2015 Endy Awards

These are the 2015 Endy Awards, wherein I pretend to give out maneki-neko statues to the best in that year in film. Awards for many other years can be found in the Rankings & Awards Index. Eligibility is determined by imdb date and by whether or not I’ve seen the movie in question. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. And the Endy goes to. . .


Best Picture:

1. Arabian Nights
2. The Assassin
3. Baahubali: The Beginning
4. Blackhat
5. Cemetery of Splendour
6. Happy Hour
7. Kaili Blues
8. Mad Max: Fury Road
9. Mountains May Depart
10. The Royal Road

Best Director:

1. Miguel Gomes, Arabian Nights
2. Hou Hsiao-hsien, The Assassin
3. Bi Gan, Kaili Blues
4. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Jia Zhangke, Mountains May Depart

Best Actor:

1. Michael B. Jordan, Creed
2. Wang Baoqiang, Detective Chinatown
3. Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful 8
4. Aaron Kwok, Port of Call
5. Jung Jaeyung, Right Now, Wrong Then

Honorable Mentions: Jafar Panahi (Taxi), Subaru Shibutani (La La La at Rock Bottom), Tom Courtenay (45 Years), Elmer Bäck (Eisenstein in Guanajuato), John Boyega (The Force Awakens), Li Wen (Li Wen at East Lake), Matt Damon (The Martian), Kurt Russell (The Hateful 8), Nick Cannon (Chi-Raq), Feng Xiaogang (Mr. Six), Guy Pearce (Results), and Tony Jaa (SPL 2).

Best Actress:

1. Shu Qi, The Assassin
2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
3. Daisy Ridley, The Force Awakens
4. Zhao Tao, Mountains May Depart
5. Kim Minhee, Right Now, Wrong Then

Honorable Mentions: Rooney Mara (Carol), Tang Wei (A Tale of Three Cities), Crista Alfaiate (Arabian Nights), Lola Kirke (Mistress America), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), Katana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine), Jenjira Pongpas (Cemetery of Splendour), Isabella Leong (Murmur of the Hearts), Ai Hashimoto (Little Forest: Winter/Spring), Bai Baihe (Go Away Mr. Tumor), Sarina Suzuki (La La La at Rock Bottom), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Elizabeth Moss (Queen of Earth), Carey Mulligan (Far from the Madding Crowd), Nithya Menen (O Kadhal Kanmani), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Agyness Deyn (Sunset Song), Akari Hayami (Forget Me Not) and the entire cast of Happy Hour.

Supporting Actor:

1. Michael Keaton, Spotlight
2. Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
3. Emory Cohen, Brooklyn
4. Harrison Ford, The Force Awakens
5. Walton Goggins, The Hateful 8

HM: Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), Michael Ning (Port of Call), Kevin Corrigan (Results), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Liev Schreiber (Spotlight), Adam Scott (Sleeping with Other People), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Chow Yun-fat (Office), Chico Chapas (Arabian Nights), and Liev Schreiber (Spotlight).

Supporting Actress:

1. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful 8
2. Greta Gerwig, Mistress America
3. Sylvia Chang, Mountains May Depart
4. Tang Wei, Office
5. Mya Taylor, Tangerine

HM: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Emma Stone (Aloha), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Jessie Li, (Port of Call), Viola Davis (Blackhat), Katherine Waterston (Queen of Earth), Sylvia Chang (Office), Tang Wei (Blackhat), Tang Wei (Monster Hunt), Hana Saeidi (Taxi), and Tessa Thompson (Creed).


Original Screenplay:

1. Evan Johnson, Robert Kotyk & Guy Maddin, The Forbidden Room
2. Luo Li, Li Wen at East Lake
3. Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach, Mistress America
4. Jenni Olson, The Royal Road
5. Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow

Adapted Screenplay:

1. Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo & Telmo Churro, Arabian Nights
2. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Chu Tien-wen, Hsieh Hai-Meng & Zhang Acheng, The Assassin
3. Phyllis Nagy, Carol
4. Andrew Haigh, 45 Years
5. George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nico Lathouris, Mad Max: Fury Road

Tough to leave a pair of adventurous Chinese films out of the Original Screenplay mix: Murmur of the Hearts and Kaili Blues. Laurie Anderson’s script for Heart of a Dog was another painful omission. And of course, the fact that Hong Sangsoo isn’t nominated is major Endy news. In fact, this is only the second year this century (the other being 2005) that neither a Hong nor a Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai film is nominated for Best Screenplay.

