Our Critics Pick the Best (and Worst) of 2018

Once again, the time has come for your favorite film critics to choose the films they loved – and hated – from 2018.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below.  Happy New Year!

THE BEST

Michael A. Smith‘s TOP TEN

1.VICE – Like his Oscar winning THE BIG SHORT, writer/director Adam McKay gives a humorous take on the life and times of our 46th Vice President. 

2. BOY ERASED – Stellar performances by Lucas Hedges and Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed) in a film dealing with “conversion” training.  Edgerton is beginning to look like he will be one of the best filmmakers of the next generation. 

3. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – The story of Freddie Mercury and his musical group QUEEN.  Some complained that Mercury’s X-rated lifestyle was tamed down too much but Rami Malek’s award worthy performance is the real story here.

4. A STAR IS BORN –  Damn you, Bradley Cooper!  Is there nothing you can’t do?  Cooper stars and directs in the fourth telling of the familiar tale, adding enough twists to make it seem new.  Extra points for casting the amazing Lady Gaga.

 5. BLACKKKLANSMAN –  Easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING, the film’s 1970’s era message is just as important today.

“Risking life and limb for our entertainment”

6. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – The best of the M:I films, with Tom Cruise once again risking life and limb for our entertainment.

7. CHAPPAQUIDDICK – An early film this year that looks into the fateful accident that derailed the Presidential dreams of Ted Kennedy.

8. BLACK PANTHER – Not a great Marvel Movie…just a GREAT MOVIE.  With FRUITVALE STATION and CREED already on his resumé, director Ryan Coogler has proven to be a voice to be listened to.

 9. HOSTILES – A January release, this is an outstanding period western starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi and, sadly, Scott Wilson in one of his final roles.

 10. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? – Award worthy performances from stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant highlight this true story about an author who had to resolve to forgery to make any money.   

Lauren Damon’s TOP FIVE

1.BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – I cannot speak highly enough of Drew Goddard’s follow up to one of my Halloween faves, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Once again Goddard holes up his small cast in a single location that is not quite what it seems and is a joy to explore. And what a cast! While bigger names like Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm deliver reliably solid performances (the latter chewing all the scenery with a fabulous southern accent), the real revelations are from relative newcomers Cynthia Erivo and Lewis Pullman. The Tony-winning Erivo is the film’s heart as a struggling singer who checks into the El Royale ahead of a nearby gig. When she gets wrapped up in a scheme with Bridges’ character, Goddard uses her powerhouse voice to deliver “You Can’t Hurry Love” in easily my favorite single sequence of the year. Meanwhile Pullman is just barely holding everything together as the hotel’s lone caretaker whose role entails much more than cleaning towels and whose past is bubbling beneath his boyish, twitchy surface. I really just wanted to hug him. Finally, as with CABIN, Goddard goes ahead and subverts Chris Hemsworth’s affable hero persona. This time by casting him as a vile Charles Manson type–this is the 60’s in California after all– whose limited screen time serves merely to concentrate the sinister vibes emanating off his gyrating abs. Everyone is supported by top notch production design, a rocking soundtrack and some gorgeous Seamus McGarvey cinematography. It just really sizzles.

“It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet?)” 

2. HEREDITARY – This slow burning descent of one family after the death of their secretive matriarch may be an all time fave viewing experience in a packed theater. Where a lot of modern horror relies on jump scares, Ari Aster held us captive in many scenes by showing the terrors just slightly to the side in the gloom of the frame or holding on the silence after a traumatic event–all while my audience slowly lost its mind. Which was fitting, because we were watching Toni Collette’s character doing roughly the same. It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet? C’mon Academy!) because she was so engrossing and almost painful to watch.

3. BLACK PANTHER – Ryan Coogler’s brilliant entry into Marvel was remarkable for so fully realizing a whole new world within a “Universe” we’ve already been living in for the past decade. And unlike some chapters of the MCU, he did it right here on Earth. Wakanda was beautiful and populated by such a well drawn cast of characters, it was nearly impossible to pick a favorite (but it’s Shuri, come on). Meanwhile, unlike some big purple menaces, Erik Kilmonger’s (Michael B Jordan) ‘villainous’ motives were some of the most complex that the franchise has dealt with. So much so that Chadwick Boseman’s T’challa had to face a real crisis of conscience that not many Marvel heroes do!

