Posted January 18, 2016 / Revised January 22, 2016
the very first time in 11 years as a film critic...I knew that I saw the
very best film of the past year early in the summer when I exited the
screening for it.
Now, how could that possibly be, seeing as I had several more months of
seeing potential Best Film honorees? Well, my number
one film of 2015 just spoke to me on so many multiple levels that I firmly
believed that no other possible film in its wake could match it for sheer
technical craft, audacious creativity, and inspiring limitless awe and
or two came awfully close, but as the Highlander might say, there can be
only one…number one film.
screening and review output in 2015 diminished significantly for a variety
of reasons, some beyond my control.
All in all, I saw 18 less movies in 2015 than the previous year, an
all-time low for me in five years.
Nevertheless, I sincerely believe that I still experienced a strong
cross section of films from this past year from a multitude of genres and
disciplines, which, I think, makes me a pretty good authority on compiling
lists such as these.
As with previous years, I’ve elected to expand my Top 10
selections into a greater and more inclusive Top 25, which allows me to
celebrate 15 more films that I thought were resoundingly solid efforts,
but ones that I simply couldn’t find a place for on my Top 10.
Beyond that, I've also listed every single other film from 2015
that I gave a favorable review to (3-stars or better).
clear-cut genre winner for me this past year was science fiction, as not
one, not two, but three films made it on my Top 10.
The western genre followed a close second with two entries making
the cut (granted, you could make the argument that one is more of
a period film/outdoor survival thriller than a classical western).
A horror film makes an ultra rare appearance on the Top 10, rare in
the sense that I hardly ever see any new horror films that are worthy of a
Compellingly rendered character dramas also show up here again (two of
them) and one film by a superlative French Canadian director makes another
appearance on my end of the year honors compilation.
As always, I've strived for genre variety in making these lists,
but sometimes when you have three science fiction films as good as the
ones included below…variety becomes hard.
Watch me talk about some of my picks on CTV:
everyone at the end of 2015 was talking about STAR
WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, but there was indeed a much better sequel
to a 30-year-old science fiction classic that came out this past
year…and that film was George Miller’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
was easily the best two-plus hours that I had in a movie theatre in 2015
simply because this sort of sequel, sort of reboot of Miller’s landmark
post-apocalyptic series did the most bravura job of transporting me as an
escapist thrill ride. The
filmmaker is 70-years-old, but in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – right from its
opening few minutes – he displayed more unbridled creative passion and
boundless enthusiasm for the material than any other film that came out in
the past twelve months…or arguably from any other filmmaker half of his
in this film had a remarkably lived-in and tactile look and feel, showing
Miller at his most cheerfully fetishistic in terms of conjuring up
nightmarishly horrific costumes and makeup design, not to mention a
ghoulish menagerie of vehicles that were the stuff of our most perverted
collective car-porn fantasies.
And when the film unleashed its positively eye-gasmic orgy of
vehicular mayhem – all choreographed astonishingly well with practical
cars and stunts – I was in a state of action cinema Valhalla.
This film will ride eternal...shiny and chrome.
2. THE REVENANT
it weren’t for the titanic filmmaking achievement that was MAD MAX: FURY
ROAD then Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s sixth film THE REVENANT would be
my choice for the best film of 2015.
was one of the most heartbreakingly sad, yet oddly uplifting films that I
saw in 2015. It
was a searing and emotionally powerful drama steeped in hellish
tragedy, but eventually morphed into an odyssey of one woman's self-determination and
courage when faced with insurmountable odds, both physical and emotional.
a career high performance of strength and conviction by Brie Larson, this
harrowing human survival drama detailed the seven year imprisonment of a
teenage girl by her kidnapper, forced against her will to live her
adolescent and early adult life in a small, locked up shed-like room,
having no contact with the outside world.
Worse yet, she’s gives birth to the sociopath’s child, a
product of rape, and then takes it upon herself to raise the child as best
as she can under such frightening circumstances.
When mother and child escape, acclimatizing themselves to a world
and society that they know very little about becomes a whole new horrific
set of psychological obstacles for them.
Quentin Tarantino made a critical splash 23 years ago with RESERVOIR
DOGS he became instantly known for being a unique filmmaker for
populating his films with a rich assortment of amoral scumbags that were
somehow oddly endearing.
I’m not sure that any film on his resume would have prepared
audiences for the type of duplicitous minded vermin that exist in THE
HATEFUL EIGHT, Tarantino’s eighth film and arguably his finest in years.
5. EX MACHINA
have been so many films that have tapped into the dicey ethical themes of
mankind’s dabbling in creating and sustaining artificial intelligence,
but Alex Garland’s EX MACHINA proudly stood apart from the dense pack.
Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve might be one of the finest and purest
cinematic craftsman working today. His films – whether they be the
shockingly effective morality tale PRISONERS
or the grand mind-bender ENEMY –
have an intrinsically strong grasp of tapping into the darker underbelly
of the human psyche…and he achieves this with a brutally
7. IT FOLLOWS
Robert Mitchell’s IT FOLLOWS was a $2 million dollar little engine that
could for the independent horror film genre in 2015.
Within a few minutes of screening this little gem I knew that was
in for something far more than what the obligatory teen slasher genre has
been predictably offering up for decades.
an ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN for the modern era, writer/director Tom
McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT was a gracefully low key, yet superlatively handled
account of real life investigative journalists uncovering lurid crimes
with global ramifications.
Not many films bare the moniker of being an “important” one to
watch, but this one sure earned it.
GRIND is unlike most films about compulsive gamblers in the sense that so many
others dealing with the addiction seem to glamorize it for
sensationalistic effect and cheap dramatic payoffs.
10. THE MARTIAN
off the strongest year for science fiction movies in many a moon is Ridley
Scott’s THE MARTIAN, based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir
about an astronaut that’s accidentally stranded on Mars and then must
use all of the scientific know-how at his disposal to stay alive.
The movie was like CASTAWAY and ROBINSON CRUSOE in space.
Actually, that latter descriptor doesn’t do THE MARTIAN much justice at all. Ridley Scott has always been highly regarded in the sci-fi genre as a filmmaker of impeccable and sometimes incomparable technical skill, but he stripped down his aesthetic tendencies with THE MARTIAN and honed in on the film’s central story of human survival. And Scott cast just the right actor in Matt Damon to portray the doomed astronaut in question, who gave a thanklessly serene, yet empowered performance as a man caught between the ultimate rock and a hard place that had to summer up all intestinal fortitude – and some remarkable wits and intuition – to stave off death from the inhospitable conditions of an alien planet. What ultimately won me over about THE MARTIAN was that it was an ultra rare science fiction film that mixed humor (there was a surprisingly amount of it in there considering its tragic premise), brains, and heart. That, and it was ultimately uplifting and kind of exhilarating to witness a science fiction film that existed as a love ballad to scientific MacGyverism. And how rare is it for scientists to be the heroes in these kind of films?
|...and now to round off my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2015 with my selections from 11-25:|
12. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION: An impossibly great fifth film in the longstanding espionage series.
14. MACBETH: A haunting, hallucinatory, and savagely epic retelling of Shakespeare's classic play.
15. BROOKLYN: Saiorse Ronan was the strong emotional and performance anchor in this lovely immigrant period drama.
16. THE WALK: Robert Zemeckis pulled out all of the technological tools at his disposal to helm this completely credible fact based drama about a Parisian highwire artist that walked between the World Trade Center buildings in the mid-1970's.
17. CREED: Just when you thought that the ROCKY series was out of creative gas came writer/director Ryan Coogler's semi-reboot of the franchise that proved us all wrong.
20. PREDESTINATION: Continuing the stellar year that was for the sci-fi drama was this intoxicating mind-bending time travel thriller.
21. BLACK MASS: A creepy and sinister performance by Johnny Depp made this fact-based mobster drama all the more enthralling.
22. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: An engaging and stirring chronicle of the musical rise and fall of the N.W.A.
24. THE GIFT: An unexpectedly powerful home invasion thriller than mixed nail-biting terror and soulful tragedy in equal dosages.
25. TURBO KID: An infectiously enjoyable love ballad to schlocky 1980's action and sci-fi films.
|Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:|
Niccol made a fine return to directorial form with this examination of
military drone warfare.
ANT-MAN: One of the finer Marvel films of the year that was that benefited greatly from the atypical casting of Paul Rudd in the lead super hero role.
MCFARLAND, U.S.A.: A genuinely involving reality based sports drama starring Kevin Costner that placed emphasis on exploring the fragile mindsets of its athletes.
WHILE WE'RE YOUNG: Writer/director Noah Baumbach's witty and wickedly unflinching portrait of Gen Xer's and Millennials going head-to-head.
SOUTHPAW: The second best pugilist drama in 2015 after CREED, which featured yet another grounded and authentic performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE: The spirit of spy films and comic books came positively alive in this action packed and frequently funny effort from director Matthew Vaughn.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: The force was mostly with this long gestating sequel to 1983's RETURN OF THE JEDI.
THE BIG SHORT: A thoroughly complicated, but thrillingly performed comedic satire regarding the Finaical Crisis of 2015.
CONCUSSION: Will Smith gave his most internalized performance of his career in this reality-based sports drama.
LEGEND: Tom Hardy gave not one, but two staggeringly strong performances playing twin brothers in this Brian Helgeland directed gangster drama.
CAROL: Todd Haynes' remarkably acted period/romance drama.