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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Thin White Dude's 9th Annual Award for the Best and Worst Film of the Year (2015)




Better late than never, right? As you can tell, given the belated publishing of this, my 9th roundup of the best films of a given year, I've been a bit behind in terms of keeping up with the film reviewing. That's because I have been busy with other things lately, what with work and pursuing my own artistic endeavours. I don't want to harp on because nothing is set in stone yet with Solitude, my own upcoming short film (I'm mulling over the possibility of a major revamp on the project), but things are slowly falling into place. Given that I started writing it over a year ago and shot the bulk of it last June, it's a long, protracted production, but it's still moving. I'm also working consistently, and have a number of other things in the pipeline, so be on the lookout. Anywho, I still managed to see a not insignificant number of films in 2015, some good, some bad, the majority of which will be covered in the following summary. From here you can derive from these conclusions my personal perspective on the wider scheme of things in the film world. 

Let's get cracking!

Ground Rules

1. A movie eligible for inclusion must been released in theatres, on DVD or on-demand in 2015.

2. The number of nominees eligible for all categories are between five and ten, with the odd exception.

3. The films up for discussion will only be those that I myself have actually seen in full from start to finish.

4. Most, but not all categories are arranged by alphabetical order in relation to the film nominated, not the individual.

5. No new categories this year, though I have changed the 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' Award to that of Best Depiction of Sexuality in a Film, as opposed to Sex Scenes alone, so as to cover the definition to sexuality on a broader, more general basis.

6. These are the opinions of a jury of one.

7. These opinions and ground rules are not so inflexible that I can't make a change whenever I see fit.

8. Feel free to comment, share, like, subscribe, yadda, yadda, yadda. I do take your opinions into account and enjoy the discourse, I just have no time for shameless self-promotion.

9. Expect a rebuttal if you do comment or respond.

10. Carpe diem.

Signed 

The Thin White Dude

The 9th John Carpenter Award for Best Horror Film of 2015

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Logan Pictures/Spectre Vision) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Krampus (Legendary Pictures/Zam Pictures) – Michael Dougherty

And the winner is… A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Logan Pictures/Spectre Vision) – Ana Lily Amirpour

The horror genre has not had a good stint over the past number of years. Indeed, I don’t we’ve seen a horror masterpiece since Let The Right One In. Even still, this year saw the release of two solid horror films, but the winner, Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is a work of notable distinction. On the surface it’s a horror film, but there is so much else going there, and it’s an assured, unique directorial work that heralds in a new voice in Amirpour, surely a director to watch in the years to come.

The 8th Kenneth Loach Award for Best Drama Film of 2015

Brooklyn (BFI/BBC Films/HanWay Films/Wildgaze Films) – John Crowley
Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes
The Dance of Reality (Camera One/Le Soleil Films) – Alejandro Jodorowsky
Far from the Madding Crowd (BBC Films/DNA Films) – Thomas Vinterberg
The Revenant (New Regency Pictures/Anonymous Content/M Productions/Appian Way/Regency Enterprises/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Alejandro G. Inarritu
Straight Outta Compton (Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Crucial Films/Broken Chair Flickz) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… The Revenant (New Regency Pictures/Anonymous Content/M Productions/Appian Way/Regency Enterprises/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Alejandro G. Inarritu

For a good while, it was looking like Brooklyn was going to take it, but then I saw The Revenant. Even though largely acclaimed, there has been a diversity of reactions to it. I for one was completely taken in by this highly-atmospheric and powerful work. Leonardo DiCaprio gives it his all in a towering lead performance, it’s beautifully shot and surely one must, even if you don’t like the film, applaud director Alejandro G. Inarritu. It’s a film of bold, uncompromising directorial intent that is willing to take the viewer on a cinematic experience like no other.

The 8th Sylvester Stallone Award for Best Action/Adventure Film of 2015

Fast and Furious 7 (Original Film/One Race Films/Media Rights Capital/China Film/Relativity Media) – James Wan
John Wick (Thunder Road Pictures/87Eleven Productions/MJW Films) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Jurassic World (Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures) – Colin Trevorrow
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Bad Robot Productions/Skydance Productions/Cruise/Wagner Productions/China Movie Channel/Alibaba Pictures) – Christopher McQuarrie
Wild Card (Current Entertainment/Quad Films/SJ Pictures/Sierra / Affinity) – Simon West

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller

I know that I’m agreeing with just about everyone (I say just about because I do know someone who didn’t like it) in saying that Mad Max: Fury Road was awesome. Like super awesome. Not only is it a rip-roaring extravaganza that delivers the best action sequences in a film since The Matrix, perhaps even Terminator 2: Judgment Day, not only is a work of technical wizardry with one of the best onscreen mise-en-scenes, not only is it a stark depiction of ecological collapse in the wake of climate change and moral decadence, but also a redemptive tale of female empowerment. Previous winners of this award include Chris Nolan’s latter two Dark Knight films and Ron Howard’s Rush. This might be the best of the lot of them. Everything you could want in an action movie.

The 9th GWB Award for Most Unintentionally Offensive Film of 2015

Aloha (RatPac Entertainment/Regency Enterprises/Scott Rudin Productions/Vinyl Films) – Cameron Crowe: pissed off the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, who accused the film of whitewashing the cast
Dawg Fight (Rakontur) – Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris: pissed off those who believe in objective documentary filmmaking
Everest (Cross Creek Pictures/Walden Media/Working Title Films) – Baltasar Kormakur: pissed off John Krakauer and people who want to see fully-developed well-rounded characters
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six: pissed off everyone and everything
Jurassic World (Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures) – Colin Trevorrow: pissed off people with its primitive perspective on a main female character
The Lazarus Effect (Blumhouse Productions) – David Gelb: pissed off those who like a good, classy horror film
Mortdecai (Infinitum Nihil/Mad Chance Productions/Odd Lot Entertainment) – David Koepp: pissed off most of those who saw it with stupid, unfunny moustache jokes
The Ridiculous 6 (Happy Madison Productions) – Frank Coraci: pissed off Native-Americans with negative and borderline racist depiction of their people
Survivor (Millenium Films) – James McTeigue: pissed off continuity experts with Pierce Brosnan’s ever-changing facial hair
Terminator Genisys (Skydance Productions) – Alan Taylor: pissed off fans of the franchise with messy changing of the fundamental rules of its universe

And the winner is… Mortdecai (Infinitum Nihil/Mad Chance Productions/Odd Lot Entertainment) – David Koepp: pissed off most of those who saw it with stupid, unfunny moustache jokes

While I put some thought into giving it to Jurassic World, because while I like the film, there is no good reason why in this day and age a film should look upon a female character the way it does. Anywho, I have to say that Mortdecai annoyed me ever more, because I spent a hundred minutes of my time listening to people who I know are talented (yes, you Depp!) telling horrendously unfunny jokes under the pretence of so-called ‘English’ humor. I would also say it was boring as piss, but for the fact that I would probably get more amusement out of watching people urinate!

The 9th David Fincher Award for Best Thriller of 2015

And the winner is… The Gift (Blumhouse Productions/Blue-Tongue Films) – Joel Edgerton

As you can see, not a big year for thrillers, but hey, at least I can say I got the pleasure of watching this one. Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut, which he also wrote and stars in, in a dark, psychological morality tale about the damage one can cause through false rumors, and the long-term implications that a lies can have upon one’s life. The strong script is fronted by three great performances from Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Edgerton, all of whom guide us through this devilishly smart little thriller, which plays as many games with out heads as the characters do with each other.

The 9th Philip K. Dick Award for Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film of 2015

ex_machina (Film 4/DNA Films/Universal Pictures) – Alex Garland
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions) – J.J. Abrams
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

There’s two other strong candidates there, particularly Alex Garland’s ex_machina, but the fact of the matter is that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is the best science-fiction/fantasy film of 2015. Based on the fantastical Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Isao Takahata’s film is a wondrous, allegorical story of humanity, coming-of-age and self-discovery, beautifully realized through smooth watercolored animation. An honest, rich work with fantasy at its very core, it does what great genre films do and uses their structure as a metaphor to appeal to one’s heart, which is something that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya does with real grace.

The 9th Stan and Ollie Award for Best Comedic Film of 2015

Joy (Fox 2000 Pictures/Davis Entertainment Company/Annapurna Pictures/TSG Entertainment) – David O. Russell
Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
The Lobster (Element Pictures/Scarlet Films/Faliro House Productions/Haut et Court/Lemming Film) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Indian Paintbrush) – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

And the winner is… Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen

Honorable mention goes to The Lobster, which is a remarkable work in it’s own right, but the film that made me laugh the most this year was Pixar’s latest, Inside Out. For those of you who know me, Pixar winning a genre award may not come as a surprise (three years in a row, from 2008-10, I awarded Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3 with genre awards for Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Action/Adventure and Comedic Film respectively). However, Inside Out a rip-roaringly funny, intelligent and perhaps most important, heartfelt film about the changes that one goes through when growing up. I loved it.

