It’s Thanksgiving and there is much to be thankful for from this year’s films. In fact, appropriately for today, here are 26 of them:
1.) The Best Actress race this year is stuffed more than your dinner table’s bird. Esteemed names like Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Rampling and Maggie Smith are all in the mix for the prize as it is truly a banner year for female leads. In fact, over at GoldDerby.com, expert pundits Tom Neill and Sasha Stone debate how close the race is this year even for nominations.
2.) Many believe that Alicia Vikander should be on that short list for “Ex Machina”, but no matter, she was a virtual unknown a year ago, and now she’s one of Hollywood’s breakout stars of 2015. And she’s considered a supporting Oscar frontrunner for her turn in “The Danish Girl”, so there’s not too much to complain about with her career at present.
3.) Speaking of “Ex Machina”, writer/director Alex Garland’s sci-fi three-hander garnered great reviews and box office, and proved that the genre is alive and well, even in the off-season of the spring.
4.) And “The Martian” confirmed the genre’s lure this fall with Ridley Scott’s latest becoming a runaway hit. Even more impressive was the fact that he did it with a story that was adult, low-key, pragmatic and didn’t have a single threatening alien or a built-in toy line ready to capitalize on the film.
5.) Jennifer Lawrence was picked by Entertainment Weekly as their “2015 Entertainer of the Year” and indeed, she probably is the biggest, most reliable and endlessly exhilarating talent onscreen these days. And she’s pretty darn hilarious off-screen with her candor, self-deprecation, and friendship with Amy Schumer.
6.) Speaking of Amy Schumer, the whip-smart comic became a big movie star this year with her funny and touching turn in both starring in and writing the dramedy “Trainwreck.”
7.) “Inside Out” was one of Pixar/Disney’s best ever animated features and became a big hit. It’s certainly the Best Animated Feature frontrunner as we enter awards season. And that’s all the more impressive considering its story is about the inside of the brain of a young girl. That’s almost miraculous, coming from sexist Hollywood.
8.) Johnny Depp returned to greatness with his villainous turn in “Black Mass”, getting some of the best reviews of his career, certainly since his Oscar-nominated turn in “Finding Neverland” in 2004. And he’s expected to get one in the Best Actor category again come Oscar nomination day.
9.) George Miller aced his reboot of “Mad Max.”
10.) The ubiquiotous Tom Hardy had a big year with starring roles in “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant” and two of them in “Legend”, as he essayed the notorious gangster Kray twins.
11.) Charlize Theron played Imperator Furiosa, the best action hero this year.
12.) Truth is stranger than fiction and often more dramatic too. Look at all the heralded films based on true stories – “Spotlight”, “Trumbo”, “The Danish Girl”, “The Big Short” …and those are films that just opened in November!
13.) James Bond may be 50 but with the success of “Spectre”, we’ll be seeing a lot more of 007. (And likely, Daniel Craig too, despite rumblings of retirement.)
14.) The Academy’s Governor Awards went to the legendary Debbie Reynolds, Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee. Bravo! (Next year, how about honoring Catherine Deneuve, Donald Sutherland and Kurt Russell?)
15.) And Spike Lee and Gena Rowlands gave great speeches too. Too bad Reynolds was sick. She would’ve been something accepting her lifetime Oscar for sure.
16.) Chris Pratt lived up to all his hype from “Guardians of the Galaxy” last year.
17.) “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” are being hailed as two of the best love stories produced this year. And along with marriage equality passing this year, it seems like some long overdue LGBT focus is finally happening in both the world of politics and moviemaking.
18.) The horror genre shone bright too with stellar thrillers like “It Follows”, “The Gift” and “The Green Inferno.”
19.) Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and starred in “The Gift”, and then gave a wonderful performance in “Black Mass” too. What a year he had!
20.) Despite being a box office bust, the brilliant summer film “Love & Mercy” is predicted to net both Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks supporting acting attention this season. And deservedly so.
21.) Eddie Redmayne broke the sophomore curse after winning the Oscar for “The Theory of Everything” last year with a sure-to-be-nominated performance this year for “The Danish Girl.”
22.) And composer Alexandre Desplat finally won gold, after eight nominations, back in February with his whimsical, yet haunting score for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
23.) “Bridge of Spies” was brilliant. So was “Steve Jobs”, even if the former is making money and the latter isn’t. And there was so much brilliance in the cinematography and visual effects in “The Walk”, it literally took your breath away.
24.) John Williams was finally chosen as an AFI Lifetime Achievement recipient and is the first below-the-line talent ever to be named. Bravo, maestro!
25.) Oscar Isaac’s star continues to rise this year on film (“Ex Machina”) and TV (“Show Me a Hero” on HBO), and it’s only going to be more prominent with his showy role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
26.) And indeed, the return of “Star Wars” is a big Christmas gift for film fans everywhere. It’s already breaking early box office receipts. Now, let’s hope it’s more like “The Empire Strikes Back” and less like all those movies about Anakin’s backstory.
The force has really been with movies this year in a lot of significant ways, both critically and financially. Hopefully, Tinsel Town will keep up the terrific output, especially in making smaller and more adult-focused films that give us more and more reasons to go to the Cineplex, and not just stay home and binge-watch Netflix. Thankful indeed, movie fans should definitely be this Thanksgiving.