The Moviejerk’s Best of Cinema: 2015 Edition

Now that I’ve finally emerged from the turkey coma season and reluctantly dragged my arse back to my desktop, it’s that part of the calendar again to swiftly assemble the previous year’s Greatest Hits list just because there isn’t really anything else worth in this dreary, freezing month of January to get out of bed from. I’ve spent the best part of December trying to catch up with the batshit number of releases industry folks are inundating us commoners with, then subsequently engaging with a film marathon whilst nursing the post-New Year hangover and I’ve still missed a handful – Aleksei German’s Hard To Be A God, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, Valérie Donzelli’s Marguerite & Julien and László Nemes’ Son of Saul. Since I don’t follow any mode of distribution anymore, as I articulated in last year’s featured list, I guess y’all just have to hold on and wait until I see these films in a hole somewhere.

For those who know and dig The Moviejerk’s scheme of things, I don’t really pay attention to the Big End-of-the-Year Hoopla of the great many. I couldn’t care less what ends up in Sight & Sound or who gets glorified by The Guardian (although John Waters’ no-fucks-given list is always a joy), cinema is a subjective business and for years, I’ve always chosen the films that captivated my brain, heart and senses the most.

But before I fully unveil the countdown below, have yourself a little screening of The Moviejerk Best of Cinema 2015 tribute montage to set you in the swoony, groovy mood.



Let the countdown commence.

TangerinePerhaps the wildest, trashiest picture to enter into our collective cinematic fray this side of Spring Breakers and The Paperboy. Tangerine is magnificently hysterical and unexpectedly uplifting – a vivid, electric, freewheeling and truthful paean to the boulevard of broken dreams and those that live on its seedy grounds. Low-key, high-cred and bursting with life, it features a rampaging firebrand protagonist who unleashes hell on the mean streets of LA and subsequently undone by the city’s ruthless hand-to-cock-to-mouth lifestyle. Sean Baker has created a Christmas movie that’s purposefully acted and shot, made for those who don’t buy into the whole yuletide dogma, it’s squalid digital aesthetic bolstering street filmmaking and capturing the possibility of trust, friendship and humanity even in the most unexpected, grimiest of places.


When Marnie Was TherePlenty of emotional chords have been struck when Studio Ghibli announced to close its doors (in the interim, at least), and the animation house’s provisional swansong When Marnie Was There may not reach the poetic, artistic heights of last year’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Yonebayashi’s tender ghost story bear themes of memory and loss that will poignantly resonate with many. It wrings staple elements from the Ghibli canon – childhood loneliness, idyllic countryside, supernatural visions and a coming-of-age narrative – and draws some wistful, melancholic truths about the pain of growing up and an existential sadness that runs through the sinuous tapestry of life. It earns every tear you shed and coaxes a better person out of you, which is an achievement for a low-key yet affectionately executed animated film like this.


Queen of EarthThe fact that some of the greatest filmmakers of our time have essentially built careers on women going absolutely nuts on screen is worth mentioning since this might just be the turning point for Alex Ross Perry’s professional life. His latest work, the demented, deliriously savage Queen of Earth joins the long crazy conga of films featuring women on the verge of existential collapse, to which the likes of Bergman, Polanski, von Trier, Almodovar, Allen, Cassavetes and Aronofsky have all, one way or another, plucked nerves and flayed open the distraught female psyche, proving that while it’s all very hyper-emotional and distressing, there’s rarely anything as darkly cinematic as a total eclipse of the mind, body and soul. Ross Perry’s chilling depiction of toxic friendship is a disconcerting yet welcome addition to the list of minefield movies about women on the verge of madness, throwing Polanski and Bergman into a hell of a blender and peppering it with his own brand of ruthless cynicism, resulting in a decidedly dark, viciously articulate psychodrama. Waterston is superb, but this is Moss’s show, giving a performance that stuns, shocks and lingers with a bitter aftertaste.