The 9th ‘I Am Legend’ Award for Biggest Disappointment of 2015

Black Mass (Cross Creek Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Scott Cooper: it’s a movie that places all of it’s weight upon the proverbial Atlas’ shoulders, that being Johnny Depp’s performance
Dawg Fight (Rakontur) – Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris: incredibly one-sided documentary, lacking in objectivity and an all-encompassing perspective
Everest (Cross Creek Pictures/Walden Media/Working Title Films) – Baltasar Kormakur: great premise, technically astute, but poor writing full of tropes ensure there is not a single sympathetic character
Far from the Madding Crowd (BBC Films/DNA Films) – Thomas Vinterberg: a very good film in it’s own right, but it’s hard to match the singularity of Thomas Hardy’s original text
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six: hits all the wrong notes ad nausea, and nowhere near as intelligent as it thinks it is in it’s satirical discourse
Southpaw (WanDa Pictures/Riche Productions/Escape Artists/Fuqua Films) – Antoine Fuqua: I’d be a liar if I said that these days when I see Jake Gyllenhaal I expect excellence. He is, but the movie isn’t
Terminator: Genisys (Skydance Productions) – Alan Taylor: including the much-maligned Terminator Salvation, it’s the single worst thing to happen to the Terminator franchise

And the winner is… Everest (Cross Creek Pictures/Walden Media/Working Title Films) – Baltasar Kormakur: great premise, technically astute, but poor writing full of tropes ensure there is not a single sympathetic character

Everest really should be a good film. I can’t even say it’s a bad film. I mean, technically it’s an astute film that does have some nerve-wracking sequences. However, they just feel that way from a purely cerebral sense, because if you’re given time to think (which you have plenty of, incidentally), you realise that the film is itself is deeply flawed. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy have written some good things in the past, but this script has no three-dimensional characters, is full of tropes, ensuring that the film at times ends up being rather boring. A shame really.

The 7th Walt Disney Award for Best Animated Film of 2015

Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

So, this year it’s Pixar vs. Ghibli in this category, among the toughest this year, as both are among the very best films that came out in 2015. That said, I have to go with the film I feel more drawn to emotionally, and while I adore Inside Out, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is something else altogether. With this being billed as Isao Takahata's last film, now in his eighties, chances are we’ll never get another film like this. Takahata has for over fifty years been one of the greatest of all animation directors, and this, perhaps his final film, is an absolute treasure. May you cherish it.

The 5th Sergei Eisenstein Award for Best ‘Unintentional’ Propaganda Film of 2015

Accidental Love – ‘Stephen Greene’: for having the gall to cobble together a film disowned by the director which began production back in 2008 and was left unfinished
Aloha – Cameron Crowe: a great cast do not maketh a great movie, especially one that is so abominably unfunny that I end up getting cross at Emma Stone
Criminal Activities – Jackie Earle Haley: hero shots of John Travolta walking, full of different angles, let us know immediately that he is one cool customer (cough, cough!)
Dawg Fight – Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris: spinning the idea that Dada 5000 is a saint giving young, disenfranchised men the opportunity to fight their way out of the streets
Everest – Baltazar Kormakur: we are automatically going to go with this, despite two-dimensional characters, because, hey, it’s a true story
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) – Tom Six: for trying to unsubtly suggest to us that Tom Six is a genius
Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow: you may be a strong female authority figure, but it means not, for you will fall for the rugged charms of Chris Pratt
The Lazarus Effect – David Gelb: that it’s okay to sell a lazy, murder-by-numbers horror movie because it’s low-budget and highly profitable at the box office
Mortdecai – David Koepp: make a movie whose gags consist primarily of moustache jokes and the people will buy it because Johnny Depp
The Ridiculous 6 – Frank Coraci: people are gradually getting privy to Adam Sandler’s films being largely terrible; “if they can’t get ‘em into the theatres, we’ll get ‘em on their couches”
Survivor – James McTiegue: it thinks it has something pertinent to say in our post-9/11 world, but it doesn’t. Day of the Jackal this ain’t!
Terminator Genisys – Alan Taylor: with franchises, you can play around, but there are also fundamental rules regarding their universes. Don’t mess with them just because you can’t think you plot points around time travel!

And the winner is… Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow: you may be a strong female authority figure, but it means not, for you will fall for the rugged charms of Chris Pratt

Okay, I ignored it once, I can’t ignore it again. As I mentioned before, I rather like Jurassic World, but there is no good excuse for such a retrograde look at women. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character of Claire Dearing is the Operations Manager of Jurassic World, a powerful authority figure in this established diegesis who is not afraid to trample over her subordinates to make difficult decisions. Enter Chris Pratt, though, and all of this is for naught. There is absolutely no need for this romantic subplot and for this character to became merely an accessory to Owen Grady’s rugged charms. In the wake of recent debates about the female and racial roles in mainstream cinema (and the example set forth by the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road), this is an example of the sort of thing that cannot be allowed to continue in Hollywood.

The 7th Walter Murch Award for Best Sound Design/Mixing in a Film from 2015

The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew
Everest (Cross Creek Pictures/Walden Media/Working Title Films) – Baltasar Kormakur
ex_machina (Film 4/DNA Films/Universal Pictures) – Alex Garland
Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller
The Revenant (New Regency Pictures/Anonymous Content/M Productions/Appian Way/Regency Enterprises/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Alejandro G. Inarritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions) – J.J. Abrams
Straight Outta Compton (Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Crucial Films/Broken Chair Flickz) – F. Gary Gray
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller

I alluded to the technical wizardry of Mad Max: Fury Road upon it’s winning the best action/adventure film award, and the overall sound of the film is part and parcel to that. Part of what makes those road sequences so intense is that you can hear every shot of a gun, every scratch of metal-on-metal, every scream, roar and shout as the vehicles thunder along through the desert wind. Not only that, although I’m sure, like Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, it could work as a silent film, the fact that you able to ascertain a wide understanding of the whole story on top of everything going in is a commendable achievement in sound editing.

The 8th Paul Schrader Award for Best Screenplay of 2015

Nick Hornby (Brooklyn) – John Crowley
Phyllis Nagy (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Alex Garland (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Joel Edgerton (The Gift) – Joel Edgerton
Pete Docter/Meg LeFauvre/Josh Cooley (Inside Out) – Pete Docter
Efthymis Filippou/Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
George Miller/Brendan McCarthy/Nico Lathouris (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Andrea Berloff/Jonathan Herman/S. Leigh Savidge/Alan Wenkus (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray
Riko Sakaguchi/Isao Takahata (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… Pete Docter/Meg LeFauvre/Josh Cooley (Inside Out) – Pete Docter

And so, with Inside Out winning it’s second award, that’s three films with two awards apiece in the race to the finish. The reason I’m awarding the honor of best screenplay to Inside Out is not just because it is hilarious and heartfelt in equal measure, but because of the complexity and intelligent foundations in the screenplay. Extensive consulting from psychologists such as Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner enabled them to create an emotional palette in the characters of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, and research into eleven to seventeen year-olds, while avoiding stereotypical feminine interests, ensured they could develop a three-dimensional character in that of Riley. They clearly put their time and effort into developing the film, and it’s a textbook example of a great screenplay.

The 6th Edith Head Award for Best Costume Designs in a Film from 2015

Brooklyn – John Crowley
Carol – Todd Haynes
Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa
The Dance of Reality – Alejandro Jodorowsky
ex_machina – Alex Garland
Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Vinterberg
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Ana Lily Amirpour
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrahms

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

As far as the establishment of a mise-en-scene on film this year, I don’t believe there has been a better film than Mad Max: Fury Road. The Revenant could have been a good shout too, but alas, I must award the victor, and thus, at three awards leading the race, the spoils. Anyway, waffle aside, there was some excellent costume design here, between the attention to detail as regards the extras in the mass-assembly scenes and the memorable, soon to be iconic designs of Max when he is strapped to a car (as a mobile blood bag. Yes, a blood bag!) and that of Immortan Joe. Creative to say the least!

The 9th ‘Real Steel’ Award for Most Surprising Entertaining Film of 2015

Brooklyn (BFI/BBC Films/HanWay Films/Wildgaze Films) – John Crowley: was expecting a run-of-the-mill Oscar-bait period drama, and instead I got sincere and quite beautiful film among the best of 2015
Cobain: Montage of Heck (HBO Documentary Films/Universal Pictures/Public Road Productions/The End of Music) – Brett Morgen: I’m quite sniffy about rock-docs romanticizing the departed icons of the past, but this film did it right without shying away from the nasty things
The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew: was quite excited for Killing Joke’s long-awaited documentary, did not expect to see a masterpiece
Krampus (Legendary Pictures/Zam Pictures) – Michael Dougherty: I’m not a fan of Christmas, but I'm up with this sort of thing (that’s one for the Father Ted fans)
The Lobster (Element Pictures/Scarlet Films/Faliro House Productions/Haut et Court/Lemming Film) – Yorgos Lanthimos: expected to be amused, but was surprised at just how intelligent and well-developed the film’s universe was
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer: I thought after The Act of Killing, there’s no way he could do something quite as powerful. Remind me never to take Oppenheimer lightly again next time!
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller: thought I would be entertained, got so much more along with it
Pound of Flesh (Ace Studio/Odyssey Media) – Ernie Barbarash: put it this way, JCVD spends somewhere between five and ten minutes beating people up with a Bible. Yes, it’s true.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions) – J.J. Abrams: I personally thought Star Wars as a whole should have been left alone, but J.J. Abrams did what J.J. Abrams does and gave new life to an old franchise
Wild Card (Current Entertainment/Quad Films/SJ Pictures/Sierra / Affinity) – Simon West: I enjoy a fair degree of genre schlock, but this was pulpy as shit and a hell of a lot of fun

And the winner is… Wild Card (Current Entertainment/Quad Films/SJ Pictures/Sierra / Affinity) – Simon West: I enjoy a fair degree of genre schlock, but this was pulpy as shit and a hell of a lot of fun

Wild Card is the kind of film that this award is made for. A critically-derided box-office bomb, I saw this on Netflix (a source for a good few films this year), and even though I’m fond of schlocky action movies, I was probably ready to dismiss it. How wrong was I. I know I’m in the minority, but I found the film to be funny and entertaining in a pulpy sort of manner. Furthermore, what surprises is the fact that, for all of it’s billing as ‘an action movie,’ which it is, it is ultimately a character drama, with Jason Statham delivering one of his best performances at the heart of it.

