10. It’s SUch a beautiful day (2012)
Do it yourself filmmaking has had gigantic strive in the 2010’s. From Shane Carruth to Hugh Sullivan (both filmmakers already have deserving spots on this list), there’s something incredibly admirable about dedicated micro-budget productions. However, there’s almost no competition when looking at Don Hertzfeldt’s 62-minute masterpiece It’s Such A Beautiful Day. Composed out three short films created from 2006 to 2011 (Everything Will Be OK, I Am So Proud of You, and the titular It’s Such A Beautiful Day), this short film anthology focuses on the dreary life of a depressed stick figure named Bill.
Hertzfeldt details and perfectly dissects his world with ease and cosmic precision. With the three shorts, comes three different chapters; both focusing on a tragic time period of this poor man’s life. It’s often times humorous, but it’s largely devastating in execution. One of the most emotionally complex films of the decade, Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such A Beautiful Day is also one of the greatest animated films of all time. – David Cuevas
9. Ad Astra (2019)
Ad Astra is a meditative exploration of one’s inner demons – an important introspective into the harms of toxic masculinity, the deterrents of lost and lingering relationships and the limitations of emotional repression. Brad Pitt’s controlled, poised and humanely rooted performance is one for the ages; truly and humanely conflicted, relatable and visceral. Beautifully and transcendentally shot by Hoyte Van Hoytema, and masterfully directed by James Gray, to feel like a personal tale of self-discovery and self-betterment, Ad Astra is one of the decade’s best. – Ashvin Sivakumar
A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick
This quote from one of the GOATs of cinema really came to mind while experiencing this soon to flop excellent poetic space odyssey. And I make it a point of importance to use the word “odyssey”, not because of the obvious comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but for the actual literary masterwork of, The Odyssey. Case and point being that Roy McBride is Telemachus, son of Odysseus, in search of not only his estranged father on the other side of a vast expanse, but searching for himself. To put it in Roy’s exact contemplative words, “I don’t know if I’m trying to find him, or finally free myself from him”. Pitt’s perfectly subdued and self-restrained performance, even just from an ocular aspect alone, weaves every primary theme of the film. Behind those expressive eyes is loss, grief, discovery, rage, empathy (not apathy), and one of the starkest, acceptance. And the meaning, as Kubrick states, shall come afterward, once you’ve subjected your mind and body to your own personal odyssey.
On second viewing, Ad Astra still holds up majestically. I mean sure, there were some moments that did feel like such a shift in tonal balance, such as the rabid test Baboon, the Sepheus crew massacre, and the Brad Astra Silver Surfer origins story. But I do feel that there must have been some studio involvement that afflicted James Gray’s true complete mythic epic. I would gladly have followed Roy McBride in his personal Odyssey for another hour. Whether that be in traveling 2.714 billion miles to the outer solar system, applying for that dream job, talking to that special person, or maybe just letting go — as cliché as it sounds, the journey all starts with one small step. – Lee Bowski
8. Under the Skin (2013)
In Under the Skin, the audience follows Scarlett Johansson (credited as ‘’The Female’’) around in a van through the land of northern Scotland, where she has several strange encounters with men on her journey. It is not known who she is; or what her goal is, but from the get-go it is clear that she has a mission that she is very devoted to. However, she’s also very curious and learns a lot of things along the way, that may affect her perception of not only her own identity, but also of the world around her.
