shows that I watched, I chose a performer who delivered more performances than I can count, and all of them excellent, in a single show. Guerrero’s Crazy Jane was Doom Patrol’s most compelling character for me, and she carried one of its best episodes on the backs of her dozens of characters.


Movies:

Top 25 Movies of the 2010s:
  1. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
    • Time-bending and moving, my favorite movie of all time.
  2. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
    • An intense and heart-pounding film about drumming and jazz.
  3. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
    • A career retrospective from one of cinema's finest.
  4. Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada, 2018)
    • Impossibly tense racial drama; more below.
  5. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)
    • A modern ghost story that showcases Kristen Stewart's talent.
  6. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
    • Disney movie of the decade.
  7. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)
    • A thought-provoking faith journey; more below.
  8. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2011*)
    • A trippy, crazy romance that isn't sci-fi; more below.
  9. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie, 2016)
    • Gritty and down-to-earth, with a heart-stopping and very real conclusion.
  10. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
    • PTA's take on a marriage movie. It doesn't just come easily.
  11. The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2014)
    • Everything is awesome in this hilarious celebration of creativity.
  12. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)
    • Against odds, Villeneuve crafts a sequel on par with the original.
  13. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey, 2017)
    • Phoenix' best descent into madness went unnoticed. We have a review of it here.
  14. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2018)
    • A moving and intimate family drama.
  15. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, and Rodney Rothman, 2018)
    • Innovative brilliance; superhero movie of the decade.
  16. Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
    • Introducing the world to the great Jacob Tremblay.
  17. Selma (Ava Duvernay, 2014)
    • There's never been a better time to watch this excellent MLK Jr. biopic.
  18. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)
    • Simple animation telling a massive story; finds the universal in the hyper specific. More below.
  19. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
    • AI is a well-mined topic, but it's rarely been explored better than here.
  20. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)
    • Assayas' metatextual masterpiece, influenced heavily by Kiarostami.
  21. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
    • A toe-tapping and heart-breaking musical. Watch to be simultaneously happy and sad.
  22. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
    • Eggers' debut feature; absolutely masterful.
  23. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot, 2019)
    • Rarely have I seen a film that loves its characters as deeply as this does.
  24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
    • Another Phoenix performance, and one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's best and last.
  25. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
    • Influential and staggering in the excellence of its craft, especially for a debut feature.
*Certified Copy was released in some areas and at some festivals in 2010. However, its US release was in 2011, and this is why it is on my list.

Since it would take up way too much space to write about all these movies, and I’ve probably already written way too much anyway, here’s a highlight of five of these films that I think need to be more widely seen and appreciated. However, I obviously think all 25 of these are 100% worth your time. If you want to see the 50 film version of my Top Decade list, you can find it on my Letterboxd here.

#4: Blindspotting
Do you like Hamilton and Do the Right Thing? You may be the target audience for Blindspotting. It’s a deeply probing and nuanced exploration of American race relations, police bias, and the unconscious privilege of well meaning people. Director Carlos Lopez Estrada ratchets the tension expertly, with no less than three separate sequences that have me on the edge of my seat every time. The screenplay is brilliant and inventive, dodging convention at just the right moments to shake the audience out of the routine. Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame is stunning in the lead role, opposite his friend and co-writer Rafael Casal. Vibrant and unique, Blindspotting floored me to the point that I didn’t move from my seat or do anything until well after the credits finished. I just sat there in shock.

#7: Silence
Martin Scorsese at his quietest, somewhat fittingly considering the title. Also, in my opinion, at very near his best. So many filmmakers fizzle out later in their career or cannot live up again to their magnum opus. But Scorsese’s subdued and meditative adaptation of Shûsaku Endô’s devastating novel is proof that the master‘s talents have not faded. Along with The Irishman, a contemplative commentary on his entire body of work, Scorsese has proved in the last decade that he can slow down and tell compelling stories that way. Andrew Garfield carries the film with his excellent performance, even as Yôsuke Kubozuka’s Kichijiro is the character that most deeply affects me. An underrated work from one of the all time greats.

#8: Certified Copy
Speaking of the all-time greats, have you heard of Abbas Kiarostami? Probably not. Outside of dedicated cinephiles and fans of Iranian cinema, not many people are familiar with Kiarostami's work. But his great works of beauty, philosophy, and artistic commentary are well renowned among the critical and filmmaking community. One of the most interesting aspects of Kiarostami's work is his love of meta narrative and talking in his films about the process of making films. Certified Copy is his second to last film before his death in 2016, and it explores the question of whether or not a copy of a piece of artwork is a genuine work of art. I won't spoil anything, but this becomes intertwined with the relationship between a man (William Shimell) and a woman (the great Juliette Binoche). Who are they to each other, and why are they behaving as they are? This is perhaps the most inaccessible of the films on my list, and is one of two foreign language films. But it is fascinating and brilliant, and deserves so much more attention.

