2015 Movie Awards

Favorite Films of 2015

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve reached a decade of top 10 lists. Only a month and a half late! It is, of course, a completely arbitrary exercise, one that has vacillated between a “best of” list and “favorite” list, but I like lists. Lists are American! What are you? A communist? For reference, previous top 10s: [2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

Alyssa Rosenberg recently posed a question on twitter: “if you like rankings of movies, or albums, or whatever, what is it that you like about them?” There were a few schools of thought. One was about how fun it is to argue and play petty status signaling games (which is emphatically not my draw). Another was as a means to discovery, finding something obscure that you’ve never heard of, but might love. Then there’s the list-writer’s perspective, where you’re forced to clarify your thinking in order to generate a meaningful list. In terms of my strategy in building a list like this, there’s definitely a bit of the second thing there, I really do try to highlight some movies that don’t get typical love in other year-end lists. Sometimes I’m more successful at that than others (less so this year, actually). Mostly, though, it’s the third one that I struggle with. I try my best not to let my biases dominate the list, but on the other hand, I want to make sure I actually like the movies in the top 10. It’s tricky. You want some variety, but you don’t want to force it. I like to include a documentary, which has the added bonus that my favorite documentaries tend to be less activist focused than the ones most people choose, but again, I don’t want to force something unworthy on the list. Similarly, I have an affinity for SF, horror, action, and other genre fare that tends to get overlooked in most top 10 lists… but I also don’t want to make it purely genre, because there are other, better movies that must be considered too. It’s a balancing act, and it can be extremely difficult to line up a top 10 that is coherent, represents my tastes, but is also filled with worthy movies.

Especially in a year like 2015, which is filled with excellent choices. I’d make this a top 13 list if that was a thing, and I guess nothing’s stopping me, but again, the value in putting together a list like this is to force a decision. This was a genuinely jam-packed year full of wonderful movies, from the lowliest indie film to the biggest Hollywood blockbuster, the great films just kept coming. Identifying emerging themes is always a silly proposition, but there were a couple that struck a chord with me. The more obvious one is the long-gap sequel, or what Matt Singer called Selective Sequels. Two of the best movies of the year, Mad Max: Fury Road and Creed, were clearly of this mold. Ostensibly sequels, kinda reboots, but both were excellent. Less successful attempts happened this year too, like Jurassic World and Terminator: Genysis, even if one of them was a box office behemoth. The other trend I’m spotting is particularly welcome, and that is the rise of serious science fiction. The past decade has seen a marked rise in quality for cinematic SF, but it’s also often used as window dressing rather than embracing the heart of SF. Several movies this year actually dared to engage with their ideas in ways that most cinematic SF does not, which I judge to be a very good thing.

As of this writing, I have seen 80 movies that could be considered a 2015 release. This is about on-par for me, more than your typical moviegoer, but less than your average critic. Not exactly comprehensive, but enough such that a top 10 is actually a meaningful segment. Standard disclaimers apply (as touched on above), so let’s get to it:

Top 10 Movies of 2015

* In roughly reverse order

  • Predestination – This Spierig Brothers’ time-travel flick constitutes the best adaptation of a Heinlein story ever put to film. Of course, there are strangely few Heinlein adaptations, but this one embraces the sense of wonder that SF is known for (which is more than can be said about most SF films). It’s got some flaws for sure, but they’re endearing ones, and worth it for the payoff (which I’m certainly not going to ruin here).


    This is the wildcard on my list, the one you’re not likely to have seen. Go check it out, then head over to a diner with a friend and spend the day making time-travel diagrams with straws. Paradoxes abound, but Heinlein never let that get in the way of a ripping good yarn. In his words: “A Paradox May Be Paradoctored.”

