The Decade Decathlon: Introduction


It’s not every day you get to see a decade come to a close. In fact, it’s only every ten years. It’s easy to look back on how much time has passed between January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2019, but that’s an incredible amount of time for anyone. Many of us completed college degrees. Some people got new jobs. Others may have finally moved out and started renting or leasing an apartment. Others went from being snot-nosed middle schoolers to nearly completing college. Some people died. A few of you may have started families. But throughout all of those major life changes, one thing has always remained: film. We may have gotten older, but we’ll never be too old to go to the movies. 

I would like to formally welcome you all to my herculean task for 2019, the Decade Decathlon (trademark pending). This is a project that I’ve been planning for years and I’m eternally grateful that I can fully commit to this and execute it as I intended it. So what exactly is the Decade Decathlon? As the title implies, it’s a long, harrowing look at all of the highs and lows of the 2010’s, year by year.

Now you may be asking yourself why I would bother with a year-long retrospective of the decade and what is there to learn from it. Well, why shouldn’t there be a comprehensive look at the past decade of film? The medium has changed exponentially since the dawn of the decade, with a few of the major milestones being the rise of streaming services, the dominance of the MCU over pop culture, Disney taking over the world, the recession of romantic comedies, the stagnation of YA adaptations, and the fall of several major directors and production companies. A lot can happen in a decade, but we tend to look at it from a microscopic perspective, not a macro one. We’ve grown to accept trends without realizing that they weren’t always trends. And that’s what I want to do with the Decade Decathlon. I want to look beyond the movies and identify how we got to where we are. 

So does that mean that I’m going to watch every movie that came out in a year and give a final analysis on them? Even if I decided to quit my job and dedicate my life to watching every major movie that came out in the 2010s, I don’t think I would even get to 25% of all of the movies that came out during the decade. So I had to limit myself. I had to ask myself what are the movies that are worth evaluating? What makes a movie stand out? Should I only look at well-reviewed movies, or do bad movies have a place in the discussion too?

With that in mind, I decided that for each year I would select six movies to reflect on. I’m not saying that I’m going to review the movies, though I will touch on my personal opinions for each movie, but I’ll instead look at them from an educational perspective. How can this movie help us understand the 2010’s? Did it leave a positive or negative impact on the industry and why? Did it even leave an impact, or was it swiftly forgotten to the annals of time due to extenuating circumstances? At its core, the Decade Decathlon is a history lesson meant to elucidate why the 2010s were such a special time for the industry. 

So here’s the plan; on the 15th of every month, the Decade Decathlon will update with a new look at a year in the decade. In each year, I will look at six movies across six categories that I think are fundamental in understanding the 2010s. Those six categories, their criteria, and my reasoning for creating them are as follows:

Most Decorated Movie – Which movie won the most awards at the Oscars, BAFTAS, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards? This category is pretty self-explanatory. What did people, at the time, think was the best movie of the year? Instead of talking about which movie won the most awards across every award and “Best of” lists, I wanted to keep it to just the four biggest awards shows that even casual filmgoers take notice of. Whichever movie won the most awards across all four awards will be discussed.

Worst Movie – Which movie won the Worst Picture award at the Razzies? I may not agree with the Razzie’s decisions, but the Razzies are at least a good barometer of what was popular to hate at the time. If a movie was truly called the worst, or more accurately the most hated, it deserves a full autopsy to see if it truly is that bad and its awfulness stands the test of time. 

Highest Grossing Movie – What was the highest grossing movie of the year? I don’t feel like I need to explain why the highest grossing movie of a year should be discussed. The movie made bank. But why did it make bank, and if everyone saw it, did it impact popular culture?

Biggest Bomb – What was the biggest failure of the year that lost the most money? I feel that bombs need to be discussed because they could show what movies or genres were on the way out. Clearly, no one went to see these movies. However, why did people ignore it? Was it a part of a genre that no one was interested in? Was it over budget with more funding put into it than necessary? Or was it just a bad movie? So in order to determine what the biggest bomb was, I went over to bombreport.com, looked up each individual bomb of the year, determined its production budget (not including marketing and publicity), then weighed that against its overall box office, and figured out which movie had the highest deficit. On a personal note, I’m predicting that this category may give me a variety of pleasant surprises. I may find a diamond in the rough that wasn’t appreciated in its time, and the prospect of that is too enticing to not look into.

Most Underrated Movie – What was the best movie no one went to see? This was the hardest category for me to determine. Some of these movies were relatively low-interest affairs that may or may not have been a bomb, but have a strong fanbase and were quickly forgotten about shortly after release. No fanfare, no legacy, just ephemerality. To select these movies, I first checked to see what Flixist called the Most Underrated Movie of the year and went with that. If we didn’t have an awards show for a year, I instead looked at the critical reception of different movies that were either bombs or barely made their budget back. It was a tricky category to nail down, but there are definitely some movies on here that will make you go “I completely forgot about that movie!”

Personal Favorite Movie – What did I think was the best movie of the year? You can call it self indulgent, but this category is just for me to think about what movie spoke to me for each year. What about this movie makes me so attracted to it that I think it’s better than any other movie and makes me hold it in such high regard? More importantly, does it inform a greater understanding of the decade, or just a look into my own frame of mind? I’m honestly looking forward to discovering that answer myself. 

You can expect the Decade Decathlon to go on until March of 2020, where I will conclude it with one final look into the best and worst movies of the decade as well as the biggest trends. In total, I will be looking at 62 movies (two years have seven movies that I’ll delve into with an explanation for why) and I cannot wait until this project officially starts. So I’ll see you all on May 15th when we go back to the past to where it all began, as the Decade Decathlon begins in 2010. 

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.