The Best Films of 2015

 

By Ray Manukay

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 
99 Homes
 
Anamolisa
 
Ant-Man
 
Bridge Of Spies
 
The Big Short
 
The Danish Girl
 
Carol
 
Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison of Belief
 
Room
 
The Kingsmen: The Secret Service
 
Love & Mercy
 

 

 

 

 

#20: The Walk

 
directed by ROBERT ZEMECKIS
 

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#19: The End Of The Tour

 
directed by JAMES PONSOLDT
 
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#18: Steve Jobs

 
directed by DANNY BOYLE
 


 

#17: Crimson Peak

 
directed by GUILLERMO DEL TORO
 

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#16: Slow West

 
directed by JOHN MACLEAN
 

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#15: Inside Out

 
directed by PETE DOCTER & RONNIE DEL CARMEN
 

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#14: Beasts of No Nation

 
directed by CARY FUKUNAGA
 

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#13: Brooklyn

 
directed by JOHN CROWLEY
 

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#12: Danny Collins

 
directed by DAN FOGELMAN
 

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#11: Straight Outta Compton

 
directed by F. GARY GRAY
 

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And my Top 10 Films of 2015 are…

 

 

 

 

 

 

#10: The Hateful Eight

 
directed by QUENTIN TARANTINO
 

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Quentin Tarantino made his much publicized return to the western genre, but The Hateful Eight had more in common with his debut film Reservoir Dogs, than it did with his last film Django Unchained. Taking place mostly in one location, The Hateful Eight is a delightful, talky and suspenseful work. It is a bit surprising, and disappointing that the film wasn’t embraced critically, and commercially as much as his other films. Filled with fun performances, and a wicked sense of humor, The Hateful Eight will likely stand out in years to come as an under appreciated gem in Tarantino’s eclectic portfolio.
 

# 9: Ex Machina

 
directed by ALEX GARLAND
 

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It was a great year for science fiction and Ex Machina was near the top of this year’s list for that genre. But Ex Machina also stands out for being a mesmerizing, intense, and provocative work of drama. It helps that the film is anchored with star making turns by Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson. But the real breakout star of the film is writer turned director Alex Garland, who made one of the most impressive directorial debuts in years.

 

 

#8: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 
directed by J.J. ABRAMS
 

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Let’s be real here.
 
There was no way Star Wars: The Force Awakens could live up to the astronomical expectations that preceded its release. The truth is the movie has some serious flaws that are hard for a grown man like me to overlook. Like its unimaginative use of yet another “Death Star” or its almost beat for beat retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope.
 
But this is Star Wars. and as much as as I like to pretend to be a cultured, elitist, film connoisseur, the film is just pure popcorn fun.
 
Even the biggest cynic could not help smiling watching Han Solo and Chewbacca briefly stomp around the Star Wars galaxy again. The film also nicely sets up the next generation of stories with some engaging and affable characters. Plus Star Wars: The Force Awakens provided this year’s most heated debate. Who is Rey? (For the record I fall into the “Luke’s Daughter theory.”

 

#7: Creed

 
directed by RYAN COOGLER
 

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Rocky returns! And there is a lot to like in Sylvester Stallone’s return to his most famous character. But what was really surprising and satisfying was the moving inner, emotional battle of Adonis Creed, Apollo’s illegitimate’s son, played by Michael B. Jordan.
 
Jordan turned in a touching, and under-appreciated turn as the title character. His in-ring battle mirrored his inner turmoil of rejecting or embracing his true identity.
 
Meanwhile, Ryan Coogler’s impressive, steady hand expertly balanced the Rocky nostalgia, with the traditional boxing action. It’s his fingerprints which elevated the film from a popcorn action film to an awards season favorite.
 
 

#6: The Revenant

 
directed by ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU
 

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Much has been written about the incredible action sequences and groundbreaking cinematography of The Revenant and the buzz is all justified. The decision by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to shoot the film with natural lighting and in brutal, unforgiving uninhabited locations resulted in one of the most breathtaking movies of the year.
 
