2015: YEAR iN REViEW
As always: posted just before the Oscar telecast, after enough time has passed for the dust to have settled and right when you're ready to forget all about the previous year, come The Pink Smoke's annual Years in Review. 2015 was an oddly lean year in terms of le cinema... except that it produced the film of the young century and a handful of future classics.
But Christopher Funderburg will tell you aaallllll about that once he's done writing this intro in the editorial voice. Until then, keep in mind (as always): this isn't a list of The Best or The Worst of the year, but a compendium of our personal favorites, fond remembrances of the instantly forgettable, peerless critical analysis and mean-spirited jokes.
GREATNESS iN BRiEF:
Mad Max: Fury Road.
A goddamned miracle.
The Clouds of Sils Maria.
Assayas’ best film, proof that Kristen Stewart is a real actress, and a reminder that Juliet Binoche is among the most talented there ever was. Strangely, Assayas’ “rich people problems” movies are his most human, tender and accessible.
Shaun the Sheep.
Shear brilliance. And you can quote me on that.
In Jackson Heights.
We’re the internet’s #1 Wiseman fanatics. I'll be writing a longer piece about this film (and Wiseman's late-career optimism) apart from our Years in Review.
What We do in the Shadows.
The mockumentary genre is so beat at this point that when the format produces something with this much flavor and fun, it’s genuinely startling.
Call Me Lucky.
A major oversight the first time I posted this list: Bobcat Goldthwait's heart-rending doc about the near-impossiblity of goodness in a miserable world.
What do great filmmakers have to do to get you excited about their best films in years?
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
Chi-Raq got all the press, but this one deserved all the praise. Maybe the only kickstarter project worth half a damn.
Erased the memory of Fay Grim and reminded me why I loved Hal Hartley in the first place. (It has been brought to my attention that this film was also kick-started. My kickstarter digs are officially outmoded and hacky.)
Welcome to New York.
Is there an auteur more consistently overlooked than Abel Ferrara? He’s the real deal (realer than kiddie shit like Wes Anderson or Straight out of Compton, at any rate)… and this might be his best film ever.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF T.V.
Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories: “Toes.”
Nathan for You: “Smokers Allowed.”
For at least a decade, critics have been talking about how we’re in a new Golden Age of TV and even how, heck, it might be ending now that Mad Men and… I don’t know… Lost? are off the air. I obviously don’t believe that, but I do think in the past few years that t.v. comedy is the best it’s ever been and its excellence has all but eliminated the need for Big Screen Blockbuster comedies - there’s too much interesting, brilliant stuff happening on a daily basis in terms of t.v. comedy for any single blockbuster film to be able to keep pace, let alone one-up the crazy output of their cable-y competition.
There are dozens of recent t.v comedies that are either utterly unique or among the best of their kind: Louie, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Key and Peele, The Kroll Show, Bob’s Burgers, Broad City, Workaholics, No You Shut Up!, Rick and Morty, Archer, Comedy Bang-Bang, Man Seeking Woman, Review, The Heart She Holler, hell almost all of Adult Swim’s entire weirdo live-action line-up (Children’s Hospital, Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Black Jesus, Check it Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, The Jack and Triumph Show, Hot Package, Eric Andre Show, Neon Joe, off-the-air, Eagleheart) and their animated originals (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Boondocks, Moral Orel, The Venture Bros.) It's almost inconcievable what's happening.
Even newer shows like Baskets and The Idiotsitter that haven’t entirely found their footing yet, if they had come out twenty year ago they’d have already done enough be a cult favorite on the level of Get a Life or The Adventures of Pete and Pete. In fact, I think part of the reason Mr. Show’s (excellent) return was greeted with such lukewarm enthusiasm was that so many t.v. comedies have followed in their footsteps, been inspired by their sensibility and inventiveness - a show that was explosively original and almost incomprehensibly unique is now commonplace.
In the context of the current t.v. comedy boom, I’d like to draw attention to two episodes of a pair of the very best shows, Nathan for You and Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories. These are shows that stand out even by the lunatic, free-for-all standards of their contemporaries. Originally, I had only the T&EBS short “Toes” on this list of my favorite films of the year. To me, it made sense to include it: it’s as much a short film as it something that could comfortably be described as yet another schematically packaged episode of t.v. comedy. Theoretically, Bedtime Stories on the whole is a comedy series - and certainly most episodes are joke-riddled; “Hole” is the funniest thing I’ve seen all year and “Baby” is probably a close second - but what the show really is, as per its title, is an attempt to create little nightmarish vignettes, waybe even to apply a fairytale tone to sketch comedy.
As short films, they’re not powered by realistic narrative logic, they’re stories fueled by anxiety and confusion - watching them is frequently an unsettlingly close approximation of experiencing the creeping dread of a nightmare. As with a nightmare, it’s not entirely clear what’s so upsetting about them, what’s making the audience (and the characters alike) so alarmed, but the awfulness of it all burrows down inside of you.
“Toes” (starring Bob Odenkirk & Gillian Jacobs) doesn’t even have jokes that I can recall; it seems to be an attempt to see what happens when you push through the boundaries of the cringe-comedy, what happens you push out to the other side beyond the nervous laughter, beyond the normal meaning of the humor of discomfort. It nods towards fetish videos and detective stories without fully embracing a critique of either: all that remains is a dreadful sense of having your perversions investigated. The bedtime stories often have a feel of a Twilight Zone episode, of a looming & horrible twist, the persistent ominousness of a reveal you’d prefer never came. 20 years from now, this show will be the obsessively remembered cult favorite.
And after thinking about it, I decided to include Nathan for You’s “Smokers Allowed” episode on this list as well. Nathan for You is likely the best of all the shows I mentioned, a strange amalgamation of hidden camera prank show, Andy Kaufman-esque character work, cringe-comedy and a D.I.Y. reality show - the basic concept is that its star (Nathan Fielder) finds struggling small businesses and attempts to help revitalize them as part of his “reality show” by implementing bizarre and baroque plans. Fielder is among the most startling comedic personas to have emerged in the past decade - just look at this clip from the Comedy Central Christmas special of him singing a duet of “Fools Rush In” with Marion Cotillard. The “Smokers Allowed” episode of Nathan for You isn’t the funniest or the most outlandish prank in the show’s history (“prank?” should what he does be called “pranks?”), but it ends up being one of the richest.
Fielder’s secret is that he’s never after the most hilarious or craziest outcome, he’s after the most interesting. In the case of his attempts fix to a struggling bar that's losing customers after a city-wide smoking ban, so many unpredictable moments occur over the course of the episode, so many unexpected reactions - Fielder stumbles across so many interesting notes then holds and explores them beyond comedic value - that there would almost be no way for a description to do it justice even if were I inclined to try. Instead, watch it - there’s certainly nothing like it (or “Toes”) in the theaters.
PiGS ACROSS MANHATTAN
The Big Short.
The muted enthusiasm that has greeted this film has demonstrated that people, particularly critics, have no idea what represents great filmmaking. Since at least Pauline Kael’s amusingly clueless Butch Cassidy review, critics have been notorious for not understanding how films are actually made or even the what job of each person on set is, who's responsible for what qualities a film possesses - and The Big Short proves it, otherwise Adam McKay’s filmmaking achievements would be listed right alongside George Miller’s rightfully venerated work. The Big Short’s freedom of form and willingness to play around with live-wire social topics recalls Richard Lester and Dusan Makavejev, two filmmakers whose kitchen-sink inventiveness in films like The Knack and WR: Mysteries of the Organismis also frequently waved off for trivializing, eliding and just goofing around too much.
