The 25 best movies of the decade

This article was first published on KENS5.com, and can be viewed here. 

It’s a maxim among cinephiles that movies don’t change—but people do. Our reaction to a new film is shaped by the experiences and perceptions we bring into it, even as the first words upon leaving the theater (or turning off Netflix) typically are about an actor’s performance, a screenplay’s effectiveness, a specific shot’s inventiveness. That we can revisit movies later and come away with new insights – new pieces of the cinematic fabric to grasp onto – says as much about the medium’s unspoken power as it says about our malleable connections to art. Who among us doesn’t have a movie we refuse to revisit for the first time since childhood, out of fear that adult sentiment will muddle our memory of it?

A decade that felt both historic in that the world has never been more connected by social media and fleeting in that we’ve never been more empowered to move on to the next viral story – or the next thing in our streaming queues – shaped the cinematic product, too. For one, movies have never felt so much like a reckoning with real-world forces that are continuing to mold what the 2020s will look like.

For another, it’s an increasingly rare thing for a film to be universal, in its ability to resonate not (or not only) through legions of audiences, but through time, beyond the moment it carved out for itself on a release schedule. These 25 films – the best of the 2010s – remain moviemaking triumphs as the curtain begins to close on this decade, and may very well endure as such into the next as well.  As a certain purple Mad Titan would say: They are inevitable. Continue reading →

Review: An ode to change, ‘Toy Story 4’ is a poignant coda to our greatest animated franchise

I really wonder what a younger version of me time-skipped to now would have taken away from the splendid, colorful, contemplative “Toy Story 4.”  Let’s say 4 years old—right around when experiences start to anchor themselves in the mind as memories, if hazy ones.  For me, chief among those recollections as they pertain to movies: Watching the original “Toy Story,” early and often.

Animation had already been changed forever upon the movie’s release, but at 4 I couldn’t be bothered by its historical and cultural footprint. Give me the fantasy of toys coming to life when no one else is around, their unwavering loyalty to kids like me and the introduction of a big-screen brand with a timeless sense of endearment that I was able to appreciate even at that age.

20 years on, like a toy chest that gains new treasures over time, there’s much more to appreciate from the “Toy Story” movies. There’s perhaps no other franchise – certainly not an animated one – that audiences have grown with as steadfastly as it’s produced new installments, its lessons and humanity and pure pathos shining ever more luminously. Continue reading →

Review: Pixar’s ‘Coco’ is visually gorgeous, surprisingly grounded and vaguely formulaic

After over two decades and nearly 20 films, it’s refreshing for Pixar to provide its most grounded premise yet.

Following sustained success by way of talking bugs, talking toys, talking cars, talking fish, talking emotions, talking rats and “talking” robots, something about a Dia de Los Muertos-centric story featuring human characters (and, yes, talking humanoid skeletons) feels much more relatable, like Pixar declaring a coup upon itself.

But then again, that was the point of “Coco” – to showcase a world with more connections to reality than any other Pixar offering before it, and to flesh out that world with the humanity the animation giant has the reputation of conjuring. Continue reading →