Hey guys! Nothing offends me more than not getting a chance to chime on what offends me, so—inspired by Dana’s righteous tirade against Lava—I’d now like to offer a list of 25 things that offended me at the movies in 2015.
The dismissal of Blackhat. When Blackhat bombed in January, critics were quick to make Michael Mann’s hacker jam into the butt of a joke that was ultimately on themselves. Ridiculing a movie this lithe and kinetic—a globetrotting adventure that chases its demons with a greyhound’s conviction, and manages to present the future of white-collar crime through the low-rent thrills of a vintage ’80s thriller—seemed a bit amnesiac just a week after Taken 3 hit theaters.
The Boy Next Door’s Most Valuable Book. There were a lot of laughable moments in Jennifer Lopez’s erotic January thriller (“Jennifer Lopez’s erotic January thriller” is the kind of phrase that feels like it should only be said when pointing a wand at Voldemort), but none were sillier than the bit in which sociopath Noah (Ryan Guzman) gives his high school English teacher (Lopez) a book that he claimed to be a “first edition of The Iliad.”
The under-appreciation of Samuel L. Jackson. The man will go to his grave without an acting Oscar because we are all morons and monsters. From the lisped villain of Kingsman to the swaggering emcee of Chi-raq and then—finally—his career-topping role as Maj. Marquis Warren in The Hateful Eight, Samuel L. Jackson has had the kind of year that should make us realize (and atone for) how we take one of our most ubiquitous actors for granted. It won’t. May God strike us down with great vengeance and furious anger.
The sex-negative nonsense of Hot Girls Wanted. The year’s worst documentary was likely this Sundance stink bomb about how young girls are preyed upon by the Florida porn industry. A moral crusade that’s so eager to cast its subjects as victims that it ends up stripping them of their agency altogether, the regressive Hot Girls Wanted is pretty much what you’d expect from a doc that opens with a fear-mongering montage implicating Lena Dunham as a gateway drug to gang-bangs.
Kevin Costner as the main character in McFarland, USA. It might be time to retire the inspirational sports movie about a gruff white man who learns that people of other races are capable of earning his admiration. Creed will have been worth all the excitement if it knocks out that trope once and for all.
The Cobbler. All of it.
When Marnie Was There and the quiet death of Studio Ghibli. America’s favorite pastime is making sure that its culture is as inhospitable to quality animation as possible, and 2015 was another nail in a coffin that’s already more metal than wood. Unsurprisingly, the year’s best animated feature was Studio Ghibli’s wistfully bittersweet When Marnie Was There, and unsurprisingly it earned a whopping $561,085 at the U.S. box office because it never played in more than 57 theaters. American audiences have never appreciated the inimitable magic of Ghibli’s films, and now that world’s greatest animation studio has retired from the feature business, we’ve officially blown it once and for all. May your kids be too busy obsessing over Frozen to recognize the profound extent to which you’ve failed them.
The weightlessness of Furious 7. Once upon a time, the Fast and Furious franchise actually took place on planet Earth. It was grounded—ridiculous, but grounded. Every practically executed car crash or explosive splash of twisted metal reminded audiences that the road to heaven could use a few speed bumps along the way. By the time the series’ seventh installment rolled around, however, life had tragically imitated art, and so art decided to detach from life entirely. Furious 7 finds Dom and his “family” parachuting V8s from airplanes and launching cars between Dubai skyscrapers. It isn’t long before the action seems as weightless as the drama, and by the time Paul Walker is magically reanimated into the action, the eerie effect seems no less divorced from reality than anything in the movie before it.
Tony Stark. The biggest problem about Age of Ultron wasn’t that it had too many characters (although it obviously did), but that it hinged on the most boring one of them all. Robert Downey Jr. first brought Iron Man to life with an expertly calibrated mix of snark and sociopolitical sincerity, but subsequent installments have shown the character to have less range than the Wi-Fi network in your parents’ house, and his self-righteous shtick now feels slightly older than Stan Lee.
Both of the jokes in Hot Pursuit. Reese Witherspoon is short! Sofia Vergara is foreign! Give us your money!
Lava. Dana did a brave and brilliant job of sending this evil back into the fires of Mordor from whence it came, but enough is never enough when it comes Pixar’s rancid, sexist, culturally insensitive, and universally agonizing story of a horny volcano. Pixar deciding to foist this nightmare upon unsuspecting children (and their poor parents) before Inside Out was like a fancy restaurant force-feeding diners an amuse-bouche of molten dog crap.