The Big Short effortlessly juggles a host of precarious elements: 4th wall breaking comedy, complex financial concepts, heartfelt performances, moral ambiguity and relentless narrative drive. Simply put, there isn’t a film in 2015 that was better directed than The Big Short, but because it didn’t fit neatly in the proscribed leftist packages (much like Makavejev and especially Lester get pilloried by the political Left) and played too many games with Serious Subject Matter (“that everyone already knows about, this film didn’t teach me anything - why you'd already know all this if you'd been listening to NPR!”), few critics were willing to take it up as a cause. That’s a shame because it handled the realities of a seedy economic underworld as well as any film since Claude Autant-Lara’s A Pig Across Paris tackled the black market in WWII France, one of the few films to handle deftly and with humor a cadre of cads and creeps taking advantage of economic desperation.
Like Pig, The Big Short relied on engaging star performances to deal with the fact that its story mainly dealt with detestable assholes (it smartly does away with the source book’s idiotic, “hey, maybe… these guys were actually heroes!” tone); the cast is uniformly excellent in a cinematic setting where performances could easily be underdeveloped and neglected. Its top-down approach to examining the economic collapse of 2008 demonstrates the extreme limitations of bottom-view approaches like 99 Homes or Roger and Me - The Big Short is a film that’s constantly finding new ways at every turn to deal with the problems of adapting a non-fiction work about economic ideas (that are impenetrable by design) into a fleet-footed, funny, depressing, hopeful, enraging masterpiece.
A Blue Sky studios “reboot” of Charles Schultz’ classic comic strip and another rocky Rocky sequel are two films that it would’ve been smart to bet against being any good whatsoever. There’s no reason to believe either would be anything other than ok-ish, certainly not on the level of their classic predecessors. But the Peanuts movie is gentle and sweet, with an obvious affection for Bill Melendez’s enduring take on bringing the strips to life - it doesn’t feature celebrity voices or fart jokes or attempts to “modernize” the story and has only a single instance of gratuitous Will.I.Am-ing.
It’s amazing that it made it through the sausage factory without being leavened with the pop-cultural equivalents of gristle and hair that make children’s filmmaking so frequently rancid. Even more impressive: it was one of my 5 year-old son’s favorite movies of the year (by contrast, I asked him about The Force Awakens a few weeks after we saw it and he said “it’s kinda hard to remember.” That review is tough but fair) - who would’ve guessed the same Charlie Brown people have loved for decades would find a new generation? Kids today don’t even know what the fuck kites are.
As for Creed, its virtues have been covered fairly comprehensively all over the internet, by critics and fans alike, so I don’t have much to offer beyond pointing out just how clearly it demonstrates the importance of movie stars. Actors like Michael B. Jordan are the reason a movie like Creed can be any good - just like the original wouldn’t be anything without Stallone, it’s tough to imagine Creed being anything of note with a different performer shouldering its load.
I think a fair comparison would be to Southpaw, which features a great actor who has never been a comfortable movie star - because I want to be as generous as possible to both Jordan and Gyllenhaal, I’ll say the difference between their star personas is like the contrast between Paul Newman and Marlon Brando. New movie stars, real movie stars, don’t come along very often and Michael B. Jordan is the real deal. That, in and of itself, is a small miracle.
(Stallone is great, too. And Tessa Thompson might be the best actor of the three - if you believe #Oscarsowhite, you better be throwing her name out at every opportunity for all your social-media fan-casting. Be useful for something just this once, internet. You can suggest black actors other than Idris Elba for roles.)
The Duke of Burgundy.
Please stop making genre pastiches. Please. It’s so beat. I don’t want to hear your Carpenter synths and I’m not impressed by your practical effects - and have we really reached the point where Jess fucking Franco, the lamest of the fucking lame, is getting the “nostalgic veneration” treatment? I’m not interested in your pitch-perfect imitation of your predecessors, your clever recreation of shots and costumes and dialog, your winking soundtracks and knowing nods, let alone your “improvements” on films “we can all admit were usually pretty flawed.” Enough with the fucking font festishization.