Mountains May DepartJia Zhangke gives our tearducts some serious workout with his take on the traditional weepie with this maximally ministered melodrama Mountains May Depart. The title itself is a harbinger of its epic, if not poetic, ambitions – a generation-spanning tale of love, identity and loss across the ravages of time, structured like a grand, old novel, familiar yet foreign at the same time, monumental and yet executed with intimacy. For Zhangke constructs an elaborately old-fashioned Hollywood narrative, if it weren’t for its Chinese socio-political antecedent, with this portrait of an ill-fated love triangle whose lives will unfold and unravel throughout decades, along with its repercussions and tragedies of their age and the ones they beget. Sure, the film stumbles a little in its third act, but there’s no denying the deep well of emotions here, plumbed to great depths by an immensely moving performance by Zhao Tao – that overwhelms right through the film’s devastating final shot, one that will surely go down as one of the great endings in contemporary cinema.


Taxi tehranThe Iranian Islamic government can do a lot worse than imposing Jafar Panahi a 20-year ban from filmmaking. The man will stop at nothing, crafting his third film under national prohibition entirely inside a taxi cab as it wheels around the capital, picking up passengers, strangers and old friends alike. Like his contemporary Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, Panahi’s Taxi Tehran carousels around human conversations and chance encounters, blurring factual scenarios with his vaguely fictional set-ups. But in the context of Panahi’s act of rebellion, he assuages his audience that the difference between documented reality and staged drama hardly matters when there’s an entire system ready to shut him down. Art is his only weapon of truth, and he siphons in dialogues that alternates between the banal and the polemical, the cruel and humane, the personal and political. That beneath this man’s amenable façade, there’s an artist that’s fuming with righteous anger about an oppressive state that turns filmmaking and free will into punishable crimes.


AnomalisaThe cinema of Charlie Kaufman always comes a blast of fresh air to those suffocated by populist filmmaking, articulating the weird, wonderful and tragic human condition in labyrinthine narratives contrary to the linear mainstream thinking. Anomalisa may be his oddest work thus far – an adult puppet animation that exists somewhere between Team America: World Police and those human characters in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox – a bizarrely crafted curio that seeks profundity in the mundanity of modern life. Suffice to say, its portrait of loneliness and depression that somehow turns into a semi-Kafkaesque nightmare has eluded in first viewing, but its resonance comes retrospectively. This works as a cinematic cousin to Spike Jonze’s Her, both are movies that say something about the nature of desire and self-delusion. Only that in Anomalisa, romance is just an illusion, a momentary spark in the mind of a man whose teetering at the edge of madness and the inability to feel.


Listen to me marlonNearly everyone was singing praises for Asif Kapadia’s docu-memoir Amy when we should all be championing 2015’s best documentary film by a long stretch, Stevan Riley’s incendiary Listen To Me Marlon. Where most celebrity docs take claim in telling the inner lives of its subject through constructed narrative and conventional talking heads, Riley lets his subject speak with his own words and voice, exhaustively building Marlon Brando’s personal recordings into a hypnotic, grand existential aria of an artist’s life, plunging abstractly into the depths of this man’s complex mind and plumb it for all its worth. The result is like listening to a deeply private and intimate journal we’re not supposed to hear. Brando’s artistic struggles and philosophical musings etch out a breathtaking human being out of an icon carved as a legend, his emotions and profound heartbreak ultimately become our own.


A pigeon sat on a branchNo film in 2015 look anything like Swedish-meister Roy Andersson’s Golden Lion-winning mouthful A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. In his supposed capper to his Living Trilogy, Andersson ditches traditional storytelling and gives us a Jacques Tati-esque panoply of vignettes (or to use a swanky word, tableaux), extracting mordant humour in even the most mundane of scenes. His characters’ visages are entirely caked with chalk, his human beings performing like pantomimes, a stylistic choice that perfectly mirrors the absurdity of the human existence. It’s obvious that Andersson’s view of life on Earth isn’t exactly optimistic, his supremely orchestrated long takes portraying the futility, folly and despair of civilisation, but make no mistake of his searing intelligence, displaying Western imperialism as well as the tragedy of our collective existence as if these were museum pieces for all of us to learn and reflect.


