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Author Topic: The Best Films of 2015  (Read 3463 times)
Smmenen
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« on: January 10, 2016, 04:58:34 am »

It's that time of year again!  I inaugurated this some time ago, and Klep usually gets the jump on me, but here we go.

First of all, the list: http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/year/2015

Although we use that source every year, I think this may be a better list: http://www.movieinsider.com/movies/-/2015

I think there are some things messed up about that list as well, so you can find other lists online, including Wikipedia's, which is fairly comprehensive.

For reference, here is the rotten tomatoes top 100: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/top/bestofrt/?year=2015

Before I give my top list, here are the films I've seen that were released in 2015:

Match
Ex Machina
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Jurassic World
Focus
San Andreas
Mad Max: Road Fury
Inside Out
Amy
Black Panthers: Vanguard of Revolution
Straight Outta Compton
Beasts of No Nation
Bridge of Spies
Spotlight
The Martian
Black Mass
Spectre
Creed
In the Heart of the Sea
The Big Short
Chi-Raq
The Revenant
Star Wars
Steve Jobs
Hateful Eight

I saw a good deal of films this year, with most in the last few months.  

The Big Picture

Overall, the films released this year were pretty good, but there were no high notes that reached the level of Boyhood, Birdman or Intersteller this year.

Aside from Star Wars, the big block blusters dissapointed.  I had the highest hopes for Spectre, which dissappointed the most because because Christoph Waltz is awesome, and the Sam Smith song was insane, and the other Daniel Craig Bond films were so good.  The Avengers and Jurassic World were also middling fare.  In fact, I thought Jurassic World, aside from Chris Pratt's performance, was actually worse than Jurassic Park 3.  

Also, everyone, including all of the critics, somewhat surprisingly, are on the Mad Max bandwagon.  To me, Mad Max was this year's Grand Budapest Hotel - highly stylized, amazing technical achievement, but narratively unsatisfying. Well done, but overrated.  

On the acting front, there was many terrific performance, but I'd say that Leo Dicaprio is a mortal lock for Revenant.  It may be one of the single greatest non-Brando performances I've ever seen.

That said, my two favorite films of the year were Sci-Fi.  Here we go:

1) The Martian

This film was just superb.  It felt real throughout, was perfectly performed - never overacted, and perhaps even a bit understated.  It was gripping yet exhilarating.  This was an unforgettable film.

2) Ex Machina

This was the first Oscar Isaac film I saw, and when I watched HBO's Show Me a Hero, I didn't even realize it was the same actor!  

This movie was thought provoking and pitch perfect in so many of the ways that The Martian was, but much sparer.  Although the issues addressed are different, they, to me, are mapping out similar territory.  Brilliant film.  Loved every minute, including the end.

Props to Chris Pikula for recommending this.  

3) Creed

I loved almost everything about this film. First of all, I"m a huge fan of Fruitvale Station.  In the 2013 list, I ranked it as the best film of the year (http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=46000.0).  Same director and star here, but opening up new territory in a 1970s franchise.  Also, the actress from Dear White People, Tessa Thompson, is here, and she's just terrific.   This film was entertaining, gripping, and, although formulaic in some respects, also novel in others.  The completely unspoken, but powerful, subtext here is race - and the way in which the Italian Stallion treats Apollo Creed's son as a surrogate son, etc.  There is real tension, real drama, and real power here because of the capable cast and director.

4) Match

Match is really an analog to Creed.  Patrick Stewart gave a flawless performance in a spare film that, I understand, is based off a play.  

5) The Big Short

Everyone should see this film.

Runners Up

I don't really feel strongly about the rest of the films, but I really liked Bridge of Spies, Chi-Raq, Star Wars, Inside Out, Amy among others.

Chi-Raq is probably not for everyone, but it tackles an important issue, and, imo, is a daring and courageous experiment. I bought it, but I'm a sucker for greek plays.

I think I liked Bridge of Spies more than it was good; but there were elements that were so excellent it was difficult to be objective.  I didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I did.  

NWA was pretty good, but it was a little romantic (by that I mean it treated it's subjects a bit too partially).

There were films like Beasts of No Nation and The Revenant which, for me, were more about the performance or the technical achievement than the narrative, but were still entertaining films.  Boy did Oscar Isaac and Tom Hardy have good years. Domhnall Gleeson, too. Sheesh.  
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Klep
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2016, 11:35:55 am »

First off, someone on Letterboxd kept a list of every film to get a release in New York in 2015: http://letterboxd.com/alexfung/list/new-york-city-2015-commercial-releases/.  I suspect that list is as good a resource as we're going to get unless someone can find a list of Los Angeles releases (which would basically list Oscar qualifying films).

Down to brass tacks.  As of yesterday I've seen 84 feature films this year and 3 shorts.  I tried to catch as many of the particularly important films as I could, though I have not managed to find an opportunity to see Anomalisa, Son of Saul, 45 Years, or Youth, all of which come very highly recommended by all critics I respect who have seen them.  The full ranking can be seen at this list: http://letterboxd.com/klep/list/2015-films-ranked/.

Without question the best short I've seen this year is Don Hertzfeldt's World of Tomorrow, a science fiction story of a young girl contacted by her future self that manages to completely dismantle you emotionally over the course of its 15 minute runtime.  I highly recommend tracking it down and giving it a watch.  But on to the meat....


My Top 10 Feature Films of 2015
1. Inside Out
Probably Pixar's best film to date, finally getting to the heart of their common theme of emotional development and growing up by dealing with those things about as literally as possible.  The result is a powerful experience. I ugly cried at this one.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road
The best action film of the year; perhaps any year.  Thrilling sequence after thrilling sequence, gorgeous digital cinematography, fully realized characters.  It's true that the plot is simple, but it isn't unsatisfying to me. It's a story of how redemption for your sins can't be found by running from them; only once you've confronted them directly can you truly atone for the past and overcome the hold they have on you.

3. Carol
Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt about a romance between two women.  The performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are among the best I've seen; delicately and carefully circling one another as they fall in love - Blanchett cagey because she's in a delicate situation and has been burned before, Mara uncertain and confused because it's her first time.  The period production is beautiful and the stakes of being found out make for another exemplary feature.

4. The Look Of Silence
The companion piece to director Joshua Oppenheimer's earlier The Act of Killing about the perpetrators of the mass murderers of "communists" in Indonesia in the 60's.  Those killers are still alive today, and still powerful and respected members of their communities.  This film incredibly finds a man brave enough to directly confront these monsters over the killing of his brother, including some of the men directly responsible.

5. The Duke of Burgundy
Another tale of a lesbian relationship, though in a completely different context.  Indeed, it's entirely possible this film is set in some alternate reality where there are no men at all; this director isn't making any kind of statement about transgression even though the core relationship is a dom/sub one.  Instead, it's a powerful tale about the difficulties of maintaining a relationship even when both parties deeply love each other.  We all make compromises or sacrifices of various kinds because we love our partners and want to see them happy.

6. Sicario
This is the second collaboration between director Dennis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins.  It's an ugly and unsettling tale of an FBI agent drawn unwittingly into the shadow war between the CIA and the Mexican cartels, learning the horror of that conflict and slowly losing pieces of her soul.  This features some of the best cinematography of the year with a chilling score and some fantastic performances.  The way Villeneuve and Deakins seem to enjoy working together makes me excited for their next project: the sequel to Blade Runner.

7. Phoenix
While this year's most talked-about Holocaust drama is Son of Saul, this one should not go overlooked.  Immediately after the war a survivor of the camps recuperates from reconstructive surgery and attempts to track down her husband, who was not himself Jewish.  When she finds him he does not recognize her, and he suggests a scheme to use her to impersonate his wife to get at her money.  The result is a very powerful drama and it ends with one of the best shots of the year.

8. Bridge of Spies
You people need to stop taking Steven Spielberg for granted.  The man makes another masterpiece and the world shrugs and says "Oh, it's only a minor masterpiece from one of the world's greatest living filmmakers. We get those all the time."  Yes, we do, and we should be more grateful.   The same goes for Tom Hanks.

9. The Hateful Eight
Probably the most Tarantino movie the man has ever made, though not the best (probably either Jackie Brown or Inglourious Basterds).  Still, it's another thrilling revenge parable short in GLORIOUS 70MM. It takes a man who treats his film's conversations with the delicate care of a major action sequence to use 70mm to shoot a chamber drama.

10. When Marnie Was There
Another film I spent a lot of time ugly crying after.  This is Studio Ghibli's final film before their hiatus and - though not made by Miyazaki himelf - it is clearly very heavily influenced by him.  I can't really say too much substantive about the plot without spoiling things, but it's probably safe to say that it's about a young orphan girl trying to find her place in the world.

