Cos my name carries some cache now, I guess?
Tradition dictates that you should now be reading the first half of my Bottom 10 Films of 2015 list. That is coming, believe me when I tell you that I need to make that list and send it off into the wild. However, I’m rather enjoying this time I’m spending writing, since I haven’t had the opportunity to do so that much post-July, and I feel like starting the New Year and immediately vomiting angry bile every which way just sets things off on the wrong foot. So, because of both of those things, but mainly the first, it is with great pleasure that I present to you The 1st Official Callie Petch Awards! There aren’t exactly professional, and at least half contain some of the bile you so desperately seek, but it’s a fun little way to wring out a few extra drops from 2015’s flicks and it provides a nice base to build on if I decide to do something similar next year! Yays all round!
Best Runner-Up Performance
Winner: Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
Having hopefully read my Top Performances of 2015 list, you should understand why I chose to leave del Toro off the final list, but make no mistake, del Toro is absolutely sensational in Sicario. There’s a detached, wild-card feel and aspect to his work here that’s absolutely fitting for Alejandro, somebody who you can never quite get a handle on, whose motives always seem uncertain. But there’s also a captivating and quietly searing intensity to his work that comes to the forefront as the film rockets towards his conclusion. It’s the kind of performance that reminds you of just how good an actor/actress is which for del Toro, who hasn’t exactly been picking the best of roles post-Che, could not have come soon enough.
The Gift has been mostly forgotten as we’ve rolled around to the end of the year – the alternately-brilliant-and-indefensible ending most likely being the cause of that – which is a shame since it really should have been the moment where we all collectively realised that Jason Bateman has more to him than just rolling his eyes in resignation at terrible or stupid people. He can also be one of those unrepentantly terrible people, too, and a fantastically hateable one, at that.
2015’s 2014 Film of the Year
It is now two-thousand-and-goddamn-sixteen and we are still, after all of this time, pulling this release-window-disparity bullshit. Here’s the simple fact: if a film is in the English language, then it should be available in all predominately English-speaking countries at the same time, America. Not three months later, not almost 8 months later, the same goddamn time. In this age of rampant and easier-than-ever movie piracy, it’s tantamount to whining that kids keep nicking your expensive porcelain gnomes from your backyard whilst putting up giant signs shouting about just how amazing said expensive gnomes are, and not only putting up not boundaries as to where your backyard starts and ends but also inviting these kids to come and take a good long unsupervised look at said gnomes. It also robs films that are deserving of praise from lists created by pedantics like me. If Whiplash had been released in the UK in 2014 as planned, then it may have actually unseated Gone Girl from the Top Film of 2014 slot. Instead, it was released too late to qualify for that list, was disqualified from this year’s lists due to not being a 2015 film, and has to settle for this measly award instead. Great work, folks.
Hi, Disney? Callie Petch, here. Can you do me a favour and maybe pretty please stop arbitrarily withholding films that you distribute from UK audiences for extended periods of time for seemingly no other reason that you getting off on withholding? And maybe also give The Black Cauldron a Blu-Ray release whilst you’re at it? Thanks.
Needs More Love
Winner: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
There was a surprising influx of Spy movies in 2015, with James Bond and Mission: Impossible both releasing mediocre/bad entries into their respective franchises, Spooks becoming a movie for some bizarre reason, Kingsman splitting my friends with such force that the shockwaves are still being felt even now, and Spy blowing up the ridiculous masculinity inherent in the genre for well-done hysterical laughs. And then there was Guy Ritchie’s attempt to revive The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which was a better spy movie than all of the non-Spy movies put together. It is, admittedly, rather light, but it makes up for that lightness by being a tonne of fun, incredibly stylish, and tackling the theme of government agencies treating their agents purely as disposable assets rather than human beings a million miles better than Rogue Nation ever did. It also boasts three outstandingly charming performances from its leads and one of the year’s best scores, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton. It’s the first time that “Guy Ritchie: Hollywood Director” has made sense to me…
Too bad nobody bloody saw it, yet $850 million worth of people turned up to see SPECTRE. Where’s the goddamn justice in this world? The film’s out on DVD now, in any case, so go pick it up and then kick yourself for not having given it a chance in the cinema.