MacbethArguably Shakespeare’s most morally fucked-up play, Macbeth has enamoured some of cinema’s greatest filmmakers, from Akira Kurosawa to Orson Welles and Roman Polanski, each to their own producing dark visions of the Scottish tragedy to varying levels of artistic potency. There’s no doubting the slippery, elusive nature of getting the Bard right on screen, but Kurosawa and Polanski might have found a muscular successor to their throne in the seemingly dilettante figure of Justin Kurzel, who navigates the murky, troublesome Shakespearean waters with dazzling confidence and unquestionable talent. He brings a tour-de-force, apocalyptic vision to Shakespeare, conjuring a cobalt-and-crimson-soaked visual poetry so eerily, ominously wrought as if this was a strange and bleak yet beautiful nightmare. Fassbender lives and breathes the tortured central role but it’s really Cotillard who scintillates most with her haunting portrait of Lady Macbeth, anchoring this immortal cautionary tale with a devastating new perspective and elevating this ferocious show into the sublime levels of performance art.


The Hateful EightQuentin Tarantino has long since stopped giving any fucks as to what you make of him. He goes and create a 187-minute winter Western set almost entirely in a wooden cabin, resurrecting the five decades-long dead Ultra Panavision 70mm celluloid in the process, conjuring characters who barely do anything through most part of the film but talk and we’d still be enthralled. Which is exactly what he does in The Hateful Eight, an unapologetically dialogue-driven, post-Civil War, chamber whodunnit piece that works best as a double-bill to Reservoir Dogs, even splendidly mirroring the latter film’s crescendo of suspicion and tension and ending up in a vicious bloodbath. And Tarantino indulges the shit out of his screenplay, throwing racial, moral and political word bombs into the fray, nodding to some obscure Western films most of us probably haven’t seen and creating not a single likeable character in his mean, violent theatrics. He isn’t gunning for our sympathy, but he sure knows how to give us a goddamn good entertainment.


Mistress AmericaDream-team Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig have fashioned a sassier, livelier soul sister to Frances Ha in Mistress America, an alluringly fleet-footed comedy that dresses its wit like a precocious accoutrement and wears its melancholic heart on its sleeve. Here, the dysfunctions and delusions of the American Dream are deconstructed through the duo’s wry perspective, drawing a fierce, passionate rapid-fire screenplay as if this was a tennis championship, with the dialogues thrown from one court to the other with palpable relish and perception, as we watch aghast and buzzing with imminently quotable one-liners flying around like loose canons. It’s already been compared to the golden screwball comedies of yore, but truth be told, it’s just all too rare for comedies these days to be biting and zingy one moment and feel tragic and sad the next. The truth that Tracy takes and turn it into fiction becomes an immediate epiphany – that Brooke is an all-too American reality, forever chasing dreams while overlooking the inherent decline of humanity.


VictoriaAnd just like that. An under-the-radar film emerges out of nowhere and smacks your senses hard. Sebastian Schipper’s relentlessly intense, 138-minute single-take micro-masterpiece might be the most perfect product for movie marketing execs everywhere (long take, no cuts, better than that lying, cheating, digitally stitched Birdman, no way!), a jolly good sell in a movie market that’s ruled by editing suite overkill. As much as we’d like to be cynical, Victoria is no mere gimmick – it’s a pulsating, enthralling, full-throttle real-time immersion into a what-if scenario of a hellish night in Berlin, a rivetingly orchestrated piece of cinema that eschews mawkishness and instead commands your full, undivided attention. It also helps that Schipper’s characters are no ciphers for writerly witticisms. From the seemingly naive female protagonist down to the three troublemakers, they talk like real people, believable enough for us to feel utterly involved in this late-night-party-turned-impromptu-bank-heist. A genre shift so proficiently pulled off that as soon as the lonely immigrant Victoria finally finds affinity, albeit with the wrong sort of folks, the film reaches a point of no return and makes it extremely hard to take our eyes off from this woman’s descent to unholy calamity.


White GodHungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó punches through a poetic yet blistering slice of realism that portrays the animosity and wrath of the canine species. White God is an intensely jaw-dropping treatise on animal neglect and cruelty, that you’ll think twice the next time you mistreat any poor stray pup on the street. It does to dogs what Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful The Birds did to seagulls, but where Hitchcock’s film depict an avian freak of nature, Mundruczó goes so far as essaying the emotional and mental capacity of dogs to possess enmity as a direct result of trauma, exploitation and injustice. The dog Hagen’s character trajectory is so powerful that it overshadows any sign of human drama, building to a nightmarish crescendo where the city has literally gone to the dogs. In a practical feat of filmmaking, Mundruczó and his team of animal trainers unleash hundreds of dogs in Budapest (which sounds like a logistical nightmare in itself) and in the process, sending a giant middle finger to the movie industry’s over-reliance of CGI. In White God, the screen burns with intensity and becomes more technically compelling the less computer pixels are involved, achieving a sense of hard, brutal poetry and urgency that’s sorely lacking in doomsday movies of late. This is tour-de-force filmmaking – a blistering, heart-in-your-mouth vendetta thriller that will burn in your mind long after its searing and emotional final shot.


