Hello Destructoid People.
It seems my blog has imploded again. Looking back at my old posts, where there is more than one image, they all seem to now cut off everything from the first image to the last. This is worse than a couple years back when I noticed all punctuation in my old blogs had suddenly been replaced by little black diamonds with question marks.
Regardless, I've decided to carry this broken blog on into the new decade, with a list of what I consider to be the ten most interesting movies and videogames released in the past ten years!
My overall feeling is that the 2010s pale in comparison to the 2000s – in my opinion that strongest decade ever for both movies and videogames. Nonetheless, there were of course some brilliant works released in the last ten years, and I'm happy to highlight my favourites amongst them. So let's get started!
Movie #10: Ocean Heaven (2010)
Starring action star Jet Li, cast against type here in a muted dramatic role as a single father, diagnosed with cancer, to an autistic teenage son, this Chinese film is one of the more simple and profoundly beautiful films I've seen this decade.
Game #10: Super Mario 3D World (2013)
While seemingly forgotten about in between the eminently popular Mario Galaxy and Mario Odyssey, Nintendo's more marginalized multiplayer-focused main-line Mario game, Super Mario 3D World, is, in my opinion, maybe the best Mario game ever made. I think part of the reason for its diminished popularity is simply that most people probably didn't have other people to play it with. To get the most out of 3D World, you really had to have a couple friends you could play through the whole game with in couch co-op. 3D World happened to come along at just the right time for me, when I was living in college residence and could play through the entire game with my buddies, and I think this is why I remember the experience more fondly than the single-player-centric titles. Mario 3D World is 3D platforming perfection, and for sure Nintendo's best co-op multiplayer game.
Movie #9: A Taxi Driver (2017)
Nine years before the Tiananmen Square massacre, South Korea had its own similar crisis – no less significant in scale or character – wherein hundreds if not thousands of pro-democracy mostly-student protesters were gunned down by their own government; this event being known as the Gwangju Uprising. If you've heard of Tiananmen Square, but haven't heard of Gwangju, there's a reason for that: in Korea, the Carter administration was supporting the killers, therefore the Western media did its part by ignoring the story. This paradigm can be seen today in the disproportionate coverage given to Hong Kong protests, compared to more significant and more violently-suppressed protests in places like Chile and Haiti and around the world, where, rather than protesting communist-China (an official U.S. enemy), people are protesting US-backed fascists. Basically, if the West bears some responsibility for the horrors taking place in the third world, and could easily do something to improve the situation, don't expect to read about it in the news – but if there's an opportunity to illustrate the evils of communism, expect big headlines...
A Taxi Driver is the best of a slew of excellent Korean political thrillers released in recent years, including 1987 and The Attorney, dealing with the democratization of South Korea. As someone now living in South Korea, it is sobering to think of how far the country has come in just a few short decades, within the lifetimes of most Koreans alive today. When I watched A Taxi Driver, I knew nothing about the Gwangju Uprising, and for that reason the film made a huge impact on me. But more than that, the film itself is an incredible piece of work – a blockbuster production for South Korea, centered on a phenomenal performance by Song Kang-ho (my favourite Korean actor), who injects his role with an enormous amount of pathos and humour – genuine humour – this is not the grey depressing political film I fear I'm making it sound like!
Game #9: Red Dead Redemption (2010)
By far my favourite Rockstar game, Red Dead Redemption came along at a time when I was really getting into old Western movies, and the setting, so underutilized in the realm of videogames, was ripe for a game to come along and do it justice. Red Dead Redemption did that and more, and I still think it stands above all the Grand Theft Auto games, and its sequel, as the most compelling and truly fun-filled open-world Rockstar's created.
Movie #8: The World of Kanako (2014)
"Revenge thriller" is a genre that really exploded in the 2000s, with the likes of Kill Bill (one of my favourite films), and a whole slew of incredible, dark action films out of South Korea. As for the 2010s, my favourite genre film is probably The World of Kanako, by the Japanese ultra-stylist auteur Tetsuya Nakashima (who's best known for another excellent revenge movie from this decade called Confessions). Starring Koji Yakusho, as a real scumbag anti-hero, searching for his missing daughter, this is a twisty, colourful, ultraviolent spectacle of a movie, with a lot of interesting themes relating to bullying and alienation, and the rift of understanding dividing child and parents.
