Film Highlights of the Decade 2010-2019

As the decade reaches its close, I take a look back at some of my favourite film trends and cinematic highlights from the last ten years…

The New Breed of Unmissable Directors

This decade has seen the emergence of a new breed of directors delivering must-see films. Leading the pack in Hollywood are Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins. Chazelle has delivered one of the decade’s best pictures with Whiplash, and two other fantastic films (La La Land and First Man). Meanwhile Jenkins gifted us two beautiful, nuanced pictures with Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Jennifer Kent has also created two different but powerful movies (The Babadook and The Nightingale), making her mark.

Other impressive directors who have emerged this decade include Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Justin Simien (Dear White People), and Julia Ducournau (Raw) also offered impressive debut features.

Excellent Late Franchise Entries

It really has been a decade of remakes, reboots, and belated sequels. Whilst many of these have been passable or forgettable, a couple of late franchise instalments have really stood out. George Miller bucked the trend to deliver one of the best films of this decade with Mad Max: Fury Road. The exhilarating fourth chapter in the franchise was breathtaking. Director Christopher McQuarrie re-teamed with Tom Cruise for the sixth Mission: Impossible film, and produced the best of the franchise and one of the best action films of the decade with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Elsewhere director Steven Quale revived the tired Final Destination franchise with the very entertaining final chapter Final Destination 5.

Career Resurgences

This decade has seen a notable uptick in the careers of certain veteran actors. After a fairly quiet previous ten years, Laura Dern’s resurgence has been most rewarding to watch. This decade has seen the actress in an array of film roles including The Master, Certain Women, Marriage Story, and the upcoming Little Women. She has also been memorable on television in Twin Peaks and Big Little Lies. Michael Keaton has also had a belter of a decade, after a fairly unremarkable 2000s. He had major roles in Spotlight, The Founder, and Spider-Man: Homecoming (living long enough to become the villain), and was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant turn in Birdman. Regina King has always delivered solid performances since her debut in Boyz n the Hood. It is only in the last few years that she has finally received the praise and calibre of roles she deserves, winning an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk and playing the lead in the critically acclaimed show Watchmen.

Paddington Bear

In a bleak decade politically, Paddington Bear has been the hero we needed. Paul King’s Paddington and Paddington 2 have been a salve against the cruelties of this decade. A lead who is decent and kind (not to mention incredibly cute) has cut through the cynicism of the current world. The films were very entertaining, and a wonderful escape from current affairs. Paddington 2 in particular was very memorable and enchanting, with Hugh Grant on top form.

Christopher Nolan

If the decade had to belong to a single director, in terms of both critical acclaim and box office receipts, then that filmmaker would be Christopher Nolan. No one has been able to create original tentpole blockbusters in the way he has this decade. Nolan began the decade on top form with the action-thriller Inception, one of the biggest films of the year. He followed this with the final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. The film is just about the most hopeful blockbuster of the decade, reaching a peak of exhilaration that is difficult to match. Interstellar and the truly superb Dunkirk exhibited Nolan’s comfort in a range of genres. With the upcoming Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s films are always hotly anticipated.

Park Chan-wook and Chung Chung-hoon’s Continuing Collaboration

Director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon collaboration began in the 2000s, working on three films together (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst). The fact that their partnership continued into this decade is a benefit to us all. With Stoker and The Handmaiden, Park and Chung delivered two of the decade’s handsomest pictures. The photography, the mise en scène, and the style are truly beautiful.

Trent Reznor Film Scores

After composing pieces for films earlier in his career (including for David Lynch’s Lost Highway), the 2010s was when Trent Reznor’s career as a composer really took off. His collaborations with Atticus Ross have been a highlight of cinema this decade. Highlights include the partnership with David Fincher (which netted Reznor an Oscar for The Social Network), as well as Mid90s and the recent Waves. Reznor and Ross also created the superlative score for the show Watchmen.

Directorial Debuts By Actors

This decade has seen some brilliant directorial debuts from well-known actors. These actors have proven their talents extend to behind the camera Highlights from this trend include Greta Gerwig’s wonderful Ladybird (Gerwig co-directed Nights and Weekends, but Ladybird was her first solo effort), and Jordan Peele’s fantastic Get Out. Other notable debuts include Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, and Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store.

