You could say our Best of the Year coverage is exhaustive. We just want to cover it all — there’s a lot out there from 2015 that deserves our love. Yet somehow we just can’t manage to fit in everything that caught our fancy this year. That’s where this feature comes in. It’s the place where we get to shout out the stuff that’s not necessarily the “Best,” but really stuck with us for reasons that are good, bad, weird, or funny (and here’s yesterday’s companion piece to this one, the Best Music Moments of 2015).
2015 wasn’t just made up of stellar moments; there were also incredible examples of WTFery that delighted or amazed in some way. A lot of these are singular examples of their excellence (or terribleness) and therefore didn’t merit their own list, but still deserve some kind of recognition. We’ve done this before and it’s always been a delightfully cathartic and silly cap to the seriousness with which we take our other features.
So pour yourself a cup of something strong (we already have), and join us as we delve into the grab-bag of random stuff that didn’t necessarily find a place in our year-end pieces. Warning: there are some spoilers ahead.
Best Opening Sequence
The opening sequence of “Bridge Of Spies” is ready for Spielberg’s highlight reel. From that wonderful first shot of Mark Rylance painting, it shifts into a clever suspense sequence showing him making a pick-up while being shadowed by agents. It’s a classic Spielberg set piece, rich in detail, humor and inventive camerawork, and it might also be the most Hitchcockian thing he’s ever done.
Best Opening Credits Sequence
“Heaven Knows What” starts off, after a harrowing suicide attempt, with a bravura long-take and slow-motion shot all set to Isao Tomita while the old-school credits land onscreen. From there, it’s as though we’re on another planet altogether.
Single Most Beautiful Shot
It came to a three-way tie: “The Assassin” is stunning in every single moment, but no more so than in a nearly final shot, as mist rises over the mountains: It has to be seen to be believed. Meanwhile, the final shot of “Carol” is a stunner, while the projector shot in “45 Years” is a masterpiece of minimal storytelling (and performance, by Charlotte Rampling).
Most Spectacular Shot
The single shot this year that truly staggered us was in Roy Andersson’s dryly funny “A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence.” In one of the Swedish filmmakers’ trademark tableaus, we meet the inhabitants of a cafe/bar, only for King Charles XII, last seen in the 18th century, to arrive with his seemingly endless army; proposition a male bartender; and then, later, return with his army routed. You can keep your CGI robots and giant dinosaurs; this is real cinema spectacle.
Best Creepy Dance & Sing Along
Ryan Gosling’s David Lynch/giallo-influenced directorial debut “Lost River” was mixed bag or a hot mess depending on your point of view. But as off as it was, there were lots of individual stylish elements worth loving, like a great score by Johnny Jewel and terrific cinematography by Benoit Debie. Also pretty much stealing every scene he was in was Ben Mendelsohn, who made our Best Performances list for a collection of many great 2015 performances. In “Lost River,” he’s essentially playing the big bad wolf: a slippery, conniving fellow who runs the bizarro art club in the movie. And so Mendelsohn has two great moments in “Lost River”: his creepy dance scene, and his Nick Cave interpretation singing Johnny Jewel’s original song, “Cool Water.” Now we have to ask this: Is there really anything that Mendelsohn can’t do?
Single Worst Scene
Obviously there were plenty of contenders in this category — that tin-eared Chris Pratt/Bryce Dallas Howard moment when they were talking about their first date for “Jurassic World,” inexplicably released as the first glimpse of the movie, for one — but there was nothing so excruciating as the music video/dream sequence in “Youth,” as Ed Stoppard (as Rachel Weisz’s ex-husband) and singer Paloma Faith, unconvincingly playing herself, frolic among spectacularly awful CGI explosions and motorcycles. It’s a sinkhole of embarrassment for everyone involved.
