Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Slackers' Top 15 Films of 2016

What a year in film. I'd have to go back and really analyze the stats, but I feel like this was the broadest collection of titles ever featured for this segment. This year, we only had one film appear on all five lists. That seems pretty crazy to me! I know there were plenty of entries that some of us didn't get around to, but that still seems like a pretty uncommon feat - especially for a group that generally agrees on film so much. Still, there's so much good that can come from such an occurrence: the opportunity to highlight and talk about even more films. This year overall we had 40 different titles showcased in these posts, more than we've ever had in the past. I'm sure a big part of that trend has to do with our growing and evolving interests in certain types of movies, but a big part of that can also be chalked-up to the ever-increasing accessibility of movies. In every subsequent year, more films become visible thanks to social media marketing, and accessible thanks to online streaming platforms. In the past we were more limited to what happened to show in theaters near us; now so much more is at our fingertips. That's pretty awesome.

Over the last five days, each writer on this year's panel has unveiled their individual lists for their Top 15 Films of 2016. As I've said many times before, what's great about our site is that we do have five different writers active at the same time providing their own perspectives on film. This not only gives five separate views on film (hence more chances to connect with certain voices and opinions), but it gives us all kinds of data to then build into composite lists. And really, that's what we want to give: each of our personal opinions, but at the end of the day, a group of films that we, as a collective, most appreciated and enjoyed. It's two very different but equally important views on the matter. And what's nice about having the individual lists first is we don't have to have any discussion for our group list - we simply plug in the titles each of us selected, give weight (point values) to higher picks, and let the formula do the rest. There's no debate or arguing over what we want to showcase - the rankings are what they are.

This year, the most significant factor in this ranking was surely due to certain films that certain contributors did not get around to (Moonlight, Everybody Wants Some!!, Nocturnal Animals, Miss Sloane, etc.). It's hard to know how this list would turn out if we'd all seen "everything", but that's just how this business goes. We're never all going to see every movie that was released in a given year, so this never serves as anything more than a benchmark. We saw most of the films we "wanted" to see, and this is how our ranking of those films turned out. As we've all mentioned, none of the rankings on this site should ever serve as definitive, end-all lists; simply a quick peak at how we're feeling based on what we've seen in the moment. It's never perfect, but it's a fun study and still an eclectic grouping of titles.

Before we (finally) jump in, please note that no explanations were provided on specific titles below because everything on this list was featured on multiple individual lists over the last week. If you're interested in more information on each film, check out the last five posts on this site.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tracy's Top 15 Films of 2016

Damn. 2016. It started off as a total drag in the movie department. But, as the year went on I found myself wanting to go to the movies more and more. I still wasn’t able to see all of the movies that I wanted. Luckily, I have more than enough to put together a top 15 that I can be proud of. I view the world through emotions and that fact about me is exactly what drives me in the movies that I like and the formulation of this list. The movies that you see here all hit me in some important way and that’s why I’m compelled to place them here. You can argue about a movie’s execution of its themes and characters and technical work, but you can’t argue about how they make you feel.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Elisabeth's Top 15 Films of 2016

I’m not sure what to say about 2016. It was a rough year for me, personally. Some good things happened, of course, but overall it was a tough one to weather. I always find a little bit of comfort in going to the movies though, and they definitely played that role for me last year. It’s always nice to be able to escape from your own reality for a couple hours (even though half of the movies on my list aren’t exactly uplifting). Until recently though, I was struggling to keep a running list of my favorite films because so many of the ones I saw just did not do it for me (I’m looking at you, La La Land). But I was able to cram in a bunch over the past few months and suddenly my list fell into place and I felt pretty good about it. So without further ado, here are my favorites of 2016…

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nathan's Top 15 Films of 2016

What a year. For both good and bad, whether personal or what was going on in the country, 2016 was the biggest year of my life. With all that was going on, last year was easily the least amount of time I devoted to watching movies. I still saw a lot of titles, but I crammed most of them in over the last two months. While my opinions haven’t had their usual time to marinate, most of what I’ve seen is still really fresh.

Before I get to my list, I will say that the main thing I took away from this year was how lazy major Hollywood productions have become. I’m talking summer blockbusters, franchise films, things like that. I know it’s not something that just came out of nowhere, but 2016 seemed to easily take the cake as one of the most underwhelming for big budget films. It’s almost like Hollywood developed an allergy to new ideas. Luckily there were plenty of fantastic independent films to pick up the slack this year and make this a fun list to compose.

So here it goes, my favorite films of 2016…

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Derek's Top 15 Films of 2016

Normally I use this space to round up some overall feelings I had on the year of cinema. For some reason, I’m not sure how to write about the cinematic year as a whole. I don’t think that reflects anything regarding the quality of filmmaking this year. I think there were standouts and disappointments, just no overarching theme for me. Anyway, rather than talk about how I don’t know how to talk about the year as a whole, I’ll get into my list of standouts. It's much easier to talk about the individual movies. Take a look after the jump.

Oh! I guess I should give some forewarning: many of my descriptions are spoiler filled.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Alex's Top 15 Films of 2016

What a year 2016 was. Sometimes inspiring, other times defeating, 2016 was nonetheless memorable. On one hand, we dealt with countless, notable celebrity deaths; far more significant losses than we should ever have to see in a single year. On the other, my Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in over 100 years. On one hand, Donald Trump became the leader of our country and has since done his best to run it into the ground. On the other, I got engaged to the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. So a mixed bag, to say the least. But however you want to slice it (and for me, the pros still outweighed the cons), it was very notable. One that I will surely never forget.

Because of some of these experiences, there were many films that I think I'll always remember and associate with the year. In many ways, before we even knew there would be so much turmoil in the year ahead, the films being released were foreshadowing those notions. While the overall quality wasn't compromised, what stood out to me the most were the overarching somber tones that crowded the screens. I'm not saying there weren't positive adaptations, but many of the best films seemed very bleak - seriously, look back on the slate and see just how dispiriting it was. And really, maybe that was the perfect cherry to top off all that was 2016.

That all being said, there really were some great films to be seen, and plenty that I'm excited to talk about and share. When I first started writing my recap for 2016 (I cheated a bit and started composing it well before I saw all that the year had to offer), I was ready to note the same issues I had last year: plenty of "good" films but nowhere near enough "great" films. After a pretty lackluster spring and summer, it looked to be another down year in movies. However, after fully catching up on all of the year's offerings, I had to change my tune. I ended up feeling there were so many great selections. Of course there's always room for improvement, but I was thrilled nonetheless to re-write this paragraph with a positive spin. To offer praise and not lament the year at hand felt like a great mindset to have as we dive into these films.

So without further ado...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Slackers' Top 15 Films of 2015

Even though none of us really have the time anymore to make this site what we (parts of us, anyway) would want it to be, I'm glad that something of a tradition has formed where we at least come back every year to share our best-of-the-year lists, and maybe a few Top 5 Movie Guides while we're at it. Really, that's enough to get us through the year. It's a good outlet for sharing some of our feelings on the year in film.

Over the last five days, each writer on this year's panel has unveiled their individual Top 15 Films of 2015 lists. As I've said many times before, what's great about our site is that we do have five different writers active at the same time providing their own perspectives on film. This not only gives five separate views on film and gives you, the reader, more chances to connect with certain voices and opinions, but it gives us all kinds of data to then build into composite lists. And really, that's what we want to give: each of our personal opinions, but at the end of the day, a group of films that we, as a collective, most appreciated and enjoyed. It's two very different but equally important views on the matter. And what's nice about having the individual lists first is we don't have to have any discussion for our group list - we simply plug in the titles each of us selected, give weight (point values) to higher picks, and let the formula do the rest. There's no debate or arguing over what we want to showcase - the rankings are what they are.

