Top 10 Movies of 2015

It’s always fun to look back at the kind of year you’ve had, movies-wise, and 2015 was a good year for movies, so that’s even more fun. Keep in mind, though, that this came right after 2014, which was a great year for movies. So there was a certain measure of disappointment. (EDIT: Screw the disappointment, I just hadn’t seen the best 2015 had to offer when I first made this post.)

Also keep in mind that this is a list of my favorite movies of 2015, NOT the movies I thought were best made, or movies the critical part of my mind would call a tour de force. These are the movies I loved the most, so it will be a very personal list, and very different from other reviewers’ own lists, especially in one particular movie’s placement.

Finally, since I live in India, that country of late releases (if not no release), I haven’t yet been able to watch The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Carol, Anomalisa, Room, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, all movies I’ve heard are Top 10-worthy. So I’ve decided this will be a fluid list, and I will keep adding movies in their appropriate positions as I keep watching them in the early months of 2016. [EDIT: I have seen a few of them now, of course]

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

 

NUMBER TEN

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My favorite kinds of book-to-movie adaptations are the kind that add something that can only be done in a movie, thus giving the work its own identity. The book The Martian made us feel like we’re inside Mark Watney’s head, and while the movie didn’t do quite as great a job of that (as was to be expected), it made us feel like we’re on Mars, which is the kind of thing that makes good movies great.

What impressed me even more was the sheer acting talent amassed in this movie. You have Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Troy from Community, and more in supporting roles, and as the lead you have Matt Damon in possibly the best performance of his career. This was Oscar-worthy. The movie is a theatrical experience that cannot be missed.

NUMBER NINE

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Another space movie, this is by far my favorite of the Star Wars franchise, which is probably because I did not grow up with these movies.

This J J Abrams flick came with a LOT of expectations, and pretty much surpassed them. It is the definition of a great fantasy saga, with great, easy-to-root-for heroes (Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the movie), a looming threat (The First Order, which I sure hope turns out to be more than just a rechristened Empire) and an enchanting lore. Add to that some great supporting performances from Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, with a Maz Kanata reminiscent of Edna Mode, also, an adorable BB-8, and Oscar-worthy cinematography, set design and costumes, and there’s basically no reason not to watch this movie in a theater, even if you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie before. It does suffer from repetition and predictability issues, but it’s worth it.

Also, I need to give props to the casting people for not just choosing established actors. Now I can’t imagine anyone but Daisy Ridley as Rey.

NUMBER EIGHT

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This was a really good year for spy movies, with 1 of them on the list, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Spy almost making it.

This movie being here really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given that there isn’t much debate that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest movie directors of all time. Or that the Coen brothers are two of the greatest writers of all time. Or that Tom Hanks is one of the great actors of all time.

This is one of those stories, like The Great Gatsby or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which can make one fall in love with the idea of the American Dream, though, as expected with Spielberg at its helm, it is a somewhat more hopeful look at the whole scenario. The premise, where a lawyer has to face a lot of flak for defending a suspected Russian spy, is an extremely sensitive one, and is handled beautifully. This is the kind of movie that can easily slip under your radar, but shouldn’t.

NUMBER SEVEN

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I’ll be honest, I did not expect an underdog sports drama to impress me as much as this did, but as it turns out, this movie really isn’t about the underdog elements. Or the boxing. It’s about issues of legacy and identity, explored in a smart, thoughtful way.

Also, Sylvester Stallone is awesome. The guy has dramatic chops (which we already knew, because Rocky, but had forgotten in recent times). Also, one of the fights in this movie would be a nominee for that Best Scene category that totally should exist but doesn’t.

There were two great boxing movies this year, but only one made it here.

NUMBER SIX

Yes, it won Best Picture at the awards, but while I didn’t find it the best 2015 had to offer, it was still pretty damn great.

First of all, I had absolutely no idea. None whatsoever. The journalists in this biopic uncover something so shocking that I feel like I should’ve known about it. It should’ve been common knowledge, and the fact that it’s not makes the movie even more important.

While the performances, particularly by Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schrieber are outstanding, what I loved most about this movie was how low-key it was. The tension was built not through epic music and fast cuts, but subtle camerawork and a poignant score by Howard Shore. The movie definitely deserves the spotlight.