Game #8: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Bethesda followed up Fallout 3 – probably my favourite game of the last console generation – with an even more deep and addictive open-world that I ended up sinking twice as much time into. This is the kind of game I'm not sure I have time in my life for any more... but at the time, I was immersed in that world like no other game I've played.
Movie #7: The Wind Rises (2013)
The final film by Hayao Miyazaki was a fitting swan song for Studio Ghibli (at least before Miyazaki announced his un-retirement and new film); it's fantastical and visually stunning as per the director's trademark, but the story it tells is much more personal, and mature. It's my favourite of his films, and my favourite Ghibli film after Takahata's heartbreaking Grave of the Fireflies – also set in WWII.
Game #7: Way of the Samurai 4 (2012)
Way of the Samurai 4 might be the stupidest game I've ever played, and I love it. I still crack up when I think about it. There's a character named "Melinda Megamelons". The localization by XSEED games is amazing, and I think is what really sets it apart from other games in the series. It's a weird game to play, it drops you into this world with very little explanation for how the game actually works, but if you put the effort in to figuring it out, your effort is rewarded generously in silliness, and I have only good memories of this game.
Movie #6: The Congress (2013)
So let's talk about drugs. Anyone knowledgeable about psychedelics knows that their illegal status is, at best, completely irrational given their low potential for abuse/addiction/harm (they've actually been shown to get people off hard drugs, and treat depression, without side-effects), and, at worst, a form of thought control, deliberately depriving people of an essential part of the human experience so that they only know the material world, and therefore only hold values which are materialistic, conducive with our consumer-capitalist society. But psychedelic experiences can also be terrifying: they transport you to a different realm and break down your understanding of your own reality. My favourite author, Philip K. Dick, understood the limitless possibilities for drugs in science-fiction: what if a new drug was invented with this same kind of power, but the experience could be controlled by the creator of the drug... What are the ramifications? My favourite novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is about something like this.
Anyway, The Congress is a film about, among other things, a soma-like drug, designed to distract you from a dystopian reality, by – literally – turning you into a cartoon character – however you may imagine yourself as such. At its best, while I am trying to determine the borderline between hallucination and reality in the cartoon world, this movie is mind-blowing in the same way that Philip K. Dick's novels are. Combining live-action with beautiful hand-drawn 2D animation, The Congress is to my mind, easily the most interesting and creative science fiction film of the decade.
Game #6: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
The Legend of Zelda series, beginning with Ocarina of Time, is my favourite videogame series of all time. I felt a deep connection to those worlds, to Hyrule, and Termina, and the Wind Waker's Great Sea, that music, those sound effects, those characters. There's a kind of magic to those games, and I felt it again, right away, exploring Skyloft for the first time. Skyward Sword isn't quite as good as Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, or The Wind Waker in my opinion – the world felt a bit segmented, like "levels" rather than a cohesive world. But Skyward Sword also has the best characters in the series hands-down, and I personally loved the ambitious implementation of motion controls. It's a phenomenal game, much better than Twilight Princess and especially better than Breath of the Wild, in my maybe unpopular opinion.
Movie #5: Cold Fish (2010), Guilty of Romance (2011), Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013)
Okay, so this is 3 movies and I'm obviously cheating a bit here on my movies list, but all three of these movies are by the same writer-director, all three are in my top 10 of the decade, and I wanted to make room on this list for a bit more variety, by grouping together films by the same filmmaker...
