What constitutes a great film? The experience in the moment? The percolating themes which unfold in the mind afterwards? The memory of seeing? The answer is somewhere in the midst of all of these. The Lost Highway Hotel has always been a one-man-band; a (hopefully) humble film enthusiast trying to hold up a lantern in the darkness. I’ve been writing reviews for 10 years now. These are the works that left an imprint. Continuing…
60. Mommy (2014, Xavier Dolan)
Young French-Canadian maverick Xavier Dolan has already built an intimidating filmography during this, his first active decade of making features. Mommy is his crowning achievement thus far. A tale of volatile domestic relationships, Dolan cannily used the frame itself to create and expel his intended claustrophobia.
59. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017, Robin Campillo)
Campillo’s film slipped by here in the UK and that was a minor crime. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) takes an empathetic (and angry) look at AIDS activists in Paris in the early 90s, itemising the problems in obtaining medication and also the intimate tragedies of a relationship under threat. Well worth your time and investigation.
58. Goodbye, First Love (2011, Mia Hansen-Løve)
French cinema’s hippest name (and partner to Olivier Assayas), Hansen-Løve’s work is often wise and pragmatic. The marvellous Lola Créton takes centre stage here as a young woman both in and out of love, opening up to the world and later thriving as student architect. It’s an intimate-feeling character study.
57. Certified Copy (2010, Abbas Kiarostami)
Abbas Kiarostami made three masterpieces this decade and then died. The first was this Before-style romantic ramble, with the slippery conceit that the audience is never entirely sure whether Juliette Binoche and William Schimell are a long-married couple, or have only just met.
56. The Tree Of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)
The opening salvo from Malick’s divisive run of free-floating memory formed montage films felt so light of touch that even its actors couldn’t be counted on to remain connected to terra firma. 2011’s The Tree Of Life featured a sequence of such angelic lift that Jessica Chastain left the ground, the purity of her maternal figure artfully made literal. It’s a graceful peak in a sun-dappled hymn to Malick’s own childhood.
55. Right Now, Wrong Then (2016, Hong Sang-Soo)
Sang-Soo’s work often pleasingly recalls the deft exploration of Éric Rohmer. The jewel in the crown of his recent offerings is Right Now, Wrong Then which dares to depict a brief encounter between two people, then zips back in time to tell it all again… with minor differences. A wry essay on the subtleties of performance and the bittersweet nature of regret.
54. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
Picking up an Oscar for her troubles, the ever-versatile Natalie Portman dug deep for Darren Aronofsky’s psychosexual horror Black Swan. The film posed as a romantic thriller to fool audiences, then put them through the mill. One of the weirdest serious awards contenders of a decade pocked with unsuspecting strangeness.
53. Madeline’s Madeline (2018, Josephine Decker)
Decker’s recent breakthrough is a dazzling and complex character study, an enquiry into the responsibility of the artist and a self-reflexive question about whose stories we’re legitimately able to tell. If that all sounds like an intellectual exercise, its not. The film itself is pure sensory entanglement and Helena Howard’s central turn is a revelation.
52. The Duke Of Burgundy (2014, Peter Strickland)
Peter Strickland’s follow-up to the giallo-tinged Berberian Sound Studio continued a pervasive sense of debt to European erotic cinema of the 70’s. In a town populated solely by women, a lepidopterist and her housemaid play out an unusual relationship of power and control… except the authorship of their roleplaying is not as expected. A gorgeous film coquettish enough to credit the actors’ perfume provider.
51. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, Richard Linklater)
Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to his 1993 classic Dazed And Confused relocates to the 80’s and the fraternity houses of a baseball team. It’s another casually observant slice of youth and young manhood, showcasing a range of talent. Partying is high priority for these jocks in a movie that, unsurprisingly considering the pedigree, is still filled with plenty of heart.
50. Shoplifters (2018, Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Kore-Eda picked up the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his latest enquiry into what constitutes family in modern day Japan. Here he presents a group drawn together by circumstance on the fringes of society. The multi-generational cast provide pleasures aplenty, while the last half hour will break hearts. Great world cinema with the power and potential to cross into the mainstream.
49. No (2012, Pablo Larraín)
Larraín’s stirring tale of the promotional campaign that turned the tide in overthrowing Chilean dictator Pinochet is shot on videotape, allowing him the ease and confidence to switch from archival footage to dramatic reconstruction. It’s a smart trick in a playful, slyly powerful film anchored by a superb lead performance from Gael Garcia Bernal.
48. Shame (2011, Steve McQueen)
There are many searing moments in Steve McQueen’s ode to urban isolation Shame. One could, for instance, pick out Michael Fassbender’s run through New York, tracked in profile across several blocks. But the film’s true showstopper – literally – belongs to Carey Mulligan, whose open-mike rendition of “New York, New York” commands complete attention as it allows a brittle window into both her character and Fassbender’s.
47. You’re Next (2011, Adam Wingard)
Adam Wingard’s home invasion horror wears a delicious rictus grin. Following a relatively conservative and dour set-up, this supremely entertaining flick starts unpicking genre staples as ‘Final Girl’ Erin (Sharni Vinson) proves more than capable at dealing with her would-be attackers. Look out for a roster of mumblecore veterans in the impressive supporting cast.
46. Eighth Grade (2018, Bo Burnham)
Prepare to fall in love with Elsie Fisher. She’s the centre of Bo Burnham’s disarmingly empathic exploration of what it means to be young in modern America. Collaging social media fixation with peer pressure, familial awkwardness and everything in between, this is an immensely giving piece of work, one that ought to resonate for years to come, in spite of its very deliberately current world view. It’s a time capsule, if you will.
45. It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell)
It seems as though every year there’s a breakthrough indie horror that takes critics (and audiences) by storm. For 2015 it was David Robert Mitchell’s eerie It Follows. Inspired in part by the photography of Gregory Crewdson, and shot through with a mood equidistant between John Carpenter’s Halloween and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, the conceit is simple and deadly; after sex an unstoppable force will stalk and kill you unless you pass the ‘infection’ on. A musing on loss of innocence and mortality that makes for a true one-off.
44. Her (2013, Spike Jonze)
Scarlett Johansson struck again, this time giving voice to sentient OS Samantha in Spike Jonze’s sensitive sci-fi parable Her. The heavier lifting comes from the remarkable performance given by Joaquin Phoenix – often the only person in a scene – who manages to make Jonze’s long, rambling (and award winning) dialogue exchanges feel effortless and entirely human. It’s a sun-dappled, airy and emotionally intelligent vision of the near future, and also the first dab on your Joaquin Phoenix / Rooney Mara bingo card.
43. The Handmaiden (2016, Park Chan-Wook)
Following his mostly-successful English language debut Stoker, Park Chan-Wook returned to his native Korea and put together (arguably) his masterpiece. A twisting tale told from multiple perspectives that revels in debauchery and arcane pornography; this coiled snake of a film also provided some of the most sensual imagery of his career thus far.
42. Night Moves (2013, Kelly Reichardt)
Night Moves has taken on the appearance of a minor work in Kelly Reichardt’s filmography – or so it seems – but that’s not a position I can align myself with. This searing, Hitchcockian eco-thriller is one of the most suspenseful films to have appeared in the last decade. Reichardt makes perfect use of Jesse Eisenberg (who is uncharacteristically stoic), but Dakota Johnson’s fierce idealist steals the film.
41. Jauja (2014, Lisandro Alonso)
A Danish soldier posted in Argentina goes in search of his wayward daughter over increasingly haggard terrain. Viggo Mortensen – committed as ever – learned another language for Alonso’s mesmeric example of slow cinema. An art house triumph, Jauja is both an ordeal and a marvel, one that daringly challenges what we assume the movies are for.