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – I feel like the less I say about this film, the better new viewers’ experiences will be. Boots Riley’s take on the desolate modern economic landscape just throws a LOT at you with a notable hard turn in the second half that will likely decide where you land on this one. As someone who is rarely surprised at movies today, I was fully on board.

5. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – I knew going in that every outlet in the Disney-Marvel Marketing Machine kept saying “It’s Thanos’s movie, it’s really going to belong to Thanos” but boy, I was not prepared for…Thanos’s movie! Not only did the Russo brothers bring to life a presence worthy of scaring the bejeezus out of ten years of assembled super heroes, but that they let him Do That was a true shocker. It’s hard for me to judge INFINITY WAR fully until I see what goes down in ENDGAME because, to quote THE PRESTIGE, “making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.” But for now, I sit stunned.

Michael D. Smith’s TOP TEN

1. BLACK PANTHER – The best movie of the year, BLACK PANTHER proves to be one of the two or three best titles in the 10-year Avengers odyssey. Directed by the brilliantly talented young filmmaker Ryan Coogler (CREED, FRUITVALE STATION), this supremely entertaining, comic book epic has a superb cast and an engaging, intelligent story. Its story of a young king who thinks he knows what it takes to be a ruler but is faced with a day of reckoning that turns his views upside down is a potent one. The climax is tragic to the point that it’s Shakespearean and it’s all assisted by one of the most consistently good performances by an entire cast that you will see, especially in an action movie. Michael B. Jordan, who was cheated out of an Oscar nomination for his role in CREED, is a powerful presence in the film as its lead antagonist. BLACK PANTHER has everything you could ever want in not only a superhero movie but in a movie period. 

2. A QUIET PLACE – In terms of creativity and originality, A QUIET PLACE is only rivaled in recent times by last year’s masterpiece “Get Out.” A brief, yet sophisticated sci-fi horror tale brimming with mystery, A QUIET PLACE stars the husband/wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple struggling to keep their family alive in a world taken over by aliens who react to sound. You must pay attention to the little details in this one to spot clues to the backstory, which itself is horrifying. The story has a bit of a Stephen King-like vibe to it as the suspense builds around the impending birth of a new baby. A must-see.

3. FIRST REFORMED –  Ethan Hawke shines in what is arguably writer/director Paul Schrader’s greatest cinematic endeavor. It is a work of art in every sense of the word as Hawke plays the minister of a tiny congregation in an old church in upstate New York. His character is haunted by a past that riddles him with guilt and leads him to drink. When we meet him, he has begun to keep a diary of his tormented thoughts as he tries to mentor those that are just as much pain as he is. Hawke is mesmerizing in the most brilliant performance of his career with strong supporting help from Amanda Seyfried and a nice dramatic turn by Cedric the Entertainer. The ending is haunting to say the least and will leave you and anyone you watch it with debating what it all means. 

“Olivia Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close”

4. THE FAVOURITE – With some of the best costume designs you will see in any film, THE FAVOURITE is a wonderful historical drama containing the most splendid, witty dialogue of the year. Set against the backdrop of early 18th century England, two women (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vie to be the favorite of the increasingly sickly Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). The political intrigue is delightful as Weisz and Stone’s characters will go to any lengths to be the apple of Queen Anne’s eye, thereby having access to tremendous power. Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close. She is brilliant in every sense of the word as portrays a woman teetering on insanity after having had 18 pregnancies but no living children. There are ultimately no winners in all of it. Just tragic losers. 

5. LEAVE NO TRACE – While watching the powerful performance delivered by New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the drama LEAVE NO TRACE, it is impossible to not think about what director/writer Debra Granik once pulled out of a relatively unknown young actress named Jennifer Lawrence. It is perhaps an unfair comparison considering that Lawrence received the first of her four Oscar nominations for her role as a tough, teenage Ozarks girl in 2010’s WINTER’S BONE. However, as Tom, McKenzie provides something that is special to watch on the silver screen. Through her eyes alone she projects her character’s tough, determined nature which she also reveals is just a façade masking a 13-year-old girl’s desperation to please a father (Ben Foster) traumatized by war. Foster once again demonstrates how skillful he has become in recent years. Pain leaks out of every pour in Foster’s skin as his character is so consumed by PTSD from combat that he puts Tom in danger every day they are on the run without thinking about what he is doing. Based upon the 2009 book My Abandonment by American novelist Peter Rock, LEAVE NO TRACE, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, is a moving work of genuine sadness that will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a heart.

