by Alex Lawson
How do you make a masterpiece out of the mundane without veering into bombast? Ask Tom McCarthy, whose straightforward chronicle of a Boston Globe team busting open the Catholic church molestation scandal does little more than let the excruciating truth of the reporters’ plight carry the day. That plight is more than procedural, though. While the movie excels at probing the tedium of investigative journalism, it really hits its stride when the ensemble is confronted with the real human costs of the scandal they are chasing. The crown jewel of the immaculate cast is Mark Ruffalo, who appears to be holding back his rage in a very non-showy way that makes his eventual tipping point all the more cathartic.
8. It Follows
It sure does. I suspect the whole ‘sexually transmitted stalking demon’ elevator pitch was little more than an effort to build some word of mouth for David Robert Mitchell’s latest (and that, of course, worked to perfection). The true weight and legacy of the film lies not with its commentary on sexual awakening but with its devastatingly straightforward observation that death, in all its forms, is coming for each and every one of us. That message, coupled with Mitchell’s sleepy and timeless atmosphere, crawled into my psyche and still hasn’t slipped out. There’s a steady creeping dread in every frame of the movie, even and perhaps especially in the scenes that don’t involve a chase.
6. The Martian
I apologize for being unable to remember who to credit with first articulating this idea, but Ridley Scott’s entertaining space adventure takes on a whole new significance when viewed through the lens of the modern American blockbuster. On this site and others, we’ve railed against the sort of faceless disaster porn that strips meaning from the action and showcases a wanton distaste for humanity. But here we have the story of so many people working on so many projects and spending untold amounts of government money, all to save a single person. The story is great on its face, with wonderful characters and terrific staging, but taken as a rebuke of CrumbleCore nonsense, it’s an uplifting treasure.
5. Inside Out
4. The End of the Tour
What an elegant, tender piece of filmmaking. For a film that is ostensibly two saddish men having a chat, I was really struck by James Ponsoldt’s visual language here, shooting the bleak Midwestern snowscapes in a way that not only evokes specific tactile feelings within the audience but more importantly offers a window into the characters’ mindsets. He also wisely refrains from making a movie that wants to offer some academic examination of David Foster Wallace’s genius, instead focusing on the fight-or-flight response that is triggered when the gifted mingle with the masses.
3. Ex Machina
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
At the most basic level, this was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a very long time. Even setting aside the massive expectations and the need to be so many different things for legions of fans all at one time, JJ Abrams gave me a singular type of elation, anguish, and warmth that I have never felt before. The most common mark against the film has been its reliance on the treasured original trilogy as a narrative crutch. The echoes there are undeniable, but I can only say that I have seen those movies countless times. I know how I feel when I watch them. At times it seems like it’s imprinted on my DNA. But I have had a distinctly different feeling every time I have seen John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac take me away on this adventure. It’s a feeling that I want to replenish as soon as the credits roll and one that I intend to relish for the rest of my life.
1. The Hateful Eight