2015: The Cinepunx Top 10s

 

The task was simple.  A spattering of interesting contributors were commissioned to put together a list of their top 10 records and movies of 2015, including some short write-ups for their five favorites in each category.  Some found no difficulty in completing this task  (a miracle for those of us who painstakingly deliberate internally on this very subject the entire year).  Others found it a bit more challenging.  But after countless misspellings, 4 different variations on how to say The Hateful Eight, the submission of what can only be assumed is a dissertation on media in the year 2015,  and someone actually getting the name of a movie wrong (Bob), we have officially “completed” our lists.  Without further ado, Cinepunx offers you their creators, contributors, and co-conspirators favorite Movies and Music of 2015 (or maybe just one of the two).


Joshua Alvarez ( creator of this very website, also in HEY ANGEL, HALO OF SNAKES, and has a vibrant solo career, and a new band yet to premier)

Ahoy, fellow Cinepunx!
This is your friendly co-host Josh. I guess I’m about to give a sick run down of what I think might have been my favorites of 2015, but before I do there are a few points that I’d like to first make. First and foremost, I’d like to thank all of our listeners who actively stay on top of what we do and say; who take the time to tweet at us and wear our t-shirts. You guys are the best and when we become a huge hub of internet culture, buying yachts and sports cars from the money we get from selling out super hard, you can say that you were there from the beginning. Second, I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to be a guest on our show. Admittedly, we run a pretty manic ship here at Cinepunx HQ. That you’d not only agree to deal with that but also agree to baby sit us for however long your episode was while we prattled on endlessly about nothing much in particular says everything about you as well as everything about us. You are the shiny jewels with which we adorn ourselves to look pretty. Thanks! Last, but the furthest from least, my amazing co-host and stunning friend Liam. You are, with out a doubt, the most patient and understanding friend a guy could ask for and I’m proud that we’ve managed to get this thing off the ground.

UP THE CINEPUNX!!!

LISTS:

Favorite Movies of 2015:
1. It Follows
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington DC
6. Youth
7. Walter Potter: The Man Who Married Kittens
8. The Hateful Eight
9. He Never Died
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron

If you wanted to know any of my in-depth thoughts about any of these movies, feel free to listen to the podcast as i think we’ve discussed all of these along the way.

Favorite Musics of 2015:
1. G.L.O.S.S. – Demo
2. BENOÎT PIOULARD – Sonnet
3. BEACH SLANG – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
4. THE KING KHAN AND BBQ SHOW – Bad News Boys
5. FUCK YOU PAY ME – Public Disgrace
6. PURE DISGUST – Chained
7. SLOUCH – Toxic Bitch EP
8. INVENTIONS – Maze of Woods
9. WORRIES – Imaginary Life
10. RADIOACTIVITY – Silent kill

Smokebomb!!!

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Liam O’Donnell ( Cinepunx, Cinapse, Horror Business,  actual mutant)

Albums:

  1. KENDRICK LAMAR- To Pimp a Butterfly: I know, this release received SO MUCH DAMN HYPE that hearing about it from me will not sell you on it. Look smart ass, you ain’t funny, and you ain’t too good for this record. Does everything work? No, some stuff grates, some stuff is a challenge, and maybe that was why I came back to it so much. It moved me, more than anything else this year.
  2. ALGIERS- s/t: This sounds like an industrial influenced dance group hired a gospel singer, but that gospel singer is super political and stays woke. So, like, basically perfect in every way.
  3. VIOLENT REACTION- Marching On: Straight up hardcore, from England, the rare of these old style punk influenced jams that still inspires me to mosh.
  4. NO TOLERANCE- You Walk Alone: Y’all, straight edge is so fucking cool. Still. This record makes me remember some of the fury that drew me into this thing that many of us share. This is a record of belonging, even in its rage, and listening to it reminds me why I came and why I stayed.
  5. THE MOUNTAIN GOATS- Beat The Champ: Jonathan Darnielle proves he is still the greatest song writer working today. The man is a genius, a renessaince man, and a weirdo wrestling fan, which I love.
  6. PURE DISGUST- Chained
  7. FORCED ORDER- Vanished Crusade
  8. RED DEATH- Permanent Exile
  9. PROTESTER- No Identity
  10. HOP ALONG- Painted Shut

