What was your favorite theatrical experience of 2015?
Cole: I will start by saying that I thought my favorite theater experience of the year would be The Hateful Eight roadshow on Christmas. I looked forward to it much more than Star Wars: the Force Awakens, feeling that that was the real cinephile Christmas movie. It ended up not living up to my expectations, mostly because I realized that Tarantino fans are really the 'bro's' of nerd culture (I'm still thinking about writing a think piece on it, but want to catch H8 once more to see how much the…overzealous crowd took away from the viewing experience). What ended up being my favorite theater experience was seeing The Forbidden Room at my local indie theater (which is a restored theater from the 30's, 'negro balcony' and all) and where it ended up being the only time I've seen a movie in that theater by myself. The viewing was intense, intimate, strangely abstract, but somehow fitting with the material of the movie. I think I would have enjoyed the movie just as much if others were there, but being alone in a such a large space created an experience with the film that I couldn't recreate.
Marcus: I had a lot of really good theatrical experiences this year. Ones like Dope, Fury Road, and Creed are up there for the most fun I had in a theater in 2015. Strangely though, I've also found a lot of stellar experiences with renting and steaming movies this past year as well. It gave me the chance to see stuff like Spike Lee's Chi-Raq (which was an intense experience for me and made me seriously cry twice) as well as overlooked films/films no one seemed to give a shit about like Two Men In Town, which I really loved. Maybe it's me getting spoiled on Alamo Drafthouse showings, but pretty much everything I went out to see this year was a good experience for me. But I think the absolute tops for me was getting to go see Brazil on the big screen for my birthday back in April, that was something really special.
Who did you gain respect for in 2015?
Marcus: There wasn't really anyone that didn't have my respect and gained it, more so just a few people that I was unaware of or only had a very casual knowledge of that I grew to respect through films in 2015. A big one would be Amy Winehouse after seeing the documentary Amy. I really knew nothing about her apart from vaguely hearing the song "Rehab" once or twice and vaguely knowing she had a drug problem and died. Amy was a really heartbreaking documentary that showed me how talented she actually was and the sad nature of how her story played out. It actually turned me into a fan of her music, which I did not expect it to do. Another person that gained my respect this year is writer/director Joel Potrykus, whose excellent Buzzard popped up on my radar and led me down a 3 film rabbit hole I felt compelled to review. Of the several new filmmakers I discovered this year (Marielle Heller with The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Sean Baker with Tangerine would also be honorable mentions), Potrykus is the one that most surprised me and made me most excited for his future projects. I definitely saw plenty of better movies this year, but Potrykus' style and sensibility meshes very well with my personal tastes.
Cole: I agree about Amy and I feel remiss that I never gave her a chance while she was alive, as her music was really right up my alley. But a duo that really impressed me this year were Rodney Ascher and his longtime producer, Tim Kirk. I was already interested in their work with the strange immersive nature of Room 237, The Shining conspiracy theory documentary. I could tell there was something strange and subversive about that documentary, but it didn't really come into place until I saw Ascher's The Nightmare, a documentary about night terrors that straddles a fine line between being a kitschy TV ready reality show, but ultimately deconstructs not only the farce of such shows, but also the farce of horror movies in general. Also, Ascher helped kickstart a strange project called Director's Commentary: The Terror of Frankenstein, which is a commentary track that Kirk directed to play over the 1977 movie The Terror of Frankenstein. Without getting into spoiler territory (because I highly recommend you find a way to watch this one fresh) it is a compellingly original idea that they are playing around with and once again seems to push the boundaries of what can be defined as horror and acting as a deconstruction of the film medium in itself.
Favorite film from a Director (or possibly Writer, Actor, Cinematographer, etc.) that you were unaware of prior to 2015?
Cole: This is an easy one: Everyone involved with Tangerine. The fact that I've seen so many year-end lists come up without Tangerine on it is completely baffling to me. It is hard to imagine that this insanely funny, fun, and heartfelt movie didn't touch everyone on some level, but here we are. Sean Baker has a keen eye for editing, the same sort of haphazard cutting that Tarantino or Lars von Trier employ where the best shot matters more than continuity, and he manages to capture the lackadaisical drug life lived by this lowest of classes without moralizing or judging. It's just all human problems in the end. Also the two leads, for being literally the trans-gender people they portray and not trained actors, do an amazing job and their sometimes spotty skills are covered up by the immense amount of heart they are putting on screen.
Marcus: I completely agree with Tangerine and I hadn't noticed it missing from people's top 10 lists, but that's a shame. Anyone that hasn't seen it yet should hop on over to their Netflix Instant account and watch it asap. To keep from repeating myself on any films, I'll say Tetsuya Nakashima's The World of Kanako as my favorite from someone I didn't know. I stay pretty up to date on films and filmmakers coming from the US, so this twisted Asian revenge thriller hit me out of left field and completely blew me away. I said in my review that it was just short of being one of my absolute favorites of the year, but it is definitely high up in my personal top 10 and was such a pleasant (and uncomfortably disgusting) surprise when I blindly caught a showing of it.
What are you most excited for in 2016?
Marcus: One film I can't wait to see is Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier's follow-up to Blue Ruin (my favorite of 2014). A punk band gets trapped in a venue by a gang of white supremacists (led by Patrick Stewart!) after witnessing a murder...fuck yes. I also just have to toss out how stoked I am for the Key & Peele movie, Keanu. A couple of friends try to retrieve their stolen cat Keanu from drug dealers...again, fuck yes. And these two come out on the Fridays before and after my birthday. Should be a pretty good year!
Cole: I'm excited about two movies this year that I feel like will emulate a director, who (strangely enough) I am not very enamored with. But Scorsese's Silence, where it seems he will be leaving his common city dwellings for Asian landscapes. I enjoy the idea of Scorsese doing an outright religious film, and hopefully seeing him work out some of that eternal Catholic guilt out onscreen. Also I'm excited for Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees (where Matthew McConaughey travels to Japan's famous Suicide Forest to…well, commit suicide, I guess), despite its tumultuous reception at Cannes last year. The idea of these two directors taking on a Japanese tone and (presumably) emulating Kurasawa has me excited for the prospects of both films. For Scorsese I could see a Kurasawa influence creating a more weighty feel to his film and overall making it more contemplative, for Van Sant I imagine a Kurasawa influence may make his film feel more lively (despite the dour material) and push a little more narrative through the film than Van Sant films generally contain.