Just stop. What you’re doing is worthless. It’s anti-art. It’s a shtick and it’s not even slightly impressive in a world where the internet makes access to all that history a breeze - it's particularly frustrating in the case of Peter Strickland, who is cleary a talented and intriguing filmmaker. But come on: do your own thing. Invent something. Discover something. Let the dead stay dead.
The Thin Blue Line
The Palm Beach Story
Ride the Pink Horse
I feel like I should mention somewhere that I really enjoyed Ant-Man. It seems dishonest not to. And goes without saying that Furious 7 was enjoyable. #RIP to the most beautiful man on earth. No critical website loved Paul Walker more than the Pink Smoke.
On the other hand, I wanted to like Blackhat but opening with a “zooooooom! we’re inside the computer, flyin’ around inside the internet!” sequence that combines the worst of Torque and Korn’s video for “Freak on a Leash” is just going to set a film so far back it would have to be amazing from there on out to have any chance of recovering. It is not amazing from there on out. (feat. thrilling scenes of breathless sdksdk-ing and frustrated paper crumpling.)
The culture agrees: that thing is the worst.
You see this all the time where folks, collectively as a culture, decide that some artist or artwork is acceptable to tee off on without mercy. It’s de rigueur to lay into whatever movie Adam Sandler comes out with, to deride each and every one of his films in the exact same gleefully cruel terms, to thoughtlessly hammer the shit out of every one of his movies as a matter of course.
It’s a weird phenomenon, it functions almost like mass hysteria: movies as distinct as Ridiculous Six (a shambling, R-rated ensemble western-comedy featuring prodigious amounts of heroic horse diarrhea, a film made by a group of real-life buddies with seemingly no concern for the its potential audience) and Pixels (stereotypically bland, test-focused sci-fi SPFX summer blockbuster made by a filmmaker whose entire life mission is make his films as generic and personality-free as possible) are described in the exact same terms, tarred with the exact same brush. Whether you think both Pixels and Ridiculous 6 are AWFUL!!! or not, they are not similar and they are certainly not so bad as to warrant unanimous, culture-wide derision.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but for whatever reason when it comes to Adam Sandler, it’s acceptable - no, it’s expected - for everyone to pile on. That this happens with Sandler isn’t entirely unfair (he’s had a long career, so folks can reasonably anticipate despising another one of his movies if they’re inclined to do so) - but what’s extremely bizarre is when there’s a unanimous cultural consensus on movies that people haven’t even seen.
Mortdecai was a box office bomb - it made very little money. I’m confident that the majority of the jokes being made at its expense are being made by people who haven’t even seen it. That makes the gleeful, self-congratulatory derision constantly flung its way completely baffling - why Mortdecai? Why single out it, of all films? It’s far from the worst “ill-conceived Blockbuster” on Johnny Depp’s resume, it’s not even the one where he wears a notably dumb hat. Is it because it tries to do something slightly different than literally any other film in 2015? It can’t be because it botches the tone of an interesting book (because no one has read it) or because the filmmaking is so incompetent or its ideas so offensive or its execution so infuriating (because they’re not.)
But come early December, when the Oscar promotional machine chugs into gear and critics dutifully perform their role in the marketing of star-brands and entertainment-product by organizing promotional “Top 10 Best and Worst Films of the Year” lists, they all peek into their little notebooks and remember it’s time for them to take their final shots at Mortedecai, one of the worst piece of shit they’ve ever seen. And everyone squeals with delight, “Yes, Mortdecai, I hate his stupid mustache! That movie is the worst! Certainly the worst!”* It’s fucking bizarre, man.
What’s gotten ahold of everyone? With Hot Tub Time Machine 2, you can at least see the machinations cranking in the skulls of the brainless: “it’s a dumb title for a movie, therefore I am funny if I point it out.” It reminds me of Stephin Merritt complaining about critics who pantingly mention the title of “69 Love Songs” as though it’s a joke they’re making, not repeating a joke he already made. Do people not understand that calling a movie Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a joke that the filmmakers have already made? That it’s an intentionally dumb title? It’s not some clever observation you’re making, not a little testament to your good taste and well-honed sense of everyday irony that you spotted this little bit of silliness.
