Cinema exists in a constant state of change — if you have any doubts, just look back on the past 10 years. The 2010s saw major shifts in how we make, react to and consume film. It was the first decade where a Best Picture lineup could include both a superhero blockbuster and a nuanced look at class systems, and more than ever, previously unheard voices have risen to the forefront of filmmaking.
As the decade in film comes to a close, The Oracle’s Arts and Entertainment section (along with our Editor-in-Chief) have each selected their favorite film of the 2010s.
“Lady Bird,” dir. Greta Gerwig, 2017
Released just over two years ago, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut should be taught as a masterclass on the female gaze. “Lady Bird” is Gerwig’s first-born child — no offense to her actual child — and she treats it as such, handling each scene, line and shot with a level of delicacy that few films can achieve.
You can watch “Lady Bird” a thousand times, and it will never lose its magic. Gerwig’s screenplay bursts with notes of humor, pain and brutal, raw honesty — you don’t have to be a teenage girl with dyed hair to relate to Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson at some point or another.
Backing up Gerwig is a cast of heavy-hitters, led by Saoirse Ronan — who delivers a career-best performance in the titular role — and Laurie Metcalf, turning out a beautiful, understated performance as her hard-working, sometimes hard-to-please mother.
There’s a shot in an early scene of the film where Lady Bird and then-boyfriend Danny (Lucas Hedges, as pure as ever) are embracing in a field. In the latter half, the shot is repeated after Danny admits to Lady Bird that he’s gay, except this time, the roles are reversed, with Danny’s head buried in her shoulder. It’s details like this that make me fall deeper in love with “Lady Bird” with each rewatch, and why I believe it is the best film released this decade. – Jake Mauriello
“Rockstar,” dir. Imtiaz Ali, 2011
I am a sensitive person, an empath, if you will. I regard emotions and the human conditions that warrant them highly. I like to see a spectrum of emotions portrayed in art; I won’t like a work that doesn’t make me feel something. In fact, I typically gauge how good a movie or song is depending on how much it affected me emotionally, whichever way that may be. So, when I say that “Rockstar,” a groundbreaking moment in Bollywood that has left ripples throughout this decade that followed, is the most gorgeously crafted film of this decade, I mean it with everything considered.
To preface the uncultured reader, this is not a typical Bollywood film. While it is a musical as the tradition follows, yes, it bursts through and transcends the common, corny clichés and themes that often top the Bolly box offices. “Rockstar” exhibits nuances in the relationship between a film’s soundtrack and the actual cinematography. The songs of this film — absolute poetry composed by producing powerhouse of Indian music A. R. Rahman by the way — don’t throw the characters into random flash mobs once anything significant happens. Instead, there is a marriage of the tracks that supplement each turning point in a beautiful, time-eclipsing montage.
The film itself follows the life and times of a lost youth, Jordan, masterfully played by heartthrob and young Bollywood royalty Ranbir Kapoor, who idolizes Jim Morrison and wants to become a great musician. From getting kicked out of his house, to accidentally and ironically falling in love, to being capitalized on by the all too gruesome music industry, each twist in Jordan’s life leaves a significant impact on him, as well as his music career.
Although “Rockstar” is completely fictional, it’s filmed in the style of a biopic. The story and characters are written so well that I actually thought it was based off a true story the first time I saw it. It switches back and forth between flashbacks of various times in Jordan’s life, but it begins and ends in present day (trust me, it flows really well). Interpretations of this film can vary as it exposes how media can both create and destroy an artist, but it is also a heart-wrenching love story. Whether you want to extract a deeper message or not, the themes in this film connect so well together that all in all, it is simply the story of this one character, Jordan. And that’s more than enough for you to watch it (with subtitles!) as soon as possible. – Mahnoor Ali
“Whiplash,” dir. Damien Chazelle, 2014
“Whiplash” is the second film by up-and-coming director Damien Chazelle. It tells the story of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a first year student and jazz drummer at the Shaffer Conservatory, falling under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the Conservatory’s most famous and perfectionist conductor.
However, it becomes very apparent that this isn’t the normal narrative of a talented kid learning under a strict teacher and the two learning to respect one another by the end of the film. J.K. Simmons has the honor of playing one of the most toxic and vicious characters to ever grace the screen. He’s a monster, regularly brutalizing his students by throwing demoralizing slurs and insults at their face, sometimes for something as simple as being out of tune or off tempo. His rants are an equal mixture of hilarious for their creativity and unsettling for their cruelty.
Additionally, Neiman, rather than being a squeaky clean protagonist, is morally dubious at best. He’s single minded in his goal of being remembered as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time, regardless of personal cost. He distances his loved ones and friends, and pushes his body past any reasonable limits. Some of the most striking shots of the film are close-ups of Neiman’s bloody hands.
So, what’s the draw? It’s the battle of the egos, the duel between the unstoppable Neiman and the immovable Fletcher. Both sink lower and lower to stay relevant in a shrinking genre, and their interactions are intense and are impossible to look away from. The movie calls into question their quest for greatness, and whether it’s even worth it. Where does greatness get you when you isolate and break yourself to become great? All of this, and so much more (especially the soundtrack), make “Whiplash” one of the finest films of the decade. – Matt McDonough
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson
I owe much of my life to Wes Anderson. He inspired me to go to college for film, to study writing dialogue and to tune into the fumbling, weird rhythms of life in all of their glory. I have always loved movies, but before watching “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the world of film was something that I felt excluded from.
All of the critically acclaimed films I grew up around were about men and their violence, men and their sharp tongues or men and their legal battles with Jesse Eisenberg. I could understand the merits of these films, but I was a girl who spent her entire life repressing her feminine side, and the narrative that femininity was not important enough to make it to the big screen was damaging.
Wes Anderson — though a man he may be — opened up the world of film for me with his lyrical attention to detail and use of soft, pastel hues. His use of classic rock and classical music in the same breath felt magnetic.
In “Grand Budapest,” the characters are silly and larger than life; the pick ‘n’ mix assortment of characters in rich purple costumes have emotional worlds as absurd as they are complex. Their old-world palatial lives are depicted with irony, implying that the elegance and grandeur of Europe never truly existed. The whole film is a joke, but it is the most beautiful joke ever told. It is a fairytale, a chase film, an old western and a love story at the same time. It is full of nostalgia and warmth and childlike awe, and it is something the world needed. – Dani Walpole