Every year when the Oscars roll around, I’m often asked what my favourite movie of the year was. It’s a question that drives me up the wall, partly because the person asking it will expect me to defend my choice if and when it conflicts with theirs, but mostly because individual taste is so wildly subjective. It’s why I really don’t care which movie Academy judges decide is a particular year’s best; movie preferences are so varied and cover such a wide range that trying to single out one movie from the dozens of genres and hundreds of releases each year and raising it above all the others is an exercise in absurdity.
But there are some movies that do deserve recognition, so with that in mind, welcome to the premiere presentation of the Shaynies- my favourite movies in my favourite categories. Enjoy.
Favourite Action Movie: Going in, I wasn’t prepared to enjoy this flick as much as I did, but somehow Tom Cruise and company manage to make each entry in the Mission Impossible franchise reasonably fresh, and they did it again with Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation. MI5’s brain trust seriously lucked out with Rebecca Ferguson, who established herself as a stylish, smart and sexy action heroine (there were plenty of ladies commandeering the silver screen last year action wise, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give a shout out to Charlize Theron for her turn in Mad Max: Fury Road, Evangeline Lily for Ant-Man and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and I’m not gonna lie, I came out of the theatre with a bit of a crush on Miss Ferguson. She put a guy in a chokehold, an arm bar and a figure four leg lock all at the same time. I didn’t even know that was physically possible. MI5 had enough other things going for it as well, including a story that didn’t insult the audience’s intelligence (uncharacteristic of action films) and it will be interesting to see if the eventual MI6 can continue to keep this franchise fresh.
Favourite Animated Movie: 2015 was a veritable smorgasbord for animated fare. There was a Peanuts movie, a sequel to Hotel Transylvania, a Minions stand alone movie and for the first time ever, a pair of Pixar releases. People who know me would probably think I’d go with Minions-and it was close- but in the end I have to give the nod to DreamWorks’ Home. Following the antics of an alien misfit and a young girl searching for her mother after the Earth has been hijacked by said aliens; this one tickled the funny bone plenty of times and even tugged on a few heartstrings. Casting Jim Parsons as the socially awkward alien was an inspired choice and the film playfully deals with heavy concepts like loyalty, friendship, family and sacrifice. Many of the other animated films were great, but Home took the cake this year.
Favourite Comedy: After disappointing fans with 2014’s Tammy, Melissa McCarthy returned with a vengeance with Spy, mixing her signature self depreciating humour with a newfound physicality as she played a CIA analyst thrown into the field to thwart an international criminal organization after her partner’s apparent murder. McCarthy enjoyed awesome chemistry with a supporting cast that seemed tailor made for her and director Paul Feig did a great job of peppering quick, sharp jokes in between action sequences. Spy didn’t exactly blow the doors off the box office but proved to have strong enough legs to turn a nice profit and outperform Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adam Sandler at North American theatres. Spy (and the upcoming comedy Boss) should wet moviegoers’ appetite for this summer’s McCarthy lead Ghostbuster reboot.
Favourite Comic Book Movie: There wasn’t a whole lot of choice in this category this year (unlike 2016, which looks like it will be throwing a comic book-themed blockbuster out every month or so), and while I enjoyed Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron wins the prize in this category this year. Make no mistake, the story had plenty of flaws and it wasn’t as good as it’s 2012 predecessor, but the special effects and action took place on such an epic scale that it was basically able to out-shout what little competition it had. Director Joss Whedon used his last directing duty for Marvel to begin adding some new faces to the Avengers roster as the Big 3 get ready to retire their characters and while AoU’s producers didn’t use Avenger arch-nemesis Ultron to his full villainous potential, James Spader’s voice alone was enough to chew up plenty of spandex clad scenery. Now Disney, can we talk about that Black Widow solo movie everyone wants?
Favourite Drama: If you blinked at all during the November rush of Oscar bait releases, you may have missed Spotlight, my favourite dramatic movie from 2015. Based on the true story of a group of investigative journalists in Boston who revealed how large the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church truly was, how long it had been going on and how massive the cover up protecting it was, Spotlight reminded us of how important genuine media could (and should) be and what role it serves in democratic societies. It also revealed how complicit other political institutions were in the conspiracy, a poignant fact considering how much we’re currently witnessing our modern media cozying up to current political forces. And if you didn’t feel like punching a priest in the face before you saw this movie, you definitely will afterwards.
