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Friday, January 01, 2016

Movies I Watched in 2015

It turns out that I watched a lot of movies in 2015 - more than ever before, an almost embarrassing number: 209. However, this year I started counting short films, not because I wanted to inflate my numbers, but because I think they deserve their due. About 40 of the films I watched in 2015 were shorts, including five screened at the Edmonton International Film Festival, a bunch of Chaplin shorts viewed on YouTube, and a wonderful batch of really excellent and interesting 3D pictures on my favourite Blu-Ray of the year, 3D Rarities

I saw a bunch of great movies this year; I'm especially fond of the short The House is Innocent, about a couple who buy a house that was the site of an infamous multiple murder and make it their own with their own special brand of macabre humour; Ex Machina, the last film I watched in 2015, a tightly written examination of the possibilities of strong AI; Whiplash, my favourite of the 2014 Best Picture nominees; Witness for the Prosecution, which features a performance twist so incredible I nearly jumped out of my seat; the bleak and unforgettable The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; my favourite film of 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road; the creepy and revelatory Nightcrawler; the laugh-out-loud, lives-up-to-the-promise-of-its-trailer Kung Fury; the horrifying and yet beautiful The Wicker Man; Woody Allen's disturbing Crimes and Misdemeanors; the surprisingly excellent, badly-titled SF action film Edge of Tomorrow; Ant-Man, another fun hit from Marvel; Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, the second great Mission: Impossible film in a row; The Breakfast Club, a film I really should have watched when it was released; the breathtaking and inspirational The Martian; the surprisingly good Keanu Reeves vehicle John Wick; Ingmar Bergman's magnificent Persona; the sad and haunting Midnight Cowboy; and 2015's likely Best Picture winner, Spotlight

Disappointments included the latest Bond film, Spectre; the undercooked The Talented Mr. Ripley; The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, which to my mind glossed over the accomplishments of two great scientists; Akira, which I found underwhelming given its reputation; Roman Polanski's meandering Tess; and the good but not great Bridge of Spies

Just plain terrible films included Fantastic Four, Jupiter Ascending and Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. I also suffered through the Fast & Furious catalogue, which includes seven bad but oddly compelling bromance action films. 

I knocked at least 20 Best Picture nominees of my list this year, and possibly more, depending on if any of the 2015 films I screened wind up being nominated for this year. 

Unlike my reading list, which is heavily weighted toward science fiction, my film tastes are more diverse; oddly enough, comedies topped my list this year, followed closely by SF, documentaries and straight dramas. While about a quarter of the films I screened were released in this decade, the rest are spread pretty evenly through the 20th century. 

This year Allan introduced me to Letterboxd, the social media hub for film nerds, and I've been busily filling in, to the best of my memory and fragmented records, every movie I've ever seen. I've collected all of my existing film reviews there, along with a couple of new lists and new short reviews as the mood strikes me. Those interested should feel free to peruse my Letterboxd profile

Without further ado, here's the list: 

January: 13
The Quatermass Experiment (Sam Miller, 2005)
Safety Last (Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1923)
Take a Chance (Alfred J. Goulding, 1918)
Young Mr. Jazz (Hal Roach, 1919)
His Royal Slyness (Hal Roach, 1920)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
The Thief of Bagdad (Michael Powell and Ludwig Berger and Tim Whelan, 1940)
The Lion Has Wings (Michael Powell and Brian Desmond Hurst and Adrian Brunel, 1939)
Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius (David Gill and Kevin Brownlow, 1989)
A Sammy in Siberia (Hal Roach, 1919)
A Slight Case of Murder (Lloyd Bacon, 1938)
Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter, 1987)
Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)

February: 7
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood, 2014)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro G. Inarritu, 2014)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, 2014)
Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014)
The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014)

March: 10
When Worlds Collide (Rudolph Mate, 1951)
Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
Futureworld (Richard T. Heffron, 1976)
Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)
Father of the Bride (Vincente Minnelli, 1950)
Father’s Little Dividend (Vincente Minnelli, 1951)
Revenge of the Ninja (Sam Firstenberg, 1983)
Ninja III: The Domination (Sam Firstenberg, 1984)
Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage (Shahin Sean Solimon, 2014)