The filmmaker in question who made not one, not two, but three of my favourite movies of the decade is Sion Sono, actually my favourite filmmaker ever, who had an even stronger decade in the 2000s, making two of my top 10 favourite films of all time (Hazard and Love Exposure). While nothing released in the last 10 years reaches that level, Sono, for his part was extremely prolific (in 2015 alone he put out 5 feature films and a TV special), and is responsible for many of my favourite films of the 2010s. The best of which are his first two films of the decade: the sublimely dark and insane crime dramas Cold Fish (about a fish store owner whose unstable relationship with his wife and daughter comes to a head when their family comes into the orbit of a charismatic rival fish store owner who turns out to be a serial killer) and Guilty of Romance (about a housewife whose wish to express herself outside her robotic subservient relationship with her husband leads her to live a secret life as a model, eventually leading her down a dark path into prostitution, where liberating herself from male opression takes on a dramatic new character), as well as the more lighthearted "Why Don't You Play in Hell?" (a hilarious, anarchistic, loose account of Sono's own experience becoming a filmmaker).
In a society dominated by manners and polite appearances, Sono writes characters who either never had a filter in the first place, or whose bottled up emotions explode in the most spectacular of fashions, and I find his writing resonates with me more than anyone else's.
Game #5: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (2010)
I just realized that Fragile, even though the English version came out in 2010, was actually released in Japan in 2009, so maybe I shouldn't count it here... Oh well, too late now!
Fragile is one of the most atmospheric games I've ever played: as Seto, you wander through an abandoned world, your flashlight subtly bringing out the beauty in this world, as you search for signs of other human life (you meet only the occasional robot or ghost). Your only clues about the people who once lived in this place come in the form of collectible "memory items" with little short stories attached, that you pick up along your journey. It's a lovely little science fiction mood piece, and while it's certainly not a triple-A production in terms of gameplay design, I still find it memorable almost a decade later. It's one of the last great niche Wii games – those unsung mid-tier titles by Japanese developers, too strange and ambitious to get made on the HD consoles, where the barrier to entry for development was that much higher; this is the kind of game that made the Wii my favourite console ever.
Movie #4: Snowpiercer (2013), Okja (2017)
Another one of my favourite filmmakers, who made more than one of my top 10 movies this decade is Joon-ho Bong. Bong's latest film Parasite is getting a lot of attention this year – the first Korean film to win the Cannes film festival, and soon to be announced, undoubtedly, to be the first Korean film to get an Oscar nomination (long overdue). It's great to see such a personal favourite filmmaker get the attention he deserves. Here I thought he was making movies specifically for me!
Like Sono, his best films were actually from the 2000s: Memories of Murder and Mother. But for me, these two films, his mostly-English-language productions Snowpiercer and Okja are massive cinematic highlights of the past ten years; genuinely intelligent and interesting blockbuster action films, with outrageously eccentric casts of characters and a wicked sense of dark comedy. These movies look at the way things are, honestly, at class struggle in the case of Snowpiercer, or at how fucked up the food industry is in the case of Okja, and then build on that a wild fantastical satire to make me smile. This is what true dark comedy is. These are the most entertaining, visionary, and creative films of the decade.
Game #4: Dandy Dungeon: The Legend of Brave Yamada (2017)
After the critical success but commercial failure of Little King's Story, one of my favourite games of all time, developer Yoshiro Kimura went for most of this past decade unable to get a project off the ground, until finally he started a tiny indie studio called Onion Games – by far the most exciting developers in the industry for me right now. Their first release for mobile (now out in a definitive version on Switch and PC) knocked it out of the park – Dandy Dungeon, made on a fraction of the budget of Kimura's previous games, is still of the most charming and funny, addictive, fun and truly refreshing games to come out all decade, and I'm thrilled to see Kimura finally achieving some modicum of well-deserved success and stability in his new studio.
Movie #3: The Dance of Reality (2013)
The Dance of Reality, the first part in a planned trilogy by the nonagenarian chilean surrealist based on his autobiography, is unquestionably his finest film in my opinion. This is a film absolutely overflowing with fresh ideas, new images, things you've never seen before in a movie, at every step along the journey. I'm not sure whether to call it shocking or hilarious – there are some jaw-dropping scenes for sure – compounded by the film's casual approach to nudity (the now-90-year-old director appeared fully nude in promotional videos for this film on kickstarter to prove he was going to bare everything for the film). But overwhelmingly, my reaction to this film is that it's a truly beautiful, cinematically and emotionally rich experience, which stands as one of the decade's essential films.