The 8th Christopher Doyle Award for Best Cinematography in a Film from 2015

 Edward Lachman (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Jean-Marie Dreujou (The Dance of Reality) – Alejandro Jodorowsky
Rob Hardy (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Charlotte Bruss Christensen (Far from the Madding Crowd) – Thomas Vinterberg
Lyle Vincent (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Thimos Bakatakis (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Lars Skree (The Look of Silence) – Joshua Oppenheimer
 John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Matthew Libatique (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu

Something tells me I shouldn’t be doing this. I mean, it’s not like Emmanuel Lubezki’s won this before or anything, is it? Oh, right, he’s won it three times before. Shit. Okay. (Clear throat) Hem-hem. And he was inducted into the Hall of Fame? Damn. Change of tone. (Clears throat again) Huh-huh. Congratulations to Emmanuel Lubezki, who with this bags his fourth award for cinematography from yours truly in the eight years since I began this category. In all fairness, with the magisterial imagery that you can see in The Revenant (if ever anything was apropo to fit W.B. Yeats’ much-used adage “a terrible beauty is born,” this is it) that he deserves it. If this doesn’t put him on the Mount Rushmore of DP’s, who knows what’s next?

The 6th Rick Baker Award for Best Make-Up/Hair in a Film from 2015

Black Mass – Scott Cooper
Carol – Todd Haynes
The Dance of Reality – Alejandro Jodorowsky
ex_machina – Alex Garland
Joy – David O. Russell
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

With four awards now, Mad Max: Fury Road is blazing ahead in the race now. Once again, it was a decision to be made between this and that of The Revenant. However, what made me decide this one was thinking about how while some departments are outstanding in The Revenant, and this is not to downplay others’ work, but in Mad Max: Fury Road, everything is done to the nth degree. Wildly excessive and over-the-top, each of the primary characters in the film has a look wholly unique and distinctive to them, which works from a practical standpoint of trying to figure what’s happening but also to use make-up/hair as part of our understanding of who these people really are.

The 8th Lucio Fulci Award for Most Excessively Violent Film of 2015

Accidental Love (K. JAM Media/Persistent Entertainment/Vocal Yokels) – ‘Stephen Greene’
Aloha (RatPac Entertainment/Regency Enterprises/Scott Rudin Productions/Vinyl Films) – Cameron Crowe
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six
The Lazarus Effect (Blumhouse Productions) – David Gelb
Mortdecai (Infinitum Nihil/Mad Chance Productions/Odd Lot Entertainment) – David Koepp
The Ridiculous 6 (Happy Madison Productions) – Frank Coraci
Survivor (Millenium Films) – James McTeigue
Terminator: Genisys (Skydance Productions) – Alan Taylor

And the winner is… The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six

Is there really any debate in this one? While each of the others are violent in their own way, the third Human Centipede film is repugnant on a whole other level. What separates this from the previous two films is that the violence in those serves some sort of purpose, no a higher, but a cerebral gross-out one nevertheless, and it works. With this, it serves absolutely none. It doesn’t even serve to enhance the comedic/satirical intent of Tom Six, and incidentally, there are far more intelligent ways to take the piss out of penal systems. Just a horrible, filthy load of grot.

The 8th Ennio Morricone Award for Best Original Score/Soundtrack of 2015

Michael Brook (Brooklyn) – John Crowley
Carter Burwell (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Jaz Coleman/Killing Joke (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrw
Geoff Barrow/Ben Salisbury (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Michael Giacchino (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie del Carmen
Various/Johnnie Burn (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Alva Noto/Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Various/Joseph Trapanese (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray
Joe Hisaishi (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… Joe Hisaishi (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata

There were a number of outstanding scores/soundtracks in films this year. Indeed, each of the nominees would be acceptable as winners of a related award. That said, I must give it to Joe Hisaishi for his wonderful work on The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya. I’ve listened to the score several times over, and every time I’m brought back to the world of Takahata’s beautiful film. Also, although there’s a fair degree of dialogue, a large amount of the film is virtually silent barring the score. While it is apparent throughout the film, it is during these sequences, particularly the climax, when you realize just how much this heart-stirring score contributes to the overall film.

The 4th Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra (EHO) Award for Worst Film/Score Soundtrack of 2015

Jonsi & Alex (Aloha) – Cameron Crowe
Various (Dawg Fight) – Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris
Dario Marianelli (Everest) – Baltasar Kormakur
Misha Segal (The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)) – Tom Six
Sarah Schachner (The Lazarus Effect) – David Gelb
Mark Ronson/Geoff Zannelli (Mortdecai) – David Koepp
Elmo Weber/Rupert Gregson-Williams (The Ridiculous 6) – Frank Coraci
Lorne Balfe/Brad Fiedel (themes) (Terminator: Genisys) – Alan Taylor

And the winner is… Sarah Schachner (The Lazarus Effect) – David Gelb

No, Rupert Gregson-Williams is not going to win again. Despite fierce competition including the aforementioned two-time winner, Sarah Schachner breaks out and take home the dubious honor. Why? Because her score is not just murder-by-numbers and clich├ęd, but because it is also indicative of one of the worst trends in contemporary horror cinema, which is to effectively YELL at it’s audience and crank the volume up to eleven in order SHOCK them. It has the same aesthetic value as my use of the Caps Lock, which is absolutely none. It’s like grabbing someone and shaking them; of course they’re going to react to such honking histrionics, but it does nothing to plant seeds of suspense in their head.

The 4th David Bowie Award for Best Theme/Song in a Film from 2015

Jeff Danna: “Smells Like Teen Night” (Cobain: Montage of Heck) – Brett Morgen
Killing Joke: “The Death and Resurrection Show” (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrew
Cuts: “Bunsen Burner” (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
White Lies: “Death” (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Michael Giacchino: “Welcome to Jurassic World” (Jurassic World) – Colin Trevorrow
Danai: “Apo Mesa Pethamenos” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Colin Farrell: “Where The Wild Roses Grow” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Brian Eno: “The Big Ship” (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Ryuichi Sakamoto: “The Revenant Main Theme” (The Revenant) – Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
N.W.A. “Straight Outta Compton” (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… N.W.A. “Straight Outta Compton” (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

This is the only award that I have rescinded my original opinion on. While I had originally went with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s superb main theme for The Revenant, the benefit of a night of thought, lying in bed made me realise that Straight Outta Compton was the one. It’s the title track (and lead single) off of their debut album, the title of the film based upon the story of N.W.A., and was used extensively throughout the marketing of the film. Not only that, but the song itself is one of the most powerful declaration’s of intent in music history; ‘I’m young, I’m black and I’m pissed off, and you know what?’ “I got somethin’ to say…”

The 2nd ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ Award for Best Depiction of Sexuality in a Film from 2015

Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes
ex_machina (Film 4/DNA Films/Universal Pictures) – Alex Garland
The Lobster (Element Pictures/Scarlet Films/Faliro House Productions/Haut et Court/Lemming Film) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Magic Mike XXL (Iron Horse Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Gregory Jacobs

And the winner is… Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes

Last year, when I created this award, it was known as ‘Best Sex Scenes in a Film,’ and I changed it, not only because that constitutes a spoiler alert, but because my reasoning for creating it was on a broader basis as opposed to simply the act itself. This year’s winner, Carol, is cut of a similar cloth to the award’s namesake, but what is so startling in Carol is the way it is done. Instead of depicting an affair between an older woman and a young photographer as something frivolous and titillating, they do something even bolder, dramatizing it in the vein of classic Hollwood romances like Casablanca. It’s terrific and refreshing to see a film so blind in lacking judgmental prejudices regarding both same-sex relationships and those with age gaps between partners.