NUMBER FIVE

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We’re in the big leagues now, people. The heavy hitters of 2015. Kicking it off is one of the greatest action movies ever made, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a truly complex hero whose badass quotient knows no bounds, and Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky, a great viewpoint character in an endlessly innovative post-apocalyptic world.

It is structured as one long car chase, so the excitement never lets up right until the very end.

And just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spend time talking about Nux (Nicholas Hoult in an Oscar-worthy performance).

NUMBER FOUR

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I cried. I don’t do that a lot. But when you-know-who did you-know-what for you-know-who, I teared up.

I’m a huge Pixar fan. And when they’re at their best, they make movies that will take you through an emotional roller coaster, but will actually leave a greater impression on you the more you think about them. This is Disney for grown ups. This is DreamWorks for smarter people. And I’m glad to say, this is Pixar in top form. They’re back, people. They are back!

And seriously, was there ever a better way to make you emotional than to tell a story about emotions?

NUMBER THREE

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Stop it, guys! I can hear you booing from here! Whatever happened to the good old days of personal opinion, huh?

Seriously, I loved the shit out of this movie. This was everything the first Avengers movie was and more. The humor worked, the drama worked, characters got more complex, their dynamic got more complex, the villain was one of the best Marvel has ever had, Vision is by far the coolest Avenger ever, the moral dilemmas were deeper … <pant> I could go on forever. <pant>

Joss Whedon was already one of my favorite directors, and he reinforced that position in my mind with this flick. This is fun with a mind. This is why I watch movies.

NUMBER TWO

The Revenant (literally: one who has returned from the dead) was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of last year’s Birdman, which ended up being my favorite film of 2014. This time, he teamed up with Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hardy for a brutal revenge thriller set in the 19th century.

There are a lot of things that make this movie great, from the committed performances to the intense action, but they’re not enough to put a movie this high on the list. And I would be lying if I said it was the subtle themes that did it.

No, what truly distinguishes this movie is how gorgeous it looks. The cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, has now won 3 Oscars in 3 consecutive years and it’s not hard to see why. The wilderness feels wild, the brutal cold almost made me shiver (or maybe I was watching 4dx  and didn’t know it), the bear looked frighteningly real, and there was actually a scene where the breath of a character fogs up the screen! And all of this was accomplished in natural lighting. It is by far the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.

NUMBER ONE

Yes, I’m a softie. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to be a softie to appreciate this film. Room is a near-perfect movie that can make a stone-cold heart burst.

It is hard to say much about this movie without spoiling it, because after the first act itself, it shifts gears and goes in directions you didn’t expect it to. That said, I’ll still try.

Room has a very mature way of tackling complex themes, of which this movie has many, first and foremost being the question of what makes a good mother. In exploring this theme, there comes a point when a question is raised that overturns our whole perspective of certain decisions made in the film. Gah! The non-spoiler nature of this post is killing me! Just take my word for it, the scene I’m referring to is harrowing.

The performances are brilliant. Not only is Brie Larson perfect as a young mother trying to do the best she can, Jacob Tremblay gave one of my favorite child performances in, well, ever.

Also, props to the cinematographer for a scene near the end, which is shot in a way that makes many of the themes and emotions associated with the film come full circle, and for a scene near the middle, which, to put it cheesily, makes one fall in love with life, the universe and everything all over again.

That’s all for this post, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

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The Teleportation Problem

So in the fb comments section of this SMBC comic, I found a thread where people were discussing the teleportation problem, namely, “If you teleport, is the new ‘you’ still ‘you’?” I’d been thinking about this problem for quite some time now, so I decided to pitch in with my solution to the problem. Then I decided that I want this to be read and discussed by more people than just the ones in that thread, so here it is, my comment on that thread, word-for-word. Warning: It is long.

I first encountered this problem in The Prestige, and it took me years to come to a solution that satisfies me.

I’ve seen 2 prominent opinions here, one that says that since a person is basically an arrangement of atoms, you are still the same person after you teleport, and the other that says that a person is a collection of experiences, you are always a different person from the one you were a moment ago, so being a different person after having teleported is nothing to sweat about. I agree with the second one, and here’s the problem with the first one.