 6. BLACKKKLANSMAN – In what is Spike Lee’s best effort in years, BLACKKKLANSMAN is an engrossing crime drama loosely based upon real events. It tells the tale of new African American, Colorado police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who infiltrates a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s via the phone. To represent himself in person, he convinces a Jewish detective (Adam Driver) to be his face. While it’s an entertaining piece of work that takes a lot of dramatic license, Lee’s effort tackles racism head-on and reveals its ugliness likes few films do. As such, it’s not without controversy but because of that it accomplishes the goal of making people talk and think about racism in America. 

7. GREEN BOOK – Inspired by a true story, this period drama is a surprisingly complex, emotional work considering its director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for comedic fare like SHALLOW HAL and DUMB AND DUMBER. With GREEN BOOK, Farrelly captures the stark racial divide of 1962 America with an exploration of the relationship between white bar bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and black pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as they travel across the Midwest and Deep South. Mortensen dazzles with his knack to bring to life every subtle nuance of the characters he plays. This role is no exception as he helps make Tony Lip someone we can truly care about even though in the beginning it’s a little tough to do. Ali, a 2017 Oscar winner for MOONLIGHT, gives Don a vulnerable sophistication while also breathing out a certain degree of naïveté without seeming to break a sweat. It all adds up to GREEN BOOK being the type of rare movie where everyone can feel a little bit happier about the world when the lights go back on. 

8. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? – Like many other people, I grew up on Mr. Rogers so perhaps I’m a little biased, but this documentary feels like a warm and cozy sweater vest. It dispels a lot of myths about the man who wanted nothing more than to work with children. We learn a lot about this kind, gentle soul from those closest to him and it’s refreshing in this age of cynicism and character assassination to discover he was pretty much exactly like he was on the TV.

9. HEREDITARY –  Simply put, this is one of the most messed up movies you will ever see. HEREDITARY is tale of a family being turned upside down when the family matriarch’s death starts a sequence of horrifying events that lead to a supernatural, head-scratching, unsettling climax. Toni Collette is fantastic as the mother of two who becomes increasingly unraveled thanks to a plan set into motion by her recently deceased mother. It goes without saying that a film is automatically creepy when it silently begins with a nondescript obituary on the silver screen. Don’t stay up too late to watch this. Otherwise you will feel the need to keep all the lights on and the covers over your head.

“Rami Malek absolutely commands the screen”

10. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – Some of have criticized this film for not devoting more time to the exploration of the late Freddie Mercury’s private life. However, this rock biography is not titled “The Freddie Mercury Story.” Instead it focuses on the rise of a band with a singer who had a rock voice like none other before or since. While the story is admittedly a little glossy, the core strength of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is the incredible performance by lead Rami Malek who absolutely commands the screen. He masters every movement, every voice inflection, every insecurity, every bit of bravado of the real Mercury. It is a legendary accomplishment and is worth every penny to see.

Jeremy Werner‘s TOP TEN:

“It’s good for the souls of the young and old.”

1. EIGHTH GRADE -Back in August I wrote, “Cringy. Heartfelt. Anxiety inducing. Unflinching. Heartbreaking. Hopeful…Bo Burnham’s debut film seemingly has it all, and it does.” That still rings true after a few rewatches. Four months later, along with dozens and dozens of screeners, EIGHTH GRADE, is still my favorite film of the year because of how raw and emotional it is. It’s good for the souls of the young and old.

2. BLACKKKLANSMAN -Last year, GET OUT made me feel what it’s like to be a black man in a predominantly white situation or setting. This year, BLACKKKLANSMAN made me feel my own white guilt. Both movies are timely and timeless. BLACKKKLANSMAN is a church sermon that needs to be heard by everyone within an earshot. This is easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING if not his magnum opus.

3. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE – Phil Lord and Chris Miller should just have their own animation studio. They were robbed of an Oscar for 2014’s LEGO MOVIE and it’ll be another crime if SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE doesn’t win best animated picture this year. It’s a trippy journey that blurs the line between comic book and cinema. Not only is it the best animated film of the year, it may be the best superhero movie of the year. Sorry Disney.

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU -What begins as a satire, quickly becomes a hyper absurd sci-fi that blends commentary on racism and classism, along with jabs at America’s path towards corporatocracy. Boots Riley brings a fresh voice and unique criticism that’s familiar, yet distinct. It’s the kind of film with no middle ground. You’ll either love or hate it.


5. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? -In today’s climate, the world might need another Mr. Rogers, if that’s possible. Without mentioning any names or incidents, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? feels like a pertinent documentary about the impact kindness and compassion has. Even the iciest of hearts will have a tear in their eye by the end credits.

6. VICE -Comedy doesn’t quite the praise it deserves. Ask any actor or creator how hard it is to craft something funny. Now add in a dose of reality and seriousness. Just like in THE BIG SHORT, Adam McKay tackles a difficult subject and makes it palatable for general audiences. VICE is a dark riot, making us laugh and realize the expanding power of the Executive Branch.

7. BOY ERASED -Not only is this a powerful story about sexual identity, but it’s a somber reminder about how one of the America’s most heinous acts, conversion therapy, remains legal. The film does a nuanced job of highlighting the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical cruelty that conversion therapy puts it’s victims through. It’s simply tragic.

8. MANDY– What if heavy metal music became a movie? You’d have MANDY, an 80’s acid nightmare come to life, with the help of a gonzo, smiling Nicolas Cage, covered in blood. This is a midnight film that will surely develop a cult following, or at the very least, a legion of Cheddar Goblin fans.

9. WIDOWS – This is Steve McQueen’s most mainstream film, yet it’s still visually intellectual like his previous films. McQueen is a master behind the camera and weaves a caper that’s not only rich with heavy material and social themes, but engaging from beginning to end.

10. THE FAVOURITE – THE FAVOURITE  is devilishly funny and cynical. It’s the kind of movie that could delight those who loathe period piece dramas, like myself. The humor and dialogue crackle for two hours as the film’s three leading ladies find new, humorous ways to stab each other in the back.

HONORABLE MENTIONS : SUSPIRIA, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, FIRST REFORMED, ISLE OF DOGS, ROMA, BLOCKERS, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, LOVE,SIMON, CRAZY RICH ASIANS, MOM AND DAD

AND…THE WORST

Jeremy Werner: 

1. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM -The bigger the budget, the more it should be looked down upon. This movie cost nearly $200 million and it stunk like one big pile of dino crap. Just think how many good, small budget films could have been made instead, but that wouldn’t have raked in over a billion dollars, now would it?

“Like one big pile of dino crap”

2. BOOK CLUB -Not only do they still make crap like this, but they release in theaters and trick good actors and actresses to star in it. This is pure drivel. Keep this crap off the silver screen and keep it on the Lifetime Network.

3. WELCOME TO MARWEN -The more I think about it, the more this film makes me mad. It’s a steaming crap that’s beneath the actors in it, it soils Zemeckis’ good name and unfortunately mishandles a true story. Unlike most train wrecks, you can look away from this one.

4. SUPER TROOPERS 2 -Careful what you wish for. Fans of the original should have looked towards other fanbases who asked for a sequel, like GHOSTBUSTERS, THE HANGOVER, etc. and got a big pile of crap instead. This movie is an unfunny dumpster fire that should offer a refund to it’s IndieGoGo supporters.

5. TERMINAL – Didn’t hear about this one? Good. To reiterate my favorite word in this list, it’s crap. This is the kind of film I could easily placed at the top, but it’s not as deserving as my scorn as the other films noted above because it quietly came and went without ruffling too many feathers. Still though. This one is crap. Don’t even bother looking it up out of curiosity.

Michael A. Smith:

1.LIFE ITSELF – As I say on our Podcast, I’ve never been so happy to see someone hit by a bus.  THIS IS US plots work in small doses, but on the big screen, they suck!

2. THE MEG – If my 230 pound body can’t swim by people without attracting notice, then a 50 foot shark sure as hell shouldn’t be able to.

