By M.V. Moorhead
The curtain is now open on all of 2019, providing a rearview look (again…) at that arbitrary annual movie-critic ritual, the Top 10 List. But let’s not overlook what I consider the memorable films from 2011 on, which also comprise a worthy record of modern movie- making.
So here are my Top 10 from that list: The Tree of Life (2011) —Terrence Malick takes on The Meaning of Life through the prism of a midcentury Texas family. A strange, difficult symphony of fractured narrative and beautiful acting.
Moneyball (2011) —A superbly re-watchable, improbably touching sports movie, about Billy Beane using “Sabermetrics” to rebuild the Oakland A’s. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill make a great Don Quixote and Sancho of baseball.
The Act of Killing (2012) — Joshua Oppenheimer’s shocking nonfiction film, in which participants in killings during the Indonesian massacres of the mid-‘60s re-enact their crimes for the camera, is hard to watch, but probably the film of the decade.
Fruitvale Station (2013) —This heartbreaking, infuriating drama about a police shooting at the title BART station marked a spectacular debut for director Ryan Coogler and potent star turns by Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer.
Get Out (2017) —Jordan Peele’s horror comedy-melodrama about race as a hijack-able commodity was a knockout.
November (2017) —This black- and-white Estonian gothic, directed by Rainer Sarnet from a novel by Andrus Kivirahk, has a low-key magic all its own.
The Lovers (2017) —Hardly anyone seemed to pay any attention to this low-key comedy-drama about adultery turned on its head, so, modest though it may be as a piece of cinema, I’m going to put it on the list. Hope it gets discovered one of these years.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018) —Released four decades belatedly, the final directorial feature of Orson Welles—shot in the ‘70s, much of it here in the Valley—is a send-up of both old-Hollywood machismo and new-Hollywood artsy posing. Superficially chaotic, it’s full of bravura sequences and fine, funny acting.
American Animals (2018) — Bart Layton’s docudrama, about four college-age nitwits plotting to rob the rare books room at a Kentucky library, is unforgettable in its depiction of movie-driven criminal fantasy, and of the privileged status of the conspirators.
Black Panther (2018) —Having debuted with Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler went on to direct the most fun of the Marvel movies.
Here are 10 more that came close during those years now passed:
The Skin I Live In, Moonlight, Lincoln, Spotlight, The Shape of Water, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Inside Out, The Town, Attack the Block and Ant-Man.
And here—out of the movies I’ve caught up with, obviously—are my Top 10 favorites for 2019:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; The Irishman; The Farewell; One Child Nation; The Report; Ruben Brandt, Collector; Knives Out; Dolemite is My Name; The Two Popes; and Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.
Finally, here are a few more movies from the past year that I found worth sitting through:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters; The Last Black Man in San Francisco; Joker; They Shall Not Grow Old; Avengers: Endgame; Yesterday; Ma; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Judy; The Public; Official Secrets; Spies in Disguise; Downton Abbey; Bombshell; Ford v Ferrari; Blinded by the Light; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker; Abominable; The Good Liar; Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound; Raising Buchanan; Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles; The Kid Who Would be King; To Dust, and, for my money maybe the most underrated purely silly movie of the year, Shazam!