Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Movies Of 2015


It’s the Oscars tonight and here’s what I loved and hated on screen in 2015.
I don’t watch television but I do watch a lot of movies. I consider myself a film snob and some might think that’s elitist sounding, however it’s not intended that way. It just means I didn’t waste my time watching Star Wars Episode 5,631 because I was too interested in trying to watch every movie made by John Cassavetes - seriously go watch Love Streams and tell me it isn’t simultaneously the oddest and greatest film.
2015 wasn’t the greatest year for movies. There were only a few that were memorable and great and the rest were just good enough or awful. So 2015 was the year of ‘just good enough’ in regard to my favorites list. As far as the worst movies list of the year, well I enjoyed writing about them more than I did watching those movies .
If you like movies maybe you will see one listed here that you didn’t know about.
My 16 Favorite Movies of 2015
  1. Carol - Even in a year when there weren’t many great movies if you were to take Carol and put it in a year with better competition it might still be the best movie that year as it was in 2015. The women (Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara & Sarah Paulson) in this cast had the best roles and performances of the year. Like The Danish Girl this film was beautifully shot from costumes to locations. That wasn’t 1950s New York you were seeing it was the architecturally underrated Cincinnati where it was filmed. This was easily the best movie of 2015.
  2. 45 Years - This movie hurts you and that’s a great thing. 
  3. Clouds of Sils Maria - Juliette Binoche can be in any film and I would watch it because she is that great of an actor. Her role is so rich in this movie and her performance is like peeling the layers of an onion only to discover it keeps going. Who knew Kristen Stewart could act? I certainly didn’t think she could until her role as Binoche’s assistant. Aside from a couple of odd and minor editing sequences that were sloppy, this movie is outstanding. Like a good movie should do, not every plot point is spelled out and you have to interpret a few things on your own and come to your own understanding of what happened. 
  4. The Danish Girl - If awards were given for prettiest movie this would be the winner. It’s beautifully shot in a technical sense, the locations are stunning and the costumes are exquisite. The story has a few weak points but Eddie Redmayne is too good in his role just like Patrick Swayze was too good in To Wong Fu. Redmayne should win the Oscar but he probably won’t. 
  5. The Lobster -This had to have been the most original concept for a movie I had seen in some time. I expected to hate it but I loved every second. The director of this movie, Yorgos Lanthimos, is the same director that brought you Dogtooth in 2009. Dogtooth was waaaaay out there but The Lobster is much more accessible. 
  6. Hateful 8 - You either get Quentin Tarantino or you don’t. This movie was the funniest thing I saw in 2015. This movie isn’t politically correct and in the context of the film it is done to make a statement on stupidity and isn’t for comedic effect. There’s probably a large segment of the population that unfortunately laughed for the wrong reasons though. 
  7. The Big Short - Brad Pitt in a smaller role actually makes him better. The idea behind this movie is take a complicated topic relating to finance and turn it into a comedy, of sorts. This movie is the American Hustle of 2015 which strangely enough stars Christian Bale too. It’s not great but it’s good enough in 2015 and then it will be largely forgotten by everyone. 
  8. The Revenant - Shot only using natural light, now think about that for a second. It’s an epic journey in film making but a little weak in plot. After watching it you feel like you went on a journey. The landscape is a greater character than Leo Dicaprio and deserves an award more than he does. Grunting for an entire film reminds me that he hasn’t played a good role since he was a teenager. Sure, he’s a blockbuster name but he’s a modern cardboard cutout actor that directors paint their palette on and he brings nothing to his roles from within. It’s a big, grand experience of a movie and despite the flaws it has I enjoyed it. 
  9. Boulevard - This is the last movie of Robin Williams. Oh, it’s a depressing film. It was overlooked by everyone. 
  10. Spotlight - It has the quality of a made for tv movie, but hey there’s the talented Mark Ruffalo and the suddenly resurrected Michael Keaton.
  11. Nasty Baby - A movie with a unique name and a dramatic and dark plot twist. 
  12. Goodnight Mommy - A German film that was the talk of indie and foreign film circles last fall and deservedly so. If you pay attention closely you will figure it out. 
  13. Ex Machina - Artificial intelligence movies are becoming a trend again but this one is good enough. Under The Skin was a darker, more subversive AI movie that came out in 2014 and I liked it better. Still, 2015 was a poor year for movies so Ex Machina makes the cut this year. 
  14. Brooklyn Bizarre - A very indie film set in the hipster Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. It’s a low-budget production but the acting and character’s arcs pull it off. 
  15. Mistress America - I’m a sucker for Noah Baumbach movies and yes, this was basically a sequel in disguise for the dearly loved Frances Ha - it just wasn’t quite as good and was in color. The movie is funny, not as lighthearted as it appears and does kind of go raging over a cliff once it leaves Manhattan for Connecticut but that appears to be on purpose. Baumbach reminds me of Woody Allen in a good way.
  16. Life - This movie made no year-end lists for 2015 but it should have. The life of James Dean has been explored over and over but this movie focuses on the true story of a photographer trying to do a photo spread with Dean for Life Magazine. The movie is largely set in New York and Indiana (thankfully very little of Hollywood) and portrays Dean in a way you might not expect just before his fatal car crash. 

The Worst Movies of 2015
These movies are insults to movies and the audiences that watch them.


Crimson Peak - I was more disappointed in this movie than any movie of the year. I had such high expectations going into it and then within the first few minutes I knew exactly where it was going and it wasn’t going to end well. This movie was The Babadook of 2015 (but worse) in how you wanted to love it but you just couldn’t lie to yourself like that. I figured out the plot in the first ten minutes so that removed any mystery for me and then I kept hoping it would give me some sense of horror or suspense or even creepiness but it couldn’t even manage those things either. This was so bad compared to director Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth which he wrote and directed in 2006. Pan’s Labyrinth doesn’t even seem like it was by the same person because it was so good compared to Crimson Peak, it had everything that Crimson Peak was missing.