Another tie here: We mostly loved “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” but despite Christopher McQuarrie’s writing and Alec Baldwin’s delivery, the line where we’re told that Ethan Hunt “is the living manifestation of destiny” clangs like an anvil dropped into a metal bowl. Still, it’s probably preferable to Jamie Dornan’s “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” from “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” though even that’s lifted from the novel. However, nothing can beat Mila Kunis telling Channing Tatum’s part-canine warrior that “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs” in “Jupiter Ascending.”
Best Human Toilet Scene
Most Tear-Jerking Moment
Most people would say that the point in “Inside Out” that set the tear ducts flowing was Bing Bong’s self-sacrifice, but we were really destroyed when Riley (in whose head the film has been set) returns home to her parents, having nearly run away, and breaks down to her parents, confessing that she misses her old life and struggles with being their “happy girl.” Special mention, too, to “You’re gonna love it — the world,” from “Room;” and, well, basically all of “Room.”
Best Foreign Film We Didn’t Really Give Any Props To Anywhere, But We Still Like
Asghar Farhadi’s “About Elly” actually premiered at Berlin six whole years ago, but finally saw the light of day this year in the U.S after the Oscar-winning success of “A Separation” and the acclaimed “The Past.” The film — the story of a group of friends’ trip to the sea, as an attempt to set up a teacher with a divorced man goes on to have tragic consequences — isn’t quite up to its predecessors, a little less successful at juggling human nuance and melodrama, but that’s in part only because Farhadi set such high standards afterwards.
After all the tears, it’s great that “Inside Out” ends on such a comedic high as the brief glimpse inside the head of a pre-teen boy as he meets Riley: his emotions panicking as an alarm sounds, red lights flash, and the word “Girl! Girl! Girl! Girl!” repeats. The credits are great too (see below), but this is one of our favorite Pixar gags ever.
Best Verbal Fights
We made an entire list of the best action scenes of 2015, but arguably we could make an entire list of the best verbal sparring of 2015. Easily the best and most dynamic is the final face-off between Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) before the product launch of his NeXT computer in “Steve Jobs.” This scene may be totally fictional, but it’s classic Aaron Sorkin and the sparks fly faster and more furious than any car chase in 2015. It’s verbal fireworks—so much so that during the world premiere screening at Telluride after this scene, which practically had the entire audience holding their breath until it was over, everyone erupted in elated cheers when it ended. On the other end of the dialogue-battle spectrum was bumbling American spy Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) and a bouffant-haired villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) facing off in a plane. The entire hilarious dynamic between the two women throughout the entire movie is how brutally condescending Boyanov is to the unsophisticated and unworldly Cooper, and Byrne, quickly becoming an MVP supporting player in every comedy she graces, undresses McCarthy with laugh-out-loud haughtiness.
There are some good soliloquies in Aaron Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs,” but Alex Ross Perry’s “Queen Of Earth” takes the prize here, with both of its female leads getting terrifically written speeches, and Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston making them sing.
Best Character In An Otherwise Disappointing Blockbuster
As a whole, we were a little underwhelmed by both “Jurassic World” and “Ant-Man,” but each had gems of characters among their more forgettable cast members too. We loved Irrfan Kahn in the former, clearly having a ton of fun as an insanely reckless billionaire playboy who severely estimates his abilities as a helicopter pilot. And obviously Michael Peña in “Ant-Man” was a highlight — his character’s habit of delivering exposition that goes on ridiculous tangents was a highly original and very funny one in a movie that could have used a little more of both originality and jokes.
Best Use Of CGI In 2015
Tie: The third act of Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk” and all the ocean scenes in Ron Howard‘s “In The Heart Of The Sea.“
Most Generic Villain
Corey Stoll in “Ant-Man.” Memo to Marvel: stop making your villains interchangeable corporate scumbags. It’s really boring.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” needed to come up with a doozy of a villain, given that Darth Vader is one of the franchise’s most iconic bad guys. But whatever David Fincher might have thought in advance, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren turned out to be something of a genius stroke. If he looked a little like Vader, that’s because Kylo is a fanboy of sorts, one trying to emulate his supervillain grandfather. But even though he’s pretty dastardly — he kills his dad! Who is Han Solo! — Driver brings out the pathos of a confused, troubled kid who doesn’t really know what he wants. It’s a fascinating choice, and one of the best elements of the movie.
