Top Ten Movies for 2010-2019

*The Beguiled* (2017)

*The Cabin in the Woods* (2012)

*Can You Ever Forgive Me?* (2018)

*The King's Speech* (2010)

*Melancholia* (2011)

*Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood* (2019)

*Only Lovers Left Alive* (2014)

*Parasite* (2019)

*Phantom Thread* (2017)

*Phoenix* (2015)

THE BEGUILED

Oh wow, what an incredible movie - - Sofia Coppola’s finest to date.  I’ve seen every one of her movies in the theater, which I can’t say for any other director (I come close with Tarantino, but I missed his first movie, *Reservoir Dogs*).  *The Beguiled* is titillating, exciting, gorgeous to look at, beautifully acted, expertly made.  The use of music is genius.  All three lead performances (Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst) are very strong.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

I'm starting to think that the best way to make an original movie is to take a number of stale old ideas and combine them in an original way.  *The Cabin in the Woods* takes the moldiest ingredients of horror movies of the last forty years (and before, probably) and mixes them together with such panache and verve.  It’s not a satire, it’s not a parody, it’s not a pastiche - - it’s a love letter.  It’s thrilling.

 

It was made by Joss Whedon, who created *Buffy the Vampire Slayer*, one of the greatest TV shows ever, so even though it's not based on a TV show, it comes from a television sensibility.  Often when a movie is made from a TV source (*Borat*, nearly any of the SNL-derived movies), the criticism is that it fails because they're trying to take an eight-minute sketch and pad it out into a ninety-minute movie.  *The Cabin in the Woods* goes the opposite route - - if feels like it takes a whole SEASON of a TV series and compresses it into ninety minutes.

 

One other thought I had: you know how I love Michael Haneke, the Austrian writer and director who made *Funny Games*, *Caché*, *The White Ribbon*, and other masterpieces of sadism (also on this year’s Top Five, *Amour*).  The thing he does that's so unsettling and effective is he structures the movie in a way that makes you, as an audience member, feel responsible for the sadism and ashamed for watching it, being entertained by it.  There was a moment in *The Cabin in the Woods* that performed that very complicated function in the most intense way.  Two moments!

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Richard and I both loved the book, a memoir by Lee Israel.  She was a writer of celebrity biographies in the 70s, she did fairly well.  Then her writing went out of style, she became a bigger pain in the ass, and started drinking.  A lot.  She wasn’t getting enough work anymore, so she started stealing letters written by celebrities.  She stole these letters from the New York Public Library or similar.  She went through such tsuris stealing these letters that she realized it would be easier to write them herself!  She copied the letterhead used by each writer, precisely mimicked their writing style, and meticulously researched their lives to choose the right context for each letter.  She made a lot of money in the year and a half she did this, and she said she was a better writer as Noël Coward, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker than she ever was as Lee Israel.

 

The movie was so touching and delightful.  Julianne Moore was supposed have played Israel, but she dropped out and they got Melissa McCarthy for the role.  Hey, if I were McCarthy, I would tell her agent, “Anytime Julianne Moore drops out of a movie, please, make me the next person on your list!”  She was extraordinary, you could feel her thrill in playing such a complex role.  Richard E Grant was equally delightful as her accomplice, and what a treat to see Jane Curtin and Stephen Spinella in small roles.

THE KING'S SPEECH

The best movie of the year.  Flawless, brilliant, marvelous.  The best thing about the movie, for me, was the tone - - it had a warm and somewhat light tone, so when the situation became emotionally charged it had a big impact, because you had been effortlessly drawn into the lives of the people onscreen.  And it was so great to see all those English actors pulled out of the cupboard: it was especially heart-warming to see Claire Bloom as Queen Mary.

MELANCHOLIA

The latest from Lars von Trier, the Danish auteur who brought us *Breaking the Waves*, *Dancing in the Dark*, *Dogville*, other masterpieces of sadism.  This time the whole world has to suffer!  The movie starts with a five-minute prologue, emotionally charged and surreal images played over the prelude to *Tristan und Isolde*.  He went back to this music one or two too many times over the course of the movie, but its use in the prologue, and the images he used, were nothing short of enthralling, a first-rate union of music and film, one for the ages.  The rest of the movie doesn’t live up to the promise of the prologue (its pace is a trifle sluggish), but the impact of the whole thing is immense.  The first scene is perhaps the most unbearable wedding reception of all time, capped off by a “I don’t believe in marriage” speech by the mother of the bride, Miss Sourpuss for this year and every year, Charlotte Rampling.  The movie is about her two daughters, Kirsten Dunst (the bride) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (sister of the bride).  I won’t give anything away, but they’re both completely unglued at one point or another over the course of the movie.  As my friend Nanette Fabray once said, “That’s entertainment.”

ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD

The most hotly awaited movie of the year, and such a joy.  Oh how I loved that movie, and loved it even more the second and third time.  Tarantino really packs in the moments in his movies - - often, when I watched it the third time, a scene would start and I'd say, "Oh I love this part!"  It felt like that happened about every ten minutes.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

I’m a Jim Jarmusch fan from way back.  *Stranger Than Paradise* is such a delight, I also love *Down By Law*, *Night on Earth*.  I’ve seen nearly all of his movies, and not all of them are great, but they’re all worth seeing.  This is his masterpiece.  The sweetest, most delicate vampire movie ever!  Tilda Swinton is so perfect, I agree with the New Yorker film critic - - she might actually BE a vampire.  Tom Hiddleston is deliciously languid as her husband, and Mia Wasikowska takes over in her briefish role as her sister.  Oh, and John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe!  So much to love in this movie, such smart dialogue and beautiful locations.  Tangiers, no less.  And Detroit, which looks like a vampire itself, in all its glamorous decrepitude.

 

I saw the movie at Sunshine Cinemas down in SoHo.  I had a concert that night with Richard’s chorus, so I was wearing my tuxedo.  I had built in a little time for dinner after the movie, and thought I’d go to the Chipotle near the concert venue, but I passed the cutest little knish place when I left the theater.  I had to go there.  And what was on TV?  *The Partridge Family*.  And break my heart, I had to leave just as an episode of *Maude* was starting.  It was the perfect dinner experience, after seeing that movie.

PARASITE

​The best movie of the year, by far, head and shoulders above everything else.  So original, so surprising, so unexpected.  I love the feeling of being in the presence of a master, and this movie had that in the biggest way.

PHANTOM THREAD

This movie had three great things going for it: it was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who I adore.  It starred Daniel Day Lewis, who is always fascinating.  And it was about a 1950s London fashion designer, which is totally my lane!  It delivered big time on all three counts, and added a delicious element of surprise - - it wasn’t just a frothy fashion movie, it was also a creepy, terse drama with an intense power struggle.  Love that!  Day Lewis has said that this was his final movie, but we’ve heard that from him before, haven’t we?  This isn’t a monumental part, like Lincoln, but he started his career in quirky indie movies (hello, *My Beautiful Laundrette*), so it seems a fitting way to end his career.  I think only he could play this role with such a careful balance of elegance and malice.

PHOENIX

The best movie of the year.  A haunting pseudo film noir about a young woman, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.  She has facial reconstruction surgery and goes searching for her husband.  She finds him and the story takes many unsettling twists and turns, examining issues of identity, trust, revenge, moral responsibility, the whole megillah.  It’s a quiet movie but has one of the most jaw-dropping, stunning endings in any movie EVER.