I was born at the wrong time to hate M. Night Shyamalan. I was six when Unbreakable was released, eight for Signs, ten for The Village, and fourteen for The Happening. The first of his films that I was of age to see in theatres was The Last Airbender, and by that time the hate for Shyamalan had already seeped into the culture. My first real experience of him was before I had seen any of his films. In the 2007 South Park episode “Imaginationland”. He is called in by the government to find a creative way to defeat terrorists and all he can do is recite dumb plot-twists. Continue reading “Best Films of 2015 – M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit”
I have a testing process for movies. I’ve loved and been burned too many times by the hot new kid on the block (cough cough Avatar cough cough) to not have a buffer. My rating system is built on the principle that no film can get a 10/10 without watching it a second time. It gives me a chance to think about the film, what it means to me, whether what I saw was pure spectacle or pure genius. So around the end of every year, I start going through the films that I’ve loved in the previous 11 months and seeing if they hold up or not. One of the films that I did that with this year was the subject of this review, Magic Mike XXL, and my appreciation for the film has only increased on each viewing. Continue reading “Best Films of 2015 – Gregory Jacobs’ Magic Mike XXL”
2015 was a great year for film. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise because if you didn’t see it you just weren’t paying attention. Even in films that I didn’t particularly like or outright hated, there were incredible performances on our screens all through this year. So as the first part in my 2015 retrospective I want to give you my favourite 37 performances of this year.
Why 37 you ask? Because this list could have been 60 or even 100 performances long if I had wanted it to be. Initially it was a list of 50, but when I got to around number 30 I realized there weren’t too many more that I really wanted to point out. So here are my top 10 performances with explanations and then numbers 27 more listed alphabetically.
#10 – Michael Shannon as Mr. Green in The Night Before
Hi there, long time no see. I kind of took an extended mental health break after the election but I’m back now and it’s to whine about one of my biggest pet-peeves: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s movie commentaries.
Normally I just ignore him because his commentaries are just loaded with lots of nothing. They give online media the opportunity for click-bait headlines like “Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks ‘Star Wars’ science on twitter.”
Now, I understand the corollary between familiarity with a subject and interrupted verisimilitude. I get it, historians are always going to point out historical flaws in movies and scientists are always going to bawk at bad science. I really get it. But I do ask two things from those who seek to stand so high and mighty over us – make sure you know what you’re talking about, and stay curious.
I’m four films away from having seen all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films and what I can say is that he is a remarkable director.
The Sixth Sense is a masterpiece. The Village and Signs are both fascinating meditations on inevitability. The Happening and Unbreakable are well directed and written, but poorly edited. Lady in the Water is a deeply flawed film from its writing but incredibly suspenseful thanks to Shyamalan’s touch as a director.
I’m a little terrified for The Last Airbender and am really unsure of what to think about After Earth, but Wide Awake and The Visit both sound interesting.
Shyamalan’s greatest strength, but also his most contentious stylistic choice is to include humour in his films. The humour is awkward and off putting but it also feels very natural. Like jokes I hear from people in real life even when the characters feel surreal.
His most consistent trait, and that which is responsible for the best moments in his films are his long takes. Think of the slow close up in Sixth Sense before the infamous “I see dead people” line. He has analogous scenes in all his films, some of which are almost Kubrickian in their inventiveness and intensity. The Village is worth rewatching just for the beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakin, but worth examining because of how Shyamalan deliberately uses framing and long takes to direct your attention through his stories.
Basically, Shyamalan is in the perfect place for a critical re-examination and his talent is absolutely deserving of more praise than he is accustomed to receiving.
Unbelievably, W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery spent a solid ten minutes talking about my rankings of Denzel Washington’s filmography on the podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period. I’ve first off got to say thank you to Liz @Denzealots on twitter for sending my list to the hosts because the community that they (and Igor Rusinov) have developed through this podcast.
