Wikipedia defines a Mary Sue as “a fanmade character…a young or low-rank person who saves the day through extraordinary abilities. Often but not necessarily this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment.” It’s generally been considered a negative aspect of fan fiction, and Mary Sues are often referred to in a derogatory fashion by geeks. But now, that term is being used by some to describe Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I consider to be an unfortunate and stupid criticism. Not because Rey isn’t a Mary Sue (she absolutely is) but because WHO CARES?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… life went on. The Rebellion defeated the Empire, Han and Leia got together, Luke became a Jedi, and the galaxy kept on spinning. And now, we finally know what really happened next. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens we return to that mythological galaxy to discover that, much like our own world, things don’t end happily ever after and even the greatest victories are precursors to more struggle and heartache… but also more hope. And after watching The Force Awakens I couldn’t have more hope for the future of Star Wars, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have.
This week was supposed to be a fun, happy time for me. Not only are we only a week away from Christmas, but we’ve finally arrived at the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, my most anticipated movie of the year and the first cinematic look at a post-Battle-of-Endor Star Wars galaxy. This week should be a wonderful, triumphant celebration… but it isn’t. Instead I am anxiously awaiting the results of a biopsy of a mass on my cat’s lymph nodes, and struggling to keep him fed and medicated in the meantime. I can’t be excited about anything, even Star Wars, the way I would have been a week ago. But as it turns out, it is Star Wars itself that may be my saving grace in the middle of all this uncertainty and dread.
The thing about “docudramas” is that, while the really well-made ones can be thrilling and engaging and impactful (see: Spotlight), they are also very likely going to be understated, dry affairs to some extent or another. A stylized approach is never really expected for films that purport to directly dramatize real-world events, especially if they also want to educate the audience in the process. But with The Big Short, Adam McKay says “fuck that shit” and takes the dry and intellectual subject of the financial crisis and turns it into a furious, irreverent expose that entertains as well as any other movie this year while also being informative and intelligent. This is angry, provocative filmmaking, that illuminates and drives home exactly how much the elite financial world fucked us all over, and demonstrates how everyone basically allowed it to happen out of ignorance, stupidity, ego and greed.
I love Christmas, which is something my friends seem to always find endearingly out-of-character compared to my usual prickly, frustrated state. Perhaps it’s because for me, Christmas has always represented the kind of earnest emotion and community that I wish we saw more often in the world. Having said that, I know there are plenty of people and families for whom Christmas is just a big, stinking dysfunctional mess, and that there is more than enough crass commercialism surrounding the holiday for someone to be cynical about it. It is into this dichotomy that Michael Dougherty drops a giant goat-demon, like you do. Krampus might not live up to the tremendous example of Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat but it is nevertheless a great monster movie and a great Christmas movie in equal measure.
This is it, folks: the last month of 2015. It’s been a damn good year with tons of great films, and that trend looks to continue right up to the final buzzer. And for me, it feels like the whole year has just been a prelude to the last two films on this list. These films are the latest installments in cinematic bloodlines that have defined movies for me as much as anything else that ever hit the big screen, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next. Chances are you can probably guess which ones those are in advance, but for those who can’t you can see for yourself after the jump.