Helmer vs. Holmes: Movies of the decade

Alex Helmer and Alex Holmes

Alex Helmer:

1. “Whiplash” (2014)

Directed by 34-year-old mastermind Damien Chazelle, 2015’s “Whiplash” is without a doubt the best film of the decade. Although Myles Teller delivers a career-defining performance as ambitious drummer Andew Neiman, it’s JK Simmons whose portrayal of drum teacher Fletcher is beyond perfect. The fact that you can see the veins popping out of his neck when he screams, his constant deviations from passive-aggressive instructor to complete psycho, I mean what else is there to say? The relationship between Neiman and Fletcher advances beyond drumming to a kid who wants to be the best and a man whose extreme methods test the limits of Neiman’s dedication to this dream. 

2. “Django Unchained” (2012)

 In his long and tumultuous career, Quentin Tarantino has created several masterpieces. However, “Django Unchained” is his best work. The film wouldn’t work without the performances of Oscar-winning actors Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, who sustain an undeniable on-screen chemistry, while DiCaprio’s portrayal of the vile plantation owner Calvin Candie is its crown jewel. Tarantino’s writing and direction of “Django Unchained” provides a certain style that you don’t get from many modern westerns.  

3. “Inception” (2010)

Though it was only released in 2010, “Inception” is already one of the most highly regarded and influential films of all time. A thief with dream-sharing technology and his team attempt to plant an idea into the head of a stiff CEO (Cilian Murphy). Enter director of “The Dark Knight,” Christopher Nolan. Nolan doesn’t just construct a killer screenplay, but uses some of the best practical effects of the decade to heighten the intensity and extraordinaire of the story. Throw in a dose of Oscar-nominated actors Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and you have the formula for a revolutionary film. 

4. “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, and Leonardo DiCaprio: I rest my case. Although three hours long, this film never skips a beat. Most of this is due to the energetic and stylistic approach from director Martin Scorsese (one of the best in the business). Coupled with his approach, the script has you balling in laughter and supplies you with a connection to these drug induced, obsessive, egotistical maniacs. 

5. “Toy Story 3” (2010)

Although all of them are superb, it’s “Toy Story 3” that is the best of the quadrilogy. Firstly, the characters: the film provides ample opportunity for new characters to leave their mark: a flippin’ Ken doll portrayed by Michael Keaton…I rest my case. Unlike other animated film antagonists, Lotso The Bear (Ned Beatty) is remarkably deep. And Woody: the character is one of the most complex in all of cinema and is perfectly depicted by Tom Hanks in a manner where you tear up wherever the character ends up. Although the storyline of the toys attempting to escape the “toy prison” is intriguing, it’s the characters paired with the heart-wrenching ending that makes this film one of the greats.


Alex Holmes:

1.“Boyhood” (2014)

It’s only fitting that a movie I call the best of the decade took more than a decade to make. Filmed over the course of 12 years, using the same actors, “Boyhood” is the ultimate coming-of-age movie. But even that sells it short. It’s the most lifelike movie I’ve ever seen, and by that I mean it’s almost as if director Richard Linklater literally took a slice (or many slices) of life and put it on film. Each of the movies on this list is made of life-affirming stuff, but this one takes the cake.

2. “The Tree of Life” (2011)

You know that a movie is ambitious when its plot is, in essence, life itself. From the beginnings of it, with the dinosaurs, to the intricacies of 1950s suburbia, Terrence Malick’s film captures it all. I always give credit to an ambitious film, but here’s one that follows through on its ambition. It is downright gorgeous in its imagery and music, yet its meditations on life are somehow even more beautiful. Both cerebral and inexplicable, “The Tree of Life” is an out-of-body experience like I’ve never had before.

3. “La La Land” (2016)

“La La Land” holds a special place in my heart (and I’m probably giving it more credit than it deserves) because it was the movie that got me into movies. But that doesn’t diminish the fine work on display from everybody involved. For a movie about the movies, it remarkably gets everything right: the ethereal score, lucid cinematography, and the brilliant performances. It all works together to make for captivating cinema. Damien Chazelle, who has directed two more of the decade’s best movies, “First Man” and “Whiplash”, makes this dreamlike ode to classic Hollywood musicals a touching testament to the ambition of young performers in the City of Stars.

4. “Arrival” (2016)

In Denis Villeneuve’s film, there are aliens, an invasion, and armies, but this isn’t your typical sci-fi extravaganza. Instead, this is a smart, affecting, and thrilling exploration of the one thing we all have in common, even with extraterrestrial lifeforms: language. Vivid imagery that is more the stuff of deep, intellectual thoughts than nightmares populates the film, from the first shot of the alien craft to the handheld surreal sequences of Louise’s family. Anchored by a steadfast performance from Amy Adams (still no Oscar!), “Arrival” is a movie that gets better every time I watch it. 

5. “Roma” (2018)

Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographical reminiscence on his memories of Mexico City circa the 1970s was the best film of last year and is one of the best of the decade. Every sun-drenched frame of the black and white cinematography oozes meticulous craftsmanship. From the wonderfully orchestrated long takes to the miraculously detailed sound design, this movie is a miracle. Memory is a powerful drug, and nobody knows that better than Cuarón. That is reflected in the near-perfect production design that recreated his childhood home and the soul-searching protagonist of his film: Cleo. Based on Cuarón’s real-life nanny, her serenity amid the chaos of political uprisings and compassion for a family that is way above her in the social stratosphere culminates in a heart-breaking scene at the beach.