Now that 2015 has closed, it's time for one of those Best/Worst of 2015 columns. Here is my contribution to this endeavor.
Officially, I've reviewed 33 films for the year, though I have 35 films on my list (two of which I've been rather lazy to write). I have seen more than 35 films, but some (for example, Terminator: Genisys) I didn't review (in that case, I wanted to look over all the Terminator films before tackling that one). Also, as I watch more 2015 films, this list will change. This is why I always add 'So Far', because as more films are included, and as I rethink some films, there will be shifts.
Well, let's get going.
I've been a consistent critic of the Kendrick Brothers and their clumsy mix of theology and filmmaking. This is why War Room is a genuine shock: a film that actually works as a film as opposed to a live-action sermon. I think it also helped that the Kendricks decided that there were black people in America. This willingness to be more inclusive, to focus on one story rather than hundreds, and to acknowledge, ever so slightly, the sin they preach about elevated War Room to not just their finest film, but their most polished production.
I tend to be wary of those 'based on a true story' films, worrying that things get exaggerated. However, McFarland USA was inspirational in a good way. Of particular note is the portrayal of the Hispanic characters, who weren't monolithic stereotypes but fully-rounded individuals. I also related to the family humor in the film. Of particular note is when the mother keeps piling on enchiladas on the Anglo coach, then ends with giving him a Tupperware full of them. "For the family," she tells him. Quickly tapping the Tupperware, she then scolds him with, "Don't forget to bring back". That is SO my mother.
For me, Ant-Man was this year's Guardians of the Galaxy: a film I expected to be a disaster that instead turned into a sheer delight. Ant-Man, in its lightness, self-awareness, and actual warmth, was the antithesis of its Marvel rival The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was packed with action, with humor, with all-around great performances (especially Michael Pena, who lent the film some of its funniest moments), and was unapologetically fun.
The first of two documentaries to make my list, Best of Enemies will delight political junkies (which I'm a bit of). The lifelong enmity between conservative intellectual William F. Buckley and liberal enfant terrible Gore Vidal reached its zenith (or nadir) in their debates during the 1968 Presidential election. Seeing these two well-read, posh men tear at each other like alley cats is amusing and sad, and from it sprung the Age of Pundits, where shouting at your opponent and speaking only to those who agree with you (FOX and MSNBC being the masters of this).
Next time, the Ten Worst of 2015 So Far.