Fury Road 2

One of the things that stuck with me from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was the number of folks who lamented about the quality of films that were being released in 2015. While some praised the strong crop of films, there was a large vocal contingent who noted that there were numerous “good” films, but very few “great” ones. Unlike previous years where, like knights from prestigious households, certain films marched out of the festival with the unanimous stamp of excellence firmly planted on their crest, no one could agree on a clear champion to rally behind. Being good was simply not good enough.

It is strange to think that we have reached a point where having too many “good” films would be considered a bad thing, but here we are. However, does a lack of uniform agreement, or at least a majority ruling, truly denote a poor year for cinema? Or is it simply a reflection of the shifting climate in viewing habits?

With a buffet of films being brought out on a shiny silver platter each week, now more than ever, cinephiles can indulge in whatever their heart desires. Whether in the mood for savory drama, spicy romance, exotic horror, a juicy foreign dish, or simply some quick blockbuster junk food, there is no shortage of menu items to choose from. This is a far cry from the days when, as my mother would say, you had to “eat what you were given.” That era not too long removed when, depending on the region one lived in, and the level of disposable income one had, the choices were limited to what was available at either the local theatre or the video store.

Granted, less films where produced in those days, or at least it felt that way.

Considering the wealth of films that are produced yearly, TIFF had three hundred alone, and that is only one of several prestigious festival which display new works, it seems peculiar to declare 2015 a “weaker” year than usual simply because a clear favourite has not yet been crowned. I cannot help but wonder if the abundance of choice is somehow diluting the ability for some to truly appreciate the bounty of good films being released. Similar to a contestant on the show The Bachelor, it seems that we are becoming more concerned with the quest for an ideal vision of perfection rather than reveling in the beautiful bounty before us.


We are already starting to see early examples of this as award season ramps up and studios send out their “For Your Consideration” screeners hoping to standout from the crowded pack. The Gotham Awards stirred up some debate recently over its selection of nominations this year. Academy Awards pundits like The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg lamented that the Gotham Awards did little to indicate potential Oscar contenders, while Indiewire’s Samuel Adams argued that it is wrong to expect movie awards to dictate the Oscars.

While the actual value of critical awards, in relations to the Academy Awards, is debatable – I say this fully aware that I am a happy card carrying member of one of those critical groups – the diversity of each group’s nominations is something to be valued, not chastised.

As if taking a stroll through a museum that never ends, once and a while it is nice to have someone point out the smaller exhibits that we might have otherwise missed. Though it would be great if films such as Tangerine and Heaven Knows What, two indie films I was quite fond of this year, got more notice, the fact of the matter is that they will always lose out to more accessible fare like Ant-Man and The Martian. Who knows, maybe that might be the problem right there. In a time when a smorgasbord of films can be viewed anytime, and anywhere, people still tend to cling to the familiar.

It is easy to be disappointed by the slate of films if one only sticks within the confines of that which is comfortable. This is not to say films cannot transcend the familiar flock. Depending on who you speak to, some would argue that films like Mad Max: Fury Road fits the bill. Regardless of whether or not such a film truly exists in 2015, a homogeneous voice is not necessarily the barometer that we should use. Instead the focus should be on embracing the quality within the quantity.

Are there too many films being released these days? Probably. However, there is still plenty of gold to mine within the dense stream. One just needs to be willing to wade into unfamiliar waters to find them.


  1. I have not attended a film festival, and I had not heard any talk about this being a disappointing year for films, but that isn’t keeping me from having an opinion on this topic. 🙂

    I think this is at least partially a symptom of the “been there, done that” reaction. People who once were dazzled by stories, directors, actors, etc. that were new to them now are more jaded (or experienced, if you prefer) and the things that once dazzled them now just fall into the “good, but not great” category. They are looking for something new in their experience and perhaps not finding it.

    You can tell when a professional critic has reached the point of no return because he or she starts praising ANY movie that is different regardless of how good it actually is. Someone who has had to sit down and watch a romantic comedy, or action film, or tearjerker for the umpteenth time suddenly is presented with something they’ve rarely or even never seen before and they almost can’t help having a positive reaction to it. The problem is that those experiences are few and far between the more movies you have seen, so often the best you can hope for is seeing “good, but not great” movies.

    1. I can definitely see how more films being produced can lead to the “been there, done that” reaction. You also raise an interesting point about films being praised for merely being different rather than actually being good. A friend on Facebook recently made a similar argument regarding Victoria, a film which I really enjoyed. He remarked that, like Mike Figgis’ Timecode, a film that was hailed for being daring in its time, Victoria was being praise for being innovated instead of being good. I don’t necessarily agree in relation to Victoria, however, I think we are all guilty of falling into that trap with a film or two each year.

  2. I was just thinking about this same thing recently when someone asked me what I thought of this year’s films so far? And my response was also that there were many “good” films, but only I few that completely blew me away.

    I think the abundance of films is part of the reason since I find myself subconciously comparing preparing films with similar themes/styles/genre so the film has a higher bar to clear. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    I like that we don’t have too much consensus on THE MASTERPIECE though, it leaves room for more debate around a wider variety of films.

    1. Although it does help to place a gauge on where the bar is set, the abundance of films can make comparing a work to others within the genre or style an endless cycle. Plus, sometimes films that we initially dismiss as not meeting the high standards for which the bar is set, reveals their brilliance upon second or third viewing.

      I too like the debates that lack of consensus can stir up. Similar to the Birdman vs. Boyhood arguments, I was in the corner of the latter, I think such discussions help to elevate our appreciation of particular films much further.

  3. That’s a thoughtful piece of writing. I have to say I am struggling to create my list of top 10 films of the year. Normally, I am trying to whittle the list down from 20/25, as November begins. But this year? I am having to work at it, much harder than usual.

    1. Hopefully the last two months of 2015 will help to make your top ten list a bit more difficult to compile. There are still a lot of promising titles coming to close out the year.

  4. When You are exposed to the audiovisual culture, and most of Us are, You know a good movie when You see it. The story, the characters, the cinematography. We should appreciate the cinema as it is. There is a lot of room in this art ( in any art). I believe that people likes to see different stories even those with not a perfect film language.

  5. Thoughful post, Courtney. I’m not sure if I agree that there weren’t any great movies this year, but I do agree that ones that seemed to be garnering lots of initial attention, like About Ray or The Danish Girl, or Freeheld, do in fact fall into the category of good but not great.
    And you’re right about both Mad Max and The Martian blowing me away – but people (and critics) being too snobby to be able to give those the props they deserve.

    1. I think part of reason About Ray and Freeheld underperformed, both from a financial and critical standpoint, was that they had Oscar level expectations thrust on them at the beginning of the year simply because of the casting and subject matter. Gone are the days when buzz use to build after people actual saw the films. Though The Danish Girl has been getting a lot of good word-of-mouth, it falls in that same category of being hyped long before anyone actually saw it. This is probably another reason why so many people are becoming disappointed in the selections this year, they are going into films after months of hearing others predict how great it will be.

      I completely agree with you regarding Mad Max. While I didn’t love The Martian as much as everyone else, including my wife, seems to, I was still thoroughly entertained by the film and can understand why so many are taken with it.

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