Round-Up of 2015’s Best Performances Round-Up of 2015’s Best Performances

Posted on December 30, 2015 at 8:00 am

A living legend. A lonely shopgirl. A scientist. A spy. Several assassins. The best performances of 2015 came from various corners of the world, from actors who we expect to see in features like this to ones we had never heard of before 2015. Watching a new crop of young actors rise in some of the year’s best films (and click here for our top ten) can be invigorating, and seeing performers who we thought may have given their last great performance deliver the best work of their career can be breathtaking.

I loved reading through the comments of the critics on their favorite performances of the year, and I was especially glad to get a chance to write about mine: Teyonah Parris in “Chi-Raq.”

Copyright Amazon 2015
Copyright Amazon 2015
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Actors Critics

#Where’sRey — Why Do “Star Wars” Action Figure Sets Leave Out the Main Character?

Posted on December 29, 2015 at 11:21 am

Jen Yamato writes on The Daily Beast about the infuriating and inexplicable omission of Rey toys from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” sets.

The #WheresRey hashtag first trended over a month ago when Star Wars fans noticed a shocking lack of Daisy Ridley in Disney’s onslaught of The Force Awakens merchandising. The hashtag took aim at the glaring lack of Ridley’s Jakku scavenger heroine Rey from a Target exclusive toy six-pack that included her three new male co-stars John Boyega (as Finn), Oscar Isaac (as Poe Dameron), and Adam Driver (as the Sith junior lord Kylo Ren) alongside Chewbacca, an unnamed Storm Trooper, and an unnamed First Order pilot….As disappointing as it was to see Rey left out of the Target six-pack of The Force Awakens figures, it came as an even bigger shock when fans discovered Hasbro’s popular Star Wars: The Force Awakens Battle Action Millennium Falcon set (retail: $139.95) comes with a light-up Millennium Falcon, a BB-8, a Finn, a Chewbacca…and no Rey.

So, a character who does not even have a name rates a toy but the lead character who (spoiler alert) HAS THE FORCE and actually FLIES the Millennium Falcon does not?

Rey is a sensational hero for boys and girls and should be a part of any Star Wars play. Memo to Disney: these are the toys we’ve been looking for.

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Commentary Gender and Diversity

Chaz Ebert on the Need for Diverse Voices in Film Criticism

Posted on December 29, 2015 at 8:00 am

Chaz Ebert of writes in The Daily Beast about the importance of more diverse voices in movie criticism — and in those who make movies, too.

Meryl Streep’s use of the word “infuriating” to describe the disproportionate ratio of male to female reviewers on the Rotten Tomatoes is apt.

But the need for diverse voices in film criticism does not suffice with gender. A wide spectrum of voices is critical in challenging the mainstream white male-dominated narrative that drives much of Hollywood and the popular media. Being introduced to diverse critical voices and opinions in the arts not only affects how we see the world but also has a profound influence on how we begin to heal it.

Chaz has been a leader in this effort, and has made particular progress in bringing great women writers to, including my friends Sheila O’Malley, ReBecca Theodore-Vachon, Jana Monji, Susan Wloszczyna, Olivia Collette, Christy Lemire, and Anath White.

The Atlantic Monthly has an article on the falling percentage of women film critics. The discussion of how women were originally advantaged and then materially disadvantaged in this field is fascinating. Thelma Adams also writes about the problem of too few female movie critics for Variety.

According to the Gender at the Movies study of top critics on Rotten Tomatoes, men account for 91% of those writing for movie/entertainment magazines and websites such as Entertainment Weekly; 90% of those writing for trade publications and websites; 80% of critics writing for general interest magazines and sites such as Time and Salon; 72% of those writing for newspaper sites; and 70% of critics writing for radio outlets and sites such as NPR.

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Critics Gender and Diversity Race and Diversity

Alliance of Women Film Journalist Nominations 2015

Posted on December 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has announced its nominations for the best (and some of the worst) in film for 2015.  I have already voted my ballot for the final awards and look forward to the winners.