HONORABLE MENTION- So many sick demos this year! G.L.O.S.S., FIREWALKER, I.C.E., YEAR OF THE KNIFE as well as some metal I enjoyed and didn’t make the top ten like YAUTJA or BARONESS or INQUISITION, but honestly? I listened to a LOT of VINCE STAPLES this year. no idea why

MOVIES:

This part is really hard for me. I dunno that this is in a specific order, but here it is, and I reserve the right to change it. I also have talked about most of these films, so no comment. I also cannot list just ten, that feels crazy. I also have to give honorable mention to THE LOOK OF SILENCE because even though it was on my list last year, it came out officially this year. Still one of the GREATEST documentaries I have ever seen in my life.

  1. Phoenix
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Tangerine
  4. Sicario
  5. Carol
  6. Two Days, One Night
  7. Spotlight
  8. Creed
  9. The Overnighters
  10. Diary of a Teenage Girl
  11. The Duke of Burgundy
  12. Spring
  13. Magic Mike XXL
  14. Mistress America
  15. Ex-Machina
  16. Bone Tomahawk
  17. The Mend
  18. The Hateful Eight
  19. He Never Died
  20. Body

Sorry if I forgot something!!

PHOENIX


 

 

John Wren (Bottomfeeder, avid supporter of all things metal and hardcore, likes to run for some reason)

Albums:

1. NAPALM DEATH – Apex Predator: Easy Meat –A record that runs the gamut of influences and genres, is insanely aggressive, and nearly flawless. 3000 years in the game and Napalm Death releases their best record by far in a decade and arguably one of their best releases period.
2. ALL OUT WAR – Dying Gods – A very close second and would have been #1 had it been a full length. All Out War is leaps and bounds harder and heavier than any of their peers and those they have inspired. Not only have they continued to write monstrous songs, they are actual songs instead of just mosh fodder. This is how metalcore should be and is easily their best release since the much herald For Those Who Were Crucified
3. MAJOR LAZER – Peace Is The Mission – My love affair with Electric Dance Music (EDM), or simply techno for the lay person, is only recently becoming not so much of a secret. With all the criticism the genre gets for the performers “just pushing buttons”, those that set themselves apart from average DJs actually produce their own material. Thomas “Diplo” Pentz and Co. have distances themselves from the pack with their ability to craft well written pop/dance/rap collaborations with their signature Jamaican flare and their song with French DJ Snake, Lean On, was the most listened to song of the year. If you want to have a starting point to jump into the EDM world, this record could be your jump off.
4. GHOST – Meliora- I don’t give a damn that they might only be popular because they have the gimmick or that King Diamond and Blue Oyster Cult already exist. Say what you want about their image and sound but they still write insanely good hard rock songs. The gimmick can only take you so far and while their influences are worn on their sleeves, they do maintain a sound signature to themselves. Meloira captures a lot of the just good song writing from the first record and maintains some of the Pomp & Circumstance from the sophomore record to result in their most gripping release to date.
5. DISCOURSE – Sanity Decays – It’s a shame that this band broke up shortly after releasing this record. Long have I (and pretty much everyone over 30) been seeking a return to the glory days of metalcore when bands like Turmoil and Deadguy ruled the roost. In these South Carolina youngsters, they captured those two bands sounds perfectly that they even joked about how they probably owe Jim Winters money for ripping off his riffs as much as they do. Sure Axis is around now and doing this sound pretty well, but Discourse absolutely fucking nailed it and they’ll never get to reap the benefits of their work.
6. GTA – Death To Genres Vol 1
7. SKINLESS – Only The Ruthless Remain
8. YELLOW CLAW – Blood For Mercy
9. GRUESOME – Savage Land
10. TWITCHING TONGUES – Disharmony

Films:

1. It Follows – This movie was absolutely perfect. A simple, yet terrifying concept that has a very retro look and feel to it, not to mention a perfectly complemented score. It never relies on easy jump scares or gore, it relies on a well-executed script, beautiful cinematography, and the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat with impeccable pacing and enough background images that keep you guessing “Is that it”? for most of the film. Once again, low budget doesn’t mean it’s low product. This is the best horror film since The Descent.
2. The Babadook – I’m a true sucker for folklore ghost stories and the Babadook delivered in a big way. If It Follows wasn’t released this year as well, this would have easily been my favorite film of the year as well. An interesting way of showing grief via a haunted nursey rhyme, the film slowly peels off the layers until the climax causing the viewers heartrate to increase as the film moves about. I also found it to be an interesting look into another part of the world handles their ghosts and folklore. The Babadook may be original but it’s influence is clearly rooted in its culture.
*NOTE*: The Babadook was technically released in 2014, but the US didn’t get its distribution until April of 2015.        So I’m counting it as a 2015 film.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Dude. It’s Star Wars, do I really need to explain? JJ Abrams rights the ship after more than 30 years of waiting. A fantastic blend of nostalgia and new direction has breathed new life into the saga. My only real complaint is that it is not necessarily a standalone film like any of the original trilogy but just phase 1 of a 3 part story. But really, I don’t care that much. This movie ruled and is the only film I saw more than once in the theaters.
4. The Hateful Eight – Tarantino is the man and anytime he is set to put something out, I get super excited. I got to see the 70mm Road Show version and it was clearly the way it was meant to be seen. To sum the movie up, I would say “think Reservoir Dogs set during the Django time period”. The first act sets up the players and concludes with one of the darkest bits of dialogue that Sam Jackson has ever delivered and the 2nd act is pure insanity. Right now I have it ranked above Django and Jackie Brown, time will tell how much more I move it up on my QT list.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road – Jesus. An opera disguised as a post-apocalyptic car chase. This was probably the best looking film I saw all year and arguably the most replay value as I’ve caught more and more with each subsequent viewing. George Miller returns to his Max series after 30 years and knocked it out of the park. It maintained the feel of the originals but was able to go ridiculous in size. I feel that Miller finally had his budget and technology to make the Mad Max film he’s always wanted to make. I really hope this sparks some sequels because the casting was great as well.
6. We Are Still Here
7. Dope
8. Spotlight
9. The Witch
10. Ant-Man

Honorable mention, lets just say that Ash vs. The Evil Dead is the best thing to happen since 1992. A few very minimal complaints aside, one season in and this is already my favorite show, dethroning OZ after over a decade. I’ve waited 23 years to see Bruce Campbell reprise the role of Ashley Williams and I was not let down in the slightest.

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Bob Wilson (Malice at the Palace, Mother of Mercy, Beware, Let Down, FYA Fest)

Albums:
1. NO TOLERANCE – You Walk Alone:  I love straight edge hardcore more than anything, and this was a glimmer of hope for the genre in a sea of bands that are seemingly scared to wear their x’s proudly.  The closest to confront/brotherhood a band can be and DFJ comes through with great lyrics and his insanely angry delivery.
2. BUTCHER – Holding Back The Night: Jack Control (world burns to death, severed head of state ) can do no wrong and this record keeps that track record going . If it was 2004 they would be headlining Pointless Fest, that era has long since passed but they nail the sound and hopefully people pay attention
3. ALL OUT WAR – Dying Gods: When I heard they were doing a new record I had high expectations but this record blew me away. 24 years into being a band and this is arguably my favorite thing they’ve ever done, the end mosh part on “choking on indifference” is unreal. I probably listened to this more than any other music this year and got siked everytime
4. DISGRACE – True Enemy: I did a show for them in 2012 due to being really into the first release, but this record is a whole new level of asskickery. Their set at the foundation tihc after show is in my top 5 sets of the year, Taylor’s voice makes most singers sound like the beegees in comparison.
5. FUTURE – Dirty Sprite 2: Perfect music to drive around to. There was a ton of awesome mixtapes and records that came out this year but this was the one I played the most.

Movies:
1. Creed: I wasn’t sure what to expect but two WIRE cast members in the first ten minutes meant there was no way it could suck. My favorite movie I’ve seen in awhile, cool to see the place I lived a couple years ago all over it. May have cried during the (spoiler) scene where Rocky finds out he’s sick, luckily it was dark so Kevin Hare had no idea.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road: It’s hard for me to not be a piece of shit and look at my phone during movies , I had zero problems doing that for this.
3. Straight Outta Compton: I was worried this would be corny and somehow fuck up a good idea, but it delivered.
4. The Hateful Eight: It’s unfair to compare anything to DJANGO, but while this didn’t quite reach that level it was still real good. I honestly had no idea how it would end so I was once again phoneless the entire time, which is a big feat for me
5. Furious 7: Look I used to date a girl who was obsessed with this shit. I needed closure on this story and thankfully got it, probably the best one of the series