However, I now feel that I have to finally get around to defending my rankings, something I’ve been putting off as my summer job comes to a close. There are 44 Denzel films that I was considering for this so films like Wilma, Flesh & Blood, and License To Kill are not included in this ranking either because of availability or because they were TV movies that weren’t starring Denzel front and centre (like The George McKenna Story did).
The ranking of films for me always splits into categories of rankings because sometimes the placement themselves don’t give enough information. For instance For Queen and Country is ranked at number 39 and Fallen is ranked at number 40, but For Queen and Country is a significantly better film than Fallen is. It’s just where the rankings had them end up. With that in mind, Denzel’s filmography works as such using the DWITGAOATP rating scale.
I Been Took!
44 – Hard Lessons
43 – Virtuosity
42 – Man on Fire
41 – Carbon Copy
40 – Fallen
I was Led Astray
39 – For Queen and Country
38 – The Siege
37 – The Manchurian Candidate
36 – Cry Freedom
35 – Heart Condition
34 – The Equalizer
33 – 2 Guns
32 – Safe House
31 – Power
30 – The Hurricane
I’d Give it a Hoodwink
29 – Antwone Fisher
28 – The Pelican Brief
27 – John Q
26 – Remember the Titans
25 – The Preacher’s Wife
24 – The Bone Collector
23 – He Got Game
22 – Much Ado About Nothing
21 – Déja Vu
This movie Ran Amok all over the Screen
20 – Mo Better Blues
19 – Courage Under Fire
18 – The Taking of Pelham 123
17 – Ricochet
16 – Glory
15 – Philadelphia
14 – Flight
I give it a Bamboozle!
13 – Mississippi Masala
12 – Out Of Time
11 – Inside Man
10 – Unstoppable
9 – Devil in a Blue Dress
8 – The Book of Eli
7 – The Great Debaters
6 – A Soldier’s Story
5 – Training Day
This is what he does!
4 – The Mighty Quinn
3 – American Gangster
2 – Crimson Tide
1 – Malcolm X
Over the next two weeks I’ll write up an individual post for each category because they all deserve some love and attention, and as I go through them I’ll replace the reviews in the official list on letterboxd with the reviews from these posts and update all the links accordingly.
Oh, and a final note on the headline of this piece. While at first I wasn’t convinced, I am definitely, officially, on board with Denzel being the greatest actor of all time period. No other actor has an output so perfectly consistent that I’ve been witness to.
One of the greatest lines in the history of television came in the fourth season of the West Wing. Sam Seaborn has just been asked by Leo McGarry if there is any end for the conflict with the Muslim world other than an American flag flying over Mecca, and if so, why delay the inevitable, what are we waiting for? Sam responds, “That somebody will think of something before we have to do the unthinkable.”
In the Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America adamantly says that any time someone tries to win a war before it’s begun, innocent people die.
Sam and Cap are both espousing the same idea even if it sounds counterintuitive. You cannot destroy your enemy before they’ve become your enemy, you have to have hope that war can be avoided all together.
Later in the film, when all hope for victory seems lost, the Avengers rally behind saving lives before saving themselves. They rally behind the hope that protection will triumph over aggression
Trying to write a review of this film is torturous. Because I want to share with readers the beauty that I experienced, but I don’t want to ruin the fun for anyone who doesn’t want to know. So what I’ll give you are the jot notes. The paragraph openers. The topics I’ll be discussing. But know that if you venture further than the spoiler warning, know that I won’t just be talking plot points, but full-fledged analysis of this amazing film.
I was shocked and jarred by this film. I cried during this film. This film develops its characters (all of its characters) with subtlety and grace. This film weaves an intricate and delicate plot elegantly to form a story worth telling. This film engages in moral debate with conviction. This film is its own film, and is the jumping off point for so many more stories to be told. Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the best films of this year, one of the best films of the MCU, and possibly one of the best Superhero films of all time.
Here is the spoiler warning.