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Matt's Top 10 Films Of 2015


For the 20th time, I’ve put together my annual top 10 of the year!  You can check out all my previous lists by clicking here.  I went through the list on 612ABC Brisbane a week or so ago and we took a few calls from listeners.  You can listen to the podcast here.

I’ve seen 190 films in 2015 which isn’t too bad I guess.  I missed a few of the smaller releases but it’s tough juggling up all aspects of one’s life to see so many movies.

I must briefly mention my worst films of the year – Ruben Guthrie, Mortdecai, Hot Pursuit, Fantastic Four, Alex & Eve, The Wedding Ringer, Aloha, Absolutely Anything, Get Hard, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, The Interview, Dumb & Dumber To and Burnt.  That’s enough about them.

Honourable mentions for my best of the year list go to Unbroken, Birdman, Legend, The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, It Follows, Southpaw, ’71, Mr Holmes, Shaun The Sheep Movie, Holding The Man, Spy, Wild Tales and Madame Bovary.

On that note though, here are my top 10 films of 2015 in reverse order…


Top 10 Films Of 2015
 

Sicario

10. Sicario (out Sep 24) is a stylishly shot thriller about a group of "law enforcement" agents who start acting outside of the law in pursuit of a greater good - bringing down the head of a Mexican drug cartel. Deftly illustrating the blurry line between right and wrong, this is great stuff. Super performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin.


Still Alice

9. Still Alice (out Jan 29) is a moving drama centred on a fifty-something woman (Julianne Moore) battling the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. It's more than just a tear jerker though. The film's even-handed look at the changing family dynamic is interesting and thought provoking..


Leviathan

8. Leviathan (out Mar 26) is a Russian drama that earned a foreign language Oscar nomination. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev challenges the audience by not showing several key events. As a result, you need to focus not on what happens... but rather how characters react. The plot is forever shifting and this is a riveting, unsettling piece of cinema.


Straight Outta Compton

7. Straight Outta Compton (out Sep 3) chronicles the rise of a group of African American rappers (including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre) in the late 1980s. This film has it all - comedy, drama, tragedy and contract law. Some have been critical of its factual accuracy but I found it be an absorbing look inside a world previously unfamiliar to me.


Citizenfour

6. Citizenfour (out Feb 19) is something quite special. It's a riveting documentary that takes us inside the world of Edward Snowden as he blew the whistle on the National Security Authority's secret surveillance activities in 2013. The actions of the NSA will shock. The approach of Snowden will intrigue.


The Walk

5. The Walk (out Oct 15) tells the incredible true story of Philippe Petit. In 1974, he rigged a metal wire between the rooves of the World Trade Centre towers in New York City and used it as a tight rope. Perhaps my fear of heights was a contributing factor but this provides a film-going experience unlike anything I’ve seen this year. Shot using astonishing 3D imagery, it left me with sweaty palms and a light head.


The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

4. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl (out Sep 24) is riveting, disturbing and thought-provoking. Based on the graphic novel and set in the 1970s, it's centered on a 15-year-old girl who enters into a purely sexual relationship with her mother's 35-year-old boyfriend. Not often you see a film that asks so many questions of its characters.


Mad Max: Fury Road

3. Mad Max: Fury Road (out May 14) is one of the more creative action films that we’ve seen in recent years. It begins with a well-choreographed chase sequence that never really stops. Except for a handful of very short detours, this is two hours of unrelenting warfare. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an action film with less dialogue. Intense and easily to follow.


Selma

2. Selma (out Feb 12) was the last of the Academy's best picture nominees to make it to Australia but it was worth the wait. It's a fascinating exploration at the tactics used by Martin Luther King to change voter registration laws in Alabama 1965. Great performances. Great film.


Inside Out

1. Inside Out (out Jun 18) is a Pixar animated feature that takes us inside the head of a vibrant, impressionable 11-year-old girl. It’s a fascinating concept that is rich in detail. The film’s most impressive attribute is the way it explores human emotions and the way they are so often intertwined. A stunning achievement that blends creativity, humour and emotion.
 

Matt's First Predictions In The 2016 Oscars Race


Each November, I throw my hat in the ring with a few early awards season predictions.  The first critics groups announce in early December and then the Golden Globe nominations are revealed on December 10.  By then, the race will be well and truly in progress as we lead up to the Oscars on 28 February 2016.

Not many contenders have already been released in Australian cinemas.  That small list includes Bridge Of Spies, Black Mass, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian.

