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Snarcasm: Let’s Talk About How the Oscars Don’t Matter (Again)

oscars don't matter

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read. 

A hit piece on why the Academy Awards are pointless comes about once every 33 seconds, like a YouTube comment about how Donald Trump supposedly “tells it how it is” or a Tweet referencing that other thing you don’t like.

What I never come across is an article that says, “Well, the Oscars are important for good reasons you’re probably not aware of.” Not a surprise considering conversations around the Oscars usually boil down to a few clever hashtags, rather than some real discussion.

And who better to trash the Oscars than a film critic? Joanna Connors wrote this thinker for the aptly named Cleveland.com,

Oscars 2016: Why the Academy Awards matter, and why they don’t

Spoiler alert: she only talks about why they don’t matter, but you knew that already.

 As we approach the total fabulosity that is the annual Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night…

Look, just because “fabulosity” is technically a word doesn’t mean we, as a society, should remind everyone.

…I find that I can barely dredge up even mild excitement about it.

That’s terrible news for everyone.

Maybe it’s the #OscarsSoWhite issue.

Reasonable.

Maybe it’s that “The Revenant,” a movie I loathed, is poised to win a lot of the awards.

Even more reasonable. I also loathed The Revenant.

Maybe it’s the very idea of ranking films at all, the absurdity of declaring one better than all the others.

Are you seriously criticizing the practice of ranking? You know, that thing everyone instinctively does, proving why Buzzfeed is the first thing you see on Facebook every morning?

It’s not absurd to award someone for doing something competently. It just so happens that the only useful way to evaluate competence is through comparison, AKA ranking. Pretending this practice is somehow insane is what’s truly insane.

Whatever the cause, I’ve had so little interest in the Oscars over the past few weeks that I’ve started to wonder: Do they really matter?

I’ve had this same existential crisis about craft beer and Jennifer Lawrence, but you don’t see me protesting Hunger Games with a Bud Light in my hand.

Of course they matter to the people who win them. Obviously. Winners get that exciting moment in the spotlight and the chance to thank their minions ad nauseam.

OK, let’s attack people who get excited about winning the most prestigious award in entertainment. How dare they value themselves?

And if we’re going to call earnest fans of a movie “minions,” then what does that make your readers, Joanna?

They reap more tangible benefits, too. Money. Winning actors, actresses, directors and even some below-the-line workers such as art directors will see their price tags go up for future movies. Winning films will get a nice bump at the box office.

In other words, the Oscars have gone on to greatly benefit filmmakers by giving them enough prestige to create more interesting, remarkable films. Well, sometimes that’s how it works out.

But apparently, none of that matters because Joanna hates “top 10” lists.

But do the Oscars matter as a judge of artistic merit? No. They don’t. They never have.

“This ultimately subjective practice has absolutely never been subjective.”

Don’t believe me?

Hey, at least she’s self aware.

OK. Let’s do this. Close your eyes, just for a moment, and think back to your high school prom. (Don’t worry: This will only sting a little.)

Is she talking to herself at this point? Fine, I’ll go along with this.

closes eyes to imagine prom

All I see is a cover band doing a terrible rendition of “Hey There, Delilah.”

Got the image? A parade of lovely, over-made-up girls wearing beautiful, overpriced gowns, some of them revealing much more than their fathers would like. Boys in tuxedoes, staring dumbfounded at the girls.

So at this point, Joanna is deriding the very existence of prom, including your own, in order to illustrate a completely unrelated point.

“Hey, prom is meaningless! Just like your dreams.”

SHE IS A FILM CRITIC!

You’re mingling with people you know – everyone knows them — but you’ve never actually spoken to a lot of them. You’re nervous and excited.

Yes, Joanna gets paid to write about movies. But no judgement here, considering the band is now doing “Dangerous” by Kardinal.

Everyone is buzzing: Who’s the most popular? Who will score tonight? And, most important, who will be crowned prom queen and king?

Go on.

Now, step back for a minute and imagine that almost all the people who get to vote for the king and queen are 63-year-old white guys, many of whom have not set foot in a high school (or on a set) in years.

She…she’s joking. She has to be joking. This can’t be real.

Some of them have never even seen the kids they vote for; they’re voting based on what their friends – and probably their grandchildren – like.

Please, for the love of Snarcasm, don’t let this be her metaphor.

And so, ladies and gentlemen: There you have it. The Oscars!

No. Just no. This…NO.

Joanna, your metaphor/analogy, or whatever you want to call this is wrong on every level I can fathom. For one thing, you seem to have absolutely no knowledge about what the criteria is for being in the Academy. In your mind, you just have to be an old white guy, apparently.

