Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Year in Movies, 2015.

Exciting news -- I'm deleting my Facebook account at the end of the year, which means I'm going to be posting a lot more often to this Blogspot page in 2016, basically all the goofy pop-culture stuff that I used to post over at the former. That includes all of my movie reviews, so I thought I'd start by posting my wrap-up of my 2015 viewings here and start getting people into the habit of coming by this Blogspot page. I'll probably sneak in a few more DVDs before the year ends, but for the purposes of this essay we can say that I watched 65 movies for the first time this year (plus a whole bunch of TV shows, but that's another post for another time), and I thought I'd post lists of both my favorites and the biggest disappointments before moving on to a fresh start in 2016. (95 percent of the movies I watch in a year are watched through Netflix, so as such they're movies that range from the 1920s to just a few months ago, the common factor being that they're all films that I myself only saw for the first time this year. Strictly from the standpoint of quality, there are films like The Omen I only saw for the first time this year that would make better picks on this list below, but I wanted to concentrate just on films in the last year or two to make these a little more relevant to other "best of the year" lists.)


Atari: Game Over. A smart and highly enjoyable documentary about the rise and fall of this 1980s videogame giant.

Boyhood. Believe the hype! This masterpiece by Richard Linklater would already be impressive from its technical achievements, but is doubly great because of the intelligent, downbeat script.

Enter the Void. It takes some patience to watch this psychedelic crime drama/immortality meditation by the notorious Gasper Noe, but this has some of the best special effects and camera shots I've ever seen in cinema.

It Follows. DOUBLE BELIEVE THE HYPE! Easily the best horror movie I've seen in years, it's its teenage sincerity and quiet indie-film tone that makes it so successfully terrifying.

Lucy. My number-one pick for "Best Movies to Watch When You're High and Bored on a Saturday Afternoon," which depressingly describes many of my Netflix choices. Along with "Snowpiercer," this virtually defines what the next ten years of sci-fi action thrillers are going to look like.

We Always Lie to Strangers. Don't let my college friendship with the filmmaker cloud your belief in my write-up; this documentary about Branson, Missouri is surprisingly fair and unexpected, engrossing and informative to boot.

Welcome to Me. The thing I love the most about Kristen Wiig is how effortlessly she can glide between comic and dramatic roles; this one straddles a weird and fascinating line between the two, about an unmedicated schizophrenic who wins a state lottery and all the heartbreaking trouble she gets herself into because of her newfound riches.

What We Do in the Shadows. A hilarious mockumentary about contemporary vampires, written by half of the comedy duo "Flight of the Conchords," what makes this rise above most other comedies this year is that at many moments, this doubles as a HIGHLY effective straightforward horror movie as well.

While We're Young. This latest by Noah Baumbach got criticized for "Grumpy Old Manness" by a lot of people, but it's actually just Baumbach being his usual self -- hilariously cynical about the human race, especially so of hipsters, turning in a double indictment here of not only retro-obsessed douchebag Brooklyn Millennials but also the burned-out Gen-Xers whose pop culture they venerate.

Wild. A big surprise from Reese Witherspoon, an acting tour-de-force within a film she herself produced, about an urban druggie hipster who sleeps around a lot but then one day on a whim decides to hike from Canada to Mexico, almost killing herself multiple times along the way. A powerful and moving character study, aided by Witherspoon's decision to embrace her middle-age and to explore her onscreen sexuality.


Harmontown. I'm a weekly listener to this amazingly dark and confessional live-audience podcast from Dan Harmon, the man-child creator of "Community" and "Rick and Morty;" so how incredibly disappointing to see this documentary about his recent national tour turn out to be a cloying, pretentious hagiography, betraying the intense self-criticism that makes the podcast itself so compelling.

Inherent Vice. Paul Thomas Anderson! Adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel! What could go wrong?! Plenty, it turns out, starting with the hammy Postmodernist story that was going to be nearly impossible to translate to the screen no matter what, sped along by PTA being in his most pretentious "Punch Drunk Love" mode as a director. Ugh, let's all rent "The Master" again and wait for his next film.

The Overnight. A great naughty concept (young LA couple get suckered one night into a wife-swap with another hipster couple), starring the good-looking and talented Adam Scott, Jason Schwarzman and Taylor Schilling, directed by the creator of the highly effective alt-horror movie "Creep" -- this on paper has all the makings of a great movie experience, but then falls apart because of its masturbatory, go-nowhere mumblecore script. Wow, what a disappointment.

That's it for now, but please come back starting in the new year for all my 2016 movie reviews!

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