Last year, we only provided our Top 10 in this post because picks were all over the place. The year was so scattered that when we put the data in, after the first ten titles or so, everything was pretty similar. This year, the separation from the pack by the top 15 titles (top 16, actually - sorry "Sicario") was significant enough that it was worth providing the full list and keeping in theme with our 15 selections. And it really is a great, diverse collection of films; I'm quite proud of us, as a group, for coming up with these 15 as our favorites from 2015. The film that ended up in the #1 spot is slightly surprising, but I don't think any of us have any complaints about it.

One last note before we jump in: no explanations are provided in this post because everything on this list was featured on multiple individual lists over the last week. If you're interested in more information on each film, check out the last five posts on this site.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Elisabeth's Top 15 Films of 2015

As a whole, 2015 doesn't really stand out to me movie-wise. But when I start breaking it down, I realize that we got Jurassic World and Star Wars and those combined are enough for me to feel like it was a really fun and nostalgic year. I didn't go to the theater as much as I normally would have liked due to work and just, well, life. But that allowed me to be a little more discerning when it came to what I chose to see, making me never walk out of the theater disappointed at any point last year, at least not that I can remember.

I've never been super into reading about films and I've never read any film critics regularly (I rely on my husband Derek to fill me in on all the details); I just want to watch them and talk about them with friends. And that's exactly what writing here has felt like. It was a lot fun for me to be able to make a list like this to really think about and reminisce on all that I saw, but to do it in a casual, conversational way. Many of these films I saw only once, and writing about them now has made me want to go back and re-watch most of them. I want to thank my new (to me) fellow Slackers for the opportunity to be included in the blog this year – Alex, Nathan, Derek and Andy, I've had a blast. I look forward to more years to come!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Andy's Top 15 Films of 2015

We keep hearing time and time again that this year was a low year for film. Maybe that's the truth, but ultimately I feel that it's a representation of where we, as Slackers, are in our lives. As we grow and shift our interests we become less attuned to the industry surrounding us.

When I look at all the movies that came out I find no lack of subject of interest; nor do I find any particular glaring examples in lack of quality. What I do find, though, is that we age. Every year as we get a year older and leave our childhoods behind us, we enter into a realm less filled with fantasy and mysticism and more filled with bills and salaries. I remember a small handful of years back where all of us Slackers were discussing some of our favorite movies and titles like "Star Wars" and "Superman Returns" were spoken amongst of highly. If you asked our group how many times we watched "Superman Returns" this year I guarantee you'd get a single digit answer from the lot of us. We don't, as a group, seem to dedicate the same kind of wonder or passion that we used to have. I look over the titles from this past year and see things like Star Wars and Jurassic Park, then realize that the only one of us to put both of them in his top three is the guy who's favorite movie is the version of Peter Pan where he accidentally grows up; clearly something has changed. The titles that used to have us talking for days on end are now fringe selections on our lists. So, I bring up once more: has this year truly been a low year for movies or have we simply raised our expectations of what kind of experience we should get out of a movie? I feel the magic is leaving and it pains me, but I must carry on and hope that something out there; some release or some past film I have yet to catch sparks that fantasy in me, in us, once more.

Until then, and without much more yapping about the ails of growing up, here is the list you've all been waiting for...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nathan's Top 15 Films of 2015

I was worried for the majority of the year that 2015 was going to end up as one of the weakest years in recent memory. I'd say it took a good nine months for me to really start putting together a list that seemed respectable. But once that started happening, it was like the floodgates opened. Film after film kept jockeying for a top spot. Part of that was due to seeing a couple notable films well after they were released, but mostly it boiled down to a continuing trend over the last five years or so of the post-summer lineups matching up with my interests.

