Our Critics Look Back At The Best Movies Of The Decade, Some Troubling Industry-Wide Trends And The Most Exciting Developments In Dallas Film.

Two years after launching in 2012, Central Track started adding to our offerings both movie reviews and area movie news — and some very rad interviews, too.

Over that stretch, we’ve reviewed hundreds of films, championed local festivals and covered a lot of cool cinematic things happening in North Texas. At the same time, seemingly every other outlet in town took their foot off the film coverage gas pedal.

Now that the decade has reached the end, we decided it was a good time as any to take stock of things — to look back at our favorite movies, to fret over some very bad trends and to praise the people, places and things that made Dallas a great place to enjoy film in the 2010s.

Our Critics’ Top 10 Film Of The ’10s (In Alphabetical Order)

Javier Fuentes’ Top 10
Certified Copy
How to Train Your Dragon
Kill List
Mad Max: Fury Road
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Shin Godzilla
Step Up 3D

Angela Travis’ Top 10
Black Swan
The Cabin in the Woods
Cloud Atlas
Exit Through the Gift Shop
How to Train Your Dragon
Inside Out
Lady Bird
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Social Network
The Wolf of Wall Street

Kip Mooney’s Top 10
Cloud Atlas
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
A Separation
The Social Network
The Tree of Life

Favorite Actors Of The Decade

Joaquin Phoenix. I have loved him in every performance of his career — despite mostly disliking his output, except maybe for Inherent Vice. The dude’s twitchy physicality and complete immersion in a role never ceases to amaze me. Even in the mediocre The Master and the god-awful Joker, he brings his all. — JF

Leonardo DiCaprio. This seems like an easy choice, but DiCaprio really is an amazing actor. His work this past decade is almost unmatched. From Inception, Django Unchained (for which he was robbed of an Oscar), Wolf of Wall Street (another robbery) and The Revenant, he has proven his range as an actor. — AT

Philip Seymour Hoffman. Y’know what’s crazy? For a moment, I considered picking Robert Pattinson for my favorite actor of the decade and Kristen Stewart for my favorite actress. Those two remarkably took the money they earned from the terrible Twilight franchise and used it to do some of the most interesting films of the decade. But I had to go with my heart here. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose in 2014, we lost not just five more years of great performances — but decades to come. He was already considered the best American actor, creating memorable characters even in the most unmemorable of films. But in just a brief amount of time, he played a calculating political consultant (The Ides of March), a put-upon coach (Moneyball) and a duplicitous game designer (the Hunger Games series). And of course there’s his legendary mano-e-mano with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, for which he should have won the Oscar. I still miss him. — KM

Favorite Actress Of The Decade

Tilda Swinton. She has been in so many amazing movies throughout her whole career, playing characters ranging from the horrific to the bizarre to the dramatic to the funny. She is a chameleon in all senses of the word. The fact that she appears in movies and roles big and small is a testament to her commitment to the craft of movie making. — JF

Saoirse Ronan. A relatively young actress, Ronan made her name known in Atonement as the little precocious sister to Keira Knightley. She has come into her own recently with notable roles in Little Women and Lady Bird. Everything I watch her in, I enjoy immensely. She has a knack for picking strong female characters, and for making them radiate off the screen. I’m excited to see where she goes this next decade. — AT

Jessica Chastain. No other actress has gone from a complete unknown to one of the most fascinating performers in the industry in such a short amount of time. She burst onto the scene in 2011 with a staggering six films, picking up an Oscar nomination for The Help. It was the start of an incredible run. In 2012, she carried the controversial Zero Dark Thirty. In 2013, she played one half of a doomed couple in the criminally under-seen The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. In 2014, she co-starred in Interstellar but really blew the doors off the screen in A Most Violent Year as the sociopathic puppet master behind her husband’s business. The Martian and an unhinged performance in Crimson Peak followed. She could have picked some better projects in the back half of this decade, but she’s one of a handful of actors who I will see in absolutely anything. — KM

Movies That Have Aged Like Fine Wines

The Dark Knight Rises. As the last movie in the famed Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises had so much to live up to, and mostly disappointed fans. Was it the complicated plot, the choppy editing or the endlessly mockable Bane voice by Tom Hardy? Maybe all of it? But in recent years, when revisiting the entire trilogy, I’ve found the third installment surprisingly moving, providing something that most Batman media has never done: It gave Bruce Wayne a satisfying exit as Batman, and a way for him to find happiness. Given that most comics — including the famous The Dark Knight Returns — show him as a sad broken old man that’s never given up the fight and is doomed to a lonely existence, this vision of his goodbye is downright radical as far as the Batman mythos goes. The smile that Bruce gives Alfred while drinking espresso with Selina Kyle feels like a cathartic and important breakthrough for a man that had given up on life. It essentially makes TDKR a movie about mental illness and depression — having your back broken and thrown in a metaphorical pit, and coming out on the other side. — JF

The Social Network. This film is one of the most re-watchable films of the decade. It’s smart, funny, serious and well-acted. The actors just chew scenery, and Jesse Eisenberg gives his best performance of the decade. This film has stood the test of time against most others from this decade — and is still relevant today, given Facebook’s increased influence. — AT

