Film - The Highs and Lows of 2015


Steve Taylor-Bryant takes a look at our coverage of the films of 2015 and discusses the highs and lows with some of our team...

It feels strange writing this article before the year has ended but such is the time available that unfortunately that's the way it is. We are not working between Christmas and New Years and my 'articles to be written' list is so long that, if we waited until they were completed, it would turn this into an article about 2019! So there will be no waxing lyrical about Star Wars: The Force Awakens due to it not being out at the time of writing. Sisters, The Peanuts Movie, On the Heart of the Sea, and The Danish Girl shall all have to wait until our return which by sheer coincidence and no planning at all is just before The Hateful Eight (my Michael Madsen interview is here). So what am I going to waffle about today? Well my highlights and lowlights of what I've seen, the spectacular and the not so good movies that our team have viewed, and some hopes for the next year of big screen delights.

We've covered all sorts of cinematic output this year from family friendly animation and superhero films through Hollywood action to independent projects and, whilst I'm not dyed in the wool either way, I must admit the smaller projects and independent output seems to raise the bar year on year whilst major studio releases seem to be stalled, stuck in the remake or caped crusader markets which is a real shame. There is some real talent in independent movies. Actors, directors, the writers! Oh my goodness, the writing is way above anything meddling studio executives can produce. Personally I think it's about time we saw a shift with money being pumped into the small guy and away from the blockbuster and to a certain extent it's beginning to occur. Christopher Smith brought up in conversation his two highlights of the year, which both saw DVD releases this year, in Whiplash and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) both of which he first saw as small films on the festival market. Both incredibly well written, both incredibly well directed and, in a trend that should worry big studios, both starred actors you'd heard of. Birdman especially had Hollywood royalty in Keaton and Norton and the soon to be Queen of Cinema in Emma Stone. Made for less money than the CGI budget on a Transformers film its director Alejandro González Iñárritu is now tipped to sweep the Oscars with The Revenant and make someone a lot of money. So how about before studios try and attach him to everything we just throw some blockbuster budget at him and let him do his own thing? Let's stop with the producer interference in the artform? Was Ant-Man enjoyable? Here's Ren Zelen's review but what would it have been like if Edgar Wright had been left alone? The year's biggest disappointment, Fantastic Four, had studio and director arguing publicly about what a disaster it was before it was released! Why not just leave Josh Trank to make the movie he wants? If it fails so be it but surely it would have been better if HIS film had been what we judged HIM on?

The Martian

Other highlights from the big studios worth a mention were The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Crimson Peak which Ren really liked, and I'd just like to say how good I thought Legend was and obviously it's nice to see Tom Hardy getting some work! Was he in everything this year? Nate McKenzie has a lot of love for Straight Outta Compton, Ex Machina, another vote is cast for The Martian, and he waxed lyrical about The Visit here.

The part of the cinematic landscape we all enjoy here though is festival season. London is not the easiest place to dart around between screenings and with Raindance and the BFI London Film Festival so close together it can be a logistical nightmare on our end but myself, Chris and Ren saw some absolutely fantastic films again this year. I was educated by my first forray into foreign language films, taken in especially by Under Electric Clouds, a Russian entry to LFF that was glorious to look at, and keep an eye on Brian McGuire who had a mad and crazy entry in last years Raindance with Window Licker and changed tack a little with 1 World 100 Lonely filmed exclusively on a mobile telephone, but found myself drawn once again to the documentaries on offer. Whilst I felt let down by the Evel Knievel film I laughed my way through the Saturday Night Live doc, reliving the comedic talents I had grown up with, embracing the new generation and marvelling at how the show has adapted to changing times. One powerful documentary though took me on an emotional roller coaster and if you have the stomach for it I highly recommend watching My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Elsewhere in the year we celebrated film in our unique way. The oldies but goodies among the High School genre got a look in with one of our first Celebration Days and Back to the Future became the past after 30 years of waiting. Hackers had its U.S anniversary and was remembered by Nate, who picked the name of our site from that very film, and I chipped in with some documentary love. Bond was the other big Franchise release this year with Daniel Craig's fourth outing as the secret agent and so Barnaby Eaton-Jones and Stuart Mulrain rewatched every single Bond film from Dr. No to the SPECTRE event. No year would be a film year without my unadulterated love of Terry Gilliam getting an airing and this year I dragged other team members into my insanity as well. Every non-Python film and all the shorts got a viewing and I must admit that it was by far my favourite day of the year on our site and we had quite a few absolute corkers!

So that was our 2015. A mixed bag of looking back over older projects, liking a few but not all major studio outings, a spy franchise, and our ever growing love of the independent. What hopes do we have for 2016? Personally I'd like to see Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar, I'm quite excited for Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice but am well aware it will split opinions both in the office and around the world, and I'm really hoping Ryan Reynolds knocks one out of the park with Deadpool! Away from the superhero and studios I'm obviously looking forward to festival season again. I enter every year wondering if the output can be the standard of the year before and end each year in awe of how they managed to raise that bar higher. My highest hope for 2016? That Amazon finance and illness subsiding means that Terry Gilliam will finally get The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made and released.

Image - IMDb.

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