A lot of my film-fanatic friends are on a great site called Letterboxd, which allows you to catalogue all of the movies you’ve seen to date in order of when you’ve seen them. It’s like a daily calendar for movies. When you see as many movies as we do, it’s a valuable service.
In the past couple years, as I’ve been writing about movies more and more (over at Daily Grindhouse like crazy — not so much here, unfortunately), I also like to put up a gallery here on Demon’s Resume to chart everything I saw that year.
I took to doing this for a couple reasons:
For one thing it’s fun to look at all the poster art, both the beautiful and the bad.
For another, it seems like the right thing to do, since I as much as anyone can lapse into an authoritative tone in my writing and in my stated opinions at times and it’s only fair to reveal what I’ve seen and what I haven’t. I can’t rightly tell you what “the best movies of 2015″ are if I haven’t seen every movie released in 2015, right? I can only tell you which movies I appreciated the most, out of the ones I did get to see.
And lastly — while it may not feel like it to the average person, who watches sports and politics and CBS procedurals and anything else — it feels to me at least as if I’ve seen far fewer movies this year, particularly theatrically, than usual. So I’m trying to kick myself in the ass a little with this post. The count so far is 38. Everything else I’ve seen has come from before this year, and isn’t listed. But there are only 38 movies from the calendar year of 2015. That ain’t enough!
Since the year’s not over yet, I will be updating this post periodically, all the way through December 31st, so if you want, you can keep tracking what movies I’ve been watching. I’ll also try to link to my reviews (where I’ve done them) as I go along. And if I have any stray thoughts, I’ll add them along the way.
Enough engine-revving. Let’s get going!
CRIMSON PEAK is still in theaters, at the moment of this typing. Go see it, if you haven’t. See it on the biggest screen you can. Let it enfold you. It’s a film to be absorbed. CRIMSON PEAK cost a lot of money and it looks like it. Hate to say I understand why it’s underperforming in America — with whispers of incest and baby murders, less sophisticated audiences can easily miss the point. Not that those elements are meant to be a draw — quite the contrary, but it’s admirable that a film engaging with the notion of fear betrays little itself. This movie is brave and bold. And subject matter aside, it’s a legitimate marvel of production design and costuming. Director Guillermo Del Toro and his cinematographer Dan Laustsen maximize the frame, infusing every millimeter with rich color and deep shadow. The movie blooms. Of the performers in the film, Jessica Chastain dominates — her role is recessive by design for the first two-thirds of the story, but when she takes center stage, it’s with redoubtable ferocity. Del Toro has said the film isn’t intended as a horror movie — if that’s the case, put Chastain down for all the awards, since horror never gets its due. But if it is a horror movie, then she’s its most fearsome monster, and good God is that a beautiful thing.
Though I never got around to reviewing it, I saw this movie the weekend it came out. It’s what it looks like, which is a MIDNIGHT RUN riff with Reese Witherspoon in the Robert De Niro role and Sofía Vergara as the Charles Grodin. The director is Anne Fletcher, originally a choreographer, who transitioned into directing the kind of broad-appeal hits that everybody sees except people I know. To be honest, I would not have expected a movie from the director of STEP UP, 27 DRESSES, THE PROPOSAL, and THE GUILT TRIP to be so poorly received by audiences. You know it never had a shot with critics, but audiences tend to eat up these middle-of-the-road big-star comedies like Chicken McNuggets. Uselessness is a difficult thing to quantify, so I can’t explain see why people go to some bad movies but not others. This one isn’t much worse than most, though it certainly could have been better. Can it really be that hard to make a watchable movie with two lead actors as well-liked as these? The problem with HOT PURSUIT is that again, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. A good comedy is surprising. A good action movie produces excitement. By those standards, this action-comedy fails twice. There are a couple of promisingly odd bits I almost chuckled over, such as when Witherspoon and Vergara disguise themselves a cow (I think) to escape a police roadblock, but most of the humor bizarrely fixates around Witherspoon’s stature and theoretical boyishness and Vergara’s supposedly advanced age, which are not observations I would have considered about either woman. Next time around, drop the insult comedy and focus on telling a compelling story.
If nothing else, this film was shot by cinematographer John Toll (who also shot THE THIN RED LINE). You can make your little Twitter jokes about whatever you want, but if you’re serious about movies, you do not get to discount a movie shot by John Toll. People who talk about movies without ever mentioning how they look are like people who buy comic books for the writing. It’s not that writing isn’t important — quite the contrary! — but at the same time, these are visual media. How a movie looks is more than half the battle.
