“Hi, I’m Gongy the Rank Movies Gong, who you might know from the intro to any Rank Movie you’ll have seen between 1935 and 1980. And when I wasn’t being banged by an oiled up muscled bodybuilder I liked nothing more than settling down to watch the movie I prefaced. Now working for J Arthur meant I didn’t always get to see classics, but I think I put enough time in the cinema to judge the odd movie, and am in a perfect position to hand out the -ahem – Gongs in this poll.
I do miss getting banged though. Do people not “get it on” in 2015? Are there no vaguely racist kung fu movies I can cameo in to instigate a fight? Roll uncontrollably down a hill? A Gong gets restless in retirement. All the Gongmen are dead.”
Cheers Gongy, and I hope you enjoy this batch of pretty decent reasons to spend time in front of a screen. But not right in front of the screen Gongy, cos we won’t be able to see the films.
10: Bridge Of Spies
Beneficiary of lots of mid-range votes, Bridge Of Spies is Speilberg mounting an handsome spy historical and doing a solid job in the process. Clearly not being damned by faint praise, the key joy in BOS is to see two almost diametrically oppositional forms of acting (Hanks, movie star – Rylance, theatre) rub against each other for the benefit of the audience (in my mind Hanks is better here than Rylance and his made up accent). A fascinating if sometime simplistic piece about a bizarre age (the Cold War) which is slipping from memory. And (a) U2 gets blown up too.
9: 45 Years*
It slipped by me while I was on holiday, this is a small film with a terrific premise, what happens when past love, love before your present partner, revisits. A small film about secrets and lies – the acting and direction (by Andrew Heigh who can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment) takes the original short story and twists it into something new.
8: Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Is it just the combination of relief, timing and the fact everyone saw it that has dropped The Force Awakens here? Probably, though as a stab at grabbing the sensation of the pulps that Lucas originally was emulating, and also as a retread of Star Wars it works remarkably well. Even its myriad flaws can be rationalised, cyclical stories are as rampant in mythology as they are in Hollywood producerland, and in having a female lead and opening a can of worms with a stormtrooper that turns, there is fodder for plenty more enjoyable trips to the cinema.
7: Clouds Of Sils Maria
The most nose in the air arthousey movie in the top ten, Olivier Assayas’s meditation on art, aging, suicide and the internet age is deliberate in everything it does. From its play within a play, to its casting, to its elliptical ending, nothing her is just standing for itself. There is a chance therefore that this would be infuriating, looking for symbolism, looking for wry nods about the nature of theatre and acting. That it isn’t is down to Assayas’s playfulness but more around Kristen Stewart’s turn as Juliette Binoche’s personal assistant, who enigmatically plays with the ideas int he movie and eventually epitomises them.
6: Mistress America
The second (and better) Noah Baumbach movie in the list sees him reteam with Greta Gerwig for a screwball comedy of ambition. A companion piece to Frances Ha, Mistress America returns to the itch of what actually happens to manic dream pixie girls when they stop being “Girls” any more. Gerwig, excellent and being just a little uncomfortable in her skin, mentors potential step-sister Lola Kirke (even better), a lonely freshman in New York. It starts as a fun New York nightlife movie, develops into a screwball farce and ends as a bittersweet coming of age drama where the characters feel lived in enough to earn their redemption. Extroverts need love too.
The other solid picture of autumn, which pairs interestingly with Bridge Of Spies, because it is also an acting masterclass. But here we have Saoirse Ronan who is a terrifically naturalistic actor, but also a star, turning what feels like a small story of Irish immigration in the 50’s and makes it vitally compelling. The stakes, on paper, couldn’t be lower, but this adaptation manages to grip an audience and successfully get you invested in the micro and macro story of economic migration.
4: Mad Max: Fury Road
Broom Broom. Potentially a perfect distillation of the cinematic power of cars, this revisit to the economically implausible world of Mad Max is still just a big chase movie. And it can get a little tiring in its two hours. But credit to Miller for the invention on screen, the complete understanding of how enjoyably bonkers his fantasy world can be and putting at the heart of it Charlize Theron as a woman searching for redemption, mirroring Max’s usual arc with more sympathy than anyone would expect.
3: Inherent Vice
I am no fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, finding many of his films overly mannered, certainly overlong and often grasping for importance they don’t earn. Inherent Vice, in adapting Pynchon, and not reaching for anything beyond trying to emulate a sense of the novel, makes his most successful film in my view. Shambling around LA, it plays as a weird counter-part to Chinatown, a drug addled noir which sometimes seeks the point, sometimes is looking for a good time, but usually looking for a gag. Anderson should make more comedies.
Oh Carol. This top two were way ahead of the pack, and whilst soundly beaten in the end, Carol stands as a really, really good movie. You always do yourself a favour starting with Patricia Highsmith, and Carol has a compelling story which is only elevated by Todd Haynes choices. The cast is great, with Rooney Mara transforming seemingly into Audrey Hepburn by the end. Designed to the nth degree and structured perfectly, there is immense pleasure in most of the frames, but as a totality it is a wonderful film.
1: Inside Out
aka Pixar Returns. A clear winner, potentially because nearly everyone saw it, Inside Out is both a compelling adventure story in itself and a breathtaking piece of world-building. The idea, in itself, is not a new one – The Numbskulls and the Greeks have been there already. But in configuring a macro story to house the micro drama, and in constructing a plausible and useful model on human behaviour to allow for both the dram and possibly explain all human behaviour is a pretty amazing job. Harnessing terrific voice talent, coupled with exemplary character design, the film also manages to throw in art history gags along with its poignancy. A well deserving winner.
And there you go? Will any of this years Oscarbait have the lasting power to be remembered for next year. Have we got any super sequels turning up that could end up in this list (two sequels in the top ten!) Thank you to the FreakyTrigger Academy for voting, with a top eight with seven out of them being about women shows there are some changes occuring out there, may diversity of talent and stories continue…