People are dangerous, man. They’re deluded - they're consistently smug without warrant. The people with the lousiest senses of humor think they’re the funniest fuckers on Earth and the impulse for the crowd, in its single voice, to bag on Mortedecai is the same collective impulse to cheer as traitors to the Soviet state swing from the gallows. The glee of the bloodthirsty crowd, the self-congratulation of a unanimous mass engaged in cruelty, the same lazy jokes about Adam Sandler’s laziness, mongoloid tittering about Johnny Depp’s headgear. Watch out, man: that finger always needs something to point at as the crowd behind it squeals with a joy and cruelty beyond sense and logic - someday it might point at the people and things you love.
I loved Mortdecai and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is what I’m saying. Fuck you all.
* I should point out that Noel Murray nailed it by predicting Mortdecai will be an Ishtar/Hudson Hawk style reclamation project in the future. That is to say, it is destined to be rediscovered and then praised too much.
Maps to the Stars.
Burying the Ex.
These movies are weirdly out of touch - you never want to think your heroes have gone all grandpa on you, but then you’re faced with some troubling indications. David Cronenberg and Joe Dante are two of my all-time favorite directors, so I harbored the idea that their stepping out of their comfort zones might yield interesting results. I really wanted to believe. But Cronenberg’s toothless, cliche-riddle Hollywood satire would’ve been hoary if it has been made a twenty years ago and Dante’s inexplicable foray into repulsive bro humor combined the worst of the gross “crazy ex!” and “emasculating, humorless :( girlfriend” tropes. Dante’s film actually has the nerve to feature the ol’ “fat, charmless suburban dude who scores scores of wicked hot chicks for wicked hot threesomes, hombre!”
These films were total whiffs and in Dante’s case an actual embarrassment that will stain his filmography. And I’m a guy who has defended Looney Tunes: Back in Action on multiple occasions. These kind of failures put my idols in a particularly precarious situation because massive missteps late in a filmmaker’s career can end it. Let’s hope both regain their footing - I’m confident Cronenberg isn’t done and will make a few more films entirely worth the while… Dante less so - if this pitiful garbage is his swan-song, I don’t know how I'll respond. Probably suicide.
I'M NOT WITH IT
I don’t know what people are talking about with this movie. A cheeseball melodramatic thriller dressed up in Holocaust themes for respectability’s sake.
I’m not here to badmouth what’s a perfectly fine Todd Haynes movie. I’m really not. I adore Haynes. I just prefer when he’s nuts (Poison, Superstar, Dottie Gets Spanked) to when he’s straight-laced (Carol, Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine.) My antipathy for I’m Not Here and love of Safe tests this theory. Carol is good, but extremely slight - reign in your praise.
I’ll admit it: this was a pretty good episode of VH-1: Behind the Music.
A single neat idea (a thing walks very slowly towards our heroes from the far edges of the frame while Carpenter-inspired synth music plays), that almost instantly becomes repetitive. The pool scene is hilariously dumb.
A gimmick made by tourists with typewriters. You don’t need to know anything about the filmmakers to guess it was directed by a straight white guy who went to one of the factory film-schools like UCLA or NYU (likely one of the most massively expensive ones) and knew jack-shit about the world he was filming. This isn’t to say I believe in the idea that the best person to film a story will always be themselves a member of the socio-economic group being portrayed, only that it’s easy to guess who’s behind Tangerine’s particular brand of gawking, self-satisfied disenfranchisement tourism.
“Well, you see my dear boy - you haven’t been merely a guest here at all but another pawn in my experiment! And you proved my hypothesis! I knew you would try to fool me and save the sexy robot, I predicted the double-dealt double-crosses and have been a puppet-master orchestrating the entire situation from the beginning! I will now take ahold of the chaotic situation I intentionally engineered by implementing my failsafe, a protective measure I knew I would need all along! So excuse me while I wander down a hallway to hit my robot with a barbell.” Also, can you believe there’s something mysterious going on with this mysterious mute who’s just hanging around and definitely won’t be part of the plot about trying to fool someone into believing a robot’s a person? I mean, she’s just a mysterious sexy mute!