The 7th Dante Ferretti Award for Best Production Design in a Film from 2015

Brooklyn – John Crowley
Carol – Todd Haynes
The Dance of Reality – Alejandro Jodorowsky
ex_machina – Alex Garland
Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow
Krampus – Michael Dougherty
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

Again, you say? Yes, again, I say, as Mad Max: Fury Road picks up its fifth gong with this award. The fact is though, as I said, this is the best realized mise-en-scene of 2015 period, and in virtually every department displays a standard of excellence. There isn’t a great amount in the way of set designs here, granted, but each of them firmly establish the world these characters inhabit. And, of course, how can we not mention the vehicles? Not only are they stunning in their volume, but in the detail to make each of them stand out among the crowd as it were. A meticulous attention to detail is paid in this magnificent film world.

The 7th Stan Winston Award for Best Special/Visual Effects in a Film from 2015

ex_machina – Alex Garland
Fast & Furious 7 – James Wan
Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow
Krampus – Michael Dougherty
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Christopher McQuarrie
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams

And the winner is… ex_machina – Alex Garland

In this regard, I’ve got to go with the Academy (who I’ve actually agreed with on a surprising amount of categories). Part of what contributes to the success of ex_machina is not just Alex Garland’s sound fundamentals in the tight screenplay, but in the synthesis of special/visual effects with the performance of Alicia Vikander as Ava. The incredibly streamlined effects were achieved through a combination of rotoscoping, digitally painting, camera/body tracking systems and a CGI robot’s movements. As such, what we get is one of the most subtly convincing works of visual effects to create a non-human character in recent memory.

The 7th Vic Armstrong Award for Best Stunt Work/Choreography in a Film from 2015

Fast & Furious 7 – James Wan
John Wick – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
Magic Mike XXL – Gregory Jacobs
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Christopher McQuarrie
Pound of Flesh – Ernie Barbarash
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams
Wild Card – Simon West

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

What can I say, I guess we’ve got our runaway? Six awards now, each of them well-deserved. Here especially, as I, like The Stath, have been calling for stunt performers to have long-overdue acknowledgement of their work at the Oscars for some time. In recent years, the standard that has been set by the Fast & Furious films in maintaining the tradition of the car chase is admirable. However, Mad Max: Fury Road has some of the most incredible vehicular chase sequences I have ever seen in any film. Some of the things that they dare to do would literally, if it was possible, drop your jaw to the floor. There were several times when I was openly gesticulating at the screen awestruck. Blown away puts it lightly.

The 8th Thelma Schoonmaker for Best Film Editorial Work of 2015

Prisca Bouchet (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrew
Mick Audsley (Everest) – Baltasar Kormakur
Mark Day (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Kevin Nolting (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
Elisabet Ronalds (John Wick) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Kevin Stitt (Jurassic World) – Colin Trevorrow
Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Stephen Mirrione (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Maryann Brando/Mary Jo Markey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Toshihiko Kojima (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… Prisca Bouchet (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrew

While a certain film nearly nabbed another one, I have to say that I feel Prisca Bouchet’s work in The Death and Resurrection Show to be the best editing work of 2015. Why? Well, the fact stands that while the film is itself great, Bouchet’s work actively contributes to making that film as good as it is. From a practical standpoint, piecing together the plethora of material is an achievement in itself, but the big thing about the editing here is that Bouchet’s manipulation of this material to imitate the trance-like state Killing Joke are so fascinated by has a palpably hypnotic effect. It’s done subtly, but it bends your perception of time, replicating the qualities of magical rituals, and is one of the most innovative uses of editing I can remember seeing.

The 9th James Cameron Award for Best Sequel of 2015

Fast and Furious 7 (Original Film/One Race Films/Media Rights Capital/China Film/Relativity Media) – James Wan: continues along the recent line of films in the franchise and a fitting tribute to Paul Walker
Jurassic World (Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures) – Colin Trevorrow: a loving homage to the history of the franchise and a reboot that’s very much it’s own beast
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller: talk about going back to an existing property and knocking it out of the park
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Bad Robot Productions/Skydance Productions/Cruise/Wagner Productions/China Movie Channel/Alibaba Pictures) – Christopher McQuarrie: proof that into his fifties there’s life yet in the Cruiser’s Ethan Hunt
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions) – J.J. Abrams: despite my initial cynicism, Abrams did much to put my qualms to rest

And the winner is… Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller: talk about going back to an existing property and knocking it out of the park

It’s a magnificent seven now for Mad Max: Fury Road. While each of these films was admirable in their own way in what they do with their franchises, the latest installment in the saga of Max Rockatansky is another matter altogether. I loved the Mad Max films to begin with, but watching this, you realize that no matter how good they were, this is the zenith. This is the kind of thing George Miller can do if he’s given the responsibility of delivering a $150-million big-budget film. Furthermore, I watched Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior again recently, and I think I liked it even more for having seen Fury Road. It’s simply that kind of film, one that inspires love in itself, and for those that came before it.

The 8th Werner Herzog Award for Most Ingenious Concept in a Film from 2015

Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes: taking what could be categorized as a gay-themed art-house drama, Haynes construction in the vein of classical film romance of the 1940s is subtly challenging
The Dance of Reality (Camera One/Le Soleil Films) – Alejandro Jodorowsky: the Chilean master depicts his autobiographical film in the imaginative manner established throughout his previous works of art
ex_machina (Film 4/DNA Films/Universal Pictures) – Alex Garland: proof that with intelligence and big ideas a small budget, cast and minimal sets are no limitation for a gifted filmmaker
The Gift (Blumhouse Productions/Blue-Tongue Films) – Joel Edgerton: a classy thriller that is as much, if not more, about the implications of non-existent ‘truths’ and threats than those which are real
Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen: a highly detailed these in how emotions can affect the interactions and relationships between people, all under the guise of an inauspicious children’s film
John Wick (Thunder Road Pictures/87Eleven Productions/MJW Films) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch: a subtly constructed diegesis, depicting a vibrant underworld of assassins and criminals of every kind, all operating with it’s own form of currency
The Lobster (Element Pictures/Scarlet Films/Faliro House Productions/Haut et Court/Lemming Film) – Yorgos Lanthimos: a strangely jarring and familiar dystopian world of life in a city where singletons must find a romantic partner within forty-five days before they are turned into an animal; hilarity ensues
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer: a bare-bones, lingering gaze into the abyss, studying the culpability and responsibility of the criminals responsible for Indonesian killing of 1965-66
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller: a rip-roaring, testosterone fueled action/road-movie epic, driven by the powerful prominence of strong female characters at the centre of it all
The Revenant (New Regency Pictures/Anonymous Content/M Productions/Appian Way/Regency Enterprises/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Alejandro G. Inarritu: a harsh depiction of a man’s often brutal determination in his quest for revenge, pushing him to his limits and begging of the audience powerful existential questions

And the winner is… Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen: a highly detailed these in how emotions can affect the interactions and relationships between people, all under the guise of an inauspicious children’s film

The Lobster deserves an honorable mention here, but I’ve got to go with my heart, and it says Inside Out. Not only is the initial bones of the film a work of conceptual genius, it is the crux of everything good that comes with this terrific film. Sound fundamentals from the beginning, as I mentioned in relation to Alex Garland, are key to a film’s (any work of art’s) success. Pete Docter and co work their entire story around this central concept, and develop it from the ground up with eagerness, diligence, intelligence and singular artistic intent. Bravo, sir, bravo.

The 6th ‘Cemetery Junction’ Award for Most Overlooked Film of 2015

Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes: though critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office, surprisingly didn’t fare as well as one would expect at the Oscars
The Dance of Reality (Camera One/Le Soleil Films) – Alejandro Jodorowsky: the great Jodorowsky’s imaginative and poetic autobiographical drama did not reach the wider audience it deserves
The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew: as of writing, has still yet to see anything more than limited-date screening and hasn’t been released on home media or streaming services
Far from the Madding Crowd (BBC Films/DNA Films) – Thomas Vinterberg: got a fair amount of press coverage upon release, but was almost forgotten once awards season came round
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Indian Paintbrush) – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon: touching and humorous indie-comedy which just broke over even but is sure to have a devoted cult following in years to come
Wild Card (Current Entertainment/Quad Films/SJ Pictures/Sierra / Affinity) – Simon West: a critically maligned box-office bomb, described as a film only hardcore Jason Statham fans might enjoy

And the winner is… Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes: though critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office, surprisingly didn’t fare as well as one would expect at the Oscars

I know what you’re thinking, “Carol, overlooked?” right? Hear me out on this one. I know that it was critically-acclaimed and that it was profitable at the box-office. It even nabbed up a number of major awards. But let’s face it, sadly, the only one that most people attention to is the Oscars. I don’t care for them myself, but sometimes it’s the only way people learn about some of the best films of the year. A film that says a lot about the changing definition of traditional relationships, it’s a shame that Carol did not get more ‘spotlight.’ Hell, even I think I overlooked it, comparing it with some trepidation as inferior to Blue Is The Warmest Color. Since seeing it though, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head, and I think in years to come, it will enjoy the reputation that recent films like There Will Be Blood, The Social Network and 12 Years A Slave have today, that of a contemporary classic in American cinema.

