2015 IN FILM-Well the Jedi returned with vengeance, Bond got tired, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Eddie Redmayne try to make some history, Indie movies continued to not get the respect they deserve, and sadly yet again the Oscars failed to be color blind.
3 things to remember (1) we are tough graders The Shawshank Scale is 1-10 but there are only (2) films that have scored 10's (yes of all time) think of it more like 5.5 and up are movies you should make time for (2) I take no responsibility for anything I write, mostly it is done when I can't sleep, and lastly (3) I really have no idea what I'm talking about, I just like movies and my poor memory requires me to rank them so I can remember what I like and don't like.
UPDATE 1: I still haven’t seen Straight Outta Compton and Carol (among others), but I do feel that I have enough to start the list process of 2015 as we all prepare for the Oscars! Now let’s break some of the Good, Bad, and Ugly down:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens-I had to start with one of the biggest films of all time, after all I stood outside in the cold on opening night to get in like so many others. Here is the thing with a movie like this is more than just a movie (don’t snicker), it really is a cultural phenomenon. I know this is true because during my 2nd viewing of this film (some 9 days after its release in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday) people were still giving standing ovations. Even more so than that, almost every time I’ve been to a theater since its release, someone in line behind me is talking about it (and get this they are usually young and diverse). This film didn’t need to be great (and it’s probably not great), it just needed to be good (and it’s better than good). J.J. Abrams does a nice job bringing back what made Stars Wars fun to begin with (and not just talking about the original cast). Like an Onion the film peels back layer after layer of nostalgia, however none of that would have really mattered if he didn’t get the new characters right…and he did, big time. I think it is wonderful to see a female lead, I can’t tell you how fresh the character Finn is (Reluctant hero, traitor, and cool leading man), Poe Dameron (who was supposed to die in the first script) is also great, I’m happy they are keeping him around. The returning cast does a nice job as well, Han Solo leads the film very well, Leia is sharp in her limited but effective role, and Luke delivers in his brief but smart ending sequence. The locations they used, and real sets really make the difference and improve upon the prequels (which get a bad rap, but are pretty good). Now it isn’t all great in a galaxy far far away, there were moments this year that I flirted with the idea of having this film as #1 on the Top Ten List (See Sidebar), certainly all said and done I will rewatch this film more than any other film this year and that holds a lot of water on the Shawshank Scale, but despite that this film has problems. For starters it is fair criticism that the beats of this film feel awfully familiar (another Death Star, was that really necessary?). In addition to that the film feels incomplete, I know some of that is done on purpose, but not all of it. The film really feels like they were writing, shooting, and guessing as they went along…there is probably like 4 hours of additional footage that takes the film in all sorts of other directions. To me they could’ve waited to get the story right instead of trying different things and piecing it together. Several times in the film it feels cut and pasted, now we don’t care because it is so much fun, but still. I was surprised it received an Oscar Nomination for editing given that some of the edits are abrupt and out of place. I didn’t love, understand, or care about the Bad Guys. Who is the first order, Snoke, or what the hell are the knights of ren…who cares. That said it is a great ride, it bridges that old with the new in a fun way. I’m not sure anyone (including Lucas) could’ve done a perfect job with a film like this and J.J. deserves credit for taking on such a daunting task and not failing. Kids are excited about Star Wars again, and adults love that…because they’ve always been excited about it!
Spotlight-In 1976 Alan Pakula directed All the Presidents Men to stunning perfection (an 8.0 on the Shawshank Scale!) now in 2015 Tom Mcarthy directs another newsroom drama which comes close to capturing the same tension. The cast is very good, the story is straightforward, but incredibly fascinating, and the actors portraying the victims really give it the heartbeat to make it come alive. It is deserving of Best Picture.
Steve Jobs-I’m a sucker for Aaron Sorkin, his rhythmic dialogue is often intoxicating to me. He doesn’t disappoint in Steve Jobs, which is a film less about the myth, and more about the man. It has very little factual, biopic value, but as a father/daughter film it is beautiful and powerful. It is also deserving of Best Picture.
The Big Short-
ielberg tells a dark story with too much color and optimism for its own good. The Revenant is maybe the current favorite at the Oscars and I can see why, however for me sometimes it’s not enough to have excellent direction, storytelling, and acting…sometimes I have to like the story and this plain one about survival and revenge felt old to me. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the year’s best action film, I’m not a big fan of the never ending Fast & Furious films, but like those it seems they can keep making these films forever and they will be at least fun and entertaining.Joy may not be David O’Russell’s best work, but it is a very good and interesting story (now can we stop with Jennifer Lawrence!). Sicario is a great vehicle for Bencio Del Toro who should’ve gotten nominated for an Oscar. Love & Mercy is a really good film that probably came out a little too early for its own good which is why it missed out on being nominated (Dano and Banks were deserving). Bridge of Spies is a good effort and has good performances, however Sp