Seriously, this film is the epitome of fake-smart; an empty intellectual pose - it might have fooled the others into thinking there was a brain inside its sleek and sexy interior, but it didn't fool me.
In general there’s plenty that Paul Schrader says which I disagree with, but his takedown of this was spot on.
Films I failed to see (in some cases resulting in chagrin):
Sixty-Six (I was out of town the one freakin’ night it played at MoMA)
Son of Saul
Bridge of Spies
Film I somehow ended up paying $22 to see:
The Hateful 8.
The “70mm” roadshow was the biggest scam going - I saw a print the Wednesday after it opened and it was already scratched to shit (particularly painful in the opening snowbound landscapes), the lens wasn’t properly set (or the print had warped somehow already) so the focus on lower lefthand side of the frame was fuzzy, and the screen was matted incorrectly. It was more of a mess than the fake damage lovingly applied to Grindhouse. Easily the worst experience I had with image quality in a theater all year and a crystal clear demonstration of how smarks are the easiest marks.
I couldn’t do it, as the father of a 5 year-old, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it:
Also, I sleepwalk and also get sleep paralysis, so I literally had to turn it off after 8 minutes because it was causing me so much anxiety:
The “Local Hero Award” an over-rated “under-rated” movie:
The “Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons Award” for an actor giving it their all even though they probably shouldn’t have:
Hugh Jackman in Pan.
The “A Film Such as Taken (but not Taken 2) Award” for a Liam Neeson movie that was ok:
Run All Night.
The “Two English Girls Award” for a film that is essential for fans, but irrelevant to everyone else:
Heart of a Dog.
The “Monica Potter Award” for a bland, charmless actress forced down audiences’ throats despite their demonstrable indifference:
Kate Mara (Captive, The Fantastic Four, Man Down, The Martian.) I am against the Maras on principle: Eagles 4 eva. Does Jeff Lurie have any daughters? Put them in some movies, I’ll give ‘em my money.
The “‘It’s a Knock-Off!’ Award” for Best Eponymous Theme Song:
Straight out of Compton.
Shaun the Sheep.
Movie I wish had an eponymous theme-song:
The Last Witch Hunter.
Dumb joke that I can’t believe every critic in existence passed up:
Making some kind of a Tomorrowmorrowland joke about Tomorrowland and… I don’t know… you could work Fury Road in there probably. This is their sole function, this is what we need critics for - it wouldn’t matter if they all disappeared and there was no one to write about how the newest Pixar film is a delight full of wonder & laughs but also really tugs at the ol’ heartstrings. I think Gene “Greenbean” Shalit might be the most essential critic in the world. Shit, you know what? I’m confident Cribbs has something in the works. I just know it.
Best character name:
Toast the Knowing (Mad Max: Fury Road.)
Worst character name:
Jock Strapp (Mortdecai.)
Character I never get tired of people doing impressions of:
The “Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s Award” for an element of a film that did its best to ruin the movie around it:
Was there anything that did more to undermine a likable movie than the kid “spitting verses” in The Visit? No. There was not.
Also, if you don’t have kids, you have no reason to see them, but just know this: it’s impossible to do justice to how insanely awful the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies are. Forget Adam Sandler and the Minions, the culture really needs to get its shit together and focus on condemning these goddamned things.
Best made-for-the-internet film(s):
The Errol Morris Grantland shorts.
Repertory “re-discovery” I saw years ago where I felt the most bad for the people excited to finally see it:
Jacques “Strapp” Rivette’s Out 1.
