The 2015 Movie Merit Badge Ceremony
2015 has come and gone, and while we didn't get any hoverboards, we thankfully got the greatest crop of movies in recent memory!
So, what did one member of an obscure Pennsylvania based film outlet think about the movies he saw in 2015? IT'S TIME TO FIND OUT!! IT'S TOM PEELER'S 2015 MOVIE MERIT BADGE CEREMONY!!
As with every year, this piece will acknowledge every film I saw between 1/1/2015 and 12/31/15, awarding each film a distinction based on what I got out of the viewing expereince. Let's get down to business:
The Biggest On-Screen Douche of 2015 goes to Black Sea's Scoot McNairy! Scoot portrays a character so conniving and aggrivatingly cowardly, it makes you want to run him over, back up, and then keep driving.
The Bruce Willis in Ocean's 12 Award for Oddest Movie Cameo of 2015 goes to Garfunkle and Oats' random third act appearance in this year's Hangover clone: Search Party!
The Oscar Worthy Delivery of Bad Dialogue Award goes to almost every line in The The Boy Next Door! A first edition copy of The Illiad you say?!
The Stephanie Meyer Memorial Award for Toxic Storytelling goes to Fifty Shades of Grey! When all hope was lost that a story would come along that could rival Twilight in its horribly negative impact towards emotionally impressionable young audience members, along came Christian Grey.
The Best Superhero Movie of 2015 is Furious 7! These street racing burglars turned world trotting ass-kickers have come a long way! From advanced martial arts, to the ability to lift cars with their bare hands, to the ability to survive the worst car wrecks imaginable, all we need now is an Avengers cross-over!
The Drunk Prom Date Award for Hottest Mess of 2015 goes to Avengers: Age of Ultron! For the first time, Marvel's universe building actually hurt a film, as what should've been a fun pay off to Phase 2 turned into a cluttered mess more concerned with setting up Marvel's future than focusing on its present. I mean, they gave us an amazing portrayal of Vision (yay!), but they completely wasted Von Strucker (boo!).
The Hangover 2 Award for Lazy Sequel Recycling goes to Pitch Perfect 2! An aca-trocious follow up to one of the most fun movies ever made, it's the kind of sequel so clearly copy-pasted from the original that it basically has no reason to exist!!
The Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds Award for Best Youth Performance goes to Cop Car's James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford! It's remakrable when kids can appear in a movie and actually FEEL like real people, and that's exactly what Freedson-Jackson and Wellford manage to pull off as they sell each line and every emotionally flinching moment with as much skill as their adult peers.
The Jean-Claude Van Damme vs Iceberg Fight Scene of the Year goes to Jurassic World's 3-way dino showdown! A teriffic modernization of the B-movie monster spectacle of years past, and a complete "Fuck yeah!" moment for any fan of the Jurassic franchise.
The Tearful Goodbye of 2015 goes to When Marine Was There. Studio Ghibli bids us farewell (for now), and leaves us a swan song that is an emotionally appropriate end to a glorious era in animation.
The Littlefoot's Mother Memorial Award for Most Traumatizing Movie goes to Inside Out! A film marketed for children that also contains the first ever Disney suicide? BRING THE WHOLE FAMILY!!
The Interstellar Award for Failure to Stick the Landing In Complex Emotional Storytelling goes to Welcome to Me! An almost poignant reflection on the fragility of mental health, Welcome to Me flounders in its final minutes in order to deliver an unnecessarily neat-and-tidy ending. What a bummer.
The Manos: The Hands of Fate Memorial Award for Worst Opening Sequence goes to Ted 2! Because why the fuck would a lewd, alcoholic, drugged out teddy bear want to dance to a 1940's style musical number? He wouldn't, BUT, if Seth MacFarlane's ego says he would, then dammit, get that bear in a tuxedo!
The Guardians of the Galaxy Award for Best Soundtrack goes to Dope!
The Barry Manilow Thumbelina Award for Worst Music goes to the ear-destroying song "Hey Babydoll" from Danny Collins!
The Best Song of 2015 goes to "Feels like Summer from the Shaun the Sheep Movie!
The Best Storytelling Decesion of 2015 goes to Minions! In a movie that totally retconned the origins of the little yellow allies of evil, it at least had the common sense to make sure they weren't around during World War 2.
The Worst Storytelling Decesion of 2015 goes to the entire script of Tomorrowland! Introducing your bad guy and central conflict in the last half hour? Wrapping everything up in the "mystery box" model of storytelling without a clear exit strategy? Having George Clooney have a weird crush a robot that looks like a 10 year old? Tomorrowland was ambitious, but ambition without focus isn't worth much when it results in a story this poorly structured.
The Fault in our Stars Award for Worst Scene of the Year goes to The Intervention Scene in Trainwreck! Proof that throwing things against the wall until they stick doesn't always work, this sequence featuring Bill Hader, LeBron James, Matthew Broderick, and some random sports personalities is painfully bad.
The Despicable Me 2 Award for Most Inconsequential Fun of 2015 goes to Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F! A fun two hour romp filled with fan-service that ultimately doesn't move much of the DBZ narrative forward. At least we got "It's cheese!"