And the comic-book analogy fits another way: With so much of multiplex real estate being rented out to super-hero movies based on super-hero comics, Lana and Andy Wachowski have been making comic-book movies too, for quite a while now. It’s just that comic books don’t begin and end with super-heroes. There’s manga, there’s Moebius, there’s Jodorowsky, there’s Jack Kirby’s cosmic comics. That’s what JUPITER ASCENDING is. It’s comic-book space opera with seven thousand international flavors blended together. Sure. It’s silly and it’s absurd. But the Mighty Thor isn’t? Is this movie really too crazy? Or is it the kind of crazy some of us could use more of?
What I liked about JUPITER ASCENDING is what I liked about STAR WARS. If the plot sends your mind wandering, there’s always some random weirdo walking through the background to focus your attention on. I went into JUPITER ASCENDING excited to see the lizard people; I came out of it obsessing over the person with the elephant head. There’s a person with an elephant head in this movie! If there were a person with an elephant head in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, I would have seen THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. This is the kind of movie Eddie Redmayne needs to be making.
Earlier this year, I saw IT FOLLOWS the same weekend I saw SPRING. There’s no major similarity between the two films besides the fact they are both low-fi indie efforts of very high quality, but in my mind they are connected due to that simple twist of scheduling. But while IT FOLLOWS was quickly adopted as an instant classic by many horror fans and debated fiercely by the fewer dissenters, I don’t get the sense nearly as many people are thinking about SPRING. Maybe it makes sense.
SPRING is a quiet movie, in comparison to just about anything else out there. Beautiful things don’t usually shout.
Also, it’s sort of hard to talk about this story without spoiling at least some of its surprises.
And the jury is still out over whether or not it can be called a horror film. Aside from a few expertly-paced scenes of suspense, this is not a movie intended to frighten or disturb.
I guess I’d call it a love story for horror fans, a heart-render for weirdos. It’s more like an alternate-universe hopelessly-romantic version ofPOSSESSION, or DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE if its heart had been on its sleeve a lot more than its tongue was in its cheek.
In the way of plot details, all you need know is that a troubled young American (Lou Taylor Pucci) who recently lost a family member to a cruel disease decides to skip the country for a while after kicking the shit out of somebody who sort of deserved it. After some aimless wandering through Europe, he gets a job and a room at a vineyard in Italy. When he goes out on the town, he meets a smart, sexy, worldly, thoroughly confusing woman (Nadia Hilker) with whom he is immediately smitten. Obviously, she’s hiding something. Obviously, that’s why I’m dancing around calling SPRING a horror movie. It matters, but it doesn’t. What you’ll care about most are these two characters, Evan and Louise.
From the thoughtful writing of co-director Justin Benson, to the warm cinematography by co-director Aaron Moorhead, from the bruised, spiky, but hopeful performance of Lou Taylor Pucci to the even-more-bruised, intoxicating, and daring performance of Nadia Hilker, to the lovely score by Jimmy LaValle and straight down the line, SPRING is a class act, a treat, a cause, a movie I found very easy to relate to, and even easier to love. It may be ironic to recommend a movie called SPRING in October, but it’s a movie to be visited and revisited any day of the year.
SPY is a movie which arrived preceded by a gale force of critical acclaim. I was underwhelmed, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
As the current mass-media story goes, writer-director-producer Paul Feig and his star Melissa McCarthy have been doing more than anybody to change the conventional notions of what women can do onscreen. Why can’t a woman who looks like she should be cast as a pre-school teacher or a romance novelist (I’m not being rude — these are her character’s occupations on Mike & Molly) also play a spy in a James Bond style action thriller, or soon enough, a Ghostbuster? I hope I’m being crystal clear when I proclaim I am all for it, with every last erg of my strength. Women can do everything men can do, and often better and with greater style. And any system that doesn’t presently allow for that must absolutely be changed.
I guess it’s just hard for me to get thrilled about Melissa McCarthy falling over or farting just because the comedy guys get to do it, or more importantly, to learn over the course of a movie that she’s too good for jerky guys like Jude Law in SPY, because those are comparatively tame victories, considering how the kinds of movies I watch for Daily Grindhouse and the women who star in them come with a tidal wave of fierceness. That’s why I was so charged-up about Charlize Theron in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It may not be fair to compare a light goofy comedy to a ferocious locomotive of action, but to me that’s the energy we need right now, in comedy as much as in action movies. When the system is so sorely fucked, it’s okay to get angry. Honestly, it seems necessary. All my heroes, male and female alike, are willing to get angry when things are wrong.
SPY is cute, and stuffed with jokes, but there’s no anger in it, and that’s why for me it’s not that energizing. At the same time, I recognize that maybe my place as a be-penised person is to stand aside and let women handle it their way. I don’t presume to tell anyone how to lead their own revolution.
Stay tuned to this page. It’s gonna swell and expand before the year is out.
And follow me on Twitter for near-constant updates: @jonnyabomb