Various Supernaughts- contributors and one guest writer have gathered to crown their Best and Worst of TV and movies of 2015. Here it is, the list of all lists. I hope it inspires you to agree or disagree in the comments our our choices may serve as recommendation or warning.
Zissou’s Best of 2015
10. Mad Max: Fury Road
Nearly everyone I told I wanted to see Mad Max: Fury Road gave me a bewildered stare and considered how they might need to kill this ill-informed imposter posing as me. It takes a very special action movie to get me to enjoy looking at the screen. Luckily, a few did come out this year. Mad Max and American Ultra were both excellent movies and, if not for Max’s crazy level of ambition, either could easily have made it onto this list. Mad Max is visually stunning, fun, and relentlessly energetic without ever succumbing to lazy plot points. A great movie I’d love to rewatch sometime soon.
9. While We’re Young
Here you go. Here’s your damn Baumbach choice with hipsters galore, a Vivaldi soundtrack, and an elaborate homage to Crimes and Misdemeanors. I was always going to like this one. While I imagine a lot of people find Baumbach easy to write off as hipster-ish, I’d argue this whole movie is an analysis of hipsterism and why that appeals to people of varying generations. It’s funny, it’s poignant, and it’s really sleekly made. Baumbach and his Frances Ha DP Sam Levy have hit a really sweet visual stride with his current trio of movies that I’m excited to see more of. The one downside here is the lack of Greta Gerwig, who adds that special something to counter-balance Baumbach’s wavering misanthropy. More on that later.
Room is an important movie, I think. It probably didn’t make any money and won’t be widely televised or remembered, but I see it as a necessary reaction to a culture obsessed with crime procedurals. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself forced to sit through many hours of Criminal Minds and, while the average person seems able to watch grisly murder, rape, and torture for 40 minutes and then want to jump into the next episode, I’m often sitting back with a disgusted look trying to reconcile what I’m seeing in this stupid and formulaic show. It doesn’t care about the victims any more than the viewers do, but that’s what I always get stuck on. Room is all about the victims of the sort of crime you’d see on these popular CBS shows, only it’s about the humanity of a woman kidnapped and trapped in a shed, raped regularly and trying to raise a child resulting from it. 7 years after her kidnapping, both she and her 5 year old child are re-entered into society and I could not be happier to be put in the position to empathize with this other end of the procedural equation. A haunting and beautiful movie that’s tough but worth it. Oh, but bring a few boxes of tissues.
7. What We Do in the Shadows
Welcome the latest classic vampire movie that deserves to go straight to the canon. It can’t be a large list, so I promise that means something. Jemaine Clement and Taika Watiti have assembled a spectacularly silly laugh-out-loud mockumentary here about centuries-old vampires out of touch with the times, just trying to get by. I know this is a bad way of putting it, but it feels like the realistic future of vampires in contrast with the cool future depicted in the bookends of Interview with a Vampire. Maybe these were the suave Tom Cruises and Brad Pitts at one point, but now they just think they are. Part Christopher Guest, part ZAZ, What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious gem that’s equally funny upon repeat viewings.
6. Irrational Man
I don’t know what Woody Allen movie you all saw this year, but Irrational Man was great! Woody’s best since, I don’t know, Scoop? Oh yeah, no one likes that one either. Beautifully washing the horrible taste left in my mouth from 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight, Irrational Man completes Allen’s existential murder trilogy (following Crimes and Misdemeanors and the unnecessary Crimes and Misdemeanors knock-off Match Point) rejuvenated with energy I haven’t seen from him in a long while. Set almost entirely to the jovial drum beats of live Ramsey Lewis recordings, Irrational Man is both humorous and interestingly timely in a sea of superhero movies. Allen’s latest Dostoevsky- riff is all about the logistics of acknowledging the injustices of our system and deciding to remedy them outside of society’s rules. Can you take morality into your own hands even when it all seems like you should? This isn’t Raskolnikov killing for money or Judah killing to save his family’s noble idea of him, it’s a philosophy professor wanting to make a stranger’s life better. And did I mention you get to listen to Ramsey Lewis the whole time, too?
5. It Follows
This one seems somewhat polarizing. It may not be all out soil-yourself terrifying, but I think it captures the looming sense of dread better than any other movie in a long while. I think the anxiety of the movie is easily relatable for anyone who has that something that they just can’t get off their mind ever. Here it’s personified through a sexually transmitted demon that plods towards you until it gets you, then moves down the list to find the next person. Setting this in the world of horny, innocent (of the world) teenagers imbues a particularly effective set of conflicts and bad decisions to get the most out of our monster and our characters. Maika Monroe excels as the lead who really gets thrown through the ringer. Fantastic cinematography, direction, and score, It Follows is a great horror movie–the kind that’s hard to come by and a hard act to follow. I’ll see myself out.
4. The Revenant
Meet the contemporary take on the frontiersman mythology. There’s not much to say here that hasn’t already been said. Out of this world, beautiful, impossible cinematography meets nuanced revenge story with flawless acting and an emotional core that won’t let up until it finally allows itself to reach its fun conclusion. Spectacular movie.
3. Ex Machina
Oscar Isaac as a brilliant, possibly sociopathic billionaire looking for someone to perform a Turing Test on one of his creations? You probably won’t find a better pitch than that among 2015 releases. And the movie doesn’t disappoint–creating a fun, claustrophobic thriller that dances the line of moral ambiguity better than any other movie that year. Excellent, tense, and fun, Garland should’ve stepped into the director’s chair years ago.
2. Digging for Fire
This is the first Joe Swanberg movie I’ve seen in theaters. It played in my neck of the woods for one showing. Then it was gone. Luckily I happened to be at it, because this is Swanberg’s most realized and creatively successful film. Here Swanberg is able to take his improvisational style and marry it with just the right combination of themes, actors, and pace to create something that feels real instead of experimental. On WTF last year, Swanberg stated that this was his attempt to do an Altmanesque sprawling LA movie with the visual style of Spielberg. This may be our Swanberg epic—a beautifully intimate comedy about marriage with great performances across the board.
1. Mistress America
Surprise! Baumbach is great, but Baumbach and Gerwig together make something incredibly special. Frances Ha is one of my favorite movies, so there’s a lot to live up to here, and the duo is clearly up for the challenge. A hilarious comedy in the vain of Howard Hawks or Whit Stillman, Mistress America is by far Baumbach’s funniest movie, with breathless pacing and an underlying poignancy second only to Frances. Like Digging for Fire, this barely played in Omaha at all, but I was able to catch it twice before it was taken for good. There was no other 2015 movie more rewatchable or delightful if you ask me.
The Great But Nearly Unwatchable: Beasts of No Nation, The Look of Silence
Honorable Mentions: American Ultra, Don Verdean, Far from the Madding Crowd, Best of Enemies
ZISSOU is the host of and mastermind behind the “Vegetable Lasagna” podcast, every Tuesday here on The Supernaughts.
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