2015 was a weird year in the world of Movies & TV. At least for me.
I remember when this year was basically announced as the “second coming” in terms of geek- relevant movies.
Long-awaited sequels to prestigious franchises as Mad Max, Star Wars, Terminator and Jurassic Park, new original efforts by Neill Blomkamp and the Wachowskis, a new Tarantino movie, two new Marvel movies and so on. But like with 2012 before, which received a similar level of anticipation and praise in advance, most of it just went kind of “Poof!”.
I haven’t witnessed such a lack of direction and inspiration in blockbusters (apart from a few exceptions, of course) since the early Naughts, my least favourite time in pop culture history (more about that in the near future-maybe). Some stuff looked shiny and chrome, but underneath it was mostly…
I know there was a lot of great stuff on TV as a counterbalance in the last year, but at heart, I am still more of a movie guy and not that much of a friend of the serialized format. It’s only a personal quirk though, so aside with the whining and here is the Best/Worst of TV of 2015 while we are at it, from my limited view on the medium:
Best/Worst of TV
Hannibal Season 3: Mason Verger gets his comeuppance
While I conceded before that the third season of one of my Top 3 favourite shows ever dipped a little compared to the preceding one, especially in the second half, it was still a bloody good time overall. The highlight of the season was Episode 7 though, when the events of Hannibal, with a nod to its roots in Gothic literature, move from Florence to the spooky mansion of the depraved villain (Mason Verger) with the twisted family history. Everything culminates in a truly disturbing yet delightful excess of vile happenings, from a baby corpse sewed into a pig to faces getting cut off, ending with Verger’s well-deserved gross death via his pet moray.
A fittingly spectacular and grotesque Grand Guignol finale for one of pop culture’s most repugnant yet fascinating baddies.
“It’s dangerous to get exactly what you want.”
– Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal.
Les Revenants is back with a second season …and a vengeance
Les Revenants is another one from my Top 3 of all-time favourite TV-series. If you don’t know it, have a penchant for well-written mystery and no aversion to subtitles, check it out if you can (I heard Netflix is hosting it). You will not regret it, I promise.
Les Revenants is a French TV-series that tells the story of a remote small town whose inhabitants are suddenly confronted with the return of their dead. They are not Zombies or ghosts though, but simply return in the state they died in, unscathed and with no memory of their deaths. Other mysterious events follow – are they connected?
I won’t spoil too much here- I hope I will find some time to write in depth about it soon. It’s a marvel though how effortlessly this series marries the psychological drama that surrounds the effect the return of the deceased have on the dynamics between the townspeople with the mystery plot, without one subverting the other. Not to mention how well the mystery aspect is done, it never becomes embogged in its own mythology and the storylines never become too convoluted. Atmosphere and substance are perfectly balanced, the tension never dissipates, the acting is great… I could go on and on without being afraid to oversell it.
Anyway, after a whopping three (!) years, finally Season 2 arrived and it had the unthankful task to continue after the surprising ending of the first one and I still cannot believe how virtuously they pulled that off. It’s a minor marvel that not only they could hold up the high quality standard, they even raised the stakes and introduced new characters, but never at the cost of storytelling.
….assez parlé, I can only recommend it.
American Horror Story: Hotel is surprisingly a return to form
After “Coven”, killed all the good build up of the season in the last three episodes and “Freakshow” already took a nosedive midway through, I had no high hopes for Season 5 of the horror anthology show, “Hotel”. That series stalwart Jessica Lange was replaced with pop-star Lady Gaga also did not bode well. But life is full of surprises and see, this turned out to be the season with the most compelling and -this is particularly surprising- coherent storyline since Season 1. Gaga did a very good job as the lead and the returning cast members Evan Peters, Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare are brilliant as always. A plethora of gore, lush designs and overall misanthropy are a given in this show anyway.
If you didn’t like any of the seasons I still would not recommend it to you, but every fan who, like me, was disappointed with the preceding two outings, should take a glance.
Positive surprise No. 2: Ash vs. Evil Dead
I haven’t finished the season yet, but so far it’s a fun ride, not holding back with gore and the typical, appropriately rustical Ash-humour. Much, much better than Fede Alvarez’ dour remake.
Disappointment of the year: True Detective, Season 2
First I was intrigued by the idea of an anthology show, but the shoddy result just confirmed my suspicions that showrunner Pizzolatto has always been the weakest link of the first season and its strengths was owed to Cary Fukunaga’s assured direction and the parts Pizzolatto lifted from the books of horror author Thomas Ligotti. In Season 2, the minor weaknesses of Season 1 blew up to lethal proportions, i.e. ridiculous Weltschmerz- posing and laughable machismo wisdom- fueled dialogue. The story was hardly compelling, only a weak attempt to channel James Ellroy and none of the characters was even remotely as interesting as the duo Cohle and Hart. After episode 5 I decided to drop it, not willing to see if it got better -it would have needed to become drastically, disproportionally better to counterbalance the episodes before. Well, sometimes you cannot recapture a lightning in a bottle.
If the ghosts keep killing the guests, we’re going to have zero stars.
-Kathy Bates as worried hotel clerk in American Horror Story: Hotel.
Random Video of the Year #1:
Darth Vader Yule Log
You own one of those fake fireplaces with a screen? You are a nerd? This is for you:
Best Random Act
Shia LaBeouf watching his own movies in a marathon
It may be partly a very narcissist act, but I cannot be unimpressed by someone who is so willing to confront himself with his own art from the perspective of the consumer in such a brutal, almost martyr-like way. Always respect an artist who does not take himself out of equation.
Random Video of the Year #2:
George Lucas is more Gangstah than you
…and now for something completely different:
Madonna falling off a stage
Next Page: Movies of 2015