The excellent performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy even helped audiences overcome the razor thin plot of survival and revenge.
 
The truth is if The Revenant depended simply on the story, it wouldn’t deserve to be on this list.
 
Thankfully, that isn’t the only criteria.
 
The Revenant should go down as one of the best films of the year, if not decade, for its remarkable action sequences and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mostly non-verbal performance. The film had visuals that will likely never be duplicated and deserves to be witnessed by audiences for years to come.
 
Check out the already classic bear attack scene for proof.
 

#5: Sicario

 
directed by DENIS VILLENEUVE
 

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Sicario is a dark, brutal, hard to watch film.
 
That is an understatement.
 
Which is likely why the film was mostly ignored during this awards season.
 
Make no mistake, Sicario is disturbing on many fronts and is not for the faint of hurt.
 
But that feeling of dread is also what propels Sicario.
 
The story examines the politically charged topic of the war on drugs and it handles the subject expertly.Sicario doesn’t shy away from showing the human cost of the war. Even though it’s unpleasant to watch, we just can’t look away.
 
Which is why Sicario isn’t just a compelling film, it’s also an important one. Hopefully it will help create more conversations on the subject. Which definitely demands to be addressed and explored socially and politically.
 

 ;

#4: Bone Tomahawk

 
directed by S. CRAIG ZAHLER

 

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Wow.
 
As much as everyone touted The Hateful Eight as the big cinematic western of 2015, the most traditional and frankly, the BEST western of 2015 was the gritty, violent and unforgiving Bone Tomahawk.
 
Basically a men on a mission movie. Bone Tomahawk also flipped the western on its head.
 
Director S. Craig Zahler turned up the brutality in his directorial debut. Bone Tomahawk turned away from the traditional, beautiful, cinematic landscapes of the genre and focused more on the stark, barren, lifelessness of the West. The results had critics grasping for nontraditional descriptions of the genre like horror or cannibal western.
 
But the best description of Bone Tomahawk is just plain great.

 

#3: The Martian

 
directed by RiDLEY SCOTT
 

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The most crowd pleasing film of 2015 was The Martian.
 
Simply put, a film like this is why we go to the movies.
 
The Martian had everything audiences could want from a story.
 
It had drama, action, and suspense. It was touching and heartfelt. But what made the film stand out from the rest, was its optimistic message of hope.
 
Hope for the space program, hope for the future, hope for humanity.
 
Cynics probably rolled their eyes at its optimistic outlook. But in a year of brutal, unforgiving films, The Martian stood out for being a feel good experience.
 
It literally had moments which made audiences stand up and unabashedly cheer.
 
Which is impressive in this cynical, media savvy day and age.
 

 

#2: Spotlight

 
directed by TOM McCARTHY
 

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Spotlight is the best drama of the year.
 
It deserves all the kudos it has been earning. From its unflinching look at the Catholic church child abuse scandal, to the painfully meticulous work of the journalists uncovering the shocking truth. Spotlight was just excellent story telling.
 
Not to mention the great work of its impressive ensemble of actors. Who each nailed their individual performances, while elevating the entire team.
 
In a year full of amazing action, and fast paced thrills it was refreshing to finally watch a pure, dramatic experience. As much as we enjoy watching fun movies, the real reason why film is an art form is its ability to educate, move, and help inspire audiences.
 
The fact that it is based on an ongoing, growing scandal makes Spotlight immediate and important. Thankfully, the film will continue to shed light on an important subject like this for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

And my favorite film of 2015 is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#1: Mad Max: Fury Road

 
directed by GEORGE MILLER
 
Well… was there really ever any doubt that Mad Max Fury Road would be my favorite film of 2015? I’m an unabashed fan of science fiction. I’m also a huge fan of westerns. Smash the two genres together and Mad Max: Fury Road is what we get.
 
The film was just incredible.
 
From it’s eye popping chase sequences to its brilliant performance from Charlize Theron, Mad Max Fury Road was ground breaking. Throw on top of all that awesomeness the world building by writer director George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road had everything audiences could ever want.

