lists: Little White Lies, 100 best films of the decade

The Little White Lies: 100 Best Films of the Decade list saw ‘more than 300 films nominated by some 70 writers’. Starting the first day of January and working through to the end of 2020, it seems an ample amount of time to watch through this publication’s decade-defining films – a fantastic starting point for any critic looking to stretch their points of cultural reference. I’ve used LWL’s rating system, too: a ‘unique tripartite’ capturing three aspects of the film experience – anticipation, enjoyment & retrospect – in all their individual glories, with a handful of brief reviews and stills.

3 / ? / ? | 100. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Ramsay, 2011)
2 / ? / ? | 99. The Nine Muses (Akomfrah, 2010)
2 / ? / ? | 98. Bastards (Denis, 2013)
3 / ? / ? | 97. Two Days, One Night (Dardenne brothers, 2014)
4 / 2 / 3 | 96. The Work (McLeary & Aldous, 2017)
? / ? / ? | 95. Manchester by the Sea
? / ? / ? | 94. Eighth Grade
? / ? / ? | 93. Silence
? / ? / ? | 92. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
? / ? / ? | 91. Paradise Trilogy
90. Goodbye to Language
89. Goodbye First Love
88. Embrace of the Serpent
87. Blue Valentine
86. Nocturama
85. Mysteries of Lisbon
84. House of Tolerance
83. Horse Money
82. Good Time
81. Ex Machina
80. Enemy
79. Pariah
78. Kill List
77. Certain Women
76. Vitalina Varela
75. The Day He Arrives
74. Personal Shopper
73. Like Someone in Love
72. Girlhood
71. The Assassin
70. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
69. Knight of Cups
68. Zero Dark Thirty
67. The Wolf of Wall Street
66. The Grand Budapest Hotel
65. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
64. No Home Movie
63. Meek’s Cutoff
62. Weekend
61. This Is Not a Film
60. The Wind Rises
59. The Duke of Burgundy
58. OJ: Made in America
57. Raw
56. Paterson
55. Leviathan
54. Inherent Vice
53. Arrival
52. American Honey
51. Stories We Tell
50. Cameraperson
49. 20th Century Women
48. The Other Side of the Wind
47. L for Leisure
46. Call Me by Your Name
45. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
44. Hereditary
43. Gone Girl
42. Elle
41. High Life
40. Zama
39. The Turin Horse
38. Magic Mike XXL
37. Leviathan
36. Burning
35. 120 Beats Per Minute
34. The Act of Killing
33. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
32. Parasite
31. Holy Motors
30. Poetry
29. Phoenix
28. First Reformed
27. The Irishman
26. Inception
25. Boyhood
24. Paddington 2
23. Certified Copy
22. Song to Song
21. The Souvenir
20. Frances Ha
19. Eden
18. Stray Dogs
17. Lady Bird
16. You Were Never Really Here
15. Roma
14. The Tree of Life
13. The Social Network
12. The Master
11. Get Out
10. Tabu
9. Margaret
8. It’s Such a Beautiful Day
7. Toni Erdmann
6. Carol
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Phantom Thread
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Moonlight
1. Under the Skin

criticism, winter

Dunstanburgh Castle from the South, J. M. W. Turner, 1797–8

In early December, I visited Tate Britain’s Prints & Drawings Room for a private viewing of Dunstanburgh Castle from the South. Driven by Olga Tokarczuk‘s lexical plow to search for the root and bone of chiaroscuro‘s definition, I had landed on Tate’s website and, a short email thread and one fortnight later, was booked to sit with this original Turner study.

Chiaroscuro translates from Italian to ‘light-dark’, referring to the artist’s application of a striking contrast between the two. My notes: ‘it all bleeds together … wet charcoal runs from sky to stone to land and leaps to water – nature & manmade become one shape; all is violent.’ It felt primitive. On my visit, I was reminded of a Guardian article I’d read, discussing nature’s cry for agency in the Anthropocene – the distinction between man and nature is an illusion. I felt inspired to keep writing, so I started with the article’s author and his new book on the subject.

Reviewing each book I read in no more than 100 words is an exercise in observation, writing critically with economy, and always with a magpie alert on my shoulder – what could I use? What to take and tack to my own writing? With a fondness for thought about the gifts and curses of each season, their symbolisms, winter has become my reading theme: death, the crisp fragility of our minds, how colour and shape blends with the snow, the destruction of nature, the end of the world, but also a sense of spirituality, family, survival in the cold, and the magic of lingering breath.

favourite winter book
Ness – Robert Macfarlane

critique for the portfolio
Ness – Robert Macfarlane

Ness – Robert Macfarlane


Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood | Penguin, 2019

Orford Ness, a shingle spit smudged along the Suffolk coast, is a bleak stage for Earth’s destruction. Swift, part-personified forces of nature are allegorically cast by Macfarlane to thwart humanity’s monochrome dream – ‘maximise injuries incompatible with life’ – while deranged poetry deftly and urgently slows the reader, and beseeches: ‘shut up & listen, though, will you? Really listen.’ The world we see through Donwood’s pen-scratch windows, natural life colliding with cold indifference, is truly ours. Earth howls for change through agency in the Anthropocene, a voice with which to defend itself, masterfully gifted and amplified in this important book.

Her skin is lichen & her flesh is moss & her bones are fungi & she breathes spores. Spores spread as she breathes out, sucked back into her gills with each deep breath in, gusted ahead with each deep breath out. She is wired into the world. There are miles of her in a pinch of soil.


‘Armourer,’ says The Physicist – though his words are hard to make out because they are spoken softly but with force, pushing through the emerald-green sphagnum moss that is now blooming plushly in his mouth – ‘something is very wrong here.’