Under the Skin, written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, is a film that covers countless subjects, such as gender relations, sexuality, family, ethics, and most important of all, what it is like to be and to become human; making it one of the most existential pieces of the decade. It is full of information, but the thing that makes the film stand out from the rest is the way it is presented, all through visuals and music. For the entire 108 minutes, you’re trapped into a dreamlike and otherworldly place on earth, full of striking imagery, wonderful colors, and an extremely hauntingly ominous avant-garde score that feels like its own character. Under the Skin is one of those films where you really have to really pay a lot of attention in order to understand what it’s about, but when you do, you may just be rewarded with one of the most unique cinematic experiences you’ve ever experienced. A film that can turn from one of the most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, heard and felt to one of the most terrifying nightmares you just can not get out of your head once you’ve seen it. – Julian D
7. Moonlight (2016)
The magic of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ sophomore feature that became an unexpected hit and awards juggernaut, is in its universal truth for the LGBT community. Not all of us have lived through the same kind of experiences as Chiron, but his journey of self-discovery and acceptance rings deep to anyone who’s been down that road. Lavish cinematography inspired by the works of Wong Kar Wai and a haunting chopped and screwed musical score builds Moonlight into a truly cathartic experience. Every one who’s been mistreated because of their sexual identity, or who they are, should find Moonlight and bathe in its strength. It personally made me stronger. – Cole Duffy
6. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
Thai mastermind Apichatpong Weerasethakul (aka ‘Joe’) has been one of the most acclaimed yet under-seen filmmakers of the 21st century. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was the first film this decade to win the much-coveted Palme d’Or and has managed to still be in the forefront of a many cinephile’s minds this decade, yet still manages to feel it like a secret. No matter how many times I watch it, this metaphysical rumination on change past and future, remains as truly immersive, haunting and illusive, as the first time I watched it. It has been on my mind for years and yet, I still do not feel like anything I can say about the film can do it justice; and maybe it’s best that way. In a decade in which we have a constant, almost inescapable stream of discourse in our pockets; a work of art which fully engrosses you, readjusts your position on the human condition and leaves you at an utter loss for words, is the most rare and beautiful thing. – Jacob B
5. moonrise kingdom (2012)
Moonrise Kingdom is one of, if not my favorite Wes Anderson film. The color palette of this movie is one of it’s more obvious traits. Anderson clearly loves the color yellow and uses it quite frequently. It creates a really nice tone/atmosphere that pairs delicately with Wes’ signature directing style, and the beautiful sets. For a film with so many child actors, the acting is overall excellently done. I especially enjoyed Edward Norton’s performance. After seeing him in Fight Club not so long ago, it was cool to see him take on a less depressing and violent role. For a movie taken place in 1965, it was sure one of the best films of 2012, and I’m excited to re-visit it again. – Tom T.S.
Wes Anderson is my favorite director, and Moonrise Kingdom is one his very best films. What’s my pick for the greatest coming of age tale of the decade, Anderson’s vision on youthful resilience and passionate love is a delicate achievement; where the film is almost portrayed like a survival epic. Whimsical, thrilling, and gorgeously composed, there’s nothing truly like Moonrise Kingdom. – David Cuevas
4. Silence (2016)
Whenever I think about movies that somehow made this decade one of the best for the film industry, I think about Silence. Scorsese’s powerful meditation on religion, power and internal struggle, demonstrates the acclaimed director working at the peak of his powers, and it really shows. Silence is one of the best movies of the decade without question. – Armin Ramić
Talk about a change of pace for Scorsese! After directing the magnetic and testosterone filled The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin decided to tone it down a little, and finally deliver what can be arguably be stated as his magnum opus, Silence. Over twenty years in the making, Scorsese challenges his audience with ideas and constructs based on faith, passion, and the forced conversion of Religious values. Somber, patient, yet most of all spiritually hypnotic, Silence is a masterpiece that will be guaranteed studied in Film School for decades to come. – David Cuevas
3. Certified Copy (2010)
Certified Copy is a film that, in concept, is incredibly simple. Awoman serves as a tour guide for a famous author, and travels around the village of Lucignano, while the two just talk to each other. In theory, this simple of a concept should be so forgettable that it wouldn’t register with anyone. But director Abbas Kiarostami elevates this simple premise into a masterful discussion of Art as a Medium. The level of humanity found in this film is astounding, and Certified Copy is sure to leave at least some lasting impression on anyone who watches it. -August Hofmanis
2. Faces Places (2017)
Of any decade you could choose to be cynical, it’s this one. Life tends be tumultuous even at the best of times, but our global present is a complete clusterfuck of contradictions, deceit, confusing rhetoric, and lost innocence. What a pleasure then, that a film exists that pushes against this tide so mightily. The late Agnès Varda, then 88, and JR, then 33, took us on a journey that’s part travelogue, part mischievous prank, and part existential creed.
