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My 2015 Favorites -- Xanadon't
Movie list created by Xanadon't
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Top 20 Films of 2015
Ex Machina (2015)
Part chamber drama, part sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina packs tremendous intrigue and implication into one masterfully crafted film, destined to endure. Ex Machina trades in big themes (What's it mean to be human? What's it mean to be a sexualized human? Power vs. Submission, Survival Instinct vs. Self-Destruction, et al) but drives home the ideas with an accessible, minimalist approach. Three impressive central performances, stunning technical effects, and an assured, seductive visual language drive this film to the top of 2015's crop.
Far from your average bio-pic, Trumbo is at once an inspired movie about the movies, a fascinating history lesson, and a shrewd indictment condemning some of the less desirable socio-political tendencies that still threaten our culture as it exists today. Sure to raise many a right-wing hackle, Trumbo is unapologetic in it's polarizing message, yet never feels sanctimonious. Credit this largely to a film that deftly balances comic tone with tender heart-warm, and near faultless handling of the dramatic and serious that comes in-between. From both a visual and narrative standpoint, this film is impossibly light on its feet, and never would I have guessed that Jay Roach had such a nimble and impactful directing effort in him. Trumbo achieves and achieves and achieves, and it does so brilliantly.
Two prominent Michael Keaton roles in two years is just plain good for cinema. One can only hope that it's the beginning of a young trend and that the projects Mr.Keaton takes on continue to be of such high quality.
Director Tom McCarthy has given us what is possibly his best film to date with Spotlight. Quite the departure from McCarthy's usual narrative dealings of "unconventional families just trying their best", the same qualities that make his work work are all here-- immense empathy for his characters, a keenly instinctual directors lens that reveal those characters to audiences, and an agreeable insistency that good films start with good scripts. McCarthy is the least visually flashy filmmaker around, but among the most efficient storytellers working in film.
An overachiever in every sense, this intimate coming of age tale follows a young man's first encounter with love and loss as he struggles to accept the impeding death of a friend. Grim reality is never allowed to rule the day, however. Our young protagonist is an aspiring filmmaker whose passion spawns inventive recreations of classic -and not so classic- movies. Cinephiles will delight in this love letter to cinema; I was equally enthused by the larger story at hand.
Slow West (2015)
Shamefully, this New Zealand production never received a stateside theatrical release. Michael Fassbender delivers some of his best work in this offbeat, stylish western. Somehow this movie manages to trade in the very elements that make westerns as durable as they are, while also introducing new ideas, even characters, to the genre. Beginning to end, a fun and unique movie watching experience.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Another year, another welcome addition to cinematic vampire lore. This one comes in the form of a "mockumentary" following a group of undead flatmates struggling to coexist and cope with the world of the livings. Centuries old, our subjects have seen many eras, trends, and social climates come and go. We meet them in modern day, faced perhaps with the most challenging, infuriating, insipid, or otherwise problematic time and place they've encountered. Hilarity and blood ensue.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)
A troubling but always fascinating adult fairy tale of sorts that follows the obsessions of a 29 year old Japanese woman and misfit determined to unearth a fictional treasure buried in the frozen plains of the upper Midwest, United States. The treasure is none other than the cash filled briefcase Steve Buscemi's character frantically buries under the snow in the Coen Brother's iconic film, Fargo. Two separate film crews operating in Japan and Minnesota, one final product featuring one of the finest central performances of the year.
While We're Young (2015)
Noah Baumbach has his finger directly on the pulse of "first world white people problems" and I don't see a use in resenting him for that. It's what he knows and his films wear it well.
5 to 7 (2015)
While the James Bond series starts and stutters, the Mission Impossible franchise has redlined its way into my popcorn-munching heart for three consecutive installments and shows no sign of slowing down. Comic timing and adrenaline spiking action sequences abound, Rogue Nation follows the simple formula that makes these movies work-- Put Ethan Hunt and co. into impossible situations, and let's see how he gets out of them. Raise the stakes. Rinse. Repeat. It's fun, but it's not brainless, and only curmudgeons dislike this stuff. Tom Cruise remains a legit action star. Deal with it.
The Big Short (2015)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Mississippi Grind (2015)
The End of the Tour (2015)
Sleeping with Other People (2015)
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Mistress America (2015)
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Cutting Room Floor
Films that didn't quite make the list
Standout Horror of 2015
We Are Still Here (2015)
Last Shift (2015)
Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)
Films I still need to catch up with.
2015 was a curious year in movies. While there were plenty of worthwhile offerings, films that I truly loved proved scarce. A number of disappointments punctuated the year ranging in severity, and often coming from some of my favorite working directors. Tarantino, Innaritu, Cronenberg, Woody Allen, and Danny Boyle all, in my eyes, missed the high marks they've set over the course of their careers. It wasn't all grim, however, far from it. A lot of good movies released this year and plenty of pleasant surprises came through theaters. And a year that offers not one, but two Noah Baumbach offerings is okay by me. And of course there are still a number of promising 2015 films that I've yet to see, and much of the crop looks to be high quality indeed. How much will this list evolve as I catch up? Time will tell. For now, I'll happily note 2015 as a good year at the movies, even if greatness was hard to come by.
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