 
Wow! What a great year for movies! I’m a little ashamed that this list didn’t feature any international films or more documentaries. But I’m also happy to have seen practically all of the award season films this year.

 
I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. Hopefully Hollywood will be able to build on the great success of 2015. Let us know what you think in the comments! We love discussing films.

 

 

Best Movies of 2015 by R.K. Priddy

Best Movies of 2015

By R.K. Priddy

KSS_JB_D25_02636 - Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turn his life around by trying out for a position with Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization.

Here is my annual list I hope you all enjoy. I added a bit of a twist to my article in the fierce debate and trying to gather my thoughts on the matter .There is a list of who I thought gave the best performances of the year…Here it goes I hope you enjoy!

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Honorable Mention:

He Named Me Malala
The Danish Girl
Room
The Night Before
Jurassic World
Focus
The Big Short

Addendum: The Reverant – While I don’t necessarily think the movie itself is one of the best movies I have seen. The acting in the movie was exceptional. If this isn’t the film that gets DiCaprio his long awaited accolade. I don’t know what role he could tackle that would be more challenging. Domhall Gleeson has somehow managed to stay under the radar and has avoided being typecast in roles. He can be a villain in one movie and like in this one a man truly trying to do the right thing but not always making the right decision. And of course Tom Hardy’s cold callous portrayal of a man operating on his most baser of instincts.

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10) Far From The Maddening Crowd

O.k. I admit this pick more emotional than anything else. Truly because I love Thomas Hardy. He was a controversial an d talented author. Often overlooked in his era. I have also grown to become a Carey Mulligan Fan. Plus there is a the matter of the brilliance of Michael Sheen. The film itself was beautifully made. While this has been the fourth time this novel has been made into a movie, until now no one could rival Julie Christie’s take of Bathsheba. Mulligan knocks it out of the park. And is the only one to date that could hold a candle to Christie.

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9) Suffragette

Again another emotional pick on my part. However in my defense the movie featured Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan tackling a significant historical time that most were unfamiliar with. It was both educational and compelling. The actresses played very different woman all exuding the same sort of inner strength. Each actresses performance were layered and well play out. It was nice to see Carter in a serious role again. And Streep’s quirky portrayal was one for the ages.

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8) End Of The Tour

What is it about Eisenberg? Again he tackles a character that you are unsure if you empathize with or you hate. Siegel is phenomenal as David Foster Wallace. The movie is filled with insightful refreshing dialogue. Both of these actors together were powerhouses. Wallace’s death went unnoticed to perhaps the average person however as a writer you wonder what caused the downward spiral of someone as talented as this acclaimed author. Siegel’s conveyed both his brilliance and his desolation in a way that truly blew me away. And of course the soundtrack set the tone for this indie gem.

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7) Kingsman: The Secret Service

This movie came out during Valentine’s Day weekend here in the states. It was overshadowed by “that” movie with the whips and chains. Sadly it went overlooked by many. I have been a fan of Matthew Vaughn as a director since since Stardust. Of course there was Kick Ass and I liked his take of X-Men First Class. However, I feel like all the things I loved about his style came together in this comic to movie. Colin Firth has played many memorable and lovable roles. Firth as Harry Hart a.k.a Galahad goes down as one of my favorites. Samuel Jackson as Valentine gets the award for most lovable villain of the year.

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6) Black Mass

Another film I believe is truly getting lost in the shuffle. It’s almost tragic that we have come to expect greatness from Johnny Depp every time we see him of the screen. Because when he nails a role like Whitey Bulger it is commonplace. What make this performance so riveting is in any thing Depp does there’s a quirkiness about the character so Depp-esque quality we can come back to a thumbprint of him as a person. Depp as Bulger leaves no remnants of his personality as Depp. He truly became Whitey Bulger to me. His artful way of playing both sides makes a brutal subject matter more interesting. Also his outstanding supporting cast that includes Cumberbatch and Bacon helps cement it’s place in my top ten.

