Well, the Oscars are here and I’ve had my say on the Best Picture nominees. As usual, though, I can’t help but feel the Academy’s list is lacking in the low budget department. We’ve done this before, so you know it works. Since the Academy Awards tend to ignore the types of movies we watch around these parts, we’re going to hand out some awards of our in categories that the Oscars overlooked.
BEST MOVIE STARRING OSCAR ISSAC AND DOHMNALL GLEESON THAT WASN’T STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Actually, all kidding aside, Ex Machina is the probably the best pure science fiction film of 2015 (Star Wars is a space opera, you know). It’s actually up for best original screenplay at this year’s Oscars, but deserves more recognition in other areas, especially Oscar Isaac’s turn as the off-kilter genius who has possibly created the world’s first self aware artificial intelligence. Yes, it’s a standard man meddling in God’s territory set-up, but it is never anything but compelling. Also, there’s an eerie scene in which Issac spontaneously breaks into dance that will stick with you for some time to come. Really, you just can’t beat a movie that has all the brains and all the moves.
BEST MOVIE YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD ABOUT BUT DIDN’T THINK YOU WANTED TO SEE
As long as we’re talking about 2015’s best, we may as well mention its finest horror movie as well. Not everyone is going to agree with that assessment, of course, but for fans of intelligently written, truly creepy slow burns peopled with characters who are actually likeable, It Follows has to be at the top of the list. It portrays a group of teenagers toying with adulthood in a world in which no functioning grown-ups seem to be around to help guide them who end up getting stalked by a supernatural boogie man as a consequence of their actions. Yep, might just be some social commentary going on there. Plus, the movie gets bonus points for its fantastic retro-80s score.
BEST MOVIE YOU’D SWEAR WAS MADE IN THE 1980s
Speaking of the 1980s… while Kung Fury is hands down 2015’s best parody of 80s sci-fi action movies, it doesn’t actually feel like it was made during that decade. Turbo Kid, on the other hand, does. It’s cheap looking, drags in parts like a true Mad Max ripoff, and most important, it has Michael Ironsides as the bad guy! Now, because it’s a feature length film, Turbo Kid can’t really sustain the concentrated level of insanity Kung Fury does over its brief 30 minute running time. Still, with characters like Skeletron and the completely adorable Apple, Turbo Kid is just plain old goofy fun just like the kind you used to find on the shelves of your favorite mom and pop video store. It ain’t deep, but there’s nothing in the Catechism that says everything has to be.
BEST MOVIE THAT ISN’T AT ALL WHAT YOU PROBABLY THINK IT IS
THE FINAL GIRLS
With all the 1980s parodies and tributes released in 2015 (seriously, this list hardly scratches the surface), it’s easy to see why someone might look at the promo art for The Final Girls and think, “No thanks, I’ve had enough.” But despite the fact that it looks like just another slasher film full of nudity and gore (of which it surprisingly has neither), The Final Girls is actually something a little bit different. This story of a teenager named Max who, along with some of her friends, gets magically transported into an old 1980s slasher movie they were watching is often funny and occasionally touching. That last bit stems from the fact that one of the victims in “Camp Bloodbath” was portrayed by Max’s late mother, raising the possibility that Max might just be able to find a way to get her mom back. If she can find a way to subvert all of those old slasher clichés, that is. This one’s a hidden gem.
BEST MOVIE ABOUT COWBOYS THAT DIDN’T GET HYPED OUT THE WAZOO
While we’re on the subject of hidden gems, we have to discuss Bone Tomahawk, the movie Kurt Russell actually grew that mustache for. Thanks to their admittedly beautiful cinematography and their high profile directors, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant got all of Oscar’s attention this year as far as westerns are concerned. But truthfully, this tale of a disparate group of cowboys who put aside their differences in order to try and rescue a woman from a vicious tribe of cannibals is a better movie than both of them. The characters are more finely drawn than in The Revenant (sorry, it’s true) and, while the mid-section does involve a lot of talking, the movie knows when to have its characters shut up (unlike, say, The Hateful Eight). This is the type of film that’s going to develop a cult following over the years and it deserves it, mustache and all.
BEST MOVIE ABOUT VAMPIRE ROOMMATES YOU NEVER KNEW YOU WANTED
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHAODWS
And finally we have What We Do In The Shadows, a movie that already has its cult firmly in place. Filmed in a mock-umentary style, What We Do In The Shadows follows a small clan of vampires as they try to adjust to the modern world while simultaneously dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with living in the same house as your buddies. Yes, apparently vampires argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes just like we do. The concept sounds like it would work better as a five minute sketch on SNL, but it manages to stay fresh all the way through, especially as the vamps make friends with a new human buddy and get drawn into a rivalry with a local group of werewolves who have problems of their own. Definitely worth sinking your teeth into.
And that’s about it for this year’s missing Oscar categories. Don’t feel too bad for the films on this list, though. Like many a good Christian, these movies may never receive the wide acclaim that comes with red carpets and gold statues, but having examined them, we know their worth. And in the years to come, as most of this year’s Best Picture nominees gather dust on video shelves, these movies will come into their final rewards and earn the viewers they so richly deserve.