Here’s a look at the films being released in Australia over the next few months that are generating some buzz (with the plot overview taken from the IMDB)…

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Release Date:  17 December 2015
Director:  J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Into Darkness)
Starring:  Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o
Plot:  A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas and set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).

Joy
Release Date:  26 December 2015
Director:  David O. Russell (The Fight, Silver Linings Playbook)
Starring:  Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Virginia Madsen
Plot:  Joy is the story of a family across four generations and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.

Suffragette
Release Date:  26 December 2015
Director:  Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane)
Starring:  Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Wishaw, Meryl Streep
Plot:  The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

The Revenant
Release Date:  7 January 2016
Director:  Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel)
Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Plot:  In the 1820s, a frontiersman, Hugh Glass, sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.

Carol
Release Date:  14 January 2016
Director:  Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine)
Starring:  Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler
Plot:  Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.

The Big Short
Release Date:  14 January 2016
Director:  Adam McKay (Step Brothers, The Other Guys)
Starring:  Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Finn Wittrock
Plot:  Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.

The Hateful Eight
Release Date:  21 January 2016
Director:  Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained)
Starring:  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen
Plot:  In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive?

The Danish Girl
Release Date:  21 January 2016
Director:  Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables)
Starring:  Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Wishaw, Amber Heard
Plot:  The remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's ground breaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

Spotlight
Release Date:  28 January 2016
Director:  Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent)
Starring:  Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci
Plot:  The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Room
Release Date:  28 January 2016
Director:  Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, What Richard Did)
Starring:  Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers
Plot:  After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world.

Steve Jobs
Release Date:  4 February 2016
Director:  Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours)
Starring:  Michael Fassbender, Kate Winset, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Sarah Snook
Plot:  Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

Brooklyn
Release Date:  11 February 2016
Director:  John Crowley (A Boy, Intermission)
Starring:  Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent
Plot:  An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

My early predictions for best picture in order of likelihood are: 1. Spotlight, 2. Joy, 3. The Martian, 4. Bridge Of Spies, 5. The Revenant, 6. Brooklyn, 7. Inside Out, 8. Room, 9. The Hateful Eight, 10. Straight Outta Compton.

For best actor, I have to lean towards Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) because he’s well overdue with 4 previous defeats.

Brie Larson (Room) has the front runner status in the best actress category but I’ve seen Brooklyn (it’s brilliant) and so am going with Saoirse Ronan in a huge upset.

Best supporting actor is wide open but as a feature member of Spotlight’s ensemble cast and an unlucky loser last year, my tip is Michael Keaton.

The best supporting actress category appears to be going the way of Rooney Mara (Carol) and it’s hard to bet against here.

I’ve only wagered one bet in this year’s Oscars race so far and that’s $300 on Spotlight to win best picture at odds of $5.00.  It’s the early favourite but as we know, a lot can happen over the coming months.

Interview - Writer-Director Jocelyn Moorhouse On 'The Dressmaker'

Jocelyn Moorhouse

It’s been a record year at the box-office for Australian cinema and the next film trying to add to that total is The Dressmaker.  I spoke with writer-director Jocelyn Moorhouse about the film…

Matt:  You won an AFI award in 1991 for directing Proof and you followed that up with How To Make An American Quilt in 1995 and A Thousand Acres in 1997.  That was your last directorial credit though.  What have you been up to for the past 18 years?

Jocelyn:  My life has been extremely busy and complicated.  I have four children and two of them have autism.  That means that your life changes insanely.  You’re not just their loving parent but you sort of become their therapist as well.

Matt:  Some moments in this film are incredibly light while others are incredibly dark.  It’s such a wild ride.  How easy is it to balance up those varied tones when pulling this film together?

Jocelyn:  I like to think of it as an emotional rollercoaster.  I loved that in the book, you never knew where the author was taking you.  One minute you’re laughing your head off and the next minute you find that you’ve been deeply moved.  I wanted to do the same thing with the movie.  It wanted it to be entertaining, involving and constantly surprising.  It was a tricky balancing act when putting it all together.  Editor Jill Bilcock is one of Australian’s best and she helped make sure that things didn’t get too sad or insane at times. 

Matt:  Without giving anything away, I love the final scene in this movie.  I know it’s important to get everything right in a movie but does extra thought go into that final scene?  To end the film on just the right note?

Jocelyn:  Absolutely.  You have to have to have a big, fantastic finish and that was my goal.  I wanted the audience to be blown away and to then carry the film in their hearts as they left the cinema.  I’m glad you liked it.

Matt:  Kate Winslet is a huge name of any director to be able to attach to their film.  How did you get her on board?

