2015 End Of The Year List

2015’s 10 BEST FILMS
01. INSIDE/OUT The smartest movie of the year and a heartbreaker too. When Pixar does it right they sure do it right!
02. ROOM I don’t think of ROOM as a film; I think of it as an experience. It’s everything. It’s about life and it will shred you.
03. BROOKLYN A lovely, lovely film for any one who has ever moved far from home to a new life.
04. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD This is what an action film should be like. The stunts were jaw dropping and Tom Hardy is my idea of a movie hero.
05. THE REVENANT Almost equal parts absurd and astounding. This is the visceral movie experience of the year.
06. BONE TOMAHAWK The Best Western since THE PROPOSITION. Be warned the film is incredibly violent in its final third.
07. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS The Best Comedy of 2015. I’ve watched it about six times and I still hear something new every time.
08. AMY The film stands as both a tribute to Winehouse and a quality piece of documentary filmmaking.
09. THE HATEFUL EIGHT The Best Tarantino film since the final hour of DEATH PROOF. Also the single most violent film I’ve ever seen.
10. TANGERINE I love the ride on which TANGERINE takes you. They also get the geography right which is rare.

ACTOR
Tom Hardy – LEGEND, MAD MAX, THE REVENANT, LONDON ROAD Hardy is the most consistently interesting actor working today.
SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jacob Tremblay – ROOM How does this type of performance happen? Who is this person? Is he really that good?
ACTRESS
Brie Larson – ROOM It’s still so early in her career that’s it’s going to be a privilege to see her grow and grow.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Lee – THE HATEFUL EIGHT It was nice to have her back even though she winds up looking like Carrie at the end of the prom.
DIRECTOR:
George Miller – MAD MAX: FURRY ROAD George Miller had the hardest film of the year to direct and then he took it to a higher level.

RUNNER-UPS – alphabetical
BEST OF ENEMIES The second funniest film of 2015. I loved Gore Vidal to the day he died. So smart and so funny.
BREATHE (RESPIRE) Europeans always get these teens film so much better than the Americans.
CRIMSON PEAK Lush, Plush and Scary. Chastain proves to be a great villainess.
LISTEN TO ME, MARLON An in depth look at Brando, that makes him more human than ever, straight from the source.
NASTY BABY I live in a Big City. Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometime it’s horrifying. So is NASTY BABY.
QUEEN OF EARTH If you mixed Bergman’s PERSONA and ALTMAN’S 3 WOMEN and remade it as a Horror Film about the Human Psyche.
SALOME (2013 D:Pacino) If you love the Wilde play this version is the best I’ve seen. Such beautiful poetry. Pacino and Chastain are electrifying.
THE WOLFPACK How is this allowed to happen in America? This movie has haunted me deeply.

WORST – alphabetical
BLACK MASS Depp’s wig and the blue contacts made this almost comedic. He looked like an alien.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY A completely frustrating experience that plays like a simpering parody of itself.
SAN ANDREAS Does a Disaster Film really need to be this stupid? A case of So Dumb/No Fun.
THE D TRAIN While trying to be just the opposite this film turns into a homophobic mess.
THE GREEN INFERNO I call this type of movie “Stupid People Doing Stupid Things.” A waste of time and film.
VACATION One must pray they don’t make another sequel and go to Europe. You can count me out if they do.

BEST TV SHOWS – alphabetical
DOWNTON ABBEY: SEASON 6 (BBC TV)
FARGO: SEASON 2 (F/X)
MAKING A MURDERER (Netflix)
SOUTH PARK: SEASON 16 (Comedy Central)
THE JINX (HBO)

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Cramming It In At The End of The Year

 

A cold, rainy weekend in Los Angeles is rare but it’s a great time stay inside and watch movies and TV.

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Binge watching can have it’s set back; instead of spacing out the show and pacing myself, I can blow through a series in a couple of days. One day this weekend I watched six episodes of Netflix’ MAKING A MURDERER and the final four the next day. It is a shattering American epic of injustice and a great work of investigative film making. Don’t miss it.

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There’s nothing like watching a movie set in the cold and being all warm and cozy at home. Warm and cozy are the last words you would use to describe THE REVENANT.  This is a wild film and quite a feat of film making. It is also an extremely violent and relentless film. You are taken for a ride and are spent at the end.  Does that make a good movie? I don’t know, I squirmed but I had fun.

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JOY is an extremely likable film. It being a David Russell film though, it is filled with crazy people acting crazy. This isn’t YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU and he is no Kaufman or Hart. This just couldn’t have been what it was like for the real Joy. Despite reports of miscasting, I found Jennifer Lawrence charming in the part and was rooting for her character. Even with its problem of tone and well, reality, I enjoyed the film and all those crazy people too.

