Monday, January 4, 2016

Best Films of 2015

So, if 2015 was so bad, how come I wasn't affected by the misery? Maybe it was because I was blown away with a certain movie from May. Maybe it was because westerns came back in full force, with many new and popular auteurs (and Iñárritu) taking a violent stab at it. Maybe it was because many women, people of color and the LGBT community had their say, giving some of the boldest and/or funniest films of the year while also mocking the audacity of some pretentious artists with their "too white and clean" works. Maybe it was because showbiz documentaries were all the rage, covering everything from political television, to campy movies, to bad movies, and to stand-up legends. Though my movie-going experience was minimal compared to years past, I was still able to find twenty films that stayed with me for days, played with my emotions so elegantly and made me want to watch them again and again.

These are the films I have deemed the best of 2015. Though I put them in list format, I was equally entertained and moved by all of these films.

Now comes the usual disclaimer that everyone forgets to remember: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public nor the Internet consensus. If I didn't see the film at all or in its entirety, it isn't counted or considered to be included.


1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Not mediocre in the slightest! The absolute best film of the year had to be the one that not only was an exhilarating rush of stylish action and imaginative production design but deftly defy all potential fears by studio executives and hardcore fans. A reboot/sequel to a long dormant sci-fi property that is just one long chase sequence and is able to hand out characterization to a huge cast of characters, most of whom are badass women? George Miller didn't have to break a sweat to accomplish that task. A magnum opus that deserves to be in the top ten of this decade in film.

2. Mistress America

A beautiful love letter to NYC and screwball comedies of old, this wacky adventure of two future step-sisters and their personal ambitions made for a delightfully good time and allowed Noah Baumbach to be cheerful again.

3. Inside Out

An amazingly creative work in what is now a slump period for Pixar, this animated flick made me smile, laugh, and tear up at its originatively playful look at the machinations of the human brain and its main message to kids and adults that is okay to feel sad.

4. Sicario

The land of wolves is not a place for human dignity to survive. Director Denis Villeneuve does an expert job sinking us into a world of ambiguity, deception, and torture. The brilliant cast and Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography amplified the palatable tension and urban dread.

5. What We Do In The Shadows

Leave it to a group of New Zealanders to save the art of found footage horror films, all by turning it into a hilarious comedy and sprinkling in all of the rich history and tropes of movie monsters.

6. Ex Machina

The sleeper hit of the year, resident screenwriter Alex Garland finally steps up to the director's chair to handle this moving and disturbing take on The Turning Test, personal identity in the internet age, and the price of seclusion and beta testing. Come for the star-making performance of Alicia Vikander, enjoy seeing Oscar Issac dancing up a storm, and stay for the whopper ending.

7. Straight Outta Compton

Starting off as a look at the highs and lows of the seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A. and transiting into an overview look of the evolution of West Coast rap, this powder keg brought new black voices to the cinema and helped show hip-hop as the arresting art form it truly is.

8. Spy

A lot more going for it than its dreadful marketing implied, Paul Heig and Melissa McCarthy made their third collaboration a real charmer. Always uproarious and supplied with an enthusiastic cast, all of whom certainly enjoyed mocking the mythos of James Bond and the masculine nature of the spy game.

9. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Good things come to those who wait. Mark Hartley's exploration of the era of Cannon Films and the sheer amount of schlock the company manufactured was a pleasurable sugar rush.

10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The callbacks and derivative storytelling may be too severe but when you have yourself a continuing space opera with potent new characters, amazing little set-pieces, and a scene that sucks the air out of the room, all can be forgiven. Better movies are sure to come.


11. Call Me Lucky

A documentary that rocked me to the core. It first starts off as Bobcat Goldthwait's tribute to Barry Crimmins, the comedian who was more intelligently extreme than Bill Hicks, created the Boston stand-up scene and helped shepherd its future. And then after much foreshadowing, the other shoe drops and we experience the real-life horrors he endured and what he had to do to save others from the same fate. More powerful than a box of dynamite.

12. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau

The infamous 1996 film adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic was one of my first experiences with a true blue fiasco. This brilliantly objective overview of the film's hellish production and how Hollywood quickly cut the legs off of its original visionary mastermind is a real treat for cult fanatics and scandal seekers.

13. The Hateful Eight

This new Tarantino movie will grow with age, thanks to its colorful dialogue, heightened violence, a great soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, and beautiful 70mm scope. Experiencing all of that hate felt great.

14. Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was overhyped beyond belief and severely burnt out its creator but this long-awaited closure to Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was able to shine brightly thanks to a great heel turn by James Spader and action thrills that keep you smiling.

15. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

One of the finest living entertainers in show business today finally gets to be celebrated in this heartwarming piece. Be sure to bring the tissues because this wonderful look at the man underneath the giant yellow bird will leave crying at several heartbreaking moments.

16. Shaun the Sheep Movie

Simple, silent, and stop-motion animated. Aardman easily does it again with this big-screen vehicle for the beloved spin-off character from Wallace and Gromit.

17. I Am Thor

Both as a MST3K fan and a purveyor of cult movies, I certainly know about the hard-rocking muscleman Jon Mikl Thor. After going on a speedy trip through his wild and crazed history as everything from a naked waiter to rock icon, the makers of this great documentary then proceed to follow the beat-up, out-of-shape singer as he embarks on a never-ending tour. It's This Is Spinal Tap but completely real.

18. Tangerine

More widely known as that Sundance indie that was shot entirely on an iPhone 5, this unexpected Christmas movie featured breakthrough performances by two transgender actresses of color as they hustle around the wild side of Hollywood for revenge and profit. Its slow transformation from a sunny, rambunctious comedy to a midnight dark look at life on the streets still lingers with me.

19. It Follows

The fundamental design and protocol of its titled monster has some notable flaws but just like Gremlins, viewers can look past them due to the sheer strength of the rest of the film. Powered by a magnificent soundtrack, great visuals, and a never dissipating dread, this terrifying look at an anthropomorphized STD had many seeking condoms fast.

20. Unfriended

A central movie gimmick can positively work, as this low-budget horror flick showed with its entire setting being a teenager's Apple desktop. I was able to pardon its negatives and simply enjoy watching a bunch of cyberbullies getting their just desserts, all the while engaging in tense "party games" and freaking out that Facebook is betraying them.

Next Up: The Worst Performances of 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment