Best Movie of 2015?

My writer friend, Dan Essman, and I carry on a lively email conversation throughout the year about movies we love and movies we hate, and all of those in-between.  Dan reviews films for his local press, so he sees a lot.  

We often disagree, but we're completely in sync about this year's winner:  Alex Garland's sci-fi masterpiece, "Ex Machina."  I'd argue it puts a modern spin on men's hunger to rescue damsels in distress; and Dan's inclined to agree.  That's what makes a great film great, that it asks big questions and makes us think.

Here's Dan Essman:

Favorite Movie of the Year:  Ex Machina

For me and my kind, the best movie of 2015 is the science fiction thriller “Ex Machina,” written and directed by Alex Garland. “Ex Machina” is a dramatized Turing Test. A feminist essay. A technology gone bonkers puzzler. A character study with twisty, devious characters. An alien invasion flick. A scary pastoral. Also, it's Elon Musk's and Bill Gates' putative nightmare. 

And it's slightly comedic.

A computer nerd is taken from his city day job to his boss's remote country laboratory to
interview a disturbingly feminine android. The nerd's assignment over the course of a week is to answer the question: Is she/it conscious, or is she/it just an exceedingly clever program? This is a life-size Turing Test. 

The nerd's (Domhnall Gleeson) technical problem is complicated by the erratic and bullying behavior of his boss (Oscar Isaac), who likes to dance and have sex with hisfemale Japanese servant...or maybe she's some sort of slave. And further messing with our protagonist's head, there's the android (Alicia Vikander) who is hauntingly beautiful. She's a cypher with a calm and subtly beseeching feminine voice and seems to be a woman despite having a semi-transparent torso. It's the deftness of filmmaker Alex Garland that we the viewers are
compelled to accept the nerd's dilemmas and confusions as our own.

Elon Musk is afraid of A.I.. Bill Gates is quite vocal in his warnings about the creation of nonhuman intelligences. “Ex Machina” embodies this fear; but writer/director Garland shapes the android like a woman. 

Is he expressing a male's sense that women are in some sense “other,” unknowable and thus untrustworthy...even threatening?When I pose that question to myself, “Ex Machina” becomes a psychological strip show of masculine paranoia and joins the rank of great movies that unbuckle the Unconscious and tell us who we are...who we actually are. 

What a great flick!

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