Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015: THE HIGH

Yo! Ragers o' the Flickering Field!

Not as busy a year at the cinema for me as last year but a good one(any year with a new Guy Maddin film is a good one). Work and other projects just took the time away but some solid sci-fi, some future classic horror, experimental quirk that worked and more gave the year a lot of spice. The Festival was one of the most consistent of recent memory. I do regret missing out on the Japanese Film Festival in particular but everything just got the better of me and it slipped by. I'll have to investigate it by other means. Meantime, there was new Peter Strickland and a .... well, it's all there below. Enjoy!


A dizzying Russian doll of a film in celebration of narrative by which the very best (and some of the worst) traits of favourite contemporary auteur Guy Maddin come charging to the fore. Collaborating here with another writer/director (but it looks like nothing but a Maddin movie) and adding about half an hour to his usual ninety minutes, Maddin interrupts story with story with story until after being introduced to about thirty of them each gets resolved. No mean feat in an era when even the blockbusters are called post-narrative. I miss cinema like this. My favourite of the year.

Boy did I get sick of reviewers reviewing the hype rather than the film. I just saw a tour through the mind of a man struggling against a comatose career, his own failings as a husband, lover and father and a funny collision of refined and popular culture. Standout performances from Keaton and Stone seal the deal.  I couldn't care less who thought it was overrated. It was a good movie.

Another one that reviewers annoyed me over. If you watch all of this movie and still think it's about a revival of the sex/death equation it's because you want to. That template stops fitting the film early on as it charges into a fable about knowledge and responsibility. A great horror trope and some genuinely white knuckle scenes, a fantastic electro score and energetic performances later and you have a new horror movie that doesn't need sudden shocks to carry its dread. Old fashioned in the best way.

Teen horror's second victory this year showed a familiar age-based pecking order used as the breeding ground of interpersonal atrocity and went beyond just using current communication media as a gimmick by showing its compulsive attraction. These kids can't just turn off. It's just not an option. A little clumsiness in the denouement is forgiven because of the strengths.

Great old-style sci-fi with superb acting turns from everyone, a committed pursuit of the issues and the narrative and an eye to leanness in execution overall.

A patchwork made from a chaos of selfies, phone video and memories in which we see a pop star soar to stardom and hurtle back through the earth's crust to the hell beneath. Heartrending but just as importantly, angering. The social media, personal content creation remind us that we are part of this, too. A great documentary.

A complex and developing negotiation involving trust and intensity. This looked like a Eurosploitation film from the 70s but, as with the director's previous effort, brought new tricks to an old genre. The ending appears ambiguous until you really weigh up what has happened. Peter Strickland has become a new director to watch closely. The more of them the better.

A wrenching trek through the murky margins at the edge of the law. Ace cast and superb balance in the writing and the filmmaking render this one a haunter. Villeneuve is not always to my taste but this is him at his best.

Despite some history tourism (the Good Vibrations moment) this biopic earned its attention by concentrating on the journey from creative greatness to gibbering dependency and boldly used two different actors to play the central character. It was attacked for the last feature but I liked how it kept the film from being dully linear. Swinging between decades and mental states we could see the picture. The score was a feat of editing raw beauty and using it both to express the wonders of Wilson's mind as well as its pain. Also, I loved the recreated studio scenes. They got a little touristy but I forgave them as the totality of the piece rolled on.

The New Greek Weirdcore is really just imaginative cinema. It's just that we haven't seen much of that for decades. Yorgos Lanthimos' satirical fable of normative totalitarianism, an even worse resistance and a hopeless quest to live outside both turns into some hard work in the second half but what lingers afterwards makes that worth it.

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