Genre of the Year: Spy movies
I went to see five spy films this year, a genre I don't usually watch that much, and they were all pretty good (Spooks: The Greater Good, Spy, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Man from UNCLE and Spectre). I also saw 5 films based on comics or graphic novels (Big Hero 6, Kingsman, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Fantastic Four), of which Ant-Man was one of the most fun, Big Hero 6 perhaps the best in terms of overall quality.
Best Action Scene: The Man From UNCLE
Action scenes are not really my thing. When they're really well done and feature a bit more in the way of plot than just the final outcome, I enjoy them, and I can appreciate a really well executed action scene, like the Morocco chase and fight in The Bourne Supremacy, the Qui Gonn/Darth Maul/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace or the dogfights in The Battle of Britain. (And I love racing scenes, from the chariot race in Ben-Hur to all of Rush and Senna). But part of the reason I've often been lukewarm on films like Star Wars and even The Avengers is that long action scenes tend to leave me cold. So while most would pick the underwater sequence from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation or the lightsaber duel from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens for Action Scene of the Year, my favourite was this much quirkier scene in The Man from UNCLE, in which, while Armie Hammer sets fire to boats and so on, Henry Cavill has a break in a van, listens to some music, and eats a sandwich, before going out into the bay to pick Hammer up. In the van.
Best Battle Scene: 'Hardhome', Game of Thrones
OK, so this is also kind of an action scene. But there's so much more to this than action, though the action itself is brilliantly done and thrilling (I thought they would save on the budget by having our heroes peer through the wall at quick glimpses of what was happening - boy, was I wrong!). It's also something that has no direct parallel in the books, so even though there were some predictable elements to who lived and who died, it was especially thrilling for book readers like me, who got to enjoy the anticipation of not being quite sure how this would play out for the first time (not counting whatever the heck was going on with Jaime in Dorne). And then there's that final moment, as you realise the full implications of a zombie army who don't eat their victims, but use them to make more zombies...
Best End Credits Sequence: Inside Out
The movie was great, and hanging out in Riley's brain was fun, but my favourite parts were the glimpses we got of other people's brains, so I loved the final credit sequence, in which we hopped into several different heads and got a glimpse at their emotions. (My brother also pointed out that every other character had emotions of one gender only, while Riley had both - whether that's because Riley is pre-pubescent, or because she sits somewhere else on the gender spectrum, is impossible to say). I love the runnings gags with the Brazilian helicopter pilot and the Triple Dent Gum commercial as well.
Best Die Hard Homage: 'Yippee Kayak', Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has cemented its place as my favourite current comedy this year, continuing to make great use of a brilliant ensemble cast and being frequently hilarious. The funniest episode of the year was also the last, a glorious homage to Die Hard which, thanks to the restrictions of its channel, switched the famous catchphrase to "Yippee kayak, other buckets!"
Most Shocking Scene of the Year: Episode Five, Series Six, Downton Abbey.
I can't talk about it, because it hasn't been on in America yet. If you've seen it, you know the one I mean. What really impressed me was that, despite the legally required warning at the top of the episode, the trailers and some earlier scenes had set me up to expect a totally different type of Incident, and I was genuinely shocked, something that rarely happens on TV nowadays. Brilliant work from Julian Fellowes and from the marketing team.
Most Homoerotic Surgery Scene: James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, Victor Frankenstein.
The best thing about Victor Frankenstein, a movie that wasn't great but was considerably better than some of the reviews might suggest, is that it's basically about a love triangle between Harry Potter, Mr Tumnus (or Professor X, if you prefer) and Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey.* McAvoy and Radcliffe both give it their all and McAvoy especially is hilarious (yelling about babies in vats at a fancy party, for example), but the movie hits true heights/depths of daftness in the scene in which Frankenstein performs surgery on Igor to remove his hump. By stripping him half naked, pouncing on him, and pinning him to a wall. As all the best surgeons do.
*Here's how I read the film: McAvoy's Frankenstein is desperate to bring life to the world, but he's gay, which in 19th century England means the usual means of creating life are unavailable to him. That's why he's yelling about babies in vats at parties and that's why he's so desperate to build a living being. I'm pretty sure this is genuinely what the film-makers, and especially McAvoy, were going for, but the film industry being what it is, they refused to come out and say it.
Graceful Exit of the Year: Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation's final season's setting in the far flung future of 2017 may be destined to age badly, but it was great fun to watch in early 2015, as we found out that in the series finale of Game of Thrones, the Khaleesi will marry Jack Sparrow, and Gary finally had a good idea. Finales are tricky things (or as a wise character once said in what turned out to be not-even-halfway-through his show, "endings are hard"), and while this one may not have been perfect, it was definitely up there with the least disappointing or generally frustrating ones. Honourable mention goes to Community's fourth and, it seems, final attempt at a series finale, and probably its best.
And finally, the standard Top 10s:
Top 10 TV Episodes
10. Season 5, Episode 6, Spiral (Engrenages)
9. Nelson v. Murdock, Daredevil
8. Trust No Bitch, Orange is the New Black
7. Clean Break, New Girl
6. Leslie and Ron, Parks and Recreation
5. Series 6, Episode 5, Downton Abbey
4. Kimmy Goes Outside!, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
3. Baby, Supernatural
2. Hardhome, Game of Thrones
1. Yippee Kayak, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Top 10 Movies
10. Ex Machina
9. Testament of Youth
7. The Martian
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
4. Inside Out
3. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. The Man from UNCLE
Much as we appear to be alone in this opinion, we (my brother and I) really loved The Man from UNCLE. It was funny, sexy, exciting, silly and stylish. Loved it.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.