Ok, time to finish thing and put 2015 in the books. Follow me.
11. I AM BIG BIRD
There was a documentary a few years ago about the guy who famously played Elmo and how he was one of the last few muppeteers to work under Henson that were still around and working today. Well we all know how THAT worked out. Carroll Spinney, who has been playing the character since 1969 was right in the middle of the Henson renaissance but it’s not a story of a group of people changing the world. It’s the story of a single man who felt like he never felt like he was part of the gang while the character he was playing was touching the hearts of millions of children. His life story is fascinating, overwhelming and a little bittersweet. I mean, they reveal that Big Bird was supposed to go up in the space shuttle Challenger! Can you imagine the unbearable tragedy of explaining to your child what happened to Big Bird? Thankfully he is still doing what he does, into his 90’s. A stalwart humble figure that has spent decades making people happy.
10. STEVE JOBS
Aaron Sorkin reinvented the biopic and people didn’t seem to pay attention. Even with all it’s behind the scenes problems, changing directors, changing studios, changing leads, the script was still served superbly. Everyone wanted Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale to play Jobs and that isn’t hard to imagine but Michael Fassbender got the job. He’s great but not the ideal choice. WELL, IT TURNS OUT HE PROBABLY DID IT BETTER THEM ALL THEMS. His performance brings out that sympathy to Jobs’ cold personality that we saw in all the interviews and documentaries. The structure of only showing the unveiling of key products in his career was something I had read about for years and was always excited to see it but to anchor the entire thing with the relationship with his daughter is what really got me. I’ve read up a lot on Jobs and his denial of paternity was always gutwrenching. But the fact that he named one of his computers the LISA is just one of those real complex emotions that the movie tries to decode and I loved every minute of it. I was planning to explain to the people I saw the movie with about the amazing Apple Newton joke that The Simpsons once had but the movie flat out showed the clip. This is being at the top of your game if you’re a filmmaker.
I love the LA story. Most people that live and work in LA are not from here and resent every minute they have to spend in the sprawl and take every opportunity they can to leave it. If you ever spent more than 10 minutes in the East Hollywood area, you’ve been privy to some kind of madness or weird altercation, especially if the sun isn’t out. Usually you just leave the area and hope for the best. This movie is that area, and you can’t leave. Because it’s about the people that are that area and they can’t leave either. At one point, the movie spends a long shot walking down the bad part of Santa Monica Blvd. and you feel it. It’s like the opening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, feeling the burn of something people ACTUALLY went through from the safety of your plush movie theater seat. Unfolding on these streets, is a story very human story of friendship and loyalty in the harshest of conditions. You probably will never know this kind of life and you wonder what could be gained by getting a glimpse but to me, that’s the entire point of life and cinema. Gathering people’s stories in your head and getting something from them. As impressive as the movie was, the final credit was that the entire thing was shot on an iPhone, which absolutely stunned me. From the filmmakers of previous Top Ten list dweller, STARLET, it offers another look at human beings you probably wouldn’t give a second thought to.
8. SHAUN THE SHEEP
Aardman, the studio that gave us CHICKEN RUN and WALLACE AND GROMIT return to give us this movie, apparently based off a kid’s show that has run for several seasons. But you don’t need to know that. You just have to enjoy the antics and action of one of the best streamlined emotional and hysterical stories of the year. The simplicity is one of it’s more appealing aspects. Not a single word of dialogue is spoken yet the humor is flawless. It has hands down the best long con joke of the year. There is something about British farm life that I will always call to me.
7. JURASSIC WORLD
JURASSIC PARK is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time. I have read the book several times. I have many curiously emotional attachments to the ride of the same name. I’ve seen sequels miss the mark and I was ready for nostalgia to just get me through this life without every getting that magic repackaged and shoved into my eyes again. I loved being wrong about this. A wonderful idea for a sequel with fun new characters and exciting action and a cheer worthy finale was one of the funnest theater experiences of my life. It’s June and I’m watching raptors jump into battle with their Chris Pratt trainer. This is the way it ought to be. Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score emulating the themes of John Williams while adding intense new ones encapsulate how well these ideas have been given a shot in the arm and are revitalized and ready to tear our arms out once again. It’s kind of worth it for Star Wars to suck to give me ammo to all those JW naysayers out there. Hail to the king, baby.
6. DANNY COLLINS
Al Pacino has unfortunately spent a lot of time being in bad movies over the last decade or so. That means that his comeback was always destined to be lost in the shuffle but I’m here to tell you here it is. His very own JERRY MAGUIRE shot at redemption on and off the screen. I hesitate to tell you much more about it, because a great story unfolds, and this does a great job of it. All the way to it’s brilliant ending. I’ll just persuade you with the fact that Supergirl is in it beaming and giggling and who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?
