Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I've done them before, but I really don't like making top 10 or 20 or however many of the year lists. They kinda stress me out. I get an insane amount of joy reading them, shouting “how could you leave ___ out!?!” at my computer or nodding my head in agreement when the list roughly resembles my favorites. But I don't like writing them because I always feel like a fraud.
What I may list as my favorite movie of the year at this very moment might fade into the background this time next year or something I didn't include might jump out of nowhere and kick my ass a couple years down the line, so making a definitive list always feels weird to me and I don't like doing it.
However, a couple years ago I decided I'd try something a little different. Instead of making a numerical list of the movies ranked in order of preference I would instead write about the films that I know I will revisit in the years to come. It hews closer to a favorite movies kind of list, but even that's not exactly right. For instance there is one movie on here I don't particularly like and think is a huge misfire, but it's one that I just know I'm going to revisit thanks to a particularly entertaining over-the-top performance and the sheer amount of detail on display.
These are all movies that made an impact on me in the year 2015. Most of them were released in 2015, but some weren't. There are a few that were seen at film festivals and will hit screens in 2016 and some are much, much older films that made a big mark on me last year.
In short, every single one of these films reminded me why I love movies. Let's see what I got, shall we?
Fury Road will certainly be one of my most re-watched 2015 movies. I saw it a few times theatrically, own the Blu-Ray and even watched it on an airplane. For that airplane viewing I just planned on half-watching it during the flight and I was still engrossed, even though the screen was hardly bigger than my iPhone.
I'm very happy that my film critic organization voted it as the best movie of the year and if I was pressed to make a real deal Top 10 list Fury Road would certainly be at the top. There have been better, more important movies this year, but none that speak the visual language of cinema as perfectly as Fury Road does. Pacing, tone, editing, score, performances... all are perfectly crafted by George Miller into one of the most hands down entertaining films I've ever seen.
Shifting gears, we have to talk a little about Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa. It's as much a movie movie as Fury Road is, but in a radically different way. It's a slow paced drama told via stop frame animation that has all the weirdness of Kaufman's Being John Malkovich with a dash of crushing depression.
The core concept of a man whose world is so bland that every single living thing looks and sounds like the same person (all voiced by Tom Noonan) is inspired and perfectly visualized in this animated form. In fact, I don't think you could have made this live action and had it been half as effective. The desperation the lead character has when he finally hears and sees someone different is a complex mixture of happy and sad emotions. On one hand, it's a perfect visual representation of how love works. All the flaws this woman has are what makes her special to him, which is something everybody who has ever fallen in love can relate to.
But they take it a step further and show that this “love” is a fleeting thing and our main character is really messed up in the head. I don't see any hope for him. He will go through life with success, but nobody to relate to. Every spark of interest or feeling of connection is doomed to evaporate sooner than later. It's a sad, somewhat cynical, but brutally honest story and it hits me dead center every time I revisit it.
Room is one I look forward to showing people in a few years time when all memory of the head-scratching ad campaign has faded. I mean, it's a powerhouse movie with one of the best performances of the year coming from the consistently dependable Brie Larson and young newcomer Jacob Tremblay, but the marketing (and poster, for that matter) answers the question the first half of the movie keeps asking: Will they ever get out of that room?
That doesn't kill the impact of the movie, which ends up being more about how two different people deal with a shared trauma than the trauma itself, but it'll be great to show it to someone who isn't already an hour ahead of the movie before it even starts.
Between this and Short Term 12 I think it's safe to say that Brie Larson is firmly cemented as one of the best actors of her generation.
Alex Garland kind of slammed his dick on the table with this movie, didn't he? How psyched would you be if Garland was the one directing Episode 9 instead of Trevorrow? Ex Machina is such an addicting movie experience. The writing keeps you engaged, the performances invest you completely in the weird little psycho-sexual sci-fi story and the cinematography and effects are just plain beautiful.
Ex Machina is like the most charming Twilight Zone episode ever. Oscar Isaac's dance scene alone is better than 99% of movies made in 2015.
