TOP 10 FILMS OF 2015

HOLLYWOOD – The Studio Exec has put together a list of the top films of 2015, in no particular order.

2015 was an odd year for film. A bit underwhelming until December it has to be said. The blockbusters busted blocks but the most successful (until December) was the M’eh-fest of Jurassic World. Everything looked very familiar. There was an Avengers movie (I think) and a new Bond film. The two main European festivals saw the main prize picked up by average movies that won’t escape the festival circuit. Of course, December suddenly gave us a year’s worth of interesting stuff. What am I talking about? Jesus, why am I even writing this? I’m hungover and tired and it is now time I went to bed so here’s the Goddamned list:

Bone Tomahawk

Gruesome and beautiful western, both elegiac and horrific, starring Matthew Fox, Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins. It will certainly divide audiences, if not bifurcate them. Here’s the review.

Mad Max: Fury Road

A remake that if anything exceeded its original source material. George Miller brought his post-apocalyptic car chase into the territory of the purest genre cinema. Witty, exciting, incredible. Here’s the review.

Son of Saul

Devastating portrayal of the life in the day of a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. A film I never want to see again, but everyone should see once. Review here. 

The Revenant

Leonardo diCaprio crawls through hell to get to an Oscar. On the way he features in one of the most beautiful and stunningly immersive cinematic experiences of the year. For the review click here. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It wasn’t shit. Click here for the review.

Crimson Peak

Guillermo Del Toro goes full on Gothic with Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain in a Roger Corman/ Stanley Kubrick inspired visual treat. Review here.

Anomalisa 

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop animation tale of angst should have won at Venice. I’ll write a review some time soon.

Sicario

Made me want to see Blade Runner 2. Or at least made me not be too scared about it. Review here. 

Call Me Lucky

There have been some great documentaries this year and Call Me Lucky by Bobcat Goldthwait was one of the best. Charting the life of comedian Barry Crimmins this was a portrait of an unsung American hero, read the review here.

So Happy New Year and all that jazz. Let’s hope 2016 brings us some movies that’ll light our collective fires.

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SON OF SAUL – REVIEW

SON OF SAUL – REVIEW – How do you make a film about the Holocaust?

It’s really difficult. The Holocaust runs against everything that Hollywood does well. You can’t glamorize and you can’t give it a happy ending. The numbers involved make it epic, but the experience was intimate, personal and devastating. To give it a narrative arc is to rationalize it and by doing so give it meaning. And giving the Holocaust meaning is morally dubious if not downright wrong. Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is brilliantly made, but focuses our attention on an up-lifting outcome. The ghosts of the millions who weren’t on the list haunt the film and are glimpsed as extras. Life is Beautiful sets itself up as a heartbreaking fable of a father’s love for his son, but the moral of the story is to lie, to deny and ultimately blank out the Holocaust as if it was nothing more than a bump in an otherwise straight road. The obvious answer might be to go the documentary route as in Shoah, but reliance on documentary is not to be trusted, especially as a retreat of art. Documentaries themselves hide their own artfulness after all.

Which is all to say that László Nemes’ Son of Saul, the Hungarian film written by Nemes and Clara Royer, is an original treatment of the Holocaust. Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, working as a Sonderkommando member, tasked with getting the Jews into the gas chambers, disposing of their goods, burning their bodies, cleaning everything up and then waiting for the next train of victims. The entire film is focused on Saul’s face as he trudges from one task to the other, his whole being shrunk to a miniscule size as he tries to shut out the horrors around him. The need for a narrative is so strong, even for the damned, so that when Saul finds a body among the dead who he takes to be his son, we don’t know whether this is his own wishful thinking, or a miraculous coincidence. It is also analogous to the film’s own need for a narrative to take us through the otherwise unimaginable.

Nothing is easy about the film. There is no hero to cling to. Our central protagonist is both a victim of the Holocaust and a workman who keeps the system moving. The brutality is at once mundane and routine, but occasionally feels like Hell itself in all its horrific grandeur. There is very little here that is comforting. And perhaps this is its abiding worth. The stubborn difficulty of the film, its cussed decision not to stare but to try, throughout most of its running time, to look the other way; its refusal to romanticize and promote survival; is almost a tacit admission that you can’t make a film about the Holocaust, but still you have to try.

 

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