Yep, it’s that time when I publish my opinions on what were the top movies and films of the year. 2015 was a better year than 2014 in many ways. It gave people lots of reasons to go see a movie. It also gave a lot of good quality films as well. Basically the year gave a lot to be admired. It also helped the film industry breathe a sigh of relief as they may have felt that they were losing crowds because of new media forms.
Nope, people still like going to the cinema to see a movie. And 2015 gave lots of good reasons from your typical superhero movies to the return of a maverick series to a sci-fi film that came from nowhere to amaze people to a film that will infuriate you over bankers to a bear attack for the ages.
So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2015:
- The Big Short
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Ex Machina
- Bridge of Spies
- The Revenant
- Straight Outta Compton
- Inside Out
- The Hateful Eight
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Love and Mercy
And there you have it. My Top 10 films of 2015. For my past lists, just click on the links below:
Once again, it’s my annual look at this year’s top Academy Awards contenders and how they fared at the Box Office. This was something that once again had to wait until one month after the end of the Oscars to get the full picture. Boy did they have a lot to tell. Once again, all credits for my research to Box Office Mojo.
Before I get into explaining the box office results, I’ll let you all in that Awards Daily showed an interesting graph. It showed how not even $500,000 was spent on a For Your Consideration ad for a Golden Globe win but a win brought in megamillions. It also showed how millions are spent on For Your Consideration ads for the Oscar but the box office draw isn’t even half of what one gets from a Golden Globe win. Something to think about. Especially as we all read on.
When the nominations were announced, two of the eight Best Picture nominees–Mad Max:Fury Road and The Martian— had already grossed over $100 million. That wasn’t the case last year when none of them passed that mark on ‘Nomination Day.’ And that was the Thursday just before American Sniper had its wide release. Actually the eight-set of Best Picture nominees turned in an average of over $75 million. Very impressive.
The film that definitely had its biggest boost since its Best Picture nomination was The Revenant. Between Nomination Day and Awards day, it grossed $116.5 million. A significant boost also came to Room which only grossed $5.2 million before the nominations but $8.2 million between Nomination Day and Awards Day. Films like Spotlight, The Big Short and Brooklyn didn’t double their grosses after their nominations like The Revenant and Room did but their Oscar nominations did give them a good added boost. The Big Short received an additional 423.9 million: more than 50% more than before its nominations. Brooklyn also showed a bigger-than-50% increase in its box office results after their nominations. Spotlight also had an increase but it was just slightly over $10 million.
The only three movies that didn’t see a significant boost after their Oscar nominations were Mad Max: Fury Road, Bridge of Spies and The Martian because they had already neared completion of their box office run with their totals as impressive as they would get. Actually Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t re-released after its Oscar nominations.
Now Awards Day came and three of the eight Best Picture winners had grossed over $100 million. However the Best Picture winner was a film that was one of the lowest-grossing of the eight nominees: Spotlight. It didn’t even have $40 million grossed by Awards Night. Ever since it’s only grossed an additional $5.2 million and it’s highly unlikely it will hit $50 million. This makes it the second year in a row the Best Picture winner failed to gross $50 million and the third year in a row it fails to gross $100 million. This is a bit of a surprise since I said to myself months earlier: “One more Best Picture winner that fails to gross $100 million and I’m done with Oscar tracking.”
Actually those were temporary feeling as despite Spotlight‘s low gross, it was a film that gave something to admire. However it does point some interesting stats. This will make it the fourth Best Picture winner of the 2010’s that didn’t gross $100 million and there’s still four more years left. The naughts, the decade before the 2010’s, only had three that failed to do so as did the 90’s. You’d figure that the title of Best Picture Winner’ would be a draw to the box office but now it appears less than ever. This shows an interesting detail about how the Academy is in terms of voting for Best Picture. In the past, it was almost always a Hollywood picture. Then things changed with the 1996 Oscars when Jerry Maguire was the only one of the five Best Picture nominees done by a major Hollywood studio to receive a Best Picture nomination. All of the other four nominees including winner The English Patient were independent films.
Since then, the independent films have been winning the Academy over. This has led to a bigger gap than ever between blockbuster films and critical darlings. It has definitely become evident over these last ten years. It’s a bit of a downer for me because I’d really like to see good cinema do well at the box office deep down inside. However it’s becoming more fact. I read an article from Awards Daily which talked about how independent films and films of critical renown don’t so well nowadays at the box office. In the past, you had the movie box office which gave a first run and second run of movies before it even hit video. Now we have such a wide variety of media methods like Netflix and Shomi. It seems like if you want to bring people to the movies, you have to have what it takes to do it. Moviegoers are now choosier as they can decide whether a movie is worth seeing in a cinema or worth waiting for it on Netflix. That would often mean big special effects and often theatre things like showing them in 3D or AVX or in D-Box seats. You mostly won’t get that with the films that win the biggest critical renown. That could have a lot to do with the Best Picture winner constantly grossing lower and lower. For the record, the last Best Picture winner that grossed $100 million+ is 2012’s Argo.