5. INSIDE OUT
I kept wanting INSIDE OUT to get darker. Get a little harder to watch. To twist the knife a little more. Pixar has been coasting for a while and this was the movie that brought them back to greatness but I always want them to go a little further. But for the first time, I realized why they didn’t. This young girl, who’s spectrum of emotion is getting more complicated and intricate, like everyone, is going to feel pain in more diverse ways in her life. And we don’t have to drop it all on her now, even though that happens to far too many people. The beginning of it all is enough, and the message that even though the feelings will get become tougher to process, and maybe too many to handle, that the ways of coping and figuring them out will also be abundant as well. Pixar has a way of making you miss the characters and really hope they end up okay. I wouldn’t mind a sequel where Riley gets older and they have to deal with heavier stuff. Or maybe a prequel where he emotions go to college or something. Wait, scratch that one.
Lily Tomlin deserves an Oscar this year and way more attention than she’s getting. I fear that most of the young and attractive people will remember her from yelling at David O. Russell on YouTube. But she was nice enough to remind us why we’re all dumb for not thinking about her more. She plays an actual old person who doesn’t rap or smoke pot in this movie (or maybe she does smoke pot, but she doesn’t make a big deal about it) with a history that she unknowingly starts exposing her granddaughter to as they scour the town looking for money to pay for her abortion. If anything, the academy should at least give her the “body of work” Oscar for snubbing her legendary performance as Ms. Hathaway in THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES movie.
3. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
I’ve reviewed this very recently, so the only thing I can add is to tell you that this movie plants seeds in you that start growing right away and you end up feasting on the juicy fruit for days. We are lucky to have Quentin Tarantino making movies. We are lucky he cares so much about the exhibition of film. We are lucky he cares about film because I get to watch so many great films at his theater on glorious celluloid. Those of us that love movies are always rewarded with him. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
2. THE INTERN
I’m so happy that Hollywood has focused so much on non-romantic relationships over the last couple of years. The idea that we can make each other better has always inspired me and kept me going. This is a movie like BIG or PLEASANTVILLE that transcends its premise and gives you something beyond an extended joke. Robert DeNiro has decided he’s going to do comedies until he hits the grave but the one or two light dramas he’s done in the last few years have really blown me away. Who knew mid-level energy DeNiro is where it’s at son. And Anne Hathaway, my great love, bogged down by a bunch of Oscar bait nonsense pays homage and builds on the phantom career of the person who was gonna make movies like PRINCESS DIARIES her whole life. I like the version of reality where THAT happens. Despite everything that this movie does, despite my breaking out in tears at it’s beauty, there is another film that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go for months on end…
I love George Miller. He’s a goddamn beast. And he had a hand in the BABE movies so he has a heart too. Who knew that in his 70’s he’d be THIS hungry? Hungry to jump back in his world and slap shot your brain into a goal made of razor wire and dipped in Taco Bell fire sauce. Imperetor Furiosa. Fuck yes. She lost an arm and she’s willing to lose everything else to get her women to freedom. Max, floats on in like a post-apocalyptic Forrest Gump, and one of three great 2015 performances by the flawless Tom Hardy, has nothing left to lose and together they both reach purpose. And along the way is the coolest imagery and stunts of the year. The second I saw the Pole Cats in the trailer, I knew I was gonna be hooked. When you can be convinced that they actually murdered people in order to accomplish stunts than you’ve done your job as a filmmaker. And it’s one of those movies that only gets more kinetic and potent upon each viewing. That rarely happens with me but in the 3 times I watched it in a theater this year it only became harder to see where the seams are. There isn’t a second of this movie where you aren’t sucked in and there isn’t a moment or action taken for granted. It is the most satisfying of the classically told cinema epics I’ve seen in a long time and it’s the fourth in a franchise. I feel it changed the way we should look at “reboots” in the way BATMAN BEGINS invented them. It’s everything we needed to see and hear at exactly the right time. To me, nothing can eclipse the accomplishment this was this year. Even Robert DeNiro watching Gene Kelly on the television and realizing he’s having a moment he thought he’d never have again. Even Joy (the emotion, not the Jennifer Lawrence character) realize that a memory can change context over time. Or a man riding a motorcycle with his trained raptors to take down a genetically enhanced super dino. Or a girl selling Fruit Brute ice cream. It bests every great moment I saw in a movie this year but I had a hell of time seeing them fight for the top of the heap. I can’t wait to see what will be better than all of those things so I’m never gonna stop looking for it.