And I don’t blame you for this assumption, considering that is what the Academy is mostly composed of. But have you ever wondered why?

The Academy is made up of the top filmmakers, writers, engineers, technicians, and actors of all time. Their knowledge of what it takes to make a great film make your prom analogy read like a 7th grade essay on Huckleberry Finn. 

People in the Academy have won Oscars in the past, which is a practice that ensures the very artistic merit you’re questioning. Is this perfect? No, because the traditionally white institution has led to exactly what you’re complaining about in terms of age and demographics, and this won’t be resolved until Hollywood itself grows more diversely.

Either way, it’s the antithesis of some creepy old dudes voting on prom king and queen, which is just a cheap shot.

Being “prom king and queen” is built on relationships between high schoolers. Winning an Oscar is determined by artistic evaluation of a film by the best people in the craft. Undermining the Academy in this way is like saying a film critic is useless because I once ate bad fish sticks at a Red Lobster recommended by Yelp.

A popularity contest that has almost nothing to do with artistic merit, decided by mostly white, mostly male, mostly older voters who are not required to see all of the nominated films, and probably haven’t.

If it’s just a popularity contest, then why do unpopular movies win so often? (She references this later on by saying Citizen Kane lost to a movie no one’s ever heard of).

And the assertion that these voters haven’t seen most of the nominated films is misleading, considering the fact that they would have to watch over 500 films in a year in order to do so. That’s why marketing and Oscar buzz is such a crucial facet of this process. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s vastly more effective than strapping these guys and gals to a chair and forcing them to watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

How many of these guys saw Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation”? How many of them have even heard of Idris Elba?

I agree that Beasts of No Nation deserved a nomination, but Joanna is just guessing that they didn’t watch the film at all because it helps her opinion look correct. In fact, she even cites an anonymous voter later in this article who HAS watched Beasts and talks about why he doesn’t like it, refuting this entire point altogether.

Led by its president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy is taking steps to correct this imbalance. But that may take a few years, and even then, there’s no guarantee the voters will actually see the nominated films. Even if they do, they might still vote based on personal popularity.

The alternative is forcing these voters to watch a preselected list of movies that deserve to win Oscars based on the opinion of…who knows? See, it’s not reasonable to make sure they watch all of these films, but it’s also unreasonable to assume they need to. The Oscars are an institution built on popularity integrated with artistic evaluation. Trying to forcibly shut one of these aspects out is just absurd.

Joanna goes on to cite three examples of Academy voters who said mean things about actors in the nomination. Yeah, hard-hitting evidence:

explaining why he won’t vote for Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor, the voter said, “He’s a pig…. I can’t stand Sly as a person.”

“Tommy Lee Jones has been such a bitter guy — all that scowling at the Golden Globes? I’m telling you, people don’t like the guy.”

“Jennifer Lawrence I was on the fence about, but she lost me with that ‘Saturday Night Live’ bit [in which she ‘trash-talked’ her fellow nominees]; I thought it was mean-spirited and shows a lack of maturity on her part.”

Sound like high school to you?

Yes, because you purposefully leave out important information in order to mischaracterize what was really said by these voters.

Let’s take the voter who said “I can’t stand Sly as a person.” This wasn’t all he said. His entire quote includes that he didn’t think Stallone’s performance was all that great compared to Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. In other words, he evaluated an actor and compared him to the competition. Mentioning his personal disdain of Stallone was an aside.

In the rest of that article, the voter even mentions how he nominated Tangerine, which stars actors of color and is about a transgender sex worker, for Best Picture. He also gushes about SpotlightThe Revenant, and other movies in a meaningful way. In other words, he’s a person, not a quarterback.

That quote about Tommy Lee Jones? Buried in a sea of sound criticism yet plucked out of context in order to make some grandiose point.

See, these voters weren’t really just talking about their reasons for voting. They were digging into their overall perceptions and how that shaped their opinions. There’s a lot of substance in their commentary, but Joanna noticeably draws attention away from their artistic merit in order to prove they have none.

Do I need to list all the great movies that should have won the Academy Award and did not?

A pointless exercise. Yes, we all know the Academy doesn’t get it right all the time, but that’s simply because the voting process actually isn’t much of a popularity contest. It’s more of a percentage contest that can split votes and create surprises.

Going further, we have other award shows that pay attention to what the critics and general audiences like. Those are the shows that will award movies that remain in the minds of most people for years, but that doesn’t mean the Oscars need to do the same. If we only go by the films “everyone likes,” then that means Fast and Furious 7 should be up for Best Picture.