The box office may not have been friendly to Spotlight but it was friendly to the eight Best Picture winners as a whole. The eight have grossed a combined total of $803.8 million– just over $100 million per film for the first time since 2012– an all of them have grossed over $10 million. Spotlight wasn’t the only nominee to bag some extra money after the Oscars. The Revenant took an extra $11.4 million, The Big Short gained an extra $1.6 million, Brooklyn grossed an extra $1.5 million and Room grabbed an extra $1.2 million. Overall The Revenant and Room were the two with the biggest boosts from the Oscar buzz.
The box office results of this year’s nominees told a lot about moviegoers and their choices this year. The winner told lots about the Academy and how they’ve changed as far as voting for Best Picture. Next year should tell more.
If there’s one movie that’s had its box office results significantly after the nominations, It’s The Revenant. If you’ve seen it already, you’ll easily see why it could have done excellently even without the Oscar buzz.
It’s 1823 in an unsettled wilderness part of the northern area of the Louisiana Purchase. A group of trappers under the command of Captain Andrew Henry search for pelts until a surprise attack from Arikara Native Americans kills many from the camp and cause the survivors to flee on a boat. Part of the camp is Hugh Glass who is on friendly terms with the Natives–even being a widow to a Native American woman and fathering their ‘half-breed’ son Hawk who’s part of the camp– and knows the area well. At Glass’ recommendation, they abandon ship and walk on foot to return to their outpost Fort Kiowa. This does not settle well with some of the trappers including John Fitzgerald who has a hostile attitude towards Natives after being scalped years ago. He is noticeably hostile to Hawk.
Glass scouts ahead alone for a while but he is mauled by a mother bear protecting her cubs. The attack is brutal and Glass is severely mauled but he’s able to stab the bear. The other people in the camp find Glass but doubt his chances for survival. Henry commands to three men in the camp–Hawk, Fitzgerald and the young Jim Bridger–to stay with Glass until he dies and give him a proper burial. Fitzgerald tries to smother Glass when alone but Hawk stops him. Unfortunately stabbed is killed by Fitzgerald as Glass can only lie and watch. Fitzgerald attempts to bury Glass prematurely but stops when he sees Bridger flee and follows.
Abandoned with only a canteen, Glass is somehow able to survive and slowly heal. Days later, he’s able to heal to the point he can move, then crawl, then walk. As he heals he’s haunted by visions of his deceased wife. He even sees visions of her as he comes across an abandoned church. However he also has to deal with the Arikara whose chief is searching for his kidnapped daughter Powaqa and trusts no white man.
Both Fitzgerald and Bridger are heading to Fort Kiowa but Fitzgerald scares Bridger into being fully under his control. One at the Fort, Fitzgerald tells Henry that Glass died and Hawk was attacked by the Arikara. Henry gives both Fitzgerald and Bridger a cash reward. Fitzgerald accepts without guilt but Bridger refuses.
Glass encounters Hicuk, a friendly Pawnee who gives him food and shelter and helps him along the path back to Fort Kiowa. Hikuc has also lost his family. Upon hearing from Glass his intent for revenge, he tells Glass “Revenge is in the Creator’s hands.” The day after the blizzard, Glass wakes to find Hikuc hanged by French pelters. Not only that, he finds Powaqa being raped by leader of the French pelters. He’s able to kill the two leaders and free Powaqa but has to escape with Hikuc’s horse and Bridger’s canteen. An ambush by the Arikara causes Glass to flee on horse only to fall off a cliff. Glass survives but the horse is dead. Glass uses the horse’s carcass as a shelter overnight.
Meanwhile word has gotten around to Fort Kiowa that Glass is in fact alive. This is known as a French hunter brings Bridger’s canteen there. Henry however thinks it’s stolen from Hawk and organizes a search party but Fitzgerald knows the truth and flees. Henry finds Glass alive in the search. Infuriated, he charges Bridger with treason after returning to the Fort but Glass insists it’s all Fitzgerald’s doing.
The operation then goes to find Fitzgerald and bring him to justice. Henry however is caught by Fitzgerald in an ambush and is killed and scalped. It’s now up to Glass who hatches a plan to finally get his revenge. It works in catching Fitzgerald and having him shot but not without Fitzgerald being able to run off. It then comes down to a fight between the two for Glass to get his revenge. It ends with Glass making a decision and an ending we’re all left to decide for ourselves Glass’ fate.
Now just to get things straight, this is not the true story of Hugh Glass getting revenge on John Fitzgerald. In fact historic documentation shows Glass let Fitzgerald live because he knew the heavy penalty of killing a soldier in the U.S. Army. Fitzgerald became a soldier in the U.S. army and was stationed in Fort Atkinson, Nebraska. Fitzgerald did give Glass his rifle back.
