January was a busy month, first up was catching up with the delightful Paddington which was beautifully directed and a joy to watch, then getting two Jake Gyllenhaals for the price of one in Enemy which I initially hated, but it did linger long with me after watching so must have something good going for it. Adored Whiplash, really liked Ex Machina and Birdman and thoroughly enjoyed the trip I was on in Inherent Vice but was left very disappointed with Kingsmen: The Secret Service, the humour didn’t make me laugh and the action wasn’t that impressive to look at and Foxcatcher, which was just so damn slow I couldn’t warm to it.
February brought the NYC oil drama, A Most Violent Year, where Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain shined and Albert Brooks did another fine turn in an important supporting role. The Duke of Burgundy was a treat for the eyes and ears and was surprisingly a more human film than the aloof one I was expecting. Jennifer Aniston did fine work in Cake and Terry Mc Mahon’s Patrick’s Day deserved most of the plaudits bestowed upon it.
March brought the slick insidious horror of It Follows and the darkly funny portmanteau of Wild Tales. It was also JDIFF time (ADIFF next year by the way), while only one film really hit the heights for me I didn’t see one film that I didn’t like, so fair enough. Force Majeure was the pick of the bunch, a dark comedy about the fallout of one person’s poor instincts when an avalanche threatens to hit their family on a skiing holiday. Cliff Curtis was outstanding playing a troubled chess master trying to keep his life and mind together in The Dark Horse and Tu Dors Nicole, a surreal dreamy film about one girl’s aimless summer was also a surprising treat.
April gave us Keanu Reeves as a tough guy no one should have messed with in the enjoyable John Wick and Jack Reynor, Toni Collette and Will Poulter were excellent in Glassland, I could have watched Poulter’s character for hours.
May was all about Mad Max, taking in the first original two before being blown back by the sheer force and madness of Mad Max Fury Road. Also took in Get Up and Go which was a bit disappointing, the lack of budget wasn’t the problem just felt all the characters needed to be a bit more likeable and then Results, a film about a weird triangular relationship between fitness trainers played by Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders was fine but I needed to see a lot more of the third point of said triangle, Kevin Corrigan, to be honest.
June brought Listen Up Philip, as deep a study of assholery that you could ever possibly imagine but every time Elizabeth Moss was onscreen it was a joy. Felt a surge of energy after watching Jodorowsky’s Dune, about the lively filmmaker’s attempt to make Dune before the studio gave it to David Lynch and the impact his original vision had on some of the great science fiction movies to follow. Then I watched Matthew Weiner’s Are You Here? with Amy Poehler, Owen Wilson and Zack Galifianakis who were really wasted in this very poor dramedy but then thankfully I watched Appropriate Behavior about a bisexual woman struggling with her relationships as well as her attempts to appease her conservative Persian parents.
July and Slow West brought the smarts, the funny and the violence. Best of Enemies was an absorbing documentary focussing on the series of televised debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr in 1968 and their link to modern news reporting and Ant-Man was fun enough but all I could think of was how much better Edgar Wright would have made it.
August’s highlights were Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (I missed the cinema release) which showcased some very assured direction and a surprisingly 90’s heavy soundtrack (Counting Crows and Eiffel 65!) and then (count them) three films from female writers – Mistress America, a modern hipster screwball comedy packed full of great one liners, Trainwreck which, while funny, could have been a lot shorter (Judd Apatow’s fault?) and then The Diary of A Teenage Girl, a very honest, frank and engaging look at one young woman’s burgeoning sexuality.
September belonged to Sicario, the second Denis Villeneuve film after Enemy, which gave Emily Blunt and particularly Benicio del Toro parts to get their teeth into.
In October I watched the truly awful She’s Funny That Way, which was a shame because I really wanted to watch another great Peter Bogdanovich film. The Martian was fine but felt a bit too much like an ad for science, The Lobsterbrought its surreal take on love, relationships and coupledom and Mississippi Grind had Ryan Reynolds being charming again and the always worth-a-watch Ben Mendelsohn.
November meant I could finally get a chance to look at the terrific Call Me Lucky a documentary about comedian Barry Crimmins and his very singular back story. Also caught up with the Duplass produced sex farce The Overnight andCop Car starring Kevin Bacon in an ok, dark indie about two kids who steal the wrong cop’s car, the director of which got hired to do the new Spider-man movie on the back of it. At the IFI French Film Festival I caught a very French take on the superhero movie in Vincent, an odd coming of age tale of first love in My Golden Years and a very strange courtroom romance based around a trial of a dead baby (I was confused as well) in Courted starring personal favourites Fabrice Luchini & Sidse Babett Knudsen.
December started with Lily Tomlin’s award worthy performance in Grandma, then catching up on the more than fine Steve Jobs, the nicely judged Brooklyn and Joel Edgerton’s surprisingly solid feature length directorial debut The Gift. Then finally getting to swoon all over Carol, a film which I sure I was going to end up hating for the entire first act but was then absorbed and overwhelmed by it.
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year
(read more from Mick at amawaster.com)
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