This year, we asked Shank readers and contributors what their favorites of 2015 were without the whole rigmarole of creating a list. We also asked them to give a few sentences what made it their favorite. These are the results.
FAVORITE MOVIE: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
BENN RAY (from Letterboxd diary): This is the best movie ever made about the worst summer road trip. It's sort of like National Lampoon's Nightmare Roadtrip Vacation.
Not only is this the best Mad Max movie of the series (I can't believe there are people that confuse Thunderdome for a good movie - it seems to be generational too), it's also easily the best film I've seen this year and the best film I've seen in a long time. Possibly the best film ever? Okay, yes, I am being a tad hyperbolic. Maybe.
The action is unrelenting. The utilization of real stunts (as opposed to CGI stuff) makes for a hyper-realistic feel. Director Miller's world is wonderfully imagined and fully realized, with a distinct look that fits somewhere between vintage Heavy Metal comics and Terry Gilliam. And then, as the journey continues farther and farther out, the settings begin to morph into pop surrealist landscapes.
And the story is also thin enough to not get in the way of multiple watchings (I have a theory that the best movies have the thinnest plots so you can keep watching them over and over without the story getting old), and yet is engaging and takes us to some unexpected places.
I've seen a number of what appear to be new 4th Wave Feminist interpretations of this film (if such a "wave" actually exists, it currently seems to be characterized as a type of Millennial feminism that seems primarily focused on media critique and representations of women in fictional worlds - with issues over Batgirl, Game of Thrones, and The Avengers - while overlooking actions by conservatives who continue to erode women's reproductive rights in the real world), and they are pretty spot on - but I'm not sure that's Miller's central (or at least sole) intent.
What I haven't seen a lot on (and it could be out there, I honestly haven't looked prior to seeing the movie - it's just that the Feminist interpretations were unavoidable due to social media), is the Marxist take on Fury Road. So allow me...
I see Fury Road as an anti-capitalist indictment. It's about the problems exclusive, individual ownership of what should be public commons cause and the sort of perverse, inhuman dystopia that will result from such extreme wealth consolidation.
What caused the end of the world? Capitalist exploitation. What has caused the enslavement of citizens of the Citadel by Immortan Joe? Extreme disparities of wealth and private control of public utilities like oil and water - which is a very real problem in the world right now. As well as human trafficking. And bizarre religious extremism used as a tool to motivate radicals and subjugate the masses.
All this AND magnificent, crazy-assed monster cars that would thrill any kustom car enthusiast or gearhead?
Plus stunts so brutal that you'll find yourself saying "oof" out loud at least twice during the movie?
Yes, it has a refreshingly feminist perspective (which can almost verge on hokey in terms of women as mothers to the earth - the bag of seeds, the pregnant woman carrying the perfect child, etc.), but it also has a decidedly anti-capitalist perspective too.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a fucking masterpiece.
STEVE ASHBY: I didn’t see a lot of movies this year, but this was the best of what I saw. I wonder what it would have been like if it had been completely dialog free…
LISA HARBIN: It made me literally scream with joy (flame-throwing guitar guy!). Tom Hardy was pretty amazing but Charlize Theron as Furiosa was just one of the most badass righteous warrior ladies ever. The film didn't have much subtlety thematically but that didn't bother me at all.
HOWARD YANG: A feminist sci-fi action film.
FAVORITE MOVIE: EX MACHINA
PATRICK STORCK: I did love some of the bigger fare this year, but Alex Garland's quiet, conversational science fiction exploration of humanity and connections, life and awareness, and if emotion itself is real or a utility, was deeply engaging. The outcome may have been inevitable on a few notes, but the journey and the interactions along the way were excellent modern tech philosophy worthy of post-viewing discussion. The best movies start new conversation beyond like and dislike.
FAVORITE MOVIE: INSIDE OUT
JONATHAN SUPER: Knowing that I will lose parts of my mind forever is awful, but I guess I’m glad someone cleared that up for me.
FAVORITE MOVIE: THE REVENANT
JAMIE PARRISH: Nothing else made me as uncomfortable this year as this movie. Mad Max comes in a close at second. It was a heard choice but the close up shots in The Revenant are what pushed it to first.
FAVORITE MOVIE: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
ADRIENNE KINSEY: The Star War (AKA Space Battles: The Chi Gets Out of Bed). Very similar to previous Star War movies. Much more enjoyable than prequel movies.
FAVORITE MOVIE: TIE!!!
KEVIN PERKINS: Best film ... Tie between Mad Max, Ex Machina and What We Do in the Shadows.
FAVORITE DOCUMENTARY: BEST OF ENEMIES
BENN RAY: From the era when America still had intellectuals comes this documentary about how one network's attempt to garner ratings forever changed media and political punditry. Vidal won the battle, but in the end, who won the war? Vidal's books are out of print, out of fashion, and rarely read. The Republican Party that Buckley created, driving out the John Birch Society lunatics has, after his death, reverted back into Tea Party lunacy. However, Vidal's views of sexuality are now fairly mainstream and accepted, and his style of liberalism is also ascendant. But to be honest, I'd root for Vidal anyway.
FAVORITE DOCUMENTARY: TIE!!! - FINDERS KEEPERS and BEST OF ENEMIES
SKIZZ CYZYK: I saw both of these at film festivals, and loved them both for different reasons. Finders Keepers is a perfect example of “truth is stranger than fiction” while Best Of Enemies shows just how much the world of politics and public opinion has changed since decades ago. Both contain great storytelling.
FAVORITE MOVIE SCREENING: GUY MADDIN AT MOVIATE (HARRISBURG, PA)
SKIZZ CYZYK: Guy Maddin is one of my favorite filmmakers, and to spend an evening with him in an intimate setting, hearing him talk, watching one of his earlier films (Tales From The Gimli Hospital), and seeing clips from his newest film (The Forbidden Room) was a real joy for me. I still have not seen The Forbidden Room, but based on the clips Guy showed at this screening, I suspect that it would have been my favorite film of 2015.