Most of my time watching media in 2015 wasn’t particularly pleasurable. The vast majority of the films I saw - and also, in fact, most of the TV episodes - were in preparation for the writing of two books about the Internet, both out next year (here and here).
Surprise surprise, the addition of an Internet-themed subplot rarely helps a film.
Film after film confirmed my hunch about just how exceptionally perverted, nefarious and socially excluded characters who go online are. Film after film showed computers being frantically unplugged, laptops getting slammed shut and shaky fingers pointing at monitors accompanied by maniacal pleas of, “he’s in there!”
So many horrible films. Films like the “thriller” Every Mother’s Worst Fear about a girl who gets lured into a world of depravity by a seedy, shadowy online trafficker named “Scanman.” (Thrilling, mostly, because Jefferson from Married with Children was apparently the villain). Films like The Boy She Met Online, The Husband She Met Online and The Bride He Bought Online each repeating the same odious lesson that the Internet can only ever spit out suitors of the alarmingly sub-optimal kind. My very favourite, Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life, centred on a teenager whose life goes to hell in a handbasket when he gets addicted to netporn and soda. And don’t get me started on the deluge of Internet-themed Christian dramas. Special mention goes to The Saber: not only does the teen netporn addict get expelled from military school for his wayward ways, but curiously, his porn-aided autoeroticism leads to the rape and beating of his virgin girlfriend.
My my, whoever knew the Internet was so powerful?
And yet, among all these abominations, I saw Ex Machina and it restored my faith. A feminist artificial-intelligence film I watched for research purposes but ended up loving and granting it top spot.
The second half of the year helped markedly in filling out my “best” list - one that had been looking substantially shaky until at least July. Equally, seeing films like Trumbo, Experimenter and The Danish Girl in the weeks of the year happily meant that those films I enjoyed but didn’t quite love - Spy, Steve Jobs, Brooklyn, Spectre, Truth, Age of Adaline, The End of the Tour - could get bumped from a list that I had been hoped to keep exclusive.
Creating my “worst” list was more challenging. While there was some effortless inclusions - I walked out of an empty screening of the woeful Rock the Kashbah 37 minutes in, and while I persevered with Blackhat for research purposes it was pretty much completely unwatchable. Equally, while the first few minutes of Victor Frankenstein were visually splendid, the film went down hill so very rapidly that I walked out at the 50 minute mark, reminded that bloody Daniel Radcliffe was also responsible for Horns, ranked high up on last year’s worst list.
Far longer than my best/worst lists however, were the slew of forgettables: those films that left my mind completely mere seconds after exiting the cinema. In the past few days for example, I’ve seen and forgotten Joy, Sisters, Suffragette and Carol (although admittedly Cate Blanchett’s nails-on-a-chalkboard voice lives on in my night terrors). Further back I saw - and promptly banished from thought - films like Cinderella, The 33, Sicario, Welcome to Me, Ricki and the Flash, Taken 3 and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Not dreadful, no, but these films committed a sin far greater than being bad: they were unmemorable.
So without further ado - and with the disclaimers that a) only films I saw in the 2015 calender year inside cinemas were up for inclusion and b) I lived in a small town in U.S. for the second half of the year thus explaining the dearth of Australian films, the completely absence of foreign language films and the inclusion of several titles that haven’t received an Australian release yet - the year’s best and worst list. Complete with trailers!
My 2015 Favourites:
1/ Ex Machina
6/ Still Alice
8/ The Martian
And 2015’s Worst:
9/ Mr. Holmes
Let the arguments and accustations fly. Meanwhile, I hope your 2016 is a cinematic extravaganza!