Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 in Movies, 81-90

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl."

("Oh, you wanna know what? Here's a favorite toy: scissors. When Rachel's father first left, she gathered up all his books, his favorite little books, and she rounded 'em up, and she cut them right up--please don't tell her I'm telling you, she would chop my head off. But she just 'click,' 'click,' 'click,' and I was like, 'attagirl!' Snip. Snip. Snip. She was very mad."

--Molly Shannon, slaying this monologue as dying girl Rachel's mother)

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81. Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980, dir. Mike de Leon)

I have a confession to make: This is my first Mike de Leon. I don't have access to cable TV, and is it really the fault of majority of my generation that a lot of Filipino films aren't within convenient reach? This is why this restoration project by ABS-CBN is so damn important. And we are very, very thankful. Oh, and the movie? I loved it. It's the kind of comedy we hardly get nowadays, the ones where the funny things happen just because they can.

82. Beasts of No Nation (dir. Cary Fukunaga)

It's curious how, as the bodies pile up and blood seeps deeper into the bombed-out earth of "Beasts of No Nation," the film itself seems to shrink in both scope and emotional gravity. You start to care less for the characters, for the dire situations they're stuck in, for the messages the movie wants to impart. No offense to the makers, who, I'm sure, must have started out making this film with all the right intentions. The ugliness, and consequently the beauty, is all there. Power, too, mostly through Idris Elba's hypnotizing performance as the rebels' commander. But to be Hallelujah-ed by the likes of Sasha Stone (whom I admire in a lot of respects)? No way, however engaging "Beasts" is, or however engaging others make it out to be.

83. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is the good cancer movie that "The Fault in Our Stars" failed to be. There are times when it teeters on the edge of the familiar, meaning the overused and overworked, but by and large it moves with a buoyant, refreshing energy. This is definitely one of my favorite screenplays of the year.

84. Spy (dir. Paul Feig)

Rose Byrne is the star of this show. No offense to the wonderful Melissa McCarthy, but like in "Neighbors," Byrne knows that the way to winning in comedy these days is through nonchalance. Less noise, less falls, less contortions of the face. And especially if you're tasked to play a British boarding school-educated, Bulgarian super-bitch, stick to the character and trust the humor to just ooze on its own. Call it the Regina George school of humor. As for the film itself, sure, the story is conventional, but it's funny as hell. "There's a rat on my boob," says someone. The office is infested with bats, just because. The lead even gets a sidekick who, it turns out, is even funnier than her. These days, McCarthy no longer has to fight for the attention; she's sitting at the center, still doing her thang and owning it, and the rest of 'em minions have to play it harder. Wonderful that everyone in this movie brought their A-game to the floor.

85. Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland)

There are two principal reasons to love "Ex Machina": One, Oscar Isaac, dancing--no, more like swaying, swiveling hips. Best dance scene of the year. Two, Alicia Vikander, who reminds me of Jessica Chastain back in 2011, when the world had just awakened to the genius of Jessica Chastain. Vikander was, in fact, the best thing in the Keira Knightley "Anna Karenina." Here, as a robot, she's the most human element of the movie, and that's no small feat. La Vikander, we should start calling her.

86. Trainwreck (dir. Judd Apatow)

"Can you talk dirty to me?" Amy Schumer asks John Cena. "I'm gonna fill you with protein," he responds. So goes the most hilarious onscreen sex scene of the last five, six, maybe ten years. And then there's Tilda Swinton, whom I once again failed to recognize until the end credits (just like in "Snowpiercer"). "I want you to research whether garlic makes semen taste any different," she tells one of her writers. Who wouldn't want an editor like that, eh?

87. Mr. Holmes (dir. Bill Condon)

This movie, in which the culminating conflict involves a boy and his wasps, is a waste of Ian McKellen's talents. Consider yourself warned.

88. Far From the Madding Crowd (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)

The suicidal sheep are entertaining and all, and Carey Mulligan is a very attractive flirt, but then that's just the first ten minutes. I managed to get through the next twenty with what was left of my attention; I stopped caring after thirty. Again, consider yourself warned.

89. I'll See You in My Dreams (dir. Brett Haley)

Blythe Danner is the reason to see this quietly captivating film. She is the sunshine and rain, happiness and melancholy, friend, lover and mother. It's a performance that knows almost no parallel in terms of complexity and insight; why people aren't talking more about her in the Best Actress race is a terrible puzzlement.

90. The End of the Tour (dir. James Ponsoldt)

Ponsoldt's restrained direction, Donald Margulies' absorbing distillation of the sources and Jason Segel's compelling portrayal of David Foster Wallace all help shape "The End of the Tour" to become one of the year's most intelligent films. It's a classic example of the "nothing-seems-to-happen" method, a movie that relies purely on conversation to drive the narrative forward and draw forth the multitude of emotions. If I were to pick five titles to represent the year, this would be an easy choice.

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