April: 22
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Alex Gibney, 2015)
Murder by Death (Robert Moore, 1976)
Jodorowsky’s Dune (Frank Pavich, 2013)
Dune (David Lynch, 1984)
Hollow Man (Paul Verhoeven, 2000)
The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955)
1941 (Steven Spielberg, 1979)
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder, 1957)
City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak, 1940)
San Quentin (Lloyd Bacon, 1937)
Each Dawn I Die (William Keighley, 1939)
Bullets or Ballots (William Keighley, 1936)
Smart Money (Alfred E. Green, 1931)
The Mayor of Hell (Archie Mayo, 1933)
Picture Snatcher (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
Lady Killer (Roy Del Ruth, 1933)
Cyrano de Bergerac (Clement Maurice, 1900)
Jack and the Beanstalk (Edwin S. Porter, 1902)
Black Legion (Archie Mayo, 1937)
Brother Orchid (Lloyd Bacon, 1940)

May: 14
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt, 1965)
The Little Giant (Roy Del Ruth, 1933)
Kid Galahad (Michael Curtiz, 1937)
Tombstone (George P. Cosmatos, 1993)
Superman Unbound (James Tucker, 2013)
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Anatole Litvak, 1938)
Invisible Stripes (Lloyd Bacon, 1939)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
Larceny, Inc. (Lloyd Bacon, 1942)
Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (Constantine Nasr, 2008)
Kung Fury (David Sandberg, 2015)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
Fury (David Ayer, 2014)

June: 5
The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)
Time Lapse (Bradley King, 2014)
Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014)
Project Almanac (Dean Israelite, 2015)

July: 12
Jupiter Ascending (The Wachowskis, 2015)
Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)
The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (Jon Schnepp, 2015)
The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Huw Evans, 2011)
Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Herbert Ross, 1976)
The Natural (Barry Levinson, 1984)
Cotton Comes to Harlem (Ossie Davis, 1970)
The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)
Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)
The Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen, 2001)
2 Fast 2 Furious (John Singleton, 2003)

August: 17
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)
Fast & Furious (Justin Lin, 2009)
Fast Five (Justin Lin, 2011)
Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin, 2013)
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006)
Furious 7 (James Wan, 2015)
Prelude to Axanar (Christian Gossett, 2014)
Aelita: Queen of Mars (Yakov Protazanov, 1924)
Skippy (Norman Taurog, 1931)
Probe (Russ Mayberry, 1972)
Star Trek: Renegades (Tim Russ, 2015)
To Trap a Spy (Don Medford, 1964)
One of Our Spies is Missing (E. Darrell Hallenbeck, 1966)
The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)
The Spy with My Face (John Newland, 1965)
One Spy Too Many (Joseph Sargent, 1966)
The Spy in the Green Hat (Joseph Sargent, 1967)
September: 15
The Karate Killers (Barry Shear, 1967)
How to Steal the World (Sutton Roley, 1968)
The Helicopter Spies (Boris Sagal, 1968)
The Bubble (Arch Oboler, 1966)
The 27th Day (William Asher, 1957)
The Night the World Exploded (Fred F. Sears, 1957)
The H-Man (Ishiro Honda, 1958)
12 to the Moon (David Bradley, 1959)
Battle in Outer Space (Ishiro Honda, 1959)
Valley of the Dragons (Edward Bernds, 1961)
The Italian Connection (Fernando Di Leo, 1972)
Super Fuzz (Sergio Corbucci, 1980)
Wild, Wild Planet (Antonio Margheriti, 1965)
Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944)
The Broadway Melody (Harry Beaumont, 1929)
October: 39
Lego Batman The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite (Jon Burton, 2013)
Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983)
Movies of the Future (William van Doren Kelley, 1923)
Thru the Trees – Washington, D.C. (William van Doren Kelley, 1923)
Plastigrams (Jacob Leventhal and Frederick E. Ives, 1924)
Stereoscopiks (Jacob Leventhal and Frederick E. Ives, 1924)
Ouch (Jacob Leventhal and Frederick E. Ives, 1925)
Runaway Taxi (Jacob Leventhal and Frederick E. Ives, 1925)
Audioscokpiks (Jacob Leventhal and John Norling, 1936)
Thrills for You (Pennsylvania Railroad, 1940)
New Dimensions (Chrysler, 1940)
Now is the Time (Norman McLaren, 1951)
Around and Around (Norman McLaren, 1951)
O Canada (Evelyn Lambart, 1952)
Twirligig (Gretta Eckman, 1952)
Bolex Stereo (Bolex, 1952)
M.L. Gunzburg Presents Natural Vision 3-Dimension (Milton Gunzburg, 1952)
Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott (John Boyle, 1953)
Stardust in Your Eyes (Phil Tucker, 1953)
Doom Town (Gerald Schnitzer, 1953)
The Adventures of Sam Space (Paul Sprunck, 1960)
I’ll Sell My Shirt (Dan Sonney, 1953)
Boo Moon (Izzy Sparber and Seymour Kneitel, 1953)
The Champ (King Vidor, 1931)
Mo’s Bows (Jennifer Treuting and Kristen McGregor, 2015)
The House is Innocent (Nicholas Coles, 2015)
We Live This (James Burns, 2015)
Happy Town: The Surf Suit (Frederick Kroetsch, 2015)
All-American Family (Andrew Jenks, 2015)
The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015)
Tess (Roman Polanski, 1979)
Parallels (Christopher Leone, 2015)
Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
White Zombie (Victor Halperin, 1932)
Night of the Ghouls (Edward D. Wood Jr., 1958)             
Tales from the Crypt (Freddie Francis, 1972)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932)