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Finders Keepers – Starting with a decidedly macabre premise, this documentary about a mummified leg found in a smoker grill at a storage auction manages to pivot into a surprisingly moving story. The true stories of John Wood and Shannon Whisnant are darkly comic, for sure, but there’s a lot of pathos here. Wood’s struggle with survivor’s guilt and drug addition, Whisnant’s quest to become famous at any cost, both are played against each other, but it’s not exploitative as the initial premise makes it seem. Call it a bait and switch, but in a good way that’s ultimately more satisfying than you’d ever have thought.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Room – My heart was literally pounding as I watched a certain sequence in this film, moreso than any horror or suspense film of the year. In a way, I suppose this is a horror film, one that is more grounded and emotionally draining but oddly uplifting in the end. I don’t want to give anything away, but while this will put you through the wringer , even moreso than you think it might as you watch, I found it worth the heartbreak. Exceptional performances all around, but especially from Jacob Tremblay, who plays the child in the story. Not for the faint of heart, but excellent nonetheless.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Ex Machina – Movies haven’t quite caught up with the full implications of artificial intelligence, but they’re inching closer, as this film amply demonstrates. It is a bit contrived, but there are enough red herrings and misdirects bolstered by programmer philosophizing to keep you guessing and even surprise you a few times. First time director Alex Garland keeps things ominous and tense, coaxing excellent performances from the three leads. Especially Alicia Vikander’s chilling take on a manipulative AI, one of the year’s best performances.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • The Hateful Eight – Tarantino has a way of producing conflicting emotions in me that I feel is somewhat underrated in the general discussion of his work. In particular, I’m frequently struck by the way Tarantino manages to juxtapose horrifying violence with comedic timing or thrilling action that results in a sorta delayed conscience reaction once the action subsides. Most pick one side and rail on Tarantino for that, but I cherish the ambiguity and confusion it produces in me. It’s something I’ve noticed all throughout his work, but it is certainly on display here as well.

    Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight

    This may very well be Tarantino’s darkest work, a bit of a sucker punch after his previous two historical epics. In some ways, it’s a difficult movie, but it’s hard not to respect what’s going on here. It’s very, very Tarantino, talky and indulgent, and I love it for that.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

  • The Martian – I can’t help but love this movie for bringing my favorite parts of the written SF genre to the screen. It’s one of the few movies that really emphasizes problem solving, competence, can-do attitudes, and genuine cooperation. Such attitudes are often seen as jejune and unsophisticated by our literary betters, but they are the beating heart of the SF genre, and only a few movies have ever really engaged with this core the way The Martian does. Optimistic, inspiring, gorgeous, and even funny, this movie tackles lots of complicated math and science and puts it on display with an uncommon clarity (which, to be fair, is mostly drawn from Andy Weir’s book, but kudos are still due to Drew Goddard for maintaining the tone and clarity in his adapted script). I don’t know that this will usher in a new era of throwback SF optimism, but a man can dream.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Spotlight – The subject matter here, a look at the journalists who broke the story of decades of child abuse by an alarmingly high number of priests, would normally lead to histrionics, but director Tom McCarthy takes a restrained approach. And this is the best kind of restraint. It’s a movie where you could have created a single character who would be an amalgam of all the people working at a newspaper, had him discover perfidy and make grandstanding speeches to oppose it. But McCarthy plays it straight up, like a journalism procedural, highlighting all the little people digging around in cellars with dead rats, looking for obscure evidence. Many of the actors here are known for their scenery chewing, but once again, McCarthy pulls restrained performances out of them, and the movie benefits greatly from this approach. Oddly, this restraint seems to be painting the movie with terms like “unsexy” or “workmanlike”, which is bizarre because that’s exactly what the story needs. If McCarthy sexed it up, it would not be anywhere near as good a movie. I was tremendously impressed by this movie, perhaps because I just wasn’t expecting what it really delivered.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Inside Out – After some lackluster sequels and troubled original productions, Pixar had a delightful return to form with this movie. It took a simple premise, personifying various emotions inside a young girl’s brain, and embraced the emotional complexity that life requires. Like the best of Pixar’s efforts, it is fun, imaginative, and deceptively insightful.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • What We Do in the Shadows – Comedy gets short shrift in these sorts of lists, so it’s always great when I can point to a genuinely hilarious movie that manages more heft than just a few good lines. This mock documentary about four vampire roommates in New Zealand hits the nail on the head. It’s very funny, but it’s also a loving tribute to old-school vampire lore. Most new vampire movies try to subvert the tropes and as a result, vampires are overplayed and boring, but this movie revitalizes the concept by embracing the commonly accepted lore. It’s a spoof, yes, but it’s also an excellent vampire film on its own.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Mad Max: Fury Road – This is the most propulsive action film of the year. Visually impressive, it relies primarily on practical effects and communicating more through action and visual cues than dialogue or exposition.

