As always, these are the top 10 films that I’ve seen from 2015. They are not necessarily my favorites as much as those that I think were the best made and most successful at what they were trying to do. The release date thing… I only recognize the release date in my area. If it was made in 2014, but didn’t make it to theaters/streaming services/DVD releases until 2015, then I consider it a 2015 film. I have not seen everything, of course. Among films that I have not seen are Ridley Scott’s The Martian or Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (which should be rectified shortly). So the list may change when I get around to it. I don’t think this was a great year at the movies, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with 10 that I liked. Heeere they are.
10. Antman The last couple of spots are always the hardest to fill since there are a number of movies that I think could go here. Number 10 was between this and Ex Machina. Both are fairly predictable and I think Ex Machina should have been less so. Antman was far more enjoyable, though, so I gave it the tenth spot, if only to prove that I don’t hate every Marvel movie.
If you haven’t seen Ex Machina, though, it’s worth seeing (as is Alicia Vikander in the film… did that sound creepy?).
9. It Follows This was a low budget (slightly subversive) horror flick with something going on right below the surface and is definitely best if you know nothing about it (I had not seen the trailer). Starts off a little shaky and somewhere towards the end it starts to unravel a little, but it collects itself with the final shot. It has a fairly original premise (which I won’t give away) and was a film that I didn’t really know where the story was going. I applaud the effort even if I may or may not have had to sleep with the light on for DAYS after seeing it.
8. Spectre Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007(?) maybe didn’t live up to Casino Royal or Skyfall, but it was still pretty good. Like Skyfall, though, you can’t really think about the details, you just have to go with it.
7. Maps To The Stars David Cronenberg’s films can be either be memorably brilliant or outrageously bad; ‘Maps’ falls on the better end of the quality spectrum being essentially a satire about some of the Hollywood populace. Mia Wasikowska is great in everything (as she was in Crimson Peak which didn’t make the cut). She’s as quietly warped as Julianne Moore’s character is outwardly off-balance in the story and the pay off between the two towards the end is fairly shocking. Maps made me laugh pretty consistently in a low key sort of way. It’s typical Icy Croneberg.
6. The Walk Not in the same ballpark in quality and not nearly as inspirational as the 2008 documentary ‘Man On Wire’ about the same subject matter, but still a great film. It’s one of the few occasions where I would say that if you did not see the film in IMAX 3D, then it probably… no definitely will not have the same impact. I would hope this at least wins some FX awards.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road No Mel, but George Miller’s still running the show, so I knew there wouldn’t be a letdown. The funny thing is that Miller probably could have just dropped Max altogether, since the film was more about Furiosa than Max, but probably for me, the best action flick of the year. The first meeting between Furiosa and Max (chained to and carrying one of the ‘Warboys’) was as entertaining as any of the high octane car chases. I would like to see the storyboards on that one.
4. The Gift This one came out of nowhere. I’ve always thought Jason Bateman was better than he gets credit for. I think I saw this right after I had seen ‘Bad Words’ (2013), where Bateman played a misanthropic 40 year old spelling bee contestant (which I highly recommend). That one was a comedy, where Bateman has made his career. The Gift is definitely not a comedy and it’s another I can’t say too much (if anything) without spoiling it. It has kind of a M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie twist, but it’s not one where there is a game changing moment. You just think you’re watching one film and it ends up in a completely different place and point of view. And it’s kind of a nasty little tale when you get down to it with a creepy ending.
3. Shaun The Sheep Yes, the first of two animated films on my list. Everything that I have ever seen by Aardman, a company that makes very clever stop motion animated films and shorts, has been nothing short of brilliant. They are as good at what they do as Pixar is at what they do and they are no stranger to my Top 10 lists. ‘Shaun’ is a complete pantomime. There is no dialogue in the entire film, it’s the ultimate example of Hitchcock’s “Show the audience, don’t tell the audience” theory in action. There seems to be literally a sight gag/joke every 2 seconds of the film.
2. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Billed (at least by British Film Critic Mark Kermode) as the first black and white Iranian Vampire Western (filmed in America), you would probably think ‘A Girl’ sounds like a horrible idea of a film. In that case you would be wrong. A film is lucky to create a single image or scene that is worth remembering; this movie has several of those. Arash Marandi is both cool and shleppy at the same time, just listlessly matriculating his way through life. Sheila Vand is absolutely mesmerizing. They both have individual scenes that are not only brilliant, but seem destined to be iconic, Together they have several ‘Meet Cutes’ /scenes of the kind that may stay with me until I die, like the montage in the museum from ‘Ferris Beuhller’s Day Off’ that ends with Cameron staring into the painting ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat with the Smiths’ (covered by The Dream Academy, I think) “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” playing in the background… PAuse to admire that last sentence…. Aaannnd: Continue… Definitely worth seeing if you have the patience for subtitles.
And with the top film, I have to note that I found it odd that for the first time ever, my top film is the same as that of the aforementioned Mark Kermode. I’m a regular listener of ‘Wittertainment’ (Hello to Jason Isaacs), not only because it’s a show about films (and Kermode’s film reviews), but contributor Kermode and host Simon Mayo are genuinely enjoyable to listen to… But, I almost never agree with him on just about every movie that gets a run down on their show, so it was a little surprising to me that I not only agreed with him on the TOP Film of 2015, but the Top Two films. Not saying that legitimizes my opinion in any way (it might do the opposite actually, given that Kermode clings to the belief that the Greatest Film of All Time is The Excorcist). But, anyway, my #1 of 2015 is another animated flick:
#1 Inside Out I never, ever, EVER thought that I would like this film enough to make it #1, but with a dearth of ‘Great Films’ this year (or maybe I just haven’t seen ’em yet), Pixar has yet again delivered a story that I just cannot deny my top spot to. I don’t think it’s Pixar’s best effort by any stretch, but it’s still really good. Pixar seems to have a special talent for illustrating in a very simple (yet ingenious) way moments of emotional resonance or memories (as in what the title dish tastes like to the critic in Ratatouille or the depiction of Carl’s memories of his deceased wife in 2009’s Up. Hell, I need to stop typing about it, I might start blubbering right now. They have that effect on you if you actually involve yourself with their films.
I have to admit that coming into the film I did not want to like it largely because I had heard critics such as Mark Kermode going on and on about it (and right now, my words of going into a film without being predisposed to a particular opinion before you actually see the film are AGAIN coming back on me as they did in that last post). When I did finally see it, I thought it was typical Pixar; clear story, a few chuckles, some great ideas, amazing visuals, etc… Yawn… I liked it, but I did not understand the ‘rave’ reviews… Until Bing Bong. Once Bing Bong made an appearance everything changed and strangely the film seemed to step up from an enjoyable film to a classic one. And of course, they provided at least one more moment where I was blubbering over a cartoon character… BASTARDS! And as clever as the film was, I think it reached another height with the credits (which I won’t spoil for anyone).
And there it is. I know….”NO STAR WARS?! Have you SEEN it yet?” Yep. Seen it. Girl empowerment film. Looked great.”But it had light sabres! And stormtroo–!” Yep. Got it. Not on my list. “But–!” Not on my Worst List either. That’s good, right? Anyway…
My annual lists may change in the near future if I see something better (or worse) and remember to update my lists. Won’t change to add The Force Awakens, though. “Wha—?! What’s WRONG with you?! It’s STAR Wa—!” Thanks for reading.