The Reel Talk Editorial Team’s Top Three Films of The Decade: Part 2

Edited by Isabella Fatato

The Reel Talk editorial team are back to round up their top films of the decade as we enter the final weeks of 2019. Take a look at the fantastic selection of films picked out by our very own Warwick undergraduates and treat yourself to some nostalgic viewing before bursting into 2020!

Georgia Smithies, Third Year Film Studies

Mommy (dir. Xavier Dolan, 2014)

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy details the struggles of a working class mother, Die, and her son, Steve, who has behavioral issues and severe ADHD. Together they form a friendship with their neighbour Kyla, and attempt to escape the difficulties of their present situation through the bonds they share.

Shot beautifully, and almost entirely in a highly uncommon 1:1 aspect ratio, Dolan paints a tender and caring picture of a struggling mother’s hopes and dreams for her son’s life, juxtaposed with the sobering realities they face instead.

The film’s high points are euphoric and its low points devastating; all the while being warmly lit against the cold Quebec backdrop with the use of popular music to fantastic emotional effect (shoutout specifically to the use of Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die).

All of these elements amount to a thoroughly touching depiction of motherhood and the most effective use of aspect ratio to elicit emotional response I’ve ever seen. 

Honourable Mentions: Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson, 2012), The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker, 2017)

Patricia Johnson, Third Year Film and Literature

The Wailing (dir. Na Hong-jin, 2016)

What matters to me most when I watch a film is how successfully it builds atmosphere. No other film has made me feel as cold, dirty, and depressed as The Wailing. At the end of it, I felt as though I’d been standing in the rain on a winter day, ankle deep in the thickest of mud.
Even so, I recommend it.

The Wailing is a bleak, hopeless film that follows a police force investigating a mysterious, murderous disease that soon morphs into unadulterated terror.
The protagonist is lost.
The lines between reality and the supernatural, between good and evil, blur.
There is no order or meaning.
All that is left by the end of the film is dread.
In the world of director Na Hong-jin, truth is somewhere beyond human understanding.

So don’t be daunted by the 2.5 hour run time; you won’t have the capacity to feel it, and try your luck at understanding what has just flashed before your eyes.

Honourable mentions: In Fabric (dir. Peter Strickland, 2018), Incendies (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2010)

Charlotte Ammirato, Third Year Film and Literature

The Social Network (dir. David Fincher, 2010)

Everybody knows about Facebook. Most people use Facebook. Some people even know about Mark Zuckerberg. The Social Network, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, cleverly manages to capture the mystery surrounding the enigma that is Zuckerberg (whose creation is used by billions of people worldwide) despite the factual controversies the film received.

Jesse Eisenberg takes on the role of Zuckerberg. Probably being the only man who could have ever taken on this snide, sarcastic, and status-hungry character, he shows how one geek took over the world, becoming an overnight billionaire, with an advanced intellect but childish emotions.

Eisenberg is not the only astounding cast member: an unusual casting choice sees Justin Timberlake playing the role of Sean Parker – a co-founder of Napster, and a 4% stakeholder of Facebook. With the never-ending plotting and scheming, Timberlake creates an antagonist who could be considered as a contemporary rival for Othello’s Iago.

A relatable, hero-like figure is found in Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin, who suffers at the hands of Zuckerberg when he gives his all, only to be stabbed in the back. His heartache and misery create confrontations matched only by those in some of cinema’s greatest thrillers.

Fincher and Sorkin take a story that audiences believe they know and infuse it with thriller-like conventions and jarring narrative revelations, creating a film with a spectacular climax. 

Honourable Mentions: Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010), Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine, 2013)

Isabella Fatato, Second Year Film Studies

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonagh, 2017)

With possibly one of the longest film titles in the last decade, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, tells the story of a grieving, strong-headed and frankly, at times, unlikable mother (played wonderfully by Frances McDormand) seeking rightful justice for her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder case.

As the title may already suggest, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) rents out three billboards in the hopes to call the attention of the police department in Ebbing, who has done nothing to solve the abominable crime.

Against Mildred’s case of the billboards are a sympathetic chief of police, William ‘Bill’ Willoughby, excellently portrayed by Woody Harrelson; and racist, violent, alcoholic, Officer Jason Dixon, played marvellously by Sam Rockwell.

With an ardent and impassioned screenplay, excellent tone shifts between themes of grief and violence and themes of friendship and unexpected comedy, some unforeseen character developments and grudging alliances, spectacular cinematography that gives its audiences some very iconic shots to be left in awe of and a stellar cast, writer-director Martin McDonagh has created a remarkable and unforgettable film.

Honourable Mentions: Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2016), American Hustle (dir. David O. Russell, 2013)

Edie Straight, Second Year Film Studies

The Big Short (dir. Adam McKay, 2015)

It may be surprising that Adam McKay’s The Big Short, which covers the 2008 housing market crisis and those who predicted it, is a film I have watched four times over and would happily view for a fifth.

McKay takes a remarkably hefty subject and delivers it as an incredibly digestible, satirical and riveting exploration of the events.

The snappy dialogue is what propels the narrative forward and I’m obsessed with the film’s oscillation between the central protagonists and their individual revelations of the crisis about to hit.

Whilst McKay’s choice to include celebrity cameos can play off as a little too self-aware, I find this novelty adds the right amount of frivolity to an otherwise bleak story.

The performances from Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling are prime examples of actors reaching beyond their type-casting and fashioning a captivating network of anti-heroes.

Honourable Mentions: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2011), It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell, 2014)

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