The Films of 2012

Click here to see the Top 10

EXCELLENT
Life of Pi
The Avengers
Amour

VERY GOOD
Les Miserables
Cabin in the Woods
The Dark Knight Rises
Killing Them Softly
Paranorman
Wreck-It Ralph
Brave
The Hobbit
The Sessions
Seven Psychopaths
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Lawless
Ted
Flight
The Grey
Chronicle
Goon
Premium Rush

OK
The Amazing Spider-Man
Prometheus
Snow White
Hitchcock
Hyde Park on Hudson
Frankenweenie
The Hunger Games
Anna Karenina
Magic Mike

BAD
Mirror Mirror
Rise of the guardians
John Carter
Men In Black III
The Master
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
The Pirates!
Dark shadows
The Expendables 2
Haywire
Wrath of the Titans
Bourne legacy
The Campaign

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Top 10 Films of 2012

I just found an older Top 10 list, pre-this-blog, that was only ever published in a random Facebook status update. It got me thinking: I’ve been making these year-end lists almost every year since I graduated high school. I wan’t to go through my old files and see how many of these lists I can find, and publish them here for posterity.

With that in mind I’ve added a special “End-of-Year Lists” menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Here’s the rest of 2012

In the meantime, here’s my Top 10 Films of 2012, as posted on Facebook…

Django dicaprio

It’s official! This year was too hard (read: too many equally excellent films!) to create a ranked list. It was hard enough to come up with a #1 with this amazing mix.
Just barely outside the Top 10: Life of Pi, The Avengers, and Amour.

#1 Best Film of the Year:

  • DJANGO UNCHAINED

#2-10, alphabetically:

  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Lincoln
  • Looper
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Skyfall
  • This is 40
  • Zero Dark Thirty

“The Hateful Eight” Accidentally Destroyed 145 Year Old Antique Guitar

hateful-eight-guitar-smash3

There is a scene in The Hateful Eight in which Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) picks up a guitar and strums a soulful ballad. At the end of the song, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) grabs the guitar and smashes it violently.

Quentin Tarantino’s production acquired an authentic Martin guitar built in the 1870’s, on loan from the Martin Guitar Museum, to use in the film. Of course, for the actual smashing part a replica was supposed to take the abuse instead of the priceless antique.

Oscar-winning sound mixer Mark Ulano explained what happened in an interview with SSInsider.com:

What was supposed to happen was we were supposed to go up to that point, cut, and trade guitars and smash the double. Well, somehow that didn’t get communicated to Kurt, so when you see that happen on the frame, Jennifer’s reaction is genuine.

Ulano later continues:

Kurt shattered the antique guitar and everyone was pretty freaked out. Tarantino was in a corner of the room with a funny curl on his lips, because he got something out of it with the performance.

Tarantino’s reaction sounds a bit self-serving, if unsurprising, though we don’t have his take on the incident.

Apparently Dick Boak, director of the museum, archives and special projects for C.F. Martin & Co., was previously unaware of some of the details of the incident, as revealed in an article on Reverb.com. Boak discussed his reactions with that publication:

We assumed that a scaffolding or something fell on it. We understand that things happen, but at the same time we can’t take this lightly. All this about the guitar being smashed being written into the script and that somebody just didn’t tell the actor, this is all new information to us. We didn’t know anything about the script or Kurt Russell not being told that it was a priceless, irreplaceable artifact from the Martin Museum.

As a result of the incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances.

To make matters worse, the guitar was apparently only insured for the purchase price, which was surely far below its actual value as “a priceless, irreplaceable artifact.”

We want to make sure that people know that the incident was very distressing to us. We can’t believe that it happened. I don’t think anything can really remedy this. We’ve been remunerated for the insurance value, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the preservation of American musical history and heritage.

Take a look at the scene and guitar in question here. The reaction definitely seems authentic…

[Sorry for the pirate quality. This video will probably be taken down sooner or later. In the event that happens you can still listen to the audio here…]

Read, Download This Year’s Oscar Nominated Screeplays

Almost all of the Oscar nominated screenplays are currently available online to read or download for free!