Best Breakthrough Performance Not On Our Breakthrough Performances List
Daisy Ridley as Rey in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” She steals the entire show, nuff said.
Best Blockbuster Joke
Three-way tie. We loved Jeremy Renner (whose character was one of the few ‘Age Of Ultron‘ elements that improved this time out) grumbling to himself about wanting to kill Aaron Taylor-Johnson, something that anyone who saw “Godzilla” will surely empathize with. One of the highlights of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” was the boat chase, when Henry Cavill eats a sandwich in the cabin of a truck while his partner, Armie Hammer, battles villains on a speedboat behind him. And finally, though there are several good jokes in “The Force Awakens,” BB-8 returning Finn’s thumbs-up has to be the finest.
Best Dramatic Performance By A Comedic Actor
Seth Rogen’s Steve Wozniak in “Steve Jobs” is absolutely terrific, showing the fierce loyalty, simmering anger, and social vulnerability of the Apple co-founder.
After months of strenuous denials that, no, Christoph Waltz couldn’t possibly be playing Bond’s arch-nemesis Blofeld in “Spectre,” a movie named after Blofeld’s organization, he turned out to be doing exactly that. The nonsensical reveal made us want to slap (all four) of the screenwriters.
The Worst Crossing The Line Scene
*Spoilers ahead.* Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic in Quentin Tarantino’s nasty “The Hateful Eight.” He know’s Tarantino’s rhythms and he knows the pitch and he sells every damn scene so well. But as problematic as the provocative “The Hateful Eight” is, there’s one scene that’s totally vile and unpleasant. No, it’s not the scene some call misogynist — that character lives and dies like every other loathsome character in the movie and she’s arguably the most dangerous to boot. It’s the long-winded flashback scene where Jackson’s character tells the Southern General (played by Bruce Dern) that not only is he aware how his son died, but he met his fate at the black bounty hunter’s hands. Worse, the scene gets overly brutal and crosses all lines of good taste when Jackson’s character describes that not only did he let him freeze to death naked in the snow, he made the man fellate him for why-the-hell-not extra pleasure. Even for Tarantino, who wrote the sodomizing Gimp scene in “Pulp Fiction,” this takes the cake for maybe the most foul scene of 2015.
Single Most Hilarious Break Of Suspension Of Disbelief
Johnny Drama Wins A Golden Globe in “Entourage“
Most Grossly Synergistic Scene
There are many repulsive things about “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” but the worst might be the moment when Colin Firth’s super-spy sits down his apprentice (Taron Egerton), and explains how his agency, the Kingsmen, work, and how the tabloid press do their patriotic duty by covering up their secrets. The tabloid in question? The Sun, the loathsome, illegal-payment-making, Liverpool-fan-slandering rag that competes with the Daily Mail for being Britain’s worst newspaper. And what’s particularly awful about this scene is that The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who of course, is also the boss of “Kingsman” backers 20th Century Fox.
The Pacific Rim Award For Most Ridiculous Character Names
“Jupiter Ascending” takes this without breaking a sweat. We thought sci-fi names had peaked with “Pacific Rim“‘s Stacker Pentecost, but the Wachowskis’ latest doesn’t just call its main character Jupiter Jones (she’s ascending, get it?), name Channing Tatum’s character Caine Wise, make Sean Bean play a half-bee named Stinger Apini, and have a trio of exquisitely cheek-boned villains called Balem, Titus and Kalique Abrasax. It also features a character called Chicanery Night.