Roger Ebert himself once said that the Oscars are important because of how they draw attention to what the industry honors each given year. Even if they get it wrong sometimes, that’s fine because we still glean insight from these decisions and how they shed light on cinema of the past.

I could go on, but I’m feeling too depressed.

Over the Oscars not being exactly the way you want them to be? For someone who doesn’t think the Oscars matter, you’re getting pretty riled up over them. That or the prom experiment took an unexpected toll on you.

I’ll watch the Oscars Sunday, because it’s my job. Otherwise, I wouldn’t. I confess that I haven’t watched in past years, when it wasn’t my job.

That’s so interesting.

oscars don't matter

Not even the dresses interest me any more, now that the stars don’t dress themselves and rely instead on stylists and designer freebies.

Yup, even the fashion is corrupted. Keep going, Joanna.

Where’s the fun in everyone looking perfect? Why does anyone care who they’re wearing, if it wasn’t their choice?

This is so tedious. It actually depresses you that people work hard to look good when thousands of cameras are blaring at them. Next week, Joanna is going to write an article about how much she hates colorful logos on dish soap.

This year, the only thing that sparks my interest is what the host, Chris Rock, will say in his monologue about the All White Oscars. I can’t wait to hear his message to all those older white guys who have been in Academy forever, the ones who will give Leonardo DiCaprio the Best Actor Oscar because – well, because he’s such a great guy! Everybody loves Leo! Haven’t seen the movie, but they say he’s wonderful in it.

That’s right, Joanna is asserting that most of these guys haven’t even seen The Revenant, a box office smash with audiences and critics. She has no evidence for this aside from the quote that says the voters don’t see “everything,” which consists of hundreds of movies she hasn’t seen either.

And I just want to point out that Joanna’s dripping, dramatic, disdain for this collective group of homogenous human beings feels just like the thing she’s criticizing them for. Irony? Coincidence? Apathy? Take your pick.

Also, I forgot to mention that one of the voters she criticizes early on in this article hates The Revenant just as much as she does. But I’m guessing she just skimmed the parts of the article that didn’t support her rant.

OK, but do the Oscars matter?

Well, do movies matter? Because if so, then a ceremony that attempts to highlight the best of cinema certainly matters. We can debate all day on how good of a job the Academy is doing, but dismissing them entirely is a pure exercise in immaturity, akin to telling your readers how depressed you are that celebrities love to wear dresses.

The problem is that it’s so incredibly easy to say the Oscars don’t matter. You can throw in your two cents right now and complain away about the Academy and how flawed it is. In fact, it’s “cool” to hate on the Oscars, judging by how quick people are to jump on criticizing it.

Yet just take a look at some of the movies elected this year. Who would have guessed that Mad Max: Fury Road (the most non-Oscar bait movie of all time) would be nominated for 10 awards, including Best Picture? Or The Martian, a sci-fi blockbuster featuring a director no one has cared about in years getting a nod, despite being filled with scientists who aren’t evil for a change?

My point is that while the Oscars aren’t perfect, they continue to change. “Oscar bait” as we know it today is incredibly different from the tastes of a decade ago. The Academy gains new voters—and new perspectives—every year. And countless people will watch great movies every year because they watched the Oscars, a curated collection of movies that matter to the people who make them.

Let’s continue to hold the Academy accountable for a lot of things, but can we please get off this absurd conclusion that they don’t matter because they may not matter to you?


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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My Top 10 Films of 2015

top 2015 movies

2015 will be known as the year that westerns took on space operas again, and the year that audiences clamoring for more LGBT dramas want better LGBT dramas. It was the year that practical effects and 70mm film started popping up more in the conversation, dictating some of the biggest hits of the box office.

It was a great year for movies, and one I was happy to participate in as a critic. Of the 80 films I saw in 2015, I’ve curated a list of my “top” favorites. This list differs from my 2015 Movie Power Rankings, in that it isn’t dictated by grade. I’m selecting movies that I personally loved, even if they have some notable flaws holding them back.

And this list comes with a significant caveat, in that I’ve been away for the holidays. I’ve missed several new releases, like The Hateful EightThe RevenantAnomalisa, and Son of Saul. For that reason, they didn’t make the list, even though one or two of them certainly had the potential.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the best movies 2015 had to offer us, starting with:

#10 Creed

Though I was charmed by Southpaw, the other mainstream boxing movie of 2015 that starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Creed worked harder to land its punches. Starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, this mashup of an unprivileged kid turned privileged, then unprivileged again, ended up being my favorite origin story of the year.

