Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Top 10 Films of 2015

1.  MAD MAX:  FURY ROAD


Mythic action opera.  It's smart, stunning, soulful.  God bless 70-year-old auteur George Miller, who left his younger peers largely in the dust this year.  And Charlize stole it.


2.  SICARIO


Kept me on the edge of my seat in Cannes with its thrilling unrelenting perfection.  If its title or subject matter kept you away, your loss. Everything about this film is exceptional.  My full post here.  


3.  CAROL


A film of gorgeously effective restraint on the part everyone involved, no doubt thanks to Todd Haynes's vision, from an adaptation of Highsmith by Phyllis Nagy.  Impeccably made in every respect. 


4.  STEVE JOBS



Aaron Sorkin's formally audacious adaptation, Danny Boyle's perfectly matched kinetic direction, and Fassbender's intense performance:  a crackling, exhilarating psychological interpretation.


5.  EX MACHINA




A small, soulful sci-fi from Alex Garland in the Frankenstein tradition. Great climax.  Plus that starkly beautiful house.  The dance number with Kyoko and her creator (played by Oscar Isaac) is an unexpected quirky delight: "I'm gonna tear up the fucking dance floor, dude, check it out."  (Side note:  both main actresses were dancers.)  This is a film that exemplifies that less is more--it's meticulously written, designed, and directed, with Kubrickian visuals (particularly the corridor shots).


6.  THE BIG SHORT



Worth seeing for Christian Bale's performance alone, though the ensemble is terrific.  Smart and entertaining...and horrifying.


7.  BROOKLYN



Never dreamed this would be my cup of tea, but with Nick Hornby adapting Colm Tóibín's novel....It's a beautifully modulated, moving film.  


8.  ROOM



Trauma, endurance, survival, resilience.  The power of attachment and a mother's relentless love.  All shot in an 11 x 11 shed.


9.  STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON



I'm not a hip-hop fan, but I became one, at least for the duration of this film, made with a lot of verve.


10.  THE REVENANT



Even though the film is, as critic Justin Chang aptly put it, "emotionally stunted," (perhaps too meta to be affecting) it's audaciously shot (talk about meta--DiCaprio's breath fogging the camera lens) and directed, and has a beautiful, balefully spare, atmospheric score (by Ryûichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto [aka Carsten Nicoai]), my favorite after Jóhann Jóhannsson's ominous, propulsive heartbeat for Sicario. 


RUNNERS UP/HONORABLE MENTION:  Disorder (Maryland), Clouds of Sils Maria, Joy, The Wolfpack, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The End of the Tour, The Martian, While We're Young, Anomalisa, Love & Mercy, Beasts of No Nation, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.


BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  The Hateful Eight-- a 3-hr. 70mm drawing room Western?  


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