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My Six-Month Film Awards: 2015

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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.

Picture:

  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

Mad Max is so good it would have been #1 in 2014. The rest of the top 5 are a solid line-up for the mid-year awards: two very, very good films and two films which are merely very good (and It Follows comes within a hair of being #5). Those six and Kumiko are the only films to score 80 or higher so far; ’71 in particular was disappointingly shallow.

Director:

  1. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Bill Pohlad, Love & Mercy
  3. Alex Garland, Ex Machina
  4. Nathan Zellner, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  5. Yann Demange, ’71
  6. David Robert Mitchell, It Follows
  7. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  8. Paul Feig, Spy
  9. Brad Bird, Tomorrowland
  10. Rick Famuyiwa, Dope
  11. Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron
  12. David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars
  13. Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service

But, shallow though it may have been, Demange did a very good job creating the milieu of 70’s Belfast and maintaining tension. (The issues are more with the script.)

Miller, though, provides an effort for the ages, Pohlad makes one of the most inventive recent biopics, and Garland crafts a nice slow-burning piece of hard sci-fi. Zellner, like Demange, does a great job of directing, but his film is ultimately too detached to be successful.

Best Actor Six Month 2015

Actor:

  1. John Cusack & Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
  2. Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina
  3. Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. Thomas Mann, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  5. Shameik Moore, Dope
  6. John Cusack, Maps to the Stars
  7. George Clooney, Tomorrowland
  8. Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service
  9. Robert Gustafsson, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Dano and Cusack provide a brilliant dual performance and win by a wide margin. Gleeson is very good and Hardy provides a far richer take on Max than Mel ever did, while Mann and Moore provide strong performances of shakily written characters.

I once thought Jack O’Connell in ’71 would be a sure-fire contender, but he has very little in the way of a character to play–he’s essentially there to suffer.

Best Actress Six Month 2015

Actress:

  1. Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
  2. Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
  3. Melissa McCarthy, Spy
  4. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria
  6. Maika Monroe, It Follows
  7. Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland
  8. Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  9. Mia Wasikowska, Maps to the Stars
  10. Elizabeth Roberts, Old Fashioned

Compared to Actor, there isn’t a single performance which stands as the unquestionable best, but the top 6 are all extremely good and you could put them in almost any order. I take Vikander and her subtle take on artificial intelligence, but Moore is fascinatingly overwrought, McCarthy is delightful, Theron impresses me more with each viewing, and Binoche takes a baity role and doesn’t put a foot wrong. Monroe, for her part, is the kind of protagonist more horror films need–genuinely sympathetic and resourceful.

The rest of the list drops off–I had high hopes for Kikuchi, but the film really doesn’t give her much to work with–but I must note that Roberts is quite likable and surprisingly natural in an otherwise mediocre film (at the very least, she outshines her leading man).

I should note that I toyed with nominating the voice work from Inside Out; had I done so Amy Poehler would’ve been #1 or #2 here.

Best Supporting Actor Six Month 2015

Supporting Actor: 

  1. Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
  2. Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. Paul Giamatti, Love & Mercy
  5. R.J. Cyler, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  6. Jason Statham, Spy
  7. Jake Abel, Love & Mercy
  8. Peter Serafinowicz, Spy
  9. Keir Gilchrist, It Follows
  10. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Avengers: Age of Ultron
  11. Nick Offerman, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  12. James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Blake Anderson, Dope
  14. Hugh Laurie, Tomorrowland
  15. Roger Guenveur Smith, Dope
  16. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Little Boy

Oscar Isaac is just one of the best up-and-coming actors we’ve got. And he’s incredible in Ex Machina–clearly a shady character, but great fun to watch and no mere villain. He wins pretty solidly, though I do love Hoult’s poignant arc (he gives the tumors cutesy nicknames) and Keays-Byrne’s melodramatic malevolence.

If Giamatti had more to do he’d probably have been #1 or #2, but he just doesn’t have the screen-time to get there. Cyler, like Thomas Mann, gives a honest and touching performance of a problematic character.

Statham is great fun and gets his best comic showcase in years, parodying his action-film persona (and Serafinowicz is a very amusing lech). Abel is close behind as the widely-hated Mike Love. After Gilchrist (who is quite good as a nice guy who’s also a “nice guy”) the list is mostly made up of amusing villains and fun side characters. Tagawa gives a good performance as a stock character in a bizarre film.