The Wolf of Wall Street. Right in the center of the “Depiction vs. Endorsement” debate, Martin Scorsese’s riotously funny biopic sure made it look like its reprehensible finance bros were having fun — but any discerning viewer could tell he wasn’t giving a rubber stamp to their amoral behavior. Still, the director didn’t let viewers off the hook, either. In this film’s final scene, when Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is giving a seminar to a bunch of eager schmucks, they’re all rapt in hopes they too can be as rich as he was. Like so many other people, these people have bought into the lie of capitalism, as attributed to author Ronald Wright: “The poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” — KM

Movies That Have Aged Like Bad Cheese

Movies with known harassers. A big and important tectonic shift in Hollywood’s ’10s was, of course, the #MeToo movement. While it’s goofy for a man like me to be writing about women coming forward against sexual harassers, it should be said that a lot of movies starring those men — guys like Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, Louis C.K, and Casey Affleck, among many others — all leave a bad taste in your mouth if you see them nowadays. It’s nowhere near as awful as what the harassed people had to go through — I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that not seeing movies starring terrible people is perfectly OK with me. — JF

3D films. Remember when this was a thing? Films would be shot normally, and then up-converted to 3D — to supposedly “fit demand.” Only, there wasn’t a demand. Turns out, studios just wanted a cash grab for these films! Go figure! The up-conversion always made these films darker, and action sequences more difficult to see. Plus, it became a hassle to try and find screenings not in 3D. I, for one, am glad that trend is basically gone, and we can now go back to 2D films. — AT

Zero Dark Thirty. Speaking again of “Depiction vs. Endorsement,” I still don’t think the film is the pro-torture propaganda that most do. I mean, the film starts off right away by showing the audience how dehumanizing these tactics are. But the film is a little less, shall we say, judgmental about the CIA’s other questionable practices — including uses of taxpayer money for bribes, indefinite detention, human rights violations and extrajudicial killings. Don’t get me wrong: It’s still one of the best-made movies of the decade and completely compelling. But it’s got a lot to answer for. — KM

Most Overrated Movies Of The Decade

Most Pixar Movies Besides Coco. This was the decade that the Pixar lamp lost its luster. Its production run throughout the ’10s was marred with needless sequels (most egregiously two Cars movies), the forgettable The Good Dinosaur, the manipulative Inside Out and Pixar’s worst movie yet, Brave. The decade showed the formerly innovative studio taking their signature movie magic (Up and WALL-E), and turning them into a formula. Their upcoming slate in the next few years sounds interesting, but that’s first and foremost because Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network, Watchmen) will be doing the soundtrack for Soul. Here’s hoping the studio can get its act together in the 2020s. — JF

La La Land. This seems weird for me, picking a musical as overrated. But when La La Land was released, critics praised it as if it were the dawn of a new film era. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the film. But the amount of awards it was nominated for was a bit… excessive. The music and acting were lovely, sure. But there have been better original musicals that received less acclaim. — AT

Frozen. It’s still wild to me that, of all the extremely popular Disney movies this decade, this is the one that rose to a level of pure, inescapable prominence. As an adaptation of The Snow Queen, it’s terrible. For giving us that much Josh Gad, it’s reprehensible. For unleashing a song as singularly awful as “Let It Go” on the world, it’s unforgivable. I loathe that song — and I’m not even a parent. Shame on Oscar voters for giving it two awards. Give me Tangled or Moana or even the problematic Zootopia any day over this garbage. — KM

Most Underrated Movies Of The Decade

TRON: Legacy. The long-awaited sequel to the cult classic was a critical and box office flop. But it was really just one of those “ahead of its time” joints that needed a few years for its genius to really blossom. The themes that it deals with are insane. We have the thin line between humanity and artificial intelligence, order and genocide — and also an awesome Michael Shannon cameo, a Daft Punk soundtrack that still slaps to this day and Jeff Bridges basically playing The Dude but as a computer program. While nowhere near as deep as, say, The Last Jedi, there’s a lot of philosophical subtext about the concept of the self and our relationship to others, but maybe most moving is the intense love of a father for his son. — JF

Planet of the Apes series. It would’ve been difficult for me to pinpoint one Apes movie to put into my top 10 — but, as a series, it’s far and away the best series of the decade. It was overlooked by many when all three were released mostly because they were written off as reboots masquerading as cheap cash grabs. But these films are poignant, thoughtful, emotional and full of rich characters. As science fiction and reboots in general go, it’s a breath of fresh air. — AT

Christine. During the endless hype surrounding Joker, one of the most common things I heard was how accurately it portrayed mental illness. I’m still not sure about that, although Joaquin Phoenix was extraordinary in the role. A better portrayal of this is Antonio Campos’ 2016 film, which was based on a true story, no less. It did a much better job at telling the story of a person suffering from mental illness, with those around her failing to see the signs that would lead her to commit an act of horrific violence on live TV. The film also focuses on the constant pressure of younger people in the workforce to say yes to every employer demand, lest we get fired or passed over for a promotion — our mental health be damned. If only a fraction of people who made Joker a billion-dollar hit would see Christine, the world would be a better place. In that world, Rebecca Hall might be an Oscar nominee and a movie star, and there would hopefully be more empathy and understanding for people with mental illness. — KM

