I watched a lot of movies this year, and as I approach my first year of starting this blog I found myself looking over the many posts and reviews I have made and looked to see which films I took in over the course of 2015 that made an impression on me. Several hyped movies left me somewhat cold (Carol, Room, The Danish Girl, The Revenant, Trumbo), many documentaries stood out as being better than some of the theatrical and studio releases (The Hunting Ground, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, The Wolfpack, Best of Enemies), interesting and engaging movies with good casts and engaging subject matters made a good impression (Straight Outta Compton, Tale of Tales, Tangerine, Black Mass), and many movies came and went that will be a small blip in movie history and won’t leave much of a legacy. I also made some pretty big decisions this year, movie wise, like saying goodbye permanently to all superhero movies and content (which explains the conspicuous absence of Daredevil and Jessica Jones from my television reviews), trying my best to avoid as many sequels/prequels/remakes as possible, and watching only those films that I actually wanted to see and not what I was either being told to watch by the media, the studios, and even friends/acquaintances. I didn’t see every movie released, I am after all just one person, but I do feel like I saw a good number of films that cut across a lot of genres and mediums. 10 films do stand out particularly and I want to point them out and give them props. I will refrain from saying too much since I’ve already extensively discussed each one in its own individual post. The films are presented in alphabetical order, as I don’t want to put them in a specific order for each one stands for individual merits and deserves recognition for what it was able to accomplish. So without further ado, here goes.
My personal top 10 movies of 2015!
- Anomalisa – an animated movie that transcends its genre, its medium, and film altogether. Charlie Kaufman is a genius and he has once again delivered a phenomenal masterpiece that I won’t soon forget.
- Beasts of No Nation – Netflix’s first feature film is quite the statement piece. Aside from Idris Elba the cast is made up of unknown African actors, most of them children. The violence is unrelenting, the story as harrowing as it is resonant.
- Brooklyn – Adapting a movie is hard, and usually goes wrong. The best thing I can say about this beautiful and understated film is that it made me forget that I had read and loved the novel. Saoirse Ronan is phenomenal.
- Cartel Land – The most affecting documentary I have ever seen. I may never look at the world around me in the same way after sitting through this film chronicling the Mexican struggles with drug cartels and the Americans who think they are protecting the US border.
- The Hateful Eight – Once again Quentin Tarantino churns out a bombastic delight of genre mashups that excites as much as it entertains. A phenomenal cast was assembled and together they play and deliver a masterpiece.
- The Lobster – It’s so easy to rely on over the top visuals and CGI effects, but a great film, even a sci-fi movie, don’t need gimmicks to stand out. This quiet and affecting film about a terrifying future in which singledom is the ultimate cultural taboo was shattering and heartbreaking.
- The Look of Silence – When you hear the word sequel, documentaries never come to mind. And yet this continuation of The Act of Killing came out and provided us with a humane and all too vivid look into victimhood and the effects that injustice and ideology can wreak on a society and an entire nation.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – For all intents and purposes this movie should never have worked. A sequel, specifically the fourth movie in a saga, coming out nearly 20 years after its previous outing. A complete shift in scope and tone than any of its predecessors. A movie in which the character in the title is barely a supporting element. An unabashed feminist film. One word: fantastic.
- Spotlight – Truly a movie that is successful because of the sum of its parts and is so successful and cohesive that no individual element truly stands out and yet the end result is so incredible. Amazing script, cast, directing, score, pacing, cinematography, message, and topic.
- Youth – An artistic study on aging, love, music, loneliness, death, life, art, and a visual masterpiece. The film defies categorization. An art film by definition and a welcome return to form for so many great actors who haven’t been given a chance to shine in recent years.
All in all this was a good year for movies in content, representation, and impact. I enjoyed many films and am really happy with the strength of what was produced. Here’s to hoping that 2016 will bring us an equally strong bunch, if not stronger.
Honorable Mentions/Mea Culpa: I hadn’t seen them yet when making this list, but Ex Machina and A Bigger Splash would have easily found a place on this list had I watched them before writing this post. The films satisfied all my requirements for great works of cinema. Just brilliant.