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SICARIO could have benefited by it being about ten minutes tighter. This is solid action thriller that is padded-out with two many shots of convoys, one or more too many supposed scenes of introspection and too many unbelievable situations. Had the film played it a bit more straight the tension would have been unbearable. As it is, too many moments seemed drawn out and slack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best TV Show of 2015 – FARGO:Season Two

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The second season of FARGO was the Best TV Show of 2015. Every Monday for the last few months I’d get excited knowing there was a new episode that evening.  The confluence of talent operating on FARGO was seamless. This was one of those rare incidents where everything clicked making the second season of FARGO rank right along side with the best TV has ever offered such as SIX FEET UNDER and THE SOPRANOS.

The acting on both on both sides of the law was glorious to watch. Patrick Wilson deserves much more recognition than he receives. He is a consistently good actor doing solid work here. His scenes with his wife, played by the wonderful Cristin Milioti, were lovely and heartfelt. Ted Danson as Milioti’s father and Wilson’s partner is a multi-layered character played with grace and knowing. Jean Smart gives the performance of her career as the matriarch of a group of miscreant sons only a mother could love. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, as the ill-fated butcher and his Lady Macbeth of a housewife, were brilliant and heartbreaking. There were so many other great performances throughout the season including Bokeem Woodbine, Brad Garrett, Jeffery Donovan, Adam Arkin, Nick Offerman, Kieran Culkin and there was even Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan.

There has been much talk lately of this being a “new golden age” for television with the quality being very high.  The second season of FARGO sets the bar even higher. Unfortunately, we have to wait until 2017 for season three.

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My Film Education at The Mini Cinema: Uniondale, NY

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The Mini Cinema on Long Island wasn’t much to look at either inside or out.  It was fairly modern and comfortable compared to other repertory theatres which were often older places in need of repair. Those were the days of the ’70’s and ’80’s when a small repertory theatre could exist in a suburban neighborhood forty miles from NYC. In retrospect I’ve realized that I received a great part of my film education in that auditorium.

The programming at The Mini Cinema ran usually with a pattern of what were called “Head Films” on the weekends and midnight shows to more classic or eclectic titles during the weekdays.  “Head Films” were anything from JIMI PLAYS BERKELEY, EL TOPO, PINK FLAMINGOS, 200 MOTELS, etc. During the week there might be a Fellini or Bergman double-bill, a Marx Brothers, Bogart or Bette Davis festival, films by Robert Downey Sr., first run showing of THE HARDER THE COME and ROCK n ROLL HIGH SCHOOL with all of The Ramones there opening weekend.

My friends and I spent many many nights at The Mini Cinema during high school. It was nothing for a group of us to go see The Marx Brothers films over and over. One of my favorite movie going experience there was hearing my friend Alice being the only audience member laughing at Chico’s piano antics. The anticipation of when she would start was palatable for all of us. It was part of the whole experience and she never disappointed. The fact that one night you could go to The Mini and see a classic comedy and the next night see Fellini’s LA STRADA was a god-send for me. It honed my appreciation of film that sticks to this day.

The Mini Cinema had a mascot named Sam.  He was a big friendly dog that loved all the attention he received. Sam loved to roam the auditorium and admittedly the first time you felt him brush past was startling.  He never refused any treat.  I’m sure if he could have talked he would have had the best film knowledge of any dog in the world. Guaranteed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going to the Movies: 1970’s NYC “On Broadway”

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We had to know what we were getting into. Going to see a movie in the 70’s Broadway theatre district was always a trip. Yet my friend Michael and I went directly into the sleaze to see a double-bill of LADY SINGS THE BLUES and MAHOGANY and on a weekend night no less. After the show I recall saying “there was more going on in the audience than on the screen.”

That night the theatre was packed. I thought only I could sit through a Diana Ross marathon but, here it was, a full theatre. The smell of marijuana filled the air which was a usual occurrence at NYC movie theatres back then. On Broadway people talked back to the screen and did pretty much what they wanted to relax. A couple was sitting next to me and once the lights went down the male proceeded to “feel up” his female companion. His right arm went full-on across his chest and down her bra. His fingers looked as if he was trying to tune in Radio Free Europe.  Yes! I looked!  I’d already seen both films several times. (I was a FAN! and had even seen Miss Ross four times in concert.) Finally, as if this incident needed to be topped, a loud woman’s voice in the back of the auditorium yelled “Oh My God! He Peed On My Leg! He Peed On My Leg.”

Now that the NYC has been Disneyfied, I imagine going to a movie there is a different experience, but this night, on Broadway, brought many laughs and tales to tell.

By The Wayside – Part Four

One of the best films of the year seems destined to be one that is forgotten.

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BONE TOMAHAWK is the best Western since 2005’s THE PROPOSITION and surely, the most violent oater since the infamous bloodletting of THE WILD BUNCH.  Some may find the film a bit of a slow-burn until the mayhem of the final act. In fact the script is filled with great characters and an acurate sense of the West as it really was – a violent unpredictable world.  The four leads, Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins and Mathew Fox give among the best screen performances of their careers. I fully admit being partial to a good Western but BONE TOMAHAWK rises above the genre to a place of great film making.

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In addition, there are a few others 2015 films that are worth searching for: FAULTS, BUZZARD, GLASS CHIN, WELCOME TO ME, LONDON ROAD and the documentaries THE SEVEN FIVE and THE NIGHTMARE.