Non-English Language Film:

1. Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
2. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
3. Baahubali: The Beginning (SS Rajamouli)
4. Happy Hour (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
5. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

Baahubali is the big surprise here, as Rajamouli’s gonzo CGI musical epic gets the nod over fine films from established Endy favorites Johnnie To, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Hong Sangsoo.

Non-Fiction Feature:

1. Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson)
2. In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman)
3. Junun (Paul Thomas Anderson)
4. The Royal Road (Jenni Olson)
5. The Thoughts that Once We Had (Thom Andersen)

This is the strongest set of five Non-Fiction Feature nominees in Endy history.

Animated Feature:

1. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson)
2. Inside Out (Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen)
3. The Peanuts Movie (Steve Martino)
4. Shaun the Sheep Movie (Mark Burton & Richard Starzak)

Short Film:

1. Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson)
2. Greed: Ghost Light (Kim Nakyung)
3. Night Without Distance (Lois Patiño)
4. No No Sleep (Tsai Ming-liang)
5. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt)

Unseen Film:

1. Aferim! (Radu Jude)
2. Afternoon (Tsai Ming-liang)
4. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)

Film Editing:

1. The Assassin
2. 88:88
3. The Forbidden Room
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
5. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences


1. The Assassin
2. Kaili Blues
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Mountains May Depart
5. Night Without Distance

Production Design:

1. The Assassin
2. Baahubali: The Beginning
3. Crimson Peak
4. Office
5. The Witch

Costume Design:

1. The Assassin
2. Carol
3. Crimson Peak
4. Far from the Madding Crowd
5. Mad Max: Fury Road


1. Baahubali: The Beginning
2. Crimson Peak
3. The Forbidden Room
4. Jupiter Ascending
5. Mad Max: Fury Road


Original Score:

1. The Assassin
2. Blackhat
3. Heart of a Dog
4. O Kadhal Kanmani
5. The Revenant

Adapted Score:

1. Arabian Nights
2. The Hateful 8
3. La La La at Rock Bottom
4. Mountains May Depart
5. Office

Sound Design:

1. The Assassin
2. Blackhat
3. 88:88
4. Heart of a Dog
5. Topophilia

Sound Editing:

1. Blackhat
2. Crimson Peak
3. The Force Awakens
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Visual Effects:

1. Baahubali: The Beginning
2. The Forbidden Room
3. The Force Awakens
4. Go Away, Mr. Tumor
5. Jupiter Ascending


Predictions for the 88th Annual Academy Awards

These are my picks for the winners of this year’s Academy Awards. On Sunday night, I’ll be tweeting out the winners of the 2015 Endy Awards during the Oscar ceremony. You can follow me there @theendofcinema. Here are the current 2015 Endy Award Nominees. We also had a special Oscar edition of The George Sanders Show last weekend, picking our 2015 favorites and discussing two Oscar films from 1946, best Picture nominee The Razor’s Edge and Best Song nominee Canyon Passage. My predictions are the ones in bold.
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Running Out of Karma: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Running Out of Karma is my on-going series on Johnnie To, Hong Kong and
Chinese-language cinema. Here is an index.

A straight-to-Netflix multinational English language collaboration that is the sequel to the highest-grossing foreign language film in American history, Sword of Destiny reunites star Michelle Yeoh with the action choreographer from the first film, Yuen Woo-ping. Belonging more rightly to the CGI-driven Chinese wuxias of the 2010s (and the cheaper ones at that: it’s more Reign of Assassins than than Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons) the digitally-aided filmic art house wuxias of the early 2000s, the new film is worlds apart from Ang Lee’s original, and that’s, as much as anything, the difference between Lee and Yuen. What made the first film truly great is the combination their two sensibilities: Lee’s character-based approach to personal drama, romantic relationships constricted by social rules reflected in carefully composed, controllingly symmetrical compositions added to Yuen’s gorgeous choreography, every movement of the actors and stunt performers motivated by an ideology of fighting, reflecting their personalities, their worldview (Chow’s patient precision, Cheng’s wild flailing, Zhang’s exuberant virtuosity, Yeoh’s passionate intellectuality).

