This was a great year for the box office, it seems, but when it comes to quality there wasn’t nearly as much in the coffers. This might be the weakest year in film I can remember for some time; I saw my usual 200 plus films this year but there was a lot more crap to wade through this year. It wasn’t just the studio system, either; there was a lot more money being made but a lot less bang for the buck. Even last year, which was a weak year, feels significantly stronger in comparison.
10. The Martian
If you made Castaway into a science fiction film, and expanded it to more than one man trying to live, then The Martian would be it. I really enjoyed this film because it was Matt Damon being that nice, accessible type of actor that drove his rise to fame. It’s not a perfect film, and Damon has drawn more as Jason Bourne, but Matt Damon the superstar actor works when he’s being that goofy guy that you think you might be friends with if he wasn’t a movie star.
9. Kingsman: The Secret Service
I love James Bond films more than most but sometimes a good ribbing is needed. This is a great ribbing while also being a great spy thriller. Colin Firth is terrific and it is so impressively British while having an American action film sensibility.
8. Bridge of Spies
When all is said and done Steven Spielberg’s 2015 output won’t be listed among his very best films. Or even among his very good. Bridge of Spies is lesser Spielberg, not even making his Top 10 films, but it’s still pretty damn good.
7. The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?
How did Tim Burton’s relaunch of Superman fail? Crowd funded, this is an exploration of the whys of it from everyone who mattered in its production. Loved the hell out of it, too, as this was the ultimate fanboy question answered by everyone involved in it. For years the best source of information was from one of Kevin Smith’s spoken word tours; now we have the definitive “Why did this fail” documentary.
6. Hot Girls Wanted
Ever want to watch porn again with a clean conscience? Then avoid this film at all costs.
Chronicling the adventures of a handful of newcomers to the adult film world, this delves into how that industry wrecks the lives of women who enter into it. We follow a handful of 18 year olds with good lives and backgrounds who want to get into it … and they wind up becoming so profoundly damaged from less than a year of shooting adult films that it’s startling.
It’s a great documentary, as well, because it pulls no punches and you’ll think twice about logging into Pornhub, et al, for a long time after you watch it.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This wasn’t a great year as there was a clear divide between my Top four films and the rest. The latest episode of Star Wars was good, not great, and in any other year wouldn’t sniff the Top 10. But this is a bad year for film and it stands out for merely being good in a year filled with such utter garbage week in and week out.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger came back to acting he came back with some fairly lackluster films, culminating with one of the worst films of the year in the latest Terminator sequel. If he’d have come back with this film, and to a lesser extent Sabotage, he’d be in a much better place because right now he’s forced to be an actor when he wanted to be a movie star. Unfortunately tastes have changed and Arnold can’t open a film to a lot of money based on his name alone.
This was a film positing him as the Anti-Arnold in a way; he was a man trying to hold on to the last vestiges of his former family, his daughter about to become a member of the walking dead and him unable to prevent it from happening. That was the brilliant part of the film; you’d expect Arnold to be a scientist trying to find a cure (and getting the happy ending). This time he’s just a guy trying to hold on after so much loss, the last vestiges of his previous family in the form of his daughter. It was heart breaking to watch as Schwarzenegger brought out an acting fastball few knew he had in him.
3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I reviewed it on Blu-Ray here.
It’s hard to contemplate death at any age. When you’re a teenager it’s the most difficult and this film gets it.
2. Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman
Adam Carolla made two films this year, which is impressive considering he has one of the more popular podcasts in America on a daily basis, multiple ones coming out per week and a television show on Spike TV. The first was Road Hard, which had moments of brilliance but needed a good editing from someone in the studio system in my humble opinion. The other was Winning, a look at the professional racing career of one of cinema’s grandest stars.
Carolla was absolutely brilliant here, tackling a subject very few really know about, as we get an indepth look at his career from everyone who knew him then. It’s the best documentary of the year and should be on the short list for an Oscar. It won’t, for any number of reasons, but it’s engrossing in all the right ways.
I reviewed it here.
It’s hard to make a great journalism film, these days, because there’s a desire to insert a perspective on what’s being investigated into the story. Truth was killed because of this; it could’ve been a great film about the collapse of a journalistic titan and turned into “Whaa Whaa we hate George Bush, Whaa Whaa” instead. It was everything wrong with how film views journalism these days.
Spotlight was a journalism film about the power of an investigation and easily is the first great journalism film since All the President’s Men.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Monday Morning Critic, Top 10 2015