There's a number of films that were very close to making it into this top 10, and on any other day they might.  Room, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Clouds of Sils Maria, Crimson Peak, and more are all excellent features.  On my linked list I'd unreservedly recommend basically anything from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on up. 

Most Overlooked Film: Magic Mike XXL
A lot of people (particularly guys) didn't go to see this because they don't imagine what it could possibly offer to them.  But it's actually the most pure fun road trip movie I've ever seen and you're all missing out.

Weirdest Film: The Forbidden Room
A nesting doll of short stories shot and acted like old silent pictures (complete with occasional intertitles).  I'll just leave this clip here and let you judge for yourselves: The Final Derriere.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2016, 01:16:28 pm »

To me, Mad Max was this year's Grand Budapest Hotel - highly stylized, amazing technical achievement, but narratively unsatisfying. Well done, but overrated.    

Mediocre?
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Smmenen
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2016, 08:19:31 pm »

To me, Mad Max was this year's Grand Budapest Hotel - highly stylized, amazing technical achievement, but narratively unsatisfying. Well done, but overrated.    

Mediocre?

No, not mediocre. Astounding in some respects, and thin in others. 
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2016, 08:54:24 pm »

Furious 7 was one of the best films of this year as well. It was very entertaining and had around a 7/10 by most reviews
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Smmenen
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2016, 07:15:04 pm »

Really glad that the Martian won two key golden globes, as I thought it was superb. Also, thought that Leo deserved best actor in a drama, and Sly in best supporting role was perfectly legit. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2016, 01:26:17 pm »

To me, Mad Max was this year's Grand Budapest Hotel - highly stylized, amazing technical achievement, but narratively unsatisfying. Well done, but overrated.    

Mediocre?

No, not mediocre. Astounding in some respects, and thin in others. 

Man, I thought everyone would get my bad joke.
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2016, 02:42:40 pm »

I got it buddy. WITNESS ME!
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2016, 09:54:51 am »

I saw 10 movies from 2015 in total:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Inside Out
Hateful Eight
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
Jupiter Ascending
Insurgent
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Revenant

My Top 3:
1. Inside Out
This movie was truly incredible.  Entertaining, spectacular animation, and a deeper message.  On top of this the fact that this is being used now as a teaching tool for psychologists, shows just how much it ascends past just being entertainment.  In my mind this should be the first animated film to win Best Picture.

2. Hateful Eight
This was classic Tarantino.  If you loved Pulp Fiction, you should like this.  The imagery, acting, subtle comedy was all there on full display, in a classic story of who done it.

3. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
This was a well executed blockbuster film with some non-traditional action scenes with deep messages about trust and finding happiness (or not sadness?).  While I probably enjoyed this movie the most, it can't stand alone without the other 3 movies so I can't put it higher than the other two.

Honorable mention:
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials
Dylan O'Brien is such a fantastic actor, and he does another great job leading the 2nd movie of the Post Apocalyptic blockbuster Trilogy.  It was a almost a completely distinct story from the first of the Trilogy, but ran into the problem of not really having a true ending.

Most Overrated Movie of the Year:
The Revenant
While the imagery, music, and performance by DiCaprio were fantastic, the simplistic, unoriginal story was rife with historical and biological inaccuracies.  In addition, Tom Hardy's dry performance created a villain straight out of a 1980's action movie.  In general this resembled Rambo more than a best picture.
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2016, 10:54:48 pm »

I saw 19

taken 3
American Sniper
Jupiter Ascending
Kingsman
Avengers Age of Ultron
Mad Maxx: Fury Road
Entourage
Jurassic World
Inside Out
Ted 2
Minions
Ant Man
Mission Impossible - Rouge Nation
Straight Outta Compton
Bridge of Spies
The Mockingjay, Part 2
Star Wars
Joy
The Revenant

Top 5 in no particular order

Kingsman: Amazing satire  wrapped up in a super fun action film
Bridge of Spies: TH and SS - national treasures we take for granted
Mad Maxx: I take it back, there is an order and Mad Maxx is #1
Ant Man: waaay better then I feared and I have soft spot for heist films
The Revenant: pretty, brutal, vicious, I can't seem to get some of the scenes out of my head

Surprisingly meh (other people seemed to love them)
American Sniper
Inside Out

Most Disappointing:
Jupiter Ascending

Movie that I loved, but isn't very good :
Jurassic  World

Movies I that I'll probably catch eventually (recommendations?):
Selma
McFarland, USA
It Follows
Run All Night
The Woman in Gold
Furious 7
Ex Machina
America Ultra
Sicario
Everest
The Last Witch Hunter
Spectre
Spotlight
Creed
The Good Dinosaur
Heart of the Sea
Big Short
The Hateful 8
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2016, 11:42:30 pm »

