Superheroes, sequels and reboots stole the big bucks, but, thanks to Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve, art still thrives in the Multiplex.
It wouldn't be a "decade in film" round-up of the 2010s without mention of the slightly depressing coup staged by big-budget franchises against middle-budget, original, adult dramas for the Box Office throne. Where the 1970s spawned 'The Godfather: Parts 1 and 2' (1972-1974), 'Taxi Driver' (1976) and 'Chinatown' (1974) as poster children for the masses, the most financially successful movies of the 2010s were 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (2015), 'Jurassic World' (2015) and 'The Avengers: Endgame' (2019) - a sequel, a reboot and a superhero mash-up.
What that says about the tastes of multiplex audiences increasingly participating in - in the words of Martin Scorsese - "amusement park films" is questionable. Have cinema-goers become dumber? If we were to judge audience intelligence on the $4.84 billion Box Office figures of Michael Bay's head-bangingly boring and soulless 'Transformers' (2007-) movies, the answer would be a resounding YES. However there is some reason to be cheerful if the combined critical and commercial success of Christopher Nolan's 'Inception' (2010), 'Interstellar' (2014) and 'Dunkirk' (2017) is anything to go by.
This decade Nolan has represented the finest living exponent of blockbuster film-making's artistic appeal - the anti-"Bayification" of Hollywood who treats casual ticket-buyers with the brains of a cineast. Physical proof that you don't have to be "big and dumb" to be both bankable and entertaining.
The 2010s saw a multitude of technological advancements - some revolutionary (Digital Cinema and IMAX), others fads (3D). However the greatest technical triumph was the victory of a black-and-white silent film called 'The Artist' (2011) at the 2012 OSCARS. Its success boldly suggested that the traditional formats need not be relics of the past, but could co-exist in the glitzy world of CGI.
For 7 years, Michel Hazavanicius's film seemed like a one-hit wonder for historically popular film-making. That is until September 2019 from the cliffs of Cornwall came Mark Jenkin's brilliant 'Bait' (2019). Shot as a silent movie on hand-crafted 16mm film with dialogue and sound effects added in post-production, this was a grain-soaked marvel as much as a gruelling tale of communal and class tension. I pray that it heralds the return of 16mm cinema and its unlikely Box Office appeal is reason alone to worship the high heavens.
Despite my generation-standing scepticism of the Academy Awards, the real treat of the 2010s has been seeing Mr. OSCAR's notoriously safe tastes line up with one's own. Composing my "best of the decade" list, I noticed several high-profile nominees and winners whether they be Lenny Abrahamson's beautiful 'Room' (2016), Steve McQueen's suitably horrific '12 Years A Slave' (2014) or Richard Linklater's lovely 12 year labour of love 'Boyhood' (2014).
The big prize among awards contenders, however, must go to the mesmerising 'Moonlight' (2017). Amongst all the nonsensical whinings about #WrongBestFilmGate, the only fact of any relevance is that a seemingly obsolete arthouse gem about homosexual, black masculinity swept the rug right from under the feet of a whitewashed musical (#'La La Land'). A feat that would've been thought impossible two decades ago.
The Academy certainly became more inclusive in the latter half of the decade thanks to pressure placed on it by movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #TimesUp and #MeToo in the wake of #OSCARSSOWHITE and the Weinstein Scandal. The Best Picture triumph of Guillermo Del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' (2018) with its barnstorming central performance from Sally Hawkins was both a giant leap for women's empowerment, but also attested against OSCAR's previous negligence of blockbusters of this kind.
Ironically, the ceremony's next hurdle now is not that it needs to be more PC, but that it needs to be less so. Take a corny comedy like 'Green Book' (2019) beating a sociopolitical study of Mexican past, present and future such as Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' (2018) largely by virtue of the former film featuring a gay, black man as one of its leads.
As 'Roma' demonstrated, the 2020s will be the decade of Netflix Film which has fallen under scrutiny from a wide range of film-makers including Steven Spielberg for not being "real cinema" and essentially "made-for-TV movies". I would certainly support such claims if I was judging the quality of Netflix productions on the likes of 'Marriage Story' (2019) and 'The Two Popes' (2019) (both major contenders at the forthcoming awards season!). However I can't fault Martin Scorsese's 208 minute mob epic 'The Irishman' (2019) which has the literature-like longevity of 'The Sopranos' (1999-2007) and would never be as polished were it screened to the mainstream.