    The Doof Wagon in Mad Max: Fury Road

    Plus, it has something called the Doof Wagon, a giant truck that has a bunch of stacked speakers and a guitarist who is bungie corded to it so that he can provide a diegetic heavy metal soundtrack for the militia’s attacks. Oh, and his guitar doubles as a flame thrower. How can you not love this movie?

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Capsule Review]

Alternate #10s

I had a really hard time with the #10 choice above, and frankly #9 and even #8 were in question, especially when I had three movies like the below to consider. On any given day, one of these may have snuck on the list, depending on how whimsical and capricious I was feeling.

  • Creed – The best movie in the series since the original Rocky, primarily because it is literally reckoning with the idea of living in the shadow of the legends of the past. It’s a clever conceit, and director Ryan Coogler gives the film a visual dynamic that really sets the film apart from its predecessors. Perhaps it leans on its predecessors a bit too much, and there are some Rocky tropes that aren’t quite as effective here because they feel a bit perfunctory, it’s hard to fault it for such reaches because there’s no real way to win that battle. This movie does as good as you could ever expect though, and again, it’s something I could have seen in the top 10 if the mood struck me.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

  • The Big Short – Sharp, incisive, damning portrait of the 2008 economic collapse, as told through the eyes of a bunch of dudes who could see the disaster coming and decided to profit off of it. It’s a bit loose, and yet its focus prevents certain aspects of the story from being told. That being said, it’s still one of the best explanations for the crash that I’ve seen, all while maintaining a darkly comic tone.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Bridge of Spies – Sometimes I think we take folks like Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for granted. This movie was generally well received, but I feel like it’s one of the more underrated movies of the year (the irony of this not making the top 10 is not lost on me, but I take that more as the strength of the year than a reflection on the movie itself). In a year with tons of excellent action-packed spy adventures, this one takes a more grounded, real world approach. It’s all deftly put together, filled with excellent performances, and you can even see the Coen brothers’ influence in a few scenes. Not action packed, but a great movie nonetheless, worth seeking out.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Honorable Mentions

* In alphabetical order

  • Ant-Man – You’ve got to respect Marvel’s commitment to trying new and unexpected things, and while I don’t think this year’s efforts were as good as 2014, they did a few interesting things, like resurrecting this obscure character and producing a well executed little heist film. Tons of fun, lots of nice visual gags, and a decent enough introduction to a new hero. Certainly not perfect, but the stage is set for something I could see working well.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Bone Tomahawk – This one was close to an alternate #10, but I figured that I already had a Kurt Russell western where he’s sporting a bitchin’ frontier beard on the list, so this one ends up here in the honorable mentions. It’s a fascinating film though, excellent script, and the gruesome payoff is worth the early deliberate pacing (if, uh, that’s your thing – this is mostly fine, but the violence towards the ending will turn a lot of folks off). I really loved this movie though, and it’s worth checking out for some excellent performances (I mean, Matthew Fox guys, he’s great in this) and dialogue alone.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner] [Capsule Review]

  • Cartel Land – This documentary depicts two conflicts with Mexican cartels, one of which is utterly fascinating, spellbinding, and in the end heartbreaking. The story of a Mexican citizen uprising against the cartels is enough to make this a riveting watch. The other conflict, on the American side of the border, is much less compelling. It’s still interesting, for sure, but it just pales in comparison to what’s happening in Mexico, such that I’d almost rather see these be separate movies. Still, this is well crafted and heady stuff.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Final Girls – Cheeky self-aware slasher horror has been a thing since Scream, but this movie takes it a clever step farther by not only having its heroes steeped in slasher movie knowledge, but by actually inserting them into the movie (Last Action Hero style). It’s breezy and fun, a bit derivative, but with just enough of a tweak on a played-out theme to give it the honorable mention it deserves.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]

  • It Follows – This movie has the best pure-horror premise of the year, and while it does get presented in a visually interesting and tense way, it later becomes clear that the filmmakers didn’t really have anywhere to go with it. That being said, there’s enough here to highly recommend it, and it features some of the scariest stuff of the year.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

  • Kingsman: The Secret Service – In a year with many (many!) action-packed spy adventures, this one takes the cake. Energetic, propulsive stuff, adventurous filmmaking, and some expertly choreographed action sequences. In particular, the long takes in the Church sequence are truly impressive, filled with conflicting emotions, confusion, slow motion, and an excellent usage of Free Bird. There are some unfortunately juvenile shots that might take this down a peg, but it’s overall quite a fun updating of classic British spy action (certainly moreso than the most recent Bond installment).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