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Spencer Hazard (Full of Hell)

Albums:

1. PISSGRAVE – Suicide Euphoria
2. CRUCIAMENTUM – Charnel Passages
3. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
4. L.O.T.I.O.N. – Digital Control and Mans Obsolescence
5. SADIST – Shadow of the Swastika 7″
6. TRTRKMMR – Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur
7. DAWN OF HUMANS – Slurping at the Cosmos Spine
8. SOLUTIONS – Life of Joy
9. REVENGE – Behold.Total.Rejection.
10. BLOOD INCANTATION – Interdimensional Extinction.
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Ivo Thomas (Comedic genius, back up Cinepunk)

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Inside Out
3. Spotlight
4. What We Do in Shadows
5. It Follows
6. Creed
7. The Martian
8. The Hateful Eight
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
10. The Good Dinosaur

 creed

 Jackee Sadicario ( Bedfellows Magazine, one of our greatest guests ever)
JACKEE’S FAVORITE FEMINIST MOVIES OF 2015 (no commentary necessary)
1. Magic Mike XXL: I’m not explaining this any better than any bitch article did.
2. Grandma: Too real, too appropriate. If you know nothing about the struggles women face based purely on their anatomy this movie might be a good start. Also Lily Tomlin FOREVER.
3. Carol: The lesbian love story I’ve been waiting for. Could have done without the dolls though.
4. Tangerine: No spoilers. This is on Netflix. Go watch it. Best Christmas movie you’ll ever see. NSFW.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road: Nah, Tom Hardy, don’t worry yr pretty little head about it, I can take care of it even though I have feelings and want things for others other than myself.
6. The Danish Girl: Watch this alone. This film was not only emotionally impactful but visually breathtaking.
7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Men probably don’t understand how good it felt as a woman to witness Rey request her hand stop being held in times of danger. I didn’t realize that trope affected my life so much but it has.
8. Sisters: Girl stuff is funny. I lol’ed very hard during this film.
9. Inside Out: our feels are real and complicated. I saw grown men cry in the movie theater while watching this– actively empathizing with a pre-teen girl. How can I not include it?
10. Trainwreck: Revolutionary take on the romcom but mildly racist and incredibly heterenomative okay it was PROBLEMATIC AF but girl’s gotta start somewhere.
HONORABLE MENTION: John Wick
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Alejandro Valdes ( Philly film nerd, soon to be our greatest writer…when he gets it done)
Top Records:
1. SWAMI JOHN REIS AND THE BLIND SHAKE – Modern Surf Classics: The perfect surf album. Better than any surf revival record of the past could hope to be. This could very well be the best surf album ever. Everything John Reis touches is gold, and this is no exception.
2. RADIOACTIVITY – Silent Kill: I listen to this album almost every day and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Every song is catchy. The first Radioactivity album picked up where The Marked Men left off, but this one feels a lot more personal.
3. VACATION – Non-Person: Slimy, catchy, fast, with lyrics that make me feel like a slimeball. This album is the soundtrack for every night I’ve slept on a disgusting couch at a gross punk house.
4. OBN IIIs – Worth a Lot of Money: ROCK AND ROLL. Loud, fast, full of riffs.
5. SCHARPLING & WURSTER – The Best of the Best Show Box Set: Probably the best box set I’ll ever own. 17 CDs with 20+ hours of hilarious comedy bits. I’m relatively new to The Best Show so this was a really great starting point. It’s a mammoth sized box set and the attention to detail is crazy.
6. COURTNEY BARNETT – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
7. TENEMENT – Predatory Headlights
8. SCREAMING FEMALES – Rose Mountain
9. ROZWELL KID – Good Graphics
10. CALIFORNIA X – Nights in the Dark
I didn’t get to see as many 2015 movies as I would have liked, and I only really liked 8 of the ones I saw so I wrote those and it felt wrong to add two movies I saw and didn’t like much to round off the list, so I added two that aren’t on the list but I have opinions about.
Top Films:
1. Mad Max Fury Road: I went into Fury Road knowing almost nothing about it, and I’m pretty sure I’m still recovering from it. This could possibly surpass Terminator 2: Judgment Day as my favorite action movie. I’ve never seen a film that starts at such a full throttle speed and is able to maintain momentum the entire time as much as Fury Road.
2. The Hateful Eight: At first, I was worried that the western aspects of The Hateful 8 would be a bit heavy handed, but my worries went away when I heard Ennio Morricone was doing the score. I’ve still got a few problems with some of the dialogue but the setting and characters were perfect. Films about paranoia are some of my favorite and this is right up there with The Thing and Hitchcock’s Rope. Seeing it in the theater on 70mm was an amazing experience.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: While some people are taking issue with how much The Force Awakens echoes the previous films in the franchise, the reason I loved this so much was that it reminded me of the fun I had exploring A New Hope for the first time. The Force Awakens played it a bit safe for sure, but now that the door is open I’m really excited to see where this new era of Star Wars will go.
4. Turbo Kid: I’ve never had a movie tap into my childhood fantasies so much as this. This is the hero I imagined I was while I was daydreaming in third grade. Another 80s neon nostalgia film, but this is respectful and done with homage instead of a mocking tone like some others.
5. Final Score (First released 1988, First Worldwide Release 2015): Final Score is a lost action film by Indonesian director Arizal, released in Japan in the late 80s and it’s finally made it’s way to semi-wide release in 2015. It’s one of the weirdest and craziest action movies I’ve ever seen. It truly needs to be seen to be believed, and no description I could give would serve it justice. It seems like it’s still tough to get a hold of in the US, so hopefully that changes soon because more people need to see this.
6. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
7. Being Evel
8. Cop Car
Two other random opinions:
– I did see It Follows and apparently I’m one of the only people that didn’t like it, so I’m waiting a bit to give it a second chance.
– I also saw Sisters and disliked it so much that I started to wonder if I even liked comedy movies at all.
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Max Davis (Sick Sad World, Doubledealer, Can understand and follow directions)

