by NEVIL GIBSON
The annual box office reviews show young adult fantasy and comic-book heroes are still the most popular fare at the cinema.
Fast-paced action and real-life dramas are catching up as the baby boomer generation — now the backbone of the arthouse circuit — remain loyal to the main form of entertainment in their youth.
The year started with the third of Sir Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series, which took in more than $8 million.
That was equalled by this year’s biggest release so far, Fast and Furious 7, which has obviously established a strong following beyond those interested in car chases.
The same goes for Mad Max: Fury Road, which crashed back on to screens in the middle of the year along with Jurassic World, the second biggest film of the year.
The comic-book blockbusters, led by The Avengers: Age of Ultron, broke no records, suggesting they may have topped out.
The second Hunger Games outperformed two other sequels in the Divergent and Maze Runner series, indicating the final Hunger Games will do best of all.
My pick of the year’s 10 best includes at least one among the box-officers winners and several festival offerings that received limited releases.
I have held over or omitted several others that have not yet, or may not get, a cinema release, including A Most Violent Year, Inherent Vice, Clouds of Sils Marina and Phoenix.
The winners are: Best comedy: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Runners-up: Irrational Man and Mistress America. Big studio productions have given way to the quirky humour at which Americans excel. A new generation has caught up to and even passed Woody Allen.
Best thriller: Sicario. Two outstanding sequences reminiscent of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil launch this superb “narco wars” adventure, set along the United States-Mexican border. Seldom have opposites clashed with such effect.
Best medical drama: Still Life. Terminal disease tests audiences and casts alike. Julianne Moore’s dementia shows how to do justice to both so you can empathise with dignity.
Best historical drama: The Imitation Game. Code-breaking becomes a cracking yarn in the story of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park.
Best biography: Selma. Martin Luther King deserved a great memorial, and this was it.
Best war drama: 13 Minutes. Runners up: Queen and Country, Woman in Gold. World War II and its aftermath is a bottomless pit. All of these threw new light on footnote episodes.
Best spy drama: Bridge of Spies. Another historical footnote comes to life with top performances in bleak Cold War Berlin.
Best mountain drama: Force Majeure. A Swedish examination of how a family survives a physical and emotional avalanche at an alpine resort.
Best sports drama: Foxcatcher. Money meets talent as two wrestling brothers tangle with a delusional and muderous billionaire.
Foreign language: Tangerines. Runners-up: Leviathan, Far From Men. All are excellent and the settings exotic — Georgia, Russia and Algeria. But it’s the universal themes that shine through the subtitles.
by NEVIL GIBSON