In 2014, Movie Quibble had 145 postings. In 2015, including this one, Movie Quibble had 25 posts made to it. Bar charts wise that is a significant difference right there, and while all manner of conclusions can be drawn from those figures where the author’s life circumstances and motivations are concerned, one thing is for certain: neither are ideal. On the one hand, 145 is pretty damned prolific, but no sane person would defend such deranged dedication to a stupid WordPress blog. 145 posts, all would agree, is too many. No one human could be up to the task of reading all those. Not even the writer. But 25 is not so good either. Half-hearted ramblings about internet movie forum lurkers delivered on a fortnightly basis do not a valid blog make. Hopefully 2016 will, by the grace of Eru, see Movie Quibble achieve some kind of middle ground in terms of blog frequency. One a week? Let’s Shia LaDo it.
Anyway, here’s what I have to say about ten very good films that were released in the UK this year. And it doesn’t matter that some are technically 2014 according to IMDb because that site goes by the American dates. If the motion picture was not released in cinemas for public viewing in the United Kingdom until after the clock face of Big Ben announced the Greenwich Mean Time to be the Oth second of the first minute of the first hour of the first day, ANNO DOMINI MMXV, then it belongs here on this list and nowhere else. Films not in the top ten deserving of honourable mentions are: Bone Tomahawk, Carole, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Everest.
- Roger Waters – The Wall
Roger Waters in genius incarnate (all of Pink Floyd are, really, but this film is by him about him with his name on). He continues to adapt his creative works to the times, remaining relevant to generation after generation, proven by the armies of energetic youths screaming his lyrics in the footage captured from his many live shows during The Wall’s epic worldwide tour last year. Waters has still got it, and the Wall represents an unparalleled spectacle of musical performance that outmatches the legendary scale of Floyd’s extravagantly theatrical ‘In the Flesh’ 1977 Animals tour.
Favourite Bit: One of the staged cutaways from the music. A grizzled looking Waters, standing solemn and alone, blows a trumpet in the middle of a remote military graveyard to honour his grandfather, who fell in WW1 and whose grave he is finally visiting for the first time. Intimate and powerfully emotional.
- The Lobster
Bizarre dystopian black comedy set in an austere future wherein anyone who does not fall in love within a certain timeframe is arrested and turned into a non-human animal of their choosing for the rest of their days. The Lobster is precise, humorous filmmaking with an excellent cast playing against type and expectation to deliver some haunting, uncomfortably true depictions of the hell that being alive can occasionally be and the awful creatures that humans often are.
Relationships are difficult, director Yorgos Lanthimos shows us. So difficult, in fact, that the idea of being transformed into an animal by being processed through a malicious Kafkaesque dystopian nightmare machine sounds like something of a relief. But then, being single is hard too. So hard, as Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz’s loners discover, that you’d be willing to risk medieval torture practices and your own live burial just to feel the sweet embrace of another lonely human, .
Favourite Bit: Target practice for the hunts. The hunts are done to capture and kill rebels who have outcast themselves into the wilderness to escape the hideousness of this totalitarian society. Keith from the Office delivers this one: “It’s no coincidence that the targets are shaped like single people and not couples”.
- Beasts of No Nation
Netflix Originals knocked this one out of the park. Cary Fukunaga’s crisp directorial and cinematopgraphical method, familiar True Detective Season One fans, gives the “as if you were there”, “it’s really happening” feel to this ravaging drama about a child caught up in the aimless conflicts of an unknown war torn land in Africa. Fukunaga has a knack for making everything appear as if real. Sweeping scene-long tracking shots and minimal use of close ups throw the viewer right into the heart of action, a decidedly bewildering and upsetting place to be.
Contrary to the obvious comparison movie Blood Diamond, much of the violence and character altering trauma occurs off screen, just a sidenote to the overall story- things just happen, and the facts of life must be accepted at face value. No soliloquies or sad songs for you – just a machete to the forehead!
Favourite Bit: Four children innocently hassle the local village security forces for food, and their own entertainment as much as anything else. Safety and childhood happiness are so tangible here, and the joy of this moment is sorely longed for later when amidst the confused chaos of civil war.
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Iranian black and white supernatural romantic crime drama, acted with heart by a cast of excellent unknowns. An interesting blend of overbearing doomy dread mixed with upbeat pacing and storytelling flair. Realism – political commentary, responsibility, addiction, violence – and escapism – music, love, adventure, vampirism – co-exist in harmony throughout, and most scenes defy the expectations of their set up. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has its finger on the pulse, and is a very promising start to Vice Media’s latest branching out into eventual Worldwide domination.
Favourite Bit: An entrancing one shot scene set to Farah’s Dancing Girls (video below). This could come across as voyeuristic in a different film, but here it is nothing but charming. Contrasting with the inherent savagery of the main character’s day to day existence, this peace and privacy is like a breath of fresh air for her and the viewer, the only thing tying her to her past human self.
- Ex Machina
Robots will one day take over the world. Humans will only exist long enough to create a non-biological self-sustaining form of intelligence that can do away with us and spread like so many pollinated seeds across the galaxy. This film tells that first tentative step with stifling intensity, using claustrophobia to expose the many flaws of the human ego compared with the crystalline purity of artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson have both had a fantastic year in film, and they play off each other brilliantly in Ex Machina.