The Savages Award for The Worst Movie Ending of 2015 goes to The Gift! Joel Edgerton takes his masterfully crafted thriller and drives it off a cliff in its final moments with a twist that undermines the movies ACTUAL main character for the sake of a gross shock. What a bummer.
The Pulp Fiction Rip-Off Inexplicably Made Ten Years Too Late Award goes to Kill Me Three Times! A non-linear, pop-culture heavy, gleefully vulgar action thriller that doesn't hold a candle to the films it's attempting to emulate. Not even Simon Pegg can save this broken clone.
The Walk the Line Award for Best Biopic of 2015 goes to Straight Outta Compton!
The Ray Award for Worst Biopic of 2015 goes to Pawn Sacrifice!
The Purge Award for the Most Wasted Story Concept of 2015 goes to Cooties! A horror comedy that doesn't go far enough in either genre to be what it truly could be, coming off as an amusing whimper when it could've been a masteful blast.
The Most Important Movie of 2015 is The Martian! A generation from now, film schools and NASA training facilities alike will be filled with young minds who want to make a positive impact on the world because they saw this movie, and that's AWESOME.
The Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle Award for Most Miscast Role of 2015 goes to Mae Whitman in The Duff! Because trying to tell me that Whitman is somehow ugly and fat is Hollywood body shaming at its most obnoxious,
The Most Anti-Climactic Ending of the Year goes to The Overnight! It goes with the actual tone of the movie, and it pretty much works. But, yeah, all that build-up for THAT? Ok.
The Mama Award for Most Gorgeously Empty Movie of the Year goes to Crimson Peak! A master class in production design that dropped the ball on several better potential storylines than what it gave us. Oh well, it's still pretty to look at.
The Adorable Moppet of the Year goes to Abby Ryder Fortson in Ant-Man! Scott Lang's criminal with a heart of gold character arc is made effortlessly easy to root for via his adorable daughter!
The Most Quesitonable Scene Construction of the Year goes to The Danish Girl! Watching Einar Wegener's secret exposed to his wife Gerda for the first time turns what should be an important, character defining moment into a muddled sequence of misplaced sensual imagry. Gerda discovers Einar wearing her underwear in a series of shots wherein Alicia Vikander is not only stark naked, but framed so as to make sure her every curve is on display. It's entirely at odds with what the scene is trying to communicate, and its emblematic of the films overall problems with properly portraying a character like Lili Elbe.
The Mohagany Bowling Pin Award for Best Movie Murder of 2015 goes to Paul Prado's death by puppies in Dude Bro Party Massacre 3!
The Wall-E Award for The Best Original Character of 2015 is a three way tie between Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren! The film may have hit familiar beats, but these three are solid, well rounded characters that have a wealth of potential for future adventures.
The Worst Movie of 2015 is to Seventh Son! A boring, badly made Lord of the Rings rip-off made and released almost a decade after boring, badly made LOTR rips offs were fashionable. It's a bloated, dumb slog, with good actors giving a bad name to "pay check performances."
THE OVERALL "BEST OF" AWARDS:
Best Documentary - Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck/The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? Two interesting, and sometimes emotionally powerful, looks into the rise and fall of important artistic moments in the 90s.
Best Animated Film - World of Tomorrow, for packing more insight on love, life, and the painful process of aging and accepting our humanity into 17 minutes than most films can pack into a feature length run time. It's surreal, it's absurd, but most importantly, it's emotionally honest. Another hole-in-one from Don Hertzfeldt.
Best Actor - Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs. Fassbender brings the iconic Apple founder, warts and all, to extraordinary life in a performance that isn't afraid to show the toxic costs of unstoppable ambition. Through each act of Jobs' life, Fassbender makes the prickly genius look triumphant yet pathetic, likeable yet loathsome, relatable yet inhuman. Striking the perfect balance between all of these contradictory traits, Fassbender turnsthe late Mr. Jobs into one of the most interesting cinematic characters in recent memory (and completely wipes Ashton Kutcher from memory).
Best Actress - Alicia Vikander as Ava in Ex Machina. Easily the breakout performance of the year, Vikander's Ava is a quietly terrifying portrait of an artificial soul that not only wants to be more than what it is labeled, but will do anything necessary, be it perceived as good or evil, to attain this most human of desires. In a movie that smartly flips the script on cliched expectations of gender, Ava is the vessel through which said expectations are destroyed. Bravo.
The Best Film of 2015 is Mad Max: Fury Road. A masterfully constructed tour-de-force exemplifying the absolute best in cinematography, editing, world building, and good old fashioned spectacle. Fury Road is a visceral, white-knuckle feast that somehow also manages to contain a powerful, anti-patricarcal narrative of empowered women kicking as much ass as their male peers (and sometimes, more). A once-in-a-generation work of art that deserves to be witnessed and studied by anyone that considers themselves a fan of cinema.
Tom's Overall Top 10 (For Those Who NEED Lists)
Mad Max: Fury Road
World of Tomorrow
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Dude Bro Party Massacre 3