Inherent ViceBewilderment is the raison d’être of Inherent Vice – a mega-convoluted screwball tragicomedy wrapped up in hardboiled noir and clouded by a hazy, woozy, weed-smoked existential fog. It certainly ain’t easy deciphering Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest one, with a labyrinthine plot that swerves from one venue to the next – from beaches to whorehouses, bikini boudoirs, asylums, investigation units, japanese pancake houses, shady lairs and hippie dens – without much of a signpost as to where the narrative has led (or misled) us and who the actual fuck is Joaquin Phoenix talking to and how are these panoply of bizarre characters relevant to the entire show. I hear your frustration, dear readers, but that deep well of beffudlement and thoughts of pointlessness is precisely the point of this elusive, often inspired, film. Inherent Vice is Anderson’s most paradoxical work – a confounding film about the grand confusion of the hippie culture, a seemingly unsatisfying movie about the dissatisfaction of a generation. It’s a riddle without any answers, a problem without a solution and a beautiful puzzle that dare not follow any reliable narrative form. It’s simultaneously baffling, wholly refreshing and quite matchless in contemporary cinema.


The AssassinThis isn’t the crowd-pleasing, epic-making brand of Chinese martial arts movie made to win awards and please everyone. Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Best Director triumph at Cannes last year should be a signifier that The Assassin was made for Art, not for Commerce. Hence, all semblance of showy fight sequences and narrative thrills have been muted down in his take on the wuxia genre, giving us a delicately slow, exquisitely controlled and photographed mood-piece that would make an aesthete’s heart melt in wonder. Cinema as a visual art is the primary concern here, that whether staging a balletic swordfight or billowing a curtain or merely capturing the natural rythmns of his environs, 9th century Imperial China rarely looked as gorgeous as this on screen. Narratively, this is as slow-burning as watching flames licking embers, palpably not made for the attention-deficit audience, Hou demonstrates a patient and rewarding kind of storytelling that does not cheaply employ any flashback device when characters tell their long tales of fury and regret. The Assassin elevates the martial arts drama into a cinematic meditation of human morality, one that’s carefully mounted to such artistic grandeur and told with introspective wisdom. Whatever your opinion on this, Hou sure have given us one of the most aesthetically beautiful films ever made in the history of cinema.


The Diary of a teenage girlThe Hollywood catalogue is, ostensibly, filled with barrage of teenage sex comedies that presents the male youth fucking their way through the school yearbook. Girls, however, are represented differently – they’re either rendered as mere objects of lustful desire or victims of male promiscuity. Sure, The Diary of a Teenage Girl doesn’t exactly go the full-on Lars von Trier Nymphomaniac route, but Heller’s film depicts without irony and any hint of embarassment the sexual awakening of a pubescent girl at the brink of womanhood, who chooses to lose her virginity, actively participates in sex and learns to enjoy it. The central protagonist Minnie (an extraordinary, wholly convincing performance from British breakout star Bel Powley) is neither saintly victim nor slut-in-the-making, but an imperfect ingenue prone to mistakes and seesawing emotions. Her relationship with the wayward, jocky father-figure Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård in his career-best turn) isn’t the stuff of paedophilic nightmares, but is essentially a forgiving, empathetic one. Controversial, yes, but wholly justified, disarmingly honest exploration of the teenage female psyche and burgeoning sexuality. It braves everything that your dastardly, gutless teen movies have been circumventing for years, if not since the dawn of time. The Diary of a Teenage Girl grabs the sex issue by the horns, and sketches an awakening of a woman with utter Baumbachian sincerity and breathtaking Allenesque complexity, warts and all, making this one of the greatest movies about teenage female sexuality portrayed on screen.


