My Top Ten Films of 2015 Collage

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Carol, The End of the Tour, Ex-Machina, The Gift, Love & Mercy, Macbeth, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Peanuts Movie, Queen of Earth, The Revenant, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Spring, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tangerine

 

  1. It Follows – Not only is David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore feature the best horror film of the year, it’s also the best horror film of the decade so far. John Carpenter influences abound, from the sneakily sinister score to the frightening portrayal of Midwest suburbia, but this is still very much its own thing. This unique premise of a supernatural virus that can only be passed through intercourse is not only a cautionary warning for young teenagers, but it’s also a clever examination of the loss of youth. Mitchell has crafted something truly refreshing that stands out from typical horror fare that we’re usually subjected to throughout the year.

 

  1. Creed – Sylvester Stallone is the heart and soul of the Rocky franchise, but having another film with him in the ring would have been pretty ridiculous. But by having Rocky act as the trainer to Apollo Creed’s son, they’ve effectively passed the franchise off to an entirely new generation of film fans. For some younger viewers, this could very well be their first Rockyfilm, so it’s a good thing that Creedis a fantastic addition to the franchise. The basic story here is pretty formulaic stuff, but it’s the strong direction from Ryan Coogler and fantastic performances from Stallone and Michael B. Jordan that elevates this above typical boxing fare. Even casual fans of the Rocky franchise will find themselves tearing up at this truly inspiring film.

 

  1. Spotlight – Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a thorough and realistic portrayal of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic priest child molestation scandal. A great screenplay and understated direction keep you truly engaged in the investigation, but it’s the incredible performances that really elevate the material. And the final seconds of the film are absolutely phenomenal, ending on such a dark note that will have audiences shaking as they leave the theater. People may tell you that this is an important film and while that sounds cliché, it’s absolutely true. When we read about stories like this one in the paper, we rarely hear about the extensive amount of reporting and research that brought out the truth. You may think you know the story, but Spotlight places this scandal in a whole new light.

 

  1. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – If there’s one film on this list that you’ve never heard of before, it has to be this one. This Swedish film from director Roy Anderson is a darkly funny look at the bizarre mundanity of life. Told through a series of loosely connected vignettes, Anderson gives us a look at how painfully ordinary life can be. A pair salesman unsuccessfully try to sell a string of lame products, a man dies trying to open a bottle of wine, a Captain arrives to a meeting at the wrong time etc. etc. When the film dips into the absurd and the profound, it feels completely earned and will resonate long after the final credits have rolled. With a camera that remains almost completely static throughout the entire film, unique blocking and intentionally dull set design, this probably the most unique film to come out in 2015. If you watch in the right mood, it’ll work wonders on you.

 

  1. The Martian – Space films have lately seen a resurgence and The Martian stands as one of the best examples in recent years. This story of stranded astronaut Mark Watney is a hugely entertaining and uplifting crowd-pleaser that shows how the fate of a single man can bring so many people together. Matt Damon is great in the lead role and he gives Watney a playful and cocky personality that perfectly fits with the film’s light tone. But what I loved most about the film was its overwhelming optimism. Entire countries put aside their differences in order to work together and bring one man home. There’s not an ounce of cynicism or hatred anywhere to be found, just the entire world uniting around the universal will to survive. Director Ridley Scott has made some sci-fi films that exist solely for genre fans, but The Martianis a sci-fi film for everyone.

 

  1. Mistress America – In the last five years alone, Noah Baumbach has made three films with Greta Gerwig and they just seem to get better and better. Mistress America might just be their best film to date. It’s a zany, screwball comedy with an eclectic cast of characters and a warm heart at its center. Consistent laughs abound and the third act of its fantastic screenplay culminates in one of the best comedic set pieces in ages. And while it may come in at a disappointingly short 84 minutes, it’s better to leave audiences wanting more than to have a film overstay its welcome. Easily the funniest film of the year.

 

  1. Sicario – From its opening sequence all the way to its stunning conclusion, Sicariois packed to the brim with tension. Director Denis Villeneuve stacks fantastic sequence upon fantastic sequence and somehow the film continually manages to top itself. Whether it’s the opening house raid, the terrifying trek across the Mexican border or the climactic moments in a drug-smuggling tunnel, it’s clear that the war on drugs has danger lurking around every corner. Here the Mexican border is presented as sheer chaos, with bad people on both sides of the line who are fighting for their own selfish needs. With an intriguing script from first-time writer Taylor Sheridan and absolutely stunning cinematography from industry veteran Roger Deakins, this is another homerun for Villeneuve.

 

  1. The Hateful Eight – I know that this is a bit of a cliché, but I really think that Quentin Tarantino is one of our greatest living filmmakers.  I love his characters, his trademark dialogue and his over-the-top violence. If I had to pick one director today whose sensibilities seemingly fall right in line with mine, Mr. Tarantino would be very close to the top of that list. And while The Hateful Eight is certainly not his best film, it still works as an excellent showcase for all of Tarantino’s classic trademarks. With the majority of the film’s runtime taking place inside a small lodge, this feels more like a single location stage play than most of Tarantino’s past works. But this works to the film’s benefit because we get to spend more time with the characters, learning about their personalities and further enhancing the mystery that permeates the film. Even if the film provides viewers with a  harsh outlook on humanity, its final moments optimistically suggest that even the most absolute of enemies can one day peacefully find some common ground.

 

  1. Steve Jobs – Since his death in 2011, a number of films have been released chronicling the life of Steve Jobs, but this year’s Steve Jobswill surely be viewed as the de facto Jobs biopic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has cooked up one of the best screenplays in years, managing to showcase the tech guru at his best and worst. The screenplay takes a risky, but wholly original structure, only giving us glimpses into three distinct moments in Jobs’s life. Adding to the exhilaration is director Danny Boyle, who brings his usual energy and flair to pump up the film. One of the most interesting directorial choices that Boyle made was the decision to shoot each time period on a different format (16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998). This feels like the kind of perfectionist decision that Jobs would have approved of and it only further helps to emphasize the development of Jobs and Apple throughout the film. Playing the often maligned CEO, Michael Fassbender hits a homerun, as do his supporting cast which includes Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels. From the visuals, to the kinetic energy, to the unique structure, Steve Jobsscores in every department. This is truly one of the greatest biopics in recent memory.

 

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – When I saw the fourth entry in the Mad Max franchise back in May, I would have never predicted that it would end up being my favorite film of 2015, but yet here we are. This is the action movie to end all action movies. At 70 years old, director George Miller puts to shame every action movie that’s attempted to recreate the aesthetic that he created back in 1979 with the original Mad Max. This is such a brutal, breathless and beautiful film that it’s hard to imagine it came from the same guy behind Babe and Happy Feet. During a time when action films constantly feel the need to overly complicate things with too much plot and too many characters, Fury Roadis refreshingly simple. The entire plot – beginning to end – could be summed up and written on the back of a napkin and I mean that in the best possible way. Here’s a film that trims the fat, leaving in the only thing that truly matters: the action. It’s not often that a nihilistic genre film can stand head and shoulders above all the prestige pictures that studios release throughout the year, but when I think of 2015 in film, only two words come to mind: Fury Road. The best film of the year.
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