Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bad Shakespeare's Favorite Movie of 2015


            There have been a lot of good movies this year.

            I know I haven’t seen even half of the movies that have been released, but wow, it seems like there’s a lot. And while that might disqualify me from picking a favorite movie of the year pretty much any other time, this is the internet age, when all you really need to be a movie reviewer is to have a keyboard and have seen a movie. You don’t need much else. And apparently you don’t even need to get the facts right, just pick the part of the movie that outraged you, then go ahead and spew that outrage.

            Whew. Moving on. I should note one of my resolutions is to stop looking at so many manufactured controversies about movies on the internet.

            I do love movies, that that above little outburst is from the trend recently that just about every movie needs to have a hidden message, and the need to dissect a movie ten seconds after viewing. Look, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on them, I’m a guy who loves movies… so I go see as many as possible. And I like to pick my favorite movie of the year as part of… well, my blog. And I try to put in a little bit more analysis so I’m not just reviewing the movie, but trying to point out why I like it a little bit. It’s all for you, the reader, is what I tell myself as I’m sitting through my ninth movie of the day.

            This year was difficult, because there have been so many great movies, stuff I genuinely liked. A few of them are on top ten lists, one of them in particular isn’t on any end of year lists, and it has been rattling around in my brain for a few months now, so, I’m giving this particular movie the edge.  As for my criteria, it has to be a movie I enjoy, something that I thought was kind of unique, and something that I viewed multiple times. Ultimately, I ended up with four movies that really hit me. So, this post is going to be my top FOUR movies of the year.

4. The End of the Tour.

I went back and fourth as to whether or not I enjoyed this movie, or if I found it to be an exploitative cash grab based around a less-successful writer who got to write about a really successful writer. The movie is about the interview of David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) by David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). It’s based on Lipsky’s best selling memoir, which is a series of interviews Lipsky conducted following the publication of Infinite Jest, a novel so wonderful that early scenes indicate that Lipsky would like to eat it out of sheer jealousy.

            The movie, however, is deeper than I gave it credit for early on. It’s a fascinating look at fame and who we are. Wallace never really wanted that fame, he wanted his words out there, and the scenes where he’s being interviewed or where he has to be “on” are almost uncomfortable to watch. It’s about friendship, and who we consider a friend, and what that means. Wallace is comforted by his dogs. Lipsky, can’t wait to tear open a package from Wallace late in the film. This is a movie made up of so many tiny scenes, it’s like one of those giant LEGO tapestries.

 My best compliment I can give, however, is that about 10 minutes into the movie I no longer felt I was watching actors, but the characters themselves. Eisenberg and Segel fade into their characters so perfectly that the entire movie watches more like a really well done documentary without having to cut away. I enjoyed this movie the more and more I think about it. I just want to keep studying it, see if I can’t find more of a way to approach it. I will be watching this movie for years to come.

It was enough to make me add a fourth slot to my “Film of the Year” post, after all.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

            Oh, what a lovely day. Of course this had to make the list. Yes, I’ve heard all of the complaints and this is one of the films that makes it difficult to love movies in the internet age, as it’s dissected before it’s on the screen, but it’s movies like this that make me LOVE movies.

            I could go over the plot again, but hell, it’s been discussed a lot. Go read one of those. I love the fact that despite Tom Hardy taking over the role, we still have the basics about Max that make things important: Max wants to survive, and he gets drawn into a larger plot that he really doesn’t care about. But with over the top practical stunts, costumes, and characters in a word that is fully imagined, it’s difficult to not include this movie on my best of list. If the previous movie is an example of what makes characters in movies great, this is an example of what makes a movie great: attention to detail that other movies need. Each scene is crafted lovingly by an artist who knows what he wants to convey.

            There’s also the actors, who don’t treat this like they’re in a “dumb science fiction movie” but treat it with all of the respect that a movie like this deserves. It’s incredible the way the actors treat each scene in a jaded, yet still hopeful manner. In some ways they’ve given up, in others, they’re still fighting as agents for change.

            It’s a fantastic look at what makes movies… well, movies.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

            Duh. This was going to make the list. It was a late-breaking addition, one that almost… ALMOST supplanted my number one, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ll be completely honest with you. But I have very unique reasons for adding this to the list.

            This is another movie that’s frustrating in the age of Internet critics. I’ve heard it compared to A New Hope, basically saying they’re the same movie. Of course, saying that The Force Awakens is the same as A New Hope is like saying that Harry Potter and Hamlet are the same because they both take place in a castle.

