The wonderful team at The Tracking Board asked me to come back to present my 3rd annual Best / Worst list, and this year I’m more thrilled than ever to talk about what I loved and loathed over the past 12 months. But first, it was worth taking a look back at my 2013 list and 2014 list to see how much I still agree with the old me, not to mention to check in on my most anticipated films of 2015 to see if they actually held up. But now, without further ado, lets dive into…
MAC MACLAMORE’S BEST & WORST OF 2015
TOP 10 SCRIPTS
ROCKET* by Jeffrey Gelber and Ryan Belenzon
CRATER by John Griffin
ELI by David Chirchirillo
THE STONE by Russ Riggins
BUBBLES by Isaac Adamson
UNLAWFUL by Carver Gray
THE SHAVE by Thomas White and Miles Hubley
BURNING WOMAN by Brad Ingelsby
THE WRETCHED EMILY DERRINGER by Chris Thomas Devlin
LUCY GRAND: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TRAPPER KEEPER QUEEN by Ben Levin
This year my reading tastes were almost exclusively specs, and almost exclusively all over the place. ROCKET* was an easy pick for me because I grew up a Red Sox fan and Roger Clemens was a God in our household, so seeing someone dive into that tale was both a trip down memory lane and a surprisingly exciting read. But Gelber & Belenzon have been wowing me for years, so they’re earned my read anytime it comes across my desk now.
Meanwhile, CRATER is one of those scripts admittedly I only read after seeing it land on the Hit List and the Black List, and somehow having never heard of it. It’s good… it’s really, really good in fact, and for a big sci-fi coming of age tale it delivers in spades with its nostalgic, wondrous and fantastical story of growing up and starting to discover who you are.
ELI is everything you want in a new horror/thriller on today’s market, and Chirchirillo delivers a gripping page turner that’s clever, disturbing, fun and scary in damn near every scene. The script reminded me of one of my favorite films of last year The Babadook, but even took things a step further with where it goes in terms or story, and character. Can’t wait to see who will play Eli.
THE STONE is one of those scripts someone sent to me and said “You have to read this.” When I asked what it was about, they told me it’d ruin it if they said anymore. After reading it I have to agree. It’s equal parts batshit insane and hilarious as it is a great story with a surprising amount of heart. All I’ll say is this: if Seth Rogen & James Franco made this, it’d make endless amount of money.
Who in the world sat down and thought, what if we saw the story of the King of Pop from the perspective of his pet chimp BUBBLES? Isaac Adamson is who, and boy does he make it a weirdly inviting and fun ride from front to back. Adamson was already a favorite of mine, but this showed me just how much variety he has in his pocket, and I genuinely can not wait for what’s next from him.
UNLAWFUL is one of those scripts you read, and can not stop talking about. Ask any of my friends, because I read it in the Summer and still can’t shut up about it. It’s no wonder this ended up on all of the annual lists this year, because man this writer delivers, and leaves you thinking about it long after you put it down. If Gone Girl, Taxi Driver and Chinatown had a baby, this would be it.
Another one of those scripts that was sent to me to read with no information about it was THE SHAVE, and again, I love that I was able to go in blind. In almost every way, shape, and form it shouldn’t work because of how small the story is, but wow, it works better than some of the best I’ve read in years, and delivers two powerful roles for Oscar season.
Ingelsby continues to do no wrong in my book, and BURNING WOMAN only reinforced that. An absolute powerhouse role that I Anne Hathaway dived into (and should turn heads as), steered by Ridley Scott. This small character driven tale is when Ingelsby is at his best, and I can’t wait to see this film, and over the winter break to read his follow up Claire, which Scott is also producing.
Love or hate serial killers, or even the first few seasons of Dexter, and THE WRETCHED EMILY DERRINGER is for you. Extremely smart character driven thriller that goes dark (really really dark) and never lets up. It’s equal parts disturbing (the story) as it is beautiful (the writing) and it’s an easy top 10 for me for the lengthy conversations I’ve had with others about it alone.
Ben Levin delivered one of the most pure fun reads of my year in a script I was extremely hesitant about at the onset, but learned to love in LUCY GRAND: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TRAPPER KEEPER QUEEN. From its amazing cover to descriptions throughout, this one just had a smile on my face for the entire ride, and even though I read it in the Spring, still left a lasting impact on me at years end.