Best Supporting Actress Six Month 2015

Supporting Actress:

  1. Olivia Cooke, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  2. Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
  3. Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy
  4. Cate Blanchett, Cinderella
  5. Raffey Cassidy, Tomorrowland
  6. Zoë Kravitz, Dope
  7. Rose Byrne, Spy
  8. Chloë Grace Moretz, Clouds of Sils Maria
  9. Elizabeth Olsen, Avengers: Age of Ultron
  10. Abbey Lee, Mad Max: Fury Road
  11. Allison Janney, Spy
  12. Molly Shannon, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  13. Zoë Kravitz, Mad Max: Fury Road
  14. Kiersey Clemons, Dope
  15. Riley Keough, Mad Max: Fury Road
  16. Olivia Williams, Maps to the Stars
  17. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m so glad Cooke is here. Stewart was my winner for quite some time, and she’s very good, but Cooke is genuinely excellent. Some might argue her for lead, but I think she’s definitely supporting. Stewart and Banks are very close; I do think her film’s emphasis on her comes at the expense of Cusack and Giamatti’s screen time, but Banks conveys Melinda’s inner conflicts effectively. Blanchett steals her film, and Cassidy comes close to doing so as well.

Kravitz and Byrne are likewise nearly tied. Janney would’ve been higher with more screen time. I’ve moved the ladies of Fury Road around a fair amount, but right now Lee, with her stylized manner and modest but compelling arc, is my favorite.

Original Screenplay:

  1. Inside Out
  2. Ex Machina
  3. Love & Mercy
  4. Spy
  5. It Follows
  6. Maps to the Stars
  7. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  8. Dope
  9. Clouds of Sils Maria

An okay top 5 (though Inside Out is easily the winner), but Maps is fairly stale as satire, Kumiko is fairly thin, Dope is maddeningly uneven and Clouds mixes good character scenes with a fairly ridiculous angle on the film industry.

Adapted Screenplay:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  4. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  6. Cinderella

That said, Original is a damn sight better than Adapted. Max is a great script; stripped-down yet thematically complex, it draws upon the original trilogy to create, for my money, the best film in the series yet, and does a great deal of world-building on its own, and very well at that.

But Max is a ***** film and the other four all hover around the border between ***½ and ****. Me and Earl is a very frustrating script which has wonderful highs and aggravating lows, but given the lack of competition, it’s enough for third place.

Cinderella does just enough with the stepmother to make the list, but it would take an unfathomably bad year for it to even make the Top 15.

Cinematography:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Love & Mercy
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  5. ’71
  6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  7. Tomorrowland
  8. Maps to the Stars
  9. Fifty Shades of Gray
  10. Clouds of Sils Maria
  11. It Follows

How could I not? Max is a stunningly shot film from start to finish. I’m curious to see how the B&W version on the Blu-Ray looks, since the use of color is one of the most memorable things about it. Love & Mercy mixes several styles to great effect and Kumiko has some gorgeous images, but Max is the clear choice.

And yes, Fifty Shades is actually very well shot. It’s still a terrible film.

Editing:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road 
  2. Ex Machina
  3. Love & Mercy
  4. Inside Out
  5. ’71
  6. It Follows
  7. Spy
  8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  9. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  10. Dope 
  11. Jurassic World
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Maps to the Stars
  14. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Rewatching Max, it becomes ever clearer just how beautifully put-together it is, how well the narrative elements are combined, how wise Miller was to recruit his wife Margaret Sixel:

A product of Australia’s Film School, Margaret Sixel initially turned her husband down, asking, “why do you want me to do an action film?” George’s eyes dance as he repeats his reply triumphantly. “Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie.”

And it sure as hell doesn’t.

Production Design:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Love & Mercy
  3. Inside Out
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. Cinderella
  6. Ex Machina
  7. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  9. Jurassic World
  10. Maps to the Stars
  11. Jupiter Ascending
  12. Fifty Shades of Gray

This race, however, was pretty close. Love does a great job recreating the 60s, particularly the recording studios where Smile was crafted, and Inside Out, while wholly digital, is quite ingeniously designed–the inside of Riley’s brain is marvelously thought-out. But in the end, I give the grit and grandeur of Max the win, especially for the cars, which are masterfully cannibalized.

Costume Design:

  1. Cinderella
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Jupiter Ascending
  4. Love & Mercy
  5. Tomorrowland
  6. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  7. Little Boy
  8. Fifty Shades of Gray
  9. ’71

The fantasy-medieval gowns of Cinderella were too good to resist–along with Blanchett’s performance they’re the best thing about the film. Max has some great costumes as well, but Cinderella is the kind of film this category was made for.

Makeup:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  3. It Follows
  4. Ex Machina
  5. ’71
  6. Love & Mercy
  7. What We Do in the Shadows
  8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  9. Jupiter Ascending
  10. Cinderella
  11. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Seriously?

