Tag Archives: The Revenant

Best Films of 2015

I know. We’re hours away from 2017 and I’m only doing my Best Of list for 2015 now. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. Anyway, I finally tabulated all the films I’ve watched with a 2015 release date, and the total number has come to 151! That’s 0.41 movies a day, 2.9 movies a week.

The highest rating I gave was of course 5, and the lowest was 0.5. The average score was 3.05 and the median score was 3, suggesting I was either too generous or the average 2015 film I watched was “pretty decent” (my definition of a 3-star film). And honestly, I feel like that’s a solid assessment of 2015, which garnered the most 5-star scores in I’ve had in a single year since (probably) I started reviewing movies online. The hardest part about this list, as always, was deciding which movies with the same score should be ranked before the other.

Without a further ado, here are my (subjective) top 10 films of 2015, with a few honorable mentions tossed in for fun.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Creed, Inside Out, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service

These were movies I enjoyed a lot and I even thought some of them might make the list (until I realised how many other good movies I watched).

Just Missing the Cut

Straight Outta Compton – Never much of a rap guy, even in my youth, but this true story was gripping and explosive.

The Big Short – Sharp, informative, insightful and witty. And that superstar cast is a pure delight.

Spotlight – Superbly made film about an important true story, with brilliant performances all round.

Room – Harrowing, terrifying, yet beautiful film about love and hope.

Amy – I’m not much of a Winehouse fan, but this was one of the best documentaries I had seen in a while. Wish I could have included a doco on the list but I couldn’t push any of the others out.

The List

10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

This was the closest to being replaced with by one from the honorable mentions list, but I really wanted to highlight this film rather than just putting in another lauded movie that appears on most critics’ lists. I was so captivated by this bizarre true story about a university experiment in which some students were cast as inmates while others were cast as prison guards. It was frightening to see how far things went, which was both surreal yet strangely believable. Nice young cast too.

9. Anomalisa

This was one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the most memorable. The stop-motion animation, the authentic yet purposely fake appearances of the characters, the awkwardness and razor sharp black humour, and the strangely poignant love story — I adored this movie from start to finish. In any other year this is likely in the top 5.

8. Ex Machina

There have been many films about robot, AI and consciousness, but this was just such a brilliant idea and executed so wonderfully. The film rightfully won the Oscar for best special effects and featured a performance by Alicia Vikander that I personally thought was more Oscar-worthy than what she delivered in The Danish Girl (which she actually won the Oscar for).

7. Sicario

Not sure about the sequel coming up because I felt it was near-perfect as a standalone film and should be left alone. This was the only movie I gave 4.75 stars to in 2015 and I still don’t know why I didn’t give it a perfect score. It was intelligent and stylish, and above all, it was so tense and so riveting that I was on the edge of my seat all throughout. This movie is the reason that Arrival (also directed by Denis Villeneuve) is the film I want to see more than any other at this moment.

6. It Follows

The most original horror film of the year. A simple idea but a smart one that takes an otherwise typical horror trope and twists it around— and the execution is incredible. The type of film that makes you put yourself in the shoes of the characters and sticks in your mind long after the end credits roll.

5. Goodnight Mommy

The only foreign film on the list this year, and a highly deserving one for being by far the creepiest movie experience I’ve had in quite some time. It’s slow and not for everyone, but if you like atmospheric horror and want to be creeped out, this is the flick for you.

4. The Martian

My most enjoyable film experience of the year in terms of pure fun and entertainment. I still haven’t read the book, but the film totally nails it, from the performances to the humour to the science (I don’t know how legit it is, but the important thing is that it feels legit). One of the more rewatchable films on this list too.

3. Bridge of Spies

I know some people aren’t that high on this movie, though for me, it’s as close to perfect storytelling as you can get and demonstrates again why Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. I went from being not very interested in the idea of the film to absolutely loving it. Well-deserved Oscar to Mark Rylance too. Humble brag: I called it as soon as I saw the film.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

This was so close to being my No. 1 of the year. Having never watched the original, I had no idea what to expect, and what I saw blew my mind. The action, the strangeness, the intrigue, the horror—it was simply a jaw-dropping spectacle that has been etched into my memory. Can’t wait to see what George Miller does next.