Jocelyn:  I set her quite a few “love letters” with the script attached.  I told her how much I was a fan since he burst onto the scene at 17 years of age with Heavenly Creatures.  I remember seeing that film and going “where did this amazing young girl come from?”  It was then a waiting game.  She gets sent so many scripts a year and she only does 1-2 movies.  I knew it was a long shot but our patience was eventually rewarded.  She finally read the script and said how much she loved Tilly. 

Matt:  I’m a golf tragic so I have to ask – can Kate Winslet actually hit a golf ball?

Jocelyn:  Kate practiced very hard to do the few swings that she did in the movie.  She’s brilliant at other things but I wouldn’t say that golf is her strong suit.

Matt:  She’s been one of my favourite actresses for a long time but Judy Davis is fantastic in this.  She’s such a horrible character at times but she’s also incredibly endearing.  Did she have a lot of fun creating Molly Dunnage?

Jocelyn:  Judy had a blast.  She really loved this character.  She was so excited to play such a cantankerous but hilarious person.  She loves doing comedy so she was happy to sink her teeth into it.

Matt:  What was Hugo Weaving’s first reaction when you showed him the script and his character?

Jocelyn:  Hugo is an old friend of mine so when I approached him, he was doing Macbeth at the Sydney Theatre Company.  He was extremely broody and hairy and masculine.  I then hand him this script and he said this is the exact opposite of what I’m doing right now.  I don’t want to give too much away but he was quite happy to flirt with his feminine side.

Matt:  The film has a huge ensemble cast of recognisable names.  Along with the major stars, there are people like Caroline Goodall, Shane Jacobson, Kerry Fox, Barry Otto, Rebecca Gibney, and Shane Bourne.  Were they all chasing you?  Or were you chasing them?

Jocelyn:  Once word got around that I was making with the film with Kate and Judy, that helped to get a lot of really amazing actors on board.  They all wanted to work with my two girls and they all thought it was a fantastic story.  I was really lucky to have the cream of Australian talent in this film.

Matt:  The film screened at the Toronto Film Festival back in September.  What was it like being there and what sort of reactions did you receive from American audiences?

Jocelyn:  It’s an enormous festival actually.  So many people attend and it was terrifying.  There was a giant red carpet and it screened in the Roy Thompson Hall which holds about 2,400 people.  It was an intimidating screening.  When the movie finished, they all stood up and cheered and gave us a standing ovation.  I nearly cried.  It was pretty emotional.

Matt:  Has there been any interest in releasing the film in America and elsewhere overseas?

Jocelyn:  Definitely.  We’ve already sold it to 21 countries and we’re very close to an American sale.  It’s terribly exciting.

Matt:  We seem to go through peaks and troughs when it comes to Australian cinema.  Adjusted for inflation, this has been our highest grossing year for Aussie films since 2001.  Do you have a view on the sorts of films we should be making?

Jocelyn:  Filmmakers need to be adventurous and try some new stuff.  A lot of original films have come out this year that also have strong stories.  Audiences are reacting to that.  They’re going along and having a good time and enjoying these Australian films.  Word of mouth is getting out too which is an important thing.

Matt:  I’m interested to see what the word of mouth is going to be like with The Dressmaker because there are plenty of surprises in this too.

Jocelyn:  There are a lot of surprises.  I’ve been telling people not to give too much away to their friends.  Let them go and enjoy the ride.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking if you have anything in the works at the moment?  Tell me it won’t be another 18 year before you make another movie.

Jocelyn:  My kids are in a good situation now and they’re going to let mum keep making movies.  I’m writing a love story at the moment.  I enjoyed writing the stuff between Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth in this movie and I’m hungry to do more.

 

Interview - Cricketer Brett Lee Makes Acting Debut In 'UnIndian'

Brett Lee

I’ve had the chance to speak with many great actors and filmmakers but one person I wasn’t expecting to cross paths with was Brett Lee.  He hasn’t won an Oscar… be has taken 310 test wickets for Australia.  Now that his cricket days are behind him, he’s branched out into acting and has the lead role in an Australia film, UnIndian, which is about to be released in cinemas.

Matt:  We all know you as Brett Lee the cricketer.  Are you actually a big movie buff?  Do you watch a lot of films?

Brett:  I do watch a lot of movies.  We spent a lengthy periods of time on the road when playing cricket so it gave me the chance to watch them.  I’ve got a weird taste in that I love old Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey movies but then again I also like a Leonardo DiCaprio drama. 