Teleporting is like a file cut-paste operation on a computer. Consider the copy-paste version of it, where you stay where you were, and simultaneously teleport. There are 2 bodies, at 2 different locations, with, for the moment, the exact same atomic configuration and the exact same experiences. Immediately afterwards, the different environment ensures that is some way or another, the 2 are now different. How different, one cannot say. One could go on to be Gandhi, the other Hitler. Now if before you do this copy-paste operation, you know for certain that one of these copies is easily going to be able to live a happy life, in a paradise of a place, and the other is doomed for eternal torture till natural death. Would you go ahead with it? Clearly, if ‘you’ are the one with the happiness, then you never have to experience the torture, so it is essentially happening to someone ‘else’. Which means that the 2 people have to be considered as different individuals, so obviously, both of them can’t be ‘you’. And since there is nothing to distinguish them at the beginning, you can’t just pick one of them, which means that neither of them is you. And that brings us to the conclusion that we become a new person every instant. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the different versions of Hermione running around at any instant must be considered as separate individuals who just happen to have a lot of similarities.

But then, why do we care what happens to our future selves? Why is every choice not simply based on instant gratification? Since my claim is that we are literally different people at different times, I use the word empathy. We ourselves know the feeling called regret that arises when a decision made by one of our past selves adversely affects our present self, so we try to make sure our future self doesn’t have to experience that emotion. This empathy is much stronger than what we feel for ‘others’ because we are much more similar to our future selves than to ‘others’. That explains the feeling of connection that identical twins often experience. It also explains why we find imminent sadness much more troubling than sadness that will make itself known decades later (like smoking).

Back to the copy-paste question, we realize that since both the copies are our future selves, we empathize with both of them and thus we are simultaneously tempted by the promise of a happy life and scared of the torture that lies ahead, and when making the decision, we need to keep both the futures in mind, and not just the best or worst one.

Another thing to notice about the copy-paste question is that at the point when we are making the decision, we have exactly one fixed past, and multiple futures ahead of us. That is part of the reason why we defined a person as a set of past experiences, because the future is variable.

So how do we solve the original dilemma, the teleportation problem, using this analysis? We have to realize that the only difference between the cut-paste and copy-paste models is the number of copies at the end. Teleportation is like regular life, one copy in the beginning and one at the end. Our concern for the final version of us, being based off of empathy that stems from similarities, does not depend on whether we moved from place A to place B or teleported. Which means that the fear of teleportation because it is like dying is irrational. Even if someone literally was killing you and then recreating you somewhere else, it wouldn’t matter.

And as far as duplication is concerned, the only difference is that you have to keep multiple fates in mind instead of just one. Also, if you can duplicate yourself in such a way as to ensure that each copy of you immediately dies a painless death except one, you have essentially achieved teleportation. (Painless being the keyword, nudge-nudge-wink-wink)

References: The TV series Dollhouse and the comic Black Science explore these subjects in considerable depth, the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the comic Invincible Iron Man (Matt Fraction) explore them is somewhat less depth, and the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past raises these questions without exploring them (Like, do you realize that in the last scene, where everyone was so happy, Wolverine had actually just died?)

Of course, the best piece of fiction I’ve seen on this idea still remains The Prestige.

Ranking Pixar: Part 1 of 3 – #15-#11

Pixar is most people’s favorite animated movie studio (the only competition being Studio Ghibli), and the reason commonly given is that its movies are good not just for children (generally considered animation’s primary demographic), but for all ages. For someone like me, though, someone for whom animation is simply another way of storytelling with no age bounds, it should come as no surprise that Pixar isn’t just my favorite animated movie studio, but my favorite movie studio, period. (Sorry, Marvel, you’ll have to be content with number 2.)

So it’s natural that I’m excited as hell for the newest Pixar movie, The Good Dinosaur, which releases in 3 days (and before you ask “But isn’t it already out?”, let me remind you that I live in a country known as India, the kingdom of eternal lag). And what better way to express my excitement (and frustration) than to rank the first 15 movies by this relentless masterpiece-producing machine? Okay, maybe there are better ways

Let’s start with the lesser Pixars. Do not fear, this land is free of spoilers.