That was another notable observation I made in 2015: I'm just not into most summer blockbusters anymore. Fewer and fewer summer tent poles have shown up on my end-of-the-year list over the last several years, but this was the first year where I really had trouble even mustering up the energy to see the majority of the them in theaters. A good reason to point to would be the stranglehold that superhero films have on the middle of the calendar. That, my friends, is a fad that I have mostly grown tired of. Superhero films have just gotten too damn goofy for me to get into them at this stage in my life. That's not to say I don't like goofy movies - you'll find a good chunk of them on my list below - but there's a time and a place for goofy and superhero films doesn't seem like the best spot. When so many superhero films center around the fate of the world being at risk, would there really be so many jokes being thrown around? If I'm watching the world being threatened in a film, I want it to be more than a rumor that things might go bad. Yet that is something Marvel - who dominates the market at the moment - has totally lost their grip on. How can I think of the characters of these films as heroes if it never feels like they're in danger?

But enough about the films that don't do anything for me, I'm here to tell you about the films that hit the mark - and there were a great number of them. You'll find a pretty good split between well-known titles and under-the-radar gems. Hit the jump to get started!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Derek's Top 15 Films of 2015

I’ve come to accept that the responsibilities of adulthood make it so I can’t watch as many movies as I used to. Last year, this lack of free time jaded me a bit towards movies. Fitting movies into adult-ness felt like a chore. It was a major life adjustment. I’ve now come to grips and the stresses have melted. First world problems, amirite? 

It may be the acceptance of limited time coursing through my body, but I enjoyed this year of movies quite a bit. Interestingly, I think the most impressive thing about this year is how many great “Part 7s” there were. There’s no way that’s normal.

As usual, the following list is more a reflection of my favorite movies than what I feel was the best of the year. However, there is a blending of those two ideas when making any subjective movie list. Through my comments I think you will be able to find if my view is more subjective or objective for each individual film. Have a look below!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Alex's Top 15 Films of 2015

This post really got away from me this year. With a job that requires much more of my time, just getting those weekly Top 5 Movie Guides up in time felt like a significant task - I can't believe there was a period where we posted 6-8 times a week; that feels impossible now. I think another problem with my list this year (and my eagerness to put it together) had to do with the fact that I felt like it was an overall down year. But I originally remember feeling that about 2014, as well, and that turned out to be a great year - so who knows; maybe I'll feel that way about 2015 after I let it settle for a while, too. Who knows. But right now, I feel that my interests in the overall field was as muted as ever I can recall.

That all being said, there were still some really fun and well-made films that we got a chance to see in 2015. They might not have been all-timers, but there were some great selections. And as our site focuses more on the praise than the criticism of film, I want to make sure we're doing that here. I still enjoyed plenty of films, there just weren't any that really hit me hard and made me think they could be around for a long time. But that's OK. Not every film has to be one of the greatest ever to be good - sometimes it just has to be fun. Or thrilling. Or unique. There are plenty of reasons to appreciate all kinds of film; I'll make the case for 15 of them below.

So now that I've flopped around for two paragraphs on why I apparently love and hate movies, let's dig into my favorites from 2015!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Top 5 Movie Guide: Michael Fassbender

We wind down this year's Top 5 Movie Guide series with an actor who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 2015's "Steve Jobs", Michael Fassbender. Fassbender was born in 1977 in Germany, though mostly raised in Ireland. After appearing in plays in high school, he knew he wanted to be an actor. He continued pursuing that passion over the next few years, ultimately attending Drama Centre London for guidance. Once there, however, he did not feel it was for him and shortly after dropped out. While there, one of his classmates, Tom Hardy, said Fassbender was easily the best actor in the school. That assessment might have been pretty accurate.

Fassbender started his professional career splitting time between London and Los Angeles. He worked mostly on the stage in London while grabbing television roles in America. He continued with this pattern until 2006 when he landed his first film role in "300". Smaller film roles continued from there until 2011, when he broke out in a big way. In that year alone he appeared in "A Dangerous Method", 'Haywire", "X-Men: First Class", "Jane Eyre", and "Shame". And he hasn't stopped since. 2013 earned him his first Academy Award nomination for his role in "12 Years a Slave", which was also his third collaboration with good friend and director, Steve McQueen.