Biggest Trend Of The Decade (For Better or Worse)

The deification of Disney. We’re not sure when it happened, but somewhere between 2010 and 2019, Disney became a behemoth whose only superpower seemed to be buying up other studios. What went from just popularity through corporate acquisition became downright religious fervor. Suddenly, Disney could do no wrong. Marvel movies were perfect. Pixar should always take the Best Animated Feature Oscars. Disney World trips became a personality trait. Star Wars might not have fared as well, but that’s mostly because, out of the four movies released so far under the Disney banner, only one has been good (The Last Jedi), and the rise of the sexist/racist trolls within the fandom hasn’t helped matters, either. There’s obviously a dark side to all of this. — JF

Accessibility. Between the rise of streaming services and millennials cutting the cable cord, access to a variety of films has gotten easier with each passing year. Of course, there are the popular services with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, but smaller streaming services are beginning to pop up, too. For instance, Criterion now has its own service with access to the Criterion Collection and its selection of contemporary and classic films that are so important to cinema; before, we were all subjected to buying $50 Blu-rays or waiting until a sale! Shudder also gives horror fans access to over 400 horror titles, which is cool. And independent films are becoming more readily available at faster rates on streaming services. This has been a great trend as far as making cinema accessible to the masses. — AT

I.P. Obsession. It’s not just Disney. Every major studio is obsessed with finding something in their content libraries to re-use so that they don’t have to find original ideas and just have find a way to market old ones to new audiences, who are just as guilty as the industry in all this. A decade ago, a compelling thriller or romantic comedy could be one of the biggest movies of the year. But in 2019, only one live-action movie not based on a pre-existing property cracked the top 10 — Jordan Peele’s horror flick, Us. Last year, it was the lousy Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single original entry in the top 10 from 2015 to 2017. If you’re like me, and you care about movies not just as big events but as good stories, it’s been a rough decade. As studios care more about sure things and international grosses, it’s only going to get worse. — KM

Best Developments In Dallas Film

Cinestate, Fangoria and, now, Rebeller. The Dallas film community got itself a significant boost with the resurrection of the horror-focused Fangoria magazine and the subsequent (and just-announced) launch of its  outlaw cinema brand Rebeller, both of which have arrived thanks to the Dallas-based producing company Cinestate. Headed up by Dallas Sonnier, Cinestate is known for making hyper-violent exploitation movies with an almost right-wing bent — a fact that has earned the brand some controversy. Are we the biggest fan of their movies here? Not really. But bringing back the legendary Fangoria as a prestige quarterly issue more than makes up for the bad, especially now that the brand has started expanding into podcasts, books and movie screenings, as well as continuing to legitimize horror. To see it rise from the graveyard in our own backyard is a treat for local horror fans. — JF

The Movie Theater boom. Over the last 10 years, Dallas saw a massive uptick in quality new movie theaters coming to town. Since 2013, a whopping six Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas have opened in the Metroplex, bringing with it not only big blockbusters but small independent film screenings. That’s been huge; you go to the Alamo not only for movies, but for the experience in the lobby and bar, and how there always seems to be some sort of event or fun area to take pictures in where you can bolster your film-going experience. In the same vein, the Texas Theatre — famous for being the spot Oswald went immediately after shooting JFK — has also thrived, and helped bring people and businesses down to Oak Cliff. With only one screen, the Texas Theatre is very picky about what films to show, but offers classic 35mm screenings, new film screenings, concerts and local premieres during every given month. It’s also the headquarters for one of Dallas’s most successful film festivals, the Oak Cliff Film Festivalm which consistently proves itself OCFF a cornerstone for bringing unique, independent films to Dallas. For a city that once almost entirely depended on Cinemark and AMC Theatres for entertainment options in its not too distant past, this most recent decade has offered a wonderful and long-awaited growth in cinema options. Here’s hoping the next 10 years only see greater diversification. — AT

The ascent of David Lowery. Over the last decade, the North Texas native has moved between big-budget projects and micro-indies with an effortlessness that’s been astonishing to watch. His debut feature Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was an unusually emotional crime drama, and a throwback to ’70s efforts from Terrence Malick and Robert Altman. That led him to a gig with Disney, helming their live-action remake of Pete’s Dragon. (Unsurprisingly, it was one of the only one of these Disney remakes with soul.) In secret, he shot A Ghost Story right in his own backyard, again working with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. (If you’re married, it’s one of the most moving films you’ll ever see.) He also made his delightful bank robber caper The Old Man & the Gun here in the region, getting to work with Robert Redford as he nears retirement. These days, he’s slotting back into Hollywood mode, working on the fantasy epic Green Knight and a new version of Peter Pan. It feels like he’s just getting warmed up. — KM

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