Yeah, it’s a High School movie, with all the tropes and beats and situations you’ve most likely seen before, but it’s a damn great High School movie, feels modern in a way that doesn’t come across as condescending or embarrassing, and Mae Whitman puts in a go-for-broke comic performance. Worth seeking out if you are susceptible to the pleasures of the genre.
I Don’t Get It
Winner: Noah Baumbach (While We’re Young, Mistress America)
Look, I tried, folks. I have really tried. I was excited for While We’re Young, I even liked the first hour of it! I mean, I didn’t think it was brilliant or anything, but it was good and entertaining which is at least something. Then its final 30 minutes devolved into “these damn kids acting so high and mighty appropriating things from my time with no soul or passion and ardie blarghdy bloop” and my enjoyment of the film couldn’t disappear fast enough – and before anybody tries to argue that Josh is supposed to be just as much of an asshole in that scene as Jamie, note that Josh is the one who gets all of the killer lines and all Jamie gets to do is just stand there with no decent comebacks. Also, its last shot is one of the worst of all of 2015.
“But maybe that was just a one-off!” I thought to myself. “Every filmmaker eventually makes an off movie. Maybe I’ll like Mistress America instead,” I hoped, even as the trailer made it look totally insufferable. “Plus, his work with Greta Gerwig is his most critically popular, so this will hopefully be fun times!” I actually came close to shutting off Mistress America about 12 times over the course of its 84 minutes. 84 minutes of insufferably terrible people being the absolute worst to each other, with the film trying to make them people you want to like and sympathise with. And I recognise that “terrible people being the worst” is one of the backbones of comedy but the insufferability of these people is usually diluted by these things called ‘jokes’ that Mistress America curiously lacks even trace amounts of.
I guess I just don’t get Baumbach, possibly at all. I don’t get what is supposed to be appealing about either of these movies, although I do finally understand what my Screen 1 co-host Lucy Meer means when she uses the descriptor “Smart Person Comedy.” I’m prepared to give Baumbach one final chance, since three strikes is the universal measurer of worth, but I’ve got the feeling that it’s going to end much the same way. Fair play to you if you’re able to get on Baumbach’s wavelength, though. After all, I don’t get Shakespeare so, really, I’m the uncultured cretin here.
Runners-Up: BROOKLYN, Eddie Redmayne, Far from the Madding Crowd, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, SPECTRE
This keeps appearing on people’s Best Of lists? This? Really? This thoroughly mediocre, over-written, overwrought, snoozefest that’s only somewhat worthwhile because Saoirse Ronan is trying with all of her herculean might to make it work solely off her own back? For real? Why? If it’s because it tries to feel like Classic Hollywood, then allow me to introduce you to an actually good film that does feel like Classic Hollywood called Carol…
Film That I Loved Yet Nobody Else Does
Winner: The Dressmaker
The Dressmaker did not make it onto my Top 20 list because it is unquestionably a terrible movie. One part revenge movie, one part raucous comedy, one part romance, one part kitchen-sink drama, one part Western, one part serious, one part self-consciously silly, and all parts completely batshit insane. It seems to be building towards a sappy-if-sweet ending, only to reveal that it wasn’t actually going in that direction at all and instead spends another half-an-hour barrelling towards its true and utterly ridiculous ending. And I loved every last second of this gloriously ridiculous exercise in confused lunacy, even though I am 90% certain that nobody else will. I wish it stayed in the cinema longer than a fart in a festival field so I could have had the opportunity to watch it again, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in the cinema all year. Also, those dresses are fabulous.