Sadly, Oscar Isaac doesn't get to dance in The Force Awakens, but he still brings the charm. What's amazing to me about this relaunch of the Star Wars franchise is that everybody on God's green Earth has seen it and we almost all agree on the movie's flaws and strengths. It's just how much we let the movie's flaws stand in the way of our enjoyment that really sets us apart.
I liked the movie the least on my first viewing and I still really dug it then. The fan service shit hasn't bothered me at all since then and every single time I watch it I fall in love with it a little more. A lot of that has to do with taking new people and watching their reaction to the movie. My mom never goes to the movies. She just doesn't like leaving her house. But she asked to go see this movie and she had no idea the twists and turns this movie had in store and she was all over the place emotionally.
Star Wars is back in a big way and I couldn't be happier about it.
Star Wars is a huge audience pleaser, but the biggest surprise audience-pleasing movie of the year was The Martian. I had a feeling Ridley Scott would bring it and that it'd be a good film, but I wasn't not prepared for how charming and enjoyable this would be to watch with a crowd. People laughing along with Mark Watney's gallow's humor and clutching their armrests during the final gambit to get his ass off of Mars was a joy to experience the two times I saw the movie theatrically.
That shared experience has been strong this year. Both The Martian and Star Wars remind you why watching a movie in a theater is indescribably better than watching at home.
There are a lot of folks who shit on The Force Awakens for hanging new characters on the structural skeleton of the original film and I'm willing to bet a lot of those Star Wars shitters were falling over themselves to praise Creed. And Creed deserves every ounce of praise it gets, but come on now. It's just as much a rehash of the structure and character arcs of Rocky as the new Star Wars film is.
I love them both and in both cases I think taking the original structure and putting a twist on it are what make the movies work. Creed is new, yet familiar. The call backs to the Rocky series are there, but not necessary to understand the new story. Michael B. Jordan is amazing in the lead, there's a sweet love story paralleling his journey to go the distance, prove he's more than just a name. Stallone slipping into the Mickey role is just about the most perfect circle the Rocky Balboa character could make. The whole thing just came together in a way that surprised me. I loved it and will happily revisit this one many times in the coming years.
It's always dangerous to slap a film with the “important” label, but this is an important movie. On its surface it's simply a well-done investigative journalism story with a great cast doing great work. What makes it important is how well it contextualizes one of the most insane cover-ups in American history. It's a scathing indictment of a corrupt institution without condemning the victims or believers.
Spotlight could have easily been the “Fuck The Catholics” Movie, but they went out of their way to make sure we know what the Church did without putting down the many good people who practice the religion. Of course the inference is that many of these “Good Catholics” were complicit in allowing the church to get away with the sexual abuse cover ups, but that's under the surface. By not doing a broad condemnation the film opens the door for practicing Catholics to join the rest of us in condemning the institution instead of putting them immediately on the defensive. It's a small choice, but an important one, I think.
Spotlight is just a really damn solid throwback to a subgenre I really love. It's going to be increasingly hard to make “important journalists doing important work” kind of stories as investigative journalism all but disappears in the internet age, but I'll treasure the good ones while I still can.
Sicario is another example of a movie just being a damn great entry into a particular subgenre. Around the time Traffic came out there were a bunch of drug cartel movies, then that kind of moved to TV with shows like Breaking Bad.
Sicario didn't blow my hair back in the same way it did a lot of critics, but it's impossible to deny that it nails what it was going for, thanks mostly to an amazing cast. Benicio del Toro turns in one of his best performances and that's saying something with an actor of his calibre.
This one doesn't pull any punches and as a result will be one that I'll for sure check back in with in the coming years.
There's something immediately disarming about a period tale that so effortlessly captures the feel of a time and place. Carol definitely has that down pat and when you factor in two great actresses playing out a delicate and controversial love story.
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are magical here. They're both able to convey complex and sometimes conflicting emotions with an ease that makes it look like anybody could do it. Carol is a different kind of movie that hit this awards season. In terms of awards movies, it's a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.
Bridge of Spies might be lesser Spielberg, but it's a testament to his talent that even one of his lesser films is better than most director's best films. What struck me upon first viewing was that in anybody else's hands Bridge of Spies would have been a deadly dull movie. Spielberg (along with some help from screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen and Matt Charman) kept the movie light despite the seriousness of the scenario it was portraying. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance keep the movie afloat with assured performances and Spielberg keeps it going with his still incredibly sharp eye for visual storytelling.
This is one of those adult movies made for adults that people complain about not getting in the age of the Superhero. We actually got a lot of those kinds of movies this year, so if you're still one of those snooty critics complaining about Marvel and DC movies consider the diversity we've seen this year.
My Facebook timeline has posts from people saying The Hateful Eight is Tarantino's worst movie and that it's his best movie. When a movie divides people like that you know there's something there. I adore this film, but I'd be more likely list it as a lesser Tarantino work, hovering somewhere above Death Proof and below most of the rest of his films, but that's not a knock on the movie. It's like calling Bridge of Spies lesser Spielberg. Hateful Eight is still an amazing achievement and Tarantino once again gives Samuel L. Jackson a role that's gotta make all other actors insanely jealous.
I mean, the Dingus speech alone is going to be used in auditions for decades to come. As an aside, what I love so much about that scene is the ambiguity of whether it's the truth or not. Major Warren is definitely not above exaggerating the truth to get what he wants and he so desperately wanted General Smithers to pick up that gun.
The movie's going to have a huge life as a stage play, I can all but guarantee that. That's the strength and the weakness of the movie. It's as epic and beautiful as a 70mm movie shot by Robert Richardson could possibly be, but at the end of the day it's just a bunch of people in a room. You could say the same thing for Reservoir Dogs, which is definitely the sister film to Hateful Eight, but that film had the luxury of coming out of the gate first and not following up Tarantino's location-spanning epic flicks Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.
But the reason the movie works is because of the theatricality. Tarantino and his cast embrace it wholly and as such you get a bunch of colorful characters being wonderfully over the top. I don't think I've loved a moment more in a movie this year than when Jackson, tears in his eyes, says “You're not going to make a deal with this diabolical bitch...” in super slow motion.
Ignoring all that, Hateful Eight would make this list simply for finally giving Walton Goggins a role equal to his talents. The man has been so underused for so long this film should be celebrated for that simple fact alone.
Inside Out is the first Pixar film since Up to really feel like it lives up to the promise of the company. I've enjoyed all their films to some degree and Toy Story 3 is a rather incredible movie, but it's still a sequel. Nothing wrong with sequels, it's just that Pixar seems to be at its best when it takes a crazy idea and makes it palpable to the masses.
I've seen a lot of people emotional at the cinema this year (thanks, Kylo), but no movie has hit the audience in the heart harder than this one, at least in my On my second viewing of this movie a lady was flat out sobbing. Like deep, guttural sobs. This movie presses emotional buttons in a way that all but the stone-hearted feel and all while being wrapped up in a bright, happy animated kids movie.
Great, now I'm thinking about Bing Bong again and gotta go collect myself...
This one's a cheat because I saw it in 2014, but it's so damn good I had to include it with other 2015 releases. It just felt wrong to leave it off. I'm a sucker for New Zealand genre comedies, but even though I'm an easy mark for this film I'm confident that my Kiwi bias hasn't swayed me too much.
What We Do In The Shadows is just ridiculously funny and so thoroughly Kiwi that I just can't help but fall in love with the movie every time I rewatch it.
2015 saw the release of two super fun New Zealand horror comedies. Deathgasm is a little rougher around the edges than What We Do In The Shadows, but that kinda works for the crazy heavy metal teens vs. Evil Dead-like demons from hell story.
Really fun, oddly touching and with enough practical gore effects to satiate even the most snobbish of genre fans. Deathgasm's the real deal.