Most Instantly Forgettable Movie
Believe it or not, back in February 2015, a movie called “Focus” was released. It came from the directors of “Crazy Stupid Love,” marked the return of superstar Will Smith, who was teamed with the fast-rising Margot Robbie. It was a con movie. It definitely existed. Here is the IMDb page, if you don’t believe us. Honestly. We promise, it’s a real thing. Here’s a trailer for it.
Best Awkward Sex Scene
Sure, 3D cum shots were pretty uncomfortable if you were sitting next to mom and dad in “Love,” but was there anything funnier than John Cena getting off on his own physique and chiseled body while fucking Amy Schumer in “Trainwreck”? More Cena, please. And well, more Schumer all the time too, duh.
Best Scene-Stealing Supporting Comedic Performance
Tilda Swinton in “Trainwreck”
Best Use Of Kurt Russell
Worst Use Of Kurt Russell
Best in this case probably meaning “most horribly traumatizing.” After its throat-slitting opening sequence, hidden-gem cannibal Western “Bone Tomahawk” steers clear of the gore for roughly two-thirds of its running time, but once we meet the inbred shut-ins in the third act, things get very, very unpleasant, very quickly, as deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit) is scalped, and then bisected ass-first. Once you see it, you will never unsee it.
Best Performance In An Otherwise Awful Prestige Picture
As our Berlin review revealed, “Woman In Gold” was the grey-dollar-baiting prestige picture done wrong: simplistic; syrupy; bland; and, frankly, exploitative. But it did have one reason to check it out: a terrific performance from “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany as the younger version of Helen Mirren’s character. We wish her big-screen career had gotten off to a better start, but she’s going to be a big star either way.
Most Harrowing Abortion Scene
“The Tribe.” For future reference, don’t see “The Tribe” as a date movie. Take it from personal experience.
Least Convincing Screen Couple
A “chemistry read” is a step of the audition process where you put the two actors you’re thinking about in a room together to see if sparks will fly on screen. It’s a step that “True Story” must have skipped, because at no point do you ever buy Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones as a married couple.
Worst Comic Supporting Character
Rory Kinnear is a hugely respected stage actor in the U.K. (you probably know him best as Bill Tanner from the Bond movies), but holy god is he awful in otherwise good rom-com “Man Up.” He plays a stalkerish schoolmate of Lake Bell’s lead, and appears to have walked in from a different movie entirely—or more accurately, walked in from an awful ’70s sitcom.
“Mr. Holmes,” beating “Jupiter Ascending” by a nose.
Best Anthemic Ending That Will Make You Burst Into Applause
There’s lots to like about Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” even if it is maybe 25 minutes too long. It’s got a great diverse ensemble of terrific actors; and, well, for a Ridley Scott movie — a hit-or-miss proposal — it’s actually pretty damn good. But it’s the ending that really resonates. As the crew of the Ares III return to Mars in hopes of fetching Matt Damon, it’s a long and arduous third act to get him back to safety — but hot damn, when he’s finally back in the arms of his friends and all of NASA and Earth watches in collective exasperated relief, it’s one of the most emotionally cathartic moments of the year.
Best Penis Scene
Props to Sundance comedy “The Overnight” for embracing male nudity to the degree that it did, with its two leads both letting it all hang out. Sort of — Jason Schwartzman and Adam Scott both have prosthetics, but there were few bigger laughs this year than the first glimpse of Schwartzman’s giant member.
Most Underwhelming $200 Million TV Episode
If you don’t believe that superhero fatigue is a real thing, we’d recommend checking out “Avengers: Age Of Ultron,” which was more or less a living embodiment of it. Joss Whedon’s first Marvel team-up movie was one of the best movies in the genre to date, but the sequel just felt tired: overlong, overstuffed, and going through the CGI-battle motions. Whedon was open about how exhausted he was during the film’s press tour, but frankly, it was already up there on screen.
Best/Weirdest Detour In A Blockbuster Movie
There are many, many reasons to love “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but one of them is that had the gumption to take a breather from the action for its mid-way section in the muds of what we later find out was one the “Green Place.” It’s a beautifully existential, almost Tarkovsky-ish arthouse segue that’s just as thrilling as the stunts and explosions.