Big Short

Click on each title to see that film’s script.

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
Carol, Phyllis Nagy
The Martian*, Drew Goddard
Room, Emma Donoghue

Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen
Ex Machina, Alex Garland
Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen
Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy
Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, and Andrea Berloff

* Drew Goddard’s adaptation of The Martian is not available online, but I highly recommend everyone just go read Andy Weir’s original novel. It’s the absolute best book I’ve read in years.

THE MARTIAN

SAG Awards Results and What They Mean for the Oscars

sag-awards-2016

This past weekend the Screen Actors Guild handed out their yearly awards for film and television acting. I have updated the Oscar Predictions page to reflect what we’ve learned.

But really, what have we learned? Well, Saturday’s winners went something like this:

Film
Ensemble – Spotlight
Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Actress – Brie Larson, Room
Supporting Actor – Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Stunt Ensemble – Mad Max: Fury Road

TV
Ensemble, Drama – Downton Abbey
Actress, Drama Series – Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Actor, Drama Series – Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Ensemble, Comedy Series – Orange is the New Black
Actress, Comedy Series – Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Actor, Comedy Series – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Actress, TV Movie/Mini-Series – Queen Latifah, Bessie
Actor, TV Movie/Mini-Series – Idris Elba, Luther
Stunt Ensemble – Game of Thrones

This diverse list stands in stark – seemingly deliberate – contrast to the current list of Oscar nominees and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has surrounded them. Those who defend the nominations by arguing that “maybe all of the best performances actually just happened to be from white actors this year” – yes, some people actually said that – were answered by Idris Elba’s not one but TWO trophies.

As for those Oscars and their eventual outcome, that Supporting Actor win interestingly gives us our biggest clue, despite Elba not being nominated. Historically, even when the nominees don’t line up exactly, SAG has always given it’s trophies to actors who were also nominated for Oscar. In this case that should’ve been Mark Rylance or Christian Bale. The fact that they lost tells us that their candidacies are not a strong as we once thought. Had either of them won, they would’ve been a strong threat to the current Oscar frontrunner, Sylvester Stallone. But since he doesn’t have to worry about competition from Elba, Sly actually gets a boost from this win.

Supporting Actress has been a pretty close race between Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara. Both are actually lead roles relegated the supporting category, a fact that helps nominees more often than not. (There’s a slight threat from Golden Globe winner Kate Winslet, but while her presence is more likely to pull votes away from the two leads, it’s not clear who actually benefits more from this.) But Vikander’s win this weekend, combined with actually giving two awards-worthy performances this year, gives her a solid lead above the rest.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larsen have been frontrunners in the lead categories most of this race. While Saoirse Ronan may have had a little bit of heat from the early season, SAG essentially just gave our leads a platform to practice their Oscar speeches.

The most interesting result was Spotlight.

Spotlight

The Ensemble award is SAG’s equivalent to Best Picture. Spotlight was the presumed frontrunner until The Big Short took the PGA a couple weeks ago. The two had pretty much the same precursors leading up to that, except for Spotlight curiously missing out on an ACE Eddie nomination. Still, it’s a far more universally well-liked movie. It has no drawbacks and offends absolutely no one. That’s the kind of thing that usually does win with the preferential balloting system used by exactly two groups: the PGA and the Oscars’ Best Picture.

Since the Oscars started using the preferential ballot for Best Picture 6 years ago, they have matched the PGA every single year. Since The Big Short came out ahead with the PGA, it moved pretty solidly into the lead. It’s a very strong statistic, and one that may yet hold, despite the latest development.

But Spotlight‘s SAG win does make things interesting. It clearly has a great deal of support, and would make a great winner. Honestly either one could still take Best Picture. So now we look to next week’s Director’s Guild Awards for a little clarity. The DGA have been a very reliable stat for the Best Picture Oscar (even moreso than Best Director) for a much longer time than the recent PGA matchups.