Bridge Of Spies - It’s a Spielberg movie so that automatically qualifies it for this list. Spielberg never leaves anything to the imagination of the audience. He feels like you are too dumb to think for yourself so he directs in a heavy-handed, patronizing, manipulative way where he must spell everything out for you in big bold letters. Where the touch of a feather would be better for making a point he always reaches for the hammer to smash it into your head. Spielberg has never possessed any subtlety. Director Terry Gilliam says it best about how stupid Spielberg movies are. Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks and there isn’t a more safe and banal actor in the world than Tom Hanks (see everything he’s ever acted in except maybe Philadelphia) so he is perfect casting for this movie. It was nice however to see Alan Alda get a role in a movie.


Irrational Man - Woody Allen hasn’t made a good film in a very, very, very long long time. Match Point in 2005 was his last decent movie and Midnight In Paris was a complete waste. His last movie that was very good was Manhattan Murder Mystery in 1993. Before he gets too old to make movies I keep hoping he will make something worthy of his best work like Manhattan, Annie Hall, Interiors, Husbands and Wives, or Hannah and Her Sisters. New York used to be a central character in his movies and without the city he just makes average films that are lacking. Irrational Man could have been a good movie but it was shallow and once again featured an older man becoming inappropriately involved with a much younger female; a theme that has become all too common in Woody Allen movies and given his own personal life this seems creepy. The male lead is played by Joaquin Phoenix who displays the only two methods he has in his acting repertoire: being asleep or being crazy (see the strange The Master or the bad Her ). The only highlight in this movie was Parker Posey who’s character and her acting make this movie worth watching, sadly her character isn’t developed enough. Posey deserves to be in more movies and she does have more films in production including another Allen movie in 2016. Finally some of the dialogue was as poorly written as a 1980s after school special, I was cringing at the scene in the diner.


Concussion - While this was an important film for its subject matter it couldn’t seem to simply stay focused on that. It instead went meandering off on a love story and couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. It was a mess of a script with science, football, love and real life footage of games tossed into a blender. Yet, none of those topics were presented well enough in this film to make it interesting.


The Intern - Robert De Niro was once a fine actor that chose roles wisely. Now he is a man that thinks comedic roles are his forte and he’s wrong about that. These are roles that even Tony Danza would turn down if he could. He’s become stuck in a rut of playing in movies that have cheesy, brain-dead scripts and are as fluffy as cotton candy. This was the most condescending movie of 2015. It was so trite, cliche and had such stereotypical characters I felt insulted by it.


A Walk In The Woods - This movie was mostly filmed in Atlanta and North Georgia. It was nice seeing Burkharts and The Colonnade make cameos but this movie was complete dreck. The casting was terrible as Robert Redford and Nick Nolte were way too senior to play these roles based on the book. Casting these two changed what the plot was about and the jokes centering around these two being too old to hike the Appalachian Trail were so cornball it was ridiculous. Nick Nolte is in such bad health that you thought he was going to die on screen and you need subtitles to understand a word he says. The greatest laugh I had was when they were supposed to be trapped on a ledge at the old quarry in NW Atlanta and the set was so fake and poorly done it looked like a high school play production. This movie didn’t even try to be mediocre.


The Walk - Let’s take a fascinating true story, hire a decent leading actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and make a huge joke of a movie. From the opening scene of Gordon-Levitt standing atop a cartoonish Statue of Liberty, director Robert Zemeckis decides that he isn’t going to take this subject seriously and wants to throw every cent of his special-effects budget at this. Having a different director with a different vision would have made this into an okay movie and Gordon-Levitt tries his best to save it but he can’t overcome all the bad directing decisions. The movie is based on Philippe Petit, a French tight rope walker that dreams to walk a high wire spanning the two original World Trade Center towers just before they are opened to the public in 1974. The movie begins with the preparations and planning in Paris and follows it through to the execution of that plan. It could have been an exciting drama as the material was there but Zemeckis ruined it.


Knight Of Cups - Even Cate Blanchett in her prime couldn’t save this existential, self-indulgent movie about a man in a mid-life crisis. I’m a fan of long and sweeping camera shots but not constantly for two hours. What the plot consists of is Christian Bale either having sex or jumping into a body of water (pools and the ocean) repeatedly with a comatose stare on his face. Maybe that stare was his reaction to agreeing to be in this movie. Knight Of Cups directed and written by Terrence Malick is what you get when Hollywood tries to do a film that wants to edgy and arty. I am assuming people must have owed Malick favors as to the only reason they would be in this as the amount of irrelevant cameos is amazing - even Fabio is seen walking around in the background of one scene... Fabio. The humor in this movie would be in how much the studio lost in making it. Sometimes really awful movies will years later become cult favorites, well this is so bad it won’t even achieve that.


Love - Well this French movie was controversial I can say it had that going for it. The controversy was that all of the sex in the movie was real and not simulated and that’s true. This movie was all about sex from beginning to end with the three main characters and the plot was a thin wrapper of a contraceptive that mainly served as a device to film as many sex scenes as you could into a two hour and fifteen minute movie. That much real sex or even simulated sex gets boring quickly if there’s no story. The trailer makes the movie seem more interesting than it really is.


Stonewall - This is the absolute worst movie in many, many, many, many years. One of the first lines spoken in this movie is, “I got you all figured out.” Yep, that says all you need to know about this All-American blonde haired cliche. How someone could take the historic Stonewall Riot and reduce it to this pep rally is unforgivable. I hope everyone involved in this tragedy of epic failure never makes another movie.