The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

Fun fact: to further illustrate how weak 2015 was, this will be only the third year in Biggies history where a movie I’ve rated an 8 on IMDb will win Best Picture (after Fargo in ’96 and Drive in ’11). The only 2015 movie I gave a 9 to was Alex Gibney’s masterful Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which is a documentary (docs don’t qualify for my Best Picture field). All of this year’s nominees are 8’s. Note: you’ll see later in the post that I gave Gibney and his work this year special recognition.

As I state every year, I started these awards because of my constant dissatisfaction with the Oscar nominees and winners. You may have heard that the Academy faced a nuclear blast of internet outrage has come under quite a bit of criticism this year for the lack of diversity in their acting nominees, which were once again comprised of 100% white people. The horror! I’ve been talking about the issue of diversity in Hollywood for about 20 years, but now finally it’s a trending topic (#oscarssowhite!!!!!!!!!!!), so the discussion is out in the open for the masses. Go figure. Of course most of these people, many of whom make a living by being offended by everything, completely miss the point.

Thankfully, The Hollywood Reporter’s Marc Bernardin put just about everything I was thinking into words. I thank him for his article, #OscarsSoWhite: Why Black Films Have to Be About MLK and White Films Can Be About a Mop Inventor, which has spared me the necessity to write 3,000 words on this issue. If anyone cares what I think of diversity in the awards race, read that article. Read it regardless, because the motherfucker is right. Whining about who’s getting nominated is short-sighted. It’s about what movies are being made in the first place, and more importantly who gets to make and be in them. Pretty simple, folks.

I would also recommend a terrific guest column that one of AMPAS’ members wrote in response to the “Academy voters are racist!” crowd. Mark Reina, a gay Latino, is a member of the Academy’s public relations branch, and is not a fan the hasty new rules the Academy (led by Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black woman, by the way) is putting in place in an attempt to increase the diversity represented in their nominees and membership (basically, they want fewer old white people voting). Please check that out HERE.

If you go by box office results and critical acclaim, a lot of people clearly disagreed with me with regards to 2015’s output. I am still flummoxed by the record-smashing success of Jurassic World, which opened to a mind numbing $208.8 million, breaking the opening weekend record set just 4 years prior by The Avengers ($207.4m). JW’s record would fall in spectacular fashion just 6 months later to Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($247.9m), but nobody thought Jurassic would open that big. It went on to have serious legs, grossing $652.3 million domestically and $1.6 billion worldwide. Clearly, people were nostalgic for the Jurassic franchise’s dino chaos, even if it is tired as a general concept. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Jurassic movies, and loved watching this one, but it wasn’t THAT good as to warrant record-breaking success. But what do I know?

That wasn’t the only place audiences, critics and I had major beef. I hate to admit it, but despite the vast majority of critics bowing at its feet, I was not blown away by Pixar’s Inside Out, which rode the “Pixar is back!” hype tsunami to a $356.4 million gross and pretty much every Best Animated Film award of 2015. Sorry, but I didn’t find “Will a little girl remember she loves hockey after her family moves?” to be as great a story hook as many others clearly did. I found the Joy character, voiced by Amy Poehler, incredibly annoying. Nor could I summon the childlike wonder in me to get emotionally attached to a character named “Bing Bong”. Ugh. So I’m still left to wonder… is the once mighty Pixar Dynasty now officially in a drought? Now far too reliant on sequels and struggling with original ideas (Brave, The Good Dinosaur), Pixar hasn’t made an original movie I’ve adored since Up in 2009. I think the concept of Inside Out is fantastic (literally getting inside someone’s head), but I was not a huge fan of how they executed it. It’s a shame, because I desperately WANTED to love this movie.

There were a few movies last year that didn’t disappoint. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be, continuing the series’ ability to impress with its clever spy tech and innovative ways of putting Tom Cruise in danger doing his own stunts (yes, he really was on the side of that plane as it took off). In fact, MI is the only franchise I can think of whose movies continue to get better each time out, which is even more impressive here given we’re now 5 movies in (with a 6th on the way in a couple years) and even MORE impressive since every movie has had a different director. You have to give much of the credit for that to Cruise for his quality control standards as a producer.

MI5 bike action
MI5 Cruise jump

We can’t go a year anymore without talking about the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so let’s get that out of the way. Avengers: Age of Ultron was very enjoyable, but almost all of my fears about it came to pass; a lame robot villain, more lifeless bad guys for the heroes to kill, and unnecessary new hero characters (Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch). It was always going to be extremely difficult for Joss Whedon to top himself on this one, and it’s no surprise that he wasn’t able to, but I still like the movie a lot, and it’s got some incredible comic book-y moments for geeks to drool over.

Avengers team shot

On the flip side, I was hugely surprised at how much I enjoyed Ant-Man, which I was 100% certain was gonna be Marvel’s first box office failure. Part of me wanted it to fail to smack some of the hubris out of Kevin Feige & friends. Well, I was dead wrong about that, as it grossed $180.2 million domestic/$519.2m worldwide. I was also wrong about it likely being a bad movie. It had a fantastic script (except for a once-again weak main villain, the Achilles heel of most Marvel flicks), Paul Rudd was perfectly cast as Scott Lang (which did not surprise me), the supporting cast was great, and I even thought Peyton Reed did a pretty damned good job as director. This film certainly has more vision than either Thor movie. Most of us thought that once Edgar Wright left the project, it was doomed creatively. Not the case at all. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve done a complete 180 on Ant-Man, and I can’t wait to see how he fits into the bigger picture going forward.

Ant-Man bathtub
Ant-Man gun climb

For the first time in I can’t even contemplate how long, I even saw and enjoyed a horror movie. If you haven’t seen It Follows, but continue to see every other piece of shit jump-scare, demonic-possession horror flick, you should be ashamed of yourself. David Robert Mitchell’s film was a welcome breath of fresh air for cinema’s most boring, lowest common denominator genre (yeah, I said it), and is every bit as thought-provoking and well-made as it is genuinely creepy.

It Follows - big guy

Speaking of horror movies, I am not among those who thought The Visit was a glorious “return to form” for M. Night Shyamalan. While it certainly wasn’t as sloppy as Lady in the Water or The Happening, it was mediocre at best and not very scary. It gets points off right at the top for going down Found Footage Road. I did like the two kid actors, even though their characters were unrealistically written. And he still couldn’t resist the urge to throw in a twist at the end. That said, I’m glad it was a hit, and I still wish Shyamalan the best because of all the potential he showed from 1999-2002 (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), but it’s still been more than a decade since he wowed me.

We’ll talk more about my other favorite movies of the year throughout this post, so let’s jump right into it.

And the nominees are… (click to page 2 down below)

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