Best of the Decade Part Three: Movies & Television

So this last 'Best of' list was probably the most difficult one to put together of any of them. Movies are tough: we've got three kids and so we're in that 'wait until it shows up on streaming' stage of our movie watching existence- with the occasional family movie trip to the movies. (And occasional date nights as well, but we need to be more consistent about those in 2020 I think.) Television was easier: if we entertain ourselves these days it's usually through streaming the latest show on Netflix or something. So, let's wrap it up with Movie and TV:


15. Molly's Game: written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, I'm going to make a bold declaration here, so buckle your seatbelts: this might be the best movie that Sorkin has ever written, because it focuses so much on poker and not politics and it's remarkably free of the Sorkinisms that seem to follow his writing around through television and movies. I loved it.

14. Mad Max Fury Road: People could be forgiven for wondering if we needed another Mad Max movie after all these years, but it turns out that the answer was a resounding 'hell yes.' Bonus points for throwing down a gauntlet to action movies and movies in general for the practicality of their breathtaking stunts.

13. Paddington: Yes, more than a few kids movies will feature on this list, because as any parent knows, you don't own your television once you have kids. You might think you do, but really,  you don't. So you learn to appreciate kid's movies that aren't unbearable- if you'll pardon the pun. Happily, Paddington is absolutely charming and I'll even shout out Hugh Grant for his role in the sequel- best thing I've seen him in for years.

12. Inside Out: It's Pixar. It looks beautiful it is beautiful- and when the imaginary friend sacrifices himself to get Joy back to the 'command center.'  Ooof, right in the feels- whether you're a kid or an adult.

11. Free Solo: I've seen a bunch of documentaries this decade, but I've gotta give it to this one. Having seen El Capitan before in person, the idea of someone climbing it without ropes seems absolutely bananas insane to me, but that's just what Alex Honnold did--has to be in the running for one of the greatest athletic feats of the century and is devastatingly tense and beautiful to watch.

10. Rogue One: Star Wars prequels? Spin offs? I honestly didn't know how to feel about any of it, but Rogue One was a freakin' amazing addition to the franchise as well as being a damn good move in it's own right.

9. Silence: Read the book, so, naturally, I had to watch the movie. Not Scorsese's usual oeuvre, but he's also Scorsese, so it's not like the dude doesn't know how to direct, because he's made an incredible film that brings the beautiful brutality of the source material to the screen. You'll be moved and haunted all at the same time.

8. Wonder Woman: Marvel's dominance at the movies seemed insurmountable for much of the decade, but a Wonder Woman movie was a. long overdue and b. an announcement that DC were the rulers of the superhero movie before Marvel was even a thing. Gal Gadot was sensational in the role and the movie more than matched her performance. If DC is going to seriously take on Marvel, Wonder Woman is going to leading the way.

7. Lincoln: It's Daniel Day-Lewis doing his usual Daniel Day-Lewis things, but man, it never gets old. He brings Lincoln to life with authenticity and his performance is brilliant. Combine that with Speilburg behind the lens and history truly does come to life.

6. Kubo and The Two Strings: an absolutely gorgeous stop motion animated film, Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of Kubo who wields a magical shamisen and has to subdue his evil aunts and confront his grandfather, the Moon King who stole his left eye as a baby. It's a magical fairytale made even more magical by the animation.

5. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse: another beautiful animated film, this first motion picture entry for the animated Spider-Man tells the tale of Miles Morales, who takes up the mantle of Spider-Man when his universe's Peter Parker is killed in a battle with Kingpin. He finds out that it's going to take more than one Spider-Man to defeat Kingpin this time, which opens up a multiverse of possibilities.

4. The Death of Stalin: one of the best black comedies of the decade, if you've ever wondered if Steve Buscemi could play Nikita Khruschev in a movie, well I have news for you: he can and it's a very good thing.

3. Arrival: when it comes to first contact with aliens, we don't really sit down and have a think about how we're going to communicate with them. Arrival makes a pretty good point: you'll probably need a linguist- in this case, Amy Adams, who works with the military to make contact with mysterious visitors that have landed around the globe as the nations of the world race to figure out if the aliens are friend or foe.

