Well, the end of the year is finally upon us, and that means it's time for me to recap the best of the year so you'll have something to watch instead of Ryan Seacrest on New Years. I have carefully selected my top five favorite films of the year and ranked them according to highly subjective criteria. And to clear things up right away, Star Wars is not on this list, though it made the number six spot. It was narrowly beaten out by...
Call this a case of my inner biased James Bond fanboy wanting his own way. This film has received kind of a lot of hate due to its plotting, but one can't really evaluate a Bond based on its plot, because they all have basically the same level of believability. What it does give us is a stylish, dangerous, and appropriately woman-izing spy fantasy that reintroduces the series' most wonderful baddie. Yes, the way he is revealed bugged me, and yes, Sam Smith's "song" is worse than salt and vinegar chips on a canker. But those deficiencies can't defeat my irrational love of these movies, which is, I suppose, what it means to be a fan. I won't judge you if you won't judge me.
This is not your Kenneth Branagh-issue Shakespeare, but it is also not as revisionist as its ultra-stylized visuals suggest. The play is plunged into a period in Scotland where pagan superstition shares the bench with Christianity and bathing is not a concept. Leads Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender are a grim delight, and a supporting cast featuring Professor Lupin rounds out a very introspective take on the Bard's grim play. The photography and immaculate composition often evoke a graphic novel-ish aesthetic which is occasionally a little distracting, but it also provides contrasting stimulus during soliloquies that other cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare lack. Check it out.
3. Inside Out
As the one film on this list that I know all of you have seen, I don't know that I need to say much by way of praise. But I love it as an example of the kind of wonderful thing that can be accomplished in the world of animation, when those in charge are not busy trying to figure out ways to make half a billion dollars on the backs of one-joke side characters. Ahem... Anyway, this film was a delight, somehow maintaining its light heart through some surprisingly complex emotional material that breaks with the black-and-white happily-ever-after doctrine of any mainstream animated feature ever released. (Okay, except Toy Story 3.) And those scenes during the credits, though.
2. Slow West
Like I have said before, Slow West is the neo-western fairy tale lovechild of Shakespeare, the Coens, and Frederico Fellini, and I loved every minute of it. It is, well, kind of slow, moving between detached scenes in a pretty observational way, but patches of brutish violence or emotional realization punctuate it throughout. Of those on this list, this is the film you probably have heard the least about, so I highly suggest going and renting it, like tonight. It is the kind of unexpected delight you only get a few of each year, and in another year would have been sitting at the top of this list. But what could possibly have topped such a wonderful little thing?
1. Mad Max: Fury Road, duh
I want to be careful not to wax too hyperbolic here, but Mad Max: Fury Road is as close to a perfect a movie as they come. It is, first of all, an absolute riot: an exhilarating, crazy, technically exquisite thrill ride. It also functions as the best, most concise symbol of the terror of the unbridled masculinism in our culture. It is the perfect marriage of pure cinematic showmanship and timely, uncompromising, but undidactic commentary on what we live with today. It is the result of of years of work by masters at the top of their game, visual storytelling the way it ought to be. And if you don't like it, our relationship may never recover. There, I said it.
This brings us to the real reason you're reading, to find out what I really didn't like. So here we go:
My issues with this movie are many and varied, but let's start off by saying that it just wasn't good, like in any way. There is not much to be entertained by in terms of character, plot, or action. In fact, it leaves mostly a bad taste in the mouth due to its bizarre sexism and constant "hey, remember this?" moments. I say that it is worse than what you think of as other "bad" movies because it is so intent on being as good and important as its older brother, and is so inexplicably popular. Bad movies usually have the decency to at least not make money.
It is what others more clever than I have termed a "legacy-quel:" a narratively unnecessary sequel that relies more upon nostalgia than novelty in order to bring in an audience. Here we see recycled fan-favorite sets, props, and animated characters that make us think of watching Jurassic Park on VHS after school. These winky moments trick us into thinking we like the movie, when really there are no likable characters or memorable sequences, only lots of cartoon dinosaurs and product placement. Other legacy-quels of note this year include Terminator: Genisys and, yes, Star Wars. Almost all of Star Wars. But what about Mad Max, you say. It is not, since it does not pander for attention by throwing in references to Bartertown or Toecutter. It supplies new material with the tools provided by its world. A fine line, but one that Jurassic World crosses repeatedly and unenjoyably.
But with all of the cinematic good out there, we needn't bother with the rubbish. And you needn't even bother with the rantings of this writer, for if you have enjoyed any movie, that ought to be good enough, and I can and should have nothing to say against it. Just please enjoy movies next year responsibly.
by Chase Harrison