Max takes this easily. Even The 100-Year-Old Man isn’t really that good, but the makeup is so central to the story that it works as my #2…for now.

Original Score:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
  3. It Follows
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. Inside Out
  6. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  7. Ex Machina
  8. Love & Mercy
  9. Maps to the Stars
  10. Chappie
  11. Cinderella

Perhaps on an objective musical level Junkie XL’s score for Max isn’t the best, but it’s used to such great effect in the film, and is so thrilling (those war drums will get stuck in your head), that to me it’s the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great scores here–It Follows is incredible–but Max reigns supreme.

Original Song:

  1. “Can’t Bring Me Down”, Dope
  2. “Go Head”, Dope
  3. “Don’t Get Deleted”, Dope
  4. “It’s My Turn Now”, Dope

I couldn’t even get to 5 (the closing-credits song for Kumiko wasn’t original), but at least Dope had good songs, though for me the vibrant, optimistic “Can’t Bring Me Down” is easily the best.

Sound Mixing:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Love & Mercy
  3. ’71
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. Jurassic World
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Ex Machina
  8. Inside Out
  9. It Follows
  10. Dope
  11. Kingsman: The Secret Service

Action and music, the cornerstones of this category. 

Visual Effects:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Jurassic World
  3. Tomorrowland
  4. Chappie
  5. Ex Machina
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Jupiter Ascending
  8. Cinderella
  9. It Follows
  10. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  11. ’71

I had options here. Jurassic World has been criticized for not being noticeably better in the effects department than the first film 22 years ago, but the sheer scope of the effects is pretty impressive. But I go with the practical effects of Fury Road, which were seamlessly enhanced by carefully applied CGI.

Sound Effects:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Love & Mercy
  3. Jurassic World
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  5. It Follows
  6. ’71
  7. Inside Out
  8. Tomorrowland
  9. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  10. Ex Machina
  11. Chappie
  12. Jupiter Ascending

Love & Mercy has some good work here, particularly in depicting Brian Wilson’s auditory hallucinations, but the thunderous work in Max is simply the best of the year to date.

Compared to last year, it’s a step down. At this time last year, I had 7 **** films; I’ve adopted a new scale, but even under the old one I would have only 2. Again, Max is better than any film that came out in 2014, but Inside Out wouldn’t have cracked the top 10 (it would’ve come in around #15), and only Love & Mercy would have a shot at the top 20. My current #10 is worse than my #20 this time last year.

Best Director is weaker; Actor is much weaker; Actress is somewhat weaker; Supporting Actor, however, is about the same, while Supporting Actress is decidedly weaker (all of my Six-Month nominees were year-end nominees or came close, whereas this year Cooke is the only one likely to hold on). Both Screenplay categories are worse. The tech categories, by and large, are weaker. So far, aside from Max, it’s been a weaker year in every way.

There are several films from this year so far which I have yet to see: Hard to Be a God, Gangs of Wasseypur (both of which came out earlier overseas but which got their U.S. release this year), Furious 7, Far From the Madding Crowd, While We’re Young, Good Kill, Slow West, Predestination, Girlhood, The Duke of Burgundy, Jauja, Appropriate Behavior, Lost River, Queen & Country, and United Passions are some particular examples which I will probably have to rely on home video or Netflix to see. And then, of course, there’s the whole rest of the year.

Total Nominations/Wins:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road: 16 nominations/11 wins
  • Love & Mercy: 12 nominations/1 win
  • Ex Machina: 10 nominations/2 wins
  • Tomorrowland: 6 nominations
  • Dope, Inside Out: 5 nominations/1 win
  • ’71: 5 nominations
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: 4 nominations/1 win
  • It Follows: 4 nominations
  • Cinderella: 3 nominations/1 win
  • Jurassic World, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, Spy: 3 nominations
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron, Clouds of Sils Maria, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared: 2 nominations
  • Chappie, Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Maps to the Stars: 1 nomination

Total Mentions:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road: 20
  • Love & Mercy: 15
  • Ex Machina: 14
  • Dope: 13
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron, It Follows, Tomorrowland: 12
  • Maps to the Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: 11
  • ’71, Spy: 9
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: 8
  • Cinderella, Inside Out, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, : 7
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared: 6
  • Clouds of Sils Maria, Jupiter Ascending, Jurassic World: 5
  • Chappie, Fifty Shades of Gray: 3
  • Little Boy: 2
  • Old Fashioned, What We Do in the Shadows: 1
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2 thoughts on “My Six-Month Film Awards: 2015

  1. Pingback: INSIDE OUT Review – ****½ | If you want the gravy...

  2. Pingback: My Six-Month Film Awards: 2016 | If you want the gravy...

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