For the museum of AmerIndie Style:
Diary of a Teenage Girl.
additionally for the collection:
Biggest Gulf between Reputation and Actual Quality:
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
Sequels to dread:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girls
Ted 3: The Ted Talk
Green Inferno: The Legend of Curly’s Gold
The “Van Helsing Award” for beautiful awfulness:
Knowing a little bit about the true story is essential if you really want to savor the exceptionally questionable taste of this beauty. Beyond that, it’s an amazing compendium of all our hopeful, inspirational cliches that are most divorced from reality. I highly recommend you see this movie.
The kind of movie I genuinely enjoy:
The Boy Next Door.
Movie that I’m not sure counts as a 2015 release or where to mention it or what, other than it’s interesting and overlooked and don’t forget about it or if you haven’t heard of it, please take note:
Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices. A candy-colored romantic comedy inspired by the Son of Sam. Unclassifiable, joyous and grotesque. Because of Deadpool, now maybe I won’t have as much trouble convincing people to see a Ryan Reynolds movies. Heavily flawed but utterly captivating.
Do they make horror movies anymore or just ill-conceived gimmick movies with horror trappings?:
Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (filmed in Spook-o-Vision)
You can’t convince me anyone gives even half a shit about either of these films:
The Danish Girl
No way. I don’t buy it.
Heavily promoted movies you have already forgotten existed:
We are Your Friends
Best Use of Kid Rock in an omnipresent ad campaign:
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The “I Think I Love My Wife Award” for a movie just good enough to make you disappointed it isn’t good enough:
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Bridge of Spies (you know… one of those bridges. made out of spies.)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Infinity Polar Bear
Title which doesn’t even make sense as a pun:
Title that sounds most like a maudlin/inspirational country music song about living life to the fullest before it passes you by:
Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
Beasts of No Nation.
The “She’s All That Award” for a movie title I find fun to say out loud in a solemn tone:
A Most Violent Year.
Some Favorite Performances:
Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Kurt Russell (Bone Tomahawk), Chiarra D’Anna (The Duke of Burgundy), Bob Odenkirk (T&EBS: “Toes”), Tom Noonan (Anomalisa), Tessa Thompson (Creed), Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), Benecio del Toro (Sicario), Jason Statham (Spy), Barbara Crampton (We Are Still Here), Jacqueline Bisset (Welcome to New York.)
Filmmaker of the Year:
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
of the YEAR:
Juliet Binoche & Kirsten Stewart
(One performance cannot be removed from the other. The Clouds of Sils Maria)
Michael B. Jordan
“This is the truth - and I’m going to put it in my purse.” Jacqueline Bisset sez Welcome to New York.
Abel Ferrara wielding Gerard Depardieu’s big fatness as a prop, a massive body that consumes the frame, consumes the naked bodies before it, towers over the tiny cops and the little people below it, a bloated gut hanging down over his nudity - Ferrara allows Depardieu’s body to consume the picture. Welcome to New York.
“If you were going to eat a sandwich, you’d just prefer if no one had fucked it.” What We Do in the Shadows.
Don’t worry: police have located the “wild dog” that mauled Stu. Unfortunately, they’re going to have to put it down. What We Do in the Shadows.
“I had a baby brother and he was perfect in every way!” Rictus Erectus mourns in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Bird people on stilts in the nighttime of the salt flats. Mad Max: Fury Road.
Look, I don’t want to be glib about it, but in every single minute of Mad Max: Fury Road’s running time there's something interesting, thrilling, original or unexpected happening. It features (of course) the best car chase in film history, but also one of the best foot-chases in years (Max’s initial escape attempt) and the best prop-based fight since Jackie Chan’s hey-est day (when Max is still handcuffed to Nux and fighting Furiosa for the gun.) I could fill this entire list with all of the instantly iconic moments from this movie like the flamethrower guitar or conversely I could even fill it with all the rarely mentioned things like the People Eater’s ornate false nose. I love the details like Cheedo the Fragile gradually taking on the style of dress of the Vuvalini or the smiley faces on Nux’s tumor buddies. There’s so much to this movie, it just feels inexhaustible.
Margot Robbie explains securities in a bubble bath. The Big Short.