The 2nd Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Film from 2015

Fast & Furious 7 (Vin Diesel/Paul Walker/Dwayne Johnson/Michelle Rodriguez/Tyrese Gibson/Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges/Jordana Brewster/Djimon Hounsou/Kurt Russell/Jason Statham) – James Wan
John Wick (Keanu Reeves/Michael Nyqvist/Alfie Allen/Adrianne Palicki/Bridget Moynahan/Dean Winters/Ian McShane/John Leguizamo/Willem Dafoe/Kevin Nash) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
The Lobster (Colin Farrell/Rachel Weisz/Lea Seydoux/Olivia Colman/Angeliki Papoulia/Roger Ashton-Griffiths/Ariane Labed/Michael Smiley/Ben Whishaw/John C. Reilly/Jessica Barden/Ashley Jensen/EmmaEdel O’Shea/Ewen MacIntosh) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Hardy/Charlize Theron/Nicholas Hoult/Hugh Keays-Byrne/Josh Helman/Nathan Jones/Zoe Kravitz/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley/Riley Keough/Abbey Lee/Courtney Eaton) – George Miller
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Tom Cruise/Simon Pegg/Jeremy Renner/Rebecca Ferguson/Ving Rhames/Sean Harris/Alec Baldwin/Jens Hulten/Simon McBurney/Zhang Jingchu/Tom Hollander) – Christopher McQuarrie
The Revenant (Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Hardy/Domnhall Gleeson/Will Poulter/Forest Goodluck/Duane Howard/Arthur Redcloud/Melaw Nakehk’o/Grace Dove/Paul Anderson/Lukas Haas/Brendan Fletcher/Kristoffer Joner/Brad Carter) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Daisy Ridley/John Boyega/Adam Driver/Oscar Isaac/Harrison Ford/Carrie Fisher/Lupita Nyong’o/Andy Serkis/Domnhall Gleeson/Anthony Daniels/Peter Mayhew/Max von Sydow/Mark Hamill) – J.J. Abrams
Straight Outta Compton (Jason Mitchell/Corey Hawkins/O’Shea Jackson Jr./Aldis Hodge/Neil Brown, Jr./Paul Giamatti/Marlon Yates Jr./Alexandra Shipp/Corey Reynolds/Tate Ellington/Keith Stanfield/R. Marcos Taylor/Elena Goode/Tyron Woodley/Marcc Rose/F. Gary Gray/Compton Menace) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… Straight Outta Compton (Jason Mitchell/Corey Hawkins/O’Shea Jackson Jr./Aldis Hodge/Neil Brown, Jr./Paul Giamatti/Marlon Yates Jr./Alexandra Shipp/Corey Reynolds/Tate Ellington/Keith Stanfield/R. Marcos Taylor/Elena Goode/Tyron Woodley/Marcc Rose/F. Gary Gray/Compton Menace) – F. Gary Gray

The ensemble cast of The Lobster is equally commendable, but I think that the faith of the producers in the casting directors to go ahead and cast virtual unknowns in the principal roles of Straight Outta Compton is the more audacious. In particular, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson Jr. shine as Easy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube respectively. Not dissimilar to the emergence of the young rappers from ‘nowhere,’ so too the young actors burst onto the scene, standing tall and proud alongside industry veterans such as Paul Giamatti. Collectively, that cast is uniformly believable and engaging in their roles, playing out the real-life drama of N.W.A.

The 8th Katharine Hepburn Award for Best Supporting Role by a Female Actor in 2015

Julie Walters: “Madge Kehoe” (Brooklyn) – John Crowley
Cate Blanchett: “Carol Aird” (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Alicia Vikander: “Ava” (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Olivia Colman: “Hotel Manager” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Rachel Weisz: “Short Sighted Woman” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: “The Splendid Angharad” (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Zoe Kravitz: “Toast the Knowing” (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Olivia Cooke: “Rachel Kushner” (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Rebecca Ferguson: “Ilsa Faust” (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) – Christopher McQuarrie

And the winner is… Alicia Vikander: “Ava” (ex_machina) – Alex Garland

Alicia Vikander may have nabbed the Oscar for her part in The Danish Girl, but I would like to give her my award for a different one altogether. As I alluded to in my earlier award to ex_machina for best special/visual effects, much of the success of the film comes from our being able to believe in the legitimacy of the Ava character. Now while effects play their part, at the end of the day, it’s Vikander who solidifies it. Ava is developed as wonderfully three-dimensional and balanced, in that while Vikander makes her engaging and relatable from a human standpoint, she has the intelligence to never forget that ultimately this is an artificial intelligence. As such, we never forget that this character as a non-human sentient machine.

The 8th R. Lee Ermey Award for Best Supporting Role by a Male Actor in 2015

Kyle Chandler: “Harge Aird” (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Oscar Isaac: “Nathan Bateman” (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Joel Edgerton: “Gordon ‘Gordo’ Mosley” (The Gift) – Joel Edgerton
David Koechner: “Howard” (Krampus) – Michael Dougherty
Hugh Keays-Byrne: “Immortan Joe” (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Tom Hardy: “John Fitzgerald” (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Will Poulter: “Jim Bridger” (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
Adam Driver: “Kylo Ren” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Harrison Ford: “Han Solo” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Paul Giamatti: “Jerry Heller” (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… Tom Hardy: “John Fitzgerald” (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu

And this award goes to Tom Hardy, in my opinion one of the best actors of this generation. 2015 was a good year for Hardy, between this, Mad Max: Fury Road and Legend. In the midst of the buzz behind the former two films, Hardy, though nominated in several awards circles, got overlooked a lot of the time. Not here though, for in an already deep body of work, John Fitzgerald is one of his best parts. Hardy brings that animalistic physical presence of his and makes in Fitzgerald, with all of his ruthless, self-serving determination and belligerence, a metaphor of the extent of the evil deeds that man can reap upon one another. While it’s a Hardy performance, he transforms physically, mentally and vocally into the part, and is many ways the impetus of The Revenant.

The 6th ‘Extras’ Award for Best Bit Part in a Film from 2015

Brid Brennan: “Miss Kelly” (Brooklyn) – John Crowley
Alejandro Jodorowsky: “Old Alejandro” (The Dance of Reality) – Alejandro Jodorowsky
Juno Temple: “Fanny Robin” (Far from the Madding Crowd) – Thomas Vinterberg
Ian McShane: “Winston” (John Wick) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Ashley Jensen: “Biscuit Woman” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Carrie Fisher: “General Leia Organa” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Sofia Vergara: “Doris” (Wild Card) – Simon West

And the winner is… Ashley Jensen: “Biscuit Woman” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos

While I was contemplating giving this to Alejandro Jodorowsky, truthfully Ashley Jensen’s turn as the Biscuit Woman is the best bit part of 2015. Jensen, who I first became aware of through Extras, the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant comedy which is the namesake for this award, gets some of the best lines in the film, made better by her delivery and timing. Doing them straight, saying these ridiculous things in a direct, conversational manner fits perfectly into the surreal world of The Lobster. The Biscuit Woman has a relatively small degree of screen time, but she’s among the most memorable in a lineup of great characters.

The 7th Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film of 2015

Cobain: Montage of Heck (HBO Documentary Films/Universal Pictures/Public Road Productions/The End of Music) – Brett Morgen
The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer
What Happened, Miss Simone? (Moxie Firecracker Films/Netflix/Radical Media) – Liz Garbus
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Afineevsky-Tolmor Production/Campbell Grobman Films/Netflix/Passion Pictures/Pray for Ukraine Production/Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment/SPN Production/UkrStream TV) – Evgeny Afineevsky

And the winner is… The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew

There’s part of me that would like to give this to Joshua Oppenheimer again, for The Look Of Silence was a powerful bit of work. However, on this one, my heart speaks out to The Death and Resurrection Show, Shaun Pettigrew’s excellent documentary on the band Killing Joke. Admittedly, I have quite a personal investment in them, but I did not expect to see a film as meticulously edited and well put together. This meant that I was able to take myself back and objectively recognise it as a documentary masterpiece, notwithstanding my emotional connection to the story of Killing Joke as a fan. I was really taken up and went with the film from the start to the finish of its two-and-a-half hour running time.

The 7th Peter Sallis Award for Vocal Performance by an Actor in 2015

Jaz Coleman: “as Himself” (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrew
Kaitlyn Dias: “Riley Andersen” (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
Richard Kind: “Bing Bond” (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
Amy Poehler: “Joy” (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
Phyllis Smith: “Sadness” (Inside Out) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
Rachel Weisz: “Short Sighted Woman” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Aki Asakura: “Princess Kaguya” (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata
Takeo Chii: “The Bamboo Cutter” (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata
Nobuko Miyamoto: “The Bamboo Cutter’s Wife” (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata
Nina Simone: “as Herself” (What Happened, Miss Simone?) – Liz Garbus

And the winner is… Aki Asakura: “Princess Kaguya” (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) – Isao Takahata

Picking up its fourth award, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya has broken out into second place among the multiple awards contenders. As you can see above, there were seven nominations over just two movies, and that’s because there was such a high standard of vocal acting. That said, I feel that Aki Asakura is the deserving winner. Because of the nature of the character of Princess Kaguya, who grows and ages rapidly, it’s a complicated part to play. Asakura, in her debut voice-acting performance I might add, pulls it off with grace. From her infant years as Takenoko (“Little Bamboo”) to her flowering into adulthood as Princess Kaguya, Asakura juggles these changes well whilst keeping true to the essence of the character. A superb vocal performance.

