Caveat: there are still a whole bunch of films from the year I have yet to see. If you ask me in a few months after I’ve had a chance to catch up with all the 2015 releases, this list might very well change. Some of the film I still hope to see are: Carol, Anamolisa, 99 Homes, The Assassin, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, The Big Short, Taxi, Creed, Clouds of Sils Maria, 45 Years, Brooklyn, Room, Heart of a Dog, James White, The Mend, Queen of the Earth, ’71, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, and maybe a few more.
Here are a few runner-ups: Phoenix, The Duke of Burgundy, The Wolfpack, Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, Inside Out, Slow West, Ex Machina, What We Do In The Shadows, and Timbuktu
5. Something, Anything
I’m fine with films that are huge and intense and bursting with spectacle (see my no.1 pick), but I mostly prefer small, personal films that pull you into their world. Something, Anything is about as small and personal as it gets. It reminds me of the film from a couple years ago This Is Martin Bonner. Both are about people trying to deal with personal tragedies. Both are deeply spiritual without being anywhere near preachy. Something, Anything could have been like so many other films about spiritual journeys. It could easily have been mawkish or obvious. Instead it relies on subtlety and insight. It is honest about the hardships of life while being full of grace and hope. That is not an easy thing to pull off. Most films tend to plant their stake on either side. this is a lovely little film, and I hope that I can encourage at least one of you to check it out.
4. It Follows
So after what seemed like years of former 5iver Blake literally begging me to watch this film, I finally caved it. I am so glad I did. I would put this up with Let The Right One In and The Babadook as one of the finest horror films of recent years. Like those films, It Follows uses elements of horror to speak to bigger issues. The premise is very simple: there is some creature following people, seeking to kill them. The only way to pass it on is to have sex with someone, at which point the creature will start following that person. To be honest, I myself thought that sounded rather salacious. Blake had convinced me that the film was so much more than it sounded, and I completely agree. Really, the sexual element is rather secondary. It is not just a simple cautionary tale. It is a film about the fear of death and disintegration. You could even argue it’s about economics and our falling social structures (the film uses a decaying Detroit very effectively in this regard). It is a film with quite a bit under the surface, but the surface is pretty damn scary. I won’t say that it kept me up the night I watch it. But as I woke up throughout the night my mind went back to certain scenes in the film, and I felt my body tense up. It is a very effective thriller, and I am so glad I listened to Blake for once.
3. About Elly
Some of the most fascinating films on the planet right now are coming out of Iran, and Asghar Farhadi is one of Iran’s best film-makers. He won an Oscar a couple years ago for his film A Separation, which is an absolute masterpiece. About Elly was actually made before that one, but only made it to the states this year (which is why I can include it on my list). It is about a group of old college friends spending the weekend together at a sea-side resort. One of the woman brings along a friend, Elly, who is recently divorced. Something happens over the weekend that upends everyone’s life. Farhadi is a master storyteller. He is able effectively convey all the social conventions and connections that result in one event nearly unraveling everything around it. There are nearly ten major characters in this film, yet he is able to juggle all their personalities and interconnections. He is also able to keep up an almost unbearable tension. As this story spins out you are completely enraptured in the events, and able to notice every little detail. This film is firmly set in Iranian culture, yet everything about the film feels so universal.
2. The Look of Silence
This is the one film on the list I can’t really say I enjoyed watching, but it’s the one film that I am most glad I watched. The followup to 2012’s The Act of Killing, it continues the story of the massacres that occurred in Indonesia in the 1960’s. Rather than focusing again on the killers, it focuses on one of the victim’s brothers, Adi. Because he’s an optometrist, Adi’s able to get access to many of the people directly involved in the killing regime. He questions them as he administer’s eye tests. What these people did is horrendous. Some of the men he interviews have killed as many as a thousand people. Adi isn’t necessarily looking to shame these people (they’re still hold positions of power and prestige, so shame seems the furthest thing from them). He’s looking for them to admit their actions so he can forgive them. It is a powerful film that’ll affect your deepest core. It’ll disturb you. But I believe it’s essential. It’s important for us to see the horrendous effects of man’s evil actions, as well as the transforming power of forgiveness.
1.Mad Max: Fury Road
The most enthralling movie experience I’ve had in a long time. Yes, I used the word experience. There’s no other word what it’s like seeing this in a theater. This is how you do spectacle, folks. This is how you make an action movie. I could go on for quite a while about this movie. I liked everything about it. For now let me just talk about what an amazing director and storyteller George Miller is. Compare him to someone like, oh say, Chris Nolan. My biggest gripe with the Nolan is that he has to over explain everything. He has to do that because he has creates these very complex worlds, and doesn’t seem to have the confidence to tell you about that world visually. Not so with Mr. Miller. He doesn’t stop for a second to tell you what’s going on. He simply creates a world, and then shows you that world. Everything you need to know about it is on the screen in front of you. Of course, there is so much going on in this world. And it’s so entertaining. Did I mention that?