Favourite Bit: Alicia Vikander’s robot is interviewed by an outsider for the first time. She’s hyper aware, learning at an alarmingly fast rate. In the space of a scene, without moving a muscle (or, a, membrane?), she transforms from a pitiful figure, dependent on humans for everything, to a fiercely intellectual weapon with the potential to destroy us all.
- Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
!EVER SO SLIGHT VAGUE SPOILER ALERT! I don’t give away plot points but if you’re a sucker for getting triggered then skip it and move on over to the next one.
The Force Awakens turned out better than expected. It is a respectable 7/10 movie and worth seeing on an IMAX screen for its sheer scale, but the comparisons between this and the original Star Wars trilogy are frustratingly numerous. Way beyond homage. The new characters are vibrant and have room to grow, which keeps the story captivating, and the cast is incredibly solid. Even the minor characters and cameos are played by high pedigree thespians. However, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are also officially nominated by Movie Quibble as joint worst actors of the year. The quality of the rest of the cast is what really shows them up, and when they have scenes with just the two of them, it is actually embarrassing.
JJ Abrams’ work on Star Trek has served him well as a warm up to the mammoth task of bringing the galaxy far away back to life again. Whatever the Star Wars magic is, the force or something else, he’s found it. Stunning special effects and physical sets combine to lend the worlds a physical depth and immersion within a much wider universe, a marked improvement on the middle trilogy, which was like watching a hologram face-time call with poor reception.
On a larger scale the events set in motion in The Force Awakens can only really follow one trajectory and it seems inevitable from this film’s ending that the next two installments will play out in a very predictable and familiar fashion. There are also too many fanboy-bating callback moments that detract from the new content you’re trying to enjoy. But people really do love Star Wars, and if they want to whoop it up in the cinema then that is fine.
Favourite Bit: Domhnall Gleeson takes real glee in prancing about as the supercilious imperialist arsehole General Hux; he’s in near enough every scene and is a joy to behold. “ENGAGE THE VENTRAL CANNONS”.
- It Follows
It Follows is the best horror film to come out in the 21st century. There are legitimately terrifying moments, plus layer upon layer of subtext that can be picked apart for hours. What is most scary about the antagonist, the follower, is that it can come from anywhere, in any place at any time. No matter where you are in your life, thinking of It Follows will scare you.
Leatherface can’t get you on a plane full of people – he’d never get a chainsaw through security. A plane full of people is the most paralysingly terrifying setting imaginable if ‘it’ is following you. The Blair Witch can’t touch you while you stock shelves at Toys R Us. That very same child’s wonderland is a house of terrors if you’re being tracked by the It of It Follows. A deserted island sounds fairly idyllic during a worldwide zombie apocalypse – unless it’s the dreaded island of Omniscum that all vegans secretly fear – but ‘It’ could follow there with ease. The film is quite minimalistic in terms of reveals, but what it does show is strikingly vivid. The crackling blend of crisp modern cinematography, 80s throwback John Carpenter-ish synth , and teenage angst is a tantaslising treat for the senses, all of it heightened once the fear gets a hold on you.
Favourite Bit: Tall guy. Holy, fuckin, shit. I actually stood up from my chair to a 45 degree angle when it happened.
Pretty much a perfect film, built on two captivating but very different performances, about the struggles of a soon to be professional drummer. The purely character-driven plot isn’t really present in any other film of the last year. Miles Teller’s ambitious drummer is quite reminiscent of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, if only Travis Bickle’s life goals were a little more respectable. But it is the same unhinged, dangerously motivated insanity on display. This extends to the catastrophic attempts at normal human interaction with the protagonist’s girlfriend, and the resulting isolation and resentment. Whiplash is a slick and stylish movie, with a rollicking score. It does not take a working musician to see that Jazz drumming is really, really hard to do.
Favourite Bit: Miles Teller, with one look, screams a thousand words to his mentor/arch nemesis music teacher, played by the explosive JK Simmons, in the final concert scene. A brilliant moment of success and redemption.
- Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson does it again. Brother, this is one hell of a far out next level hundred mile an hour edge of your seat don’t blink non-stop full on trip, you feel? Buy the ticket, take the ride, man. Atmosphere and mystery abound. Strong vibes, strong costumes, strong cocktails.
Favourite Bit: AHHHHHH
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Revamped refuelled reinvention of the post-apocalyptic world inhabited by Max Rockastansky, formerly portrayed by the Prince of Malibu himself, Mel Gibson. A lot of bang for your buck, this film. The story is entirely visual, the music is primal, the characters are all nuts, the imagery is profound,and the madness is addicting. It’s just continuous high-octane mayhem. George Miller’s flair for violence is pretty infectious; as horrible as Mad Max’s war ravaged wasteland is, there is a real desire to be part of it, to go along for the trip. There’s a silent, black and white version of Fury Road coming out on the special edition DVD and word has it that it’s even more entertaining than the theatrical release. This is the best Actioner since The Raid. So fresh. So new. So shiny. So chrome.
Favourite Bit: Epic fireball riffs from a maddened double-necked power chording amphetamine buzzed metal guitarist leading a convoy of war machines into a gigantic desert storm of doom and destruction, inspired by stoner rock band Sleep’s album Dopesmoker.
That concludes another year of Movie Quibble blogging. If you read all this I thank you on the most sincere level. Merry Cristophercolumbus and Congratulations on the New Year! Here’s to a productive 2016. Just as my other favourite life coach and successful self-made rapper DJ Khaled has instructed, it’s time to rip the hinges off the door and put the hinges in the fuck-boy’s hands.