But if the DGA goes as I suspect it might, things could remain just as up in the air as they are now.

In terms of shear numbers, this year is dominated by two major epic films: The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. With 12 and 10 nominations respectively, they are going head to head in every viable category, except the the former’s two acting nods. Both are serious threats. Well, for director anyway. They are both unlikely to win Best Picture because of a surprisingly important stat: Since the SAG awards have existed, no film has won the Oscar for BP without at least a SAG Ensemble nomination. That’s something neither of these epics has. In fact, The Big Short and Spotlight are the only movies this year with this qualification.

The closest we’ve come to breaking that is when Gravity tied for the PGA and won the DGA and the Oscar for Directing. But even that eventually lost Picture to it’s PGA co-champ 12 Years a Slave.

But while The Revenant and Mad Max are unlikely to win the big prize they are still major threats for directing and for DGA. Or at least one of them is. Unfortunately for The Revenant, that director’s last film, Birdman, just swept the entire awards season, including the Oscars last year. While there’s a lot of passion for his new film, it doesn’t have that kind of inevitability it would need for Alejandro G. Iñarritu to win two years in a row.

That leaves George Miller and Mad Max.

Mad Max Fury Road sniper

In recent years visual and technical marvels Gravity and Life of Pi have had success in directing awards despite not winning Best Picture. I believe George Miller is in this camp, and I believe he’s got enough precursor wins to prove it. That’s why I think Mad Max: Fury Road will win the DGA and eventually the Oscar for Best Director.

But if he does win the DGA, it will only confuse the Best Picture race even further. If the 3 biggest and most important precursors go to 3 different films, who has the edge?

Hard to say. But for now I’m going with that PGA stat and sticking with The Big Short.

Once again, check the Oscar Predictions page for the most recent updates. You can also click the Oscar 2016 menu link at the top of the page for more Oscar information.

Oscar statues

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Oscar Predictions 2016

LATEST UPDATE: 2/25/16 – Costumes, Sound (both), Short Films
Previous updates: 2/22/16, 2/10/16, 1/31/16, 1/27/16

Predictions are numbered in order of likelihood, with “(alt.)” signifying the strongest challengers. Those few races without an alternate listed are the ones with a clearly obvious frontrunner (Leo for Actor, for instance).

These are likely to change over the next several weeks. Check back often, as I will keep it updated as the various industry guilds and other precursors announce their winner.

Big Short

Best Picture
– The Big Short
2 (alt.) – The Revenant
3 – Spotlight
4 – Mad Max: Fury Road
5 – The Martian
6 – Room
7 – Bridge of Spies
8 – Brooklyn

Best Director
✔ – Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
2 (alt.) – Adam McKay, The Big Short
3 – George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
4 – Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
5 – Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Best Actor
✔ – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2 – Matt Damon, The Martian
3 – Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
4 – Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
5 – Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Best Actress
✔ – Brie Larson, Room
2 – Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
3 – Cate Blanchett, Carol
4 – Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
5 – Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Best Supporting Actor
✔ – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
2 – Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
3 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
4 – Christian Bale, The Big Short
5 – Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Best Supporting Actress
✔ – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
2 (alt.) – Rooney Mara, Carol
3 – Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
4 – Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
5 – Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Best Adapted Screenplay
– The Big Short, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
2 – Room, Emma Donoghue
3 – The Martian, Drew Goddard
4 – Brooklyn, Nick Hornby
5 – Carol, Phyllis Nagy

Best Original Screenplay
– Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy
2 (alt.) – Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, and Andrea Berloff
3 – Inside Out, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen
4 – Bridge of Spies, Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen
5 – Ex Machina, Alex Garland

Best Animated Feature
– Inside Out
2 (alt.) – Anomalisa
3 – Shaun the Sheep Movie
4 – Boy and the World
5 – When Marnie Was There

Best Cinematography
✔ – The Revenant, Emmanuel Lubezki
2 (alt.)– Mad Max: Fury Road, John Seale
3 – Sicario, Roger Deakins
4 – The Hateful Eight, Robert Richardson
5 – Carol, Ed Lachman