While we admire the bravado of turning Mad Max into a sidekick in his own movie, we had to give this to Daniel Kaluuya in “Sicario.” We’ve had our eye on the British actor for a while, but he fulfilled his promise with a hugely engaging turn as Emily Blunt’s FBI partner: thoroughly decent, loyal, good-humored, maybe a little bit in love with her, and a realist. The mooted “Sicario” sequel would seemingly focus on Benicio Del Toro’s character, but we’d be down for a series of Kate and Reggie back busting heads together.
Worst, Most Laughable CGI
“Youth” has multiple contenders for this, but there was nothing quite as unconvincing as Olivia Williams being “set on fire” in “Maps To The Stars.” Is it really that much cheaper than covering a stuntwoman in Vaseline and lighting them up like they did in the old days?
The Woody Allen Award For Repeating Yourself Thematically
Woody Allen for “Irrational Man”
Worst English Dialogue From A Foreign-Language Filmmaker
Another tie: No one in either “Clouds Of Sils Maria” or “Youth” talks remotely like an actual human being would talk.
Best Director Cameo
It might be a six-hour arthouse epic about austerity-era Portugal, but “Arabian Nights” is also full of wit and joy, none more so in the opening moments of “Volume One,” when director Miguel Gomes turns up to introduce and explain the project, realizes the folly of what he has planned, and, panicking, does a runner, his crew pursuing him. Every movie should begin like this.
Best Sex Scenes
Two of our favorite movies of the year also contained two of our favorite sex scenes (a coincidence, we assure you). There’s the almost impossibly tender lovemaking between the title character and Therese in “Carol,” which, unlike other all-female romances (hi, ‘Blue Is The Warmest Color”), never feels like it’s in service of the male gaze, and allows so much of what’s been unsaid out in the open. “45 Years,” meanwhile, includes the rare sex scene between an older couple when Tom Courtenay (the actor’s first ever sex scene, he says) and Charlotte Rampling get it on, and it’s a perfect example of telling story and revealing character through fucking.
Best Oral Sex in a Carwash
Best Oral Sex Not In A Carwash And Also Best Stop-Motion Animated Sex
Best/Only 3D Ejaculation
‘Gaspar Noé’s “Love.”
Best Servicing Of The Female Gaze
There was a distinct shift from “Magic Mike,” a reasonably serious drama about the economic collapse and the American dream, and the simpler but equal pleasures of “Magic Mike XXL.” And one of the differences is that even more than its predecessor, it’s a film exclusively aimed towards the female (and gay-male) gaze. Channing Tatum and his crew don’t just mind being objectified by the camera here, they positively revel in it. Given how male-skewed sexuality on screen tends to be, that’s hugely refreshing.
Most Notable Absence
Vaginas in “Love.” To explain: For all its talk of explicit sex, Gaspar Noé’s “Love” proves to be surprisingly shy about showing female genitalia. Perhaps shy is the wrong word: Noé’s camera simply isn’t interested in examining female sexuality or pleasure, because he’s much too busy focusing on his surrogate’s penis. Which makes sense, as the film is sort of the cinematic equivalent of having a rib removed so you blow yourself.
Most Interesting Failure
“Tomorrowland” seemed too big to fail: a new movie by visionary director Brad Bird, starring genuine movie star George Clooney and based, however tangentially, on the futuristic utopian philosophy of Walt Disney. And while the movie retained its utterly fascinating quality (and, truth be told, packs more of a wallop on home video), it also ended up less than the sum of its parts, alternating between extremely preachy moments and a world too opaque to fully grab onto. Ah, what could have been…
Most Sadistic Death
“Bone Tomahawk” does feature, as we said above, the sight of a man being scalped, turned upside down, and bisected through the asshole. Even then, though, it doesn’t feel quite as sadistic as the demise of Katie McGrath’s PA in “Jurassic World,” turned into a screaming pterodactyl chew toy. It’s unearned — the character was kind of a dick, but we hardly got to know her — but what makes it particularly egregious is that it’s entirely the fault of our ‘heroes,’ who let the world’s biggest dinosaur out of its enclosure, then failed to evacuate the island when they had the chance. Dicks.