 3. OCEANS 8 – Boooooooooooorrrrrrrrrring!

4. LOVE, SIMON – What could have been a film that delivered a great message takes the easy way out by making everything peachy too easily.

5. GRINGO – I had so many high hopes for this film.  Sadly, Nash Edgerton did not get any of the film making skills his brother Joel inherited.  

GET OUT and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Dominate the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

 

GET OUT, writer/director Jordan Peele’s darkly funny horror film and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, the story of a young boy who meets a visiting American while on vacation with his family, took home the lion’s share of prizes as the Kansas City Film Critics Circle handed out their 52nd Annual James Loutzenhizer Awards for the best in film for 2017.  Media Mikes writers Mike Smith and Jeremy Werner are members of the group.
GET OUT took home the prize as the Best Film of 2017.  In addition, Jordan Peele won for his Original Screenplay and the film was also named the winner of the Vince Koehler Award as the year’s best Science Fiction/Horror/Fantasy film.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME earned recognition for Timothée Chalamet, who was named Best Actor as well as for it’s Adapted Screenplay, written by James Ivory (based on the novel by Andre Aciman).  The film also received the groups Dr. Tom Poe Award as the year’s best LBGT film.  The film shared the Adapted Screenplay award with LOGAN, written by Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold, based on the popular Marvel Comics character.
Guillermo del Toro was named winner of the Robert Altman Award as the year’s Best Director for THE SHAPE OF WATER,  which also won the Best Actress award for Sally Hawkins.
The Kansas City Film Critics Circle is the second oldest film critics group in the country, founded in 1967 by Dr. James Loutzenhizer.  The group’s annual awards were named for Dr. Loutzenhizer after his passing in November 2001.
Here is a complete list of winners:
BEST FILM –  GET OUT
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo det Toro, THE SHAPE OF WATER
BEST ACTOR –    Timothée Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR –  Willem Dafoe – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
BEST ACTRESS –  Sally Hawkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Laurie Metcalf – LADY BIRD
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY –  Jordan Peele – GET OUT
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY –  James Ivory – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME/Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold – LOGAN
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE –  COCO
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM –  IN THE FADE (Germany)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE –  JANE
VINCE KOEHLER AWARD –  GET OUT
DR. TOM POE AWARD –  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Kansas City Film Critics Name “Manchester by the Sea” the Best Film of 2016 During Presentation of 51st Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

Manchester by the Sea was chosen as the Best Film of 2016 by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest critics group in the country. MediaMikes film critics Michael Smith and Jeremy Werner are members of the group. Smith also serves as the groups secretary and is a member of the governing board. The film was also recognized with the Robert Altman Award for Direction and the film’s star, Casey Affleck, was chosen as the year’s Best Actor. The winners were announced today during a ceremony for the 51st Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet Theatre in Kansas City.

Manchester by the Sea led all films with three wins, while Arrival, Hell or High Water and Moonlight each received two awards. Natalie Portman was named Best Actress for her portrayal of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie while Jeff Bridges was awarded Best Supporting Actor for his work as a grizzled Texas Ranger in Hell or High Water. For the 13th time at least one category resulted in a tie when Viola Davis (Fences) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight) tied in the Best Supporting Actress category. Zootopia was named the year’s Best Animated Feature.

This year the group also awarded the inaugural Tom Poe Award for Best LGBT Film. A beloved associate professor of film and media arts in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Poe, who passed away in November at the age of 70, was a long-time member of the Critics Circle. His reviews were inevitably astute and well-informed yet just as naturally considered and kind, in keeping with his sympathies for both filmmaker and audience. It was Poe’s belief that “great film reviews give rise to thinking about films.” As such, he supported many members of KCFCC through encouragement and dialogue. Tom Poe was our colleague and friend, and it is our intention that this annual award honor his legacy as an advocate for LGBT rights and promote his desire for justice by way of accurate and beneficial representation. The inaugural recipient is Moonlight.

