It’s 2020. As geeks we are blessed with the amount of content available to us every day. Book, games, films, TV shows, plays, all available no more than a tap away. It is wonderful, but there is also a dark side. The availability of media increases the number of people consuming said products. With this increased consumption comes a rise in the desire to discuss thoughts and feelings with like minded people. Social media is brilliant for this, without Twitter this community wouldn’t exist! However, there is a dark side. The last few years has seen some of the most polarising opinions on film and TV in history. One only needs to send a harmless tweet about The Last Jedi and you will soon be seeking the number to your local counselling service.
This site and the community we have built up around it is intended to be a reflection of our thoughts and feelings towards the things we enjoy but also a reflection of the geek world. With this in mind, 2020 sees the arrival of Geekstalkers combat. Each month we will be pitting two members of the community against each other to discuss a topic. They will each present their arguments then a vote will be put out to the wider world to select a victor. That member will then go on to be entered into the Grand Final at the end of the year! There is much at stake! Money? No. Prizes? No. Status? No. Bragging rights? Hell yes!
So, using the words of the prophet Yu-Gi-Oh “IT’S TIME TO D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-DUEL”
This months topic is the Best Film of the Last Decade
Up first is Markus!
Best of the decade: DRIVE
When going about choosing the best movie of the decade, there’s multiple ways to go about it. Do you choose the one with the biggest cultural impact? The one that made the most money? The one with the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating? The one that reaches the highest number when putting all those things into a complicated equation? I mean, you could go for any of those, or you could just go for the one that you like the most, the one that’s had the biggest impact. And for me, that movie is 2011’s Drive.
Based on the novel by James Sallis, Drive was directed by Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn, and stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks. It tells the story of a mechanic and stuntman (Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver. And we follow him as his life takes a turn when he befriends his neighbor (Mulligan). Despite its title, Drive isn’t really that fast-paced of a movie. It’s a slow burn character drama about redemption and how we can’t escape who we really are. It’s described by some as an arthouse action movie, and I can kinda see where they’re coming from with that. However, the action isn’t the most important aspect of it. It’s one of the planks that makes this building stand, but it’s not the most load-bearing one.
Drive’s biggest strength is in its cast and characterizations. Gosling’s Driver is a very quiet person, someone who clearly has some baggage, but has tried to leave it all behind. As he meets his neighbour Irene, he tries to go even further from it, be a good man, a real hero. But there are moments where his true nature starts showing itself, when his potential redemption is at risk and he’s pushed against the wall. There’s a scene near the middle where he meets someone he once worked with, talking about maybe getting him for a job. But the Driver, not wanting any of that, lifts his facade for the audience for a
second, uttering the sentence “How ’bout this. You shut your mouth or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and I’ll shut it for you.”. It’s the first reveal of the darkness and violence simmering underneath the Driver’s quiet facade. And as you may expect, things start spiralling even further after that, and we see the conflicted Driver, longingly gazing into the void, realizing his nice new life might be compromised. And when contrasted with some of the violent acts he performs throughout the movie, it creates some of the
most nuanced and compelling characterization I’ve ever seen, brought beautifully to life by Ryan Gosling’s excellent performance.
Complementing Drive’s slow pace is a very synth-based soundtrack, with both licensed tracks and some original compositions by Cliff Martinez filling the soundscape. As with the music of any movie, it helps set the mood of certain scenes. But the mood Drive creates often feels very different to other films, making it almost feel like a dream or even a fairy-tale at times. Adding to this is the neon-filled and absolutely breathtaking cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel. These two aspects going in tandem
with each other has helped Drive to stand out in my mind with other movies that try to go for a synthy, neo-noir vibe. It’s its own thing that makes me feel emotionally invested in the heart-wrenching journey of this complicated character.
Last thing I want to talk about as to why I love Drive is the use of violence within the picture. Many movies use violence. How many movies have you seen where people get shot? If you’re like me, then that number is probably pretty god damn high. The violence in those movies is often done in a way that is meant to entertain, make us go “Yeah!”. The way Drive handles it however is different. There are long stretches of the movie where no drop of blood can be spotted. You go along with the dreamy redemption of this guy, and then all of a sudden you get hit in the face with some over-the-top, brutal violence. And due to the movie’s slow and quiet approach, these few brief bursts of violence become deafening, putting the viewer on edge in a way that is rarely seen in movies. These bursts of violence are made even harrowing because of how the audio cuts out completely, bar the sound of the gun, hammer, or other instrument of force used to deliver blood-soaked carnage to a character. And for as different in tone as it is to some of the more quiet, talky scenes, the brutality still fits within the weird dream vibe the movie’s going for, just in a somewhat different way… a nightmare kind of way, if you will. And this violence, as alluded to before, helps develop the character of the Driver in interesting ways, adding to my emotional attachment to the story.
Few movies have left as much of an impact on me as Drive has. From its story, to the characters, to the music and visuals, to every little detail I don’t wanna ruin… Drive is special. It’s not only my favorite movie of the decade, but it’s also one of my favorite movies of all time.
Now entering the ring is James!
If there’s one director that defines the last decade for me, it has to be Denis
Villeneuve. Take a look at his list of directorial releases from the last ten years:
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
There’s not a bad movie among them which, when coupled with the fact he’s had
one film out on general release every other year on average, is a pretty
impressive hit rate, I’m sure you’ll agree?
