30 December 2015

2015 in a Bottle: Best in the Movies

This is post #700, by the way. No big deal.

We've been recounting the Best of 2015 all month like a good little Internet site, and here is where we end it. We've already gone through our Top Ten-ish list of the best films of the year, which I can totally see changing dramatically (hint: Star Wars: The Force Awakens [2015] doesn't last), but there's more to film that just good movies. There are always excellent actors, trailers, scenes, and soundtracks to dig into. Most of these were in good movies, but there's always epic moments in terrible films that deserve to be highlighted. So, let's talk about the greatest scenes of the year. I suppose there could be some SPOILERS since a solid amount of these are ending scenes, but whatever. Get over it:

Best Scenes:

Goodbye, Paul Walker from Furious 7



Here's your challenge: watch the above without balling your eyes out. It's impossible. It's amazing that a franchise like The Fast & The Furious, which once made its bread and butter on fast cars, bikini babes, and super bro moments has completely transformed itself into one of the most inclusive movie series in history, also capable of scenes like this. There's almost no other film influenced as much from a major actor's death, to the point where a tribute like this is crafted and worked into the story. The film is full of moments where you think Brian O'Connor is going to eat it, but their choice to instead send him off into retirement in the sunset is both touching and brilliant. For as insane and as stupid as most of this film is, that ending grabs your heart and twists it till the tears come out.

"I got something to say" from Straight Outta Compton



The culmination of generations of racial angst encapsulated in a single performance from 1989 that's more relevant today than ever (not like the issue has gotten worse - we just have cell phones to record it), the emotional build-up to this scene is perfect. It also works as a microcosm for the entire movie - the young, dangerous attitude that strikes against an established yet unjust order that's been opposed on the populace. "Fuck Da Police" is still a great song, blatant in its hatred for the man, but less blatant than the everyday racism, institutional and personal that oppresses victims every day.

"OH WHAT A LOVELY DAY" from Mad Max: Fury Road



It's tough to pick one scene from Fury Road, if only because it feels like most of the film is just one huge chase. There are plenty of epic, worthy contenders to choose from, but this line that became instantly iconic, that leads into the sandstorm chase is what we'll always remember.

Bing Bong's Sacrifice from Inside Out



Pixar has the uncanny ability to rip your heart out and spit on it more efficiently than any other group of filmmakers. You don't need to know who Bing Bong is or what the hell he's doing there with any of these people to just start shedding ridic tears upon watching this. That's the point of really good and concise filmmaking. When you're in the midst of the film and understand the stakes and been on the journey with them, though, it's obnoxiously tragic. Oh, children's films.

Underwater Shenanigans from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation



A lot of people would point to the opening plane ride, or the daring tête-à-tête opera scene, but there was no other point of Rogue Nation, or any film I saw this year for that matter, than the underwater scene. There are continually "oh shit, no!!" moments that stack on top of each other, until the mission actually became too impossible for Ethan Hunt, and he needed Rebecca Ferguson to step in and do the job. Tom Cruise's wobbly half-dead performance after the fact is an awesome bonus.

Vision is Worthy from Avengers: Age of Ultron



There were a lot of issues with Age of Ultron and it was hard to think of a single memorable scene, but the earlier set-up to this and the shorthand it then affords the story is spectacular. It instantly grants the Vision credibility among the super-team even if his creation and powers make no sense.

A Trip to the Store from Magic Mike XXL



I haven't actually seen Magic Mike XXL, only this scene, which may be even better out of context. It's sincerely goofy yet also full of these really spot-on character beats. It's sexy, of course, but the juxtaposition of this ripped guy trying really really hard to impress an unimpressable clerk offers some hilarious moments. "How much for the Cheetos and water?"

Ex Machina Dance



Possibly the scene of the year, this also works possibly better out of context, which is how I first saw it. It suits an impossible tone between humor and horror, with Oscar Isaac's blithe commentary crashing into Domnhall Gleeson's righteous need for inquisition. In most other movies this would be a funky feel-good number, but here it becomes a distracting bit of terror as you slowly realize what is going on.