  • Krampus – Delightfully mean spirited take on Christmas lore that really embraces the darker side of these things. It’s clear that writer/director Michael Dougherty just gets the darker side of holidays (his previous film, Trick ‘r Treat is quickly emerging as a Halloween classic). It’s not especially satisfying, of course, but that’s the point, so it’s really hard not to respect the hell out of a movie like this, even if it’s not something I could see myself watching every Christmas…

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Magic Mike XXL – Take the original movie, remove the obligatory romance and seedy thriller side-plots, and you end up with this episodic road trip movie that basically just treats sexuality as a thing worth celebrating. There’s no real plot or conflict here, just good old-fashioned sexytimes and fun. There’s some overarching themes about finding oneself and whatnot, if you’re willing to look for it. I have a lot of respect for this, but truth be told, it’s not really my kinda movie. Dance, music, no-plot, etc… I can respect what it’s doing, but it’s emphatically not my bag. But that’s cool! That’s why list-making exercises are interesting, because if we all loved the same stuff, that would be pretty darn boring.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – This is the little franchise that could, improbably getting better, movie after movie. This is arguably the best in the series so far, thanks to writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (a Kaedrin favorite, for sure), some excellent stunt-work, and the incomparable Rebecca Ferguson. It’s not redefining the spy adventure genre, but it’s a superbly executed version of it for sure.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Nightmare – Director Rodney Ascher’s chilling documentary about sleep paralysis and how terrifying such an experience can be is extremely well done. A little more straightforward and less layered than his previous effort, Room 237, it is nonetheless one of the best documentaries of the year, one that I really connected with (such that it nearly made its way onto the top 10 – in a weaker year, it very well might have).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – I have to admit that a large portion of my enjoyment of this film is purely nostalgia, but enjoyment is enjoyment, and while this may have perhaps been a bit too derivative of its predecessors, it’s still a whole boatload of fun, and the new characters are so fun and engaging that I can’t wait to see where they go next.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]

  • Victoria – It takes its time to get going, but this is nonetheless an incredibly impressive film. It’s over two hours long and it’s shot in one single take. This isn’t one of those cheats like Birdman where the filmmakers use clever cuts and CGI to make it seem like a single take. No cheats, no cuts, just a very, very long single take. And it’s not a boring single-location shoot either, there’s all sorts of machinations going on here that makes the whole thing that much more impressive. The pacing is a bit deliberate and you can quibble with some of the choices, but it’s a worthwhile movie nonetheless.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

Just Missed the Cut:

But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order:

Should Have Seen:

Despite having seen 8o of this year’s movies (and listing out 30+ of my favorites in this post), there are a few that got away. Or never made themselves available here. Regardless, there are several movies here that I probably should have caught up with:

So there you have it. That’s a pretty damn good year for movies right there. Stay tuned for the Oscars coverage in a couple of weeks. After that, it’s onwards and upwards to 2016 movies…

2015 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

We announced the official 2015 Kaedrin Movie Award winners last week, but those awards are skewed towards certain types of movies. Sometimes movies are weird or flawed in ways that don’t fit well into a traditional awards setting (let alone the Kaedrin awards!), but they also deserve recognition. The point of the Arbitrary Awards is to highlight these oddities. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Let’s roll:

  • The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Chappie. “I’ve got blings?… I’ve got blings!” This award is often difficult because, you know, it’s not like I go out of my way to watch bad movies, and good movies with a particularly bad line of dialog (such as the film this award is named after) aren’t that common. I suppose one could make a case for Mad Max: Fury Road, actually, but there’s so little dialog and during those scenes you’re so busy catching your breath that it never quite registers as bad dialog. Anyway, Chappie is pretty clearly the winner, though I almost gave it to Point Break for the dialog that shows up in the trailer alone (“I believe that like me, the people behind these robberies are extreme athletes, using their skills to disrupt the international financial market.”). Alas, I never actually saw the movie, so it’s hard to really go for it.
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Jurassic World. This movie has some ok bits, but dear Lord, these characters are all pretty dumb. Honorable mention goes to the dumb toaster plan that is devised in It Follows.
  • Best Villain/Badass (Non-Human Edition): The demon from It Follows. One of the great premises of our time, and the way the demon is used visually in the film makes it the obvious choice for this award.
  • Best Long Take/Tracking Shot: Victoria. In a year with a lot of great long takes, this one really takes the cake. The entire movie is a single take, and this isn’t one of those cheats like Birdman where the filmmakers use clever cuts and CGI to make it seem like a single take. It’s actually one single take. This is incredibly impressive.
  • Most Ostentatious Long Take: The church sequence in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Alright, so I can’t let some of these other long takes go. This is also an impressive long take, involving more action and ornate choreography than Victoria (though I’m sure Victoria‘s choreography was just as impressive, now that I think about it). It’s a really fascinating scene, full of conflicting emotions, confusion, slow motion, and an excellent usage of Free Bird. It’s ostentatious and showy, but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant.
  • Least ostentatious Long Take: The fight in Creed. Not the title bout, the one before that. It’s fabulous filmmaking, but it doesn’t call attention to itself like the Kingsman one does. In fact, you barely even realize it’s a long take while you’re watching it. It’s the sort of thing that sneaks up on you, and that is no less impressive or brilliant.
  • Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: Bone Tomahawk. Surprising, because the rest of the movie seems kinda restrained, but you know the scene I’m talking about. *shudder*
  • Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight by Ennio Morricone. I’m certainly no expert in this arena, but I love this tense, ominous, grand score from Ennio Morricone.
  • The About Face Award: Maggie. It’s a zombie movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet it’s nothing like you’d expect from such a premise. Certainly an about face for Arnold.
  • Tensest Border Crossing: Sicario. The movie as a whole didn’t quite come together for me, but director Denis Villeneuve sure knows how to create a tense set piece like that border crossing.
  • Best Short Film: The Chickening. I always give short films a hard time when Oscars season rolls around, but this is a must watch short film. You should totally watch it. Runner up would be World of Tomorrow, which sort of lost me at the end, but which was interesting nonetheless.

So there you have it. Look for the top 10 in the next couple weeks (depending on what last minute viewing I can squeeze in), followed by some Oscars roundup.

2015 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners!

The nominations for the 2015 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. Today, I’ll be announcing the winners of said awards. Next week, I’ll cover less traditional categories in what we like to call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 2015. After that, we’ve got the Oscars (predictions and live-tweeting or something) and then it’s on to 2016. But I digress, let’s get on with the awards:

  • Best Villain/Badass: Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne in Mad Max: Fury Road. You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome. This was a moderate year for villainy, with only a handful of true standouts. Immortan Joe takes the award and stands tall even amongst the Mad Max legacy villains (though I don’t think he quite takes it from Lord Humungus).

    Immortan Joe

    Kylo Ren is probably the runner-up, but he’s held back by his whiny vulnerability and the fact that he got bested by an untrained and inexperienced hero, which is a shame, because he was initially pretty fantastic (and, truth be told, I imagine him being more menacing in the sequel, so I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this topic then). Also of note, Tom Hardy’s performance in The Revenant put him in the running, but even he couldn’t stand up to Immortan Joe. Krampus might have been a good choice, except that he seemed to rely a little too heavily on his various helpers for the bulk of his work. I think I enjoyed the character of Ultron more than most, but then, the concept of the character is squandered a bit, even if he remains a fun little comic book villain.

  • Best Hero/Badass: Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Despite the title of the film, Charlize Theron owns this movie, and while the Best Hero/Villain awards rarely go to the same movie, they earned it here.

    Imperator Furiosa

    Otherwise, there’s lots of competition, surely an overmatch for the villains (but hey, that’s a good thing, I guess). A few folks who I highlighted more to represent an ensemble than for themselves (i.e. Kurt Russel in The Hateful Eight), and this is something I should probably give its own category for. In terms of runners up, um, I don’t really know, there’s like 5 or 6 folks of roughly equivalent heroic badassery on the list. But Furiosa stands out for sure, so she takes it!