Movies

1. Mad Max: Fury Road: One of two movies I’d been waiting most of my life for. Brilliantly directed, fantastic performances from Hardy and Theron, a perfect action film.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The other one I’d been waiting for. Exceeded my lofty expectations and renewed my faith in a franchise I’d lost all hope for.
3. Ex Machina: Oscar Isaac could not be stopped this year, and this was one of his greatest performances.
4. The Big Short: A movie as troubling as it was entertaining. Brilliant cast, awful hair.
5. Sicario: Benicio Del Toro will haunt your dreams.
6. Room
7. Dope
8. The Hateful Eight
9. It Follows
10. Creed

Music

1. HARM’S WAY – Rust: Fear Factory for kids with nice hair.
2. MAGIC CIRCLE – Journey Blind: Best Hardcore front man and becoming one of the best metal front men too. Insane record.
3. THE BEAUTIFUL ONES – Jaded Love: A band shooting for the early 90s hard rock sound that actually nails it. One of my favorite Hardcore Records this year.
4. PURITY RING – Another Eternity: This was my go-to record for music to play while I did anything and everything. Perfect record.
5. SUPERHEAVEN – Ours Is Chrome: Perfect follow up to Jar. Superheaven continues to tighten its stranglehold on an often imitated style of music.
6. RED DEATH – Permanent Exile
7. CHAIN RANK – Up Against the Wall
8. LIFELESS – DREAM
9. TERROR – The 25th Hour
10. GHOST – Meliora

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Kevin Hare (Cold Cuts Web Order Czar, Hollows)

Movies:

1. The Danish Girl
2. Carol
3. The Duke of Burgundy
4. Brooklyn
5. Tangerine
6. 45 Years
7. Amy
8. Diary of a Teenage Girl
9. Room
10. Creed (Just because I caught Bob crying during a pivotal scene)

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Matt McCracken (Creator of our popular CONCEIVABLY LEFTIST CINEMA column, actual communist)

Music (not ranked):

  • ‘Knowledge is Power, Vol. 2’ by Akala

The music I like doesn’t have to exactly echo my personal politics, but when it does I love it. Akala’s latest record is a staggeringly intelligent, educative work that places the problems of race and class in a global, as well as specifically British, anti-imperial context that map and name violence, even trying to offer psychological relief from such violence. Give it a listen and learn.
Ill tracks: ‘Urge to Kill’ and ‘Time to Relax’.