“Carol” — everything people put on their heads in this movie is an absolute winner. Has anyone ever wore a Santa hat better than Rooney Mara here? But Therese’s beret thing is the best in an impeccable collection.
Bandanas as a whole are terrible, evil things, but Jason Segel does at least rock one in a very David Foster Wallace way in “End Of The Tour,” enough that it would almost be enough to consider not setting fire to the next bandana we see.
Best Use Of The Movie “Broken Arrow” In A Motion Picture
“The End Of The Tour”
Best Use Of The Song “You Oughtta Know” In A Motion Picture
“The End Of The Tour”
Best Fur Coat
Ben Mendelsohn’s wooly number — which makes him look like he’s skinned, stylish Chewbacca — in “Slow West.”
The James Badge Dale Good In Everything Award
Ben Mendelsohn felt almost omnipresent this year. Between “Bloodline” and his four big-screen performances (plus “Exodus: Gods And Kings” at the end of last year), the Australian actor was always worth watching. He was even good in Ryan Gosling’s “Lost River,” for God’s sake.
Least Secret Secret Agent
Plenty of competition this year, but James Bond in “Spectre” has to take the prize: He blows up a building, has a fistfight in a helicopter above a crowd of literally thousands of people, travels to Q’s secret lab in the biggest speedboat you’ve ever seen, crashes an enormous plane into a forest, and shoots down a helicopter above the Thames. BE BETTER AT YOUR JOB, JAMES.
Best Action Set Piece We Forgot To Include In Best Action Sequences
I guess we could argue that the titular sequence in “The Walk,” which takes up most of the last third of Robert Zemeckis’ movie, isn’t technically an action scene. Nevertheless, we probably should have included it in our Best Action Sequences piece, because it’s a bravura, breathless bit of 3D filmmaking, one that nearly makes you forget the movie’s other flaws. It’s probably the best thing that Robert Zemeckis has directed since “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Best Kray Performance
Tom Hardy in suave movie-star form as Reggie in “Legend”
Worst Kray Performance
Tom Hardy as the cartoonish, one-note Ronnie in “Legend.”
The Tom Hardy Award For Silliest Accent
Every single person in “Child 44,” including Tom Hardy.
Best Screen Sibling
Quite rightly, Brie Larson is getting a ton of praise, and probably an Oscar nomination, for her performance in “Room,” but she was also one of the best things about “Trainwreck.” The film’s not always successful at trying to be a rom-com, but it’s far better when it’s examining family and sibling relationships, and the actress brings real authenticity and power to playing Amy Schumer’s younger, more settled sister, while never forgetting she’s in a comedy.
Best Screen (Step)Parent
I don’t know if there’s a character we loved more — like, wanted to reach into the screen and hug love — than Leo in “Room.” Played by relatively little-known Canadian actor Tom McCamus, the role of the new partner of Joan Allen, the mother of Brie Larson’s character, who left her husband (William H. Macy) after her daughter disappeared, could easily have been underwritten. But McCamus invests him with such warmth, such humanity, that every character on screen accepts him easily, and so did we.
We’ve been increasingly dispirited to see “Trumbo” look like a serious Oscar contender (at least in acting categories), because it’s a film that couldn’t stick closer to the biopic playbook if it tried. Self-congratulatory, lacking in complexity, glossing over events, featuring a parade of poor impersonations of people like John Wayne and Otto Preminger, it essentially felt like a straight-to-cable sequel to the already rubbish “Hitchcock” from a few years back. Even Bryan Cranston felt overly theatrical and mannered.