This blend of recreation, fiction, and authentic verité is mostly spent finding new “visages, villages” in rural France, while riding a large photo booth truck that prints giant, glorious murals. Then JR’s (mysteriously assembled) team of workers painstakingly transfers these murals to the walls of actual homes, rocks, and even in one instance, the sides of trains. There’s a surprising amount of timeliness to its focus on public monuments, and their execution counteracts the most recent debate regarding statues: ordinary, even potentially mundane working class citizens are given this highest honor. There’s a particularly emotional moment when a daughter of a former coal miner steps out of her house to see her and her father’s face plastered on its craggly walls. It’s not just public figures who need commemorating but decent, hardworking people who help lay the foundation for daily life. This is a film of tiny revelations but also familiar comfort: with each new character, we discover a new friend.
Yet the film wisely centers itself around Agnès and JR’s friendship. The film’s elasticity allows for discussions ranging from the construction of their own film to deeply personal areas of reflection. Agnès was slowly losing her sight before her recent passing, and the film finds ingenious ways to visualize this struggle of a filmmaker losing one of her key tools. At one point, Agnès witnesses a goofy chorus of blurry letters wiggle and wave. It’s this sense of playfulness and exuberance that envelops the film’s more melancholy or meditative moments: joy is never far away in Varda and JR’s vision of life.
Documentary can often be a form of improvisation, an attempt to craft order out of chaos, and structure story out of unconnected anecdotes. But Faces Places engineers an unorthodox approach to this idea, and by following the flow of life rather than the flow of traditional narrative, they have crafted something seemingly lifted from our wildest dreams, our highest ideals. It’s a stunning elegy to memory, love, decency, underappreciated work ethic, poverty, and loss. It should be shared for all. – Mitchell Allen
1. The Wind Rises (2013)
As a wartime biopic that could just as easily be about the director himself, Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is a departure from his other, more whimsical films. While all have moments of darkness and mature themes, the lightness provided by characters like Calcifer in Howl’s Moving Castle and Jiji in Kiki’s Delivery Service is far less of a presence, leaving in its wake a simplistic, poignant drama. Intended by Miyazaki as a swan song, The Wind Rises features some of the most arresting, awe inspiring visuals ever depicted in his filmography – the intricate machinery that protagonist Jiro designs is contrasted beautifully with the rustic, rolling environments of Japan in the early 20th century.
When accompanied by Joe Hisaishi’s beautifully melancholic score, lead by the theme ‘Journey’ that never fails to make me cry, The Wind Rises has an aesthetic of pure beauty and nostalgia, despite the injustice and misery that permeates Jiro’s life. As both a damning indictment of nationalism and war, and an optimistic look at the joy and beauty that life can hold in spite of this, The Wind Rises has stuck with me for years as my favorite film of the decade, animated or otherwise. ‘The wind is rising; we must try to live!’ – Zoe Crombie
The Wind Rises is a masterpiece, plain and simple. What I would consider one of the greatest biopics ever made, Hayao Miyazaki’s take on the life and passionate work of Jiro Horikoshi is a heartbreaking Marvel. Jiro, the creator of the lethal A6M fighter plane which bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, never wanted his art to be used for acts of inhuman destruction. A life filled with regret, remorse, and tragedy, The Wind Rises elevates it’s historical material, by creating a hyper-realistic fantasia. Miyazaki is a master at surrealist imagery, and The Wind Rises further proves him as one of the greatest director’s of all time. -David Cuevas
On behalf of The On The Clock Team, we wish you a happy New Year and a great start to what seems to be great decade for Cinema! We would like to thank all the participants of this article, whom of which all have linked social media sites in each of their segments. Please follow these wonderful writers, and share this article to spread the love! Over two months in the making, it’s astonishing to see how great the final product eventually blossomed!
See you in 2020! – David Cuevas: Editor, Head Writer, and Founder of On The Clock