This film is actually a revenge story adapted from the 2002 novel The Revenant: A Story Of Revenge by Michael Punke. I think the focus of the film is more about telling the story than it is about retelling history. I have not read Punke’s novel but I’m sure that was how Punke would have wanted Fitzgerald to face the music upon abandoning Glass to die. There is actually very little information about who John Fitzgerald was or even what type of person he was in real life. We have the historical documentation of what happened to Glass and what happened in his pursuit of Fitzgerald but not much else. The novel was not only Punke’s chance of creating his own revenge fantasy in Fitzgerald but giving Fitzgerald a character of his own. The film helps Punke’s story come alive and even paint a picture of Glass, Fitzgerald, the times, the terrain and the domain of all that happened.
This revenge story is not your typical revenge story you’d see in your typical Hollywood movies or even from the likes of Quentin Tarantino. This revenge story is also a story of survival and also shows a human side of the perpetrator Hugh Glass. Yes, he was as tough as a frontiersman and a trapper of the time should be. However he did have a soft side. He still has feelings towards his deceased wife who was a Native American woman and he truly loved his son despite others seeing him as a ‘half-breed.’ He also had to be tough as he needed to survive the brutal bear attack and recover from his wounds in order to pursue Fitzgerald. He also had to develop the will to live knowing that his son was killed by Fitzgerald. He also had to be right in his mind in deciding what he had to do to Fitzgerald in the end.
I will admit there were times when I questioned if this film was becoming too much of a tall tale. One example is when seeing Glass pursue Fitzgerald in what appeared to be just days before his attack. I often asked: “Would someone who suffered such a brutal bear attack recover in that fast of a time?” Even that scene where Glass and his horse fall off a cliff. The snowy tree broke Glass’ fall and helped him live without any severe bodily damage but the horse died. That scene also had me scratching my head. Maybe those scenes and the elapsed time were also part of Punke’s novel. Nevertheless it still had me questioning its believability.
First off I’d like to give respect to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for delivering an excellent movie. He may be renowned for his ‘filmwork’ but here he takes his first steps in directing a movie intended to draw big crowds while still maintaining some top film making qualities. Very little was compromised and the end result was excellent as it both succeeds as a film and as a movie. I’ll admit I was unhappy about Birdman winning Best Picture last year because it didn’t give much for a film audience to either enjoy or appreciate. Yes, it had top-notch acting, directing and scriptwriting but who truly enjoyed it? This is ten times more enjoyable while still maintaining top acting and directing. Yes, there were some scenes that can scare many. In fact I’ll admit the film made me hope I never walk in the woods again. Nevertheless it was a very good movie full of drama and thrills. As I said, I have never read Punke’s novel but the script Inarritu co-wrote with Mark L. Smith definitely makes the novel come alive. I know the script was not nominated for an Oscar. However the unspoken scenes in the movie told as much as the scripted scenes.
The film would simply be a popcorn movie if it weren’t for the acting. Leonardo DiCaprio did an excellent job of Hugh Glass. He said a lot especially in the scenes where Hugh Glass was unable to speak. His performance was as much about telling a lot through physical actions as it was through dialogue. Hey, it’s been said 80% of communication is non-verbal and Leo was able to say a lot in those scenes. That’s why I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win the Oscar. Also just as excellent is Tom Hardy. He didn’t play your typical rotten-to-the-core villain. He gave John Fitzgerald some fears and insecurities to the role and conveyed them well. Nevertheless he also made Fitzgerald hateable as a remorseless villain who even calls the dead Hawk a ‘pussy’ in Glass’ face. Additional performances of respect include Bill Poulter as Jim Bridger, the young trapper who possesses the conscience Fitzgerald lacks, and Forrest Goodluck as Hawk.
Additional qualities of acclaim is the cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki, the costuming by Jacqueline West including its use of furs and hides, the film editing by Stephen Mirrione, the visual effects including that of the bear attack, the excellent use of both natural settings and constructed sets that fit the times and scenes perfectly and the film’s score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai and Bryce Dessner.
An additional note. I also give the film respect for its treatment of Native Americans. I may have been a baby when Sacheen Littlefeather refuted Marlon Brando’s Oscar on his behalf and spoke of his protest to the on-screen depiction of Native Americans or First Nations peoples as Canadians commonly refer to them as. However I already know of Hollywood’s past and how they’re famous for shelling out ‘cowboys and indians’ movies from decades past. I can completely understand why Brando would have been angry with that depiction as Brando has had a history of activism in the 1970’s on behalf of people of various races. I will admit Hollywood has been better at its depiction of indigenous Americans from films like 1990’s Dances With Wolves and even the character of Chief in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that was shown in theatres a mere three years after Brando’s Oscar protest. I’m sure there are some people that can spot imperfections in Hollywood’s current treatment of Native Americans including in this film but I found it hard to pinpoint a scene that was insulting to them. Sure there were battles with tribes and there were bigoted attitudes among many white characters but there were many positive Native American characters in this movie. In addition the main protagonist Hugh Glass had positive interaction with the Native people including marrying one and treating his son with love while many despised him as a ‘half-breed.’
The Revenant isn’t just a dazzling movie. It’s one that will keep you intrigued from start to finish and not know what to expect next.