  • Best Comedic Performance: Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. This was a tough category to pick, and truth be told, I’m not totally in love with Trainwreck, but Schumer is great in it, and goes to unexpected places. Runner up goes to Michael Peña in Ant-Man, who totally stole the show, but didn’t quite have enough screen time to take the win. Really, the only one not in that I was able to immediately eliminate was Steve Carell in The Big Short. It’s probably not even that funny of a performance, now that I think about it, but there was something about how exasperated his character is at what’s going on (a feeling mimicked by the audience) that tickled me.
  • Breakthrough Performance: Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. This was a really tough one, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was really gunning for the award, but I gave it to Vikander because she had more heavy lifting to do in Ex Machina. I only listed two, but Vikander was also in, like, 500 movies this year, which also helped her case. This was a strong category this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of these folks again.
  • Most Visually Stunning: The Revenant. I think the movie is about an hour too long, but that hour is mostly glorious landscape shots, so here we are. This award most often goes to a movie that is showy and indulgent, which The Revenant certainly is.

    The Revenant

    Honorable mentions to Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hateful Eight, which certainly comported themselves well on the visual front (and honestly, had more compelling stories, etc…), though not quite as bombastically as The Revenant.

  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: The Martian. Perhaps a controversial choice. Not sure it’s the best movie on the list, but as Science Fiction? This award simply needs to go to The Martian. You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of written Science Fiction, but if your conception of SF is based on Movies and TV, you’ve probably got a much different conception of the genre. Problem solving, competence, can-do attitudes, genuine cooperation; these things are often seen as jejune and unsophisticated, but they’re the beating heart of SF. Nothing against the angsty, pessimistic dystopias that dominate the genre in film, but I was so happy to see my favorite parts of the genre on screen that I have to give it this award. The category as a whole is unusually strong, actually, and most of the other nominees would comport themselves well in most years. That being said, I hope The Martian ushers in a new era of throwback SF, even if that’s highly unlikely.
  • Best Sequel/Reboot: Mad Max: Fury Road. Another unusually strong set of nominees here, but Mad Max was simply the most astonishing sequel, perhaps partly because I simply couldn’t imagine it being very good at all. Runner up would be Creed, another long-gap sequel to an old, venerated franchise. I gave it a lot of love in the nominations, but I don’t think it’s faring quite as well in the winner’s circle. I will most definitely have to find some Arbitrary Awards to give it, because it was wonderful.
  • Biggest Disappointment: Terminator Genisys. A tough choice, as it’s not like I expected Genisys to be that great, but I didn’t think it would be anywhere near as bad as it was. Maybe I’m more harsh on Terminator sequels because I’m such a huge fan of the original, but I always hold out hope that maybe someone can tell a new story in that universe. Meanwhile, I was super excited for Tomorrowland and it totally did not come close to those expectations. A close call, but I went with Terminator for this “award” because it’s clearly the worse film. A close third would be Jurassic World, a movie that has a few decent moments, but which is ultimately pretty pointless.
  • Best Action Sequences: Mad Max: Fury Road. I mean, the whole movie is an action sequence, and it’s glorious, so it has to win. Honorable mention to Kingsman: The Secret Service for that Church scene alone, Everly for its video-game-esque progression of minions and boss fights, Sicario for the tense border crossing sequence, Creed for that single take fight, and I could probably keep going, but I’ll stop now because none of them really holds a candle to the sustained excellence of Mad Max
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Predestination. Really happy to be able to throw a spotlight, however small, on this little SF film. Of course, I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s a doozy. Honorable mention to Focus for actually surprising me a couple of times despite being on guard for it (usually the downfall of a con man movie).
  • Best High Concept Film: It Follows. I don’t think the movie could come up with a good resolution for it, but the pure horror conceit at it’s heart is absolutely brilliant, and it’s used to excellent effect. Until, again, you realize it has no idea what to do with the concept. Runner up goes to Victoria for its whole single-take device. I guess that qualifies as high-concept, right?
  • 2015’s 2014 Movie of the Year: Housebound. I could have sworn I saw more 2014 stuff in 2015, but here we are, and I do love this little film, one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Gets the award for Morgana O’Reilly’s delightfully snarky performance. Also because she uses a cheese grater as a gauntlet. Highly innovative. Definitely worth catching up with this movie.