Intro to Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland seemed to get an unfair rap when it came out, but when Britt Robertson first steps foot (teleports? transposes realities?) into Tomorrowland, even if it later turns out to be a fake recruiting advertisement, you're blown away by the possibilities of this world. The whole point of Tomorrowland is that our Utopian fantasies will never be as great as the effort we can make in the real world, but for a moment it looks like the greatest place on (or not on) Earth.

Bear Attack from The Revenant



The Revenant is pound for pound the most brutal mainstream film of the year, and the relentless pain suffered from Leo in his Bear Attack sets the tone for the rest of the film and presents his first amazing hurtle to overcome - simply surviving this thing. Iñárritu fearlessly sticks you in the midst of this shit, offering voyeurism that feels as painful as the attack itself.

Honourable Mentions:

The following scenes are all also fantastic. I may need to post about them later.

Margot Robbie explains the financial crisis from her bathtub in The Big Short
The border patrol shoot-out from Sicario
Dia de los Muertos in SPECTRE
Adonis runs with the motorbikes in Creed
Rey overpowers Kylo Ren's mind control in The Force Awakens

Actor / Actress of 2015

This was a big year for a lot of new faces, and even some old ones that seem to have finally gotten some traction. Oscar Isaac, Amy Schumer, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth are all in this conversation. This year, though, truly belonged to Tom Hardy and Alicia Vikander.

After years of playing an underrated chameleon in a dozen notable roles, Tom Hardy blew up in a big way with three major acting creds. Donning the dusty leather jacket and limp in Mad Max: Fury Road is the obvious starring role, although that can honestly be debated based on how much he actually does and how many lines he had. Add to this Legend where he owns his double role as twin British Gangsters. Finally, he completely sinks into his shifty fur trapper role in The Revenant, completing the year of Hardy forever.

Alicia Vikander didn't have any dominant blockbuster roles, but her resume this year is outstanding. She's gone from nobody to on the map with rapid speed. Her showcase is Ex Machina, in addition to narrating a documentary, appearing in the little seen Brad Cooper chef vehicle, Burnt, as well as the summer blockbuster attempt, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Add to this Oscar Bait The Danish Girl and she's got one hell of a year.

Best Trailers of the Year

Sometimes I'll have an assortment of trailers both for movies that came out this year and some for next, but this time I felt like almost all my anticipation is gearing up for things to come.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)



There is a sublime balance of introducing characters, stakes, plot, and tone here that really works. The narration would seem awkward in-film but is pretty precise and specific in setting up what could be an excellent hair-brained Coen Brothers film in vein with a lot of their modern screwball work.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)



It's important to note that the second trailer, while no less impeccably edited, gave away a little too much to be valuable at all. Taking a suspicious property and embedding it with ideological weight like this is a difficult task, and the focus on the central conflict between iconic heroes is smart. The second trailer totally wasted all this good will.

Suicide Squad (2016)



Perhaps its a solid feat, then, that Suicide Squad has stuck with the one exceptional trailer they've generated? The core conceit of the film is laid out plainly, and the character introduction with a focus on Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is an excellent choice, especially with how many acting and character heavy hitters there are hanging around this place. It's got enough gumption and quirk to look really interesting when confronted with the glut of cookie-cutter superhero films both Marvel and DC that we're knee-deep in right now.

Queen of Earth (2015)



The tone here is managed with expert precision in a throwback to a 70s-style exploitation flick. It's a brilliantly captivating trailer as shit slowly starts winding out of control as the dueling women here, played by the ever watchable Elizabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston plunge into insanity against each other. It's sharply cut and wonderfully executed.

Soundtracks

Last year there seemed to be a glut of spectacular soundtracks and scores, but I never got that vibe this year. Straight Outta Compton is the obvious choice, but I'd like to side with Dope, pushed mostly by the in-movie band, Awreeoh, but with a spectacular sample of modern and classic hip-hop hits.

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