“Steve Jobs” is like Aaron Sorkin’s version of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” a look at a man who’s fully aware that he’s an asshole, but can’t quite stop himself, because he’s such a genius.
Best Christmas Movie
We’ll be watching “Tangerine” during the holiday season in the upcoming years. Though it’s a sunny LA Christmas, there’s something about Sean Baker’s movie that feels utterly Christmas-y, even without Rankin/Bass stop-motion or a Ghost of Christmas Past.
We loved German one-shot thriller “Victoria,” but lord, do its characters make some very, very poor decisions. The title character starts things off by joining a heist with a bunch of strangers mainly because she thinks one of them is hot, but things get even worse after the successful completion of the mission, when our amateur thieves leave their drunk, passed-out friend in the getaway car, leading to the police swarming in on them. Oops.
Most Effective Defense Of Journalism
Least Effective Defense Of Journalism
If the intent of “Truth” was to suggest that Dan Rather and his CBS team were unfairly treated, it doesn’t work: There’s little evidence in the movie to suggest that they weren’t at the very least sloppy in their story.
Most Miscast Villain
Domhnall Gleeson had a great year — “Ex Machina,” “Brooklyn,” “The Revenant.” But we have to confess that we didn’t particularly buy him as the evil First Order leader General Hux in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” In part, it’s because there doesn’t appear to be much for him to play beyond “evil.” But it’s also, when compared to people like Peter Cushing, Gleeson just isn’t that menacing. He’s not bad at delivering his fascist rant before deploying his superweapon, but early on, he seems a little incompetent, and a little overwhelmed by Kylo Ren, rather than a valid rival. The actor’s good at playing dark, but more so when showing the latent ambition and inhumanity behind a “nice guy” stereotype (see “Frank,” “Ex Machina”). Here, he just stuck out.
Most Passive Tentpole Hero
Katniss Everdeen has been one of the most iconic blockbuster heroes of recent times, which just makes it more of a shame that ‘Mockingjay Pt. 2‘ hangs her out to dry to the extent that it does. We know that part of the point is that the system uses Katniss for her own ends, but the final movie sees her stripped of almost any agency (at least until she kills Coin at the end), pushed along by plot contrivances and even sitting out the final battle.
Most Surprisingly Bloody Comedy
The idea of a vampire mockumentary seemed potentially hacky — let’s ram together two things that are popular for a quick cash-in. But “What We Do In The Shadows” was a delight: legitimately funny throughout, shot with real visual flair and a love for the lore. It was also, pleasingly, gorier than many horror movies, not shirking on the red stuff just because it was mostly going for laughs. Think early Peter Jackson doing “The Office.”
Most Kid-Traumatizing Death
A few candidates for this this year, not least in “Star Wars,” but Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” wins, if only because the death of Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) seems to have been engineered to echo Bambi’s mother and Simba’s father in the Disney death-toll history. It’s brief, sudden and painful even for older audiences.
The “Twilight” Memorial Fire Your Wig Stylist Award For Worst Hair
You had to feel for Kate Mara during “Fantastic Four” — not only was a very fine actress suffering through a very poor movie, but her haircut seemingly changed from scene to scene, and sometimes it felt even shot to shot. It’s not a particularly dignified look any way around, though it does at least enable you to play a fun game of “spot the reshoot” if you end up trapped on a plane without nothing else to watch.
Funniest Performance From Someone Not Known For Being Funny
Some of us have to develop a funny bone because we don’t have much else going for us. So it seems almost unfair that Jason Statham and John Cena, two attractive professional athletes turned action stars, suddenly turn out to be hilarious. But they both did: Jason Statham proved to be a total comic boon to “Spy,” while Cena wasn’t just one of the funniest things in “Trainwreck,” he was one of the funniest things in “Sisters” too, and even made a cameo in “Daddy’s Home” worthwhile. Who wants to Kickstart a “Step Brothers” remake starring both of them?
