Sunday, January 3, 2016

The 2015 Kryptos! We Talk the Best and Worst and What Made an Impression in 2015

Hey, everybuddy!

Welcome to the 2015 Signal Watch Awards, or, as we're calling them here - The Kryptos!  We've named the awards after everyone's favorite flying super dog.  We were going to call them The Jimmies, but that sounded like a crappy local pop-punk band, or some sort of speed the kids would be doing by crushing up their ADD meds, and we're not doing it.

So, welcome to the First Annual Kryptos - for 2015!

It's sepia for class


I'm on record for saying I think the Oscars are dumb, and if you didn't know that:  I think the Oscars are dumb.  If you disagree with me, I encourage you to Google the Oscar winners of the past twenty years and challenge you to look at the list of both nominees and winners and not say "huh..." and then try to figure out what everyone was thinking with Braveheart.

So, in general, I'm kind of against the idea of a "best" movie.  Best at what?  Surely Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead was the best movie about a dead babysitter in 1991.

And, yet, Top 10 lists are so five years ago.

Of late, I've thought of movies more how you think of books when you walk into a library.  They smell.  I kid.  No, the date on a movie is important, but it's in no way a deciding factor in whether it's worth checking out or not.  It's important for contextualizing what you're watching, but a new movie to me is a new movie to me, no matter the release date.

In 2015, we watched 181 movies.  For more on that, check out this previous post.

I've had some separation from these movies at this point, so I've had time to get past immediate reactions and re-consider a bit as I've gone over my list.   So, what did we see in 2016?  Much of what we'll discuss will focus on "what was new to me" this year, or what really stuck out.


I've had a few.

Probably the movies I found just weren't worth watching included Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1957).  Curiously, both movies seem at least somewhat well-liked in sci-fi circles, but I just never got into them.

While neither movie was outright terrible, Payback (1999) and John Wick (2014) had strong starts before veering off into cliched, ridiculous changes in tone and plot that had that smell of studio-involvement to ensure the movies - which came frighteningly close to having a voice of some sort - could be safely consumed by dumbs.  Payback was the far greater offense as the source material is readily available and a better version or two of this movie had already been filmed.  John Wick just decided to go from John Woo-action moody thriller to a Tex Avery cartoon at some point, and winds up in that "missed opportunity" category that can be so vexing.

The movie that set up a premise and then somehow failed to understand itself well enough to not make exactly the movie it was claiming it was the antidote for:  Tomorrowland (2015), of course.

Also, all of the Pre-Marvel Studios Captain America movies are insanely bad, but none of them killed a franchise in quite the same way Superman IV managed to do.  And, speaking of Christopher Reeve, he's in no way to blame in either case, but Somewhere in Time (1980) was by far the dullest movie I watched all year.

In the realm of "why?" we have Finding Rin-Tin-Tin (2007), a deeply fictionalized account of the early days of the real-life Rin-Tin-Tin as a foundling in WWI France by an American soldier.  The tone is all over the place, the "jokes" cringe-worthy, the sincere moments cloying, the acting wretched, and the whole thing feels like an attempt to cash in on a dead dog's good name and abuse the complicated legal status of the Rin-Tin-Tin trademark.

This was probably the worst movie I watched at home all year, in it's own, special, incompetent way.

Theatrically, the trainwreckiest movie of the year and the one which made me weep for America was, of course, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Badly written, clumsily directed, poorly acted, sexy as an olive loaf, the movie felt like the amateur writing it was - a movie that, without the book, Lifetime would have looked at with a raised eyebrow and asked if the writer were being serious.  Beyond that, the movie felt oddly...  irresponsible in a way that, when it wasn't boring me, made me worry about the messages it was reinforcing to viewers while also providing straight up misinformation and rewarding bad decision making by all players.  If this were an action movie, our hero would constantly be looking down the barrel of his gun to see if s/he had bullets.

No stars.

My post did okay on the movie (179 hits), but Amy's post racked up over 300 clicks and is well, well worth reading.

Need to Reconsider

Let's be honest, I was a jerk about Birdman (2014).  Whether I like the Oscars or not (I don't), and whether I found the movie jarringly pretentious (I did), I owe it another viewing.  I suspect that a second shot at the film, when I knew what to expect and wasn't just building an argument against the movie in my head the whole time, might lead to a better evening of movie watching.

I was also a complete monster, apparently, when it came to Inside Out (2015), the beloved Pixar cartoon about how feelings are uncontrollable goblins living in your head and that it'll work out if you're a privileged kid lashing out.  Everyone loves this damn movie, so I should probably consider the arguments for the movie and give it another whirl.

Unfortunately, I think, somewhere along the line, I kind of turned on The Imitation Game.  The movie itself wasn't actually bad, exactly, but the Wikipedia article on Turing was somehow more truthful and interesting.  And that's kind of why I avoid a lot of "true story" Hollywood films.  The studios can't help but try to "fix" reality, and sometimes those stories are okay how they were.

Best Packaging of a Movie for Home Video

No doubt the Kino Lorber Phantom of the Opera BluRay is a top contender for a single movie, but the 50 Years of Bond set from 2012 is absolutely fantastic.  There are actual docs on the restoration process and credit given to who worked on restoring each movie, as well as a hundred hours of additional material alongside the 23 movies.  Phantom has similar materials and all the versions make for compelling viewing, and it's amazing, with everyone dead, they could assemble such a package (really, despite the 50 years, most folks are still around from the Bond era).  So, I'm calling it a tie - just try to appreciate these sorts of things.  I'm not sure, in the era of streaming media, that we're not at the tail end of the studios putting these packages together.