Best Film

  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Room
  • Spotlight

Best Director

  • Lenny Abramson – Room
  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu – The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • George Miller – Mad Max Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott – The Martian

Best Screenplay, Original

  • Ex Machina – Alex Garland
  • Inside Out – Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
  • Spotlight – Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy

Best Screenplay, Adapted

  • The Big Short – Charles Randolph, Adam McKay
  • Carol – Phyllis Nagy
  • The Martian – Drew Goddard
  • Room – Emma Donoghue

Best Documentary

  • Amy – Asif Kapadia
  • Best of Enemies – Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville
  • Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief – Alex Gibney
  • The Hunting Ground – Kirby Dick
  • What Happened, Ms. Simone? – Liz Garbus

Best Animated Film

  • Anomalisa
  • Inside Out
  • Shaun The Sheep

Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Kristin Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
  • Kate Winslett – Steve Jobs

Best Actor

  • Matt Damon – The Martian
  • Leonardo Di Caprio – The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Ensemble Cast

  • The Big Short
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Best Editing

  • The Big Short
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
  • Spotlight – Tom McArdle

Best Cinematography

  • Carol – Edward Lachman
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
  • The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Film Music Or Score

  • Carol – Carter Burwell
  • The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Junkie XL
  • Youth – David Lang

Best Non-English-Language Film

  • Mustang – Deniz Gamze Eguven
  • Phoenix – Christian Petzold
  • Son of Saul – Lazlo Nemes


These awards honor WOMEN only.

Best Woman Director

  • Isabel Coixet – Learning to Drive
  • Maya Forbes – Infinitely Polar Bear
  • Sarah Gavron – Suffragette
  • Marielle Heller – Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Celine Sciamma – Girlhood

Best Woman Screenwriter

  • Emma Donoghue – Room
  • Marielle Heller – Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Phyllis Nagy – Carol
  • Amy Schumer – Trainwreck

Best Female Action Star

  • Emily Blunt – Sicario
  • Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games Mocking Jay 2
  • Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Charleze Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Breakthrough Performance

  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Bel Powley – Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Daily Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Alica Vikander – Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, The Danish Girl

Female Icon of the Year Award (a woman whose work in film and/or in life made a difference)

  • Chantal Ackerman – In Memoriam For being a great filmmaker and sinpiration.
  • Maria Geise – Activist filmmaker who is spearheading the movement for parity for women directors.
  • Donna Langley – Chair(wo)man, Universal Pictures, who has brought the studio to unprecedented profits.
  • Jennifer Lawrence – For breaking the silence about discriminatory practices and unequal pay for actresses.
  • Charlotte Rampling – Because she’s Charlotte Rampling and is iconic.


Best Depiction Of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction

  • Anomalisa
  • Carol
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl

Actress Defying Age and Ageism

  • Helen Mirren
  • Charlotte Rampling
  • Lily Tomlin

Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award

  • Danny Collins – Al Pacino and Katarina Cas
  • Freeheld – Julianne Moore and Ellen Page
  • Irrational Man – Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone
  • Spectre – Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent

  • Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World
  • Dakota Johnson – 50 Shades of Gray
  • Emma Stone – Aloha

Movie You Wanted To Love, But Just Couldn’t

  • Aloha
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Sisters

EDA Award winners will be announced on January 12, 2016.

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Ann Hornaday on Watching Ultra-Violence

Posted on December 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday has a thoughtful piece about the violence in two end-of-the-year western-style frontier stories, “The Revenant,” from the director of last year’s Best Picture “Birdman,” Alejandro González Iñárritu and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”

Both “The Hateful Eight” and “The Revenant,” which arrive in theaters over the next two weeks, make promiscuous use of bodies in pain. Directed by Quentin Tarantino and Alejandro González Iñárritu, respectively, both films are set against the pitiless, snowy backdrop of the 19th-century American West. And both traffic in lingering wide-screen images of savage brutality and mortification, as their protagonists claw, fight, shoot and stab their way to preserving their lives… oth films are set against the pitiless, snowy backdrop of the 19th-century American West. And both traffic in lingering wide-screen images of savage brutality and mortification, as their protagonists claw, fight, shoot and stab their way to preserving their lives.

These are both films with some artistic aspirations. But Hornaday questions whether the ultra-violence in both is in aid of or a distraction from their stories and their messages.

It’s possible to appreciate both films, even admire them, for their sheer ambition and near-flawless execution. But the virtuosity on display also produces its share of deep misgivings. Whether by way of Tarantino’s ironic distance or Iñárritu’s artily masochistic extremes, it’s genuine empathy and self-reflection that get short-circuited, swamped by surface values of aesthetics, technical achievement and shocking, vicarious jolts.

She compares the films to others released this year that engaged with serious, real-life atrocities like “Son of Saul,” “Room,” and “Spotlight” without making them as confrontational, explicit, even cartoonish. These films, she says, “call on each viewer’s memory, conscience and moral imagination to complete the picture and create its deepest meaning.” Individual responses to violence on film vary widely. For me, the question is: does it make you feel more or feel less?

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Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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