Age of Ultron isn't bad, but it didn't make my list this year because I feel like it kind of represents Marvel at its worst. It's a big, muddled movie that shifts gears a few too many times for my tastes and spends too much time building to the next thing when it should have been a culmination of all the world building that's been going in Phase 2.
That said, it's still a fun movie with some amazing character moments (Vision handing Thor his hammer comes immediately to mind), but Ant-Man in my mind was kind of Marvel doing what it does best. It's a small scale story. The world isn't about to blow up. It's a story where the stakes are more personal, grounded by the introduction of a fantastically likeable new character. It's a little weird, a lot fun and just a joy to watch.
I love that the Mission: Impossible series keeps on chugging and seemingly getting better and better. There's only one stinker in the batch (sorry, John Woo) and Christopher McQuarrie knocked it out of the park with the new one.
This series represents big budget Hollywood action spectacle at its best. It's a star vehicle where the star absolutely refuses to phone it in even five movies into the franchise. I kinda dug Spectre, but there's no doubt in my mind that Rogue Nation out-Bonded Bond this year.
Speaking of fun movies... The Fast and Furious series is so bonkers you can't help but respect it. It's a testosterone-infused soap opera that began life as a weird Point Break With Cars rip-off and turned into this giant budget piece of action-filled cheese.
Kurt Russell had a hell of a year and it started with Furious 7. He wasn't in it nearly enough for my tastes, but I'm holding out hope for the next movie... or maybe a spin-off buddy film that teams Mr. Nobody up with The Rocks' Hobbs. How sweet would that be?
I guess I should have known that reteaming the star and director of Gods & Monsters would result in a good flick. Mr. Holmes isn't a flashy film, but it's a damn good one. Ian McKellen, of course, nails it as the aging Sherlock trying to keep it together as his faculties start fading. The sweet grandfather/grandson style friendship that develops between him and young Milo Parker really sets this movie apart for me and when I find my mind turning to that film it's that core that think about, not the mystery that propels the narrative.
Another grown up movie, classically made, with great turns from some of our best working actors.
Watching this film in a theater felt like luxury. It's the kind of little film with a dash of big star power that the public seemed to be hungry for after Quentin Tarantino hit the stage in a big way, but in modern times we don't get much anymore. The double whammy of the recession hitting indie financing in a major way and the rise of Netflix and VOD means movies like Cop Car don't get spread far and wide theatrically anymore, which is a shame.
Cop Car is a simple film, but highly effective. Two young boys running away from home (not seriously, but in the way every kid does at least once) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned cop car out in the middle of the woods and end up taking it for a joy ride, not realizing it belongs to a crooked cop doing crooked things out in the woods that'd just about do anything he can to get it back.
Kevin Bacon is the star power and turns in a fantastic performance in this sweet little thriller/coming of age flick.
One of my favorite documentaries this year was this one called A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story. Most of us might recognize Lizzie from some random Facebook post popping up, either a mean one about how “ugly” she is or an inspirational one about her fighting back. Thankfully most of the people on my social media aren't monsters, so my introduction to her was the the latter.
This doc bowed at SXSW and is one of those “make you smile” types (aka the anti-Dear Zachary). Lizzie is such a funny, kind and hopeful person that you look beyond her disease immediately as she becomes the unlikely poster child for standing up to online bullying.
It's not preachy, but if you have a heart it'll touch you right up in it.
Flat out the most entertaining documentary I saw this year was Best of Enemies, which recounts the very public battle of wit and wills by two staunchly different men: Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. As America fell into one of it's most turbulent political eras, these two sharply intelligent men, for a short time, became the cultural point/counter-point (Gore being the liberal and Buckley the conservative).
And boy did they go at it. There's nothing more entertaining in this world than seeing these two go for the throat, both publicly and privately. I highly recommend this doc, which focuses on their famous 1968 TV debates, which were eaten up by the viewership causing a ratings boom and inadvertently planting the seeds for the televised polarized political discourse that is the norm today. Except today most the assholes yelling at each other from opposite sides of the aisle don't have a quarter of the smarts or true-blue passion as either of these two men.