Game #3: The Wonderful 101 (2013)
The Wonderful 101, by Hideki Kamiya (creator of Okami, perhaps my favourite game of all time), might be the most exciting game I've ever played. Right from the start it's charming and colourful, with very creative gameplay mechanics, but as the game builds and builds upon itself, piling on more and more spectacular setpieces, as the game continually raises the bar on itself, I really didn't think it was possible any more that it could conclude in a way that felt big enough and satisfying enough to be worthy of what came before... but boy did it ever. The Wonderful 101 is pure action-game perfection.
Movie #2: It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
It's Such a Beautiful Day is a feature-length animated film by Don Hertzfeldt, the creator of Rejected, done in his usual stick-figure style. This is a tough sell for people apparently, but I am 100% serious when I say that it's the most poignant film of the decade. It's also one of the funniest films of the decade, when it wants to be, and it's also, believe it or not, one of the most visually creative films of the decade, thoughtfully layering in all manner of in-camera visual effects (the animation is all shot on film the old-fashioned way) to achieve the desired mood for each shot. Trust me when I say, you need to watch this film, preferably in the highest quality possible: it'll be well worth the 62 minutes of your time.
Game #2: Deadly Premonition (2010)
What is there left to say about Deadly Premonition? Suffice it to establish, I'm in the camp that firmly believes that Swery knows exactly what he's doing, that what's great about Deadly Premonition was completely intentional, and that the game is a genuine near-masterpiece. I'll illustrate why I like this game, by describing an early quest: A police deputy can't find the key to a file, so he asks you to look for the key around the office, which he says has a keychain with a particular kind of squirrel on it. Of course, this is total mundanity, but that's okay. I really like doing unstressful, mundane little jobs for characters in videogames – my favourite part of the Zelda series for example is completing all those little side-quests for people.
But here's the twist: the office is full of keys with squirrel keychains on them – each keychain featuring a different species of squirrel, and each time you bring him the wrong key, upbeat music fills the soundtrack as he describes in exuberant excruciating detail the characteristics and behaviour of the species of squirrel you brought him, versus the one he's looking for... So the game doesn't just give you a mundane task, it lets you know that it knows how mundane it's being, and then doubles down on the mundanity! What I'll call the Flower Sun and Rain effect. And I love it. It's hilarious! In fact, I deliberately avoided bringing him the correct key until last, because I so enjoyed listening to his long drawn-out squirrel commentaries. This is the kind of pleasure that this game is rife with – this horror game... this very long, and extraordinarily ambitious horror game, which was initially released as a $20 bargain bin title on Xbox 360 (still probably the best version).
Movie #1: Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)
Right, so this is a "limited event series", not actually a movie, but I'm counting it here anyways because it's the best damn content of the decade by far. The original Twin Peaks was already my favourite show, but I had no idea what to expect with this 25-years late "season 3". What I got was mind-blowing right from episode 1, a show that goes from absolutely sublime absurdist comedy in one scene, to the most mesmerizing audiovisual art the next, having nothing in common with anything else in the medium. It's without a doubt the most radical and visionary thing to ever air on TV, if not humanity's greatest artistic achievement.
Game #1: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2011)
Ghost Trick, from Shu Takumi the creator of the Ace Attorney series, is a rare and perfect blend of clever puzzle gameplay and great storytelling, with a colourful and eccentric cast of characters, complete with a distinctive aesthetic and lovely animations. I love Ace Attorney, but Ghost Trick is better in pretty much every way – especially gameplay-wise. The writing has that same uniquely videogame-y charm to it, and is laugh out loud funny, but even moreso than Ace Attorney, it builds into a narrative that I was genuinely completely engrossed in. For what it wants to be, Ghost Trick is pretty much a perfect game, and is my pick for game of the decade... Damn, I need to play it again!