Best Costume Design
– The Danish Girl, Paco Delgado
2 (alt.) – Mad Max: Fury Road, Jenny Beavan
3 – Cinderella, Sandy Powell
4 – The Revenant, Jacqueline West
5Carol, Sandy Powell

Best Film Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road, Margaret Sixel
2 (alt.) The Big Short, Hank Corwin
3 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
4 – The Revenant, Stephen Mirrione
5 – Spotlight, Tom McArdle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
2 (alt.)The Revenant
3 – The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared

Best Original Score
The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone
2 (alt.) – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
3 – Carol, Carter Burwell
4 – Bridge of Spies, Thomas Newman
5 – Sicario, Johann Johannsson

Best Original Song
✔ – “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
Music and lyrics by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
2 (alt.) “Simple Song #3” from Youth
Music and lyrics by David Lang
3 – “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre
Music and lyrics by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
4 – “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
Music and lyrics by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
5 – “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction
Music by J. Ralph and lyrics by Antony Hegarty

Best Production Design
✔ – Mad Max: Fury Road
2 (alt.) – The Revenant
3 – The Danish Girl
4 – Bridge of Spies
5 – The Martian

Best Sound Editing
✔ – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2 (alt.) – Mad Max: Fury Road
3 – The Revenant
4 – The Martian
5 – Sicario

Best Sound Mixing
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2 (alt.) – Mad Max: Fury Road
3 – The Revenant
4 – The Martian
5 – Bridge of Spies

Best Visual Effects
✔ – Mad Max: Fury Road
2 (alt.) – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
3 – The Revenant
4 – Ex Machina
5 – The Martian

Best Foreign Language Film
✔ – Son of Saul, Hungary
2 – Mustang, France
3 – Theeb, Jordan
4 – A War, Denmark
5 – Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia

Best Documentary — Feature
✔ – Amy
2 – What Happened, Miss Simone?
3 – Cartel Land
4 – The Look of Silence
5 – Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Best Documentary — Short
✔ – Body Team 12
2 – Chau, Beyond the Lines
3 – Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
4 – Last Day of Freedom
5 – A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

Best Animated Short
✔ – World of Tomorrow
2 (alt.) – Sanjay’s Super Team
3 – Bear Story
4 – We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
5 – Prologue

Best Live Action Short
– Stutterer
2 – Ave Maria
3 – Shok
4 – Day One
5 – Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

#OscarsSoWhite, But I Still Follow the Race

Image Credit: www.latimes.com

By now there’s been miles of editorial copy published on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and by people far more insightful or influential than myself. There’s really no substantive argument I can add to the conversation. But as a liberal progressive affirmative-action feminist tree-hugging left-wing socialist hippie who also happens to love following the Oscars… I do feel a need to explain myself.

Unless you’ve bee living on Planet Nine for a while, you probably know the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite refers to the social media outcry over the lack of diversity in the Oscars as well as the film industry as a whole. Specifically, this is the second straight year without a single person of color among all 20 acting nominations. And the Best Picture nominees, as good as many of them are, are all focused primarily on white stories or casts.

Highly acclaimed movies that focused on the experiences of black people were mostly relegated to the sidelines. Straight Outta Compton did manage a screenplay nomination, But Creed‘s only nomination was for the old white guy (Sylvester Stallone), and Beasts of No Nation was left out entirely. It still seems black stories can only garner Best Picture attention if they’re about slavery (12 Years a Slave) or civil rights (Selma, The Help) or find other ways to keep their black characters subservient to whites (Driving Miss Daisy).

And lest you think it’s just a racial issue, let me assure you it’s sexist as well. No movie about a woman has won Best Picture since Million Dollar Baby 12 years ago, and despite having 2 categories no screenplay written by a woman has won since Juno 8 years ago. And in 88 years of Oscar history only 3 women have ever been nominated for Best Director, only ONE of which won (Kathryn Bigelow).