Director Ryan Coogler could have easily defaulted to many of the same beats that have carried previous installments in the Rocky universe, but his decision to keep Stallone out of the writing room and to place more emphasis on brand new themes (like an inventive soundtrack that still manages to pay homage to the original) push Creed to incredible heights as a franchise starter.

#9 Paddington

Movies made specifically for children have a tendency to forget the rest of their audience, including the older versions of the children who love these movies in the first place. Paddington makes no such compromises, infusing a charming script with equally charming characters.

If you had to fault Paddington for anything, it would have to be the absence of any real risks. But the true achievement of this kid-friendly adventure in London is how well it sets the standard for accessible adaptations of children’s classics.

#8 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

It’s easy to pick fun at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that’s deftly aware of its indie status with showy camerawork and a parade of film references that will manufacture old Hollywood nostalgia. But it’s also easy to look past its genius, as a movie that centers around a concept most coming-of-age films never get right: detachment.

This quirky summer film harkens back to The Way Way Back, another somewhat flawed movie that floored me emotionally. If you’re seeking heart mixed in with an original concept and even more original characters, then this is a must-see.

#7 Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For all of its controversy for being a mimic of past Star Wars films, you have to admit that The Force Awakens is certainly the most interesting movie of the year. It’s a film with such rich appeal and complexity, fans and haters alike are still at each other’s throats over whether or not it’s actually good.

Of course, it’s a great movie that cancels out its many flaws with even more moments of awe and spectacle during an age when practical effects and real film were on the way out. But what makes the hype around TFA worth it the most is its lovable characters we can’t wait to see more of.

Is it shameless in its premise that it doesn’t work fully as a standalone movie? Absolutely. But as Hollywood makes this fascinating transition into an industry of franchises, not movies, TFA is at least a glowing example of how to do it well.

#6 Spotlight

My favorite ensemble of the year comes from this team up of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, John Slattery, Lieve Schrieber, and others as they uncover the massive sex abuse scandal within the high ranks of the Catholic Church.

Spotlight gets you invested within the first few minutes of its interactions between journalists at the Boston Globe. Its recency in events keeps the story harrowing to think about, but it’ll stand the test of time for its adherence to the real culture behind spotlight journalism. It will hopefully inspire (and de-inspire) future journalists for years to come.

#5 Room 

Lenny Abrahamson’s film adaption of the popular novel by Emma Donoghue, Room, is one of the boldest movies of the year, and one of the most emotionally gripping, thanks to incredible performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Imagine a film in which the main character, someone who is the victim of a horrible crime, is shamed for her imperfections throughout?

Room doesn’t sugarcoat the messiness of life. People are sick, terrible, and (sometimes) good. Watching their lives play out in one of the most horrible ways possible should make you uncomfortable, but only because the connection you’ve made with the characters onscreen is genuine and hard to forget.

#4 Mad Max: Fury Road

Technology finally caught up to the insane vision of George Miller, and audiences had the privilege of seeing this post-apocalyptic masterpiece unfold in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Designed to be something worthy of the big screen, I’m unsure of how well Fury Road will translate on a tablet or flatscreen TV. But the impressive visuals, captivating lore, and truly spectacular effects will keep fans like me re-watching this future classic for years.

#3 Inside Out 

Inside Out is one of those rare movies with such an attention to detail, it’s hard to find any real flaws (CinemaSins notwithstanding). Its storytelling is actually superior to its good story, its side characters transcend the main ones, and the comedy is even more fun than some of the more emotional moments expected from a Pixar film.

In other words, Inside Out is full of surprises, a compliment I wish I could give to more films this year, animated or otherwise. It’s spirited, original, and isn’t asking for a sequel to make it relevant.

#2 It Follows

I truly wish we could have more horror films like It Follows, which trades glossy production for an earthy feel that mixes nicely with a jarring soundtrack you have to hear to believe. Though simple in its premise, It Follows can take a while to dissect, as a film about a group of teenagers in the Detroit suburbs trying to foil a persistent, shapeshifting demon.

What makes the film superb, however, is its ability to twist its own flaws into elements of the film itself. Of course these kids are morons. That’s the point. Of course that’s a plot hole. These kids are morons. As far as horror films go, It Follows is a true standout.

#1 The Good Dinosaur

For me, The Good Dinosaur will always be one of the most fascinating films of 2015. It’s a film that feels wholly imperfect in conception, but nearly perfect in execution. For that reason, I think most moviegoers gave up on the film before they could experience it in action.

