It’s the beginning of January and we’ve just unboxed a fresh new year. 2020! Can you feel the potential? What prequels, sequels and reboots await us on this side of the glittering big screen? Will somebody finally make a film biography of Caramello Koala? Whatever these future visions are, we, at Team Accessreel will be here to deliver the news and reviews. But first, I’m going to have one last look back at the movies of the Twenty-Tens.
A squadron of scribes has written for Accessreel over the last eight years. The first filter I applied in making my list is that I chose exclusively from amongst those movies I have reviewed. Yes, there are many other films I might have chosen, but rather than crank out a capsule paragraph of half-forgotten details, I have supplied the link to the review I wrote at the time.
Other criteria include whether I remember the film, because when you review regularly, it is amazing how much you cannot recall after some time passes. Many films are perfectly entertaining at the time of viewing, but eventually these movies can merge into a generic buzz of white noise. I can be ten minutes into viewing something on free-to-air before the realisation hits that I watched the whole thing in a cinema three years previously.
I also made my decisions based on whether the film has influenced other filmmakers, did it contribute to the conversation in the worldwide online cinema salon (password: “Fidelio”) and did it have an emotional impact on me personally?
So here they are, in alphabetical order, my favourite films of the Twenty-Tens.
AMERICAN MADE (2017) Tom Cruise stars as the amoral, real-life secret-service operative who was a drug-runner and arms-dealer for the US government in the 1980s. A different role for Cruise, strongly directed by Doug Liman. https://accessreel.com/american-made/american-made-review/
AMY (2015) Asif Kapadia’s documentary on the late Amy Winehouse minutely investigates the singer’s short eventful life and career. A thoughtful examination of celebrity in the 21stcentury. https://accessreel.com/amy/amy/
BACKTRACK BOYS (2018) In country New South Wales, Bernie Shakeshaft runs a program for troubled youths, many of whom have lived through serious abuse from their families. They are given guidance while they are taught to train dogs. The idea being that the structure of the training and the bonding with the dogs will provide a foundation for the youngsters to build upon. An insightful documentary by Catherine Scott. https://accessreel.com/backtrack-boys/backtrack-boys-review/
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (2011) Bill Cunningham was a fashion photographer who treated his job like a calling. Richard Press’s documentary is a fine portrait of an unpretentious artist who photographed the famous and the anonymous with the same unwavering vision. https://accessreel.com/bill-cunningham-new-york/bill-cunningham-new-york-review/
BIRDMAN (2014) Michael Keaton plays a former Hollywood star whose major success, years ago, was an iconic superhero and is now attempting a Broadway comeback and a bid for artistic integrity. Director Alejandro Iñárritu takes the audience on a non-stop visual journey packed with ideas and top performances. https://accessreel.com/birdman/birdman/
DOWN UNDER (2016) Writer/Director Abe Forsythe takes the 2005 Cronulla riots of Lebanese versus White Australians and examines both sides of the conflict and in so doing, creates a decent comedy out of a controversial event that to this day, has barely been examined in Australian popular culture. https://accessreel.com/down-under/down-under/
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER (2013) Vivian Maier was a children’s nanny who worked mostly in Chicago, however, secretly from the 1950s through to the 1990s, she took thousands of photographs of people in the street. These images began to emerge after her death in 2009 and it became clear that these were the work of a talented street photographer. FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is a documentary directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel that skilfully reveals the life of a gifted woman who watched and recorded the world in secret. https://accessreel.com/finding-vivian-maier/finding-vivian-maier/
GET OUT (2017) Jordan Peele’s debut film as director is part of the reinvigoration of the horror genre. It is slick, funny and violent while making points about contemporary attitudes to race in America. https://accessreel.com/get-out/get-out-review/
HUNT FOR THE WILDER PEOPLE (2016) Writer/director Taika Waititi had made two well-regarded features before this, including WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014). Sam Neill and Julian Dennison play a duo caught up in national manhunt. This New Zealand hit comedy has plenty of laughs and heart. https://accessreel.com/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople/
ISLE OF DOGS (2018) In near-future Japan, 12-year-old Atari, runs away from home to search for his dog Spots on Trash Island. He discovers a community of abandoned dogs. Director Wes Anderson uses all the modern movie tech to create the effect of an old-time stop-motion feature-length animation. A well-told tale for children and adults. https://accessreel.com/isle-of-dogs/isle-of-dogs-review/