1. The Revenant

In the end, despite all the great films on this list, the choice wasn’t that hard. The all-time spectacular visuals, the exhilarating, brutal extended action sequences, the Oscar-winning performance from Leo, and of course that memorable bear attack — everything combined to propel The Revenant to the very top of my Best Of 2015 list.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win & Who Should

oscars

I don’t have the time to do a detailed post for the Oscars this year, but it wouldn’t feel right without throwing some predictions out there. Here are my predictions (ie, guesses) on how I think each category will turn out, and which nominees I feel are most deserving.

Best Picture

Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight

Will win: This is a really tough one to pick as it has been such a tight race. It will go down to The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short, and my guess is that Spotlight will edge out the others to take home the biggest prize.

Should win: If it were up to me I’d go with either The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road. In any case it’s been a terrific year for cinema and I think all of the Best Picture nominees — with the exception of Brooklyn — are all deserving.

Best Director

Nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Will win: Another tough one. Usually Best Director also gets Best Film, though it’s not as set in stone as it used to be. I initially went with McCarthy, but after some thought I’ve decided to pick Iñárritu.

Should win: Iñárritu or Miller are the most deserving in my opinion.

Best Actor

Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Will win: Leo. It’s his time.

Should win: There’s been some backlash against Leo lately but I still think he delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. The Academy has given away awards for far less relevant reasons, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get it this time.

Best Actress

Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Will win: Brie Larson. She’s been the favourite for a while, though Charlotte Rampling is a dark horse.

Should win: Brie Larson or Charlotte Rampling. Both magnificent performances. I thought Larson’s was more emotionally affecting, though that’s partly due to the subject matter.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Will win: Sylvester Stallone. All the momentum is on his side, and if he misses out it will be a bit like when Michael Keaton missed out on Best Actor last year.

Should win: Mark Rylance. I’ve said it since I watched Bridge of Spies. He was absolutely brilliant in that film.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Will win: Alicia Vikander. The least suspenseful award. She appears to have it in the bag.

Should win: Vikander was great in The Danish Girl, but let’s face it, she was the lead actress, not a supporting actress. And I actually think she was better in Ex Machina. The deserving winner here is really Rooney Mara, though she should have been in the Best Actress category too.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

Will win: Spotlight. Would be surprised if someone else won — though maybe the voters get swayed by all the OscarsSoWhite# backlash and end up voting for Compton.

Should win: Ex Machina. The most creative and intelligent script of the year,

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room

Will win: The Big Short.

Should win: Hard one to pick. I probably would go with The Martian.

Production Design

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I feel like this film will take out at least one of the technical awards.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian

Costume Design

Nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

Will win: Carol. Kind of like a consolation prize for missing out on being nominated for Best Picture.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m not that into costumes from period pieces. At least I can remember the costumes in Fury Road.

Make-up & Hairstyling

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Immortan Joe!

Cinematography

Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: The Revenant or Sicario.

Film Editing

Nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant. Just because.

Should win: The Big Short. Loved the edits in this.

Sound Editing

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: Sicario.

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Martian. It has to win something.

Should win: I really don’t know what this award is all about, to be honest.

Visual Effects

Nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I mean, it’s Star Wars.

Should win: The Revenant. Absolutely seamless stuff. Ex Machina is probably equally deserving considering the budget.

Animated Feature

Nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There

Will win: Inside Out. This shouldn’t be controversial.

Should win: I haven’t seen Anomalisa (which is apparently really good), so on that basis I have to go with Inside Out.

Animated Short

Nominees: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World of Tomorrow

Will win: Sanjay’s Super Team. Pure speculation.

Should win: No idea.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Will win: Amy, though Cartel Land has a strong chance.

Should win: Amy. One of the best docos I’ve seen in years.

Documentary Short

Nominees: Body Team 12, Chau Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Last Day of Freedom

Will win: The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Another wild guess.

Should win: No idea whatsoever.

Live Action Short

Nominees: Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay, Shok, Stutterer

Will win: Day One.

Should win: No idea.

Best Foreign Film

Nominees: Embrace of the Serpent, Mustang, Son of Saul, Theeb, A War

Will win: Son of Saul, it’s the one everyone’s talking about.

Should win: No idea.

