Wednesday, December 16, 2015


What started out as a "meh" kind of a year slowly turned in to one of my favorite movie years in a long time (for the first time ever we have a TOP 12 instead of the standard top 10!)

Gregg Turkington/"Neil Hamburger" in Entertainment

Little bits of reality seeping in to fictional stories seemed to be the theme in 2015. That was obviously something a few filmmakers touched on last year with Birdman, Boyhood, Top 5 & Chef, but it was even more prominent this year. Besides Clouds Of Sils Maria & Portrait Of The Artist (two films that featured actors pretty much playing themselves), Gerard Depardieu (Welcome To New York) & Gregg Turkington (Entertainment) put pieces of their real selves in to their respective performances. And personally, I thought Viggo Mortensen's role in Jauja was an existential look at aging as well as a callback to all the physically demanding roles that brought him to prominence in the last 12 years or so (A History Of Violence, The Road, Hidalgo, Eastern Promises, LOTR). As an actor in his mid 50's, I'm not sure how many naturally physically demanding roles he has left in him without the help of CGI, lots of editing (like in the case of The Expendables) and extensive stunt double work (not to say those things haven't already been Incorporated in Viggo's performances, but Jauja felt like it was all him).

an exhausted Viggo Mortensen in Jauja
the aging actress (Jane Fonda) in Youth

In Paolo Sorrentino's Youth Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel (who hits a home run in the final act) & Jane Fonda all play aging entertainers coming to grips with their respective careers. In one scene we watch Jane Fonda tell Keitel that television is the future and film is the past (Jane Fonda recently starred in a Netflix original television show). This ties directly in to Clouds Of Sils Maria as Juliette Binoche plays a character who has to come to grips with her career & age as well.

Juliette Binoche in The Clouds Of Sils Maria
Bertrand Bonello as "Bertrand Bonello" in Portrait Of The Artist

Michael Mann went unappreciated (once again), It Follows & The Visit both got way more credit than they deserved (read my mid-season review for a little more detail on It Follows and check out Ian's review of The Visit for a different perspective), Creed ended up being way better than it should have, and Mad Max: Fury Road provided the most fun I had all year at a movie theater.

Mad Max: Fury Road

So, like always, all the movies from this year have been broken up in to various sub-categories and groups that i saw fit. Almost all of these are either streaming on some platform (Jauja, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus, Stretch & Bobbito), currently playing in theaters or scheduled to be released soon (Entertainment, The Lobster, Cemetery Of Splendour, Creed & Carol) or are available on DVD/Blu-Ray (Mad Max, Blackhat, Clouds Of Sils Of Maria), so I encourage all of you to seek out the movies below that you may not be familiar with.

(it should be noted that I haven't seen The Revenant yet and I have no plans of seeing Hateful 8)








middle row: PHOENIX / ROOM
Bottom Row: AMY / JUNUN





PINNLAND EMPIRE JURY PRIZE or: movies I genuinely liked/loved/enjoyed but have some kind of special/biased attachment to
middle row: MULIGNANS / SPIT

(a few more movies from 2015 possibly worth your time)
middle Row: ANT-MAN / 1,001 GRAMS

*Jacqueline Bisset (Welcome To New York)
Viggo Mortensen (Jauja)
*Hagen the dog (White God)
*Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton)
*Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
John Ashton (Uncle John)
Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
Josh Brolin (Sicario)
Benicio Del Torro (Sicario)
Harvey Keitel (Youth)
Nina Haas (Phoenix)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Ryan Gosling (The Big Short)
Bree Larson (Room)
Jacob Tremblay (Room)
Mathieu Amalric (The Forbidden Room)
Jeanne Balibar (Portrait Of The Artist)
*Juliette Binoche (Clouds Of Sils Maria)
Kristen Stewart (Clouds Of Sils Maria)
*Aggeliki Papoulia (The Lobster)
Rachel Weisz (The Lobster)
Aubrey Plaza (Ned Rifle)

Love & Mercy
45 Years

The Case Of Hannah & Alice
Inside Out
Irrational Man
The Lobster
Miss Hokusai
Our Little Sisiter
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
World Of Tomorrow 

The Assassin
Mad Max: Fury Road
Hard To Be A God
Wild Tales
What We Do In The Shadows
Clouds Of Sils Maria

Missed out from 2014 but were so outstanding they deserve mention:
Mr. Turner
Lil Quinquin
John Wick
The Homesman