Matt:  Was there ever point where you actually thought you might star in an Aussie movie?

Brett:  Absolutely not.  If you asked me that a decade ago, I would have laughed.  A lot of offers have come through in the last few years to make Bollywood movies but I wasn’t ready as I was still playing cricket.  This film was first presented to me in early 2014.  It’s an Australian film with a love for India and some beautiful messages.  It had 119 scenes which had me worried but we sat down, spoke about it, and went and did it.

Matt:  Your casting in the film is no coincidence given it will have appeal in India where you are a renowned cricket.  I’d love to know though – were you always the guy or were there other cricketing buddies they approached about being in the film?

Brett:  I’m not sure.  If you peel back the layers, a conduit between Australia and India is sport. Every time I’ve been lucky to go to India, people recognise me as an Australian cricketer.  I’m hoping that when the film does get released in India, audiences will go along and appreciate it.  We had an absolute ball making it.

Matt:  What sort of reactions did you get from friends and family when you said you were taking on the role?

Brett:  They were like “sorry, what?”  My parents have always backed me 100%.  I was never pushed into cricket but they helped me as much as they could along the journey.  This is no different.  Once I told them about this movie, they were extremely encouraging.  I love new challenges in life.  Cricket is not my only passion.  I love music and movies and going fishing.  This was an opportunity I didn’t want to let to go.  I’ve known the director, Anupam Sharma, for a decade.  I trust him and he’s a terrific friend.  The best compliment I’ve received from my family is that they say after the first few minutes, they see Will the character as opposed to Brett Lee the actor.   

Matt:  There are students who spend years at NIDA trying to perfect the acting craft.  Many of us think we could be great actors but how easy was it doing it for the first time?

Brett:  It wasn’t easy.  I’ve had the utmost respect for actors.  I’ve done simple commercials where you get a piece of paper and have to regurgitate lines.  This is different though.  I thought it would be hard to memorise the lines and that the acting would be easy part.  When I got to the end of the process though, I realised it was the opposite.

Matt:  You’re a professional athlete and so you’re used to seeing yourself on TV… but what was it like watching this film for the first time and seeing yourself try to be an actor?

Brett:  Weird, exciting and nerve racking.  My hands still get clammy just thinking about it.  I never got nervous while bowling but sometimes I did when batting.  At the premiere, we had two packed cinemas and I was there with my family.  I did a quick intro, sat in my seat and said to my wife – “this is real, this is actually happening.”

Matt:  An interesting touch in the movie is that we do get to see some photos of you as a youngster.  I’ve always wondered how filmmakers go about that?  Did Anupam Sharma ask you to bring in some old photo albums?

Brett:  I’d wondered the same thing.  When they show a really young photo of an actor, is it a look-a-like or is actually them?  All of those photos were mine.  There’s one of me at my old high school holding a basketball.

Matt:  There are some kissing and love making scenes which is a big step for someone making their feature film debut.  Piece of cake or quite challenging?

Brett:  To use a cricket metaphor, it’s not facing a 120 km/hr straight up delivery.  The ball is travelling at 160 km/hr and it’s swinging both ways.  It’s full on, it’s jumping in the deep end.  The challenge for me in sport is living on the edge and trying to bowl the quickest ball every single time.  Sport and business are very similar.  In cricket, you are made up of 11 players who constitute a team.  In this film, I’m working with Tannishtha, my co-star, as a partnership.  We work off each other.  It’s the advice I received from Kevin Jackson at NIDA.  He said you’ve got to be a good listener.  Don’t think about what your next line is, look her in the eye and listen to her.

Matt:  There are couple of moments, including the end credits, where we getting involved with an elaborate Bollywood dance number.  Do those scenes take a lot of rehearsal time?

Brett:  If we go back a step, the dance number in Parramatta for the holy festival involved me dancing normally which of course was horrible.  I had to look like I was an awkward dancer and that was easy to do.

Matt:  Are there plans to take the film to India?  Will you be touring there as part of the promotion?

Brett:  It definitely will.  The investors want to give it a red hot crack here first in Australia and see what type of reception it gets.  We will then go to India.  We’re getting a lot of questions on social media about when it will go to India and hopefully it will be soon.

Matt:  What are your plans going forward?  If this film is a success, would you think about doing more movies or is this just a one-off venture?

Brett:  I would love to do more movies.  It’s hard work, it’s long hours, it’s 3 months of your time, and it’s a big commitment.   I’d love to do it again though.  I had a great team around me.  With cricket, you don’t want to go home after one wicket.  You always want more.