Brad Pitt chides the start-up kids: “Don’t celebrate: being right means people’s lives are about to get destroyed.” The Big Short.
How risk-ameliorating tranches actually exacerbate risk, explained with Jenga blocks and a slick presentation undermined by hostile outbursts. The Big Short.
John Ashcroft lets the eagles soar. The Big Short.
“This scene didn’t happen in the lobby, they actually read about it weeks earlier.” The Big Short.
Ryan Gosling’s Jean Gabin-esque lovable rouge/dickhead. Steve Carrell interrupting a conference and then taking a cell-phone call. Christian Bale’s glass eye. The Big Short.
John Turturro (as Abner Doubleday) invents baseball to the annoyance of everyone around him. The Ridiculous Six.
Dave Attell as the bum in Trainwreck.
The nature photography in Point Break is world-class. The movie is boring as shit, but it’s gorgeous.
The charming hand-drawn animation of the magic show during the end credits of Genndy Tartakosky’s Hotel Transylvania 2.
I would honestly like Ned Rifle more if the titular character didn’t look exactly like a teenage Tommy Wiseau.
It’s not a huge thing, but it made me genuinely sad that Rocky only has one turtle now. A subtle reminder that Adrian’s gone, a bit of loneliness looming in the back of the frame every time we peek at his home-life. Creed.
A fight backstage. Creed.
How about “Gonna fly now?” Yeah. Exactly. Creed.
Fighting with Tony Jaa in the back of a speeding tactical mobile command vehicle. Furious 7.
Accidentally playing the pixies in a free-fall. Peyton Reed’s soundtrack sensibility is one of the most under-rated aspects of the consistently under-rated director. Ant-Man.
Keanu’s musical chairs to avoid the encroaching interlopers. Knock Knock.
Free pizza leads to an accidental “like.” Knock Knock.
Trying to lift Thor’s hammer. Avengers: Age of Ultron.
A bathroom seduction turned erotic asphyxiation turned regular asphyxiation turned blood feast. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
“You gotta learn / To let it go / You gotta know / when it’s all over.” Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
Reunited on the beach. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
Michael Mann doin’ what he does best: a shootout through tunnels and amongst shipping containers. Blackhat.
Notorious drug-addict Amy Winehouse doesn’t go to rehab and then writes that song about how she doesn’t want to go to rehab - what a revelation! Now we know: her daddy really did say she’s fine! Breath-taking. Amy.
You can see my old house In Jackson Heights about 20 times during the film - I was probably in there once or twice when one of my idols was filming it. I am, on a ridiculous technicality, probably in a Frederick Wiseman movie! The synagogue featured heavily in the film was right next door to where I lived. I used to get tickets for parking too close to it all the time.
I’m not joking around: the guy who organized the paperwork for my ex-wife’s citizenship (he’s like a neighborhood impresario - he also acted as a travel agent for us once and booked our trip to Mexico) leads the discussion in the barbershop about gentrification In Jackson Heights. And what would a Wiseman film be without a scene of a group having a useless yet critical back-room discussion?
Language lessons on the meaning of the word “neighborhood.” In Jackson Heights.
A hand reaches out from under the table and helps pull the chair forward. Shaun the Sheep.
In the pound, a psycho cell-mate with unblinking eyes…
…that’s revealed to be a cardboard cut-out concealing a successful escape attempt! Shaun the Sheep.
Hiding from animal control at the bus depot. Shaun the Sheep. The flock makes good use of the “Travel to the countryside… by bus!” ad.
Assayas’ startling recreations of the old footage of the clouds. Clouds of Sils Maria.
Pushing her assistant too far, Binoche is abandoned in the mountains. Clouds of Sils Maria.
Now that they’re on set, the young movie star doesn’t really give a shit what Binoche thinks. Clouds of Sils Maria.
"Remember me?" Imperator Furiosa wishes Immortan Joe a fond farewell. Mad Max: Fury Road.
~ FEBRUARY 26, 2016 ~