November: 16
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Victor Fleming, 1941)
The Walking Dead (Michael Curtiz, 1936)
Frankenstein 1970 (Howard W. Kock, 1958)
You’ll Find Out (David Butler, 1940)
Zombies on Broadway (Gordon Douglas, 1945)
I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise, 1945)
Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945)
Bedlam (Mark Robson, 1946)
Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015)
The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson, 1943)
The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson, 1943)
Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (Constantine Nasr, 2005)
Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (Kent Jones, 2007)
Cinderella (Kenneth Branagh, 2015)

December: 48
Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)
Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)
Catch Me if You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996)
Aliens of the Deep (James Cameron, 2005)
Sleuth (Kenneth Branagh, 2007)
The Magic Flute (Kenneth Branagh, 2006)
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
The Space Children (Jack Arnold, 1958)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
Piranha II: The Spawning (James Cameron, 1981)
Xenogenesis (James Cameron, 1978)
The Toughest Gun in Tombstone (Earl Bellamy, 1958)
Man of the West (Anthony Mann, 1958)
The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann, 1992)
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael, 2009)
Rachel, Rachel (Paul Newman, 1968)
Four Rooms (Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, 1995)
John Wick (Chad Stahelski, 2014)
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)
8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (Alex Gibney, 2015)
The Ipcress File (Sidney J. Furie, 1965)
Twenty Minutes of Love (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Caught in the Rain (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
A Busy Day (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Her Friend the Bandit (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Mabel’s Married Life (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Laughing Gas (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
The Property Man (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Going My Way (Leo McCarey, 1944)
The Bells of St. Mary's (Leo McCarey, 1945)
The Face on the Bar Room Floor (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
Recreation (Charlie Chaplin, 1914)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
The Monster That Challenged the World (Arnold Laven, 1957)
Fantastic Four (Josh Trank, 2015)
Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1968)
Funeral in Berlin (Guy Hamilton, 1966)
Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg, 2015)
Billion Dollar Brain (Ken Russell, 1967)
Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
All This, and Heaven Too (Anatole Litvak, 1940)
Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
Best Picture Nominees: 21

