We asked our film queen Yosra Osman to pick her best movie of the year – and then we all started joining in. Warning: contains Magic Mike XXL.
The struggle is real. Anyone who knows me knows I am an indecisive nightmare, so when Standard Issue’s editors asked me to pick my film of the year, I knew what would ensue would be hours of inner mind wrestles that would knock The Rock for six. Funnily enough, he doesn’t feature in any of my top films, but that’s about as decisive as it gets.
From the head-banging ride of the summer that was Mad Max: Fury Road, to the wonderfully sincere Girlhood, there are around six or seven films that have nothing between them.
In the end I’ve picked a film that hasn’t had much fanfare, but is a dynamic, heartbreaking film that still resonates with me months after I’ve seen it. Xavier Dolan’s Mommy is probably the best film you haven’t seen this year: the story of a single mother struggling to cope with her abusive 15-year-old son. By no means is the film perfect; it may be a little too long for some and there is a haphazard approach to the narrative, but it is one of the most powerful films I have seen in a long time.
Bringing the ‘drama’ to melodrama with outrageous ferocity, it is fiercely told, inventively directed, and brilliantly acted by Anne Dorval and Antoine Olivier Pilon. It completely astonished me when I first saw it, and I’m still sold much later on.
The trouble with Macbeth is that he has the best lines in literature. So when Malcolm – the rightful king but also a corking wet blanket – raises a rebel army to defeat Macbeth it’s difficult to summon up any enthusiasm for him and his right-hand man Macduff. What a great production of Macbeth needs, therefore is a Malcolm and Macduff combo we get behind. Jack Reynor, who endeared himself to me from the start as he looks rather like my own newly bearded son, is perfect as Malcolm: not quite ready for the responsibility of kingship but willing to give it a bloody good go. While Sean Harris – hatchet faced with grief – is a righteous Macduff.
That’s not to say Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard don’t do a fabulous job as the legendary hell-kite and his fiendlike queen: they do. Screenwriters Jacob Kosskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso have stuck to the text, but have concocted an ingenious dialogue-free backstory to fill one of the play’s more baffling plot holes. Fassbender and Cotillard barely have to speak to convey their unity and despair. Cotillard’s huge eyes seem to absorb light and become darker, evil filling her and ultimately spilling out as she spirals into chaos.
But what made this film for me was the kids. Macbeth is all about children and losing them. Lochlann Harris as Banquo’s son Fleance is a delightful bullet-headed boy, caught between innocence and violence, while Macduff’s unfortunate family are played by a trio of heartbreakingly gorgeous siblings, Eleanor, William and Matthew Stagg.
The brutality is on the Game of Thrones scale but, GCSE staple he may be, Shakespeare’s at his best when he’s bloody, bold and resolute.
I remember seeing the promotional blitz for this several months in advance. (That’s how it works when you subscribe to Empire.) It didn’t faze me much. I didn’t even plan to SEE it: just another 80s action franchise trying to resuscitate itself.
Then the MRA doofs started to complain… saying it was feminist propaganda and I was like… two tickets, please! For once, the MRAs were right. This movie IS feminist. It’s no coincidence that the director, George Miller, hired The Vagina Monologues’ playwright Eve Ensler as a consultant.
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is the action figure we all needed. She’s noble, imperfect, and hell on wheels. Tom Hardy pulls his weight too.
Mad Max: Fury Road was more than I hoped it would be. Miller, into his 70s now, is 2015’s strongest voice. The visuals, the blood-pumping score, the performances, the message, the breakneck pace.
It’s not just a movie, it is art that sears its story into your brain. I saw it twice in the cinema.
Plus it inspired Conan O’Brien to enter ComicCon like this:
Being a Disney devotee is a rollercoaster. Naturally there is untold joy and happiness to be had; tunes to belt out, frocks to admire etc. But it also has its pitfalls. I’m talking specifically about the sheer disappointment a new release can bring. For every Frozen, there is a Chicken Little (look it up). For every Finding Nemo (glorious) there is a Cars 2 (why, God? WHY?!).
