Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Round-Up of 2015 Films I Forgot to Write About

Scene from Anomalisa
With the holiday festivities eating up a lot of time over the past month, I must apologize for not reviewing movies as frequently as I should. While I did my best to write full length reviews for the heavyweights; including Joy, The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant; I forgot to write about smaller films that I had mentioned in some capacity over the preceding months. While I still have a few that I need to catch up on, the following is a brief review roundup of a few titles that I promised to mention, but lost time to write a legitimate review on (though maybe some will get a lengthier piece if time permits). The titles include: Carol, Anomalisa, Tangerine, and more.


Of every film in 2015, there are few that even come close to the magic and perfection of director Todd Hayne's lesbian drama. With amazing performances by Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, this film is a revelation; a film so full of life that to simply view it is to be in awe. Even if the story doesn't grab you, it's still a well told tale with cinematography so gorgeous and dialogue so magnificent that this is essentially what the essence of cinema tries to be. I regret not having time to write a full length review of it last year, though I intend to watch it again soon and possibly have more to say when that time comes. Overall, a must see for those wanting to see the best that 2015 had to offer.


While it may not even show up this awards season, this World War II drama is itself a powerful and unique film worthy of attention (I wasn't aware of it until various end of the year lists mentioned it). There's a lot to admire about the film, even with a fantastical plot revolving around a woman with facial surgery going after the man who ratted her out to The Nazis. While the film as a whole is a wonderful and intriguing take on a familiar subject, it's the ending that will grip you the most. Along with Carol and 45 Years, it's one of those perfect endings that reflect the power of cinema without so much as a word. It's definitely one of the many foreign films that are thankfully given a second life because of end of the year retrospectives, and this one is much deserved.


While I had no intention of covering Junun at great length, it is still intriguing to see director Paul Thomas Anderson dip his toes into the documentary film making. The fact of the matter is that there is no through line here. It's merely an excuse to watch musicians create music while also exploring the wondrous landscapes of India. This film is possibly the most enthusiastic and rich with life film of the year. It's beautiful to look at and, with under an hour running time, is the perfect length for something as experimental as this. If nothing else, it captures an energy that most music documentaries are missing, making you want to go to India in the process.

45 Years

Coming off of two solid seasons of the HBO series Looking, director Andrew Haig returns to film for the first time since his breakout Weekend. This time, he takes a look at an elderly couple that is about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. While this British film may not have a lot special in story or plot, it definitely captures a deeper and more tragic emotional core that makes up a couple that far into their relationship. With excellent performances, especially by dark horse Oscar favorite Charlotte Rampling, this is a film that revels in human nature in wonderful ways. For those that like small and intimate dramas, there's few that are likely to be as emotionally fulfilling as this one is.

Listen to Me Marlon

The concept is extremely novelty and shouldn't work. This documentary is compiled from a mix of old videos of the legendary actor and old recordings that he made while taking hypnosis therapy. Somehow, the results are far more fascinating than simply being a love letter to Brando's massive influence. It's a documentary that follows his life from beginning to his end, showing the changing ideals of an artist in the process. Even if the story is specific, the themes are universal, choosing to show an artist that had a conflicted view of his own career after burning out in the late 60's. It is candid and full of Brando's take on poetic philosophy. Considering that it's still in the running for Best Documentary, there's a good chance that I'll be talking about it more if it lands that nomination.


In 20 years, there are few writers that are going to be as revered and remembered as the oddity that is Charlie Kaufman. With several screenplay credits to his name, this is only his second film as a director (following Synechdoche New York). Of course, it seems weird then that he would choose to do a very intimate drama with puppets. However, it all makes sense in time, as the themes become more apparent and the magic of Kaufman's aloof dialogue choices begin to synchronize with a deeper emotional cue. It's a weird film with simple desires, and that is both its strengths and weaknesses. While I consider it better than his first directorial film, it's still a little too odd for me to fully enjoy. However, Jennifer Jason Leigh (who also has had a great year with The Hateful Eight) manages to make voice acting great again with an endearing performance as the love interest. It's the existential and adult animated film that will likely get more buzz when it shows up in the Best Animated Film category in a few weeks. 


There is currently a campaign going by Mark and Jay Duplass to get Kitana Kiki-Rodriguez to become the first transgender acting nominee in history. It's an honorable goal and definitely striking for a film that takes the D.I.Y. aesthetic to new heights - as it was shot exclusively on camera phones. However, I am not quite as in love with the film as the other critics have been. While its aesthetic is in fact revolutionary, the story is a little too abrasive and crass at times, focusing on transgender prostitutes who are working during Christmas Eve. It's supposed to be a comedy, but the general tone is ruined by obnoxious characters and the story isn't as strong as it could be. Still, great camera work.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Among every film that I mentioned here, this may be my most disappointing experience. With many great critics loving this dark Swedish comedy, I am left not entirely sure why that is. The aesthetics are wonderful and director Roy Andersson's photography is beautiful and uses every ounce of frame perfectly. However, the vignettes aren't always interesting nor is there much to really grasp on to if you find their pacing (which is notoriously slow) problematic. It's a good art film, but not one that I necessarily cared for, especially when compared to Sweden's dark comedy of 2014: Force Majeure. It's a fine film, but it definitely wasn't for me.


Director Gaspar Noe swung for the fences beautifully with Enter the Void. However, his follow-up is more embracing of his provocateur side by making a film that is largely just an excuse to show unsimulated sex scenes with two actors who are not very good at acting otherwise. The story is dull and the sex is duller. While I had no intention to talk about this film at length, it's definitely a disappointment that someone who made such a compelling film just a few years ago could be so void of inventiveness with his latest entry. There's not a lot that's great about the film, so don't even bother.

That's it for now. I do have a ton more that I plan to catch up on, so there may be another round-up later on down the line.

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