The energy of this film, which is absolutely my favorite movie of 2015, comes from its harmony between story, effects, music, animation, and characters. Everything is crafted to fit, so if you don’t like one aspect of the recipe that makes up The Good Dinosaur, then there’s a chance you won’t enjoy the meal.

But more than that, The Good Dinosaur pulls off what Pixar hasn’t tried to do in ages: something completely new. As much as I love Inside Out, it ends up feeling like a standard Pixar movie. The Good Dinosaur, while clearly paying homage to many westerns, doesn’t feel like something made by Pixar, and that’s an exciting thing in and of itself. But it’s the movie’s ability to transcend its own makers that makes The Good Dinosaur my #1 pick of the year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ex Machina
  • The Intern
  • The Martian
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • The Gift
  • Still Alice
  • Love and Mercy

Have something to add or discuss? Sound off in the comments below.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

My Top 10 Movies of Summer 2015

top movies 2015

Back in May, I shared my top 10 movies of 2015 as of January through May. This included movies that came out over the winter and spring, including early summer hits like Avengers: Age of UltronMad Max, and other well-liked films I’ve already highlighted.

Well, we’re about 35 weeks into 2015, and we still have a lot of potentially great movies to look forward to as the year continues, including a new James Bond movie made by Sam Mendes (Spectre). We have a spy thriller coming out that’s directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the Coen brothers, and starring Tom Hanks.

And of course, there’s a new Star Wars movie due in December, as well as a new Tarantino movie, a Matt Damon movie that doesn’t look terrible, Bradley Cooper as a chef in Burnt, Tom Hardy playing two roles in one movie, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that might finally get him an Oscar.

top movies 2015
I mean, maybe.

But let’s pause and reflect over the movies we already saw this summer. I’m of course sharing my own top 10 movies, but feel free to share your own list in the comments, especially if you’ve seen something I haven’t.

So let’s get started. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include any movies from May. That means great films like Mad Max: Fury Road are in my previous top list for the first third of the year. Enjoy!

#10  The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

top movies 2015

This is the only movie on my list that I gave a B minus, but I’m still happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling spy adventure with a soundtrack better than the actual film. This is also a good watch for anyone curious to see how Henry Cavill performs during the post-Man of Steel era in anticipation for next year’s big-budget superhero fusion, Dawn of Justice.

But I’m more excited to point out how much I liked Armie Hammer in this, especially since this was his chance to shine post-Lone Ranger. And then there’s Alicia Vikander, who has nothing to prove (yet) thanks to her brilliant role in Ex Machina, and we still have a slew of other films she’s set to star in this year alone.

That said, U.N.C.L.E. suffers from a pretty generic plot, but its good characters, memorable scenes, and commitment to 60s era spy themes is well-worth a watch on DVD. Even though I’ve ranked other movies better than this one, like The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I can’t help but recommend this one as a flawed, but fun, escape.

#9 Straight Outta Compton

top movies 2015

This is another recent hit and one of Universal’s biggest as the summer comes to a close (even compared to Minions and  Jurassic World). And it makes my list for managing to capture my interest in a true story that I didn’t care much about before watching the film.

The story of N.W.A. gave me an appreciation for a cultural era and art form I never paid much attention to growing up, and it was a powerful piece of storytelling. Looking back, I still remember the dynamic performances (notably including O’Shea Jackson) and excellent visuals that captured the world of this racially charged rags-to-riches story.

I only scored it a B, mostly because while the first half is certainly A material, the last hour and a half tends to meander and lose focus. Weirdly, this is apparently intentional, as it illustrates the slow, downward spiral of some N.W.A. rappers contrasting with the successful ones. Still, that doesn’t excuse pacing issues and the film coming off as imbalanced.

#8 Southpaw

top movies 2015

What was a middle-of-the-road and cliched boxing movie to some ended up being one of my favorite boxing films in years. This is despite plenty of problems that hold Southpaw back from showcasing what’s truly great about Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and instead reminding us that this is the director who gave us Olympus has Fallen (another mediocre movie I still managed to enjoy).

Southpaw borrows a lot of its good material plot points from classic boxing films,  especially Rocky 3 and 4. But Gyllenhaal’s transformation in the role and the filmmaker’s ability to translate his bleak downfall through powerful images and humbling atmospheres added something new and interesting to the genre. It really felt like a modern boxing movie, unlike modern takes on older stories, like The Fighter.

I greatly enjoyed the melodrama and powerful imagery Southpaw managed to pull off, and the performances by some of the side characters, including the daughter played by Oona Lawrence, more than carried the film to some greatness.