Trumbo is a bit biopic-by-the-numbers and as such has caused many critics to write it off completely, but while the movie is not filled to the brim with subtext, it's still important that people know Dalton Trumbo's story and I feel like Jay Roach did an admirable job giving the casual film-goer the details in an entertaining package.
Bryan Cranston nails Trumbo's eccentricities and sharp wit, John Goodman is once again gold (and I think he's contractually obligated to appear in any movie taking place in olden days Hollywood), Helen Mirren is note-perfect as Hedda Hopper and I quite liked Dean O'Gorman's Kirk Douglas.
The whole thing might be a little too polished and clean for its own good, but I'm a sucker for these Golden Age of Hollywood flicks.
Now hear me out. Remember when I said there were some movies on here I didn't think were particularly good movies, but there were elements I knew I'd want to revisit? That's Jupiter Ascending. It's the first movie to make me actually appreciate an Eddie Redmayne performance. He's the only person in the movie who seems to understand just how fucking ridiculous the world the Wachowskis have crafted is.
I feel like the whole thing misses the mark they tried to hit, but it's without a doubt an immaculately detailed universe and Redmayne is so unhinged that I get a perverse amount of joy the times I catch glimpses of this film on TV. Some would call this a guilty pleasure movie, but I think that term is bullshit. I view it as a heavily flawed film that gets just enough right to make the whole trainwreck fascinating to watch.
The Boy (not to be confused with the Kiwi coming of age movie or the upcoming “is the boy doll real” horror flick) is rough around the edges. It drags in places and some of the line delivery is awkward, but strangely all that works to instill a feeling of unease.
This is the origin story of a serial killer, but done in a two dimensional way that might read as boring for some viewers, but that approach really got under my skin. Young Jared Breeze goes on quite the journey in this film and by the end of it you're oddly on his side. At least I was, but I'm kind of a weirdo.
I wouldn't rank this up there with The Omen or anything, but it's a movie that's stuck with me ever since seeing it SXSW earlier this year.
I've seen Krampus twice now and am pretty sure it's going in my regular Christmas movie rotation. I was trying to put my finger on why I liked the movie so much and I came to the conclusion that it reminded me a whole lot of a feature version of one of the Twilight Zone: The Movie segments. I know Gremlins was a big influence, but for whatever reason I'm reminded more of Joe Dante's Twilight Zone segment than his feature length Christmas horror story.
Krampus is a mean little movie about the dangers of cynicism with some truly remarkable practical effects from the geniuses at Weta Workshop. The Krampus design in particular is an all-timer. If you don't believe he's a hard one to pull off look at literally every other movie that has ever tried to bring Krampus to life and you'll see just how silly he usually looks.
Guillermo del Toro wears his heart (and fetishes) on his sleeve with this one. You might love or hate the movie, but nobody can argue that it is exactly what del Toro wanted up on the screen. It's patient, assured filmmaking with an emphasis on an old school method of telling a story. Character and production design take center stage in a ghost story that is refreshingly more adult and different from what passes for supernatural mainstream horror today.
The main fault of the film is that Mia Wasikowska's Edith Cushing is both the lead and least interesting character in the film. Wasikowska herself is great in the role, don't get me wrong, but she's overshadowed by the charm of Tom Hiddleston's Thomas Sharpe and the menace of Jessica Chastain's Lucille Sharpe. And she's also overshadowed by the title character: the haunted mansion itself.
However, that seems like such a small negative when I think back on the successes of that film.
What really hit me about Brooklyn was just how great of a showcase it was for Saoirse Ronan. It might not be as flashy as a lot of other great leading performances this year, but the whole movie lives or dies on it. Ronan's so good and likable and adorable and strong that it elevates the entire film. Sure, it's well-made and well-cast, but without a strong central performance the whole thing becomes one of any number of random love triangle movies.
I also have to give credit to the screenplay because one of the great surprises of the film was that it was more about recognizing the traps life can put out for you than it was about a girl choosing between two boys. This is another one that unexpectedly keeps popping up in my thoughts since I first saw it. Might not be Citizen Kane, but it's damn good at what it does.