LFF 2019 Highlights Part 1

It is about half way through this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and some wonderful films have been shown so far. Here are some LFF 2019 highlights from the first week…

LFF 2019 Highlights – Unmissable

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a funny, moving, thought-provoking, and outstanding debut. The film is an embarrassment of riches, boasting a wonderful script, strong direction, great performances, and thematic density.  READ MORE

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a top-drawer drama with outstanding performances from its leads. The film is heart-wrenching, observant, and very real. With Marriage Story, Baumbach once again proves to be a shrewd observer of the human condition.  READ MORE

LFF 2019 Highlights – Best of the Rest

The Lighthouse

With his nightmarish thriller The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers proves The Witch was no fluke. The Lighthouse is a downward spiral, with a jagged, disorientating descent. READ MORE

The Report

The Report is topical, engaging, and necessary viewing. A story about the compilation and attempted publication of a lengthy report could be considered quite a dry subject matter. Nevertheless, in writer and director Scott Z. Burns’ capable hands, The Report is always interesting, occasionally tense, and at times engrossing.  READ MORE

Saint Maud

Writer-director Rose Glass’ Saint Maud is a unnerving and intense gothic thriller. The filmmaker has delivered an atmospheric and striking debut. The backdrop provides the perfect setting for this exploration of psyche, religious fervour, and obsession. READ MORE

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield is a love letter to storytelling. The film is endearing and entertaining. A warm, amusing, and enjoyable adaptation. READ MORE

The Prince’s Voyage

Jean-François Laguionie and Xavier Picard’s The Prince’s Voyage (Le Voyage Du Prince) is an enchanting animated tale. With its bittersweet ending, the film doesn’t pander to its audience. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 2nd-13th October 2019. See the full programme here.

Film Review: Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a top-drawer drama with outstanding performances from its leads. The film is heart-wrenching, observant, and very real. 

Charlie and Nicole’s marriage has come to an end. The couple navigate divorce proceedings and custody of their son at a fraught time…

Writer-director Noah Baumbach has made a career of focusing on the relationships of people, be they romantic, familial or friendship. His latest is truly a magnificent film. Marriage Story focuses on a relationship at its end, with a separated couple coming to terms with the end of their marriage and the co-parenting of their son. 

The opening sequence is an excellent introduction to the protagonists, their past relationship, and indeed how the film will play out. Baumbach indicates how the narrative will pan out, with the couple each extolling the virtues of the other. The film remains even handed in its depiction of the two protagonists throughout. Baumbach does not attempt to paint one as the villain and one as the victim. Instead, the film ebbs and flows with Charlie seeming more sympathetic at times, and Nicole at others. 

The beauty of Marriage Story is that the emotions depicted appear wholly authentic. The film focuses on a painful and stressful time in its protagonists’ lives and these feelings bubble to the surface in a realistic manner. Baumbach runs the gambit of tears to laughter in his exploration of what happens once a couple decides to separate. The filmmaker gives no allusions of a fairytale ending. There is anger, bitterness, and sadness. Yet the love, both past and present, remains. In this way, Baumbach illustrates the very essence of complicated relationships.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson deliver remarkable performances as Charlie and Nicole. They are completely convincing as a fractured couple, and in their portrayal of sadness, anger, and indeed amusement. Casting in the film deserves to be applauded, particularly in the choice of Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda as divorce lawyers. Dern in particular is typically great as the firebrand lawyer.

With Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach once again proves to be a shrewd observer of the human condition. The film is intense, touching, and very impressive. This is Baumbach’s strongest film to date.

Marriage Story is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Previews: Rambo: Last Blood Trailer, Ad Astra, More!

An abundance of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Rambo: Last Blood trailer, Ad Astra, Marriage Story, and more…

Rambo: Last Blood Trailer

Here is the latest Rambo: Last Blood trailer. Sylvester Stallone returns as iconic action hero John Rambo. The film, purportedly the last in the series which began in 1982, sees Rambo confront his past and exact revenge on one final mission. Directed by Adrian Grunberg, Rambo: Last Blood will be released in UK cinemas on 19th September 2019.

Ad Astra Trailer

Above is the new trailer for Ad Astra. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ruth Negga, the film is about an astronaut who is sent to the outer edges of the solar system. The film’s success may be the bellwether for the direction that Disney takes 20th Century Fox, after some box office failures. Ad Astra will hit UK screens on 18th September 2019.

Marriage Story Poster

The first poster and teaser trailers for Noah Baumbach‘s Marriage Story are here. The film is about the breakup of a marriage and the impact on family. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver lead the cast, which includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta. Marriage Story will be released in selected cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

Underwater Trailer

Underwater is a new disaster movie about a group of underwater researchers who must scramble to safety after an earthquake hits their subterranean station. The cast is lead by Kristen Stewart, and also includes T.J. Miller and Vincent Cassel. Underwater is scheduled for release in UK cinemas on 10th January 2020.

Stardust First Look

Here is the very first image from the upcoming Stardust. The film is about a young David Bowie, who is about to embark on his first road trip to America. Johnny Flynn stars as Bowie, and is joined by Jena Malone and Marc Maron. Stardust does not yet have a release date.