2. Black Panther: I don't like using words like "important" but I have a feeling that when we look back on the history of cinema in this period, this movie is going to come up. Black Panther is the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast (for obvious reasons) and doesn't pull any punches about it.  To me, what stuck out was the use of Xhosa in the film. They didn't make up a Wakandan language, they used a real, living breathing African language and it had to be one of the first times a mass American audience had seen an African language used in such a prominent way. On top of all of the obvious things: it's Marvel's best movie.

1. Vice: what feels like a well produced, well-acted biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney turns towards the end of the film when Christian Bale turns to the camera, and, in character absolutely obliterates the fourth wall. And that is when the true brilliance of the film becomes clear: a political movie that will alienate absolutely nobody in America today- a seemingly impossible feat, but by the end you know: Cheney is whatever you want him to be- hero or villain, but he'll be damned if he'll apologize for any of it. If that doesn't distill the man down to a perfect essence, I don't know what does.


10. Doctor Who:
Technically, it's been going since 2005, but both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi kept this show vibrant, alive and turned in some absolutely thrilling performances during their respective tenures. From Matt Smith's pulse pounding debut in "The Eleventh Hour" to Peter Capaldi's return to Gallifrey in "Heaven Sent", there's plenty of amazing episodes to choose from.

9. The Good Wife: Julianna Margulies stars as Alicia Florrick, who has to go back to work after her husband, the Cook County State's Attorney is jailed in a sex and corruption scandal. Wondering what happened to the women standing beside their husbands throughout various sex and corrption scandals, creators Michelle and Robert King answered that question and then some with this show.

8. Breaking Bad: straddling the last decade and into this one, Breaking Bad was a show it took me awhile to get into, but once I did it was easy to see what all the fuss was about. Like it or not, this will most likely be the defining role of Bryan Cranston's career.

7. The Crown: Peter Morgan seems to be the person to go to when it comes to British politics and/or The Royal Family-- apparently, I've heard that this was conceived as like a nine or ten season show, chronicling the history of the British royal family. The cast will change periodically to 'age' more naturally- which they've just done with the start of Season 3-- if it lives up to it's ambition it will be a massive achievement. So far, so good.

6. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I loved Gilmore Girls and Bunheads (though the latter was cancelled far too soon) but this feels like the telvision show that Amy Sherman-Palladino was born to make. It's funny, it's a period piece (set in the late 50s, early 60s) and so far is more than worthy of all the awards and hype it's been getting.

5. Steven Universe: I don't know if I heard about Steven Universe or just got tired of watching whatever cartoon the kids were obssessed with at the time and switched it over to that- but I'm glad I did. Beautifully drawn, the short ten to fifteen minute episodes are a masterpiece of writing- telling self-contained, surprisingly complex stories while stringing together to form a larger narrative arc over the course of the series. I don't know if the kids love it as much as some other cartoons, but I sure did.

4. Catastrophe: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan star as a couple that have a one night stand, get pregnant and decide to make a relationship and a life together with all the bumps and trainwrecks along the way. Carrie Fisher pops in as Rob's mom and in the wake of her death in real life, they also killed her off in the show and her character's funeral will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Ditto with the finale. Just beautiful.

3. The Spy: I'll confess, this wasn't on my list when I first put it together, but I finished it- at 6 episodes it's pretty quick and holy shit: the ending pulls no punches and the story of Eli Cohen is pulse pounding, suspenseful and ultimately a brutal illustration of the human cost of intelligence work. Sascha Baron Cohen is an absolute revelation in the role and if he doesn't win at least one award for this of some variety or another, it'll be a travesty.

2. The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show: I don't know if I've become a baking superfan because of this show, but I think about baking more often than I do because of it. Really, I love it because it's not cutthroat. The judges are never vindictive and mean and without fail, by the end of the competition, many of them have made friendships that persist long after the cameras stop rollings. (I also love how supportive they all are of each other. It's refreshing.)

1. Fleabag: the end of the first season exposed the beauty of vulnerability and the quiet moments of the messiness of life, but the second season is a goddamn masterpiece from start to finish. Quite literally the best season of television I think I've ever seen. This will win all the awards- and deservedly so.


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