There’s a director who has been nominated for six Oscars. He even won once. His 2015 film was a critical and commercial success. It made over $350 million and has a 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
There’s another director who has been nominated for...
Lists can be extremely useful, especially when you need to get organized, go grocery shopping or break down all the ways Jon Snow will return on Game of Thrones (very important). I like those kinds of lists, as the many Post-Its littered across my desk (and Macbook and iPhone) will show you. But making a Top 10 for the best movies of the year is a whole other monster, a film writer’s Sophie’s Choice. For someone as ridiculously indecisive as myself, it took days to finalize the final spots on this list.
There are just too many good movies. That’s my takeaway from this year’s annual exercise in critical masochism selecting the ten best films. My shortlist of 2015’s best movies is anything but short; running well over 30 outstanding entries. It feels like something I say every year, but it’s true; there are more great movies left off my list (like Clouds of Sils Maria and Experimenter and Brooklyn and Heaven Knows What and While We’re Young and about 20 others) than are actually on it. I actively agonized over the last couple slots for hours. (Yes, actual hours. I’m sorry, It Follows.)
Year-end awards are supposed to honor the best in cinema. But it might be more accurate to say they honor a narrow sliver of the best in cinema; only films released from October thru December; only the stuff promoted by the big studios; only movies deemed “important” or “serious” or “biopics about dead famous people.” The impulse to make lists and give out prizes is a good one, but more often than not that impulse results in one big echo chamber, with pundits predicting — and critics and guilds rewarding — the same half-dozen contenders.
The British Film Institute’s official publication brings a global perspective to their rulings, having polled 168 critics worldwide on their favorite releases of the past calendar year.
What qualities signify the best movie of the year? Could it be one that thoughtfully examines the human condition in the most striking way? Perhaps one that makes you laugh as much as it makes you cry and introspect over hard-to-swallow truths. Maybe even a movie that’s so visually dynamic its detailed beauty elevates the wonder of its evocative story. Now here’s the kicker: what if that movie was animated?
If you’re an avid reader of ScreenCrush, you already know how much I love Anomalisa, the new stop-motion film from writer/director Charlie Kaufman. (And if you’re not an avid reader of ScreenCrush, what the hell is wrong with you?) In my review, I called it a masterpiece, a word I don’t throw around lightly; it’s one of only two movies this year I’ve rated a perfect 10/10. (Inside Out was the other.) When I saw the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie didn’t have a distributor or a release date, but now it does; Paramount is putting it out for the end of the year, setting up maybe the most competitive race for the Best Animated Film Oscar in the history of the award.
The best movie I saw at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa. At the end of my review of the film, I noted that the film didn’t yet have a U.S. distributor, so readers would have to keep their ear to the ground to hear when they’d be able to see this masterpiece for themselves.
A business trip to Cincinnati’s pretty mundane material for a stop-motion animated movie. Why not just shoot this story in live action? As Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa begins, there’s no obvious answer to that question. A man flies into Ohio to present a speech to a customer service conference. He checks into his room at the Hotel Fregoli and thinks of an old girlfriend who lives in the area. These are completely ordinary events and people. Kaufman and Johnson could have been filmed them with human actors at much less expense and difficulty. Quickly, though, idiosyncracies begin to appear in the film’s depiction of reality — anomalies, you might call them — and it becomes clear that the stop motion is an essential element of both Anomalisa’s concept and execution, which are both about as perfect as any movie made anywhere on the planet this year.
Dan Harmon and Charlie Kaufman have both encountered career troubles as of late, but neither are letting that get them down. The two are joining forces for a new stop-motion animation project, and you can help!