Yet, I’m not here to argue the case for Villeneuve’s artistic excellence. That’s a
moot point, he’s clearly a genius. No, what I’m here to do is argue that he made
the best film of the last decade, which he did. And, no, that movie wasn’t 2049…
I know the belated Blade Runner sequel would be most people’s pick from his
impressive back catalogue and I’m willing to concede that it’s probably his most
impressive artistic effort (thus far) but there’s another film of his that feels like it
was made for me. You know, one of those rare films that connect on an
intellectual, emotional and spiritual level beyond anything else. That film is
I saw Arrival twice at the cinema which is a rarity these days due to parental
responsibilities and financial limitations. The first time was with my long-
standing best friend since school. Just two guys, in their thirties (at that point),
fathers to young sons, watching a hard science fiction movie about aliens visiting
our planet. Until that third act rug pull. That ending. Neither of us had read Ted
Chiang’s short Story of Your Life, so didn’t know what to expect. Neither of us were prepared. Both of us were left broken with tears freely streaming. Just two
guys, in their thirties (at that point), fathers to young sons, watching a hard
science fiction movie about aliens visiting our planet but as it turns out much,
I left the cinema knowing I had seen something special. I returned a week later
with my partner, a less-than-enthusiastic watcher of science fiction, having
espoused how amazing the film was, yet revealing nothing of its content. Cut to
116 minutes later and we’re both broken with tears freely streaming. Not only
did this second viewing reaffirm my initial thoughts but deepened them. This
was a movie that resonated with me on every level and if that doesn’t define
“best” then I don’t know what does.
Of course, all art appreciation is subjective and what one person gets from
something another entirely misses. One’s connection to Arrival may depend on
any number of factors ranging from the time of your life and your personal
priorities to your genre expectations, if the alien invasion films you were raised
on were Emmerich’s Independence Day or Cornish’s Attack the Block; two great
films in their own right, yet Arrival ain’t about that.
What isn’t up for debate is the triptych of talent that I believe elevates Arrival
above any other from the last ten years: Director Denis, Actor Amy and
Johannsson’s music that samples Max.
Director Denis scored a hat trick of flawless, five-star films back-to-back
between 2015-2017: Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. It’s perhaps easy
to understand why Arrival was arguably overlooked, yet I’d argue it’s his unsung
hero hiding in the middle. Adapted by Eric Heisserer from the award-winning
short story by Ted Chiang, the story of how Arrival arrived to our screens is
perhaps not so unusual, but it’s success appears to be in a large part down to
Villeneuve’s vision (for more on this please watch the insightful Lessons from the
Screenplay video, Arrival – Examining an Adaptation found on youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTxvzkwVsQE) and what a vision it is: stunning
visuals, authentic acting plus an intellectually-stimulating, philosophically-
challenging and emotionally-profound narrative at its core. This is his
Speaking of authentic acting, who better to provide your high concept, hard sci-
fi with honest naturalism than greatest actor of her generation™, Amy Adams?
Now, truth be told, I would literally watch her in anything, but she is on awards-
worthy form here selling every emotional beat whilst simultaneously standing
her ground against hierarchical and patriarchal men and 33-foot-tall heptapod
aliens. Her character, Louise Banks, is a character to hold in the highest esteem
alongside other genre greats Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor and the fact that
Adams’ effort went empty-handed reinforces my view that awards and their
shows are simply inherently silly.
Underpinning all of this excellence is the majestic music by the gone-too-soon
composer Johann Johannsson and his utilisation of Max Richter’s haunting On
the Nature of Daylight for the opening and closing sequences. Ever since, this
moving piece has been on hard rotation for me and, in fact, accompanied my
very writing of this article throughout on a continuous loop. Lyricless and
lamentful, it’s gentle notes say more than words ever could.
Much, much more than a movie about alien visitation, Arrival is an introspective
look at what it means to be human, the nature of time and memory, the ramifications of decisions we make and, ultimately, the meaning of life. In other
words, it’s hard science fiction as it should be.
So, that’s it, my argument for Arrival. I’ve rambled on for nearly 900 words and
if I haven’t convinced you by now then I ain’t ever gonna. Don’t worry if you
don’t agree and go with the other guy either, I won’t hold it against you. It’s a
non-zero-sum-game as I respect his opinion too and, if my hunch is correct,
validate his choice in this debate. Besides, this was a film that was made for me.
You know, one of those rare films that connect on an intellectual, emotional and
spiritual level beyond anything else. Rare films such as Shyamalan’s
Unbreakable or Hillcoat’s The Road or Abrams’ Super 8.
This film is Arrival.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Then how about the view of others I endorse:
– Mainstreammatt – https://www.theepochtimes.com/2016-bfi-london-film-festival-review-arrival_2173175.html
– EMPIRE magazine – https://www.empireonline.com/movies/reviews/arrival-2-review/
– Mark Kermode – movie of the week https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/13/arrival-
There you have it! The contenders have put forward their arguments, now it’s time for you to do the work! This article will be shared out with an option for you to vote for the winner! Enter your votes and join the conversation! The winner of this round will be announced shortly!
For now, Geek on, Geek hard! Peace out!
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