Of Note:
* I watched The Burbs three times over Labor Day weekend and after I was able to block out Tom Hanks (who I HATE) and I really enjoyed it.
* Alverson continues to make weird, interesting shit. Not sure I understand it all, but like Reygadas, I will continue to watch.
* Two great shootouts made Blackhat watchable.
* FINALLY: Two-Lane Blacktop, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, Apu Trilogy, Rust Never Sleeps
* NOPE: Goodbye to Language, A Most Violent Year, #Horror, The Tribe
* Gabriel Figueroa was the only thing I enjoyed at Film Forum. Anthology was my goto in 2015.
* Discoveries: Jean Rollin, Cy Endfield, Stuart Gordon, Emilio Fernandez, Aleksei German

Mad Max: Fury Road
Call Me Lucky
Clouds of Sils Maria
In Jackson Heights
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Slow West
What We Do in the Shadows

Mad Max: Fury Road 
The color palette! The constant action! Flaming-guitar man! 

Kenneth Branagh directed a film that was too good for the average Disney audience. This film isn't for children; the average viewer seemed to be in their 30s or 40s. Dante Ferretti's production design yet again was all-encompassing beauty and grandeur. A film that is gentle, with the main message being “Have courage and be kind”, is rare and special in this day and age. 

In all honesty, I was never an Amy Winehouse fan; I was actually a detractor. I found her music to be derivative and her persona grating. Boy howdy, was I wrong! Just as director Asif Kapadia did with his 2010 documentary Senna(I recommend highly), personal footage of the main character was used to perfect effect. Amy Winehouse was terribly taken advantage of by many people in her life and this documentary puts it all out on the table. Her father is an utter scumbag, who left Amy as a child, screwed up her perception of how men should treat women and then only came back when she had fame and money. Her daddy issues lead her to marry a junkie loser, who used her for her fame and was highly integral in her downward spiral into drug-use. If Amy hadn't have been surrounded by such a degenerate family(her mother knew of her bulimia and did nothing to help her; pathetic 'parenting'), she may still be alive today. I left the theater in tears and put on Back to Black. Rest in peace Amy, you hyper-talented, damaged soul.

Kraftwerk: 3D Concert at the Midland Theater, Kansas City, MO on October 9, 2015
Ok, I know a concert is usually not considered a film, but this was Kraftwerk and therefore one of the greatest pieces of art I've ever seen. I had third row assigned seats and had to wear 3D glasses throughout the entire show. There was no dancing allowed! I have never wanted to dance more; so stoic and German of the band to set up the hall that way. Watching four men slightly bop their heads, standing at consoles while 3D visuals of cars, calculators, UFO's, and roadways ran behind them was entrancing. I've been to much more elaborate concerts; this was elevated to straight high art by the simplicity of the songs and the mastery of the electronic music form by the band. They are the originators of the genre and continue to hold that high honor. The fact that I was furiously clapping when robots in red shirts with black ties played the encore illustrates how spectacular Kraftwerk is. There don't even need to be people on stage; we live in the Computer World Kraftwerk predicted 34 years ago and it is glorious. 

The Leftovers: Season 2 on HBO
This season, as well as the first of The Leftovers is heartbreaking, weird, uncomfortable and one of the deepest explorations of bereavement presented in a television program ever. To see a show build a story from nothing(the first season was based on the novel and ended just as the book did) and exceed all expectations was magical. This is not an easy program to watch; you will cry at least once an episode. The show is so well made I have watched all of the episodes two or three times and would watch them again. The Leftovers explores the smashing of reality that death brings and I could not be more grateful that this exists. People find solace in many different avenues; The Leftovers assuaged my soul with it's deep understanding of the ways in which mourning changes and effects us in completely unexpected ways. My hope is that HBO renews this program and doesn't let it Depart, yet if not, at least we were gifted with these two amazing seasons.

Um Século de Energia 
La Sapienza 
Jamie Marks is Dead 
Something, Anything 
Lost River 
Mad Max: Fury Road 
Amour Fou 
End of the Tour 
Good Kill 
It Follows 
P'tit Quinquin

Best of TV: The Affair, The Leftovers, The Knick, Banshee, Game of Thrones

Overrated: Hard to Be a God, Jauja, Winter Sleep, Clouds of Sils Maria, Ex Machina 

Underrated: Chappie, The Water Diviner, The Gift

Exceptional films from 2014 that I didn't see till 2015: Inherent Vice, American Sniper, Mr. Turner, The Equalizer, Wild, Exodus, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, A Most Violent Year 

Discovery of the year: Catholics (Jack Gold, '73)