Movies I Enjoyed Most This Year (by category)

In Sci-Fi, I enjoyed The Martian a great deal, of course, but after coming hard behind the book, it's tough to say I enjoyed the movie more than the book, even if I really liked Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain.  And, of course, Big Hero 6 (2014) was a great all-ages movie, but...

Obviously two of my top movies this year included Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Both films felt like honest continuations of what I liked about prior installments in the series, opened the movies up beyond the all-boys audience of 1980's and 90's, and managed to keep me highly engaged for their run-times.  In fact, on a second screening of Mad Max, my Dad thought something was wrong with me because I was leaning forward in my chair the entire time.  Only other movie I've done that with in years was seeing John Carpenter's The Thing a couple of years ago.

Look, Star Wars had some issues, and it's far from perfect, but also far from over.  But like many of you who grew up on the original trilogy, this movie brought me back to a galaxy I'd totally given up on, and that's no mean feat.

Of the new Horror movies I watched, while I'll definitely re-watch Trick'r'Treat (2007), when it comes to the best-made and most surprising films, it's a toss-up between Mad Love (1935) and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and, upon reflection, the two actually may have a bit in common.  Something to consider.

Drama is a tough category as it's terribly broad.  It's tough to beat Bette Davis's performance in Now, Voyager (1942).  Thief (1981) is the one, though, that I come back to a bit, as far off as that viewing was now.

Of the docs I watched - Salesman (1968), but it's an American classic, so that should be no real surprise.  The Big Bird film was very, very good.  Salesman was great.

From the Comedy films I watched, I remember most of them very fondly.  Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) deserves a strong mentions, as does Love Crazy (1941), both with Myrna Loy.   But, for very different reasons, I think my two favorite comedies this year were Desk Set (1957) and Peanuts (2015).

In Action and Adventure, which I'm lumping together here, of the new movies I saw (which weren't many), The Getaway (1972) wins the day.  That was a hell of a movie.

It's always a good year when you can catch The Third Man, but this was, in fact the second time I'd seen it, so I can't count it.  While I enjoyed Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) a great deal, my favorite new-to-me Thriller of the year had to be Key Largo (1948) - and, in fact, it may be my favorite non-theatrical release movie I watched all year.  Highly recommended.

So, the Krypto for Best Movie I Watched at Home goes to Key Largo and the most fun I had in the theater was either Star Wars or Mad Max.


I won't spend as much time on Television, but we had a number of shows we stuck with.

  • The Flash
  • Agent Carter
  • Daredevil
  • Jessica Jones (more on this when we wrap it up)
  • The Americans
  • Fargo
  • Mad Men
  • Face-Off (this show is perfect for my time on the elliptical)
  • Documentary Now
  • Archer
  • The Spoils Before Dying
  • Drunk History
  • The Muppets
  • Mythbusters (such as it's been)
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • The American Experience

What little I caught of Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, Another Period and other shows are all great indicators of the future of comedy on TV.  And, hey, check it out - female driven shows.

Weirdly, I can't name any Network shows I'm watching aside from Supergirl (which we're always one scene away from quitting on), The Muppets and Agent Carter, so I'm particularly glad to have Netflix, FX and others picking up the slack.

Really, the shows I cared about the most this past year were probably Flash, Fargo and The Americans.  Agent Carter gets high points, too, of course, and we're looking forward to new episodes here shortly.

We'll miss Mad Men a great deal, and one day we'll re-watch the whole thing over.  But it's gonna be work, we know, so not quite yet.  And we're bidding a fond adieu to Mythbusters as Adam and Jamie move on to new adventures as the new episodes will be the last.

Yeah, all of this sounds about right.  And looks like a ton of TV.  Now wonder I feel like all I do is watch TV sometimes.  I'm sure I missed something.

If I have to give a Krypto it's probably to Fargo for best show and the entire cast for best performance.  And the crew for best everything else.

So in conclusion...

I guess that's it.  Congratulations, I guess?  Winners can pick up your awards after the ceremony or something.  

I dunno.  


Paul Toohey said...

I think you described how I felt about Birdman perfectly. I've read a couple articles about how they worked together to make the movie happen, they had 6 weeks of rehearsals with a full crew to make it work (I still think the decision to go with the direction they did with the camera ruined the movie). There were scenes with multiple boom ops, and they would boom a section of the scene and then hide their boom and become an extra. Kinda interesting.

horus kemwer said...

Birdman: Just rewatched it and it stood up tremendously (I'd liked it the first time around, though . . . . )

Mad Max: You need to suck it up and give this the theatre (see that) Krypto. No matter how much Force beat (admittedly worst case) expectations, Max was better.

The League said...

Yeah, I actually agree: Max was the better movie from a script and technical standpoint, and it was a hair's breadth decision. And both surprised me in a year when I thought the re-makes and re-imagining's method was crushing the soul out of me. Mad Max gave me faith in movie-making. Star Wars gave me faith in myth making via the movies, and that was something I've felt was sorely lacking from Hollywood even (maybe especially) in this era of superheroes.

The League said...

@paul - that's actually very, very smart with the boom ops. There's so much good in the movie, and, really, all I really remember about it now is this feeling of "is this guy making a whole movie about being unhappy that people go see sci-fi movies instead of art-house stuff?" I need a re-watch.