#14: Shoplifters
Shoplifters is the 2018 winner of the most prestigious award a film can win among cinephiles. No, not the Oscar for Best Picture, the Palme d'Or at Cannes. In many ways, this film can best be described as the more grounded and realistic version of Bong Joon-Ho's groundbreaking Parasite. If you enjoyed the social commentary, Asian flavor, and main characters with questionable morality in Parasite, you'll probably love Shoplifters as well. From acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, Shoplifters comes very highly recommended.

#18: It's Such a Beautiful Day
Animator Don Hertzfeldt's feature masterpiece is offbeat and quite out there. The film consists of the philosophical and nonsensical story of a man dying of a brain disease that saps away his memory. It's terrible and beautiful and confusing. You can rent or buy it on Vimeo to support Hertzfeldt and his work, and I highly recommend doing so. It's an hour you won't ever forget.



Film Performer of the Decade (Male): Joaquin Phoenix

Anybody else would be a tough pick. Winner of the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for 2019's Joker, Phoenix has delivered one brilliant performance after another this decade. Joker is what put him on the map for many moviegoers, but I personally found him much more compelling in The Master, Her, and You Were Never Really Here (oddly enough, all films that appear in my Top 20). Phoenix specializes in men on the brink of madness, but can cut much deeper than that, as he showed in Her. His character there is not the most socially adept person, but is still a regular person just seeking connection with another human being. The premise is, of course, that he finds it someone that isn't human, but that's beside the point. His ability to portray complex and deep emotion is second to none, and he was one of the only choices I could see taking this spot.

Film Performer of the Decade (Female): Scarlett Johansson

I know, I know. Kind of basic. But as I looked over the decade that was, no other actress has put in this level of quality work. It's far from just her franchise work either. It feels weird to put Phoenix's counterpart from Her in this spot, but her performance in the film is absolutely brilliant. She crafts a deep, compelling, and completely alien character with just her voice. From her moving supporting performance in JoJo Rabbit to her excellent turn opposite Adam Driver in Marriage Story, Johansson's accomplished skill and impressive filmography put her in this spot.


Up and Coming Performers of the Decade: These are the actors and actresses whose big breaks came in the 2010s, and whose careers I will be watching with great interest. Highlights include 2019 Oscar snub Lupita Nyong'o; Jharrel Jerome, the kid whose talent defied logic and casting plans; the super-heroic Grant Gustin; and Greta Gerwig's darlings Saiorse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Timothee Chalamet.

Ana De Armas
Timothee Chalamet
Grant Gustin
Jharrel Jerome
Daniel Kaluuya
Lupita Nyong'o
Florence Pugh
Saiorse Ronan
Lakeith Stanfield
Anya Taylor-Joy

Up and Coming Directors of the Decade: These filmmakers have come onto the mainstream radar or just my own radar in the 2010s. Their creative visions and remarkable talents make them directors to watch. Highlights include Jordan Peele, whose debut feature earned him praise as high as 'like the new Hitchcock'; comedian Bo Burnham, who debuted in 2018 with the stirring Eighth Grade; and Barry Jenkins, who directed low-budget indie dramas like Moonlight, and is now set to direct... um... wait... this is a joke, right?

Ari Aster
Bo Burnham
Damien Chazelle
Ryan Coogler
Robert Eggers
Greta Gerwig
Marielle Heller
Barry Jenkins
Jordan Peele
Joe Talbot
Taika Waititi


What about you? Which films and series inspired and fascinated you this decade? Which performers compelled you with the power of their screen presence? Which directors moved you with their craft? Is there anything that I missed that you think I absolutely must watch? Let me know in the comments.

--
CoramDeo is so proud of you. Now watch It's Such a Beautiful Day.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful list, CoramDeo.

Much agreement with Person of Interest, The LEGO Movie, Selma. Oddly, as much as I loved the original Blade Runner, the sequel didn't do much for me -- I kept finding flaws in it. Blindspotting just went on my list -- thank you!

magritte said...

It's funny, I was just thinking of "Certified Copy" the other night as I watched Kaufman's tricky "I'm Thinking of Ending Things". Good call to highlight a film that most probably won't be familiar with, and Binoche is as always brilliant in this fascinating, slippery film. I don't know anything about Kiarostami, though. My knowledge of Iranian cinema begins and ends with Ashgar Farhadi.

CoramDeo said...

Magritte, that's a good connection to draw between Certified Copy and I'm Thinking of Ending Things. I love both films but I hadn't connected them in my brain.

If you're looking for a place to start for Kiarostami (which I recommend, he's my second favorite filmmaker at this point), the Koker Trilogy - 'Where is My Friend's House', 'And Life Goes On...', and 'Through the Olive Trees' - is the perfect starting point.

televisionandotherrantings said...

"The culmination of Agents of SHIELD’s incredible turnaround after the third season; and a herald of the greatness to come."

Self Control was a real good episode but I won't abide S3 slander (best season imo). S4 was one of the better seasons but it had issues (the Framework arc is pretty overrated I feel), especially with the ending which paved the way for S5-6 being pretty crap (Fitzsimmons are dead to me). S7 was ok-ish but had some good things about it.

Josie Kafka said...

I keep meaning to watch the new Blade Runner. Thank you for the reminder!