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5) Bridge of Spies

Let’s be honest there is very few roles that Tom Hanks takes on that isn’t successful. Add The Coen Brothers writing it and Spielberg directing it, there was little doubt this movie was going to be fierce. Even though the movie is not historically accurate to the events surrounding the 1960 U-2 incident during The Cold War or of some of the roles of the people during it. While the movie itself was a drama/thriller it also has the classic Coen dark humor moments. Many people seemed to forget because of Tom Hank’s illustrious career that he was first recognized for his comic genius. This movie provided a subtle look back into that aspect of his talent. Which is something that was thoroughly enjoyed and savored throughout the film .

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4) Concussion

Everyone that knows me personally knows that I am a football nut. In fact I am often referred to as “The Crazy Football Lady.” While I love the sport I also am very aware of the dark side of playing such in such vicious venue. Because the game is so beloved the ramifications of blows to the head and the mental stability of the game often gets washed away. This film put a unforgiving spotlight on the matter. And educates us on how long this has been going on. One of the best and once again overlooked performances of the year was delivered from Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu. The supporting cast of Baldwin and a young Roger Goodall by Luke Wilson was spot on. So much so that many long time football fans have talked about it in depth after seeing this. While the NFL tried to separate itself from the film. It gave us valuable insight as to why the players have been so much more aware of the long term effect of playing the game and demanding safeguards are met.

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3) Hateful Eight

This is why it took me so long to get this out. I flip-flopped back and forth between which of these films were either two or three on my list. Up until this very moment when I placed Hateful Eight as my third favorite movie of the year. I think what gives this movie so much cred in my eyes is Tarantino’s ability to keep a vested interest in his characters and the storyline. What makes this even more entertaining is for the majority of the movie you are in one single room. The dialogue and talent of Jackson, Russell, Leigh, Roth, Parks Madsen, Dern and Goggins keep you at the edge of your set. While some scratched their heads at the casting of Tatum. I felt as if he had a chance to show he was more than just a pretty face. The one performance that I say was hands down probably the best performance of the movie was Walton Goggins. He starts as that annoying friend we all put up with. Somehow before our eyes he displays the toughest grit out of the group where even though he is a clearly bigoted character at the end you have to tip his hat off to him.

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2) Creed

As I said I flipped flopped back and forth between Tarantino’s Hateful Eight and Coogler’s ( from Fruitvale Station fame) Creed. It was easy after watching Fruitvale Station to see why Michael B Jordan was cast as the boxing movie icon Apollo Creed’s son. While it may shame most to admit I have no problem saying I was first introduced to this actor from his soap opera days. Perhaps again this is a emotional pick. I did grow up in the eighties where Rocky Movies ruled supreme. Why it ultimately took second in my list of films was I truly honestly believed that after the Rocky Balboa Movie there was closure everything that could be done had been done. There would be no Rocky Jr following in his father’s footsteps. What I didn’t see coming was them continuing the saga through Apollo’s legacy. Something we always knew about but never had a true chance to get into the story as ultimately about Rocky and his journey. By giving this generation a new but yet deeply rooted in the franchise face, it rejuvenates the Rocky-verse to a new generation of movie goers but at the same time pays homage to those you have been yelling “ROCKY!!! ROCKY!! ROCKY!!” all our lives. What makes this movie so wonderful as well is Stallone in his eye we see his journey all the movies and instances he has gone through and why he reluctant to go it it one more time. His quiet resignation that somethings can not be change. Until he meets Adonis and suddenly his life has new meaning. Just like the return of this franchise.