#7 Digging for Fire

top movies 2015

Joe Swanberg can be a polarizing director, but I’ve always found an energetic sincerity in his work, especially with recent films like Drinking BuddiesHappy Christmas, and All the Light in the Sky.

This year, Swanberg once again teamed up with New Girl‘s Jake Johnson to cowrite Digging for Fire, a scavenger hunt movie that digs deep into the psyche behind a frustrated marriage, told from the perspectives of both partners.

Rosemarie Dewitt plays the wife in this marriage, and Jude Swanberg (the director’s child) plays their young son. Throughout, there are multiple surprise appearances from great actors, including some I won’t spoil. Part of the fun in Digging for Fire, aside from its unapologetic ad-lib dialogue, is waiting to see who will show up next. It’s a quirky drama that I happily recommend.

#6 Ant-Man

top movies 2015

I didn’t like Ant-Man more than Avengers: Age of Ultron. In fact, I wouldn’t put it above most Marvel movies, yet for whatever reason, people seem to really like this movie more than it probably deserves.

It’s humorous, fun to watch, and manages to be a refreshing take on a well-respected (if not horribly popular) Marvel superhero. And it features some good ideas courtesy of Edgar Wright. But it’s certainly not as deep and impactful as one of the ensemble movies, and I include last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy when I say that.

Ant-Man is one of my favorite movies of the summer, and it’s a can’t-miss for Marvel fans and even Paul Rudd fans. This is mostly because Ant-Man is weird and funny enough to stand on its own, despite borrowing some of its charm and surprises from the greater Marvel continuity. And that’s fine, at least for now.

#5 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

top movies 2015

Of all the spy movies (and there’s a lot) that came out this year, the aging veteran, Mission: Impossible  still shines as one of the best. Once again, Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get at this point if you’re into Mission: Impossible movies.

But unlike other action franchises like Fast and Furious, this one continues to deliver something new with every installment, aside from just raising the stakes. The stunts, actually, are a huge part of what draws audiences, and the creative set pieces are far more interesting than everything I forgot in other action movies like Furious 7.

There was a lot of tension, a good amount of drama, and even some laughs here and there courtesy of Jeremy Renner. Rogue Nation also benefitted from the genius casting of Rebecca Ferguson and bringing back Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg for another round of saving the world with gadgets that don’t always work and a leading man who’ll do whatever it takes to finish the mission. Kind of like Tom Cruise himself.

#4 Jurassic World

top movies 2015

I don’t want to come off like I’m overpraising this movie, though that’s inevitable considering how high I’ve put it on this list. But despite everything about Jurassic World that is frankly…stupid…I absolutely loved it.

Yes, it’s a little silly, and it’s certainly not as good as Jurassic Park. But so much of Jurassic World just works as a movie on its own, so I didn’t have a hard time judging it by its own merits, instead of comparing it to the original.

Jurassic World is a unique follow up in that it’s hard to notice its flaws unless you’re looking for them. It was easy for me to get lost in the world they created, making this an excellent movie that you might get a little more cynical about the more you watch it. Unless you’re like me and enjoy its absurdity with every viewing.

#3 The Stanford Prison Experiment 

top movies 2015

Not everyone is going to walk away glad that they watched The Stanford Prison Experiment (unless they despise Ezra Miller as much as I do). But it’s still the most gripping and tense movie I’ve seen all year, complete with a script that continues to haunt me when I dare think about it late at night.

In case you haven’t seen it, the movie is based on a true story about a group of college students who are hired by a psychology department to act out a prison simulation. Some of the students are guards, and the others are prisoners. As you can imagine, things get a little out of hand.

It’s a hard movie to watch, because as you watch it, you know that it’s sticking with you. This is thanks to director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s knack for moving you through a compact scene and keeping you there for what feels like hours. He lets the camerawork and tight corners tell the story almost as much as the actions of the characters.

To be fair, the movie is riddled with inaccuracies and missed opportunities with the true events that inspired it. But if you walk in accepting that this is a very loose adaptation, you’ll still find that it more or less captures the same, raw emotions that provoked so much shock from the people who learned about it in the 70s.

#2 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

top movies 2015

If you liked Fault in Our Stars but sort of wished it had more likable characters, then do yourself a favor and check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I strongly considered making it my #1, and it’s obviously up there in my top 10 of the entire year. And for good reason.

This is one of those smaller films that just oozes charm and relatable characters. Everyone in this movie is easy to like and get invested in. The story itself is more than just original — it’s inventive. I truly wish that more movies would take the creative chances that Dying Girl treats as minuscule risks.

That said, it’s still a movie on a small scale. While I loved the movie, it didn’t really cause any introspection, despite its emotionally charged script. This is because the wit and humor is a lot more present in this movie over what’s dramatic, so not every moment that was supposed to make me feel something managed to pay that off.

But that’s just nitpicking, because Dying Girl is still a wonderful story that will hopefully last the test of time. I hold it up there with The Way Way Back as compact films I can watch a thousand times.

#1 Inside Out

top movies 2015

Yeah, yeah, big surprise. A lot of you may look at this decision and shrug because you know how much I love Pixar movies and frequently talk about them on this site. But please believe me when I say that my overwhelming bias for Pixar’s brand of storytelling had nothing to do with the overwhelming bias I have for this film.

Because in all honesty, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films since The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and it manages to rival Up as a nearly perfect Pixar movie.

I love how they took a recognizable premise that other movies and shows like Osmosis Jones and Herman’s Head failed to make an impact. They took a great concept and made it spectacular. Everything about this world Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera created feels like they spent countless hours developing. And the writing is so sharp, you’ll discover new and clever jokes every time you watch it.

The characters are well-written and the animation is gorgeous. Every joke manages to work without being too cheesy. And it does all of this without creating world-changing stakes — just the emotional future of a young girl we can all relate with.

When I first reviewed the movie, I tried hard not to overpraise it in case my immediate love for it would wear of. But Inside Out only gets better the more you watch it, and it will rightfully be considered as one of Pixar’s very best for years to come.

What about the worst movies?

top movies 2015

This one’s harder for me to spend time on because I purposefully avoided some of the poorly received movies that came out this summer, though I’ll probably still get around to them. But I’m still up for pointing out movies I did see that fell way, way, short of the mark.

Hitman: Agent 47 was the worst one I saw this summer, as I gave it an F (the only other “F” movie I scored this year was Strange Magic). There were some other movies that I tried hard to like but ended up despising, like TrainwreckSpy, and Aloha.

There were some bad movies I liked, including The Gallows and Ted 2, despite critics not loving them as much. Movies I hoped would be “A” material, like Paper Towns and Dope, ended up only being decent.

And then there are the movies I purposefully avoided, like PixelsVacationTerminator: GenisysSelf/less, and Minions. I don’t plan on seeing these movies any time soon. That just leaves Fantastic Four, which was less than decent, but not a bad experience overall for me.

Finally, there are the potentially great movies I haven’t seen yet but plan on seeing pretty soon. These include, The End of the Tour, It FollowsThe GiftGrandmaLove and Mercy, Mistress America and Shaun the Sheep.

Oh, and if you want a more ambitious snapshot of every 2015 movie and how they stack up, check out my 2015 Movie Power Rankings. 

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

My Top 10 Movies of 2015 (So Far)

Summer is about to kickoff, so I thought it would be fun to look back on the best films of Winter and Spring 2015. There are a few films I haven’t seen this year (yet) that may sway this list, and I’ll list them at the bottom.

I’ve made a stronger effort to watch more new movies this year, and it’s certainly paid off. For the first time in my life, I actually feel equipped to evaluate which movies are worth highlighting 6 months into the year. And we’ve gotten quite a few highlights. Starting with…

# 1 Mad Max: Fury Road

top 2015 movies

This shouldn’t surprise too many people. From its opening scene, George Miller had me hooked on his crazy, post-apocalyptic nightmare made reality.

With some of the best action scenes in years, combined with furious performances from Charlize Theron (get it?) and Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road has so far made the top of my list of must-watch films in 2015.

#2 Paddington

top 2015 movies

OK, this is certainly a departure from the #1 spot, and I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes at the fact that I’m elevating this family friendly movie all the way to #2, but hear me out.

Paddington is a kid movie done right, amidst scores of cheap remakes and strange misfires disguised as high-level (I’m looking at you, Spongebob). Simply put, Paddington has the charm, wit, and effortless script that most movies this year have chosen to skip.

#3 Ex Machina

top 2015 movies

I usually hate feeling uncomfortable during a movie, especially when it has CGI Paul Walker involved (too soon?) But Ex Machina subverts what we expect in an eery movie about artificial intelligence without insulting our intelligence.
It’s not a horror movie. It’s not a thriller. And it’s certainly not just a commentary, if at all. The mystery of what makes this movie…what it is…only makes me love it even more.