  • ‘But You Caint Use My Phone’ by Erykah Badu

Before catching this one I had been checking out ‘Mama’s Gun’ and knew immediately that Badu was something special. With ‘But You Caint Use My Phone’—in what could be said to be a throwaway EP—Badu absolutely solidified her importance to me (ignorant as I am). Targeting something in our contemporary attachment to mobile phones, Badu will undoubtedly manage to refocus your attention for the duration of this work.
Ill tracks: ‘Hello’ and ‘Cellular Device’.

  • ‘Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise’ by The Dear Hunter

Long anticipated in the minds of fans of this progressive indie outfit, their latest ‘Act’ instalment is an appropriately new and yet intertextual addition to The Dear Hunter’s concept album canon, after it took a break with the wonderful ‘Migrant’. Deepening its world and fleshing out its criticism of organised religion is welcome as the album moves through its various genres and soundscapes.
Ill tracks: ‘The Squeaky Wheel’ and ‘The Bitter Suite IV And V: The Congregation And The Sermon In The Silt’.

  • ‘Tetsuo & Youth’ by Lupe Fiasco

‘Tetsuo and Youth’ served has my gateway into Lupe Fiasco’s work, and what a gateway it is. Opening with ‘Mural’ is something of a declaration, as next to no one is dropping bars as Fiasco does here. The album itself showcases the scope of Fiasco’s lyrical and intellectual acumen in his personal, social, political, and religious reflections. His fusion of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism works to see the album developing an inter-faith liberation theology that is colossal.
Ill tracks: ‘Mural’ and ‘Madonna’.

  • ‘Ego Death’ by The Internet

With their latest release The Internet dropped some of the dopest, most erotic beats of the year. As real and honest as it is profound, the lyrical and sonic depths and tangents of Ego Death make it one of the most necessary albums of the year. At times aggressive, angry, sexual, smooth, there’s nothing left unexplored or unexperimented with here—and it’s great.
Ill tracks: ‘Go With It’ and ‘Just Sayin’/I Tried’.

  • ‘Wave[s] EP’ by Mick Jenkins

“Who thought up the gold standard? The haves.” If there is a way to state your intentions on an album that is it. As with Akala, when an artist is figuring out and suggesting something of political import, I’m in. Coming at a time of rising political consciousness, Jenkins urges us to take care of what we internalise and how awake we are—there’s something in the water, so stay woke.
Ill tracks: ‘Slumber’ and ‘Alchemy’.

  • ‘Emotion’ by Carly Rae Jepsen

Damned if I know if there are many real feelings on this album, but Christ did I have fun listening to it for days and days this year. From all of the poppy declarations of love and statements of yearning for connection, Jepsen signals something of her non-Swiftian maturity and artistry, in both lyrics and song-writing, with pulsating, textured pop numbers in ‘Boy Problems’, ‘LA Hallucinations’, and ‘When I Needed You’.
Ill tracks: those stated.

  • ‘Pale Horses’ by mewithoutYou

I don’t think I’ve ever understood a single mewithoutYou lyric, which is okay because I have felt them. I don’t know what Aaron Weiss intends, if anything, when he sings, “Like an anchorite in June I took hold of my own hand” but it makes me quake and emote like nothing else about something mortal and lonely and my desire for companionship—and that is special.
Ill tracks: ‘Mexican War Streets’ and ‘Rainbow Signs’.

  • ‘Carrie & Lowell’ by Sufjan Stevens

Stevens’ latest hard left turn sees him offer up a slow, deliberate, often beautiful meditation on desire, yearning, and loss in the indie folk register. Given as I am to the melancholic, when Stevens sings of wanting to drive “into the canyon at night”, I appreciate the space of musical solidarity he carves out for those of us often trying to hold it together.
Ill tracks: ‘The Only Thing’ and ‘Drawn to the Blood’.

  • ‘The Demon Joke’ by Vennart

I often think that the work of Mike Vennart’s previous project, Oceansize, might have saved my life; which is an unfair standard to hold any new work to. However, with that said, Vennart’s latest and first solo record riffs off of, and yet departs from, his former work; creating, as ‘The Demon Joke’ does, new soundscapes and riffs, Vennart offers a pensive and pointed work of personal reflection worth hearing.
Ill tracks: ‘255’ and ‘Operate’.