Bing Bong. I’m happy that he died—I’m offended that you cried.
The lazy, reflexive response to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve had a unique relationship with this Sundance-winning tear-jerker, but the fact remains that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not a movie about a girl who dies of cancer for the benefit of the basic white boy next door! It’s a movie about how the basic white boy next door became a better, more empathetic human being because a girl he knew happened to die of cancer. This is the rare film that understands that difference, and speaking on behalf of basic white boys next door everywhere, there’s a lesson here we could all stand to learn.
The Jurassic Park gag in Ted 2. No movie this bad has the right to make me laugh this hard.
Wasting Judy Greer. In this summer’s blockbusters, the talented Greer was almost as familiar a sight as the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge. In most cases, she was also just as integral to the plot of the movie at hand (read: not at all). Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Ant-Man, and Entourage all treated her like she was getting in their way. It’s the other way around, boys.
Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man abs. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man abs could be an entire phase of Marvel movies unto themselves, and yet they’re unveiled for exactly one shot. A massive F-you both to the women and men longing for more and to the legions of insecure men whose self-esteem depended on Rudd not still being a Baldwin under all that spandex. For shame.
The cuts in Rogue Nation’s underwater sequence. Tom Cruise had to become an OT XVIII SUPREME BEING in order to learn to hold his breath for six minutes in order to perform the big underwater set piece in the middle of Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, so why did Christopher McQuarrie splice the scene with so many cuts and distract from his leading man’s supposed triumph over oxygen? Very suspicious.
The Bawstun Accents in Black Mass. You know the awegee scene in Eyes Wide Shut? Imagine that, but instead of weayin cawnivuhl masks, everyone has unbelievably terrible Bawstun accents. And theh’s nawt really any sex.
The raging BS that is He Named Me Malala. Waiting for “Superman” director Davis Guggenheim (who once won an Oscar for filming Al Gore’s Powerpoint presentation) clearly believes in the value of education, but there are so many things that he still hasn’t learned. Namely, how to frame an argument on film. His documentary about the incredible Malala Yousafzai callously withholds the fact that the Taliban once shot his young subject in the head until the movie’s final minutes. It’s a confounding approach to the inspiring story of the youngest-ever Nobel laureate, and it’s made all the worse by Guggenheim’s explicit aversion to anything that might sour the carefree mood he forces upon a girl defined by her ability to overcome trauma. Davis, from one unrepentant liberal to another: You’re not helping.
The chaotically dim direction and cinematography of Suffragette. Watching this well-meaning but weirdly underexposed disaster was the only time in my life when I literally couldn’t see why women deserve the right to vote.
The Martian. It is/was 2015—why would anyone want to come back to Earth? Especially when he had an entire planet to himself, free from terrorism and Men’s Rights Activists and Lava? This movie made no damn sense.
Black Coal, Thin Ice being dumped to home video. This astonishing Chinese neo-noir was one of the year’s best films regardless of whether that year is 2014—when it won the Berlin International Film Festival—or 2015, when it was dumped onto DVD and Blu-ray by Well Go USA. A ton of good movies skipped theatrical in 2015, but this is the only one that skipped VOD as well. It’s on Netflix and Amazon streaming now, so don’t miss it.
Taking Tom Hanks for granted. Had the lead role in Bridge of Spies been played by any other actor, Leonardo DiCaprio would have found himself a distant second at the Oscars. But the casual perfection with which Tom Hanks plays everyman lawyer James Donovan—shivering his way to a rare warmth (his sustained cold is itself one of the year’s most remarkable performances) and steering that movie through the moral muck of the Cold War—has been all but ignored precisely because Hanks is the only living actor who could have played him.
Spectre ruins the decade of Daniel Craig. I’ve written at length about how the year’s most disappointing film retroactively dismantled the greatest run of James Bond movies since the ’60s. And on Christmas morning, just to add insult to injury, we learned that Sony junked one of the best Bond songs ever recorded in favor of Sam Smith’s white noise.
The inevitability of Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar nomination. Oh, I guess he mumbled so much better in Creed than he did in Rocky Balboa.
I’m so offended I’m starting to feel a touch of the vapors. Mark, please prepare my fainting couch.
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