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1) Star Wars The Force Awakens

Everyone can giggle all they want. Yes I am a Star War Geek. Yes I can name things and characters in the movies that most can’t. Yes we dressed up in costume to go watch this movie. Most of us fans have been waiting decades for this movie. It had humungous shoes to fill as did JJ Abrams. Why I made this my number one movie of the year was because it had the insurmountable task of being expected to be a movie classic before the opening scene rolled in yellow letters in space across the screen to us. We wondered how they were able to get Ford, Fisher and Hamill to revisit these character that at times in their lives they wished the world would forget. Somehow in someway it managed to deliver to us. Give us enough of that first trilogy magic to have us cheering on the screen. Somehow it managed also to unite the fans as well. No one until perhaps a few weeks into after the released use social media to give away the gut wrenching plot point that left most long time Star Wars fans rocking back and forth in their seats. The Force Awakens leave us with questions and debates that will claw through us until 2017. Plus of course there is BB-8 the little droid that stole the show. Like Creed this movie had the difficult task of uniting the old with the new. Appeasing the life long fans and at the same time trying to gander the attention of a much more tech savvy and less naive movie goers of this generation. Watching the pure joy on my son’s face during the movie affirms Abrams is a force to be reckoned with.

As Promised, what I thought were the best performances of the year…

10) Jada Pinkett Smith- Rome Magic Mike XXL
9) Colin Firth – Harry Hart a.k.a Galahad
8) Harrison Ford – Han Solo Star Wars The Force Awakens
7) Will Smith- Dr. Bennet Omalu Concussion
6) Johnny Depp – Whitey Bulger Black Mass
5) Tom Hanks James B. Donovan Bridge Of Spies
4) Michael B Jordon- Adonis Johnson Creed
3) Walton Goggins -Sheriff Chris Mannix Hateful Eight
2) Leonardo DiCaprio- Hugh Glass The Revenant
1) Brie Lawson – Ma Room

An Appreciation of 1990’s films – Part Two

By Ari Dassa

In this series of articles, PassMeThePopcorn.com contributor Ari Dassa is looking back at some of his favorite cinematic moments from the 1990’s. For part one of the series check it out here.

 

The Matrix

 
Directed by Lana & Andy Wachowski
 
The-Matrix-Movie-Poster
 
This movie is my comfort food.
 
I’ve said this before…there is no other movie that mixes together my favorite escapist genres and ideas the way this one does. One has to have a twisted sci-fi premise, The film has martial arts sequences, It has the cyber-punk influence, the anime influence, the philosophical element that allows one to sit and think about it, the use of mythological references, AND the single best CGI action-effect ever.
 
It’s just awesome.
 
What’s original about the film is the way the blend of ideas turned out. All this stuff has been done before, but not like this. The Wachowskis call the film “fusion art”, and that’s probably the most accurate way to describe it.
 
It’s also the best action film of the ’90s, and still, to this day, has not been topped.
 
Fury Road gets close, but there’s still nothing quite as jaw-dropping as the first time we got a look at this sequence. Basically everything from the lobby shootout to when Neo saves Trinity in the helicopter crash is on another level of action spectacle and VFX.
 
Also worth pointing out…this film won an Oscar for Best Film Editing. And it is so so well earned. Because seriously….this:
 

 

 

 

The Player

 
Directed by Robert Altman

 

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Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change? We’re educated people.

 

I’m posting the trailer for the film since there aren’t a lot of individual scenes in high quality on youtube. But this is one of the best dark comedies there is, and one of my favorite Altman films. It’s so sharp, funny, dark, well acted. The cast is enormous, but Tim Robbins really shines in the lead role as a Hollywood executive who kills a writer he thinks is threatening him, but of course it’s the wrong guy.
 
As far as Hollywood satires go, this is one of the best. There are a ton of fun cameos, but it’s not a gimmicky movie. Altman was such a smart filmmaker.
 
I’m trying to think if we have someone like him today…hmmm…coming up with…nope, no one.
 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia

 
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
 
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This sequence gets a lot of attention because of how out there it is, and even though it’s not my favorite moment in the film, it’s still a defining moment, a memorable one, a sequence you never forget from one of the most ambitious films of the ’90s.
 
What I still love about Magnolia is the energy of PTA’s writing and direction. We know it’s the work of a young film prodigy (he was 29, I believe, when he made this) and it bursts with creativity, emotion, amazing camerawork and a genuine love of the medium. The performances are excellent, the characters are people you identify with, the music is used so effectively. This is when PTA was still at that stage of mixing together his influences of Altman and Scorsese (and various others from the 70s), and interestingly enough, I feel like it’s because of this film that he went in a completely different direction with the rest of his career.
 
