Friday, July 12, 2019

Celebrating a Decade of The Awards Psychic: Top 100 Films of 2009-2019, Part I

100. City Island (2009) - No one else would ever list this film as one of the best. It is an underrated comedy gem that came and went with little fanfare. But to this day, I still pop it in every once and a while just to watch it again. It features a top-notch cast including Andy Garcia, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, and Ezra Miller. It is a quick, funny look at families, and the secrets that they keep. It clips at a nice pace, has a sharp script, and has some memorable lines. My personal favorite has always been, "Every busy city needs and island of peace, just as every busy soul needs a place of repose". Because, despite all the chaos in this film, at the end there is peace, honesty, community, and it leaves you feeling that no matter how dysfunctional you are, or your family is, or you friends are, that there is hope out there for peace and repose. I like its message, I like its humor, and it has become a personal favorite.

99. How to Train Your Dragon, 1-3 (2010-2019) - It never quite got the respect or the awards, or even the box office as other animated film sagas, but the three How to Train Your Dragon films always deserved more. Beautifully animated adventures with riveting action and colorful characters, How to Train Your Dragon showed us the technical possibilities of animated film. Even more impressive, it managed to almost match Pixar's affinity for heart-tugging emotional story lines, beautifully constructed character growth, and feel-good finales about family, friendship, and acceptance. I think we will look back years from now, and maybe finally recognize just how good this trilogy was, and how much impact on animated film it made.

98. American Honey (2016) - Andrea Arnold's sprawling epic about wayward teenagers piled into a van, traveling cross-country, swindling people's money, doing drugs, drinking, having sex, falling in love, is an interesting look at a slice of Americana. At a whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes, American Honey is an often frustrating exercise, where many of the moments don't really work. But when they do, it is a vastly engaging, haunting, and honest portrayal of young life in poverty. Two things keep it afloat. One is the young Sasha Lane in her breakout role. She is mesmerizing on screen, and not for one moment do you get the sense that this was her film debut. The other piece of the puzzle is Andrea Arnold. I think she purposely lets the film go off course in key moments, because it gives her a chance to correct it spectacularly. This is a film without a destination. It is a film that is rooted in its wayward journey. With Arnold at the helm, it is worth taking the journey. And when the whole cast starts breaking into Lady Antebellum's American Honey, after the film's emotional climax, with Star's (Lane) face in agony, you instantly understand the film's purpose, and you have nothing but respect for the story it tells.

97. Easy A (2010) - Easy A will never reach the cult status of high school comedies like Clueless and Mean Girls, but it deserves to be the in the same conversation. The film knows that it is diving into familiar territory, and like Mean Girls and Clueless, it understands that to stand out from the crowd, you have to be willing to make fun of yourself and try new things. The mean girl is a Christian fundamentalist with a crusader complex. The central story line is the revealing way that sex in high school can act as a status symbol, and a weapon. The parents are hip, funny, and willing to let their kids learn the lessons the hard way. Most importantly, the classic tropes and 80's references are done with wink and a smile. These are just a few of the ways that Easy A managed to be a refreshing and wickedly funny film, and a distinct entry into a well-worn genre. This is on top of top-notch writing, and an incredible cast led by the magnetic Emma Stone. This was her huge breakout leading role that rocketed her to stardom. After seeing her performance, I knew she was going to be someone to watch for years to come. And boy, was I right.

96. 21 Jump Street (2012) - I had zero expectations going into 21 Jump Street. A film based on a so-so 1980's crime drama, starring Channing Tatum? Not normally my style. So I was dragged to the theater with some college friends. I have never laughed as hard in a theater as I did watching this film. I was literally crying and my stomach hurt because it was just non-stop laughs. It totally parodied the original series (including having a cameo from original cast members), it totally wrote in character cliches, then made them a part of the humor. I vividly remember a reviewer who was totally disappointed that Ice Cube plays a stereotypical angry black character in the film. I don't remember who wrote that review, but I remember at the time literally launching into laughter. Clearly the reviewer missed the entire scene where Ice Cube's character makes fun of the fact that he is being portrayed as a stereotype. They knew what they were doing, they were working to flip all of those stereotypes of the crime drama and turn them into a parody and comedy gold. They were making fun of all of those stereotypes. It was a bold idea, it should not have worked, but it did, thanks to the dynamic duo of Lord and Miller. They also made me believe that Channing Tatum was actually a good actor. All he needed was to a comedy to show his talents. Combined with Jonah Hill, they became a hilarious duo that sold 21 Jump Street as a top-notch comedy.

95. Obvious Child (2014) - Making a comedy about abortion does not sound like a recipe for success. Especially since you know that half of your audience will immediately abandon seeing the movie based on their beliefs of this controversial issue. Basically, what the filmmakers decided to do was to take a simple romantic comedy premise and turn it on its head. Of course, the abortion story line in an of itself, is a twist, that brings some darkness, and also some emotional heft to the proceedings. But the real twist is Jenny Slate. Her stand up routines within the film, her quirk energy, her great chemistry with co-star Jake Lacy, and her immeasurable charm take this rom-com to the next level, and make you believe not only the romance and humor, but the pain as well. It was a breakout performance of a wonderful comedic talent.

94. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) - I will simply quote my commentary from when it won Best Animated Film this year: I was all ready to reward Incredibles 2, which I thought was a highly successful and emotionally resonant sequel. Then came Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It is beautifully animated, funny, warm, and just a ball of energy and fun. Lord and Miller bring an energy and freshness to the superhero genre, and it quickly became my favorite animated film of the year.

93. The Souvenir (2019) - My second favorite film from the first half of 2019. Once again, I will simply recycle my thoughts from when I awarded the director Joanna Hogg with my Best Director honor at the Halfway Awards: I didn't want to walk away from this halfway recognition without rewarding The Souvenir. I credit its success to Joanna Hogg's incredibly personal, experimental, and visionary direction which shows us what an talent she is. The success was so great, that a part two is in the works. I can't wait to see it.

92. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Of the David O. Russell films that came out in the last decade, this is the one that still holds up. I ranked American Hustle really high at my year-end awards, but over time, it has not held up well. However, a recent re-watch of Silver Linings Playbook felt as fierce, funny, and emotionally complex as the first time I saw it. Led by a quad of fantastic performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jackie Weaver, and Robert DeNiro, and a great script from Russell, perfectly capture the humor, heartbreak, messiness, and complexity of Matthew Quick's novel.

91. Girl's Trip (2017) - This is basically a movie about a bachelorette party. It's raunchy, filthy, wildly hilarious, and filled with classic comedy movie gags. So what makes this rise from a fun film, to one of the best? Four names: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish. The chemistry, perfect comedic timing, and talent of these four women is something to behold. Particularly when it comes to Haddish. She is now a full-fledged movie star, television star, and comedian, and is one of the most popular comediennes in the world. That is because her amazingly funny, bold, and raucous breakthrough role in Girls Trip was so memorable.


  1. Great first addition! I cannot wait to see more.

    Toy Story 3 and 4 better be on the list.

  2. Thank you! and of course they will appear on the list!