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30 Essential Wuxia Films

With the highly-anticipated release of two King Hu masterpieces on home video by the Masters of Cinema organization, as well as the critical success of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin last year, it seems like the wuxia film is making some inroads into the Western critical consciousness. So I thought I’d put together a guide to some of the essential films of the genre. The Chinese martial arts movie is generally split into two primary subgeneres: the kung fu film and the wuxia film. The kung fu film is newer and focuses primarily on hand-to-hand combat, it’s steeped in traditional fighting forms and there’s a general emphasis on the physical skill of the performer: special effects are generally disdained. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are its most famous practitioners and Lau Kar-leung its most important director.

Wuxia is a much older form, based ultimately in the long tradition of Chinese adventure literature, in classic novels such as The Water Margin or Journey to the West, or more contemporary works by authors like Louis Cha and Gu Long. Its heroes follow a very specific code of honor as they navigate the jianghu, an underworld of outlaws and bandits outside the normal streams of civilization. Wuxia films often incorporate fantasy elements, using special effects to allow their heroes to fly, shoot concentrated chi energy out of their hands (or eyes) and in other ways violate the laws of physics. Strictly speaking, wuxia should probably be confined to stories of code-following traveling knights-errant, but genres are a fluid and conventional thing, especially in Hong Kong, where films regularly mash together comedy, action, romance, melodrama and horror elements into a single impure whole, and as such, stark lines are difficult to draw. King Hu and Tsui Hark are the essential wuxia directors, and Jet Li, Ti Lung and Jimmy Wang Yu the genre’s greatest stars. The following is a list of 30 of the genre’s highlights, taking a reasonably expansive view of generic boundaries and arranged in chronological order:

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Running Out of Karma: The Fun, the Luck and the Tycoon

Running Out of Karma is my on-going series on Johnnie To, Hong Kong and
Chinese-language cinema. Here is an index.

Following up on the smash hit that was All About Ah-long, Johnnie To went back to television for a two-part film called The Iron Butterfly. I haven’t been able to track it down, but it looks to be a modern cop/Triad thriller, with Anthony Wong and Mark Cheng and action choreography by Yuen Bun, all of whom will resurface later in To’s career. His next theatrical feature was 1990’s Lunar New Year comedy The Fun, the Luck and the Tycoon, a loose remake of Eddie Murphy’s hit Coming to America that reunited To with Ah-long stars Chow Yun-fat and Sylvia Chang. While not the box office smash of To’s last two films with Chow, it was a financial success, but nonetheless was the last time the two stars would work with To until 2015’s Office. It’s an amiable film, lacking the hard, frankly unlikable, edge of To’s previous comedies, while at the same time demonstrating none of their daring. It’s the first truly ‘safe’ film he ever made.

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This Week in Rankings

One thing I forgot to mention in the last rankings update was that a thing I wrote for the website The Vulgar Cinema got published a while back. It was written to go along with a series of essays on Lau Kar-leung, which I guess didn’t materialize, but it’s a kind of timeline of Shaolin-related stories, mapping all the films I could think of into a generational chronology, from San Te and the 36th Chamber through the destruction of the Shaolin Temple, the spread of its various disciples and their fighting styles throughout Southern China, folk heroes like Fong Sai-yuk, Wong Fei-hung, Wing Chun up to Lau himself.

Some other reviews since the last update include the next step in the Running Out of Karma Johnnie To chronology, All About Ah-Long, and over st Seattle Screen Scene: The Coen Brothers’s new film Hail, Caesar!, the pair of Ip Man 3 and Monster Hunt, Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa and Michael Bay’s 13 Hours. As well anticipation is building for the 2015 Endy Awards. Nominations are up now, winners to be announced on Oscar Night at the end of this month. I’ve finished reformatting all the past Endy Awards posts for the new website, and I’ve also been cleaning up the Running Out of Karma, Review and Podcast Indices.