Kingsman: Amazing satire  wrapped up in a super fun action film

Ah I forgot this was a 2015 movie.  I agree definitely a fun film.  One of the most interesting concepts for a super villain I think I've ever seen.
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2016, 09:04:20 am »

I've seen most of the Oscar hopeful movies, God bless the screeners, and one movie I barely  see mentioned in this thread is Sicario.  The movie is unbelievably good.  Psychologically violent and tense, I believe Denis Villeneuve should win Best Director for the movie.  Benicio Del Torro takes home his second Oscar for best supporting actor.

I loved ex-machina.  Star Wars a Force Awakens was exceptional.  The Hateful Eight was enjoyable but has flaws.  The Revenant was very good but not deserving of best picture, the Big Short was the most poignant and best film of the year (I only have problems with its cinematography).  Steve Jobs will get some Oscar nominations but no wins.  Mad Max is over rated.  The Marsian was overall great and would be my second choice for Best Picture.  Joy is a great movie and would recommend it to watch with your girlfriend.

Trumbo is hard to watch, because it's over an injustice that doesn't move me.

I still need to see Carol, Bridge of Spys, the Danish Girl, creed, spotlight, Brooklyn, room, and love & mercy.


1) the big short
2) the Martian
3) the force awakens
4) sicario
5) ex-mechanic
6) the hateful eight
7) the revenant

Note: I missed the Hunger games but will see it eventually.

Edit: and Sicario got screwed over in the nominations.  Guess it didn't make enough money. 

Glad to see Tom Hardy get nominated for the first time. 
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« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2016, 11:22:55 am »

Oscar nominees are out, and you'll need snow goggles to keep from being blinded by the whiteness. Even in the one nomination they gave to Straight Outta Compton (Original Screenplay), they managed to avoid nominating any black people.  The other notable snub was Carol, which received 6 nominations but none for Best Picture or Best Director.

This also marks the first year where I've already seen all the Best Picture nominees.

Here's a full list, with notes on what got nominated for what: http://letterboxd.com/klep/list/oscar-nominated-films-for-2015/
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« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2016, 03:25:52 am »

There is definitely a lack of diversity in the nominations, but I think the best picture nominees met the mark. I agree with the winner more often than not. I prefereed Boyhood and Crash in years past, but I'm wondering if The Martian is a serious dark horse contender.
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2016, 03:13:54 pm »

one movie I barely  see mentioned in this thread is Sicario.  The movie is unbelievably good.  Psychologically violent and tense, I believe Denis Villeneuve should win Best Director for the movie.  Benicio Del Torro takes home his second Oscar for best supporting actor.

I also watched this the other night on the recommendation from Klep in this thread. It was fantastic. Josh Brolin was great also with his aura of control, confidence and almost righteous authority. BDT was able to take scenes without saying hardly anything. Emily Blunt was perfect as the patsy, you could sympathize enough with her to feel bad as her world view gets battered around and eventually shattered. Super film, surprised it didn't get a nod in something, but I haven't seen some of the other films that beat it out.

Oscar nominees are out, and you'll need snow goggles to keep from being blinded by the whiteness. Even in the one nomination they gave to Straight Outta Compton (Original Screenplay), they managed to avoid nominating any black people.

They also avoided Chinese American people, Pakistani American people, and a huge number of nominees are right handed which personally left me feeling excluded. Are movies featuring not 'white people' supposed to get special dispensation? I honestly don't know. Was Creed or SoCs blackness a factor for inclusion or exclusion in your opinion? I saw both and didn't really hone in on their inherent blackness or whiteness. I was more upset that they left Ren out of the story for the most part, he's also black. For semi-biographical takes like The Big Short, Spotlight or Bridge of Spies where no black people or Chinese people were actually involved do you feel like they should go out of their way to add black people or a random Mexican person? In SooC would a Japanese Eazy-E have made sense? Do you think the Academy voters hate black people consciously or do you think they subconsciously dismiss superior efforts of black people?
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2016, 09:49:16 pm »

The Academy Awards are notoriously biased for a certain type of movie: a heavy dark drama with violence and a male white lead.  Rarely do they depart from this model.  So just take it for what it is.  The movie has to be exceptional to violate their typical bias.
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« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2016, 11:55:33 pm »

It's not necessarily a problem of conscious bias on the part of the Academy members; they just happen to be something like 90+% white.  People have an easier time connecting to films with characters like them, which means the Academy members are predisposed to select movies about white people.