MustangDo we need another film about household fascism and sibling rebellion? Hell, yes. In a world where many parts of the world are still buried in this antediluvian belief that parents have the right to ferry off their kids to arranged marriages, Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut couldn’t be any more resonant today as Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides was back in 1999. Essentially a fiercer, tauter and angrier companion to that of Coppola’s teen drama, Mustang draws its aesthetic from the combination of sun-dappled indie filmmaking and vérité arthouse sensibilities that echoes the Truffaut or Pialat school of cinema, unpacking its tumultuous drama through a thoughtfully built narrative and consistent, thematic power punch. Parental control and paranoia threaten to suffocate and break the awe-inspiring bond of freedom as, one by one, five sisters are being driven apart, wrenched away from scholastic education, plunged into house arrest and domestic conditioning and ultimately, to premature marriages. Ergüven is wise to show that it’s not all black-and-white, with a sister turning out to be particularly contented and happy with the role prescribed for her, but this doesn’t work for everyone. It’s also vital that the youngest of them all becomes the paragon for insurgence. When you grow up witnessing it all, you’d most likely be fed up with the shit the patriarchy think is good for you. And in a society when choice isn’t a given, the only way is out. This is optimistic, inspiring and vital cinema.


45 yearsWeekend introduced us to Andrew Haigh, a filmmaker of undeniable promise. Where many directors dumb down or sell out, he gives us 45 Years, a quietly intelligent, mature drama about the implosion of a marriage, further sending Haigh into stratospheric levels of artistry. He narrows his screenplay and camera into a seemingly content and blissful (if unmistakably staid) domestic rhythm of an ageing couple’s life, detailing a wholesome countryside ritual that most middle-class couples of a certain age would find ideal and idyllic. As such, this could have easily ape Haneke’s Amour, but 45 Years isn’t interested mortality or ailment as the true test of love. Haig sends well-buried shards of resentment into the quotidian by asking, what if love spent over the course of 45 years was a lie? There’s a patient, prosaic unravelling to Haig’s direction, ever so subtly unveiling the magnitude and heartbreaking force with impressive restraint and control of form. Sir Tom Courtenay is equally infuriating and affecting as Geoff, a husband who unleashes long-repressed regrets, but it’s really Charlotte Rampling who’s monumental here as Kate, the wife who lurches, existentially, into anguish upon the discovery of being a “second choice”. The profound dismay on this woman’s face in the film’s devastating final shot is perhaps the most Fassbinderian closing scene I’ve seen in quite a while.


The LobsterTrust Yorgos Lanthimos to concoct a film as original, savage and deliciously dead-pan as The Lobster, a dark dystopian anti-romance that echoes Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist yet humanist retro-futurist parables. It must be hard to try and outclass your own previous work, especially if that work just happens to be one of the most essential pieces of cinema made in the last decade (Dogtooth, that is), but Lanthimos truly hits the classic territory with his English-language debut. What begins as a coldly hilariously portrait of society obsessed with coupledom mutates into an indictment on the fundamentalist views of romance and social control. What’s great is that The Lobster absolutely nails it hard the awkward, maladjusted pretensions people have, all in the name of dating and the delusions of mating through scatological, deeply cynical observations. Some may claim against the chilly detachment on Lanthimos’s approach, but this is actually the director’s funniest work (that is, if your humour is of the slight fucked-up sort) and there’s a silent-disco-in-the-woodland scene that made me laugh like a hyena in the cinema. That satire, near-perfectly married with a tragicomic tone, elevates The Lobster as more than exercise in minimalist sci-fi but a resonant work of art that addresses both contemporary and timeless issues of human loneliness, relationships and social conditioning.


PhoenixIt’s about time the world knows about Christian Petzold, a German filmmaker with such startling intellect, honing his cinematic prowess through a series of hauntingly intimate films with muse Nina Hoss. With Phoenix, he achieves supreme refinement of storytelling and film art, marrying the Berlin School with the classical Hollywood filmmaking, conjuring the redemptive style of Fassbinder and the complexity of Hitchcock. Melodrama merges with film noir in this tale of post-wartime guilt and mistaken identity, a self-reflexive ghost story set in the crumbled wreckage of Berlin where husbands and wives wrestle with trauma, betrayal and culpability. Petzold layers wrenching devastation even in the barest compositions and most minutiae of emotions, drawing a toweringly nuanced performance from Hoss, who’s fast-becoming one of Europe’s Greatest Actresses. Phoenix is Vertigo via The Marriage of Maria Braun – a wretched story of love and betrayal that’s immense in its minimalism and suggestive depths, told with exquisite fortitude and heartbreaking compassion.


