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The 2010s: The best films you didn’t see but need to – Part 3

There are so many wonderful films of the last decade.  But what about the amazing ones you’ve never seen?  Are they worth going back and giving a watch?  In this three-part series, we will take a look at the great unknown movies of the 2010s that deserve more recognition.  In this final part, the focus on the decade’s most heartfelt and humorous films, or rather…


The Feel-Goods


7. “The Artist” (2011)

In 2011, a French silent film was released with a classical score, monochrome color grading, and unknown actors.  It’s no surprise that “The Artist” is largely forgotten and overlooked.  If it were a film that merely paid extreme homage to the silent films of the 20s, maybe that would make sense, but this Best Picture winner also boasts a compelling narrative as well.  The story centers around a silent movie star at the twilight of his career. “Talkies” have begun to take the world by storm, and the protagonist struggles to stay relevant and find work.  This is juxtaposed by his romance with a rising actress who loyally fights to find a place for him in the world.  Their relationship is one of dedication and unconditional love and will uplift viewers.  The journey of the protagonist and his partner is simply exquisite.


6. “Isle of Dogs” (2018)

Wes Anderson is quite the interesting filmmaker.  His wacky and sometimes childlike perspective on abnormal and twisted situations brings a great deal of humor to his films but may also be extremely off-putting with his bizarre style. With his stop motion picture, “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson manages to ride a firm line and creates one of his best and most overlooked films in years. Taking place in a dystopian future full of corruption, all dogs are exiled to an island of garbage away from society. However, one boy misses the dog he grew up with and ventures on a journey to bring him home, leading to a media firestorm and an attack on the faulty government.  Featuring killer robot dogs, cannibals, rebellions, an All-Star cast, and exploding teeth, “Isle of Dogs” is unlike any film viewers have seen. And yet, it uses conventional narrative storytelling to the fullest, utilizing classic filmmaking tools to tell a comical, satirical, and emotional story.


5. “Sing Street” (2016)

Balancing the harshness of reality and dreamy, innocent optimism, “Sing Street” is a rather unique spin on the coming-of-age tale. The setting is 1980s Ireland, and the plot is a classic John Hughes-style young romantic dramedy. It involves a teenage boy starting a band to impress a girl, after using its false existence to spend more time with her. This feel-good picture, however, does not fall into a cliché romp, rather it breaks the mold by developing heightened character drama that serves a larger purpose in the story.  The film also errs on the side of a musical, including a punk-rock style that transparently represents inner states of the characters, all of whom’s lives are falling apart. By the end, the narrative will have spun so far, audiences’ expectations will be pleasantly subverted, and they will be left with simple and relevant commentary on family, choices, love, and dreams.


4.  “The Big Sick” (2017)

One of the best comedies of the decade just so happens to include a dramatic and melancholic story that is as compelling as it is funny. “The Big Sick” follows real-life comedian, Kumail Nanjiani, in a script written by him and based off his real-life experiences. As his overbearing family attempts to force him into a rigid cultural lifestyle, the semi-fictionalized character of Kumail struggles to balance his parent’s expectations, his stand-up career, and his complicated relationship with his girlfriend, Emily. Once Emily becomes deathly ill, Kumail’s life is thrown into chaos. He is forced to make hard choices and begin the long path to forging a relationship with Emily’s parents, even as her death lingers. Helen Hunt and Ray Romano are superbly cast as Emily’s parents, and have effortless charm with Nanjiani. “The Big Sick” is indicative of a passionate storyteller wanting to tell the story in the most entertaining way possible. This includes showing the audience both the hysterical antics (the highlight being when Nanjiani assaults a drive-through) and the somber moments of such a tragedy. But the biggest truth this film presents is how life crises can bring individuals together and instigate joy in people’s lives, even when dealing with hard times.


3. “Her” (2013)

Loneliness is an inescapable part of life.  So, when a single, middle-aged man, played gently by Joaquin Phoenix, decides to pursue a relationship with an A.I. system, audiences will surprisingly understand and empathize with him. Set in a near future that is naturally colorful and lively, “Her” explores universal questions about intimacy and human emotions. As most great science fiction stories do, this film uses its futuristic elements, such as Scarlet Johansson’s affectionate A.I., to reveal inner truths about human beings. And what is so effective about this film’s approach is that the science fiction rarely seems prominent. The technology is never unrealistic or that far off into the future; even Johansson’s voice is purposely untouched, never sounding robotic, and even being fractured and emotionally unstable at times. Director Spike Jonze’s light touch alleviates tension and burden from audiences, reducing them to emotional and tender bodies of compassion. While the film’s structure is loose, it feels free to stretch its arms and explore surprising possibilities that become compelling narrative choices. Watching “Her” will melt viewers into laughter and sadness, providing a perfect balance to inspire reflection on one’s own relationships.


2. “The Edge of Seventeen” (2016)

Forever endearing, “The Edge of Seventeen” is practically a flawless film. One of the most honest depictions of a coming of age story that presents an unsweetened look at the existential crises everyone faces growing up. Hailee Steinfeld gives a phenomenal and eternally relatable performance alongside supporting actor Woody Harrelson who is charming as ever. “The Edge of Seventeen” acknowledges that the question, “What is going to happen to us next?”-  is a constant and dreadful thought for any human being. This film confronts and comforts those questions, using absurd situations and spunky dialogue to ask its audience to take a breath. It invites multiple viewings, as its characters provide a refreshing romp that will deeply impact any age, whether you’re 17 or 70.


1. “Your Name” (2016)

This reviewer has never been a fan of anime. So, to be moved to a blubbering mess by one was surprising to say the least. “Your Name” is simply one of the most touching films of all time. The plot revolves around a boy and a girl from two sides of the country switching bodies.  After mining this material for all the humor and heart it can have, the story shifts dramatically into a rousing and spiritual adventure with devastating twists that propel the story towards an intense and hopeful climax. It can be hilarious, then heart wrenching, then curious, then awe-inspiring, and these genre shifts never feel choppy or slow the film. The imagery is beautiful, sometimes even breathtaking, and creates a vibrant, warm reality that wraps the viewer in a hug of bittersweet and childlike joy. The emotional connection between characters has never been sweeter and audiences will be salivating for the two protagonists to finally meet one another.  “Your Name” is a sensational, poignant story that can fill any hole or crevice in the viewer’s heart. While every film on this list deserves to be watched at least once, this one in particular is most deserving and should be at the top of reader’s watchlist.


That concludes part three of the best unknown films of the 2010s. Be sure to go check out part 1 and 2 for “The Adrenaline Pumpers,” and “The Serious Ones.” Art is entertaining and art is powerful; please take the time to give these pictures the recognition they deserve.