And there you have it! Stay tuned for the Arbitrary Awards and (eventually) a top 10…

2015 Kaedrin Movie Awards

Welcome to the 10th annual Kaedrin Movie Awards. Ten years. A decade! Hard to believe we’ve been doing this for so long, but here we are. As of right now, I’ve seen 69 movies that could be considered a 2015 release. More than your typical moviegoer, less than your typical critic, but enough so that able to commence with the whole awards rigmarole. [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014]

Standard disclaimers apply: Must be a 2015 movie (with the caveat that some 2014 movies were not accessible until 2015, an edge case that seems to be more common these days) and I obviously need to have seen the movie (and while I have seen a lot of movies, I don’t pretend to have seen a comprehensive selection). Blah blah, subjectivity, blah blah, personal preference, blah blah, the world would be incredibly boring if we all liked the same things for the same reasons. Enough preamble, let’s roll:

Best Villain/Badass

This was a moderately good year for villainy. Far from the worst year for this sort of thing, but while I didn’t have any trouble populating the list, the true standouts seemed rare.As usual, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas (sorry It Follows).

Best Hero/Badass

This was a stronger year for heroism though. Lots of memorable heroes to choose from, even from obscure or unlikely sources, and they tend to outweigh their villains heavily. Again limited to individuals and not groups

Best Comedic Performance

This category is often difficult to populate because comedy so often comes in the form of an ensemble, but we had a decent enough year, except that I don’t think I saw that many comedies.

Breakthrough Performance

Always an interesting category to populate. Sometimes, it’s not so much about someone’s industry breakthrough, but a more personal breakthrough. This can happen even with established actors. This year, though, it’s more about young up-and-comers, and it’s dominated by a terrifying flood of girl cooties. Or something. The main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they’ve done (or where they came from). A somewhat vague category, but that’s why these awards are fun.

Most Visually Stunning

Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… and we’ve got a pretty interesting mix of stuff this year.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

I like to give a little love to my favorite genres, hence this category. When I started this category, I always had trouble finding good SF movies, so I had to pad out the category with horror. But we’ve seen an astonishing increase in good SF in recent years, mostly micro-budget independent stuff, but this year we’ve even got some big studio releases.

Best Sequel/Reboot

Usually a difficult category to populate, but Hollywood has stepped up their game in recent years, thus making this a more interesting category than ever. Very strong year for this sort of thing.

Biggest Disappointment

A category usually populated by sequels, this year offered a strong showing of original movies… that were disappointing. Naturally, the sequels came out to play as well, and I should also mention that this category is weird in that I actually enjoy some of these movies quite a bit… but my expectations were just too high when I saw them. Related reading: Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale (these movies scored especially poor on that scale)

Best Action Sequences

This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and this has been a very good year for action.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise

Well, I suppose even listing nominees here constitutes something of a spoiler, but it’s a risk we’ll have to take, right?

Best High Concept Film

A nebulous category, to be sure, but a fun one because these are generally interesting movies. Actually not a ton of these this year, but the ones we did have were great.

2015’s 2014 Movie of the Year

There are always movies I miss out on, whether due to availability or laziness, but when I do catch up with them, I’m often taken with them. Sometimes a very difficult category to populate, maybe because I didn’t see much, or didn’t like it, or just plain forgot that I saw it (which, to be fair, probably says something about the movie’s chances). In this case, I think it’s all of the above. I could have sworn I saw more than the below and that I was thinking it would be a good year for this category, but I’m having trouble finding options here…

So it looks like Mad Max: Fury Road is leading the way with 6 nominations, the highest since 2007 (when Grindhouse nabbed 9 nominations). I’m a little surprised to see The Revenant not far behind with 5 nominations (it’s a fine movie, but I’m not as enthusiastic about it as a lot of the other movies in this post). Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Creed, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens clock in at a respectable 4 nominations apiece, while Ant-Man, The Hateful Eight, It Follows, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Predestination come in at a solid 3 nominations each. Many others have two or one nomination, with 36 total movies (not including the last category, which would put me at 40). Not too shabby. As usual, you’ll have to wait a week or two to see who wins, followed by the Arbitrary Awards and the traditional top 10, concluding with some Oscars prognostication and live tweeting. Stay tuned!

Update: Steven pointed out the egregious oversight of not including Daisy Ridley in the Breakthrough Performance category. We apologize for the fault in the nominations. Those responsible have been sacked. She has been added. (Steven also mentioned John Boyega, but even though I did not nominate him back in 2011 for Attack the Block, he has been on my radar ever since. So while his Star Wars role is certainly a mainstream breakthrough, he’d already wormed his way into this film nerd’s heart long ago!)