2015: Favorite Screen Miscellany

Artwork: K.E.T.

Welcome to Screen Week! Join us as we explore the films and TV shows that kept us staring at screens. More from this series


Despite auteur Adam Sandler’s groundbreaking six-film straight-to-Netflix deal, filmmakers in 2015 made one of the best cases for old school theatrical releases in years. The Weinstein Company spent millions of dollars fitting theaters to show Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight in the mostly-dead 70mm actually-film format; the crisp-yet-textured results looked glorious and offset the ugliness of Tarantino’s story in a way that was not only visually pleasing, but thematically significant. The 70mm project was retro, but other filmmakers used newer technologies to advocate for the big screen, too. On the small, 2D surface of a TV or a laptop — without the spectacle of its theater-sized 3D cumshots — Gaspar Noé’s Love would simply be a clichéd story more flimsy than most pornos.

Speaking of pornos, much of what got our blood pumping in 2015 was not made for the big screen. We watched a ton of TV and just as much random crap on our computers — often at the same time. To better account for our viewing habits, we are pairing our annual list of favorite films with two new screen-centric lists: our favorite TV shows, and this less-defined third list of screen miscellany for everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

This list isn’t quite the computer-screen corollary to our upcoming film and TV lists, but it isn’t not that, either. It’s simply us grappling with the many ways we engage with media today aside from traditional theatrical releases and TV series. Here, we include the epic short films, live audiovisual performances, 5-second Vines, single-minded Instagram accounts, mind-bending video art, tasteless ad campaigns, re-releases of outsider filmmaking, and dank memes that caught our interests, that moved us, that revolted us, or, most often, just made us LOL.


Vine

Vic Berger IV

It wasn’t until 2015 that I learned how much time I could waste on Vine, with the discovery of, among others, @VicBergerIV. Once you follow an account you like on Vine, their Vines and re-Vines and related Vines open up an entirely different world from the platform’s reputation as a home for narcissistic teenage “comedians.” (See also: @ToddDracula, @popcorn__10, @Cool3DWorld.) With its short, perpetually looping videos, Vine is an unconventional medium, so it makes sense that it should play host to content as bizarre as Berger’s. And maybe it’s cheating in pursuit of the bizarre to use Ben Carson as material, but the Vine I watched the most in 2015 was this one of Carson pardoning a turkey. The source video is mystifying enough on its own — Carson calling the turkey “Mr. Turkey,” his attempts at what he must consider “official”-sounding speech, the faceless man bent over and holding the bow-tied turkey by the legs, Carson’s Jedi-like gesturing — but with Berger’s editing and sound design, and with the repetition and time limit of Vine, it goes beyond political curiosity and becomes a dreamlike incantation.

“I pronounce you pardoned. Turkey, I now pardon you. Mr. Turkey.”

Tribute

One Way or De Palma (Dir. Joe Ahearne)

Live Film Performance

LEGENDS Tour (Dir. Everything Is Terrible)

Have any of y’all been to Portland? This is a weird city. Each quirky™ neighborhood has, in the past few years, become a copy of the other. The levels of xenophobia are, perhaps, unprecedented in a progressive, American city. Nobody dances at shows or uses an umbrella in the rain. It is a city derived from a sketch — what smarter people than I would call, I think, a palimpsest. It’s an overpriced nightmare. Everyday, I wake up glad to live — if only by a hair — outside of the official city limits. That is, everyday except May 28, 2015, when Everything is Terrible: Legends came to town. It was a delightfully sunny, spring day. I was with good company. I was sufficiently buzzed. I felt the pure presence of Duane in my body; I was, for once, inhabited. I sat in the cool dark of the Hollywood Theater, yelling (perhaps for the first time since moving here) in a closed room. Commodore Gilgamesh asked, “DO YOU WANT TO KILL? OR DO YOU WANT TO FUCK?” I felt like the lone killer in a sea of fuckers, but when the next segment rolled, and the next, and the next, I was overjoyed in the presence of these local, noisy, opinionated assholes. It would, unfortunately, be the last time. Thank you nonetheless, Everything is Terrible. You truly are legends.

New Hive

My Afterlife Is So Boring II (Tara Sinn + Blues Control)

Short Film

World Of Tomorrow (Dir. Don Hertzfeldt)

If ever we needed to present the human condition as a short film, there are few better candidates than Don Hertzfeldt’s World Of Tomorrow (for rent on Vimeo, and also streaming on Netflix). The tale of a little girl having a conversation with her future self (well, a clone of her future self — turns out the future is a weird place) is only 17 minutes long, but it packs in hilarity and poignancy as it covers love, longing, and loss amongst the wide variety of emotions that people can experience in a lifetime or two. At times absurd, at other times painfully grounded in real-world problems, and still at other times using that absurdity to explore those problems, Hertzfeldt’s short is a ridiculously entertaining one that explores the fragile yet powerful connections we form with art, our memories, random items, and each other. It’s done in his standard “simplistic” stick figure manner, but it never seems slapdashed or half-assed; instead, that simplicity belies the profundity that Hertzfeldt is able to sneak into his heartbreaking, and heart-enriching, tale. Viewers will be delighted at the jokes and puzzled by the oddness (a woman falls in love with a rock at one point, for example), but overall, they’ll be swept up in a propulsive narrative that truly explores what it means to be human in the face of our always impending demise. To be able to pull off just one of these tones would be a triumph, but the fact that Hertzfeldt can juggle so many and do them all justice proves he is truly a master filmmaker.

Dank Memes

Vaporwave / A E S T H E T I C

Runners up:
HNW Memes
Bernie “The Patrician” Sanders

Re-Release

Dangerous Men (Dir. John S. Rad)

For joyous inscrutability in 2015, nothing could beat the belated wide release of John S. Rad’s 2005 not-so-magnum opus, an outsider action/revenge mess 26 years in the making at the time of its original release (total number of theaters to screen it prior to Drafthouse Films picking it up for distribution: four). More than any film that might attempt the same effect intentionally, Dangerous Men played out like a fever dream: this was a film that dropped plots and actors like stray popcorn crumbs, creating a series of disjointed scenes bound only by the numbing repetition of Rad’s home-brewed synth-funk theme (an insidious earworm dropped into almost every scene, regardless of intended tone). Its abrupt ending even felt like being jarred awake. The film’s nebulous quality, of course, poses a problem when trying to think back on it; it’s hard to remember what really happened or why, or to suss out any given character’s motivation. Like the best weird dreams, however, we walked away from Dangerous Men with a vague satisfaction, a lot of confusion, and maybe a boner.

Grand Theft Auto

A Clockwork Orange (Dir. GTA Series Videos)

Welcome to Screen Week! Join us as we explore the films and TV shows that kept us staring at screens. More from this series


Most Read