2010-2019 in review
This time last decade, and doesn’t that make me feel old, we did our top 10’s of the decade. However, as we career towards 2020 none of us felt especially inspired, or even able, to create another top 10. This led to some discussion as to why we feel like this, what’s changed in the last 10 years other than us being older, albeit not necessarily wiser?
Buckle up this is a long one
There are basically three hypothesis to test here as to the source of our (well, my) ennui. Firstly, is cinema worse now than it was in 2010. Secondly, is cinema about the same, but we’ve (dare I say it) matured? Finally, has the world changed? I, obviously, have no interest in writing a PhD thesis on this, so I’m only going to skim over some key facts- if I have missed things, then I apologise.
Regarding the quality of film, a brief potted history of the last decade may be useful. Cinema has always moved in trends (Horror is the great guide for this- think Postmodernism, followed by J-Horror, followed by Torture Porn) but I honestly think I’m just not that interested in the big “trends” of the 21st Century. The rise of Marvel started way back in 2008 with Iron Man, and the latter half of this decade has seen a plethora of identikit “OK” Marvel movies dominate the box office. Don’t get me wrong, there’s basically nothing wrong with these films, they’re all fine, but very few of them could honestly be classed as better than that. Furthermore, they are all formula movies, sharing the exact same story beats, and the exact same pros and cons- the typically weak Marvel Villain is a trope in its own right nowadays as I struggle to recall a legitimately memorable bad guy- hell, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 managed to waste Kurt Russell. I’m simply just not that interested in cookie cutter cinema. Scorsese was right.
This comes down to franchise fatigue. There are so many franchises out there now and practically every blockbuster type film seems insanely desperate to spawn its own series. Not to mention that we have older series coming back in totally depressing forms- looking at you Alien, and don’t think I can’t see you over there Star Wars. It all feels so uncreative and uninspiring.
Then there’s the wokeification of cinema. A shrill breed of millennial film “critic” (blogger) seems to dominate social media bitching about “representation” or some such drivel in film. I am fully aware of the irony of me throwing stones while living in a greenhouse here, by the way. The nadir of this “movement” managed to come twice- firstly with the furore over the shitty reboot Ghostbusters: Answer the Call– which was a bad movie in its own right but not worth the wailing and gnashing of teeth, let alone Paul Feig debasing himself defending it, and secondly with yet more online noise when Brie Larsen said something stupid this year when promoting her totally forgettable Captain Marvel. However Hollywood tries to play it seems to fail- whatever they attempt brings approbation from some corner of the twitterverse. I am by no means a right wing Freeze Peach advocate, but nor am I a rabid SJW. Nevertheless, I’ve reached the point with the final Star Wars efforts where I just want the internet know it alls to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET PEOPLE MAKE THE FILM THEY WANT TO MAKE. Until this shrill “right on” censorship fucks off, cinema is going to tend towards the bland and uninspiring.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t rays of light- Paddington and Paddington 2 stand out as nearly perfect adaptations of fondly beloved childhood favourites, while there are many strong dramas, nevertheless, overall, I don’t feel passionate enough about basically any film from the last 10 years to nail it on as best film of the decade the way I did with City of God.
So, to conclude, is cinema worse? I’m not sure. It’s not better, that’s for certain. Rather, I think it’s safer, more formulaic and less inspiring.
Secondly, have I changed? Am I, to paraphrase Trainspotting, getting old, unable to hack it any more and waiting to shuffle off my mortal coil?
Well, I can’t rule it out. I’m now a parent, homeowner living in the countryside and in my forties. I’m certainly over the half way point of the traditional human life span. However, I don’t think my interests have shifted that much- I really enjoyed watching Gremlins with my little lad over Christmas, for instance (and Gremlins 2 is underrated- I WILL DIE ON THIS HILL). But there’s no doubt that I haven’t been to the cinema with anywhere near the frequency as I used to go. In part, this is because there’s rarely anything worth the bother of traipsing to the nearest cinema, not to mention how expensive it is. It just seems like such a fucking hassle to organise babysitting, drive miles, pay through the nose to then sit through something as unremarkable as Avengers 9: We’re down to the D-List now.
I’ve always been lazy, I won’t deny it, but the responsibilities of adulthood (full time work, raising a kid) simply mean that spending hours sitting in the cinema isn’t something that I can do with any regularity. As such, I’ve missed loads and loads of films that I’m sure would benefit from the big screen (if I’ve even seen them at home).
Finally, has the world changed? Are things fundamentally different now from a decade ago?
There’s one big change that I’ve already partially alluded to above- the rise of Social Media has given every single cretin in the universe a voice. This has lead to a decline in attention spans and the over-analysis of every single minutiae. But this isn’t the only change.
Back in 2010 streaming was nascent. Amazon Prime wasn’t a thing, and Netflix didn’t have any worldwide penetration. That isn’t the case now, and with Disney entering the fray too, there are even more services clamouring for attention in the comfort of your own home. Going to the cinema is such a shitty experience for the most part, that it’s very very tempting to just park off on your own couch with a beer and binge watch some shitty series (I did this with The Witcher recently).
Furthermore, video games have grown more sophisticated by the year, more addictive, and more successful (GTA V is now the most profitable piece of media ever). In many cases (Nier Automata, say) the story line and scripting in video games simply outclasses whatever shite is in your local multiplex- and you can shoot things too. As games get nearer to photorealism, they are absolutely going to overtake Hollywood, if they haven’t done so already.
So, to summarise- it’s not one thing, it’s a combination of all of them. Cinema feels more uninteresting, I’m definitely getting old, and there’s much more competition for attention out there. As such, is it any wonder that we struggled to put together a top ten?
So, as to what is the best film of the decade in my opinion? Paddington 2. Don’t @ me.
Happy New Year, and, indeed, Happy New Decade,