It’s not as if the movies aren’t there. Five of my Top 10 Films of 2015 focus on female protagonists, including all of my top three. And if you add BrooklynCarol, and The Danish Girl to the list, they actually managed a decent handful of nominations, including 3/8 of this year’s Best Picture race. But chances of winning are slim, save for some of the men involved. And Costume Design. ‘Cause we all know that’s a woman’s job.

Of course a big part of the problem, at least as far as the Oscars are concerned, is the membership of the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or AMPAS – the group who votes on the Oscars), the vast majority of whom are male, white, and surprisingly old. People vote for stories and characters and values they can relate to. Are we really surprised that this group’s choices lack diversity when the group itself is just as monochrome?

Is it still racist or sexist, then? Well yes, of course it is, obviously. But it’s like the old offensive grandpa cliché – you’re not going to change his mind, but you don’t have to listen to him. Which is why the Academy immediately responded (though perhaps not immediately enough) with a new initiative to shake up its membership, drop the dead weight (no pun or ageism intended), and encourage  far more diversity in it recruitment.

The Academy is really just a symptom of the larger film industry, though. Of the top 25 box office earners of 2015, seven feature lead female protagonists, and only ONE focuses on black protagonists (Straight Outta Compton at #18). The unfortunate fact is circular: the public spends their money on mostly white male centric movies, because the industry produces mostly white male centric movies, because the public spends their money on… you see where this is going.

Which brings me back, finally, to explaining myself and why I’m still going to watch the Oscars and write about the race:

1. I love movies. It’s the one thing above all others I get all nerdy and annoying about. I love what the medium can do, and I love seeing what talented artists and visionaries do with it.

2. Most movies are shit. I want to see more good movies. I want spend my time and money on the kinds of quality filmmaking that I want to see move of. I want to encourage my friends and readers and everyone else to do the same. Let’s vote with our wallets.

3. Movie awards, like the Oscars, are a celebration of quality filmmaking. [record screeches…] WAIT, don’t walk away! Ok, ok… Am I saying that only good quality movies are nominated for Oscars? Or that all the best ones get trophies? Hell no, that would be stupid. And there’s endless evidence to the contrary. But regardless of what gets snubbed or improperly gilded each year, the point really is to celebrate and encourage filmmakers to take risks and aim higher and make better films.

4. Awards shows are about showcasing to the world what can and hopefully does happen when those filmmakers take risks and aim higher and make better films. Very few people watched the fantastic Winter’s Bone before it got 4 Oscar nominations in 2010, including Best Picture, Screenplay, and a brilliant but mostly unknown actress named Jennifer Lawrence. Since then she has become a straight-up silver screen ingenue, dubbed “J-Law” by the press, been nominated 4 times in 6 years, but perhaps most importantly she has become a positive role model to girls and women (and honestly the boys and everyone else too) by bringing complexity and humanity to one of the most badass film heroines of all time.

And oh yeah, I guarantee that a bunch of the die-hard fans she’s gained since then have gone back to watch her in that little indie triller from 2010. And each one of those viewers is more incentive for studios and investors to spend money to make more movies like Winter’s Bone.

5. The Oscars may not be the best film awards show, but they are by far the most visible and the most influential. The Independent Spirit Awards prove every year to be far more accurate (a subjective view), diverse, and by all accounts – since I never get to actually see them – enjoyable. But that’s the thing: nobody, outside of the industry or punditry, actually watches the other shows. If you’re going to discuss film awards and the merits or statistics thereof, it pretty much has to be framed within the Oscars.

6. And finally, you know what? I just like the Oscars. After all is said and done, it makes me happy when everything else in the news makes me anxious and depressed. Despite all the superficial glitz and glamour and meaningless celeb-stalking, in the face of a world with a shit-ton of more important things to be dealing with, this is my guilty pleasure.

And I do often feel guilty or at least a little silly about it. But I do love it, and I’m going to keep watching. So sue me.

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Top 10 Films of 2015

[Click here to see my rundown of the rest of the 2015 films.]