The 9th Cate Blanchett Award for Best Leading Role by a Female Actor in 2015

Saoirse Ronan: “Eilis Lacey” (Brooklyn) – John Crowley
Rooney Mara: “Therese Belivet” (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Carey Mulligan: “Bathsheba Everdene” (Far from the Madding Crowd) – Thomas Vinterberg
Rebecca Hall: “Robyn Callum” (The Gift) – Joel Edgerton
Sheila Vand: “The Girl” (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Jennifer Lawrence: “Joy Mangano” (Joy) – David O. Russell
Charlize Theron: “Imperator Furiosa” (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Daisy Ridley: “Rey” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams

And the winner is… Saoirse Ronan: “Eilis Lacey” (Brooklyn) – John Crowley

Once again, my awards (and of course I’m the one who’s right!) prove that best roles for women in film this year were in genre films. Four (possibly five) of the nominees are leading performances in explicitly ‘genre’ films. Nevertheless, the best of these eight nominees is Saoirse Ronan, for her singular turn in Brooklyn. Perhaps the best performance of 2015 period, her Eilis Lacey, in virtually every scene, is the heart of this story. Wholly sympathetic, well-rounded and engaging, Eilis is a well-written character, but Ronan truly brings her to life. She can make the smallest inflections seem significant and meaningful. With real tact, we see a girl becoming a woman in this masterclass in acting.

The 9th Kevin Spacey Award for Best Leading Role by a Male Actor in 2015

Johnny Depp: “James ‘Whitey’ Bulger” (Black Mass) – Scott Cooper
Brontis Jodorowsky: “Jaime” (The Dance of Reality) – Alejandro Jodorowsky
Domhnall Gleeson: “Caleb Smith” (ex_machina) – Alex Garland
Jason Bateman: “Simon Callum” (The Gift) – Joel Edgerton
Keanu Reeves: “John Wick” (John Wick) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Colin Farrell: “David” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
Tom Hardy: “Max Rockatansky” (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Thomas Mann: “Greg Gaines” (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Leonardo DiCaprio: “Hugh Glass” (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Innaritu
John Boyega: “Finn” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Jason Mitchell: “Eric Wright/Easy-E” (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… Colin Farrell: “David” (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos

What, you thought I was going for Leo DiCaprio as well? Though he is terrific in The Revenant, I have to go with what I feel, and that is that Colin Farrell gave the best performance of his career as David in The Lobster. Looking like he’s put on weight for the part, Farrell’s David is a far cry from the confident, fast-talking rogues which he has a habit of playing, instead playing against type. David, soft-spoken and melancholy, thinks so deeply that he trips and stumbles over his words, and in a similar fashion, physically he’s clumsy, shuffling around awkwardly. Even when there are moments such as his half-singing/half-talking Where The Wild Roses Grow, he keeps true to the personality of David. As such, Farrell subtly delivers the best lead performance by a male actor in 2015.

The 8th Akira Kurosawa Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of 2015

The Dance of Reality (Camera One/Le Soleil Films) Country(s): Chile/France. Language: Spanish - Alejandro Jodorowsky
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Logan Pictures/Spectre Vision) Country: United States. Language: Persian - Ana Lily Amirpour
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) Country(s): Denmark/Finland/France/Germany/Indonesia/Israel/Netherlands/Norway/United Kingdom/United States. Language: Indonesian – Joshua Oppenheimer
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) Country: Japan. Language: Japanese – Isao Takahata
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Afineevsky-Tolmor Production/Campbell Grobman Films/Netflix/Passion Pictures/Pray for Ukraine Production/Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment/SPN Production/UkrStream TV) Country(s): Ukraine/United States/United Kingdom. Language(s): Ukrainian/Russian/English - Evgeny Afineevsky

And the winner is… The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) Country: Japan. Language: Japanese – Isao Takahata

At five now, Takahata’s masterwork is slowly but surely creeping up to Mad Max: Fury Road’s lead of seven awards. All five films here are commendable, but The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya is the only one that I feel is on that upper level. Also, as far representing its home country, it is an exemplary and singular example of the brilliance of Japan’s native homegrown animation. Growing to prominence in conjunction with their manga comics, anime is their particular brand of hand-drawn animation. The Japanese, being such cultural aesthetes (yes, I am a Japanophile!), have used anime for nearly a century now as a means to tell some of the most engaging stories in cinema history. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya will no doubt enter that pantheon with the passage of time.

The 7th Orson Welles Award for Most Promising Debut Filmmaker of 2015

Alex Garland (Ex Machina): using his strong fundamentals, Garland’s script and assured direction sees that ex_machina is an intelligent, thought-provoking science fiction film
Joel Edgerton (The Gift): with a producer willing to let him do his thing, Edgerton does a Billy Bob Thorton, writes, directing, producing and starring in this haunting thriller
Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night): emerging like a young Jim Jarmusch, Amirpour’s unique “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” is nothing if not distinctive
Chad Stahelski/David Leitch (John Wick): two stuntmen take Keanu Reeves to the best star vehicle he’s had in years in this highly entertaining action flick

And the winner is… Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night): emerging like a young Jim Jarmusch, Amirpour’s unique “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” is nothing if not distinctive

Each of these debutant directors were commendable. However, when I saw A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I knew from the distinctive qualities brought to the table that I had seen an emergent new talent, a force to be reckoned with, in Ana Lily Amirpour. Shot in beautiful black-and-white photography, her film is a romantic outlaw’s ode to genre cinema, and is reminiscent of the kind of energy you would see in the films of the American independent filmmakers of the 1990s. Already working on her next film (“A dystopian love story is a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals,” which she describes as “Road Warrior meets Pretty In Pink with a dope soundtrack”), I think Amirpour's going to something special.

The 8th Steven Spielberg Award for Best Producer(s) on a Film from 2015

Elizabeth Karlsen/Christine Vachon/Stephen Woolley (Carol) – Todd Haynes
Shaun Pettigrew/Steve Piper (The Death and Resurrection Show) – Shaun Pettigrew
Vin Diesel/Michael Fottrell/Neal H. Moritz (Fast & Furious 7) – F. Gary Gray
Justin Begnaud/Sina Sayyah/Elijah Wood (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Basil Iwanyk/David Leitch/Eva Longoria/James McTiegue/Michael Witherill (John Wick) – Chad Stahelski/David Leitch
Ceci Dempsey/Ed Guiney/Yorgos Lanthimos/Lee Magiday (The Lobster) – Yorgos Lanthimos
George Miller/Doug Mitchell/PJ Voeten (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller
Steve Golin/Alejandro G. Inarritu/Arnon Milchan/Mary Parent/Keith Redmon/James W. Skotchdopole (The Revenant) – Alejandro G. Inarritu
J.J. Abrams/Bryan Burk/Kathleen Kennedy (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – J.J. Abrams
Matt Alvarez/Scott Bernstein/Ice Cube/Dr. Dre/F. Gary Gray/Tomica Woods-Wright (Straight Outta Compton) – F. Gary Gray

And the winner is… George Miller/Doug Mitchell/PJ Voeten (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George Miller

At what stage do we start calling this The Mad Max: Fury Road awards? Another note I have to make is that after going back through my archives, it turns out that with it’s eighth award, Mad Max: Fury Road has broke the all-time record (previously held by Toy Story 3, The Artist and Gravity, with seven awards apiece) for most decorated film in my blog’s history. But we’re talking about producers, right? Yes, well, while certainly The Revenant would have been the other one to look over, I feel that the overall production of Mad Max: Fury Road deserves more commendation. In development for the guts of a decade and a half before shooting began in 2012, the film had a long, hard road, for lack of a better term, to making it’s way to the big screen. $150 million is a lot of money to spend on a property that isn’t a guaranteed money-spinner (it had been thirty years since Beyond Thurderdome), so it’s amazing to see everyone’s faith in the production pay off for them with an extraordinary film.

The 9th Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Director of 2015

Todd Haynes (Carol)
Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Dance of Reality)
Alex Garland (ex_machina)
Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)
Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen (Inside Out)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster)
Joshua Oppenheimer (The Look of Silence)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)
Isao Takahata (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya)

And the winner is… Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)

At risk of making this seem like a two-horse race, it was between Inarritu and George Miller. I went with Inarritu though because I feel that The Revenant is one of the boldest studio pictures to come out in years. It’s a dark, brooding beast of a film, essentially a $135 million art-house picture. Production reports were not sounding good; it went significantly over-budget, many of the crew quit over the difficult working conditions, and wrapped at least three months behind schedule. This could have turned out to be Inarritu’s Heaven’s Gate, but instead he managed to stem the tide of potential disaster and turn it into a cinematic masterwork. I’ve used the word already, but ‘bold’ is the first thing that comes to mind. This is bold, uncompromising filmmaking at it’s finest.

The Thin White Dude’s 4th and 5th Championship for Independent/Unique Contribution to Cinema in 2015

And the winners are… The Dance of Reality (Camera One/Le Soleil Films) – Alejandro Jodorowsky
And
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer

For the first time, I’ve decided to split my Championship for Independent/Unique Contribution to Cinema, in my only joint-award winner this year.