Mad Max: Fury Road
Adieu au langage
Inherent Vice
Hard To Be A God
(Tie) A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting On Existence/Ex Machina 

Best Terrible Movie:
Jupiter Ascending 

Just Terrible:
Big Eyes 
Slow West
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Better Than You Might Think: 

Better Than You Might Think (But Still Not Good):

Most Anticipated:
The Hateful Eight
The Revenant
The Look of Silence
Cemetery of Splendor
The Lobster


Daniel Van Bargen in Super Troopers
I don't know if it's because he costarred in one of my all time favorite comedies (Super Troopers), or the fact that he struggled with diabetes (a disease that affects me both directly & indirectly) but Daniel Von Bargen's passing really made me sad (let's also not forget he delivered one of the funniest lines in Super Troopers with his deadpan delivery of "I like you"). 
Look...diabetes affects a lot of people and his passing is no more important than any other person who passed away due to complications from the same disease. But the circumstances surrounding his battle with diabetes is pretty heartbreaking (back in 2011 he was on his way to losing a limb so he tried to take his own life).

Daniel Von Bargen might have been on "oh, that guy" status to the average person but to me he was a key (supporting) player in the films I watched as a kid appearing in everything from The Silence Of The Lambs & Basic Instinct to Thinner & Rising Sun (there were times in the early/mid 90's where it was almost a 50/50 shot that he'd show up in one of the movies my parents would rent for me at blockbuster videos). He even showed up on PINNLAND EMPIRE earlier this year in John Cribbs' Cinema Of Paul Veerhoeven.
I don't know if I should call Von Bargen a "character actor", "stock actor" or "supporting actor". Maybe he's a bit of all three which is what made his presence on film & television so unique. 

Chantal Akerman
Anyone who knows me well or frequents this site knows that I’m a Chantal Akerman fan (read my write-up of Rendezvous D’Anna and my references to her work in The Cinema Of Michael Haneke & Carlos Reygadas). I know this is petty, and I sometimes hate this mentality, but this is one of those cases where I find joy in the fact that I didn’t become an overnight fan of her work after she passed away. But at the same time I don’t want to discourage folks who want to get in to her work. Her filmography is a lot to tackle (some of her films are out of print or only on VHS), but her films on the Hulu Criterion channel is a great place to start.

Akerman’s work & style is the epitome of the “Boring Masterpiece” series that’s been a pillar of PINNLAND EMPIRE since day one. I look back on the last decade and think about how often Chantal Akerman and her work would come up in my own personal life in an organic way. A few years ago Anthology Film Archives did a boring masterpiece series (yes, that’s where I stole the name from) and I remember lightheartedly complaining to the programmer about there being no Akerman films in the program. A few years prior to that, I remember a friend texting me after they saw Jeanne Dielman for the first time and how much they loved it. And just a few months ago (about a week before her passing), I was fortunate enough to see her 1983 film Toute Une Nuit for the first time courtesy of my friends Jason Evans & Lodge Kerrigan.

Chantal’s influence is no mystery at this point (the visual comparison between Jeanne Dielman & Todd Haynes’ Safe has become a standard thing on most movie blogs). But her influence reaches beyond Safe. There are shades of Akerman in everyone from veterans like Claire Denis to younger filmmakers like Betrand Bonello & Lisandro Alonso.

Albert Maysles
Office Space is probably the #1 movie that people claim to relate to when it comes to job hatred and/or the daily grind that comes along with "adulthood". But for me it's Salesman (like a lot of people, my introduction to the Maysles brothers was Grey Gardens, but Salesman was always my personal favorite). Plus, Office Space came out when I was still a teenager. So while I always thought it was funny (and still do), I could never fully relate to the horror of working in an office cubicle during my prime Office Space viewing years because I hadn't entered the workforce yet (I certainly relate to it now given that I draw office cubicles on a computer for a living while sitting in an office cubicle). 

Given my love of film, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I relate certain things in my life to movies from time to time, and Salesman is definitely an example of this. I discovered Salesmen a few months after starting my hellish first job in my early 20's so it will always be synonymous with my hatred, anxiety & displeasure with working, paying bills and just being responsible. I don't work in sales (although I do work alongside salespeople), but my job still comes along with the same kinds of pressures & banalities that we're exposed to in Salesman
But Salesman isn't the only movie of theirs that stood out for me. Like Chantal Akerman's films, when I look back on certain aspects of my life, the films of the Maysles brothers also played a minor role in my life. I remember buying their movies from people off of craigslist back in the day and catching midnight screenings of Grey Gardens & Beales Of Grey Gardens at the IFC center.

