By Dennis Morton
Long ago I realized that most of the films I enjoy never make it to that overly exalted Academy status. Occasionally I’m asked to name my favorite movies of the year. It’s not an easy question. I don’t pay much attention to lists like that. I don’t even know which films have been nominated for this year’s Academy Awards.
But this year, just for kicks, I decided to make a list of the movies I most enjoyed in 2015. I came up with nine or ten that I knew I’d never tire of re-watching. Let me share with you the three at the top of that celluloid heap (oops – it’s a digital heap now).
I’ll toss third place laurels to Amy Schumer’s comic masterpiece – Trainwreck. She wrote the script and stars in the film. She even names her character Amy. For most of her post-pubescent life, character Amy has followed her Daddy’s dictum, i.e. – that ‘monogamy isn’t realistic’. Amy maneuvers through a small army of sexual partners. She lives and works in The Big Apple, so the pickings are good. But one day, on assignment for the trashy magazine she writes for, she meets a sports doctor. Among his current patients is LeBron James. Egged on by LeBron, the doc and Amy enter into strange territory. Trainwreck is not about a wreck, but about re-training oneself. It’s smart and hilarious.
Second place on my list goes to the recently released Youth. Director and script writer Paolo Sorrentino is a brilliant man and he imparts much of that quality to more than a few of the characters in Youth. The film is primarily about the lives of two highly accomplished old men – one, a retired composer/conductor and the other, a still working film director. Life long friends – even the lives of their grown children are deeply entwined. Youth brims with scintillating conversation. But what I like best about the film is how cleverly Sorrentino demolishes popular myths. To name a few: that movie stars are dimwits, that children are incapable of serious and informed conversation, and that beauty queens haven’t a brain in their gorgeous noggins. At one point, the newly crowned Miss Universe praises an actor for what he considers one of his lesser roles. He says something rather snide to her and she responds that she appreciates irony, but not when it’s drenched in poison. Youth is filled with moments like that. It’s a great film.
And finally, at the top of the heap, is Ex Machina. This is a film about a moment that many of us are fascinated with, but also full of dread about. A bright young man, a code writer for a super successful computer company, is summoned to a luxurious estate in the country. Part living quarters and part laboratory, it belongs to the company’s owner. The young man’s assignment is to determine if a robot has been sufficiently endowed, not just with A.I., but also with a level of consciousness that it can pass as fully human. Oscar Isacc plays the inventor, a fellow without apparent emotion attempting to impart genuine emotion into a machine. How well he succeeds is at the heart of the film.
Many directors attempt to create a titillating moment by having a character disrobe. But in Ex Machina, the sexiest moment occurs when the robot is putting her clothes on. Consistently fascinating, I think Ex Machina is the best film of the year.