He hasn't yet appeared in 30 films for his career, but his upcoming slate looks ever-more promising and exciting. He's regarded as one of the strongest "new" (he's almost 40) actors working today, and probably one of the best we're seeing on film right now. In a few years I'm sure Fassbender's list will be one worth revisiting, but for now...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Alex's Top 15 Over-Looked & Under-Appreciated Films of 2015

Now in year two of this surprisingly annual post, I’m quite pleased that I decided to start writing it. As I mentioned in last year’s inaugural installment, it provides a nice opportunity to showcase a few films from the year that I really enjoyed but that realistically (for the most part, anyway) aren’t making most peoples’ best-of-the-year lists. I love having a space to showcase films that may have come and gone so quickly that you never even had the opportunity to give them a watch.

In review of the films on this year's list, it seems that last year’s list contained a few more genre films than this year’s, though my love of horror and horror-comedies again shines through strongly. That genre has - and will always have - a soft spot in my heart (I already can’t wait to see some of what 2016 has in store: “The Witch”, “Nina Forever”, “The Invitation”, etc.). But there was definitely a bit more balance this year with a good number of dramas making the cut.

We’ll get to this year's films in just a second, but there are a few things I want to make sure to reiterate before we get there. First, think of the rankings more as block sections - they aren't random, but outside of grouping them into tiers, they are fairly arbitrary. I enjoy ranked lists, so that's why I will continue to do so, but after the first few, they're all pretty similar - I just want you to watch all of these films! Second, this also isn't a straight "favorites" list - I tried putting weight both into how enjoyable they were PLUS how accessible I felt they were. Even calling it an inexact science would be giving the system too much credit. Third, to that last point, I realize that determining which films I felt were under-appreciated was such a personal matter of perspective - I can't know what you were more exposed to than I; this was mostly best-guess. And there are obviously still small films out there that even I didn't get to that are surely better than some of these. But it's a start, and still all of the films below have something great to offer. If even just one person watches one film on this list that they weren’t otherwise familiar with, it did its job.

All of that out of the way, let’s take a look at what stood out to me (but in a very under-the-radar way) in 2015.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Top 5 Movie Guide: Jennifer Lawrence

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we continue our series with another actress nominated this year for an Academy Award, Jennifer Lawrence, star of 2015's "Joy". Lawrence was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived a life like any other kid. She didn't do any acting and frankly didn't have an interest in it. But as fate would have it, at age 14 (2005), a trip to New York with her mother changed everything. While visiting, she had a chance encounter with a photographer, which led to a meeting with an agent who asked her to read - she did it cold and her mother was told it was one of the best cold-reads they'd ever seen. The agent convinced her to remain in New York that summer and continue to audition.In that summer, she booked a variety of commercials and bit film roles. Shortly thereafter, she moved with her family to Los Angeles to further pursue her newfound talent.

In 2007 she was cast in "The Bill Engvall Show", which provided her national exposure. Momentum continued to build with small film roles until her eventual breakout role in 2010's "Winter's Bone". Her first starring role earned her an Academy Award nomination, and led to roles in two prominent franchises: Mystique in "X-Men: First Class" and Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games". Since then, her legacy has only continued to grow. In a now six-year span as a Hollywood star, she's already earned four Oscar nominations, winning one in 2013 for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook". She's the youngest actress to ever receive two such nominations (or three, or four), and the second-youngest to ever win one.

Lawrence's career is still so new that she hasn't had a lot of time to make mistakes or have regrets. She did audition for the role of Bella Swan of 2008's "Twilight", but ultimately lost out to Kristen Stewart. She still ended up getting her tween franchise a few years later, and I think most would agree that's an outcome that worked much to the benefit of Lawrence and her career.