The full list of winners is below:

BEST FILM

Manchester by the Sea

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTOR

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

BEST ACTRESS

Natalie Portman – Jackie

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis – Fences and Naomie Harris – Moonlight

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Eric Heisserer – Arrival

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Handmaiden – South Korea

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

OJ: Made in America

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Zootopia

VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY or HORROR FILM

Arrival

TOM POE AWARD FOR BEST LGBT FILM

Moonlight

Our Critics Pick Their Best (and Worst) Films of 2015

Now that the calendar has turned over to 2016, some of our critics decided to compile their annual “Best of/Worse of” lists of the films of 2015. You can listen to them list their choices, as well as their reasons, on this week’s “Behind the Mikes” Podcast – http://behindthemikes.podomatic.com/entry/2016-01-03T02_32_33-08_00

Michael Smith

Before I list my favorites, I have an honorary film, “Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” It narrowly missed being a part of my Top 10 but, as the most anticipated film of the year, it delivered everything I wanted and more. My “Best of” choices:

1. The Revenant
2. Bridge of Spies
3. The Connection
4. Creed
5. The Gift
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Sicario
8. Spotlight

9. Here I chose (3) smaller films that didn’t gain a wide release but are still “must sees” in my book:

5-7 – A sweet, May-December romance starring Anton Yelchin and Berenice Marhloe that I called, “cleverly acted by a cast that believes in the material.”

The Looking Glass – A well written, thoughtfully directed character directed film, featuring strong performances by veteran actress Dorothy Tristan, who also wrote the script, and newcomer Grace Tarnow.

Radio America – the story of two men, friends since childhood, who pursue their musical ambitions and learn that sometimes having your dreams come true is costly. Also has a great soundtrack of original music.

10. Straight Outta Compton

Thankfully I was spared many of this years stinkers. My bottom four:
1. Love the Coopers
2. The Last Witch Hunter
3. The Kingsman: The Secret Service
4. Tomorrowland

Jeremy Werner’s Top 10
1. Inside Out
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Sicario
4. Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens
5. It Follows
6. The Look of Silence
7. Spotlight
8. The Martian
9. Room
10. Carol

And the stinkers:
1. Point Break
2. The Human Centipede 3
3. Hitman: Agent 47
4. The Fantastic Four
5. The Ridiculous Six

Lauren Damon’s Top 7:
1. (tie) Crimson Peak and Ex Machina
2. The Hateful Eight
3. What We Do In the Shadows
4. The Martian
5. Jurassic World
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Cinderella

And Lauren’s terrible 2:
Self/Less
Blackhat

Podcast Contributor Loey Lockerby’s Top 10:
1. Room
2. The Martian
3. Inside Out
4. The Big Short
5. It Follows
6. Ex Machina
7. The Hateful Eight
8. Carol
9. Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens
10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Loey says they were spared having to watch anything horrible this past year. You can read Loey’s full reviews at www.suchacritic.com

[Editor’s note, an earlier version of this post had Lauren lacking worst picks. She had them.]

Kansas City Film Critics Name “Mad Max: Fury Road” the Best Film of 2015 During Presentation of 50th Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

Mad Max: Fury Road was chosen as the Best Film of 2015 by The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the 2nd oldest critics group in the country. The winners were announced this afternoon during a ceremony at the Alamo Drafthouse Theatre in Kansas City. Among the voters were MediaMikes own Michael Smith and Jeremy Werner.

The film, which had been nominated in four categories by the group, also took home the Robert Altman Award for Best Director for George Miller and Best Actress for Charlize Theron. The film was the only multiple winner announced by the group. The directing award is named in honor of seven-time Academy Award nominee and Kansas City native Robert Altman.

Leonardo DiCaprio was named Best Actor for his work in The Revenant. In the supporting categories, Michael Shannon received the Best Supporting Actor prize for 99 Homes while Alicia Vikander was named Best Supporting Actress for Ex Machina. PIXAR’s Inside Out was named the year’s Best Animated Feature.

Below is a complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: Mad Max: Fury Road

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

BEST ACTRESS: Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Shannon – 99 Homes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Inside Out

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Phoenix (Germany)

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Amy

VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY or HORROR FILM: Ex Machina

 

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Kansas City Film Critics Announces Nominees for the 50th Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

Kansas City, Missouri – The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, of which both Moviemike and Jeremy Werner are members, and the second oldest film critic organization in the country, released their nominees for the 50th Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards, recognizing the best in film for 2015.