The Good:

15. Cars 2: Well known for being the only bad Pixar movie, Cars 2 doesn’t exactly fit the heading of The Good, but I really wanted the 3 equal parts distribution, so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Of the 4 recurring Pixar directors, John Lasseter is my least favorite, and this is a big part of the reason why. The reason behind the success of Cars was its mix of warmth and nostalgia, but someone apparently thought that it was the exhilarating car chases, and the same someone also thought that Mater being Cars‘ most beloved character meant that it would be a good idea to have him headline the sequel. Wrong on both counts. The visuals were really the only good thing about this movie.

14. Brave: Now we get to the good movies, though not even close to Pixar’s usual level. Brave is the story of Princess Merida and her relationship with her parents, specifically her mother. There are quite a few things this movie does well. One is Merida herself. She is way more of a complex and independent character than most fairy tale princesses, and I, consequently, like Brave more than most fairy tale movies. Another thing the movie handled well was the relationships between characters. And the action looked fantastic as always. My only real gripe with the movie is, unfortunately, a rather big one. In being a fairy tale, the movie takes a direction that makes it a lot more childish than the first few minutes suggest, and the conclusions to some very well set up threads are handled entirely through metaphors. It just didn’t deliver on its promises.

13. A Bug’s Life: And here we have another Lasseter. Among all the lesser Pixars, this movie’s flaws are usually the most easily forgiven because it was one of Pixar’s earliest features. The movie, inspired by the Aesop fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, has Kevin Spacey in the lead role, so it certainly has that going for it. The story is simplistic, but works because it succeeds in creating a likable hero, a palpable threat, a strong supporting cast, and in the meantime, has a lot of fun. It fails to rise to Pixar standards for the simple reason that not a lot of effort has been put into the plot itself, leading to cliches, predictable plot twists and sentimentality. It ended up being too straightforward for its own good.

12. Monsters University: Following up Monsters, Inc. was never going to be easy, so of course they made a prequel instead. And while, as anticipated, it didn’t live up, it still stands as a good movie in its own right. All the necessary ingredients are present: the humor, the charm, and the reason anyone really cared about this movie – getting to see Mike and Sully again. This time, they are college students, still learning their craft, and more importantly, they’re not friends yet. Not even close. So when circumstances force them to work together, shenanigans ensue, and everything’s great, except, and here’s why this is one of the lesser Pixars, the movie has no surprises whatsoever. You realize within the first half hour that this is a underdog-team-sports movie and then you see the formula laid out before you over the next hour-and-a-half. That’s not a deal-breaker, but we’re talking Pixar standards here, and those are some really high standards.

11. Cars: Three Lasseters in just five movies, see what I mean? Not that he isn’t a visionary in terms of animation or anything, just that he’s not the best director around.

Cars is a movie about an arrogant racecar who learns a lesson in humility during his stay in a small town. And while, like the movies listed above, it too suffers from being a bit formulaic, there are a lot of things about the movie that make up for that. We have the exciting race scenes, very well animated, we have the offbeat, fun characters and the thing that really stands out in this movie in my opinion, is the way it makes you feel like you’re there, in that small town, and evokes warmth and a nostalgia for an experience you may never even have had. That, in a nutshell, is why I put it at the top of my lesser Pixars list.

Well, I’ll continue with #10-#6 tomorrow, and I’m reeeally going to go against popular opinion there. At the very least, all the movies I’ll be writing up on will be great, so there’s a lot to look forward to. Have fun!

I Recommend: Everything Pixar has done except Cars 2 is worth a watch, and since I believe they’ll have learnt their lesson and Cars 3 will be good, even Cars 2 isn’t a complete waste of your time. Ideally, one should watch the whole Pixar filmography in order of release, because they add a lot of easter eggs, and because the animation gets progressively better, so every movie is refreshing.

Creed movie review

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen a single Rocky movie yet. I will now, of course, but I haven’t yet.

Creed is the story of Donnie Johnson, a young man who loves boxing and leaves a secure job to pursue it. Thing is, his late father, Apollo Creed, was a legendary boxer in his time, and Johnson doesn’t want to ride on his father’s fame, he wants to be his own man. Lucky for him, the world doesn’t know Creed has a son. So to refine his talent, he approaches another legendary boxer, Rocky Balboa.