Victoria is the rare gimmick flick where the gimmick actually adds to the story. The gimmick in this case is that it's a 2+ hour flick all told in a single take. What starts as a Before Sunset-style romance flick ends up as a heist-gone-wrong thriller. The single take trick adds a level of realism to the story that it otherwise would not have and in the second half really ratchets up the tension.
This was another movie that works like gangbusters on the big screen but in the reality of indie distribution will likely be seen for the first time on a TV.
Kurt Russell had a hell of a year (as has already been established) and this one might be his best top to bottom role of 2015. I think The Hangman from Hateful Eight is a bit more iconic, but the emotional journey Russell's character goes on in Bone Tomahawk is so great. His final line in the movie slays me.
Bone Tomahawk is a genre masher that does it right. Film fans will spot story, character and tonal inspirations from The Searchers, Jaws and Guns of Navarone with a heavy emphasis on crafting characters that are both bigger than life and multi-dimensional. Richard Jenkins is remarkable here and so is Matthew Fox. Patrick Wilson also brings it.
There's a bit of gore in this movie that is one of the most fucked up effects shots I've seen and that's saying something considering I grew up in the heyday of Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero and Rob Bottin.
I'm very, very, very fond of this one.
Thanks to film festivals I got a chance to see a couple 2016 releases a little early. Since they are films I saw in 2015 and the whole concept behind this article is that I list off the films I saw in 2015 that stuck with me I'm gonna include a few that hit screens this year.
Eddie the Eagle played BNAT and is just one of those feel-good flicks you just kinda need to see from time to time. Told with great humor, the flick is about real life Olympian Eddie Edwards who is the embodiment of the saying “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” He's a single-minded dorky kid whose persistence actually gets him to the Olympics.
Hugh Jackman is actually pretty amazing as Eddie's coach, a cool-as-shit drunk snow-plower who just happens to be one of the best ski jumpers the sport has ever seen. Taron Egerton is riding high on his successful bow in Kingsman and even though there's a little “handsome guy playing a not-handsome guy” thing going on, the dude commits to the character fully. His body language, inflections and overall attitude sell the character.
There's just something incredible about the way a film can invest you in a character who refuses to give up. This one's a big, big crowd pleaser. Don't miss it.
Green Room isn't exactly as much a crowd pleaser as Eddie the Eagle, but it's a brutal, tense, awesome little flick. A young punk band versus murderous neo-Nazis in a rural club run by Patrick Stewart? The movie is as great as you'd think it is based on that premise, I promise.
This is Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin follow-up and it's a great one. If you like Assault on Precinct 13 style survival flicks then you'll eat this one up, I promise.
Now we're going to close out with some vintage flicks I saw this year that had a huge impact on me. The first two are first viewings and the rest are revisits.
2015 saw the beginning of a new tradition for my good friends Aaron and Kaela and myself. We call it Film Feast Fridays. Every Friday we gather together and one of us cooks dinner (usually Kaela because she's the only one of us who can cook more than, like, two things) followed by a movie that one or all of us have not seen. We started this with David Lean's Bridge On The River Kwai, a film none of us had seen in its entirety.
Over the years I've read a bit about the movie and had seen easily half an hour in various bits and pieces here or there, but never from start to finish. It's just one of those titles I meant to give time to and never got to.
The movie itself is great, of course. I love how the narrative is split between Alec Guinness's Col. Nicholson organizing the building of a bridge for his Japanese captors and the effort to bring that very bridge down by the Allies. I love Guinness's portrayal of a strong-willed man who starts off wanting to do right by his captured soldiers and ends up kind of becoming the enemy.
Lean also uses the widescreen framing perfectly. There are hundreds of flat out beautifully constructed and framed shots in this film.
But more than anything this film represented the beginning of a fun new tradition with my best friends. So far we've hit some Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, obscure '80s camp slashers and have a ton more on the docket for 2016!