Original Score

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Probably Star Wars.

Should win: Probably either Star Wars or Carol.

Original Song

Nominees: Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey), Manta Ray (Racing Extinction), Simple Song #3 (Youth), Writing’s on the Wall (Spectre), Til It Happens To You (Hunting Ground)

Will win: Til It Happens To You. Lady Gaga is performing this song immediately before this award is announced, and she’s being introduced by US Vice President Joe Biden. So it’s hard to imagine this song not winning.

Should win: No idea

The Revenant (2015)

revenant-leo

I wasn’t as big of a fan of Birdman, last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, as most other people, as sublime an example of filmmaking as it is. Nor was I rooting for its director, Alejandro G Iñárritu, to win Best Director, not because he wasn’t deserving, but because I was rooting for Boyhood‘s Richard Linklater. This year, however, with just a couple of weeks before the Oscars, I’m seriously leaning towards rooting for both the director and his movie, The Revenant, without a doubt one of the most remarkably executed, jaw-droppingly beautiful and suffocatingly intense films of the year.

The film is loosely based on the story of 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was among a group of military hunters attacked by Native Americans in the wilderness. There is another major event that happens after this which I’m not going to share for the sake of those who haven’t seen the trailer. Yes, it’s in the trailer, but I was one of those people who saw the trailer after the movie and thought it gave away too much, spoiling a lot of big plot points.

Anyway, The Revenant is as harrowing of a movie experience as you can imagine. Centred around themes of survival, revenge and redemption, the film is highlighted by its brutal, visceral violence, juxtaposed against the harsh and unforgiving, but undeniably majestic beauty of the Lousiana Purchase landscape.

I was blown away. Part of it is Iñárritu’s spectacular visual style, filled with long takes and sweeping, constantly moving shots. The scenes are so fluid, so perfectly choreographed, the camera angles so unique — it’s the type of thing I thought was only possible in animation or video games, never in live-action feature films. I’m sure there are plenty of special effects, but it’s all done so seamlessly that the visual experience comes across as terrifyingly real. With the possible exception of his friend and fellow Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, I don’t think anyone else could have done it with as much flair as Iñárritu.

Despite a 156-minute running time, which may be too long for some, there is never a dull moment. The film is always moving along, the story always progressing. As a fetishist for watching personal hardships in the wild (one of my favourite movies is Into the Wild, and I also really liked Reese Witherspoon’s Wild from a year ago), I loved the torturous solitary survival scenes. I don’t exactly know why — maybe it’s the man vs wild dynamic or the exhilaration from seeing the ultimate will to survive, or perhaps I just have problems.

The quieter moments have the effect of amping up the several major action set pieces in the film, which are among the most amazing I’ve seen this year alongside Mad Max: Fury Road. Everything is presumably choreographed but looks and feels raw and realistic, making the experience so much more tense than the modern CGI-dominated superhero action we’re accustomed to these days.

I read about the horror stories in making this film, how nearly everything was shot in natural light, an astounding feat in itself. I’m sure it was as freezing as it looked on screen, and Leo, who just picked up the Golden Globe for Best Actor, absolutely deserves his first Oscar for his portrayal of Glass. With not much dialogue to deliver, it’s a much more subtle performance than what he delivered in The Wolf of Wall Street, but boy did he go through hell to get the job done. His dedication and professionalism notwithstanding the success he has already achieved is impressive.

Likewise, kudos to the rest of the super cast, which includes Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domnhall Gleeson. Hardy, in particular, gives a marvellous performance that’s much more nuanced than it would have been in lesser hands, and I’m pretty certain an Oscar nomination is heading his way (though I’d still say Mark Rylance from Bridge of Spies is the favourite.

If there is something to nitpick, it would probably be that it is sometimes a little difficult to decipher what some of the characters are saying because of the way they spoke back then, coupled with the mumbling and the twang. That said, this is the type of film you can watch and figure out without understanding a single word of the dialogue.

When all the elements are put together, it’s hard for me to deny that The Revenant is anything but a modern masterpiece. The combination of Iñárritu’s visual style, strong script and masterful pacing, combined with the simple yet intense plot and fabulous performances, results in a unique journey that ranks right at the top of my 2015 cinematic experiences.

5 stars out of 5!