There’s one thing I didn’t like about the movie, so I’ll get it out of the way first, and it’s that the plot of this movie was a standard sports movie plot. This means that you already know how relationships between certain characters are going to go, you know how certain character arcs will play out, you may even see some of the plot twists coming.

But when you read the description, you do realize that this isn’t just another underdog movie. There’s an identity to it, a concept that defines this movie that isn’t standard. What one cannot expect going into the movie is just how absurdly well-executed the concept is.

The first thing you need to know is that this isn’t exactly what I think when someone says ‘action movie’. There are, like, 2 or 3 boxing scenes here. The movie is a very personal, character driven drama, and its complete focus is on the story it is telling. And it manages to be a very compelling one. The acting, dialogue, soundtrack, etc all work to pull you into the movie and make you care. And if you think you already know exactly how the “my father’s legacy is giving me an identity crisis” thing is going to go down, you don’t. This is a movie that is willing to calm down and have a serious conversation about what it means to be in the position Donnie’s in, and digs deep into the idea revealing complexities that would make up 90% of this review if it wasn’t spoiler-free. What I can tell you is that there are choices in the movie that’ll make you want to tear your hair out just by being so damn difficult to make.

If I have already said it, well, it deserves to be repeated, the performances in this movie are great. Michael B. Jordan has come a long way from being a child actor (a scene-stealing child actor) in The Wire to Creed. He also did this superhero movie sometime back, what was its name again? Anyways, he makes Donnie such a likable character, you can’t help rooting for him. He brings all the determination and intensity of Neiman from Whiplash with none of the arrogance. Even the love interest in this movie, who is totally unnecessary to the story, doesn’t feel out of place and is actually a decent character. But the one performance that truly stole the show is Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. The guy deserves a supporting actor nod for this. More importantly, he deserves more dramatic and less expendable roles.

By the time we actually got to the boxing, I had assumed that all the praise for this movie must be because of the dramatic elements, so when the action made me stop breathing, I didn’t see that coming. Not only are the fights well-choreographed, they’re well shot, and there’s actually one fight that looks like one long uncut shot, which, when done well, always adds to the intensity. Remember that opening scene in Spectre? Well, okay, you probably don’t, but from what I can recall, it wasn’t as bad as the rest of the movie. Long shots can do that.

Now you might have read discussions online about how the movie is basically a metaphor for itself, what with belonging to the Rocky franchise but calling itself Creed, and take it from someone who hasn’t seen the old movies, this one stands perfectly well on its own. I have no doubt that the inevitable sequel won’t be called the eighth movie in the Rocky franchise, but the second in the Creed franchise, though it will still take pride in being a Rocky spin-off, and that, to me, is its biggest achievement.

My rating (yeah, I’m doing that now): 4.5/5

Thoughts on the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2015 Results

“They say that the Eisner’s are the Oscars of the comic world. Well, fuck them. I tell ya, the Oscars are the Eisner’s of the film world!”

– Jonathan Ross (Friday Nights with Jonathan Ross)

Arguably the biggest event of the San Diego Comic Con, the Eisner Awards, were handed out a yesterday (I had even made a post full of predictions and hopes), and I’m here to tell you,

Well, not quite, but it does apply to a few categories.

Anyways, I only care to discuss a select few categories here. Here‘s the complete list of winners.

Starting with some sad news, Ms. Marvel, the most nominated series, with five nominations, didn’t win a single award. I myself believe it didn’t deserve the big ones (New Series, Writer, Penciller/Inker), but it could have won one of the other two. The lettering is really good. On to good news, The Multiversity with four nominations also didn’t win any. I never really saw its appeal.

The awards were more distributed than usual, with no series getting 3 or more wins. The ones with two wins were Lumberjanes (13-17 year old target audience), Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream (8-12 years; has nothing to do with Finding Nemo) and, of course, Saga (adults only). If you look at the whole Little Nemo line of comics as one, though, it was the big winner, with four wins.

On the publisher front, it was, well, weird. Of the four most nominated publishers, DC, and Image each got 2 wins (both the Image wins were for, wouldn’t you know it, Saga), Fantagraphics got 1, and Marvel didn’t get any. IDW and First Second landed 3 each, and Dark Horse won the night with 5. Hooray for Indie Comics!

