The Year in Barnesyard – 2015 Mid-Year Review

imagesBy Daniel Barnes

IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

The best 2015 release I’ve seen so far is Don Herzfeldt’s 17-minute animated short World of Tomorrow.  It’s a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of work, equally hopeless and life-affirming, dire and playful and powerful all at once. See it tomorrow and send your clones back to thank me yesterday.

And now for my recap of the first half of 2015.  Links to my original Sacramento News & Review, CO Springs Independent, San Antonio Current, and E Street Film Society reviews are included wherever applicable.

* = indicates a film that never played in a Sacramento-area theater

TOP 10 FEATURES OF 2015

*1) The Duke of Burgundy

imagesMY TAKE: “It’s tempting to label the all-female Burgundy as [director Peter] Strickland’s sex-movie-without-sex B-side to his violent-movie-without-violence Berberian, especially since both films seem to encode their protagonists’ third-act psychological breakdowns into the DNA of their images.  But Strickland penetrates much deeper into the psyches of his characters in The Duke of Burgundy, finding the erotic in the banal, the banal in the erotic, and infinity and insanity between a lover’s knees.”

2) Mad Max: Fury Road

MY TAKE: “Oh, so that’s what it feels like to not blink for 2 hours straight. Ow.”

3) It Follows

MY TAKE: “The story touches on themes of venereal disease, rape, contagion fears, PTSD and more, while combining cinematic influences from zombies, ghosts, slashers, J-horror, conspiracy thrillers, exorcisms, Robert Altman, teen sex comedies, apocalypses, John Carpenter, chase films and the first five minutes of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening into something deeply unsettling and nightmarishly lucid. Imagine if Texas Chainsaw Massacre-era Tobe Hooper directed a Richard Linklater rewrite of Under the Skin.”

index4) Wild Tales

MY TAKE: “The revenge film to end all revenge films, a glorious and bonkers blast of visual creativity and storytelling energy, and one of the most purely entertaining films of the year. If the naughty-boy, early-1990s ouevres of Pedro Almodovar (who co-produced the film with his brother Agustín Almodóvar) and Quentin Tarantino were somehow able to copulate, then Wild Tales would be their sick and beautiful sextuplet offspring.”

5) Timbuktu

MY TAKE: “Rest assured that [director Abderrahmane] Sissako cuts his searing social realism with significant doses of absurdist comedy and dreamlike beauty.

6) Far from the Madding Crowd

MY TAKE: “Far from the Madding Crowd may or may not be the equal of [director Thomas Vinterberg’s] The Hunt, but it’s probably the more impressive achievement — a beautifully mounted, fiercely intelligent, bracingly alive literary adaptation that remains an unabashed crowd-pleaser.”

index7) Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem

MY TAKE: “It’s minimalist but moving, A Separation meets Anatomy of a Murder, a methodical and emotional process film fused with a potent legal drama, as well as a fascinating look inside a religious bureaucracy where male supremacy is written into law.”

*8) Results

MY TAKE: “A Sundance-era “that guy” with nearly 100 feature film credits in the last quarter century, Kevin Corrigan has always been an actor who speaks and moves to rhythms that only he can hear.  This barbed comedy from indie legend Andrew Bujalski is getting promoted as a Guy Pearce/Cobie Smulders rom-com, but the breakout star is Corrigan, getting one of his juiciest, Corrigan-iest roles in years, and giving a career-defining performance in exchange.”

9) Clouds of Sils Maria

MY TAKE: “The film explores the psychology of female role-play with depth and intelligence, and the performances are outstanding—Binoche brings her expected ethereal complexity, and Stewart cuts through her aura like vinegar through grease.”

index10) ’71

MY TAKE: “The violence is sudden and devastating and immediate—you feel it—and [director Yann] Demange navigates this 1970s urban war zone with the intensity and clarity of a born filmmaker.”

TOP 5 DOCUMENTARIES OF 2015

*1) Approaching the Elephant

MY TAKE: “The birth of democracy is the death of empathy. Or perhaps it’s the other way around? Either way, I’m late for my vasectomy.”