Film (ranked):

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

The most exciting, exhausting, visceral experience I’ve had in a cinema… ever? An unparalleled feat of action cinema, Fury Road radiates little but a kind of palpable danger as you witness the construction of this immense thing; and while much is made about the “simplicity” of the plot, little has reached the silver screen that has offered such rich, textured, highly visual storytelling. Every detail and word of has been poured over, each phrase and shot opening up a new world as you encounter it. Transportive and unique. The best kind of experience.

2. The Assassin

Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s masterclass in in media res storytelling skilfully refuses beginnings and endings, sitting firmly in the middle of its courtroom tale. Teaching Carol something about communicating through look and gesture, Shu Qi’s lead performance is without equal in its capacity to visualise the felt alienation or her profession and need to break new ground, importantly evading all gaze and mapping of female subjectivity in the process. While elliptical, The Assassin’s performances and immaculate production design make it staggering cinema.

3. Phoenix

A journey through the personal(-facial) and social reconstruction of post-war Germany, and the brutal tabula rasa such an environment provided both the innocent and the guilty. Nina Hoss puts in a stunning turn as a woman trying to reconnect with a husband who no longer recognises her, following a time in the camps. Phoenix’s movement through ever deeper, twisted, harmful attempts at forgiveness has it see the need for a break recognised— and with that the film ends with possibly the greatest mic-drop in contemporary cinema.

4. The Duke of Burgundy

A movie about the daily, seasonal, yearly periods of monotony and reinvigoration relationships experience, The Duke of Burgundy effectively communicates everything it needs to about the excitement, the failure, and the delicacy of trust and forgiveness among partners; with performances that are beautifully nuanced and communicate everything with a look, a touch, a sigh. A twist at about the 15 minute mark sold me on Burgundy’s greatness—and oh how it is great.

5. Blackhat

The most underrated film of the year, Michael Mann’s latest, Blackhat, performs in its filmmaking the precarious coming together of its characters between the audience and the film. A movement from distance to proximity, the evisceration its characters feel from community because of state power becomes something recognisably fragile we long for them to know, as they intuitively reassemble and lose it throughout the film. Equal parts exciting and visceral, Blackhat must be seen.

6. Magic Mike XXL

I’ve thought with this movie previously on Cinepunx, but there’s always more to say on this, one of the great movies of 2015. As “feel good movie of the year” and a further elaboration on the themes of late period Soderbergh (the effects of capital on bodies). XXL is a distinct and important effort in imagining sociality beyond exchange value: relation not economised, desire not alienated, and our capacity to heal offered because we are able. Simply beautiful.

7. Experimenter

One of the most interesting and valuable takes on the biopic genre in forever. Stylistically directed with the purpose of forcing your awareness of it and its material—how long will a person politely follow the whims of authority—Experimenter refuses to be blasé or formulaic. With a crucial, fourth-wall breaking performance from Peter Sarsgaard, which asks the subject of the film to reflect upon his life’s works value, this is a must watch.

8. The Lobster

The bizarre impressionistic interactions of Mistress America made dystopian. Farrell is rightly being singled out for awards, as a particularly affective central figure in The Lobster, as he flits between the polarities of our cultural attitudes toward relationships and the desire to find, fake, force, or foster another who is akin to oneself—with all the accompanying sadism and/or masochism our polarities might on some level inspire. Those final shots are near unparalleled.

9. Hard to Be a God

If Mountains May Depart is a wrestle for China’s future, Hard to Be a God is a reflection on Russia’s past. Gruelling is the first word to come to mind. The construction of this three hour foray through shit, muck, and mess is intimidating in its meticulous level of detail, and staggeringly absorbing—not to mention repulsive—in the monotony and tragedy engendered apropos its performance of nihilistic stupidity made social policy. Terrifying, awful, vital.

10. Mountains May Depart

The latest from Chinese director Jia Zhangke, Mountains May Depart serves as a further elaboration of his critique of China’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (meaning experiment with capitalism) and the disruption and alienation that is compounded by success or failure in the race for prosperity. It moves from truly funny to melancholic to a third act so experimental and full of ambiguous potential it is unprecedented. Watch the wrestle for China’s future and be impressed.

 

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Max Davis
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Max Davis

Watcher of movies
Listener of music
Owner of many non factually based opinions.
Max Davis
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