Embrace of the SerpentThe single greatest discovery of 2015. Even the first few frames of Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent justifies that “they don’t make them like this anymore” tenet of contemporary filmmaking, taking a wholly naturalist Herzogian approach to this magnificent and elegiac voyage into the dark heart of colonialism. In beautifully rendered monochrome, the Amazon looks spectacularly vivid yet ghostly at the same time, its jungles and riverbanks are imbued with spectral beauty and poignant tragedy that reminds of Francis Ford Coppola’s Conradian magnum opus Apocalypse Now. As Guerra leads us deeper into the Amazonian rainforest, memories of past and present intertwine, the destinies of two explorers convene in the monumentally tragic figure of Karamakate, the last remaining survivor of his tribe. And yet, the devastating genius of Guerra’s journey not only laments the death of tribal existence, but mourns the demise of our own civilisation, one that’s relentless in the destruction of nature. In search for the greatest cure, Guerra allows us to find the most profound of sickness in mankind, an incurable maelstrom of greed and exploitation that usher an inevitable downfall. This is stark, philosophical and essential cinema.


TimbuktuThis year has been a truly fucked-up year for humanity, and Timbuktu courageously addresses topical and heated issues of terrorism and oppression with graceful intellectualism and philosophical nuance that’s rare in films of this ilk. Instead of blazing with righteous, radical anger, Abderrahme Sissako masterfully paints a humane, quietly shattering indictment of the brutal Islamist regime in the Malian capital. Timbuktu draws a wealth of details in its collective portrait of social torture and indignation, with its peaceable citizens being subjected to humiliation and punishment under the absurd sharia law that prohibits music and sports, and executes adultery with death. A scene where a woman sings her heart out whilst being lashed repeatedly is one of the most profoundly distressing moments in cinema. Sissako disputes violence and inhumanity with poetry, culture and stately call for reason, using the medium of cinema as a cri de coeur against all forms of human oppression.


The ClubHotshot Chilean director Palo Larraín fans flames to the fire that incinerates Earth’s most worshipped religion in The Club, a pitch-black tragicomedy of Jacobean proportions. In portraying the lives of fallen clergies, he has created one of the most savage, supremely scathing indictments on the Catholic institution and its deeply corrupt system, right up there with Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Here, Larraín flips perspectives and dramatically rounding up on the perpetrators, a bunch of priests sent to recuperate from the crimes their church has knowingly covered up, and exploding the Pandora’s Box wide open when a past victim turns up on their doorstep. Larraín, in his most acutely observed pathos and blackest of humour, holds no prisoners, spares no one and pulls no punches here, portraying a maelstrom of victims and perpetrators, locked in a destructive moral and institutional war that’s motivated by the hypocrisies of the Catholic Church. The Club righteously braves its rivetingly complex provocation and thrillingly employs the medium of cinema as a furious clarion call for collective enlightenment.


CarolBy now, you must have heard of Carol, Todd Haynes’ achingly sublime, artful evocation of love amidst the rigid architecture of 1950’s American society. It’s his masterpiece – a sublimation of cinematic refinement and Haynes’s essence as a filmmaker, crafting a rarefied breed of cinema that breathes life into the classically restrained form of filmmaking that’s simply hard to come by these days. No film in 2015 feels and aches as deeply as Carol, a melancholic romance that gorgeously soaks in unspoken affections, pleading a kind of intelligent, mature film-going experience. Here, every breath, glance, word, framing and movement mean something. Haynes mines the cosmic and the quotidian, the clarity and complexity of human desire and all the nuances of body language. ‘Love’ as an auditory word need not to be uttered for us to comprehend the gravitational pull between these anguished women, it’s all there in the visual direction, in Blanchett and Mara’s faces – that exquisite electricity in the air that these two actresses so stunningly capture when they look at each other across the room that no amount of screenplay, melodrama, production values or any goddamn computer-generated wizardry ever dare to accomplish.


