WestwoodWestwood’s Staff Picks of the Decade
WestwoodWestwood’s Staff Picks of the Decade
It was the best of decades, and it was definitely a WTF of decades. It’s been an eye-opener for presidency, the “gig economy” was birthed after a few years from the recession, Instagram killed our perception of reality, music streaming took off like Usain Bolt, the list goes on.
2019 may have treated us well, maybe she didn’t. Like every year, we take upon these last few days for reflection, realizations, and the regrets we acted on that one drunken Summer night. But this year’s closing not only brings us to a new year, but a new decade. Like seriously, where did the time go.
We can question all of the madness and fears that this past 10 years brought us, but it also bloomed some beauty into our lives. Frank Ocean & Solange’s debut calmed our hearts, the underdogs we all know as a24 came from left field with some heavy flicks, and Kanye’s meeting with the president checks off his “Taylor Swift” moment of this decade. Here are some of our staff’s favorite movies & albums this past year:
Good Time (2017)
Quite possibly the Safdie brother’s break-out film. Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, and a whole handful of street cast New Yorkers, this acid-heist thriller displays Pattinson’s transformation as an actor. It’s everything you want if you’re looking to be stressed out-in a good, cinematic way. Like, remember the first time you saw Requiem for a Dream?
The movie is physically rough, emotionally turbulent, and very harshly textured. With Oneohtrix Point Never backing the film with his immensely synth-heavy score, this flick will transcend you into a time and space of palm-sweating, knee jittering excitement. There’s something about the shots, pacing, heavy use of neon lights, crowded scenes, and how the protagonist is just a downright idiot that will leave you biting your nails into a fleshy pulp.
Section.80 – Kendrick Lamar (2011)
This album is near and dear to my heart and my high school days. This was the soundtrack that played during the first times of getting high and riding bikes into the sunset. Being 16 and hearing the fluidity and range of Lamar’s flow blended with deep rooted interludes, was a completely new sound.
Considering Kendrick’s first mixtape was on the tail end of the blog-era of rap, the production is incomparable. With no heavy 808’s or minimal snares on any of the tracks, but rather airy horns and melodies from a Fender Rhodes, the whole tape takes you through eclectic samples from the “Rigamortis” sample to Aaliyah’s vocals on “Blow my High”. Section.80, until this day still stands a powerful document of promising young rapper finding his voice, and boy have we seen that happen these past years.
As someone who has consistently chosen style over substance in my media choices, Drive stands out as an audiovisual treat of the past decade – simultaneously indebted to neo-noir films of years past while very much feeling grounded in the present. Ryan Gosling’s acting chops have always felt papered over the cracks by his strikingly good looks, yet his casting as the unnamed antihero Driver works as something more than a success, but less than a masterstroke.
The quiet delivery of Gosling contrasts with the extreme violence carried out onscreen and, soundtracked by what amounts to an 80s fever dream headlined by electropop producer Kavinsky, transports the viewer to a world of low lights, pink neons, and seedy underworlds. Drive fills this underworld with a cast of compelling characters – Oscar Isaac is terrific as the flawed yet redeemable Standard Gabriel, and Albert Brooks is delightfully twisted as mobster Bernie Rose. Ultimately, Drive stays true to its roots and prevents any real redemption arc – instead opting for a stylish climax to a world that was doomed to unravel from the start.
Sunbather by Deafheaven announces the band to a wider stage, bringing a sense of beauty to the world of black metal not seen on Roads to Judah. Just look at the album cover – the warm pink and orange tones feel appropriate for someone occupying the top spot on Spotify’s Feel Good playlist, rather than a band experimenting with how far they can push a genre – yet it perfectly reflects the pastel guitar sounds found on their sophomore record.
Stretching the limits of what constitutes a metal (or post-metal) album, the trio simultaneously blend shoegaze influences, hardcore, and post-rock breakdowns with George Clarke’s screaming lyrics. Beautifully haunting walls of sound feature restrained layers of noise yearning to push to the fore – a world of dichotomies, further emphasized by the album structure. 3 of the 7 songs comfortably push the 10-minute barrier, interweaved with a series of interludes (Irresistible is a gorgeous 3-minute riff that should go on forever) – all in all encapsulating the myriad influences and versatility that define the world of Deafheaven.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Call Me By Your Name is one of those rare films that casts an unbreakable spell on anyone who watches it. The film centers on the relationship between Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) during an Italian summer. This movie portrays love with such vulnerability that it shatters your heart at so many moments. The acute observations of desire and the story shot from Elio’s point of view is agonizingly heartbreaking, but beautiful. Each and every emotion of the movie was felt so deeply by the heart. The splendid sunny Northern Italian landscapes are so surreal and stare-worthy. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s performance and outstanding chemistry in this movie is one that will be remembered throughout the generations. The soundtrack and Sufjan Steven’s heavenly voice just adds up to the beauty of the movie. It is one of the greatest love stories of our time and encapsulates what’s good in the world…falling in love and life as one boy becomes a man.
Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
This was one of those films that has stayed with me, and it was much more than just an action film. There were mixed reviews of the film, but the real strength of the film were the themes of redemption, acceptance, trust, equality, and above all hope. The Mad Max movies have always been cautionary tales – this is what will happen to our world if we keep abusing it, if we keep fighting over things like money and materialism. It’s interesting how many of the things in Fury Road are problems in parts of our existing world – people are still sold as sex slaves, warlords still use things like water and crazy ideology to control their people – and we still fight over oil. One of the most compelling themes in the film was class struggle and how resources are divided. It is a cautionary tale of what happens when a society values consumerism over basic human rights.
Get Out (2017)
Get Out was the movie we needed this decade – politically relevant, suspenseful, and with a splash of satirical humor. Amidst the constant stories of racial tension and police brutality in the news, Get Out served as a provocative representation of race in America. Jordan Peele’s debut feature excelled at creating a true sense of uneasiness while maintaining a comedic tone about the unspoken realities of racism. Peele’s ability to literalize black fear and intertwine that with horror enabled him to create one of the most sensationalized films of the decade.
Channel Orange (2012)
Frank Ocean’s debut album, Channel Orange, is arguably one of the most sirenic, mysterious and euphoric albums of this past decade. From the soulful vibes of “Pink Matter” to the blissful melodies in “Thinkin’ about You,” Ocean leads us on a trip of discovery, revealing the truths behind love, life and happiness from his personal experiences. Whether you recite every single song or just sway back and forth to your favorites, Channel Orange gives you all the feels and has earned its proclaimed status a “classic” of our time.