Ok, so…now’s the time to gush over my favorite movies of the past year. Overall, I think 2015 was a pretty good year for movies, and I say so even with the intellectual honesty of knowing that to call any year a bad/best year for movies is an immature stance at best. After all, who can honestly say that they have seen EVERY MOVIE released of a given year nowadays? Sure in the past one could just rely on a well worn copy of the Turner Classic Movies channel schedule/TV Guide/Leonard Maltin’s yearly book or whatever before calling it a day, but now? Thousands of movies are being released per year, some that make it to theaters, others that are only seen in the most obscure of film festivals.
Even if one can track down every movie released on a certain year, one would have to devote a humongous chunk of one’s time to finish them all and give an opinion on them. Shit, at that point, one may as well be getting paid for it. Hence why I title these yearly lists, “MY Favorite Movies of Insert Last Year Here”, because, well, I am only a human being, and I have only seen so much.
With that said, this portion is going to be a little different from last time in that I will just link back to the previous movies I gushed over, and also have some honorable mentions (which may also have links). This will be before I get to the more juicy parts detailing some more movies I saw this year. So, here goes:
Favorite Movies (of what I’ve written about so far):
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- While We’re Young (ignore the part where I piss and moan about, “Aloha”. Actually, nevermind, read that part anyway so you can see part of why I love this movie)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Honorable Mentions (with short summaries):
The Assassin: Slow, beautiful and pretty simple, here is a movie that does for Kung Fu movies what the Nicholas Winding Refn-directed, “Drive” does for action movies. If that doesn’t sound like your thing? Well, I can’t blame you, but I was enthralled by how beautiful it is, with a neat central turn by Qi Shu as a warrior torn between duty and empathy for her supposed enemy. Call it, “boring”, or call it just a feather in the pretentious cinephile’s cap, either way this is a hell of an experience.
Krampus: I was very skeptical about this movie, and no, I did not know about the actual legend of Krampus, the mythical monster who punishes bad children. But after seeing it with a date (yes, a date. Even us anti-social people like to get together with others once in a while), I am surprised by how funny, horrifying and earnest this movie is in equal measures. What at first seems like a, “2edgy4me”, early 2000’s Newgrounds-tier project that throws the finger to the holiday season (at least, the one celebrated in the United States of America) turns out to be a spooky, compelling cautionary tale on family woes, the spirit of the holidays, and even holiday wishes. And just wait until you get to the ending. What a ghoulish surprise! And it was mostly done with practical effects! Yeah, just go see this one.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Huh. A retro-revival based on a baby boomer-era TV show that is actually pretty damn good? Directed by that guy who really likes Quentin Tarantino and married Madonna? With Henry Cavil/Armie Hammer/Alicia Vikander playing distinct and sexy characters without any strained irony? I…don’t know how to handle this, honestly, but somehow they did it. Not exactly a masterpiece, but it is pretty damn fun. Here’s proof that digging into the past for content and ideas isn’t such a dire creative dead end after all. In your face, Simon Reynolds.
Spy: Here is a great modern example of the genre spoof done right, with Melissa McCarthy proving herself to be among the best comedic acts working today. Not to mention a neat supporting cast full of other memorable acts, with Jason Statham as a moronic veteran super agent walking away with just about every scene they’re in. If there are weak links (and there are), is that the plot feels a bit weak, with an obvious reveal and action sequences that are pretty rough/obvious in execution, though that fight sequence in the kitchen is pretty gnarly. Still, this comedy is like a fresh breeze blowing away a miasma of unfunny comedy sequels and even more unfunny comedy spoofs that we have been plagued with over the years.
Kingsman: Nasty, crude, political and fast-paced, here is a movie that is both unafraid of embracing the problematic parts of its genre and of using said parts as a blunt instrument of class warfare of all things. A movie that will have you craving shiny Oxfords while seething about class relations and the strife that results, the more one thinks about this movie the more amazing it is that it got made…much more released.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: *sigh* Yes, we get it Tom Cruise. You do your own stunts. Keep doing…whatever it is you do that makes you stay young, just as long as we get a good movie out of it. And here, we did. What’s striking about this movie is how inventive/hard hitting the action sequences are, all the while being tinged with a hint of moral ambiguity that colors, you know, actual Secret Agent business. Granted, it does hit a few road blocks. The character interactions do feel a bit muted this time around (though there is a neat bit by Jeremy Renner that is quite a relief to those who were rightfully pissed when he made an ass of himself during interviews for, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”) and the movie’s bad guy definitely feels like they are one more draft away from actually being compelling. But what is here actually works. Here is a popcorn flick that isn’t afraid to have a little bite while leaning a bit hard on its star power and production values.
It Follows: Overrated? I kinda agree with that opinion. But I won’t deny that this movie got to me. Here is one of the best concepts for a horror movie in years, and while the movie hinges just a tad too much onto the 1980s horror movie aesthetic/tropes, the result is a existential surprise that will leave the more paranoid viewers amongst you looking over your shoulder after a date.
Jupiter Ascending: Yep, I said it. Come at me, Razzies! In all seriousness, this movie is a fucking mess. Not all of the plots fit together, the movie moves at a rapid pace to the point where it can be hard to tell what the hell is going on, some of the dialogue is clunky as hell (“Bees are designed to detect royalty”, Sean Bean says as CGI bees buzz around Mila Kunis in the shape of a flowing dress. Seriously, that actually happens), the central story is predictable and the central mind-bending concepts are indeed mind-bending but feel weighted down by the twin plagues of Exposition and Wonky Character Development. But you know what? To quote Anton Ego, “The new needs friends”, and while this movie doesn’t make it all the way, there’s enough bonkers, inventive shit going on at just about every second that I am willing to forgive the movie not quite sticking the landing. Expect this movie to become quite a cult item in the coming years despite its flaws. Oh, wait…it kinda already has.
Sicario: Brutal, bold and pretty damn pessimistic even when it cozies up the U.S. Department of Defense. What at first seems to be a simplistic actioneer with The War on Drugs as its backdrop turns into a horrific display of collateral damage and loose laws, with a jaundiced view on drug prohibition, law enforcement and the morality of one’s superiors. That it features Roger Deakins’ jaw-dropping cinematography, a powerful soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson, a good script by Taylor Sheridan, perceptive direction by Denis Villeneuve, and compelling performances by Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro…well, that just makes it all the more hard-hitting.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A multi-million dollar fan project by J.J. Abrams and company…that actually works this time. Compelling characters, great pacing, and all brimming with plenty of interesting implications for the universe it inhabits, this is a hell of a way to reintroduce one of the most acclaimed, criticized and imitated works in cinema history. The wait for the next one is getting pretty damn agonizing. Looks like I’ll have to sate my appetite with some of the video games. And the older movies. And those Clone Wars cartoons.
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