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Me, on A and E: Hidden Gem Films of 2015

By Pete Barell
Managing Editor

Each year, I keep a list of the films I’ve seen and those that I want to see. It’s usually massive — 2015 still has 97 left to see, with 27 on my ‘seen list.’ This pales in comparison to the year before, where I was somehow able to pull off a binge of over 50 films released theatrically. These last few weeks I’ve been furiously trying to get through essentials on the list, prepping for the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 28. While “The Revenant” and “The Big Short” are of course hot shot award contenders, among others, I would like to note a few films released in 2015 that may have fallen off the radar and perhaps deserve a bit more attention.Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 13.46.18

“Steve Jobs” has drawn a best actor nomination for Michael Fassbender’s work
in the titular role. While the film itself didn’t receive the most stellar reviews all around, it has become one of my favorites of the year.

Here, Fassbender demonstrates his capacity to harness the energy of a persona, a digital revolutionary icon, a man who was polarizing as a simultaneously volatile and brilliant charismatic leader. The acting by Fassbender and Kate Winslet (who also received a nomination) as marketing executive, Joanna Hoffman, lends brilliantly to the kinetic, quickly paced, dialogue-heavy script by Aaron Sorkin, who you may better know (and thus understand the tone of “Jobs”) by looking at his other work like “The Social Network” and HBO’s “The Newsroom.” I am of the belief that the performances in this film outweigh the final product in worth, and should be remembered for them.

All you horror film buffs out there, watch “It Follows” if you have yet to. The premise is simple: a 19-year-old girl named Jay (Maika Monroe) is followed by a slow, shape- shifting presence after having a strange sexual encounter. The titular “It” in the film does, of course, follow – constantly, wherever Jay goes; she knows that it is approaching and will inevitably reach her. Banding together with her siblings and friends, journeying through a seemingly abandoned Detroit, Jay must find a way to combat “It,” and be ridden of this sinister force that has taken over her world.

This is not a simple tale of a haunting; there isn’t a go-to solution to the problem –
no exorcisms, no holy incense. Complicating things, the source of evil can show itself in the appearance of a loved one, dead or alive or else a total stranger. Everything is uncertain, and that is the truly horrifying element in this story. I suggest adding it to your list, especially if you’re into stylized films, as the setting lends to a weird, quasi-80’s visualization, and the electronic soundtrack adds to that feeling as well. The film has a very classic vibe, harkening back to old school flicks like “Halloween” — “It Follows” pays tribute to those films without seeming unoriginal.

 “The End of the Tour” is a film that received far too little attention, one that can be especially appreciated by people in the arts. Jesse Eisenberg plays journalist David Lipsky, who spent time on a book tour in the late 90‘s with famous post-modern novelist David Foster Wallace, portrayed by Jason Segel, known for his epic “Infinite Jest” — a massive tome that many regard as a masterpiece. Wallace committed suicide several years later, prompting Lipsky to dig up his old interview tapes and reflect on his time and lengthy conversations with the enigmatic man.

This film is fairly low-key in regard to how contained it is in scope. It is a road movie at heart; two men on a book tour, talking it out, reflecting on and divulging their inner philosophies, like a couple of kids looking up into the stars late at night for the first time. This might seem boring to some, but I found it to be one of the most engaging films of the year. The conversations and dialogue guide the thematic momentum and provide a rich sense of existential quality to the interactions between the characters.

Other notables for the year include dark comedy “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” the very quirk filled Western “Slow West,” (also starring Fassbender) and Netflix original “Beasts of No Nation,” which tells the devastating story of an African child soldier.

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