Best Movies of 2015
I saw forty 2015 releases that I considered for this list. Here are the top ten, or you can check out my top 25 on Letterboxd.
10. Magic Mike XXL
A very good sequel and a very good film. Magic Mike XXL brims with positivity, and has some of the most joyful moments of the year on screen. Channing Tatum is a freak physical talent. His abilities as a dancer seem to transcend any and all laws of physics, and he’s also among the most charismatic actors in Hollywood today. In addition to the physical feats on display, the movie’s deftness and subtlety towards issues of gender, sexuality, and even race is admirable.
Creed is much better than it has any right to be. Ryan Coogler and Michael B Jordan transform the Rocky franchise from a worn-out series that lapsed into self-parody decades ago to an exciting and vital piece of entertainment. From the gutsy and adventurous cinematography and staging, to the lights-out, movie star performance from Jordan, this movie pops off the screen.
8. The Overnight
It’s a movie about the things we don’t talk about. It takes some crazy twists and turns and it’s impossible to know where things are going to go next, or how far. It’s riotously funny, and was the most wonderfully uncomfortable move to sit through in a theater this year.
7. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is a great, intimate science fiction film. It’s a smart film that doesn’t get bogged down in the scientific aspects of the story, but like the best sci-fi, it uses it’s concept to investigate our world as it is. But it isn’t all big ideas, it’s also a fun twisting, turning mystery and an excellent showcase for its very talented group of actors.
6. Mistress America
The extended, screwball sequence two thirds of the way through the movie is a perfect bit of madcap comedy, and a big part of what landed this film on my list, but the whole movie rings with truth about the struggles of figuring out adult life.
This is a gorgeous movie. The lush 16mm cinematography glows. Rooney Mara does some amazing, nuanced work and Cate Blanchette continues to prove she is among the best of all time. The story is both romantic and realistic, and
4. What We Do in the Shadows
It’s always a good sign when a comedy gets funnier on repeat viewings. It’s not terribly surprising given Jermaine Clement’s history with the fantastic Flight of the Conchords, but director, co-writer and star Taika Waititi was one of the biggest and best surprises for me at the movies this year. His charm, earnestness, and timing are fantastic.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
This movie is perfectly-constructed spectacle. George Miller’s staging and action choreography are unbelievable. In the hands of nearly any other director, the extended action sequences would have gotten exhausting or simply incomprehensible. This movie involves some of the most complicated and impressive stunt work ever captured on film. On top of the incredible feats of craft, the film perfectly and subtly adds layers of social commentary that in no way detract from the propulsive narrative, but add richness and resonance. Mad Max is also bizarre and insane in the most delightful of ways and has some killer production design.
2. Inside Out
Although I love the concept for this movie, it’s the way that Pixar manages to explore that concept with such depth and creativity that pushes it so high on my list. It’s a work of pure, unbridled imagination. It’s also hilarious, poignant, and whip-smart. Basically, it’s Pixar doing what they do best.
1. Steve Jobs
I’ve started to doubt myself a bit about this one. It was roundly ignored by and audiences and seems to have been completely forgotten by critics, but more than any other movie this year, I came out completely exhilarated. The script is constant fireworks. It’s witty, rhythmic and profound – managing to effortlessly weave together historical context, character insight, and immensely quotable dialog. The performances resonate perfectly with the writing making the whole thing hum and burn with intensity. The whole film is people having conversations and the whole film is riveting. It’s not a perfect film. The ending is a little off. Kate Winslet’s accent gets away from her in the later sections. But so much of it is so transcendent, that it’s still my favorite of the year.