On The George Sanders Show, we’ve talked about Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey and Mismatched Couples and The Bad Sleep Well and Bastards.

These are the movies I’ve watched or rewatched over the last few weeks, and where they place on my year-by-year rankings.

So Dark the Night (Joseph H. Lewis) – 19, 1946
The Bad Sleep Well (Akira Kurosawa) – 14, 1960
Cracked Actor (Alan Yentob) – 20, 1975
Mismatched Couples (Yuen Woo-ping) – 38, 1985
Labyrinth (Jim Henson) – 27, 1986

All About Ah-Long (Johnnie To) – 13, 1989
Iron Monkey (Yuen Woo-ping) – 5, 1993
The Clone Wars (Dave Filoni) – 64, 2008
Bastards (Claire Denis) – 20, 2013
Top Five (Chris Rock) – 65, 2014

La La La at Rock Bottom (Nobuhiro Yamashita) – 16, 2015
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, & Galen Johnson) – 21, 2015
No No Sleep (Tsai Ming-liang) – 33, 2015
O Kadhal Kanmani (Mani Ratnam) – 37, 2015
Junun (Paul Thomas Anderson) – 42, 2015

In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel) – 47, 2015
Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) – 53, 2015
2015 Rolling (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) – 82, 2015
Xiao Kang (Tsai Ming-liang) – 84, 2015
Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip) – 87, 2015

Monster Hunt (Raman Hui) – 90, 2015
The Big Short (Adam McKay) – 95, 2015
Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray) – 98, 2015
Delusional Mandala (Lu Yang) – 105, 2015
From Vegas to Macau II (Wong Jing) – 109, 2015

Hail, Caesar! (The Coen Brothers) – 1, 2016
13 Hours (Michael Bay) – 2, 2016
The Monkey King 2 (Soi Cheang) – 3, 2016

Running Out of Karma: All About Ah-Long

Running Out of Karma is my on-going series on Johnnie To, Hong Kong and
Chinese-language cinema. Here is an index.

We’re now over two years into this project, intended as both a chronological journey through the work of Johnnie To and a highly digressive exploration of Chinese cinema. The digressions were in full effect in 2015, as I wrote and talked about the careers of Hou Hsiao-hsien and John Woo in detail. However, I’ve fallen farther behind than I would have liked on the filmography of To himself, with only two films covered over the past two years. I’m hoping to correct that this spring, with the goal of getting through To’s pre-Milkyway Image period by the end of 2016. We’ll see how that goes, but here’s the story so far:

After an auspicious, if commercially unsuccessful, debut with the New Wave wuxia The Enigmatic Case in 1980, To spent the early 80s working in Hong Kong television. In 1986 he returned to film working under Raymond Wong Bak-ming at the Cinema City studio, he he made the popular, if not especially distinguished comedies Happy Ghost 3 and Seven Years Itch. These were followed in 1988 by a pair of films, the smash hit farce The Eighth Happiness and the contemporary crime picture The Big Heat. He followed that up in 1989 with All About Ah-Long, a domestic melodrama that became the number one film of the year at the Hong Kong box office, the second year in a row a To film had accomplished that feat. The film reunited To with Eighth Happiness star Chow Yun-fat and Seven Years Itch star Sylvia Chang. Like all of To’s previous four films it was produced by Raymond Wong for Cinema City, but it is a much more dramatically ambitious work. Cinema City at their best was a freewheeling, anarchic studio where anything was possible. The loose atmosphere was responsible for some of the greatest films of the decade (in Hong Kong or otherwise), but also a whole lot of just bizarrely silly nonsense (the Yuen-Woo-ping directed Mismatched Couples, for example, in which Yuen tried to make Donnie Yen a star with a breakdancing comedy). The Eighth Happiness exemplified the lunatic side of the studio, an improvisational, tasteless and often hilarious comedy that helped establish the template for a certain type of all-star Lunar New Year comedy (a tradition that continues to this day).

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