So, it was with some trepidation that I settled down to watch Disney Pixar’s latest offering, Inside Out. What a tentative fool I was. From the opening shot I was transfixed and within three minutes I was in floods. (A Pixar record. Even Up took about 10.)
The basic premise is that we all have emotions that live inside our head, controlling our actions. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust all take control when necessary. But when we go through certain life-changing experiences, our emotions can become erratic, and the lines between them blurry.
It’s hard to pinpoint what’s most impressive about the film. The sheer beauty of the thing, the meticulousness with which the animators have created the world, the specificity of the story and characters, the humour being genuinely laugh out loud funny and the pathos being so incredibly moving everyone I speak to about it confesses to me they too cried – but all at different points.
The thing I truly, truly love about it is that Pixar have recognised such an important message to teach children: that’s it’s important to feel sad sometimes. That you mustn’t repress sadness, because if you do joy will also disappear, and in their absences all you’ll feel is anger, fear and disgust. I can’t think of a better message for children growing up. Or indeed adults who find being a grown-up confusing. Like me. Whether you have children or not, you must see it. Pixar has done it again.
If the success of a documentary were to be gauged by the proportion of the internet crying “fake” then The Wolfpack‘s among the best ever made.
Crystal Moselle’s Sundance winner tells the story of six brothers who’ve grown up confined to a small flat in New York, with only their mother, older sister and a huge DVD collection for company. Their Peruvian father, who doesn’t believe in work, rules the roost, possibly with his fists. Domestic violence is hinted at but never really explored.
It’s one of the reasons you’ll come away with more questions than answers and be Googling the boys as the credits roll.
So yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s the first film since Grey Gardens to really get to grips with what genuine isolation does to a person and how they develop outside of society’s gaze. Which makes it utterly unfakeable. And completely fascinating.
Love and Mercy
I was worried about this film, I’ll admit. A biographical drama about The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson which Brian himself was not involved in and co-starring the ‘Just For Men’ black-quiffed John Cusack as the older version of Wilson struck fear into my good vibrating heart. At best, that’s a guy who’s not dedicated to the role, and at worst, he’s so vain he’s actually reached for the hair dye but still come up with black.
I actually needn’t have worried: the final product is a thing of real beauty, and while Cusack remains the weakest link, he’s still pretty damn good at showing a vulnerable and misunderstood man being both completely brilliant and unduly taken advantage of in equal measure.
For me though, Paul Dano is as much the hero of this film as Brian himself, putting in an extraordinary performance as the younger version. He’s pitch-perfect in copying Wilson’s vocal sound (having been coached by Darian Sahanaja from Brian’s touring band The Wondermints) and his portrayal of Brian’s troubled mental state is at once sympathetic yet realistic; both moving and disturbing. Brian Wilson himself is so proud of the finished movie he’s since performed together with Dano on stage and praised the film as “very factual”. Which is a very Brian way of ignoring the fact it’s also very emotional.
For the discerning Beach Boys fan, many scenes take their cue from famous Beach Boys photo shoots and the action progresses from an old photo you recognise – it’s both an in-joke and a nerdy hug from the makers which keeps the look of the film absolutely stylish and completely right for the time.
The scenes set in the studio showing Brian’s revolutionary recording techniques in progress with Phil Spector, Hal Blaine and the rest all present make you pinch yourself: it’s more like being in a time machine than watching a biopic.
This film stayed with me so much after seeing it my friend Ira and I joke about how we still find ways to talk about it. “Harold Wilson, you said? Have you seen the Brian Wilson film?” And for all its enjoyability, it’s a film that also made me feel ashamed. Ashamed that in such recent times, a story that isn’t even history yet, how little we still understand and respond helpfully to mental health issues.