TOP 10 FILMS
THE REVENANT – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
EX MACHINA – Alex Garland
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – George Miller
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – JJ Abrams
INSIDE OUT – Pete Docter
CREED – Ryan Coogler
CAROL – Todd Haynes
SPOTLIGHT – Tom McCarthy
THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Quentin Tarantino
THE BIG SHORT – Adam McKay
THE MARTIAN – Ridley Scott
ROOM – Lenny Abrahamson
JURASSIC WORLD – Colin Trevorrow
I was lucky to have seen an early screening of THE REVENANT a few weeks back, and even having seen half of my top 10 list since, it’s still the one to beat. It’s a powerful performance in terms of cast, direction, DP, score, and even locations. It delivered only my already lofty expectations, and left me easily slotting it into my top spot on the year.
EX MACHINA is the first I saw this year on the list, and the fact that it was still my top film until Revenant really hammers home just how much I enjoyed this film. And, as a longtime fan of Garland as a writer, it was fantastic to see what he did as a director, and what this cast of breakout stars already on the rise came together to deliver. It’s no wonder all three leads are in awards conversations this year for this film and others.
If any film on this list earned the most-watched of the year it would be MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, which I saw in theaters more times than you can count on one hand, and almost another five times with friends since. It’s pure joy front to back, and man, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy masterfully worked every single gorgeous frame George Miller delivered.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I fell in love with Star Wars just like everyone else, and having finally just seen the new film STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS last night, I’m so proud of the new installment, and the work JJ Abrams delivered. The moment I heard his name associated with the project, I was ready to put this on my list. He’s one of the few directors out there who you can tell genuinely eats, breathes, lives and dies for every tiny piece of his work. And man, does he deliver once again in a new chapter that feels fresh and original, but nostalgic and memorable in every way.
Another one of those “if anyone told me this idea, I’d probably have laughed” projects was the stunning INSIDE OUT. I mean, who was ready for this one? It’s masterfully stunning animation weaves into a story that is relatable, fun, and has the most depth we’ve seen from Pixar in a while. It’s also the film I bought for most family members this year, as it works for generations, and tells a story we’ve all gone through in our lives… albeit most likely not voiced but such an amazing cast.
I love Michael B. Jordan, and he is one of those few actors who I genuinely watch his decisions with an added expectation, as we watch one of the best new actors we’ve seen in years carve out his career trajectory. It’s nerve-racking when you see something like Fantastic Four (Could he pull off a Sandra Bullock and get a best actor Oscar nom and Worst actor Razzy nom?) because you know he did the film out of loyalty to the director, and because, lets face it, Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, that seems like a win-win package. But, out of 2015 he erases any question of his commitment and ability by stunning us with his turn in CREED.
The only film on my top 10 this year that I had to be convinced to see the first time I saw it was Todd Hayne’s CAROL. And wow, am I happy I have friends who are smarter than me yelling at me when I stupidly dismiss films as something that’s “not for me”. Every piece of this film shines, and it’d be insane to me if we don’t see both leads up for the golden statue next year. At its very core, this smart character driven story is simply a story of love and the meaning of what that word, and emotion means to you. It’s compelling, intelligent, relatable and full of heart.
SPOTLIGHT is a star-studded indie that could easily move up my list as it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a very long time. The cast alone delivers a knock out experience, but tie that in with McCarthy’s excellent writing and direction and this is a memorable film that we will referee for years to come.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT is Tarantino at his best. Not that he’s often ever not at his best. He has become the master of taking incredibly simple ideas and weaving them so richly into story, and delivering performances from actors that often never even knew they had it in them themselves. This is one I will watch a handful of times over the break, and already, I’m excited about seeing it again!
Lastly, THE BIG SHORT is one of those films that you need to see. I don’t often make that statement, but I’m paying it forward, as that’s how it was sold to me. And to be honest, at it’s face value who wants to watch a film about the housing crisis and the economic collapse the centered around it? But, wow, am I thrilled that I did. The cast alone should sway you into seeing this immediately, but it’s the superb work done by McKay in the directors chair, and alongside the writer Charles Randolph that ramps this up into a genuinely enjoyable experience filled with levity, depression, humor, drama, and greed. In short, it’s kind of like the real life version of Inside Out, but for adults.
Meanwhile, THE MARTIAN, ROOM and JURASSIC WORLD all just miss my list this year. The Martian was a fantastic return to form for Ridley Scott when he was dealing with Matt Damon on Mars, or the team aboard the return ship, however every time we interacted with the awkward casting choices and “comedic” elements back on earth I was completely removed from the story. If those pieces were removed, this is an easy top 10, but with them, it makes the almost list. Room may well be one of the best films I’ve seen in years, and delivers a number of memorable performances, and introduces the world to Lenny Abrahamsson, but boy is it depressing. I don’t mind that at all, but know going in, this ones going to stay with you. Meanwhile, Jurassic World may not have been the “best” film of the year, but if any films delivered on the “Summer Blockbuster” stamp this year that was it. It may not be memorable long term (though it did break several box office records), but it gave me the perfect turn your brain off, eat your pop corn escapism experiences of 2015.