Sicario, a fall release that addressed the war on drugs in both the United States and Mexico, led all films with five nominations including Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villenueve. The film also earned nods for Emily Blunt for Best Actress, Benicio Del Toro for Best Supporting and Original Screenplay.

Right behind are the summer action film Mad Max: Fury Road and the upcoming Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Revenant, which each earned four nominations, including Best Picture. Also earning Best Picture nominations: Room and Spotlight. DiCaprio was nominated as one of the year’s Best Actors, along with Steve Carell (The Big Short), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and last year’s Academy Award winner in this category, Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

Charlize Theron was nominated as Best Actress for her role as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Nominated alongside her and Blunt are Cate Blanchett (Carol), Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn).

Besides Del Toro, the list of nominees for Best Supporting Actor include Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes) and Sylvester Stallone, reprising his role of Rocky Balboa in Creed. In 1976 the group named Stallone the year’s Best Actor for playing Balboa in Rocky.

Blanchett’s Carol co-star, Rooney Mara, earned a nod for Best Supporting Actress, alongside Elizabeth Banks (Love and Mercy), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs).

Directors joining Villenueve in competition for the Robert Altman Award for Best Director are Alex Garland (Ex Machina), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road).

The group also handed out nominations for Best Animated Feature, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Foreign Film, Documentary Feature and for the Vince Koehler Award, which is chosen as the year’s best Science Fiction, Horror or Fantasy Film.

Winners will be voted on and the results released this Sunday, December 20th.

Below is a complete list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Sicario, Spotlight

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR: Alex Garland (Ex Machina), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Denis Villenueve (Sicario), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

BEST ACTOR: Steve Carell (The Big Short), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Emily Blunt (Sicario), Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Benicio Del Toro (Sicario), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Elizabeth Banks (Love and Mercy), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Sicario, Spotlight, Trainwreck

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Big Short, Carol, The Martian, Room, Steve Jobs

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Anomalisa, Inside Out, Minions, The Peanuts Movie, Shaun the Sheep

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Assassin, Goodnight Mommy, Phoenix, Son of Saul, The Tribe, White God

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Amy, Best of Enemies, The Look of Silence, Where to Invade Next, The Wrecking Crew

VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY or HORROR FILM: Ex Machina, Goodnight Mommy, It Follows, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian

Kansas City Film Critics Name The Year’s Best

December 14, 2014

The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest organized critics group in the country, held their annual end-of-the-year award gathering this afternoon, with “Birdman” and “Boyhood” taking home the lion’s share of the major awards. This is the 48th year the group has awarded their annual James Loutzenhiser awards.

Michael Keaton’s big return to the big screen, “Birdman,” won four awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton) and Best Original Screenplay. Richard Linklater’s 12-year in the making “Boyhood” received the Robert Altman Award for Achievement in Directing (for Linklater) and Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette). Other films earing awards include “Gone Girl,” “Obvious Child” and “The Lego Movie.”

Here is a complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: “Birdman”
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING: Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton – “Birdman”
BEST ACTRESS: Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Edward Norton – “Birdman”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood”
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicholas Glocobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo – “Birdman”
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Robespierre – “Obvious Child”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “The Lego Movie”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “CitizenFour”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Ida” (Poland)
VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCI-FI, FANTASY or HORROR FILM: “The Babadook”

For more information on the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and previous year’s awards go to www.kcfcc.org

“MovieMike” to Participate in 2nd Annual “Oscar vs. Critics” Free For All

Media Mikes own Mike Smith will join other Kansas City area film critics this Wednesday night, February 26, as they declare their choices for the upcoming Academy Awards at the Screenland Crown Center Theatre.

The annual event, a benefit for CINEMAKC, allows moviegoers to attend a program consisting of clips and trailers from films nominated for the upcoming 86th Annual Academy Awards and then ask their favorite critics what their choices are and why.

The event begins at 7:00 pm, with a “meet the critics” mixer beginning at 6:00 pm.

Media Mikes Critics Choose the Years Best Films (and the Worse)

With voting almost over for the 2013 Media Mikes.com awards, the site’s main critics got together and chose their favorite films of the past year. And a few that weren’t anyone’s favorite. As always, it’s a rather diverse grouping of movies. Agree? Disagree? Let us know below!