So I'd like to take this time to say rest in piece to these talented artists for their contribution to film & television.

*Highlights, lowlights and other random movie moments from 2015*

The opening (first 10-15 minutes) of Mad Max: Fury Road

I wanted to, but I'm not sitting in Film Forum for three hours (In Jackson Heights)

Carol touches Therese's shoulder

Interviewing Samantha Fuller

Dean Stockwell's cameo in Entertainment

Seriously, we fucking get it, Greta Gerwig. You like being the "awkward girl". (Mistress America
Mistress America

Ok, in all seriousness, you guys didn't honestly like The Visit, right?

The fight scenes in Creed

Hagen gets revenge (White God)

Not to beat a dead horse but it really was that bad (Fantastic Four)

so...a plantation-themed strip club is ok? (Magic Mike XXL)

Rocky holds back tears while talking about Adrienne's battle with cancer (Creed)

Can't decide what I disliked more: Heaven Knows What, It Follows or Irrational Man

Had Lee Daniels or Ava Duvernay made Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus instead of Spike Lee it would have been the most critically praised movie of 2015
Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus

Just the right amount of John C Reilly in 2015 (The Lobster & Entertainment)

David questions his sexuality for a moment at the beginning of The Lobster

The escalator scene in Cemetery Of Splendour

The final moments of Cemetery Of Splendour

Father of the year award: Amy Winehouse's dad (Amy)

I actually went to the theater to see this...and I don't regret it: The Boy Next Door
The Boy Next Door 

"You all look so serious" - Josh Brolin (Sicario)

"You ain't a tough guy here. Stop that shit" (Welcome To New York)

"Why did Madonna feed her baby alpo brand dog food? 
...because she had no choice. It was the only thing that came out of her breasts" - Gregg Tirkington/Neil Hamburger (Entertainment)

"life goes on. even without all that cinema bullshit" - Jane Fonda (Youth)

"You would think she was about to masterbate" (Portrait Of The Artist)

"Scream! Scream like you're gettin' f*cked!" - Tim Heidecker (Entertainment)

the sky in Jauja...

Eazy-E finds out he's HIV positive (Straight Outta Compton)

almost forgot I saw this (The Overnight)

almost forgot I saw this too (End Of The Tour)

Whoopi Golderberg begging for a role in a Wes Anderson Movie. Have some respect for yourself.

Adele Haenel's presence in The Forbidden Room

Alia Shawkat's presence in Wild Canaries
Wild Canaries

Alex Descas' surprise appearance in Portrait Of The Artist

The appreciation of art in Portrait Of The Artist

Cousin John's pointless small talk in Entertainment 

Paul Giamatti playing the same guy in two different movies in the same year (Love & Mercy & Straight Outta Compton)

Miss Universe (Youth)

Mick's career flashes before his eyes (Youth)

Jane Fonda's cameo in Youth

Devereaux (Gerard Depardieu) chats with his therapist (Welcome To New York)

can't decide if I liked these movies or not: Lost River & Dope

Meh: Avengers Age Of Ultron & A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence

Surprisingly tolerable: Love & Mercy 

Mad that I missed: Insidious 3, The Assassin & Love 

Indifferent about missing: Trainwreck & Spectre

Completely fine with missing: Hateful 8

The final moments of Mulignans

Notable fiilm scores: Ex Machina, Uncle John, Lost River & S.P.I.T., Sicario

The manager scene in S.P.I.T.

Filmmakers that should act more: Bertrand Bonello & Shaka King 

Is it me, or is every American indie movie starting to look like a Whit Stillman or Wes Anderson movie?

Best of 2014 that I didn't see until 2015: Wild Tales, We Are The Best & A Most Violent Year

Best new discovery: Lightning Over Braddock
Lightning Over Braddock

Can we please see more of you in 2016: Ariane Labed, Adele Haenel, Lea Seydoux, Alex Descas, Michele Williams, Tim Heidecker, Eric Weirheim, Sylvester Stallone, Vincent D'onofrio, Vincent Gallo, Tony Leung, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe & Isabella Rossellini

Can we please see just as much of you in 2016 as we did in 2015: John C Reilly, Michael B. Jordan & Tom Hardy

Can we please see less of you in 2016?: Amy Schumer, Paul Giamatti, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Robert Deniro, Jennifer Lawrence, Paul Giamatti, Melissa Mcarthy & Sean Penn


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