Firstly, I had to flag up The Dance of Reality, the latest film of Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose work I not only love but is also a primary influence upon my own upcoming short film. Jodorowsky’s long-gestated project, an imaginative autobiographical film based upon his own life, is a metaphorical journey into not only his own psyche but addresses his troubled relationship with his father, with his own son Brontis playing his own grandfather. It’s an existential quest of self-discovery not unlike those of the protagonists in his previous films, although this is a lot more gentle and touching. Although it’s not among my top ten this year, it’s distinctive and worthy enough of note.

Secondly, I didn’t give Joshua Oppenheimer the best documentary award this year, so I feel that I should at least make mention here of The Look of Silence. It’s not a sympathy vote because I like the guy, incidentally, because The Look of Silence stands itself as a powerful statement on the denial of responsibility by the perpetrators of the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-66. I have nothing but respect for he and his collaborator Adi, for the courage, kindness and dignity with which he carried himself through the doubtless nerve-wracking proceedings. Oppenheimer is a filmmaker who understands not only the fundamentals of storytelling, but of letting a story tell itself, and the one we see here is staggering.


The 7th ‘Drag Me To Hell’ Award for 2015’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Cameron Crowe (Writer/Producer/Director of Aloha): everyone can excuse a good filmmaker the occasional blunder, just not one as misguided and poorly judged as this one

Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris (Collectively responsible for Dawg Fight): despite there clearly being a good story to be told, instead the two seem content go ahead with the monomaniacal mythmaking of Dada 5000

Tom Six (Writer/Producer/Director, plus Supporting Actor, aka Le Merde Artist of The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence): I like Tom Six’s previous Human Centipede films, but he has jumped the proverbial shark and deserves to be called out for this monstrosity of a film. And that’s not to be taken as a compliment incidentally, Mr. Six!

Johnny Depp (The Driving Force as Producer/Lead Actor of Mortdecai): the mighty Johnny Depp has in the 2010s dabbled in some questionable projects, many of which seem to indulge his personal tastes to a certain extent. Mortdecai is the tip of the iceberg, and hopefully there’s a lesson to be learnt here

The 8th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2015

J.J. Abrams (Producer of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Writer/Producer/Director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Ana Lily Amirpour (Writer/Producer/Director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)
Jason Blum (Producer of The Boy Next Door, The Lazarus Effect, Insidious: Chapter 3, The Gallows, The Gift, Sinister, The Visit 2, Incarnate, Jem and the Holograms, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Executive Producer of Unfriended)
Domhnall Gleeson (Lead Actor of Ex Machina, Supporting Actor of Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant)
F. Gary Gray (Producer/Director of Straight Outta Compton)
Tom Hardy (Lead Actor of Child 44, Mad Max: Fury Road and Legend, Supporting Actor of London Road and The Revenant)
Arnon Milchan (Producer of Unfinished Business, The Big Short and The Revenant, Executive Producer of True Story and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip)
George Miller (Writer/Producer/Director of Mad Max: Fury Road)
Keanu Reeves (Lead Actor/Executive Producer of John Wick, Lead Actor of Knock Knock, Narrator of Deep Web)
Alicia Vikander (Supporting Actor of Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Burnt and The Danish Girl, Narrator of Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words)

And the winner is… Domhnall Gleeson (Lead Actor of Ex Machina, Supporting Actor of Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant)

Let’s face it, Domhnall Gleeson was everywhere last year. He had already developed a reputation as a busy, hard-working actor, but this year saw his star shoot up big time. All four of his films from 2015 were Oscar-nominated, two of which were Best Picture nominees and one of which was the highest grossing film of the year. The other one was ex_machina (as though that film is a footnote!). That’s the quality of the films he was in, and he was usually in a prominent enough part. Admittedly, his General Hux from Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn’t a big role, but Jim Farrell and Andrew Henry were major characters in Brooklyn and The Revenant respectively (and he was good in them), and Caleb Smith is the protagonist of ex_machina (for which I nominated him for Best Leading Role by a Male Actor). At thirty-two, he’s still fairly young in the acting game, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him mounting a few podiums somewhere down the line.

The 9th Ed Wood Award for Worst Film of 2015

Accidental Love (K. JAM Media/Persistent Entertainment/Vocal Yokels) – ‘Stephen Greene’
Aloha (RatPac Entertainment/Regency Enterprises/Scott Rudin Productions/Vinyl Films) – Cameron Crowe
Dawg Fight (Rakontur) – Billy Corben/Dhafir Harris
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six
The Lazarus Effect (Blumhouse Productions) – David Gelb
Mortdecai (Infinitum Nihil/Mad Chance Productions/Odd Lot Entertainment) – David Koepp
The Ridiculous 6 (Happy Madison Productions) – Frank Coraci
Survivor (Millenium Films) – James McTeigue
Terminator Genisys (Skydance Productions) – Alan Taylor

And the winner is… The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (Six Entertainment Company) – Tom Six

Among a pile of stinkers (don’t get me started talking about them individually, hateful task that would be), including the dreadfully unfunny Mortdecai, Tom Six’s disasterpiece that is The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) is hands down the worst film of 2015. To put this in context, I’m not just one of those people who automatically craps on Tom Six by default. I was one of the few who had good things to say about the first two Human Centipede films. Unfortunately, as I said four years ago, another film would be jumping the shark, and lo and behold it was. There just isn’t enough material to stretch out this concept to another feature-length film, and so what results a messy attempt at satire completely bowdlerized of anything significant to say. Oh, right, so applying the human centipede concept to the prison system is so radical and barbaric, and yet it works. Well, thank you Mr. Six, I didn’t realize you were a fucking genius! Furthermore, anyone who writes himself into the film as a ‘creative consultant’ meta-character, building himself up like he’s the King of Swing, with a jazzy theme, adorned in a white suit and driving a convertible clearly has their head up their ass. Hey, Earth to Mr. Six, can you hear us? If you pull it out you might actually make something decent. David Cronenberg this ain’t! As it stands, it’s an incredibly putrid, repugnant, narcissistic and self-indulgent work of the lowest order.

The 9th Clockwork Award for Best Film of 2015

Brooklyn (BFI/BBC Films/HanWay Films/Wildgaze Films) – John Crowley
Carol (Number 9 Films/Film4 Productions/Killer Films) – Todd Haynes
The Death and Resurrection Show (Coffee Films/ILC Productions) – Shaun Pettigrew
ex_machina (Film 4/DNA Films/Universal Pictures) – Alex Garland
Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios) – Pete Docter/Ronnie Del Carmen
The Lobster (Element Pictures/Scarlet Films/Faliro House Productions/Haut et Court/Lemming Film) – Yorgos Lanthimos
The Look of Silence (Anonymous/Final Cut for Real/Making Movies Oy/Piraya Film A/S/Spring Films) – Joshua Oppenheimer
Mad Max: Fury Road (Kennedy Miller Mitchell/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures) – George Miller
The Revenant (New Regency Pictures/Anonymous Content/M Productions/Appian Way/Regency Enterprises/RatPac-Dune Entertainment) – Alejandro G. Inarritu
Straight Outta Compton (Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Crucial Films/Broken Chair Flickz) – F. Gary Gray
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

And the winner is… The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Studio Ghibli) – Isao Takahata

What, were you expecting something else? Mad Max: Fury Road, though now the most decorated film in the history of the blog, was my 2nd favorite film of 2015. However, I think as soon as I finished watching The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, I knew that this would be my best film of 2015. Inside Out was the only film I saw after that came close. Nevertheless, Isao Takahata’s film is a spellbinding, breathtaking and wholly beautiful work of art. The animation is immersive and utterly gorgeous, the score from Joe Hisaishi is soul-stirring, the screenplay is great, as is the sound design/mixing, and it has some wonderful vocal performances. Because of releasing schedules, this was first released in Japan in 2013, North American in 2014 (which saw it nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards) and the United Kingdom in 2015. Under my old rules, the Oscar nod would have disqualified it for contention, but last year I rescinded that ruling last year to include Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. It’s just as well. When I sat down to watch it, from the off I was captivated by it’s visuals, to the point sometimes that I felt myself welling. By the end, I had been weeping a near constant stream of tears for the last twenty-five to thirty minutes, so heavily invested I was in the story. If this is Takahata-san’s last film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, a key text in proving the Japanese maestro’s mastery of his craft, is one hell of a way to go out.