Most Ironically Timed Release Of A Hagiography Of A Corrupt Institution
There was probably never going to be a good time to release “United Passions,” the unintentionally hilarious, yet also incredibly terrible biopic of soccer governing body FIFA, but as it turns out, the movie finally hit U.S. theaters the exact same week as the giant corruption scandal over the association hit the headlines. The result? A grand box office total of $607. Yes, that’s six hundred and seven dollars, total.
Eddie Redmayne In “The Danish Girl.” Stop it, Eddie! Your face is still there; it’s not going to fall off if you don’t prop it up.
The Sandra Bullock Award For Being The Most Likely to be Nominated for an Oscar and a Razzie in the Same Year
Eddie Redmayne for “The Danish Girl” and “Jupiter Ascending”
Must-Have 2015 Movie Accessory
No Christmas party ensemble was complete this year without a quick spray around the mouth of the War Boys’ trademark chrome paint from “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It’s festive, fun, and is best used for when you shout “Mediocre! Mediocre!” at bus shelter posters for “The Danish Girl”
Best Use of Alicia Vikander In A Year Full Of Alicia Vikander
Worst Use Of Alicia Vikander In A Year Full Of Alicia Vikander
Best Screen Spouse
A pleasing trend in the recent work of Seth Rogen-starring bro-coms is making the female characters just as interesting as the dudes. After Rose Byrne’s excellent turn in “Neighbors” last year, “22 Jump Street” breakout Jillian Bell got an atypically nuanced part as Seth Rogen’s wife in “The Night Before.” She’s cool — buying her husband a ton of drugs because he’s been so supportive — but not some unrealistic idea of spousedom; she’s funny, but not a caricature; she’s got chemistry with her counterpart, but isn’t sexualized either. Between this and her last big-screen role, we kind of feel that Bell should be in everything now.
Least Convincing Computer Hacker
Chris Hemsworth in “Blackhat.”
Most Surprisingly Dark Twist In A Kids’ Movie
If you didn’t see “Goosebumps,” we kind of understand why: The trailers weren’t especially appealing, with some ugly digital photography and broad gags. The movie as a whole had those too, but it also proved to be rather undervalued, a smart and funny family film that did a better job than most at aping the Amblin vibe. It also packed a surprising punch, as it turns out *SPOILER* that female lead Hannah (Odeya Rush), the daughter of Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine (Jack Black), is actually a fictional character brought to life after his wife died. It doesn’t sound like it makes that much sense on paper, but hand on heart, it’s got a surprising amount of pathos behind it in the execution.
Best Low-Key Blockbuster Ending
For Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” Christopher McQuarrie has been open that he fought with Paramount to put the opening mass and thrilling airplane stunt at the beginning rather than the end, where the studio wanted it. It’s a ballsy move, considering McQuarrie more or less was writing the movie as they filmed it. The conclusion that he came up with doesn’t have much in the way of traditional tentpole thrills, but by keeping it to a pleasingly low-key, suspenseful chase sequence where wits, not brawn, win out, it feels much more fun.
Most Triumphant Ending
It’s almost impossible to leave “Creed” on anything but a high, but it’s nothing to do with anything that went on in the ring. After the title character gets through in the ring, we return to Philly, where, in an echo of previous movies, Rocky once again climbs the steps in front of the Museum Of Art. This time, though, he’s battling cancer and weak from chemo, and thus needs Donnie’s (Michael B. Jordan) encouragement to keep on climbing. If you don’t cry, you might be dead inside.
A year of well-judged conclusions, enough that we’re just going to run down some of our favorites. The final moments of “Phoenix,” as Nina Hoss sings to her husband and he realizes the truth about her, is a staggering moment; while the conclusion of “Spotlight,” as dozens of victims call through to the Spotlight team, is impossibly rousing. The subtlety of the final scene in “Carol,” doing so much with so little, is still with us months on, while the careful ambiguity of “45 Years” is terrific and provocative too.
—Oliver Lyttleton, Rodrigo Perez