Since it’s awards season, I thought I would come up with a few of my own.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts Award
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A familiar script and conventional special effects would not be a recipe for success these days, but combined with some earnest acting we had the most satisfying movie of the year. Full credit to director JJ Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy for figuring out the pulse of the audience.
Best opening scene
Bridge of Spies
The wordless opening sequence shows Russian spy Rudolf Abel start the day by putting the finishing touches on a self-portrait in his cramped apartment, then step out and walk through the streets of 1950s Brooklyn on his way to a rendezvous. The lighting and composition in those few minutes in the apartment can be a visual textbook for any student of filmmaking. And you already see why actor Mark Rylance deserves that Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Best ending scene
Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) conducts a performance of his Simple Songs, sung by Korean soprano Sumi Jo.
Nelly (Nina Hoss) sings Speak Low and her husband slowly realizes who she is; the phoenix has risen from its ashes.
Danny Collins (Al Pacino) and his son (Bobby Cannavale) wait for the doctor’s verdict.
Infinitely Polar Bear
Cam Stuart’s (Mark Ruffalo) playful emotional blackmail almost works as his two daughters choose a play date over his offer to go boating on a beautiful day
Most disturbing/ unresolved ending
Z for Zachariah
John (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Ann (Margot Robbie) lose their innocence in the garden of Eden
Best post-credits scene
Shameik Moore shows us his moves to The Humpty Dance by the Digital Underground. Pharrel Williams and Sean Combs were executive producers for this delightful coming-of-age dramedy.
Most horrifying scene
Agu’s (Abraham Attah) first kill (Beasts of No Nation)
Most emotional moment
Rocky confronts his own mortality in Creed
Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldanha break down as they try to figure out their lives towards the end of Infinitely Polar Bear
Best dance sequence
Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno boogie to Get Down Saturday Night in Ex Machina.
Best action sequence
Everything in Mad Max: Fury Road
Everything in Sicario
Everything in The Revenant
Best single shot
Adonis Creed and his team enter the ring for his title fight against Ricky Conlan; the camera follows them from the back room through the corridor into the packed stadium. Goosebumps.
Most disappointing character
Captain Phasma from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best (wordless) introduction to a character
Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in Bridge of Spies
Most over-the-top characters
Daisy Domergue played by Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Coma-Doof Warrior played by Australian musician iOTA (Mad Max: Fury Road); check out the montage of scenes below
Far From the Madding Crowd
“I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding if I could be one without getting a husband!”
“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
Straight Outta Compton (songs by NWA)
Best color palette
The Danish Girl
DP Danny Cohen captures the beauty of the Dutch skies and architecture while set decorator Michael Standish, production designer Eve Stewart and costume designer Paco Delgado skillfully coordinate the interior look (all 3 have been Oscar-nominated)
The Man from UNCLE
Costume designer Joanne Johnston and set decorator Elli Griff bring to life a glorious Italian summer by clothing their glamorous stars in 60s’ high fashion
DP Luca Bigazzi juxtaposes the cool beauty of the Swiss Alps and the opulence of a luxury resort against the barren lives of its residents
Most ubiquitous male actor
32-year-old Irish actor Domnhall Gleeson seemed to be everywhere this year. He played the naïve programmer who stumbles onto a dark secret in Ex Machina, the evil but needy General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the well-meaning commander of an ill-fated hunting party in The Revenant and the attractive Rugby player who steals Saoirse Ronan’s heart in Brooklyn. He is the son of veteran character actor Brendan Gleeson. Harry Potter fans may remember him as the oldest Weasley son Bill from the last 2 films.
Most ubiquitous female actress
27-year-old Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is one of the most talented young actresses around today. She was an eerily sentient robot in Ex Machina, portrayed British pacifist Vera Brittan in Testament of Youth and played sassy East German auto mechanic turned spy Gaby Teller in the big-budget revival of The Man from UNCLE. She ended the year with an Oscar-nominated performance in The Danish Girl as Gerda Wegener, the Dutch painter who stood by her husband during his tragic transgender journey. She also had a supporting role in the little seen Bradley Cooper flop Burnt.
Irrespective of the level of critical acclaim, entertainment value or filmmaking quality (all of which are very good), I consider these 3 films to be essential viewing for their subject matter
The story of how the Boston Globe uncovered widespread cases of child abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area and the efforts by the Church to protect the offenders. This documentary-style, no frills movie features pitch-perfect acting. The lack of melodrama makes the story even more hard-hitting.
Beasts of No Nation
Set in a West African country torn by civil war, this is a fictitious account of a how a young boy is separated from his family and forced to become a child soldier. Loss of innocence on every level. This movie features mainly non-actors (plus a brilliant Idris Elba) and at times is unwatchable for the real-life horror it puts on screen.
Set in the middle years of the suffragette movement, this is the story of a laundry shop worker (Carey Mulligan) who is drawn to the cause by sheer chance. As her involvement grows, her husband throws her out and she undergoes many physical and mental trials; all of which further strengthen her resolve. Although a work of fiction, it showcases the ridiculous attitudes that existed towards women’s rights in the early 1900s.