I, TONYA (2017) Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding the Olympic ice skater who will forever be associated with the events surrounding the attempt to injure fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. Craig Gillespie directs a cleverly fashioned narrative that allows us to follow multiple points of view. All performances are excellent, Robbie and Alison Janney are especially noteworthy. https://accessreel.com/i-tonya/i-tonya-review/
MAXIMUM MEA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (2012) Alex Gibney’s searing documentary about a priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who sexually abused deaf boys in his care, over many years. It not only reveals the harrowing tale of these events but goes on to put clerical sexual abuse of children into an international context. This is an extremely well-made film that is both heart-breaking and anger-inducing. It is a corrective to those who insist on attempting to explain away this kind of crime and going easy on the clerical perpetrators. https://accessreel.com/mea-maxima-culpa-silence-in-the-house-of-god/accessreel-reviews-mea-maxima-culpa-silence-in-the-house-of-god/
MEN,WOMEN & CHILDREN (2014) Love, sex, desire and the search for intimacy in the Digital Age as explored in this Jason Reitman directed feature written by Erin Cressida Wilson. The teenagers are confused and their parents are older but no wiser. Everyone is looking for connection. A critical and commercial flop, although this particular Accessreel reviewer has always rated it. https://accessreel.com/men-women-children/men-women-children/
THE NEON DEMON (2016) Nicolas Winding Refn’sdirected this Dario Argento-inspired psychological horror film and put off some filmgoers who had enjoyed his earlier DRIVE (2015). But this melodramatic fable about aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) is intense, inventive and full-on. https://accessreel.com/the-neon-demon-2/the-neon-demon/
PREDESTINATION (2014) German-Australian directors Michael and Peter Spierig’s science-fiction thriller based on a short story by Robert Heinlein. An excellent Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook play characters whose human element underpins this time-travelling tale set in an alternative Earth. A visually rich film made on a comparatively small budget that was unfortunately overlooked by audiences. https://accessreel.com/predestination/predestination/
A QUIET PASSION (2016) American poet Emily Dickinson’s life as performed by Cynthia Nixon in the lead role and directed by Terrence Davies. A beautifully-made, impressionistic account of the elusive life of this singular talent. https://accessreel.com/a-quiet-passion/a-quiet-passion/
RAID 2:BERANDAL (2014) Director Gareth Evans’ punishing sequel to his 2011 film THE RAID:REDEMPTION. Star Iko Iwais kicks his way through a series of slickly choreographed action sequences in this opening out of the Raid universe. This Indonesian actioner makes its Hollywood competition look tame by comparison. https://accessreel.com/the-raid-2-berandal/the-raid-2-berandal/
THE ROVER (2014) Near-future Australia. One man, (Guy Pearce) takes another man hostage (Robert Pattinson) and forces him on a road-trip to reclaim the first man’s stolen property. David Michod directs this bleak two-hander which convincingly creates the most dystopic Australia we’ve seen since the Mad Max movies. https://accessreel.com/the-rover/the-rover/
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE (2018) The Sony versus Marvel story about who owns Spider-Man and who has what rights in which market, has been ongoing for years. One of the best things it has brought forth is this brilliant animated origin story for the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman have created a mash-up of everything Spidey that somehow manages to get inside the character while looking at it from multiple angles. https://accessreel.com/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-review/
TRACKS (2013) A strong telling of 25-year-old Robyn Davidson’s trek through 1700 miles of Australian desert with four camels. Director John Curran, writer Marion Nelson, cinematographer Mandy Walker and star Mia Wasikowska have created an inspiring version of Davidson’s 1980 memoir. https://accessreel.com/tracks/tracks/
UNDER THE SKIN (2014) Jonathan Glazer’s bleak, beautiful and unsparing science-fiction art film. Scarlett Johansson plays an extra-terrestrial serial-killer harvesting the men of Glasgow. As spoilerish as that may sound, this is a film that you either tune into and let wash over you in its strangeness or you’re gonna hate it for not getting to the point. Johansson’s alien character shares movie DNA with David Bowie’s alien in THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). https://accessreel.com/under-the-skin/under-the-skin/
UPGRADE (2018) Australia’s Leigh Whannel creates a slam-bang piece of contemporary sci-fi movie-making clearly inspired by the likes of David Cronenberg and Paul Verhoeven. Whannel keeps the thrills coming while throwing out some excellent questions about our ability to live with the consequences of robotics and artificial intelligence. Seen by almost no-one, this deserves your eyesight today, https://accessreel.com/upgrade/upgrade-review/