So, we’re practically into 2016. Now is the time for looking back and taking stock – Oh screw it. End of year list article. You know how this works. I managed 40 films this year, here’s the cream of the crop and the… err… poo of the stock.
The Best of 2015
5. Ex Machina
It says something when you saw a film all the way back in March and are still eager to give it a rewatch. The minimalist and rather unsettling science fiction psycho-drama Ex Machina gives the Turing Test a sexy overhaul and heaps layer upon layer of deceit and subterfuge on the proceedings. Sleek, smart and sinister, I just wish the other film starring Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaacs this year had been a tenth as good.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
I am a sedate man by nature. I like sitting in dark rooms and watching coordinated lights flash against the walls. I like napping. When a film comes along that encourages me to find the nearest car, rig it up with a bigger engine, fix chainsaws to the front and ride it like a chariot, then that’s pretty gripping cinema. What’s that? It’s championing feminism and tying that intimately into its desert apocalypse destruction derby? AWESOME!
3. Inherent Vice
Easily the toughest film to like that I saw this year but I did like Inherent Vice in spades. I am not sure I understood it. I am not sure Thomas Pynchon is capable of comprehension by beings in this dimension but the kaleidoscopic stoner sleuth flick had me mesmerised. Watch a drug-addled hippy solve a series of seemingly related but actually disparate cases (isn’t it meant to work the other way around?) and question whether you’ve been slipped something.
I am a hard man to please on Shakespeare adaptations but when they do it right, you have to take your hat off. I think the best thing to say about this is that it is probably the most fully realised cinematic rendering of Shakespeare since Kurosawa’s Ran: it doesn’t feel stagey or like a filmed play. You’re abandoned amongst the panoramic highlands; a landscape filled with witches, madness and accomplished actors murdering each other in increasingly gruesome ways.
1. Wild Tales
If you take nothing else away from this, learn to take a chance. I had no idea going into a poorly attended screening of an Argentine anthology film that I’d be raving about it for months afterwards. Wild Tales was so poised, so elegant, so funny. It could pivot scenes in an instant and I was splitting my sides at its brand of macabre humour all the way through. If human misery can be a thing of beauty, this was the Venus de Milo.
The Worst of 2015
5. Terminator: Genisys
There is not much variety to the turds on offer this year. They are cynical and boring studio products. Generic scripts and stories with some franchise paint on them to reel in sales. The lot of them are devoid of character and creativity. Terminator: Genisys with its stupid misspelt-on-purpose name was a badly made TV movie with the indecency of pretending it should have come out in cinemas. It just pipped Jurassic World onto this list because I knew from the trailers exactly how stupid this was going to be. Jurassic World at least surprised me.
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
End! Just end, damn you. This butchering of a children’s classic has gone on long enough. You cannot haul this sheer quantity of ungainly blubber into such a slim tome and expect it to be enjoyable. Perfunctory arcs, inconsequential bloated action sequences, characters of no import who DO NOT EVEN EXIST in the book clogging up this sewer of a Tolkien adaptation. If Peter Jackson had just stuck to a single two-hour outing this may have stood a chance but what glimmering hope may once have existed is smothered beneath the putrefying corpse of the collective audience’s long dead patience.
Now as I noted above, many of these worst films are adaptations or part of a franchise, hearkening back to some prior intellectual property. Pan is the only one of these messes where I am pretty sure no one on set had read the book. Devoid of any semblance to the original material beyond the names, and with an utterly dire ‘the story before the adventure you know’ angle, I think the script for this abomination was completed by an intern filling in blank fields in a template document: ‘[insert protagonist’s name here] blasts [insert villain’s name here] with [insert ludicrous magical power here]’.
2. Fantastic Four
I will give it this: Fantastic Four is the most interesting of this year’s cinematic runts. I sat there, baffled, wondering how a film so clearly unfinished could have been released. I half-expected the boom mikes to drop into shot and the backgrounds to suddenly cut out to blue screen. That would have improved things, actually…
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
How could it be anything else? I went in expecting a terrible schlocky softcore sex flick in the worst tradition of the ‘90s which I could deny enjoying on a shameful and base level, and I didn’t even get that. This was so tame in its sexual proclivities, I could have had a better trashy night out by watching two sheets of sandpaper being rubbed together. Where was the kink? Where was the scandal? Of course it was going to bad (have you read the book?) but did it have to be so bloody boring?