It’s like he got it out of his system with this film.
 
People debate whether they prefer young PTA vs who he is today. I just love his progression and how he continues to evolve. For me he became a complete original with his next film, Punch Drunk Love (2002), and then took his level to insane heights with his masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. The Master is also uniquely his own (though not my favorite), and Inherent Vice is a terrific blend of his and Pynchon’s sensibilities.
 
But back to “Magnolia”…this scene is kinda his version of the Earthquake scene in Altman’s Short Cuts, it’s just weirder.
 
Cause…frogs. There are frogs falling from the sky.
 
But it’s still wonderfully cinematic. Some directors like to announce their presence in every scene of their work as opposed to just letting the story unfold and being invisible to the audience. PTA’s name is stamped in BOLD in every scene of this film. But that’s what I like about it. In many ways it’s the culminating point of that group of 20-something filmmakers who emerged in the ’90s.
 

 

 

 

 

Saving Private Ryan

 
Directed by Steven Spielberg

 

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As a standalone sequence, the opening 21 minutes is a masterpiece of filmmaking.
 
It’s probably the most intense depiction of WWII brutality as ever staged on film. It’s just a scary sequence. It’s hard for our generation to comprehend how horrifying it must have been to be a part of this war.
 
I can’t even imagine.
 
Spielberg doesn’t glorify or polish the violence. It’s just ugly. The rest of the film is very good, and it’s directed with amazing skill, but I can’t say it’s the best script he’s ever had. His direction is masterful though. Compared to The Thin Red Line, which was unfairly overshadowed in ’98 by the success of this film, it’s not as psychologically or philosophically deep as that film, but it’s definitely more of a visceral, nerve-shaking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes Wide Shut

 
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
 
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This is THE scene from this strange and mesmerizing final masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick. It’s funny how the hype for this movie was about how sexy it would be because it’s got Tom Cruise! Nicole Kidman! There’s an orgy!
 
And then when you finally get to the orgy scene it’s actually one of the spookiest, craziest, WTF moments in film history. The theatricality of it is incredible.
 
The entire sequence feels like something out of a gothic opera, especially when Cruise is finally confronted and forced to remove his mask. It’s just eerie.
 
Eyes Wide Shut is my #1 film of the ’90s, and I’ve often told people it’s quite possibly my favorite movie of all time.
 
I’ve watched it more times than any other movie, and it’s not because it has my favorite plot or favorite characters. It’s not because of the dialogue or writing, although it is superb. It’s not even because of the acting, which is also masterful by everyone involved. It’s just the way the movie is made. The FEEL of it, the pace, the visual storytelling.
 
It’s one of, if the not the most atmospheric movie I’ve ever seen. It’s dreamy, it’s nightmarish, it’s surreal, it’s operatic, it’s noir-ish, it’s just…ORIGINAL. It’s so damn original.
 
This is why Kubrick is Kubrick.
 
There’s no other film like this one. Nobody else in their right mind would EVER approach the subject matter of this story or shoot this script the way Kubrick did. I love the use of color. I love the framing. I love the zoom shots. The detail and level of control and mastery of filmmaking is from another planet. The viewer can watch this film on mute and it’s going to still be a captivating cinematic experience.
 
And also, something that isn’t talked about enough with EWS. It’s hilarious.
 
I’ve never agreed with the “cold” label he gets. This film certainly isn’t cold at all. There’s a devilish sense of humor that runs through the entire film right down to the final line. Cruise and Kidman are extraordinary here. The film is simply as cinematic as cinema gets.
 
NOTE: Lots of nudity in the clip. This is only the first half of the scene though.
 

 

 

 
We would love to hear what you think or if you want to share some of your own favorite cinematic moments from the 1990’s leave a comment. Or let us know on our Facebook page.