Comedy: 32

Science Fiction: 31

Documentary: 25

Drama: 21

Crime: 19

Horror: 18

Espionage: 14

Action: 9

Animation: 8

Fantasy: 5
Musical: 5

Superhero: 4
Western: 4

Film Noir: 3
Martial Arts: 3
War: 3
Propaganda: 3
Sports: 3
Thriller: 3

Star Trek: 2

James Bond: 1

Top Directors
Charlie Chaplin: 9

Lloyd Bacon: 6

Justin Lin: 4
Mark Robson: 4

Paul Thomas Anderson: 3
Kenneth Branagh: 3
James Cameron: 3

Hal Roach: 3
Steven Spielberg: 3
Jacques Tourneur: 3

Woody Allen: 2
Tim Burton: 2
Sam Firstenberg: 2
Ishiro Honda: 2
William Keighley: 2
Archie Mayo: 2
Leo McCarey: 2
Norman McLaren: 2
Vincente Minnelli: 2
Michael Powell: 2

Joseph Sargent: 2
Billy Wilder: 2
Robert Wise: 2

Films by Decade
1900s: 2
1910s: 12
1920s: 10
1930s: 20
1940s: 21
1950s: 29
1960s: 23
1970s: 14
1980s: 12
1990s: 9
2000s: 14
2010s: 49


Jeff Shyluk said...

Akira... if you're not "iki", it's a tough go for the uninitiated. If you don't fully understand the first five minutes, you're likely never going to catch up to the story.

The Pioneer edition, which is likely the one you've watched, has the best translation, but it's not the most informative. That would be the Criterion Laserdisc. Unfortunately, the DVD misses some critical information. The best, I've heard, is the FUNimation Blu-Ray, but only because it uses tracks from the great Pioneer print, the Criterion, the Bandai and even the incomprehensible original Manga dub, and you view them successively.

Production was notorious because Otomo was working on both the film and the comic book both at the same time. Deadlines forced him to make compromises, which don't help the film to be more understandable to western audiences. Japanese viewers are more likely to accept its very strong "wabi-sabi" ethic.

So, I urge you to watch it again after a while. Channel your inner Tiger Tanaka. A valid criticism of both the book and the movie is that all of the major characters resemble one another, and apart from Tetsuo and Kaneda, they all act a lot alike, too. Blame the deadlines. So, next time: watch the film but don't watch the main characters. Look at everything else that is going on in neo-Tokyo, and you'll be suitably blown away. It's a bit like Mad Max minus Mad Max, which is the paradoxical charm of the new George Miller movie.

Akira the film tempts me to order the re-issued comic, and that's saying something as I don't buy comic books.

Jeff Shyluk said...

The other film I'd like to comment on is Jupiter Rising.

I'm not sure there are film-makers I love to watch more than the Wachowskis! All of their works are obvious works of pure heart. Brain dead, lumbering, and missing the mark in the most powerful way, but watchable because of a joyous Ed Woodian obliviousness, the latest Wachowski films are to be treasured. Once. And then get rid of the disc. Dump it in the nearest sewer.

Cloud Atlas was a truly epic brilliant misfire. It has ripples that continue today. Jupiter Rising is the aftershock to Cloud Atlas.

The Force Awakens is an extremely calculating film. So is Jupiter Rising. Only the calculations are all horribly wrong. Jupiter Rising is Star Wars that is still fun (unlike I-III), but with crappy acting, baffling casting, strange pacing, and execrable writing. Well, it's a lot more like IV than it isn't, kind of like Star Crash. But Star Crash had tons of sex appeal - Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are just incredibly tired.

I am supremely not looking forward to the Neill Blomkamp resurrection of Aliens. His approach is absolutely dreary. If you're going to camp up the franchise, and you're not going to Joss Whedon for obvious reasons, I say GIVE THE ALIENS PROJECT TO THE WACHOWSKIS! Yes, they'd nail the coffin shut. But man would it ever be fun to watch the wheels come off.

That was rambling, but the best thing I can say about Jupiter Rising is that I hope it gets the W's into Aliens!

Jeff Shyluk said...

I realise now in my previous post that I mixed my metaphors and now there is a sealed and wheeled coffin with weak axles. I say the Wachowskis are talented enough to handle that.