Runners-Up: Big Game, Kill Your Friends, MINIONS, Paper Towns, The Intern
I realise that calling a film that made over $1 billion worldwide one that “I love yet nobody else does” is stretching the criteria to absolute breaking point, but not a single person I’ve talked to likes Minions or the Minions, declaring them unfunny and incredibly annoying. Those people are wrong, of course, having been conditioned to hate the Minions due to Universal driving the merchandising right through the ground and their inexplicably being the basis for Facebook memes galore rather than anything to do with the films themselves, but this seemingly universal hate is enough for me to add it to this category! Semantics!
Winner: Spooks: The Greater Good
Spooks went off the air in October of 2011 and, lo, nobody gave a shit. Spooks and, its infinitely better and crazier American cousin, 24 were both shows that were firmly of their time yet both made comebacks over the last two years – 24 in the form of a 12-episode mini-series (and possibly even another season which, for the love of God, please no), and Spooks in the form of a big-screen movie. Both works, however, struggled to adequately justify why they needed to return at all let alone why now, specifically, four years on from their original end points. The Greater Good especially suffers from this question of “Why?” since its big movie leap instead looked like a TV movie from 2005 that was inexplicably shunted onto cinema screens, was immensely boring, and ended up somehow more uncomfortably right-wing than even 24. Folks, if you’re going to bring back things that have finished, you need to either have a legitimate reason for doing so, or have at least let enough time pass for genuine nostalgia to surround the thing you’re bringing back; waiting four years to make The Movie just makes it look like you’ve missed the train.
“So, he’s a dog, right? And he’s the runt of the litter at a pet store cos he wees on everything when he gets nervous…”
“So he runs away from the pet store and stumbles into this family who used to be a big name in the world of wrestling promotion…”
“And it turns out that the dog has super cool wrestling skills and stuff, and so the family takes him in and becomes super famous because he’s a wrestling dog.”
“I’m still not sure…”
“The dog’s manager/trainer is a talking monkey.”
“You’re a genius. Here’s a big bag of money, make this into a real movie.”
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road (Junkie XL)
Presenting, for your consideration, “Brothers in Arms.”
I think that’s sufficiently settled this debate.
Ever since Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception went memetic, dark and moody thrillers and action movies have been abusing repetitive drones and loud foreboding horn blasts with such reckless abandon that the power of such techniques has almost been completely diluted. Fortunately, the score for Sicario manages to put the tense and foreboding power back into them both, actually cultivating a genuinely dark, almost waking-nightmare kind of atmosphere that is exacerbated by the horn blasts, instead of just utilising them as a shorthand for that kind of atmosphere. It walks the walk instead of merely talking the talk, to put it in horribly cliché yet still-accurate terms.
There’s a lot about Eden that left me feeling cold, primarily the fact that it felt like an eight hour TV series awkwardly cut down to fit a two hour movie much to its detriment, but the soundtrack backing the thing most certainly wasn’t one of them. I mean, it’s basically nothing but French garage, French house, and French disco so of course I was going to love it, but it still knew when to drop the right song at the right time – Daft Punk’s “Verdis Quo” turns out to have been tailor-made for a sequence where an utterly miserable person coping with loss goes to a club to lose themselves in music and fails miserably. And, like some of the best soundtracks do, it also opened my ears to some excellent tunes I didn’t know before, like “The MKapella.” Obviously, if you don’t like any of those previously mentioned genres, then you’re going to dispute the winner, but these aren’t your awards so you can shut up.
Runners-Up: Dope, Kill Your Friends, Paper Towns, Straight Outta Compton, The Reflektor Tapes
It’s Arcade Fire! It’s “Reflektor”-era Arcade Fire! I don’t care that this is basically cheating!
Because brevity is not my strong suit, we’re going to take a break for now. Return tomorrow for the second half of The 1st Official Callie Petch Awards!
Callie Petch is too cautious, man, too cautious, love.