My favorite movie that played BNAT was Gunga Din, one of the bigger holes in my classic film knowledge. Considering it was a massive influence on Temple of Doom and I'm almost religiously obsessed with that flick I'm surprised it took me this long, honestly, but I'm glad that my first viewing was a gorgeous 35mm print in a crowd of giant film nerds.
George Stevens' flick was very different from what I had built up in my mind and that served as a great reminder of how easy it is to pre-judge stuff, especially older movies. It's not a stiff war film, but more akin to an Errol Flynn actioneer. Full of charm, humor and some of the best bromance I've ever seen captured on film.
If you are like me and have put this one off, take my word for it and seek the movie out. It's not one of those homework-feeling views, I guarantee you that.
One of my favorite pieces I wrote in 2015 was this very personal account of my re-introduction to Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. My relationship with my now 5 and 8 year old nephews kicked into high gear at the end of 2014 and by the time I happened upon a rewatch of AI that bonding had fundamentally shifted my outlook and it really took that viewing to make me realize it.
Sometimes you're just compelled to write something and you have no idea if anybody will give a shit. That's what I felt when I decided to throw on AI, a film I had seen two or three times before and was suddenly drawn into it in a way that I had never been before. I had to figure out why and that piece I wrote didn't start out formed in my mind like much of what I do for the site. It was almost therapy. It was self-examination through a form I'm comfortable with even if I didn't know if anybody would have any desire to read it.
Of all the films I saw in 2015, that viewing of AI is the only one that had a real, personal impact because it forced me define feelings I was having, but hadn't quite figured out. When the movie hit me like a ton of bricks I had to know why and as I was picking through the film I realized that my recent bonding with my nephews, particularly the older of the two, had awakened a paternal instinct in me and that shift in priority had a direct impact on how I perceived movies... or at least how I perceived a film I had always respected, but didn't connect to as deeply as I did on this revisit.
That single viewing really helped me in a personal and emotional way and also underlined why film is such an amazing artform. AI meant one thing to me when I was 20 and something completely different when I was 34. The movie didn't change, but I did and it played me like a goddamn violin.
So that's me and Rocco before watching the Back to the Future Trilogy on 35mm at Austin's beautiful Paramount Theater. The theater does great vintage programming every summer, which lines up nicely with Rocco's summer break, I've discovered.
My absolute favorite times in the theater this year was taking him to see some of my favorites. We did double features of Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz, Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein and Ghostbusters, I took him for some of the Alamo's Kid's Club showings like Mary Poppins and The Muppet Movie and we even watched my all time favorite film, Jaws, when Fathom did their big re-release event.
Some of these he hadn't seen (like Return to Oz and A&C Meet Frankenstein) and some he had, but not on the big screen. Jaws was my favorite because even though he had seen it before he still tensed up and cuddled close when Hooper went down to inspect the hole in Ben Gardner's boat. Feeling him jump with that all-time perfect stinger and the big smile he flashed at me when the rest of the audience jumped along with him was an all-timer for me... a core memory, if we're going to quote Inside Out.
Another one was the day that photo was taken. He told me he had seen all three Back to the Future movies, but fell asleep during Back to the Future III. I asked him how far he got and he said “I got to when Marty drove into the Indians...” and I realized that meant he hadn't really seen the third film. His reaction to the destruction of the DeLorean and the reveal of Doc Brown's Time Traveling Steam Train was priceless.
Cinema always meant a lot to me, but that love deepened tenfold when watching the films I love through the eyes of this little guy. Seeing him crack up at Abbot & Costello made me proud. Seeing him lose his shit when the Millennium Falcon was revealed in The Force Awakens filled me with happiness. I got it bad, y'all.
I'm just saying you're lucky that Drew McWeeny already has his Film Nerd 2.0 going so strong because I'd totally be bombarding you with this sappy shit every month if I didn't feel like it'd be straight up ripping off that column.
Anyway, those are the films and film experiences that stuck out to me in 2015. I warned ya' in advance it'd be a different kind of list! Hope you guys got some measure of enjoyment out of it.
Happy New Year, ya' crazy so-and-sos!