(Australian Associated Press)
While Harrison Ford hurtled across the galaxy, Kate Winslet dressed the Aussie Outback in what was a year of predictable hits and surprise successes at the movies.
Bombastic sequels such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron kept audiences in popcorn fare, but Aussie filmmakers proved a local hit can be just as enticing to cinemagoers.
The Force awoke this year as Star Wars returned and Jedimania swept across the world. The seventh instalment in the space saga landed in cinemas just before Christmas to glowing reviews from critics and fans alike who saw it as a return to form for the film franchise. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill all reprised their original roles while director JJ Abrams injected some of the spirit from the original vision of creator George Lucas into the latest incarnation. Early reports showed that the film had already broken records for the most tickets sold for any film’s entire theatrical run.
YEAR OF THE FILM BLOCKBUSTER
Blockbusters reigned supreme in 2015. James Bond returned for yet another adventure in Spectre and the Hunger Games franchise wrapped up after failing to match the outstanding box office debuts of its previous three instalments. Then there was Pitch Perfect 2 with Aussie comedienne Rebel Wilson, Mad Max: Fury Road by Aussie director George Miller and the Avengers: Age of Ultron. Added to the mix was Jurassic World, Fast and Furious and The Martian, which happened to emerge when water was found on Mars. Spooky or what?
The handsome blond brothers from Victoria’s Phillip Island set Hollywood ablaze this year. Chris Hemsworth starred in Ron Howard’s thriller In The Heart Of The Sea, a true maritime story that was the inspiration behind Moby Dick. The film unfortunately flopped at the box office but luckily the actor had more success in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to The Avengers, which topped the charts earlier in the year. He also had a comedic role in the fifth instalment of National Lampoon’s Vacation series, Vacation, and was announced to star in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.
Younger brother Liam Hemsworth was in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and starred as a hunky footballer who wins Kate Winslet’s heart in the hit Aussie flick The Dressmaker.
Despite Hugh Jackman’s star power, his Peter Pan movie failed to fly at the North American box office, ranking among the year’s biggest flops alongside Fantastic Four and Tomorrowland. Other flicks that disappointed included thriller Momentum, featuring Morgan Freeman, Hawaii-set romantic comedy Aloha, Adam Sandler’s comedy, Pixels, and the aforementioned In The Heart Of The Sea.
She’s a past Oscar winner, one of our most celebrated actors and this year Cate Blanchett bagged more accolades to prove it. Blanchett was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in 1950s lesbian romance, Carol, putting her on track for her seventh Oscar invite.
It was one of two Oscar-worthy films for Blanchett this season: the other was Truth, about American 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes.
Blanchett was also honoured by her Aussie peers at the 5th AACTA Awards with the Longford Lyall Award in a year she moved her family to the US, adopted a baby girl, Edith Vivian Patricia Upton, and maintained the rage over sexism on the red carpet.
Several films were accused of whitewashing. Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas apologised for whitewashing his upcoming film based on Egyptian mythology. When the trailer was released, it was immediately slammed on social media with celebrities leading the call for more diversity in casting.
Aloha, in which US actress Emma Stone plays a half Hawaiian/Chinese character, also drew criticism for failing to hire enough Asian-Pacific Islanders to appear in the film, which is set in Hawaii.
There was also an online outcry about the Peter Pan prequel, Pan, which cast a Caucasian actress (Rooney Mara) as the famous Native American character Tiger Lily, while The Martian attracted criticism for hiring white and black actors to play Asian roles.
GENDER PAY GAP:
Patricia Arquette railed against the industry’s gender-based wage gap during an impassioned acceptance speech at the Oscars, where she won the Best Supporting Actress gong for her role in Boyhood.
“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all,” Arquette demanded.
Hollywood’s highest-profile stars, such as Meryl Streep, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence chimed in, helping put the issue well and truly in the spotlight.
It was the year we went back – back to the future. We finally reached the day that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part II.
The significant milestone set in the classic 1980s film was reached on October 21, 2015, with fans across the globe marking the seminal moment.
Epic sequels with high-octane escapism came up trumps. Stories ranged from a genetically modified dinosaur breaking loose and going on a bloody rampage (Jurassic World), to a rogue special forces assassin seeking revenge for his comatose brother (Fast and Furious 7). A superhero team joining to defeat a mechanical artificial intelligence hell-bent on human extinction (The Avengers: Age of Ultron) and of course, a new war raged in the galaxy with the appearance of a new villain, Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
HOW AUSSIE FILMS FARED:
The post-apocalyptic blockbuster by Aussie filmmaker George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road, reigned supreme, even firming as an Oscar hope.
Dark comedy drama The Dressmaker, had it all sewn up as star Kate Winslet carried off arguably the best imitation of an Australian accent ever.
Oddball, a heart-warming movie about a hero dog that protects a colony of penguins, came in third, followed by Russell Crow’s Water Diviner.
2016 HIT PREDICTIONS:
Next year’s line-up looks strong, with the greatest gladiator match ever promised with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Captain America and Finding Dory, the sequel to the hit animated flick Finding Nemo, are due to hit screens as well as superhero film Suicide Squad.
The Avengers will continue to protect the world. Superhero action flick Deadpool and X-Men Apocalypse add to the line-up.
Other sequels to fight for attention in 2016 will be Zoolander 2, Ghostbusters and Bridget Jones’s Baby.
THE AUSTRALIAN BOX OFFICE TOP TEN FOR 2015
1. Jurassic World – $52.9 million
1. Fast and Furious 7 – $43.3 million
3. The Avengers: Age of Ultron – $40.1 million
4. Minions – $32.8 million
5. Inside Out – $31.1 million
6. Pitch Perfect 2 – $28.1 million
7. The Martian – $26.8 million
8. Fifty Shades of Grey – $23.7 million
9. Spectre – $22.4 million
10.Cinderella – $22.2 million
TOP AUSSIE FILMS AT THE AUSTRALIAN BOX OFFICE IN 2015 (final figures not yet released)
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. The Dressmaker
4. The Water Diviner
5. Paper Planes
* Source: Motion Picture Distributers Association of Australia as at November 25, 2015.