#4 What We Do In The Shadows

top 2015 movies

Technically, this superb “mockumentary” about the lives of vampires living in New Zealand came out last year, but it’s wider release didn’t kick off until January. That means I get to share the delight of this monster movie homage with all of you who haven’t managed to see it yet. Seriously though, get on that.

#5 Kingsman: The Secret Service

top 2015 movies

Speaking of homages, I wasn’t too surprised to see that this James Bond action successor ended up being one of the most fun adventures of the year. Yes, even moreso than another certain superhero flick…
I can still remember the best moments of the film, including the controversial church scene that was shot in just one take (if you can believe that). While I’m not necessarily itching for a sequel, though it would be nice, Kingsman still reigns as one of the year’s most interesting escapes.

#6 Selma

top 2015 movies

History is my weak spot. Take me to any colonial town and tell me that guy is really a smith from 1776 and you have my money. But historical biopics from any era tend to rank low on my attention span. Why watch a movie about that bridge in Selma when I can just go there?
Well, it turns out, Selma does a brilliant job of revitalizing this subject matter with faithful storytelling, a chilling script, and yes, David Oyelowo. And that’s not even mentioning the soundtrack.

#7 Avengers: Age of Ultron

top 2015 movies

It’s not as groundbreaking as the first film, but it’s still groundbreaking. Leave it to Marvel. 2015 has not yet hit us with a lot of comic book movie adventures, as Fox has saved its movie for the summer and Sony is conspicuously absent.
But even without competition, Age of Ultron is a triumph of patient buildup, electric characters, and an excellent effects budget. It’s not the dark story many of us expected and hoped for, but it had plenty of memorable moments to make it standout, even if it is just a trailer for even more exciting events to come.

#8 While We’re Young

top 2015 movies

I’ll admit I’m easily charmed by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts (despite finding Birdman a bit meh for her). So pairing these veterans with relative newcomers Adam Driver (of future Star Wars fame) and Amanda Seyfried (OK, not a newcomer, but still untested for the most part) was almost overkill.
Specifically, every scene combining these characters or a mixing and matching them was pulled off brilliantly, and it helps that the script had something pretty meaningful to say about my generation, your generation, and their generation.

#9 Unfriended

top 2015 movies

Do you believe in miracles? Unfriended was a made-for-tv movie destined for MTV reruns and live-tweets. But it ended up being transformed into a perfectly timed film that did something pretty novel and refreshing with the horror genre, while also preaching a sermon on cyber-bullying that didn’t come off as forced. Well, maybe a little.

#10 Tomorrowland

top 2015 movies

Yeah, I might get a little heat for this one. Though Tomorrowland certainly isn’t amazing overall, it happens to be one of the riskiest, gutsiest movies of the year. And a lackluster ending doesn’t do enough to eviscerate an inventive and entertaining first two acts.

Possibly great films I haven’t gotten around to yet:

I’d love to add to this list, but alas, there are just some 2015 films I haven’t had a chance to see for myself yet. Here are a few ranking high on my list of must-see:

  1. It Follows
  2. ‘71
  3. A Most Violent Year
  4. Still Alice
  5. Girlhood

I also want to point out my biggest disappointment of the year (so far): Chappie. Oh, what could have been.

If you something to add to this list, feel free to let me know in the comment discussions below. See you in another 6 months.

Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, you can subscribe for weekly updates by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter for the latest updates – @JonNegroni

Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Movie News This Week

mad max pitch perfect

This week on the podcast, we review Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2. Now that I think about it, we never tried to determine which movie is better. Maybe it’s obvious.

Go on…Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Movie News This Week

Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

mad max fury road

I’m still processing Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m still wrapping my head around the visuals, the world-building, the bold color palette, and what everyone else in the world is talking about right now: the action.

Let’s just get this out of the way. I’ve never seen any of the previous Mad Max” films (just parts of Road Warrior). I went into Fury Road blind, though that will be remedied very soon.

Go on…Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ About to Become The Best Movie of 2015?

mad max fury road best movie

I knew something was up when film reviewer Chris Stuckmann awarded the fourth Mad Max movie an “A+.” And when The Dissolve gave its second ever 5 star rating to the Tom Hardy/Charlize Theron film.

Now the film is even getting praise from traditional outlets. AP is calling it a “poetic masterpiece.” Chicago Tribune claims it makes Furious 7 look like Curious George. The George Miller movie has a stunning 99% on Rotten Tomatoes at this time. I don’t think I’ve heard of this much praise about a fourth sequel since Rocky IV, not that I was even alive back then.

Go on…Is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ About to Become The Best Movie of 2015?

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