It’s award season for the movies. Here, for example, are the Best Picture nominees from the Producers Guild of America, which tend to correlate decently with the eventual Oscar nominees, with links to my reviews:
I was pleased that, in my desultory way, seeing about two movies per month, I managed to write about nine of the ten PGA nominees. I haven’t seen “The Revenant” yet and, admittedly, I’ve only written about “Spotlight” so far to draw an esoteric analogy in the immigration insurance proposal. But that’s a decent proportion of the movies worth seeing without too many of the other kind.
It was not a great year for great movies, but it was a pretty good year for pretty good movies. None of these nine knocked me out, but I liked all nine.
I was most excited going in about “Mad Max” based on its trailer. Indeed, the movie was just like the incredible trailer, but diminishing returns set in after it became apparent that there wasn’t much besides what was in the trailer.
Contenders I haven’t seen include the new Tarantino film, “Carol,” “Room,” “Joy,” and “Woman in Gold.” I saw about five minutes of “Trumbo” dropping in at a theater, and while Bryan Cranston in a spiffy 1940s suit was cool, the film didn’t seem exceptionally well written or edited.
My favorite film of 2015 was “Love & Mercy,” the biopic of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. But, like “Steve Jobs,” it didn’t take off at the box office. In contrast, the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” sold a lot of tickets (in the U.S., not overseas), and it would look racist if in the competition between the two Socal musical biopics if the old white people of the Academy voted for the Beach Boys over NWA just because the Beach Boys are better, both musically and movie-wise. And, anyway, the rap biopic isn’t bad.
So I doubt “Love & Mercy” will get much Oscar attention other than perhaps the superlative Paul Dano as Young Brian (they’re running Dano in the Best Supporting Actor category), but beating Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in “Creed” is going to be tough.
Hollywood (defined very broadly as the Anglosphere movie industry) enjoyed an okay 2015 at the American box office and a highly prosperous 2015 overseas.
UPDATE: Sorry, my next paragraph appears to be incorrect because I was taking on faith the Box Office Mojo list of movies, but my commenters point out that there are Chinese movies that made enough in China alone to make the global top 40. Perhaps the problem is that the Box Office Mojo list only counts movies that have been released in the U.S.?
The English language movie industry is incredibly dominant around the world: the top 40 global box office hits of 2015 were all English language productions, with a Chinese film “Wolf Totem,” finally in 41st place. When you read complaints about how Hollywood movies are so bad because of white male privilege keeping out the diverse, note that there are plenty of fifteen year olds in Guangdong who like Hollywood movies just the way they are.
It’s not exactly clear to me why the English language movie industry remains so dominant, since there is plenty of talent all over the world and plenty of local advertising and television work to get experience in — e.g., television commercials in a country like Turkey are about 98% as spectacular as they are in America. A dozen years ago I would have said that Chinese language films would become a serious rival for English language films by 2015, but that trend died off.
UpUpdate: There are suspicions that the highest grossing Chinese box office film Monster Hunt may have had its reported take juiced by various methods for papering the house. What’s the fun of not putting a thumb on the scale? Forget about it, Jake, it’s China.