Mike Gencarelli’s Top 5

FROZE
GRAVITY
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
PACIFIC RIM
THE CONJURING

and

Worse 5
MOVIE 43
BYZANTIUM
AFTERSHOCK
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES
THE HOST

Lauren Damon’s Top 4
Lauren’s original list contained a film that she actually saw this year but will not be released until some time in 2014. Rather than possibly give a look at next year’s list, here are her top four:

12 YEARS A SLAVE
THE WORLD’S END
AMERICAN HUSTLE
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Phillip Smith’s Top 5
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
MANDELA
12 YEARS A SLAVE
AMERICAN HUSTLE
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Jeremy Werner’s Top 5
12 YEARS A SLAVE
THE WORLD’S END
GRAVITY
THE SPECTACULAR NOW
FRUITVALE STATION

and

Worse 5
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: THE CITY OF BONES
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
ONLY GOD FORGIVES

Michael Smith’s Top 8
I couldn’t stop at five so I thought I’d do my five favorite mainstream titles as well as three more independent features.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
AMERICAN HUSTLE
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
PRISONERS
THE CONJURING
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS
THE WAY, WAY BACK
THE SAPPHIRES

and

Worse 5
THE HOST
CARRIE
OUT OF THE FURNACE
A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
21 AND OVER

"Critics vs Oscars Free-For-All" Coming to Kansas City

If you haven’t already got your Oscar ballots marked you may want to attend the annual “Critics vs Oscars Free-For-All” slated for Wednesday, January 23 at the Screenland Crossroads Theatre in Kansas City.

During the program trailers for films Oscar-nominated in all major categories will be screened, as will scenes from all nine Best Picture nominees. Each trailer will be followed by a sure to be impassioned discussion from some of Kansas City’s best known film critics.

The event starts at 7:00 p.m. but there will be a pre-show mixer starting at 6:00 p.m. in which those in attendance can rub shoulders and share opinions with KC’s cinema scribes. A donation of $10 is requested from those in attendance, which goes to support CinemaKC and it’s efforts to serve the movie community in 2013. Your donation not only gets you 90 minutes of film and discussion but also a raffle ticket for a chance to win some great movie memorabilia and passes to the Screenland Theatre and the Boulevard Drive-In. For more information on the event or CinemaKC go to www.CinemaKC.com

Kansas City Film Critics Name Best of 2012

The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest critics group in America, held their annual end of year award voting on Sunday and, like in most years, the diversity of the group meant that all genre’s of films were recognized. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” leading the films selected with three awards, including Best Film of the Year. Two races came down to a single vote, with Ang Lee, director of “Life of Pi,” edging out Anderson to win the Robert Altman Award for Achievement in Directing and “Lincoln” star Daniel Day Lewis narrowly beating “The Master’s” Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor. The only runaway win went to Anne Hathaway, Best Supporting Actress for playing the doomed Fantine in the musical “Les Miserables.” Here is a complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: “The Master”
BEST DIRECTOR: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln”
BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables”
BEST FOREIGN FILM: “Amour”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “Frankenweenie”
VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY OR HORROR FILM: “The Cabin In the Woods”
BEST DOCUMENTARY: “The Imposter”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “The Master”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “Argo”

Kansas City Critics name “The Descendants” Best Film of 2011


“The Descendants” narrowly defeated “Drive” to win the top prize as the Kansas City Film Critics Circle held their annual end of year vote Sunday evening. The Alexander Payne directed film also took home the Best Actor award for star George Clooney. Best Actress went to Kirsten Dunst in Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia. Reclusive filmmaker Terrence Malick was named Best Director for “The Tree of Life.” Here is a complete list of winners:

Best Film: “The Descendants”
Robert Altman Award for Direction: Terrence Malick – “The Tree of Life”
Best Actor: George Clooney – “The Descendants”
Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst – “Melancholia”
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain – “The Tree of Life”
Best Animated Feature: “Rango”
Best Foreign Film: “A Separation” (Iran)
Best Documentary: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Werner Herzog – Director)
Best Original Screenplay: “Beginners” (Mike Mills)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Moneyball” (Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin)
Vince Koehler Award for Best Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: “Hugo”

This was the 45th annual vote by the organization, which was founded by Dr. James Loutzenhiser in 1966. The KCFCC is the second oldest critics group in the nation.