Multiple Award Winners

Mad Max: Fury Road: 8 awards (new record!) - The 8th Steven Spielberg Award for Best Producer(s) on a Film from 2015 (George Miller/Doug Mitchell/PJ Voeten), The 9th James Cameron Award for Best Sequel of 2015, The 7th Vic Armostrong Award for Best Stunts/Choreography in a Film from 2015, The 7th Dante Ferretti Award for Best Production Design in a Film from 2015, The 6th Rick Baker Award for Best Make-Up/Hair in a Film from 2015, The 6th Edith Head Award for Best Costume Designs in a Film from 2015, The 7th Walter Murch Award for Best Sound Design/Mixing in a Film from 2015, The 8th Sylvester Stallone Award for Best Action/Adventure Film of 2015

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: 6 awards - The 9th Clockwork Award for Best Film of 2015, The 8th Akira Kurosawa Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of 2015 (Country: Japan, Language: Japanese), The 7th Peter Sallis Award for Best Vocal Performance by an Actor in 2015 (Aki Asakura: "Princess Kaguya"), The 8th Ennio Morricone Award for Best Original Score/Soundtrack of 2015 (Joe Hisaishi), The 7th Walt Disney Award for Best Animated Film of 2015, The 9th Philip K. Dick Award for Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film of 2015

The Revenant: 5 awards - The 8th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2015 (Domhnall Gleeson), The 9th Stanley Kubrick Award for Director of 2015 (Alejandro G. Inarritu, The 8th R. Lee Ermey Award for Best Supporting Role by a Male Actor in 2015 (Tom Hardy: "John Fitzgerald"), The 8th Christopher Doyle Award for Cinematography in a Film from 2015 (Emmanuel Lubezki), The 8th Kenneth Loach Award for Best Drama Film of 2015

ex_machina: 3 awards - The 8th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2015 (Domhnall Gleeson), The 8th Katharine Hepburn Award for Best Supporting Role by a Female Actor (Alicia Vikander: "Ava") The 7th Stan Winston Award for Best Special/Visual Effects in a Film from 2015

The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence): 3 awards - The 9th Ed Wood Award for Worst Film of 2015, The 7th 'Drag Me To Hell' Awards for 2015's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Tom Six), The 8th Lucio Fulci Award for Most Excessive Violent Film of 2015

Inside Out: 3 awards - The 8th Werner Herzog Award for Most Ingenious Concept in a Film from 2015, The 8th Paul Schrader Award for Best Screenplay of 2015, The 9th Stan and Ollie Award for Best Comedic Film of 2015

Brooklyn: 2 awards - The 8th Alfred Hitchcock Award for Most Significant Player (Member of the Film Community) of 2015 (Domhnall Gleeson), The 9th Cate Blanchett Award for Best Leading Role by a Female Actor in 2015 (Saoirse Ronan: "Eilis Lacey")

Carol: 2 awards - The 6th 'Cemetery Junction' Award for Most Overlooked Film of 2015, The 2nd 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' Award for Best Depiction of Sexuality in a Film from 2015

The Death and Resurrection Show: 2 awards - The 7th Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film of 2015, The 8th Thelma Schoonmaker Award for Best Editorial Work in a Film from 2015 (Prisca Bouchet)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: 2 awards - The 7th Orson Welles Award for Most Promising Debut Filmmaker of 2015 (Ana Lily Amirpour), The 9th John Carpenter Award for Best Horror Film of 2015

The Lobster: 2 awards - The 9th Kevin Spacey Award for Best Leading Role by a Male Actor in 2015 (Colin Farrell: "David"), The 6th 'Extras' Award for Best Bit Part in a Film from 2015 (Ashley Jensen: "Biscuit Woman")

Mortdecai: 2 awards - The 7th 'Drag Me To Hell' Award for 2015's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Johnny Depp), The 9th GWB Award for Most Unintentionally Offensive Film of 2015

Straight Outta Compton: 2 awards - The 2nd Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Film from 2015, The 4th David Bowie Award for Best Theme/Song in a Film from 2015 (N.W.A.: "Straight Outta Compton")

RIP 2015-2016

A short list of the deaths of noteworthy individuals whose work I admired in some shape or form from March 2015-April 2016

Albert Maysles (Director/Cinematographer): November 26, 1926-March 5, 2015 - Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens, When We Were Kings

Sam Simon (Writer/Producer/Director): June 6, 1955-March 8, 2015 - The Simpsons, Cheers, The Drew Carey Show

Richard Corliss (Critic/Magazine Editor): March 6, 1944-April 23, 2015 - Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in American Cinema, Greta Garbo, Lolita, Times magazine

Andrew Lesnie (Cinematographer): January 1, 1956-April 27, 2015 - Babe, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit trilogy

Ben E. King (Singer/Producer): September 28, 1938-April 30, 2015 - Stand By Me

Christopher Lee (Actor/Singer): 27 March, 1922-June 7, 2015 - The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer's Dracula films, The Mummy, The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers, The Man with the Golden Gun, Jinnah, Sleepy Hallow, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars (Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith), Hugo, The Hobbit trilogy

Robert Chartoff (Producer): August 26, 1933-June 10, 2015 - Point Blank, The Mechanic, Rocky film series, Raging Bull

James Horner (Composer): August 14, 1953-June 22, 2015 - Commando, Aliens, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, Apocalypto, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Avatar

Cecil the Lion: 2002-July 1, 2015 - Walter Palmer, you should be in jail, and it is a moral crime that you are walking the streets a free man, you murderous scumbag

Jerry Weintraub (Producer): September 26, 1937-July 6, 2015 - Nashville, Diner, The Karate Kid, Ocean's Eleven, Behind the Candelabra 

Roddy Piper (Wrestler/Actor): April 17, 1954-July 31, 2015 - Body Slam, They Live, Hell Comes to Frogtown

Uggie (Canine Actor, 2nd winner of The 'Extras' Award for Best Bit Part in a Film): February 14, 2002-August 7, 2015 - Water for Elephants, The Artist, The Campaign

Wes Craven (Writer/Director): August 2, 1939-August 30, 2015 - The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Scream film series, Red Eye

William J. Becker (Critic/Distributor): May 23, 1937-September 12, 2015 - Janus Films

Catherine E. Coulson (Actor/Production Assistant): October 22, 1943-September 28, 2015 - The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Eraserhead, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Maureen O'Hara (Actor): August 17, 1920-October 24, 2015 - Jamaica Inn, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley, The Black Swan, Miracle on 34th Street, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man

Philip French (Critic): August 28, 1933-October 27, 2015 - The Observer

Gunnar Hansen (Actor/Writer): March 4, 1947-November 7, 2015 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Texas Chainsaw 3D

Haskell Wexler (Cinematographer/Director): February 6, 1922-December 27, 2015 - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Medium Cool, American Graffiti, Introduction to the Enemy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Bound For Glory, Coming Home, Days of Heaven

Vilmos Zsigmond (Cinematographer): June 16, 1930-January 1, 2016 - McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, The Long Goodbye, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Blow Out, The Witches of Eastwick, Assassins

David Bowie (Musician/Actor): January 8, 1947-January 10, 2016 - The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Hunger, Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners, The Last Temptation of Christ, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Zoolander, The Prestige

Alan Rickman (Actor/Director): February 21, 1946-January 14, 2016 - Die Hard, Truly, Madly, Deeply, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense and Sensibility, Michael Collins, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, Harry Potter film series, Love Actually, Snow Cake, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Little Chaos

Douglas Slocombe (Cinematographer): February 10, 1913-February 22, 2016 - Dead of Night, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, The Italian Job, Julia, Indiana Jones film series

Tony Burton (Actor/Boxer): March 23, 1937-February 25, 2016 - Rocky film series, Assault on Precinct 13, The Shining, Inside Moves, Hook

Jim Clark (Editor/Director): May 24, 1931-February 25, 2016 - Charade, Marathon Man, The Killing Fields, The Mission, The Jackal, The World Is Not Enough, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky

Ken Adam (Production Designer): February 5, 1921-March 10, 2016 - James Bond film series, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Ipcress File, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Sleuth, Barry Lyndon, Addams Family Values, The Madness of King George

Francois-Eudes Chanfrault (Composer): December 2, 1974-March 11, 2016 - Haute Tension, Inside, Donkey Punch, Vinyan

Vasco Nunes (Cinematographer/Director, additional photography on the 3rd Clockwork Award winner for Best Film of the Year, Anvil! The Story of Anvil): December 13, 1974-March 11, 2016 - DiG!, Nimrod Nation, Planet B-Boy, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, We Live In Public, Rampart

Kit West (Special Effects Designer/Supervisor) - 1936-April 16, 2016 - Billion Dollar Brain, The Wild Geese, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Empire of the Sun, Casualties of War, Universal Soldier, Daylight, The Bourne Supremacy

Prince (Musician/Actor) - June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016 - Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, Sign o' the Times, Batman, Graffiti Bridge

Finalment

So, I wasn't on schedule, but I think I can safely say I stuck to my guns and marched on through with my intent to cover 2015 in film to the best of my abilities. I say it every year, and I feel it to be true this year as with the rest, there are usually no less than five cinematic masterpieces over the course of a given year. These articles are always a long labour of love (or masochism, pick your poison), but I always enjoy looking back and summing up my thoughts. At risk of sounding like I'm rambling again, I have to acknowledge that in relation to what I feel has been the emergence of my own artistic possibilities, film criticism has done a lot for me in terms of formulating my own voice, finding out what it is I have say through my work and how to do it. Even if you're just reading this for leisure, I can only hope that this article will give you some food for thought to engage with not only my thoughts but some of the releases in 2015. Cinema is a wonderful, magical medium of expression, and this year has been no different than any of the other in showing me that.

"Peace."

The Thin White Dude

"I'm finished."

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Trailer

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