TOP 10 WORST FILMS
ENTOURAGE – Doug Ellin
FANTASTIC FOUR – Joshua Trank
HITMAN: AGENT 47 – Alexsander Bach
PIXELS – Chris Columbus
JUPITER ASCENDING – The Wachowskis
PAN – Joe Wright
UNFINISHED BUSINESS – Ken Scott
THE GREEN INFERNO – Eli Roth
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON – Joss Whedon
BLACK MASS – Scott Cooper
I’m jut going to do quick rundowns on the worst this year. First big thing I’m shocked at, is that I really like a lot of these directors, but whether pressure, schedule, studio involvement, or just unnecessary story each of these died for me. ENTOURAGE was five years too late, and felt like the later seasons of what was once a very enjoyable show. FANTASTIC FOUR was a train wreck front to back, and HITMAN: AGENT 47 was a direct to DVD project masquerading as a theatrical release. PIXELS killed all of the enthusiasm I had when that idea was bought a few years back. JUPITER ASCENDING I hope finally made someone realize The Wachowskis need to be reeled in. PAN was a weird mashing of several different ideas crammed into one, often with those ideas disappearing without any kind of conclusion. UNFINISHED BUSINESS was one I probably went in hoping to see Vince Vaughn of old, and excited to see Dave Franco starting to take off, but both were trapped in a terrible film, with Vaughn eating too much screen, and Franco not enough. THE GREEN INFERNO felt like a great film… from 2003, and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON just felt like a long toy commercial from 1988. Lastly, BLACK MASS did not have anything glaringly wrong with it, but at the same time felt tired and like it was retreading old territory we’ve seen done better in film, TV and documentaries.
TOP 10 TV SHOWS
MR. ROBOT (S1)
SCREAM QUEENS (S1)
GAME OF THRONES (S5)
CATASTROPHE (S1, S2)
AMERICAN HORROR STORY (S5)
JANE THE VIRGIN (S2)
YOU’RE THE WORST (S2)
JESSICA JONES (S1)
FRESH OFF THE BOAT (S2)
THE AMERICANS (S3)
MASTER OF NONE (S1)
THE EXPANSE (S1)
MR. ROBOT introduced us to the network USA has been trying to become for years, and now they’re lining up to become one of next years breakouts. SCREAM QUEENS falls into that too crazy for TV, but somehow masterful, and Ryan Murphy delivers both every single episode. GAME OF THRONES continues to be the show everyone wants, but doesn’t know how to deliver. The fact it’s been that show now for five years tells you just how good it is. CATASTROPHE continues to be one of the funniest and most honest comedies I’ve ever seen on television. And, while I was never a big Ryan Murphy fan before (I hated Glee), he landed two shows in my top 10 this year, with AMERICAN HORROR STORY season 5 (also being the only season I’ve watched in it’s entirety) knocking it out of the park. Pure delicious bliss. Meanwhile, JANE THE VIRGIN, a top 10 for me last year as well, continues to deliver exactly what I expect of it, and it has established itself firmly as a “Schedule life around” viewing each week. And on the topic (a few sentences ago) of most honest and relatable comedies on TV, this season of YOU’RE THE WORST has been brilliant in every way possible, dealing with complex and real issues, but mixing them with over the top characters and scenarios that really make you think while laughing away. BLACK-ISH won me over from its first episode, and has only continued to build my enthusiasm week to week. It’s a great reminder of what primetime comedy was in the 90s, and it delivers. JESSICA JONES goes there! That’s what I love about it. Tough situations, one of the best villains on TV, and a lead that shines all make this may favorite Marvel show to date. Lastly, FRESH OFF THE BOAT firmly rounds out my top 10, again hitting that 90s comedy feeling, but giving us a fresh spin on it. While few episodes didn’t quite hit the homerun expected this year, it still has a top 10 spot in my heart.
Lastly, a few just misses, that honestly could have easily jumped into my top 10 were THE AMERICANS which bounced back from a rocky 2nd season to really ramp up the character growth in season 3, and make me far more excited for next season than I was going into this year. Aziz’s MASTER OF NONE won me over, and showed me a side of him I hadn’t seen before, and am eager to see more of next season. DAREDEVIL almost, and maybe should have topped Jessica Jones in my top 10, but I’d just finished the later recently, and while I felt Daredevil hit it out of the park, Jessica stayed with me longer. Finally, THE EXPANSE. I’m only 3 episodes in of the surprisingly planned very short 10 episode season, but I have to say, I’m absolutely loving this show. The years of buzz (literally over a year of promotions for this) were right, and this is the return to the Battlestar Galactica era SyFy has been looking for.