Among creators, apart from the creators of Saga and Lumberjanes, the only one with 2 wins was Emily Caroll. More on that later. For now, let’s take a look at some of the interesting categories…

Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia: Showa 1939–1944 and Showa 1944–1953: A History of Japan, by Shigeru Mizuki

Basically another way of saying Best Manga Translation, the comic is a semi-autobiographical account of a soldier during some of Japan’s darkest years. I haven’t read it, but the premise sounds a lot like Maus (though the protagonist is a soldier this time around), so I’m definitely interested. The 1926-1939 volume was nominated last year but didn’t win.

Sad part is, at around 3000 rupees, this is just a little too expensive a collection. But I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.

Best Short Story: When the Darkness Presses, by Emily Caroll

I didn’t find the story very interesting, but it’s the innovative use of the webcomic medium that impresses me. The comic has images like the one above, where you click on the door to get to the next page, and even has gifs. Check it out here.

Best Penciller/Inker: Fiona Staples, Saga

Because more Saga art is exactly what this post needs.

I still don’t get why her category would be changed from Painter/Multimedia Artist to Penciller/Inker. She didn’t switch art styles, did she?

Also, fellow Staples fans and those who want to try her comics out, she’s drawing the first few issues of the upcoming Archie reboot. Riverdale is about to get prettier.

Best Writer: Gene Luen Yang, Avatar: The Last Airbender; The Shadow Hero

Let me tell you what the Avatar sequel comics really are; they’re essentially further seasons of the TV Series, and there’s no higher praise I can give them, but let me try.

The first story, the Promise, shows a world that wants to set itself right again, but the people are just too used to a certain way of living to move on. Aang and Zuko take opposing, but equally justifiable stands, and conflict ensues. The Search finally reveals just what happened to Zuko’s mom, and deals with the emotional repercussions of that knowledge for Zuko and Azula, two of the most interesting characters from the show. The Rift (the one which won Yang the award), further developing the ideas introduced in the Promise, shows the ever present conflict between traditions and progressiveness, the conflict this time being between Aang and Toph. Not only do these comics manage to capture the look and feel of the show, they enrich its world with realistic political dimensions that make it more believable.

Our world is full of great tie-ins (try the Incredibles comics, for example), but few are as valuable to the the experience of the source material as these.

Speaking of Avatar comics, another announcement at the SDCC was that Michael Dante Dimartino, one of the creators of the show, is going to write the Korra tie-in comics. I hope the pattern of odd season good, even season bad continues, counting the comics as the fifth season, and that they actually convince me that Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other.

Best Digital/Web Comic: The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin

The Private Eye, set in a futuristic world where a cloud storage ‘burst’, leading to all the information about everyone becoming publicly accessible, leading to a society where privacy is one’s most valued possession, and no one leaves home without a mask and an alias.

It is a great sci-fi series in its first half, and a fun thriller in the second, but the biggest reason I’m glad it won is because it was the first comic published using a new paradigm called, and I quote, “pay whatever the fuck you want”. It getting recognition implies a greater possibility for more comics of this type in the future.

You can get the comics here, for any price you want, including the lucrative 0.

Best Graphic Album-New: This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

The one thing everyone seems to agree on when it comes to This One Summer is that the art is gorgeous.

The story, on the other hand, has proven quite divisive. Sure, it has won a lot of awards, and is loved by the critics, but public opinion is split between it being a masterpiece and pretty-to-look-at trash.

 So there are these two teenage girls (don’t turn away yet), who meet at this beach getaway that their families visit every summer, and have thus become close friends. But this one summer, messed up stuff happens in our protagonist’s family, and when she tries to escape into the surroundings, she gets involved with messed up stuff there too, and consequently gets messed up herself.

This isn’t a children’s book, and is aimed at readers much older than the protagonist. The way the coming of age is handled, and the way the conflicts in the adult characters’ relationships are handled both show that it is meant to be looked at as a retrospection of sorts; a look at the complexities of growing up once you’e already grown up. Kind of like Boyhood.

