Monday, January 11, 2016


Proud though I am to be a founding member of Phoenix Film Critics Society, the Society’s choices for Best Picture are not always the same as mine. This year, however, we agree—both PFCS and I lead our list with Tom McCarthy’s gripping Spotlight. The rest of the PFCS awards for 2015 may be read at; my Top Ten list is here:

Spotlight—The title refers to a team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe who, in the early 2000s, uncovered evidence both that priestly child abuse was far more widespread than was previously understood, and that the city’s Archdiocese had consciously and systematically covered it up. Like several of this year’s best movies, this drama directed and co-written by Thomas McCarthy has depressing and infuriating subject matter. But it also has a superb ensemble cast led by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber, and a low-key tension that leads to potent emotional payoffs.

2. The Big Short

3. Inside Out

4. Brooklyn

5. Carol

6. Straight Outta Compton

7. Bridge of Spies

8. The Martian

9. Ant-Man

10. Creed

This is the version of my list that ran in print last week; since then I’ve caught up with a couple of flicks that almost certainly would have dislodged some of the selections above: Anomalisa, for one, and also Taratntino’s blood-soaked Jacobean western The Hateful Eight, which I got to see in the “70mm Roadshow” version he’s suckering format nerds like me into coughing up fifteen bucks a ticket for.

The “Roadshow” is shot (by the great Robert Richardson) and screened in actual, no-kidding Ultra Panavision 70, plus it has all the retro trimmings they used to give big “event movies” back in the ‘60s—an overture, an intermission, and even a full-color program. Plus, the movie itself is a highly entertaining Grand Guignol black comedy, even at three hours, and it has a classic, snaky musical score by the great Ennio Morricone. If the 70mm version is playing in your area, I’d recommend.

Other movies I enjoyed this year, to one degree or another, include: Chi-Raq, The Revenant, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Woman in Gold, Grandma, Steve Jobs, Concussion, Jurassic World, It Follows, Learning to Drive, Trumbo, The Good Dinosaur, Being Knievel, The Visit, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, He Named Me Malala, Lila & Eve, Jupiter Ascending, Spectre and Pawn Sacrifice. Also, not many people here in the Valley seemed to notice Zhang Yimou’s period drama from China, Coming Home, starring the great Gong Li, but it was powerful.

Oh yeah, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That one wasn’t bad, either.

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