Hey. It’s me, the guy who gets to shove his opinions in your face because apparently, he has nothing better to do and also runs a section of a college newspaper.
In the last “Best of the Decade” article, I covered what I found to be the best albums of the past 10 years. Due to some sizing limits, however, I was left satisfied with what I wrote. I didn’t feel as though I was able to convey my exact thoughts on each record because I wasn’t able to go as in depth as I would’ve liked. For example, I cut a huge section one samples and jazz producers from the “To Pimp a Butterfly” section of the article. Because of that, I have decided to cut down my “Best Movies of the Decade” list to three instead of five. Heartbreaking, I know. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to you by writing a better piece this time around. Speaking of which…
Now, I get it. This isn’t a very common choice when talking about the best movies of the decade, let alone the top three. However, let me raise this in my defense. It’s my list and my article, so, I chose “Room” for two main reasons. One, Brie Larson turns in an absolutely masterful performance as Ma, a 24-year-old woman who has been held captive in a shed by a man since she was 17 years old. Two, I have not watched a film that emotionally resonated with me as strongly as this one has.
Before “Room”, Brie Larson had a good amount of success. She had just starred in indie darling “Short Term 12” a few years ago and was lauded with heap of praise for her portrayal of a sexual abuse victim turned supervisor of a group home for troubled youth. This role, and her small mainstream appeal in films like “21 Jump Street”, helped immensely in her attempt to land the starring role in “Room”.
The role of “Ma” is a young actresses dream. A woman who is locked in a one room shed with her 5-year-old son, a child of rape, and her story of coming back to society after she is rescued, is literally as dramatic and Oscar-baity as it gets.
Any actress in that role would get some sort of attention, no matter how average their performance was. That, in my opinion, makes what Larson was able to do even more amazing. She turned in a performance that is honestly and truly amazing. It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Her vocal control, being able to go from trying to get her son to pay attention to snapping at him a second later is perfect. Her small, subtle facial twitches are all exactly how they need to be to convey the desperation, depression, and hollowness an experience like Ma’s would be. Even when the writing lulls a tad, she manages to make it sound so raw and real.
My favorite scene of the movie, and one of my favorites in movie history, Occurs around halfway through the movie. Jack, her son, has successfully escaped the shed. After the police are able to decipher where the shed’s location is from Jack’s broken, small speech, they leave him in the car outside the house. As the viewer, we have no idea if the mother is still alive, or if her captor came back to kill her for trying to escape yet again. We wait with Jack in the car, completely overtaken by fear and anxiety. Then, out of the darkness, we see Ma. Larson showcases every emotion imaginable here, going from desperation while looking for Jack, pure adrenaline upon seeing him in the car, anger at the door not opening immediately, and then elation and relief when she finally has her son back in her arms.
I cry when I watch a particularly sad film for the first time, but in subsequent viewings I don’t. I attribute this, obviously, to knowing the outcome. Much like a jump scare in a horror movie, if you know it’s coming it loses its “scare” factor, and just becomes a jump. A stupid, dumb, loser jump that is the movie version of that kid in high school who would wear a tail because he “wasn’t like the other kids”, when really it was because he had absolutely no personality and was forced to fabricate one by doing dumb shit like sticking a tail on his ass to get people to notice him. So, because I know what is coming, I don’t feel the emotional pull anywhere near as strongly as I did the first time. “Room” hits a different. Every time I watch the scene I described above, I absolutely lose it, and turn into a big fat puddle boy.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Inside Llewyn Davis” represents the other side of sadness, what I like to describe as “dry” sadness. There are no tears involved in dry sadness, there are no theatrical displays of melodrama. There is nothing but emptiness. You don’t feel anything, and nothing matters. And you’re aware of this, which makes you steer into the sadness even more. I’ve learned in the years since I coined the term that scientists have come up with a fancy word of their own to describe this phenomenon. It’s called depression. “Inside Llewyn Davis” does a heart shatteringly good job of portraying depression and what it really looks like. Llewyn, portrayed by Oscar Isaac, is a folk singer in New York in the 60s. So naturally, he has no money and no apartment and no future in sight. Llewyn focuses entirely on the now, because often times with depression, you cannot look past the present. The film, which takes place over a week, pretty much just follows Llewyn during one random week of his life. Things happen, obviously, but it isn’t some sort of life changing experience. It really comes across as “just another day” for Llewyn, which is exemplified by the ending of the film.
This movie is also a great example of writing in film. The dialogue is natural, never sounding like a Shakespearean play or the next great drama, instead sounding like a recording of a random club in New York. The plot is constructed beautifully, and goes hand in hand with the theme. The movie also contains jokes that are leagues funnier than most comedies that came out in the past 10 years.
The scene that showcases the film and all its merits best is Llewyn’s audition. Llewyn was finally able to secure an audition with a big label, and gives it his all. He pours his heart and soul into the performance, which is truly beautiful. The label head says it isn’t enough, and sends him on his way. He doesn’t say maybe another time or that they’ll keep in touch. He flat denies Llewyn and calls his music, his poetry, his soul…boring. It leaves Llewyn and the viewer completely hollow, and I haven’t seen many scenes as unapologetically cruel as this.
“Blade Runner 2049”
This is my fun pick. I mean obviously I like movies like “The Avengers”. Hell, I like “Batman V Superman” a lot too. I didn’t pick any of those because, well they’re not one of my 3 favorite films of the decade. You know what is though? “Blade Runner 2049” that’s what. Holy moley, do I love this movie. It’s so, so cool. Ryan Gosling is cool. The cinematography is cool. The story is cool. God, it’s such a cool, freaking movie. The story, while a little slow, is really well done. It isn’t groundbreaking or anything, the concept of “what is human” has been explored extensively before and will continue to be explored long past this film’s release. The acting is great, but again nothing special.
Honestly, what sets this movie apart is the technical aspects. The behind the scenes aspects. The director, Denis Villeneuve, is unrivaled in his field. He hasn’t missed yet, and with films like “Prisoners”, “Arrival”, and “Sicario” bolstering his filmography, he clearly knows what he is doing. The feel of the movie, the bigger picture, the entire atmosphere in every aspect from background to foreground to subliminal imaging to primary imaging is all expertly crafted to put the viewer deep into the world of “Blade Runner”. Few movies are able to do this, and even fewer directors. Apart from direction, the biggest factor in this movie’s placement has to be the cinematography. Roger Deakins, who had previously been nominated 12 times for the Best Cinematography Oscar, finally got his win for “Blade Runner 2049”. For good reason too, because this is his crowning achievement. I didn’t think he would ever top “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, but oh boy, did he. You could take any shot from this movie and make it a piece of art. I have two of the stills from this movie as background for my computer at home, and every time I see them, I get baffled by the fact that they came from a film. It’s incredible how Deakins can take a mundane scene, like life in a one room dingy apartment and make it look like a piece of art. It’s flat out impressive.
That was fun, wasn’t it? You probably either got really bored or really mad. Regardless, I’m happy you made it down here. The next and final part of this series will be covering video games so watch out boomers and read at your own risk. You don’t wanna turn into a bloodthirsty mass murder, do you?