In fact, once we ignore the people who hate the book because they find the content inappropriate and offensive, the remaining two factions can be explained in terms of Boyhood. If you think complex characters and themes can make up for a mostly pointless plot, and consequently enjoyed Boyhood, this is the book for you. If not, you should pass on this one.

Personally, I loved it.

Best Continuing Series: Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

And they did it again. Saga has now won the award thrice in the three years since it started, only the second comic to do so, the first being Sandman.

I’m not going to tell you why you should read Saga, you can see the reason right above. That, in fact, is the reason I chose, for once, to feature not just Staples’ breathtaking artwork, but also Vaughan’s simultaneously touching and hilarious script.

I could be greedy now, and hope for a fourth Eisner next year, but let’s be realistic here, just how long can a series stay the best on the shelves? If it does, though, it’ll become the Breaking Bad of comics. (Jonathan Ross would take my case for saying that)

I recommend: Reserving further Saga recommendations for the future, for now, I’ll go with the Avatar: The Last Airbender tie-in comics by Gene Luen Yang. If you like the show, you’ll definitely like them. If you haven’t seen the show, watch it. It is as good a showcase of how good animated TV can be as Saga is for how good comics can be. (Had to slip that in there, didn’t I?)

Keep reading comics, send me any recommendations you might have based on my professed likes and dislikes, and goodbye.

Bootstrapses

I like rants.

The Fourier Transform of the Cheshire Cat

Nights of bourgeois sterility, that’s what you end up with, or at any rate what I end up with, ODing on solitude. There is a certain hour that is the bastion of unspeakable desires and horrors, teleporting you to the places you can’t just think yourself into. One of my more speakable desires is to be able to say that anyone can think themselves anywhere. I can’t get my head around this idea, fuck knows I’ve tried (by the way, another effect of excessive solitude is that all the usual people like God don’t know what you’re getting up to in your head anymore, so they can’t provide you with references for phrases like “X knows I’ve tried” or “for X’s sake”, so all your appeals for authentication have to be directed to profanities), that different people are different from each other. Can’t really get with this whole subjectivity thing…

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Mad Max: Fury Road Spoiler-free Review

A two-hour long action sequence. This could be really boring. Or, it could be Mad Max: Fury Road.

This is not your usual post-apocalyptic world. Water is the most precious resource here, and, for the lack of it, people have gone insane and hideous. The few characters in this movie who aren’t mad probably are, we just haven’t seen that side of them. In this madness, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the guy with the water, is essentially the king of his own little world.

Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has taken something valuable to Joe from him and he will do anything to get it back, resulting in the two-hour car chase mentioned earlier. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) happens to get caught up in it.

I haven’t seen the original trilogy, and can thus vouch for it not being required to enjoy this.

The basics are all there: the performances are great, the action is great, it was shot really well, the effects (mostly practical, not CGI) were realistic and the score added a lot to the thrill of the chase.

Despite all that, due to the very premise, a lot could go wrong.

Firstly, in a franchise where every movie consists of Max meeting a new set of people and helping them out of a problem, we know Max is going to survive the movie in order to repeat the whole procedure in the next movie, which could lead to the stakes feeling rather low. But all the other characters are expendable. And this movie made full use of that by bringing Furiosa into the limelight and making Max a supporting character. In every scene with Furiosa, her fate is uncertain.

Next, the action needs to hold your attention for two hours, so being good isn’t enough, it needs to keep surprising from time to time. Fury Road uses its setting to its advantage there, as the vehicles, weapons and machines are unique and innovative, so we never know what’s coming. It also keeps changing up the style of battle so that we don’t get bored.

Finally, and most importantly, we need to care. The near death scenarios matter only if we care about the character. The mission matters only if we believe in the cause. Not only were Furiosa and Max likable characters, Furiosa’s cause was the kind of thing you would support without a second thought. Even the entities being fought over weren’t simply Mcguffins, they were fleshed out, believable and you certainly don’t want Immortan Joe to get his hands on them. And then there’s Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a devoted follower of Joe’s, whose quest to find a sense of purpose and identity was heartbreaking.

Mad Max: Fury Road may be no Age of Ultron, but given that it’s a single action sequence, it’s the best it could have been.

I recommend: Whether you’ve seen the original trilogy or not, if you like action movies, you’ll love Fury Road. It doesn’t get better than this.