Away from the awards, British cinema continued to be a force to be reckoned with. Ken Loach delivered arguably his finest film in an over 50 year career with the stirring 'I, Daniel Blake' (2016) - a deeply moving tale of people struggling to stay afloat on Benefits. The Bond franchise, meanwhile, has never been better. 'Skyfall' (2012) represented the very best 007 has to offer with jaw-dropping action, a classic villain and an oedeopal venture into our favourite superspy's tortured psyche.
Top of the cannon for us Brits was unquestionably away from the Multiplex with the emergence of Director Carol Morley as the most unique female voice in modern cinema. Her film 'The Falling' (2015) appeared on the surface to be a quirky tale of a fainting epidemic in a girl's boarding school, but really turned out to be a swooning exploration of sexual awakening and female gender identity. There really is nothing quite like it.
As far as Foreign Film is concerned, the 2010s have been lifted by the outstanding presence of Park Chan-Wook's 'The Handmaiden' (2017) (South Korea), Alejandro Landes's 'Monos' (2019) (Colombia) and Celine Sciamma's 'Girlhood' (2014) (France). My heart lies oddly enough, though, in the English speaking world with a European helmsman behind the camera. Danish auteur Nicholas Winding-Refn proved himself to be a formiddable talent when it came to melding action and arthouse. His 'Drive' (2011) made a glistening case for a 21st century 'Taxi Driver' and I was among the few to lap up the materialistic horrors of the director's fashion freak show 'The Neon Demon' (2016).
In a galaxy far, far away, the 'Star Wars' saga (1977-2019) continued to rule the roster when it came to pop cultural intergalactic overdrive. The sequel trilogy (2015-2019) was buoyed with surreal panache by its second chapter 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' (2017) which was essentially a slice of experimentalism disguised as a billion dollar behemoth.
None of that film's artistic flourish could compete, however, with the immaculate majesty of 'Blade Runner 2049' (2017). Arriving 35 years since Ridley Scott's seminal original changed the face of Science-Fiction and remarkably outdoing everything its predecessor ever stood for, this was a mosaic tapestry of magisterial proportions. Goya and Da Vinci would be left drooling at every milemeter of Denis Villeneuve's labyrinthine frames which have the delicacy of the Sistene Chapel. It will have to be a decade of golden roads if anything from the 2020s matches this flawless work of art...
Without question, it would've been impossible for me to view every film released within the past 10 years which innevitably means my finished list is rather incomplete. It's equally unfair to exclude at least 10 movies which - in any other decade - would have easily encompassed my top 10. Here's a look at them...
Honourable Mentions: The Neon Demon (2016), 12 Years A Slave (2014), Widows (2018), I, Daniel Blake (2016), Shame (2012), The Handmaiden (2017), What Richard Did (2013), Skyfall (2012), Girlhood (2014), The Irishman (2019)
10. The Shape of Water (2018)
A magical fairytale with a real-world subtext.
9. The Falling (2015)
A swooning exploration of sexual awakening and female gender identity with fainting fits as its cover.
8. Monos (2019)
A 'Lord of the Flies' for the 21st century.
7. Room (2016)
Brie Larson is sensational in this beautiful portrait of mother and son.
6. Drive (2011)
Nicholas Winding-Refn's culmination of action and arthouse is this generation's 'Taxi Driver'.
5. Boyhood (2014)
Richard Linklater's lovely 12 year labour of love.
Christoper Nolan's Sci-Fi masterpieces prove brains and bucks go hand-in-hand.
3. Moonlight (2017)
OSCAR-winning coming-of-age gem is a revelation in symphonic storytelling.
2. Bait (2019)
Grain-soaked Cornish marvel could change the landscape of modern cinema.
FILM OF THE DECADE: THE 2010S...
TURKEY OF THE DECADE: THE 2010S...
Meet Roshan Chandy
Freelance Film Critic and Writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in Science Fiction cinema.
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