            What makes The Force Awakens work is that is manages to take what we loved about the original movies, and address them in some way. There’s no parting shot of  Dameron Poe and Rey Last Name Probably Skywalker getting their medals as they’ve defeated the First Order’s Death Star Starkiller Base. Instead we get a real serial (You remember when you were happy that these were Space Serials, George Lucas) cliffhanger ending where Rey goes off to find Luke Skywalker. Yes, a young woman with cool Jedi Powers (visible from her first scene, FYI) is found on a desert world, mirroring the introduction of two other Jedi, but her story is very different, as she doesn’t want to leave that world.

            This is very much a story of a young woman not wanting to change her destiny, despite the fact that everything is forcing her in that direction. People love to point out… BB-8 got the plans to find Luke, just like R2 got the plans for the Death Star! But like to forget that not only were the circumstances different, but the outcome was different as well.  BB-8 was given his own journey, not to find a mystical space Wizard. And it shows in his personality, he’s not a lone droid stranded on a planet, he’s part of a larger mission. The best thing this story does: whereas A New Hope is presented as a story that sorta knew a little bit about what maybe happened in the past, The Force Awakens gleefully accepts that every person on their knows the legend of Luke, Han, and Leia, albeit in a twisted manner.

            This is where The Force Awakens succeeds. In taking elements that are familiar to us, but giving a new spin to it. Even Kylo Ren is fighting his natural urge away from the Dark Side of the Force.  The even darker implication is that his part of the story is twisted, as he looks towards Darth Vader for strength, forgetting that he turned his back on the Dark Side for his family. All the similarities are presented as a way to put together a story that is obsessed with legends in a new and unique manner.

            Also, space wizards and light swords.

            So, we’ve come to my final pick for movie of the year. And it very much is movie of the year for me. It’s my favorite movie I’ve seen, and one I quite frankly felt didn’t get the respect it deserved this past year, dumped early in February after changing positions from a more prominent release date last year. But to me, it’s a very well put together movie that is, above all else: Enjoyable. It’s also probably only going to make one person’s list, and that’s mine, so revel in it.

            Bad Shakespeare’s movie of 2015 is…


                         Kingsman: The Secret Service.

For a while, each one of the aforementioned movies were in my top spot for movie of the year. It was also briefly Creed (which barely didn’t make the list but didn’t quite exceed The End of the Tour)  and Avengers: Age of Ultron (Because of the many manufactured controversies around it, I wanted to give it some love) but at the end of the day, I keep going back to this well put together class drama wrapped up in a brilliant spy parody.

For those who don’t remember, this was the one with Samuel L. Jackson as a lisping supervillain who can’t stand the sight of blood, the lady with the bionic legs of death, and Colin Firth in his least Colin Firth role in years as spy Harry Hart, who takes the young “Eggsy” under his wing.

For me, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. With a conspiracy that’s timely (Climate Change) and a villain who’s not just over the top, but reminiscent of the celebrities we worship today. Throw in some cool action sequences, and you have yourself a fantastic movie.

What put this movie over the top for me was the extreme attention to detail the filmmakers put into everything. The fight scene gets a lot of love for it’s five minutes in a single take action, but for me the scene that will be one of the best of 2015 is the Harry Hart/Valentine sit down where they talk about old spy movies. It’s a little on the nose, and I doubt any other actors other than Samuel L. Jackson or Colin Firth could pull it off as well.  But it’s a scene that’s tense and comedic, all at once.

There’s also the aforementioned commentary on class, which has it’s obvious parts, but also it’s extremely subtle moments as well. Eggsy may be from a lower class than these spies that consider themselves high class (who ironically all came from a serving class) but when Michael Caine threatens Eggsy while dying, you get the little reminders that he may not be as high class as he thinks himself. Accents and language are used heavily in this movie to give us a subtle look at class structure. It was really well put together.

Simply put, this is just a well-constructed, well-acted, and sadly overlooked movie, that is worthy of your time. I doubt I’ll get it right like I did last year with Birdman, but hey… I’d rather be happy than right.

Whelp, that’s it for this year’s Movie of the Year. 2016 looks to be an epic year with Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, and of course, Batman v Superman. All declared to be flops by the internet, months before they come out. But hey… I’m going to go enjoy them. Because like I said, my vow this year, and it should be yours, is to avoid manufactured controversies, ignore movies that “are so gonna suck” and just go see them. Enjoy movies, because they’re movies. Because they’re fun. And I’m looking forward to analyzing them with you this year, too.

            Oh, I’m also looking forward to Star Wars: Rogue One and Deadpool. There’s also another Kung Fu Panda. Really I should just get a job where I can watch movies all the time.

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