'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

  1. Room

Room is essentially two separate films. The second half (I can call it “post-escape” without giving away any more than the preview does) is a finely crafted and superbly acted family drama. But the claustrophobic first half, which never leaves the small room and thus never allows for anything longer than a medium-shot, is a truly unique experience. We see the world through Jack’s eyes. It may be tiny, but he fills it full of wonder as any 5-year-old can.

ExMachina_Alicia-Vikander

  1. Ex Machina

Great independent science fiction movies are getting harder to find. Gorgeous setting and special effects support a tight little cerebral thriller. Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleason are fantastic. (They show up again in another little sci-fi further up this list, but sadly don’t get to share the screen.)

Big Short

  1. The Big Short

Adam McKay – that’s right, the co-creator of Funny or Die and the man behind Anchorman and Talladega Nights – took a side step from his frat-house humor well and stunned with this insightful and bruising comedy. It’s full of risky stylistic choices. He throws so much at the screen that it sometimes feels muddled and confusing. But that’s on purpose to mirror the insanity of the situation. It’s exhilarating, current, and in a way that is all too real, deeply depressing.

trainwreck

  1. Trainwreck

Amy Schumer’s comedy may not be as poignant or risky as The Big Short. But it’s touching, personal and wall-to-wall hilarious. Judd Apatow brings his trademark authenticity to the comedy. Bill Hader is the heart of the movie, and John Cena and LeBron James leave you gasping for air. But this is Schumer’s movie through and through. If you like her work as a humorist – and I do – you will love this.

What-We-Do-in-the-Shadows-A-Vampire-Comedy

  1. What We Do in the Shadows

Ok, the mockumentary style has been done to death by now right? Wrong! Or right, I guess when you consider that the subject here is vampires. (Pause for groans…) I’m a sucker for this kind of deadpan humor, but once again it’s the sincerity of relationships in spite of the crazy backdrop that elevates these proceedings to cinematic gold.

Spotlight

  1. Spotlight

Now we reach the point where I wish all of these movies could be higher on the list, but competition gets tight. Spotlight is a fantastic procedural. The performances and filmmaking are across the board phenomenal. But it’s never showy. Everything is in support of the story. As much as you think you know about the Catholic priest scandals, think again.

THE MARTIAN

  1. The Martian

Full disclosure: I’m biased by my absolute love of the book. The film could never quite equal my fascination with reading it. But Ridley Scott does the next best thing: he captures and translates the tone and feel perfectly. What makes this story so much more than “Cast Away in Space” is the light tough and the emphasis on real science. Scott’s greatest sci-fi achievements have never been accused of being “light,” so I was all the more delightfully surprised by this. So much for the argument that intellectualism and populism are mutually exclusive!

Star Wars force-awakens

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Amid the deafening build-up to this release, I convinced myself it was likely to be merely acceptable. It probably wouldn’t be as bad as the prequels – what could, right? But there’s no way it could live up to the originals. Well, I’m thrilled to say JJ Abrams’ new episode blew away all my expectations! It’s one thing to honor the originals and focus on the epic excitement that we all fell in love with in the first place. But he’s raised the bar by handing the reigns over to a new, more diverse generation of heroes. The new Star Wars honors the past without getting stuck in it.

Mad Max Fury Road sniper

  1. – TIE – Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is a perfect work of minimalist art. Its tight circular plot is stripped of all extraneous exposition. Conversely, all of the gratuity is in supporting visuals. Elaborate practical stunts, extravagant set pieces and found-object works of art build a lived-in world that needs no extra explanation. There’s almost no dialogue besides what’s absolutely necessary. And then there’s Charlize Theron, the most badass movie heroine since Alien’s Ripley. In a cinematic landscape where action heroes – and in fact pretty much ALL heroes – are STILL, even in 2015, almost exclusively the realm of men, Furiosa fires a shot across the bow to the film industry. No, not across the bow: straight into the forehead of every Bullet Farmer with a camera.

