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As we approach this weekend’s Oscar ceremony, we draw ever-closer to finally closing the book on 2014 at the movies. As we do that, we will likewise close the book on an entire half-decade.

I know, “time flies” right?

Now that we are more than six weeks into the new year, I feel like 2014 has settled well enough to start considering the past five years as a whole. It’s especially interesting for me to consider since I’ve been keeping up this site the whole time and have covered these films as they happened. Some of them elevated themselves over time, some fell into the gaps between years, and some have stayed on a lofty perch from the moment I saw them.

For one reason or another though, these are ten of the films that define the decade so far for me…not “the best”, not “the most important”, just ten that mark the time (click on any of the images to read my original review).

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12 YEARS A SLAVE

This moment makes us feel awful, and it is supposed to. It is a stunning and horrifying reminder that to mind our own business is to placate injustice. To mind our own business is downright vicious.

Keeping to ourselves leads us to forget; and we have already forgotten far too much.

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BEFORE MIDNIGHT

For a long time, Jesse and Celine have represented the most idyllic embodiment of romance. Theirs was a connection formed on spontaneity and romance. Hearing them discuss the state of their union is like knowing that in a world where Rome and Juliet survived, they ended up going to couple’s counselling.

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CAFE DE FLORE

You can walk down the street, listening to your favourite song, and get it in your head that everyone is smiling at you. Perhaps the truth is, that you are the one who is smiling, and they are just smiling back? If you’re non-committal, you might say that it’s a little of both, but this question of cause and effect can be a nuanced one, and have more than one right answer.

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THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

We have been brought to THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL to consume sweet, delectable treats…and the chef has spared no expense.

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HER

People like Theodore are no longer alone. They may not want to step outside their own little cocoon, but are still interacting with other people in other cocoons in a real way…ways that find that real harmony between the virtual and physical worlds.

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INCEPTION

The possibilities of our own dreams are an amazing notion. Not our goals – our dreams. The parts of our brains we barely use while we’re awake. In a rested state we can re-write the rules of time and space and witness some truly amazing things.

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THE SOCIAL NETWORK

One can’t help but look at what these characters created…how it has affected our lives…and wonder if we are in fact better off?

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STORIES WE TELL

The film allows Polley and her family a way to come to grips with a deception. By presenting it as truth, they are able to forge it into their own identities. By the time it’s all over, neither truth nor identity have been broken. Much the opposite, they have been made even stronger.

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THE TREE OF LIFE

As a child begins to grow, the parent is all-knowing – a light like the abstract image of a flame that breaks up the chapters of this film. However, as the child ages, they begin to question their faith. Like a sheep that decides to stray from the shepherd, they start to think that mom and dad don’t know everything after all. Then where are they supposed to go for guidance?

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ZERO DARK THIRTY

We get through that amazingly executed final act, and like Maya we find ourselves shaken and spent. The movie doesn’t celebrate the mission and doesn’t celebrate the war. It stands up and says “This happened: Now live with it”.

What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts on the list, and your own selections for the best films of the decade so far.