My Six-Month Film Awards: 2015

Not a bad start to the year.

Not a bad start to the year.

I decided to list the top 20 in each category, though most categories don’t have even half that many contenders. The top 5 in each category are my nominees, and as such are bolded.


  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Inside Out
  3. Love & Mercy
  4. Ex Machina
  5. Spy
  6. It Follows
  7. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  8. Maps to the Stars
  9. ’71
  10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  11. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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DOPE Review – ***½

They're supposedly 90s devotees, but the tagline references a song from 2005. (Source)

They’re supposedly 90s devotees, but the tagline references a song from 2005. (Source)

¹Dope is the kind of film that defies easy categorization and criticism. Its tone, its story, and its special mixture of strengths and weaknesses cannot be easily summarized. It’s the kind of film which many will consider better than it is–and for valid reasons. It’s the kind of film you want to like, and there are times when I liked it quite a bit. But it has serious fundamental issues, some easier to address than others, and in the end it barely sneaks into the **** level¹.

It’s the kind of film which gives you too much time to ponder its issues.

¹After further reflection, I realized the film’s issues were enough to push from a low **** to a high ***½.

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LOVE & MERCY Review – ****½

One of the better posters of the year so far. And one of the better films. (Source)

One of the better posters of the year so far. And one of the better films. (Source)

So I’m back home and back reviewing movies, and I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. There are a number of reviews I’d like to get out in the next two weeks, and originally this was to be part of a triple review with Tomorrowland and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. But this film is good enough to have its own article, and indeed, it’s one of the nicest surprises of the first half of 2015: a musical biopic that just might stand on its own cinematic legs in the years to come. As with many such films, it highlights a superior lead performance(s), but Love & Mercy has more to it than that. It’s a hell of a film in a lot of ways, and even if it probably won’t make a tenth of what Jurassic World made in its first weekend, it’s by far the better film.

See it before it’s gone.

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Oh, hell yes.

The reviews for this out of Cannes were pretty damn good. And I can see why.

I’m predicting nominations from me for Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Makeup, Original Score, and Sound Mixing, with Picture and Director distinct possibilities.

This is also just a damned well-cut trailer.

Anyway, I’ve got 19 more trailers for you, so let’s get to it:

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THE SAND CASTLE Review – ***

“What’s it gonna be?”
“A sand castle.”
“…sand castle? (long pause) Sand castle?” (Source)

My dad used to own a CD-Rom called Cinemania, a movie encyclopedia which was a major, major influence on my blossoming love of film. The foundation of Cinemania was a vast collection of movie reviews, most notably those of Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert, and Pauline Kael. Among the films I first heard of through Cinemania was a 1960¹ film called The Sand Castle, described by Maltin as the story of a boy who builds a sand castle and imagines people living in it.

It was an interesting enough premise, and the fact that I’d never heard of the film didn’t hurt. Years later, remembering the film, I looked it up, only to find little trace of it online. I would continue to search, and was able to find the film’s soundtrack, but the actual film continued to elude me. I learned I could rent a tape of the film from the Museum of Modern Art for $45 (or buy it for $160!), but barring such an indulgence, the film seemed effectively out of my reach.

Then, Googling the film yet again, searching for whatever I could find about it, I discovered that the Jerome Foundation–devoted to The Sand Castle‘s writer-director Jerome Hill–had uploaded the film to Vimeo, ending my search. Finally, I had a spare hour², and finally saw the film I had so long wondered about.

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Shirley Temple Soda Pop Review

Met up in Portland with my friends Mountain Was Here and his roommate, and we went bopping around, eating at a food truck and happening upon a store which, I was informed, had a fine soda selection. Perusing it, I didn’t find the soda I was looking for, but I saw “Hollywood’s Original Shirley Temple Soda Pop” (made, apparently, by the Shirley Temple Soda Company of Portland), in its 80’s retro teal and pink can, and figured I’d go for it.

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Onward and Upward

Jurassic World, by not having Samuel L. Jackson, can never be quite as good as Jurassic Park, since it has Samuel L. Jackson.

As of this writing, If You Want the Gravy… has seen 8,504 views for calendar year 2015, officially topping the 8,498 views we received in all of 2014 (though we didn’t start until late January). To be fair, some of those views were me indvartently clocking views while reveling in my accomplishments, but barring a severe drought of views, the record will be absolutely beaten before the month is out.

Now, as for what to expect in the coming days. As noted previously, I’m on a vacation (for my cousin’s wedding, and you should totally check out his movie blog) and won’t be home until well into June, limiting my ability to see movies and the time I have to write. But between now and the end of June, here are a few things you can expect to see:

  • A review of the obscure 1961 film The Sand Castle, which I have long sought and which is finally available for online viewing (and from a stable source);
  • My Cannes wrap-up, where I reflect on the winners, on the receptions accorded the competitors vs. my initial impressions, and where I delve into the Un Certain Regard films and special screenings;
  • Possibly a review of Tomorrowland (at this point I’m more interested in picking apart its apparent failings);
  • A review of Jurassic World;
  • Reviews of Aloha (which looks remarkably lame), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Love & Mercy, possibly Saint Laurent, Spy, Ted 2, and hopefully Dope;
  • More soda reviews;
  • And lastly, the Six-Month Film Awards.

And, if we’re lucky, that won’t be all.