Friday, January 01, 2016

Women of 2015 Wield Knives, Lightsabres, Mechanical Arms, and Mechanical Bodies, for Themselves

Well, it was a good year for the movies, 2015 was. I saw more movies I liked than movies I didn't like. It was a year of films about recognising the humanity in different points of view. It was a good year for Oscar Isaac, who was a standout in two of the movies I liked, and a good year for Mia Wasikowska, who was in two movies I liked, though unlike Oscar Isaac's two, her two movies didn't do well at the box office.

So here it is, my annual ranking of all the movies I saw this year, from worst to best. There still are at least two I want to see, the new Macbeth and I never did get around to seeing The Martian. I'm not sure why, I even saw the Comic Con panel and didn't write about it, maybe because pretty much no-one from the movie was on the panel. Anyway, the list:

21. Jurassic World (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Some would say this is dumb fun, I would say it's just depressingly dumb, emblematic of lazy suffocating Hollywood bloat.

20. Terminator Genisys (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A new beginning, or begynning, if you will, as everything daring and organic is drained from the concept of the old films to make something sterile and marketable.

19. Jupiter Ascending (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Now with hindsight, the Wachowskis' attempt at a traditional space opera looks like the anti-Force Awakens with pretty much every standard that Force Awakens cannily stood on its head delivered straight by Jupiter Ascending--the woman is the damsel in distress, the misfit guy is always saving her. In light of this, one wonders if Jupiter Ascending would have done really well if it came out thirty years ago. Maybe not; even Princess Leia and Marion Ravenwood could kick ass. Even Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian in the 1930s Robin Hood had more to do and needed less rescuing.

18. Ant-Man (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Not as bad as people thought it would be, this relatively fun adventure has something of the Edgar Wright charm left over from before he stopped working on the film. Unfortunately, in his absence the film took on some trite plot points and has some of the worst editing I've ever seen in a film with continuity problems in dialogue scenes that make the film play like a long trailer.

17. I Smile Back (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Sarah Silverman's performance elevates this rather unimaginative effort.

16. The Assassin (刺客聶隱娘) (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

The visual splendour of this martial arts homage to Ozu makes this film worth watching despite the dull, inexpressive characters.

15. Goodnight Mommy (Ich Seh Ich Seh, literally "I See I See") (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Some fascinating ideas are sadly hampered by bad instincts. Attempts to contrive cheap scares for the audience bring down what might otherwise have been a good psychological thriller.

14. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

The second in the Avengers series lacks some of the impact of the first but these characters and actors play so nicely off each other. Joss Whedon knows just how to do this sort of thing and shows it again.

13. Clouds of Sils Maria (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A rumination on Bergman and the contrast between modern film and film in the 50s and 60s, this is an academic but basically serviceable exercise.

12. Hidden (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

An uncommonly intimate look at post-apocalyptic horror with an interesting perspective.

11. Mr. Holmes (my review coming soon, the Wikipedia entry)

A melancholy and very human perspective on one of the most well known fictional characters of all time, filling in a very plausible and haunting gap in the psychological portrait of Sherlock Holmes.

10. The Hateful Eight (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

Tarantino's latest is satisfyingly bloody and beautifully shot, populated by the vicious and amoral.

9. It Follows (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A subtle and exciting rumination on adolescent sexual anxieties.

8. Ex Machina (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A fascinating discussion of the responsibilities people have for other people, a somewhat indirect examination of the power dichotomy between men and women.

7. Green Inferno (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A wickedly funny and a classically effective horror tale about the danger of ill considered good intentions.

6. Bone Tomahawk (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

The addition of a horror concept breathes new and wonderful life into old western concepts.

5. Bande de Filles (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

A nice study of how the unchecked and conflicting evolution of perspectives on gender roles influence one girl.

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

An exhilarating and warm spirited return of familiar characters alongside some charming and wonderful new ones.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

This newest Mad Max may well be the best. Another film that consciously subverts gender roles it also creates a credible culture with good and bad qualities, a mixture of Wagnerian warlust and desert nomads with Max as the lost soul in the middle of it all and Furiosa as the embattled misfit with a singular vision. All kinds of complexity and nuance are delivered at a breakneck pace, the world establishes itself firmly before you even know what's happening.

2. Maps to the Stars (my review coming soon, the Wikipedia entry)

Cronenberg's film of Hollywood addiction to shallow spirituality and psychology is intriguingly, resonantly weird. Here's the 2015 film truly without a moral centre.

1. Crimson Peak (my review, the Wikipedia entry)

To call it the most visually stunning film of 2015 would be understating it--this is one of the most beautiful films ever and peopled by deeply considered characters in a story that pays delightful homage to gothic romance and Hammer horror.

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