Pixar has the best track record (even with it’s couple of duds) of any movie studio in history, with some of my favorite movies of all time. Inside Out is Pixar’s best movie to date. And it’s one of the most accomplished, nuanced, original, daring, moving cinematic achievements I’ve ever witnessed. It touches nerves so deep inside they’ve never been exposed before. I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t cried at multiple times throughout. You may leave the theater a bit shell-shocked, but it somehow leaves you a better, more complete person than you were 90 minutes before.

insideout8-xlarge

 

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The Films of 2015

It’s time for my annual ranking of all the new films of the past year… or at least the small handful I was able to squeeze into my schedule.

Once again I saw fewer movies this year than last. I write an article like this one every January, and most of the time it begins with that same disclaimer. People, being an adult sucks. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to return to the glory days of college, when I would watch a movie or two almost every night and spend entire weekends in the theater. I just checked back through some old notes: In 2005, I caught over 65 new movies. Now, ten years later, it’s less than half that.

But enough reminiscing about the past: I’m still a fan of movies, and I have a blog, and I love making lists. So here is my rundown of 2015 in film.

Tomorrow I will post my Top 10, which is almost 1/3 of my total list. With a little deductive reasoning you can probably guess some of them. But for now, I present the remaining 2/3, ranked in fairly broad categories and then listed alphabetically….

 

creed

Very Good

Each of these (as well as a few of my Top 10) actually covers territory that has been fairly thoroughly examined before, but they prove that artistry and skill can breath new life into old stories.

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Creed
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
  • Sicario

hateful 8 sam jackson final

Good

There’s actually some really stunning work on display, but some of these are brought down by a few serious issues, while others are simply missing that special something to elevate them above the crowd. And then a couple are just empty fun.

  • Brooklyn
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
  • Krampus
  • Magic Mike XXL
  • Mr. Holmes
  • The Revenant

Ant-Man1

Nothing Special

Pixar and Marvel have some of the best track records out there. But all of these blockbusters were like being stuck in a traffic jam trying to leave ‘Meh’ City.

  • Ant-Man
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Everest
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Tomorrowland

JURASSIC-WORLD-15-1940x1042

Avoid

I actually had high hopes for some of these. I should have known better.

  • Hotel Transylvania 2
  • Jurassic World
  • San Andreas
  • Southpaw
  • Spectre

 

And finally, no list would be complete with out the disclaimer of all the movies that I wanted see but just never found the time. In descending order of length of title…

  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • In the Heart of the Sea
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • The Danish Girl
  • Pawn Sacifice
  • Crimson Peak
  • Concussion
  • Son of Saul
  • Steve Jobs
  • Anomalisa
  • Cinderella
  • Macbeth
  • Chappie
  • 45 Years
  • Legend
  • Trumbo
  • Youth
  • Truth
  • Amy
  • Spy
  • Joy

Crimson Peak

Oscar 2015 – Complete Winners List

oscars-trophies

And here they are, the winners of the 87th Academy Awards. My predictions were decent this year – 19 correct out of 24. Not a lot of surprises, even in many of the tightest races. The biggest shocker was Big Hero 6 beating out How to Train Your Dragon 2 for Animated Feature, and that was bound to be a close race anyway. Still I was thrilled to see Whiplash get Editing and Sound.

What are your thought on how the race turned out? Leave a comment below!

Best Picture – Birdman
Best Director – Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Imitation Game
Best Original Screenplay – Birdman
Best Film Editing – Whiplash
Best Music (Original Score) – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Music (Original Song) – “Glory,” Selma
Best Sound Mixing – Whiplash
Best Sound Editing – American Sniper
Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Best Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hairstyling – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Visual Effects – Interstellar
Best Animated Feature – Big Hero 6
Best Foreign Language Film – Ida
Best Documentary Feature – CITIZENFOUR
Best Short Film: Animated – Feast
Best Short Film: Live Action – The Phone Call
Best Short Film: Documentary – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Winners by the numbers:
4 – Birdman
4 – The Grand Budapest Hotel
3 – Whiplash
(everything else – 1 or 0)

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