At school I remember reading cartoon strips in Smash Hits and other music mags, poking fun at “mad” old Brian, sitting in his sandpit, hearing voices in his head, and it’s utterly shocking that he wasn’t treated well, either medically or socially. So as well as this being a wonderfully acted, beautifully shot, movingly sung, incredibly emotional story of a mistreated songwriting genius, I think it’s also a story which raises awareness about important and current mental health issues. Totally essential. And I will find ways to talk to you about it.
Magic Mike XXL
Male strippers + Road Trip – Po-Faced Drama = The Most Fun I Had At The Cinema In 2015.
Shock announcement: Channing Tatum is not my type. But the man can dance. And as Little Mix once stated so memorably: “Don’t you know a girl like a boy who mooooves?!” I challenge any straight woman to sit through his routine at the Domina Club in this film without shifting her bosom and muttering “this is amazing” to herself.
When Warner Bros inevitably rerelease Magic Mike XXL for its 69th anniversary in 2084, they are welcome to use my sexy poster quote: “A beacon of inclusivity!” MARVEL as straight men visit a drag club or share a bed with no hint of gay panic. APPLAUD Jada Pinkett Smith’s club of mostly black strippers and clientele. GASP as plus-size women aren’t body-shamed into the shadows. REJOICE as Andie MacDowell and her mates get some of the action with none of the MILF jokes. In fact, most of the key female parts are played by women in their 40s and 50s. One day this shit won’t matter, but in 2015 it does.
This film is so committed to the female gaze, it was like being unplugged from The Matrix. It’s not a car insurance ad with a tiresome flash of arse or a WWII documentary with shoehorned cleavage. This whole film is a celebration of female sexual desire, so nudity is in context – imagine! It was a concept so overwhelming that by the time the opening beats of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer began at the (yes) Myrtle Beach stripper convention, most of the women in my row were discreetly losing their shit.
So if you’re looking for an unlikely feminist film disguised as glossy hen do fodder – it’s not Christian Grey you’re after, it’s Mike. Magic Mike.
My favourite film this year, without a doubt, goes to show that children’s films can be just as good – if not better – than adult films.
Let’s start with the narrative style. I don’t believe that there has been any film that has told a story in this way. It’s completely unique and extremely clever, and must’ve been very hard to pull off. It is, initially, a little confusing and sounds a bit stupid (‘what if emotions had emotions?!’), but Pixar manages to do this great idea justice. It will likely be mimicked by other filmmakers for years to come.
It also offered fantastic performances from the star-studded cast and greatly funny jokes. As well as being an extremely well made and enjoyable family spectacle, the film also reflects some of society’s current issues, the main one being mental illness.
As a person who suffers from depression, the film really hit home for me. I am so used to seeing incorrect portrayals of depression within the common media, so to see a film that basically hit the nail bang on the head was extremely liberating and somewhat comforting. It must’ve been weird to all the little kids in the audience to see a fully grown woman sobbing like a baby in the middle of them all, but that’s life and they’ll all have to get used to it.
I’ve heard that other people with depression and/or other mental illnesses had similar reactions to the film. In a time where more and more people – particularly young people and pre-teens, are like Riley – a film like this is extremely important.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, both young and young at heart.
Who’d have thought chucking Mike from Friends, Kate from Lost and Michael Zeta Jones into a film about ant-telepathy would be so, well, excellent?
On paper it seems ridiculous, and the film is self-aware enough (thanks to a cracking screenplay from Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) to embrace its nonsensical side with a huge amount of humour and some inspired casting. Paul Rudd is the perfect average Joe/master burglar and Evangeline Lilly is terrific. Michael Pena is astonishingly good at comedy; more of him being funny please, Hollywood.
There are just enough nods to the Marvel universe to keep Avengers fans happy, and although the story focuses less on Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) than the comics do, Scott’s (Rudd’s) tale is the perfect vehicle to tell the story.
Even the bits I thought would be a bit rubbish were deftly told and a joy to watch. Seeing Paul Rudd shrink and ride an ant was fun, although we all saw that little kid do it in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, so no biggie. Paul Rudd takes his shirt off at 43 minutes and fights a baddy on a toy train track at 1 hour 23 minutes. These are my favourite bits.
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