It's not that any of the films nominated (except The Revenant) aren't worthy of nomination; those are all great films (except The Revenant). There's just also a bunch of great films last year that are about non-white characters.  The Assassin, Creed, Chi-Raq, Tangerine, and Straight Outta Compton are all films about non-white characters that spring to mind which all received critical acclaim and had great performances from their leads besides.  Rinko Kikuchi put in an excellent performance in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter and Shameik Moore in Dope.  And yet somehow the Academy failed to recognize any of them.  This isn't an issue about any particular nomination or any particular snub, it's a systematic problem.

Really the only solution is to change the demographic makeup of the Academy voters, and the Academy President just announced she plans to do that.  A number of years ago the Academy stopped automatically granting membership to nominees, which I suspect is part of the problem.  Hopefully whatever changes get made bear fruit, because I'm not optimistic that two years of scolding is going to change anyone's behavior.
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« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2016, 08:19:13 am »

It's not necessarily a problem of conscious bias on the part of the Academy members; they just happen to be something like 90+% white.  People have an easier time connecting to films with characters like them, which means the Academy members are predisposed to select movies about white people.

This is true. The BET awards have only seen 2-3 white people nominated, the voting body is 95% black. The chance of Ang Lee winning a BET award is low.

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« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2016, 05:53:37 pm »

It's not necessarily a problem of conscious bias on the part of the Academy members; they just happen to be something like 90+% white.  People have an easier time connecting to films with characters like them, which means the Academy members are predisposed to select movies about white people.

Oh I completely understand why it is the way it is (in terms of race), but that doesn't make it less biased.  For a set of awards that are supposed to be the crowning achievement in the movie industry, its sad that they can't get past race.

What I don't understand is why there is such a disdain for comedy, and such a love for violence.  Perhaps this is a product of other demographic problems with the composition of the academy, perhaps something else, but I personally don't think a movie needs to make me depressed and/or horrified in order for it to be good.

This is true. The BET awards have only seen 2-3 white people nominated, the voting body is 95% black. The chance of Ang Lee winning a BET award is low.

I mean they are called Black Entertainment Television for a reason.  I also don't think a BET award carries anywhere near the same weight that an Academy award does, even in the black community.
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2016, 07:57:07 pm »

What I don't understand is why there is such a disdain for comedy, and such a love for violence.  Perhaps this is a product of other demographic problems with the composition of the academy, perhaps something else, but I personally don't think a movie needs to make me depressed and/or horrified in order for it to be good.
There's a few kinds of movies that the Academy members are predisposed towards.  They love biopics - which give actors a chance to Act.  They love movies about Hollywood - specifically ones that show how great Hollywood is.  They also tend to love movies about Important Social Issues that can make them feel like they're Making A Statement - typically these movies involve suffering of some kind.  They don't like to go too dark though, which is probably why Sicario was largely overlooked.  It's ok if a protagonist suffers or even dies, as long as they achieve some triumph in the effort.  Comedies rarely fit into any of those categories, and yes there probably is a sense among members that comedies aren't as "serious"; a similar bias keeps them from science fiction much of the time.  Lastly, they tend to develop affection towards certain people.  That's why you get things like Meryl Streep getting a dozen nominations or Jennifer Lawrence getting three in a row.
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« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2016, 01:25:50 am »

It's not necessarily a problem of conscious bias on the part of the Academy members; they just happen to be something like 90+% white.  People have an easier time connecting to films with characters like them, which means the Academy members are predisposed to select movies about white people.

Oh I completely understand why it is the way it is (in terms of race), but that doesn't make it less biased.  For a set of awards that are supposed to be the crowning achievement in the movie industry, its sad that they can't get past race.

[...]


I completely agree with both of you but I think that the composition of the "mainstream movies industry" (as opposed to low budget and independent movies industry) workforce is one of the causes for the bias in the nominations by the Academy and ultimately the cause for the bias in the composition itself of the Academy.

Actually on a second thought that could be a self sustaining feedback loop (lots of white people in the Academy --> lots of white people in big budget successfuk films --> lots of white people in the Acaemy --> ...) having evolved to the present steady state from an old fashioned white cinema tradition/business model.

It would be a great and a necessary experiment to find another steady state in the system introducing diversity in the Academy!
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