*2) Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

MY TAKE: “Heroin is bad.”

index*3) I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story

MY TAKE: “An open and affecting look at the little white-haired man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – withdrawn, childlike, curious, and mercurial, not unlike his two iconic characters.”

4) Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

MY TAKE: “By allowing Shepard to become flesh and blood, it only makes his hate crime murder seem that much more personal, the outpouring of hate at his funeral that much more infuriating, and the “generation of advocates” that became his legacy that much more inspiring.”

5) Dior and I

MY TAKE: “In the wake of Project Runway, there has been a boom in fashion world documentaries, many of them simplistic and self-serving, and almost all of them structured in the manner of a reality show. Frédéric Tcheng’s Dior and I goes for something more ambitious and complex, a cross-generational dialogue about artistic authorship.”

10 MORE REALLY GOOD MOVIES THAT NEVER PLAYED IN SACRAMENTO

*Appropriate Behavior

*Ballet 422

*Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll

images*Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

*Kung Fu Killer

*Maps to the Stars

*Mommy

*Predestination

*When Marnie Was There

*Wolf at the Door

JUST PLAIN AWFUL (The 10 Worst of 2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron

MY TAKE: “We get it, guys—you hate women.”

Broken Horses

MY TAKE: “It’s hard to tell if the film is an unfunny joke or an earnest failure.”

Cake

MY TAKE: “A so-so Lifetime special and a pretty lousy film.”

*The Cobbler

MY TAKE: “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

Entourage

imagesMY TAKE: “This isn’t a binge watch, it’s a purge watch.”

The Gunman

MY TAKE: “Not a particularly well-written film, but at least it’s also poorly directed, and wastes the time and talents of several world-class actors.”

*Like Sunday, Like Rain

MY TAKE: “Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day pops up in a few scenes as Meester’s no-good boyfriend, and of his performance I can only say: Adam Levine, I apologize.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

MY TAKE: “This is just about the Sundance-iest Sundance movie that Sundance ever Sundanced, so aggressively quirky and needy and contrived that it makes The Spitfire Grill look like A Woman Under the Influence.”

*Project Almanac

MY TAKE: “No gimmick in cinema past, present or future could make this tripe palatable. It exists solely to shill Red Bull and other demographic-appropriate products.”

Taken 3

MY TAKE: “The only thing “taken” here is the plot from almost every episode of Murder, She Wrote.”

Where Hope Grows

MY TAKE: “In a pile of manure, apparently.”

imagesTOP 10 MOVIES I STILL NEED TO SEE

*Buzzard

*Eden

*Hard to Be a God

*Heaven Knows What

*Inside Out

*Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

*A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

*Slow West

*Welcome to New York

While We’re Young

AWARD-WORTHY PERFORMANCES

Desiree Akhavan, *Appropriate Behavior

indexKristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria

Christopher Plummer, Danny Collins

Jack Black and James Marsden, The D Train

Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna, *The Duke of Burgundy

Salma Hayek, *Everly

Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenarts, and Michael Sheen, Far from the Madding Crowd

Gemma Arterton, Gemma Bovery

Ronit Elkabetz, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem

Karidja Troue, *Girlhood

Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams

Maika Monroe, It Follows

Viggo Mortensen, *Jauja

Vincent D’Onofrio, Jurassic World

imagesPaul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti, and Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and Nicolas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road

Channing Tatum, Magic Mike XXL

Ayako Fujitani, *Man from Reno

Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska, *Maps to the Stars

Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement, Mommy

Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, *Predestination

Kevin Corrigan, Cobie Smulders, and Guy Pearce, *Results

Gaspard Ulliel, Saint Laurent

Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green, *The Salvation

Jack O’Connell, ‘71

Ibrahim Ahmed, Timbuktu

imagesJemaine Clement and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, What We Do in the Shadows

Zsofia Psotta and Sandor Zsoter, *White God

Oscar Martinez, Ricardo Darin, and Erica Rivas, Wild Tales

Milhem Cortaz and Leandra Leal, *Wolf at the Door

RELATED LETTERBOXD LISTS

*Top 10 of 2015 (Features + Docs)

*2015 Unranked

*2015 Catchup

*2015 Contenders (movies I rated 4 stars or higher)