My Top Ten of 2015
Okay guys, it's finally here. I've finally settled on my favorite movies from last year. I still haven't been able to see everything I wanted to see, but I feel pretty good about getting behind the following movies as solid, entertaining movies that endeared themselves to me in one way or another. Let's not waste any more time, here's my top ten from 2015.
10. Kingsman: The Secret Service
I saw a screening of this early in the year, about a month before it came out and was absolutely blown away in entertainment. It would have been easy for me to put the more sophisticated Spotlight in this spot, but I had to be honest with myself on which movie I really enjoyed more. I came out of Kingsman on an absolute high and couldn't wait to tell everyone I knew to check this movie out. This movie is so much fun and a perfect homage to the spy genre. In a year packed with movies from that genre, nothing ever topped this one. Original review HERE.
9. TIE: Steve Jobs
My initial reaction to Steve Jobs was that it was the "not as good" version of The Social Network. And while I still agree with my initial assessment, there's still so much to really like about it (and hey, in my mind comparisons to The Social Network are NEVER a bad thing.) I LOVE the format of this film, and as always Aaron Sorkin's script is top notch. Dropping in on a character at three different product launches in his life, was a brilliant approach and was sold beyond convincingly by Michael Fassbender (possibly at his career best.) Fassbender becomes Jobs, and it's fascinating to watch.
9. TIE: Sicario
Right from the beginning of Sicario, you know this movie will have an impact on you. Though I found the film to be unable to keep that constant pace that was set by the beginning there were still quite a few moments that grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let go. They haunted me. The last twenty minutes is probably the strongest finale of any movie I've seen this year. Emily Blunt is terrific as usual, but it was Benicio Del Toro who really blew me away.
8. The Revenant
The spectacle of The Revenant is certainly enough to get you caught up in it. If you know anything at all about filmmaking, you have to admire the sweep and scope that Inarritu was able to achieve the way he sought to achieve it. I'm a sucker for visual filmmaking, and there's certainly a visual factor to The Revenant that lifts it above other movies made this year. But it's not just a pretty movie to look at (in fact, on many occasions its quite the contrary,) the story itself is quite engrossing too. While some fat could definitely be trimmed, I was honestly never bored in the proceedings. The actors always kept me engaged in what would happen next. There are the classic tales of betrayal, survival, and revenge, but in the end, it is the choices the characters make in the end that interest me the most.
7. The End of the Tour
One of my favorite film series is Richard Linklater's Before movies, which basically are two hour long conversations turned into their own films. The End of the Tour, like those movies, scratched me where I itch in presenting rhetoric that constantly blew me away. This is essentially the bromance version of the Before series, as Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel had a crazy camaraderie type chemistry and all they did was discuss everything they could possibly discuss. When the core of a movie revolves around a simple relationship and its progression (no matter how short a time it existed,) it becomes the best kind of movie for me.
Ex-Machina is the type of science fiction I wish more people tried to make. This is the Frankenstein type of sci-fi, where moral dilemmas are everything and human nature is at the root of all. The movie is great in making you think it will go one way, and then turning those expectations on their head. But best of all, its cast (which the story falls pretty much on three characters only) is fantastic. Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac each give their all to this movie and their efforts easily made it one of my favorites of the year.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
There's really not much more to this movie than an exciting chase in the dessert...but oh what a chase it is, and oh how entertaining it is. I'm not going to pretend there's a ton of hidden depth here (though you're welcome of course to disagree,) but I can't deny how incredibly well made this movie is for what it is. The cinematography is stunning and the way everything is staged is absolutely superb. Plus I must say, Charlize Theron's Furiosa is a heroine that any girl can really root for. She and Tom Hardy are just grand.
4. Love & Mercy
I'll be honest, other than knowing some songs here and there, I didn't know a lot about the Beach Boys, let alone their lives. Love & Mercy specifically follows the tumultuous life of lead singer Brian Wilson during two different periods of his life. Paul Dano plays the younger Wilson, while John Cusack plays him twenty years later. The two look incredibly different physically which threw me off at first, but I loved both of their performances so much I became lost in the film and it didn't matter. This movie stayed with me for a long time after it ended. I found myself often in the mood of listening to their tunes and thinking about how much artists put themselves through for the sake of their work, for the sake of something that will last much longer than them.
3. Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
This film seems to get a lot of hate from some cinephiles who object to its tweeness and perhaps find it manipulative. The first time I saw the film at Sundance last year, I myself was hypersensitive of whether or not I found the film to be calculated. I couldn't love it immediately, but the more I thought about it, and the next few times I saw it, the more I loved it (sorry not sorry haters.) The main character Greg can be selfish and unlikable, the film abruptly switches in tone from funny to heartbreaking, the filmmaking is far too whimsical....bla bla bla. But guess what? I love it. I love all of it. And I don't care who knows it. And honestly? I think the movie works because of all of those things. For more in-depth thoughts, check out my original review HERE.
2. Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies really took me by surprise. I really had no interest in seeing this movie, but saw it because I felt like I should. Honestly and truly, I really wasn't prepared to like it as much as I did. This type of movie is pretty much all but extinct. Characters with this much integrity that are just pure, strong and good rarely exist in cinema. Tom Hanks's James Donovan was as close to an Atticus Finch character I've seen in a very long time. He's not invincible or perfect by any means, but he strives beyond all to do that which is right. This felt like a classic feel good movie that Frank Capra would have made, not something I expected from Steven Spielberg in 2015. It was quite the delightful surprise for me.
Room completely and utterly destroyed me. I felt more emotion in just the first half of the movie than almost every other movie I saw in 2015. I felt the highs, I felt the lows, and I felt so much tension in one small sequence that I legitimately had a physical reaction of shaking constantly in my seat. While in film we often end with a triumph, we rarely see the aftermath of what the end of a situation would really bring. I loved how much Room explored of its simple concept and the damaging effects it would have to all involved. Though Room would still be effective if it only examined the tragedy the characters faced, it's the moments of hope that really moved me and resonated with me. Room was a fantastic film for everyone involved filled with Oscar-worthy performances, and while it doesn't have the bravado it takes to be a best picture winner, it was one of the most deeply personal films of 2015, and my favorite.
Honorable mentions: Spotlight, Queen of Earth, Inside Out, The Martian, The Wolfpack, The Final Girls.
Honorable mention because my teenage self would be very upset if I didn't mention the movie I spent the whole year thinking about and looking forward to: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. You were a crazy flawed movie that got WAY too much praise. Critics did me no favors in not helping me lower my crazy high expectations, and because of that disappointment, there was no way I could include you in the actual numbering (though for the record, I was saving my #1 spot for it.) In subsequent viewings, I've come to appreciate it a lot more....though am still inclined to agree with my brother's summation that it was "nothing special." So your honorable mention here is basically the mere fact you have Star Wars in your title, and after a couple viewings I learned to like you more.