Favourite Horror Movie: None Nada. Zilch. I didn’t see a single horror movie that inspired any genuine emotion save for disappointment and indifference. To say 2015 was a disappointing year for cinematic macabre is an understatement. Every time I saw something that looked mildly interesting or promising, it fell flatter then Bill Cosby’s legal defense. In fact, several of the so-called horror movies I suffered through in ‘15 found their way onto my most disappointing list. And after a number of early misfires, 2016 is looking just as dismal.
Favourite Popcorn Movie: Yes, I called out this movie’s warts in my review, and it wasn’t the perfection we all hoped it would be, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens was easily the best popcorn movie I saw all year. Despite its flaws, watching SW was a genuinely good time and there wasn’t a moment during the film’s two plus hour running time that I didn’t feel like I was twelve years old again. It was like climbing in a time machine for a few hours and your adult concerns and worries were reduced to a stubborn back seat driver. Was it worth the hype? Probably not, but it was worth the price of admission, no matter how many times you saw it.
Favourite Science Fiction Movie: It’s weird giving the nod in this category to The Martian, since even director Ridley Scott refused to categorize it as science fiction because of all the actual science in it. But since it dealt with a level of scientific sophistication a few years beyond Humankind’s current technological reach, I think it’s suitable. Many fans and pundits were initially worried that The Martian’s length and the amount of pure science it included might scare off casual movie goers, but this film ruled the box office for the entire month of October. Up for six Oscars (including Best Picture), the biggest reflection of The Martian’s success wasn’t it’s 630 million dollar international gross, but that fans of Andy Weir’s bestselling book loved the movie as well. And how often does that happen?
Guilty Pleasure: Smart and stylish and a complete box office bomb, The Man From U.N.C.L.E had so much potential and was one of those movies that should have enjoyed success but failed to find an audience for whatever reason. Based on the 60’s TV show, U.N.C.L.E was a nostalgic tale of espionage, intrigue and the reluctant fight for the common good set in Cold War Europe and it smartly embraced a number of classic spy movie tropes, particularly with suave ladies man Napoleon Solo (played convincingly by Henry Cavil sans the super tights). Maybe it was because there wasn’t a gunfight or explosion or Kung-Fu battle royal every five minutes that U.N.C.L.E. couldn’t find success during the summer movie bonanza, but either way, it’s a shame that we won’t get to see these characters (and the suspicious, less then trusting partnership they forged) again in the sequel Warner Bros. obviously had planned.
Most Surprising Movie: I didn’t know what to think of Krampus going in (and truth be told, I still don’t), but while I was expecting to be turned off by this Christmas horror/comedy with a cast comprised of TV level celebrities, I kind of enjoyed myself. Although this tale of a family trying to fend off the ancient demon of Anti-Christmas probably isn’t going to make anyone’s annual list of must see Christmas fare (although it may turn out to be the perfect Black Friday movie), it did leave an impression. Probably destined to be a cult favourite, this flick carved out a little spot in my movie going heart. Shut up.
As an aside, the little seen Victor Frankenstein gets an honourable mention in this category, if for nothing other then James McAvoy’s performance as the tortured, somewhat narcisstic but highly obsessed Dr. Frankenstein.
Favourite Scene: You know how angry you get every time you see the Westboro Baptist Church on TV? How much their “God Hates Fags” signs and their “protests” at funerals pisses you off? If you’re any kind of decent, warm-blooded human being, it makes you want to participate in mass murder with the adult members of Westboro on the receiving end of your biblical wrath. Well, you can live out that fantasy in the infamous church scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service. When Superspy Galahad (Colin Firth) finds himself in a Kentucky hate-church that’s obviously inspired by the real life Westboro Baptist Church, he first shocks one of the church’s flock into horrified silence when he offends each and every one of her numerous bigotries before, while under the influence of the villain’s homicide inducing doomsday device, slaughters the entire congregation in spectacular fashion. Watch the video beneath if you need any convincing. And keep a napkin close; you might get some blood on you.