TOP 10 WORST TV SHOWS
AGAIN – ALMOST EVERY NEW SHOW ON THE MAJORS (True, but that’s too easy)
TRUE DETECTIVE (S2)
MINORITY REPORT (S1)
TRUTH BE TOLD (S1)
DR. KEN (S1)
HEROES REBORN (S1)
THE BRINK (S1)
THE PLAYER (S1)
SLEEPY HOLLOW (S3)
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD (S1)
This year I was pretty good about not watching a lot of terrible TV, and getting better with allowing myself to just stop a show mid-season. Also, the fact that while I watch every pilot over the Summer, I rarely sit down to watch a show from the onset usually helps me realize which to avoid when the die on the vine early on. So, while most new shows this year on my list were duds out of the gate (how they messed up Minority Report so terribly, I’ll never understand), the only two glaring ones that jumped straight from my top 10 loved to hated were TRUE DETECTIVE and SLEEPY HOLLOW. While TD was just outright terrible, Sleepy Hollow has seemingly just run out of story, and is getting most likely one more season of life support before it finds itself in the ground. Which is a shame, considering the first season of that series was so much fun.
TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS & GRAPHIC NOVELS
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
DESCENDER By Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen
WE CAN NEVER GO HOME By Patrick Kindlon & Matthew Rosenberg
EAST OF WEST by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta
MS. MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
IVAR, TIMEWALKER by Fred Van Lente & others
THE FADE OUT by Ed Brusker & Sean Phillips
SEX by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
MIDNIGHTER by Steve Orlando & ACO
Great titles all around, and a handful of them returning from last year. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE still sits atop my top 10 list along with SAGA, with both titles pretty much interchangeable. DESCENDER was one of the massively hyped titles that saw the film rights sell before the book even released, but has continually month-to-month lived up to that buzz. WE CAN NEVER GO HOME was one I’d not seen any advertising about anywhere when a friend told me I should check it out, and damn, if I’m not endlessly happy I did. Absolutely fantastic storytelling! EAST OF WEST I’d loved, hated, and now love once again. I’m not sure if it’s the mood I’d been in, or tweaks in the story, but I love what the series brought in 2015. MS. MARVEL was fantastic is so many ways, and while definitely aimed at a younger audience, I enjoyed it for exactly what it was just as much as the big step forward a mainstream title like that will take. IVAR, TIMEWALKER was the final title I read in Valiant’s new and aggressive return to comics that secured them as a powerhouse player once again. Welcome back guys! Meanwhile, THE FADE OUT was a welcome return from two guys who’s name you hear in awards talk every year, SEX continues to be such a brilliant piece of storytelling, and MIDNIGHTER reignited my love of this character from years before in such a fun and exciting way.
TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES
LIFE IS STRANGE
RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS
THE WALKING DEAD
ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III
THE WICHER 3
Telltale continues to dominate my top 10 this year with TALES FROM THE BORDERLAND and THE WALKING DEAD both making the list, and companies taking a page from their approach made the list this years as well with LIFE IS STRANGE. FALLOUT 4 not only was in the top 5 searches for all of Google in 2015, but it easily is my favorite game of the year, and will consume the most amount of my life once again. Thanks, Bethesda! Meanwhile the follow up from the reboot RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER delivered in every way imaginable, and has left me eagerly awaiting the next installment. ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST I bought on a whim, and probably played more than most every other AAA title this year. CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III was a very welcome return to form for the series, and is one I’m eager to play again. HALO 5 delivered on the world’s lofty expectations, and I enjoyed it, but either the franchise is wearing on me, or I just didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped the longer time has gone since completing it. Finally, UNTIL DAWN and THE WITCHER 3 were not favorites of mine I’m singing from the rooftops about like Fallout or Life is Strange, but they both delivered on exactly what they set out to be, and because of that I enjoyed my time with them, and had a lot of fun with them, but will most likely not return to them again in this installment.
TOP 5 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE
BATMAN VS SUPERMAN
Since most titles schedule well in advance tend to be major franchises and sequels, this entire list is either a sequel, prequel, or franchise installment. I’m hopeful for Marvel to return to form with CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, excited for the new direction of GHOSTBUSTERS, now more excited than ever for STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE, nervously excited (and kind of expecting the worst) for BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, and lastly, hopeful Pixar delivers once again with FINDING DORY.
So that’s it for me guys, 2015 once again delivered a memorable year, and I thank the TB team for inviting me back to reminisce about it. Lets see where we end up once Oscar talks hit a peak, and a new film topples the opening box office weekend in 2016… or will it?