Mad Max Fury Road

Fuck knows how much I loathe mainstream filmmaking these days. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, septuagenarian George Miller emerges from directing cutesy, if not painfully banal, children’s movies (Babe: Pig in the City and two Happy Feet instalments) to bludgeon all of us with this thunderously deranged, once-in-a-generation cinematic pandemonium. Miller miraculously resurrects a dead franchise and made us all weep like babies (I, for one, watched most of Fury Road tear-soaked and I genuinely cannot remember the last time an action film made me sob like a goddamn wuss). Seeing this is like witnessing the zenith of action filmmaking magnificence of our time – a full-throttle, heart-in-your-mouth, unhinged showstopper that punches brawns, grit and cinematic ferocity back to the 21st-century Hollywood blockbuster, without ever sacrificing emotional resonance and some smart, weighty civilisation treatise. It also, unexpectedly, lobs a fierce equality manifesto in the form of Charlize Theron, whose Imperator Furiosa joins the ranks of cinema’s greatest fighters, a physically broken, armless survivalist who punches through one of the most spectacularly awe-inspiring fuck-you to a senseless patriarchal society hellbent on oppression. Together with Max, it takes the damaged and the mad to restore humanity, to fix what’s broken, instead of escaping the only place left for man and womankind’s survival. If that doesn’t inspire you to stand up against anything that’s wrong in our society then you might as well get off this planet you call home.




  1. Great list (and I’m glad to see someone else having so much fun with Adobe Illustrator in the making of a film blog)! I must say that I take exception to your very favourable stance on ‘Mountains May Depart’ (no third act problems for you?) and ‘Macbeth’ (not too dour in its efforts for realism?) but otherwise agree on all films released in the UK so far.

    On that subject, I appreciate the argument in your previous year’s write-up and only wish I could overcome my own impulse towards completism to live by the same code when it comes to my own end of year lists. As it is, I look forward to putting the likes of ‘The Hateful Eight’ and ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ on my Best Of 2016 lists and, in the meantime, catch up with films you’ve mentioned like ‘The Assassin’, ‘El Club’ and ‘Mustang’.

    Your write-up certainly articulated some great points that I couldn’t quite put my finger on before with ‘Inherent Vice’ (an unsatisfying film about the counter culture’s dissatisfaction) and ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ (the demise of our own [modern day] civilisation and the maelstrom of greed and exploitation).

    I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on the Herzog films coming to festivals this year (two by my count).

    1. What a delight to read this, thank you! I do admit to getting the kick out of this blog, and the Creative Suite is certainly a trusted friend.

      I take bias on Mountains May Depart, as I find Zhangke a very fascinating filmmaker. His themes of time, language and consequence truly hit hard on me, and despite the third-act fumble (the relationship between Dollar and Mia is psychosexually plausible, but just feels unconvincing onscreen), but that final shot of Zhao Tao is too devastating for words that it makes it up for its hitherto flaws. It rounds up the film perfectly, too.

      As for Macbeth, I don’t think it was gunning for realism. It’s too stylised for that. I found it very disquieting in its apocalyptic aesthetic, and its non-specific time frame. We know it’s mediaeval Scotland, but somehow it also feels dystopian. Post-humanity, even. Which makes perfect sense to the absence of morality in the play. I just loved Kurzel’s approach, and how he frames his characters in turmoil onscreen in such stark minimalism. That Cotillard’s “To bed” monologue both creeped and moved the hell out of me.

      I have missed quite a few in 2015, having skipped Cannes, hence failing to see a handful films playing there that still haven’t seen the distribution light of day. I already made my stance that I don’t follow any modes anymore other than my own, as it feels such an undertaking to see every single movie released or played on a screen anywhere.

      One film I noticed in your list is the Jodorowsky! I shall endeavour to see this in 2016, as well as German’s Hard To Be A God. I feel gutted to have missed this.

      PS. Pleased to swerve your opinions on Inherent Vice and Embrace of the Serpent! Re: Herzon, I hear he’s doing 2 docs and 1 feature film. I saw Queen of Desert sometime ago, which wasn’t as bad as what many claimed.

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