Body and Soul is a 1925 silent film about a young woman who is raped and abused by her small town’s reverend and chooses to run away because she knows no one will believe her. So it’s not a big surprise to read that the version of the film I watched on the Criterion Channel was heavily edited: director Oscar Micheaux cut nearly half its runtime in order to get a release. The director’s cut is long lost and I can’t find much information about Michaeux’s novel that he based the film on, but I’d bet that the original version was an even more powerful condemnation of the manipulative and hypocritical nature of those in power.
What can I say except that it feels really good to finally be at the end of eight weeks of list-making fun. Every decade in the history of video gaming has seen massive technological and business practices, and the 2010s were no different. In the past 10 years, Nintendo had a rise and fall and rebirth between the 3DS, Wii U, and Switch. Microsoft and Sony switched places as the dominant home gaming system manufacturer, setting the stage for another epic console war to begin this fall. New innovations in the mobile, augmented reality, and virtual reality spaces created whole new ways to play (the first Kinect came out in 2010). Ten years ago, companies like EA tried to kill of used game sales with annoying online passes, nowadays they might have succeeded thanks to the creation of subscription services like Origin Access and Xbox Game Pass. Plus, now that every game is a “live service,” who can afford to sell their games anymore?
On the flip side, identifying as a “gamer” has never felt worse. For my whole life, I liked feeling part of a community, and I always championed the positive aspects of gaming. The Gamergate controversy really changed that, and personally, I never really recovered an interest in participating in online communities. Which is a shame, because I know there are a ton of great people out there. Most folks I meet a PAX Prime seem nice, there are plenty of writers and YouTubers I adore. But there’s this horrible, misogynistic, racist stink on gaming now that I’ll never be able to totally ignore. It feels like once the nerds realized they had the numbers and the power, they became even worse than the bullies. But enough about this sad thought, let’s talk about some of my all-time favorite games!
Something about making top 10 movie lists feels more serious than the other three. I guess it’s partly because it feels like it’s the medium where John, Colin, and I are closest to being on a level playing field. Like, there’s only so much music and TV all three of us have in common, and we don’t really talk about video games at all. But film, I mean, we have a whole weekly podcast dedicated to that! I think this phenomenon is even bigger than this blog, as tough as that might be to believe. The Oscars feel more important than the Grammys, you know? I guess it might have to do with how big theatrical releases are about as close as we get to shared culture these days. I wonder how that will change in the next 10 years?
Anyway, I made my list free of any pretension. I didn’t look at any critic’s top movies of the decade lists, and since I’m going first, I don’t even know what John and Colin are going to include on their lists. This is just me sorting through the movies I love the most right now. So know this: I could easily do a top 100 as there’s a helluva lot of great movies I would rate highly that didn’t make this list. Similarly, I have a shitload of movies in my backlog I still need to catch up with that could very well change this top 10 if I were to do it again. Which, hopefully, I will get the chance to do someday. I’d hate to have to try to defend this these picks for the rest of my life.
Of all the media that we’re covering in these best of the decade lists, TV shows possibly changed the most this past decade. Back in 2009, the zeitgeist still was driven by network TV, and to some extent basic cable. I’d argue premium networks like HBO and Showtime were still niche, it seemed like plenty of people caught up with shows like The Sopranos and Dexter by waiting for the DVDs. Obviously streaming has changed all that, and the industry is still figuring out how this new normal is going to work.
The other thing about TV is that it’s the most time-sensitive of all the media we’ll be writing about, in that historically, it’s been pretty uncommon for people to go back and catch up with shows that are off the air. That’s changing too, but it has the funny effect on making everything on my list make me nostalgic for the times in my life I was watching them. Certain shows are college shows, grad school shows, new career shows. Which makes me realize that I don’t have big set milestones for this next decade like I have had in the past, which is scary… Let’s not get existential, let’s just do this list.
Here we go, top albums of the decade. For a long time, I’ve stressed that I’m never trying to make actual “best of” lists, because that’s impossible. But for these ones, I’ve made it known for a while that my approach was going to be even more unusual: Basically, I took all the albums from the previous 10 years of top tens, added a few more that I found out about at the wrong time, and started dividing them into groups. When I had 10 groups, I picked my favorite five album in each group, then my number one of those. Then, when I had all 10 winners, I ranked them somewhat arbitrarily… I guess just overall in terms of how much I like them now.
For me, this was the only way I could take on such a daunting task, and it resulted in a top five I’m extremely confident in, and a 6-10 that feels pretty good. Unfortunately, I skew toward the beginning of the decade, which I think mostly reflects that I’ve had more time with those albums and less that more recent music isn’t as good – because it is, check the honorable mentions in each section. It also doesn’t help that I’ve never been very confident in defending my own taste in music, and it’s only slightly comforting that I had a full decade of top 10 lists on this blog to fall back on for references as I wrote this. I guess what I’m saying is take it easy and please don’t be mean. I’m trying my best.
Well, unlike some other media, it would be hard to make a case that 2019 was the year of the decade for video games. With aging hardware and new consoles looming on the horizon, this last year was all about keeping on keeping on. Games as a service continues to be a thing, with the added wrinkle that game subscription services really hit their stride with the massive success of Xbox Game Pass. I guess it sort of became a year about catching up with stuff for best of the decade and wrapping up this console generation. It didn’t help that some of the year’s most exciting titles either disappointed (Anthem) or slipped into 2020 (DOOM Eternal). Oh well, plenty to look forward in the months to come!
Both John and Colin talked about how unusually good this year was at the cinema, so I gotta admit: there are a lot of good movies I haven’t seen yet due to an unusually hectic December and January. Given that it’s award season, it stings that I haven’t seen prestige pictures like 1917 and Little Women, indie darlings like The Souvenir and The Last Black Man in San Francisco, foreign films like Pain and Glory and Ash is Purest White, or literally any 2019 documentaries.
But! I did see a lot of shitty movies. I went to the movies with my dad most Tuesdays last year, and that meant I saw some real clunkers, like Men in Black: International, Dark Phoenix, and Terminator: Dark Fate. It also meant I got to spend more time with my family and see a lot of my favorite movies of the year more than once, so I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, it even helped me pick up on a pattern in cinema this year: If 2017 was the year of the mom, 2019 was the year of the dad.