Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Top 10 Films of 2015

For the past several weeks, I’ve silently observed heated debates about the past year in cinema. Those who attest that 2015 was an uncommonly poor year for film are typically countered with You didn’t see enough movies and/or You didn’t see the right movies. Fair points, but sadly, I saw damn near all of the movies many others loved in 2015, and very few of them fully worked for me. Sure, I liked aspects of some of the most popular films appearing on Year End lists, but by and large, 2015 was the year of the Just Okay movie. I enjoyed my time with these films, but I found them to be just okay, and doubt I’ll have the desire to revisit them.

But this isn’t to say that 2015 didn’t contain greatness; I just had a harder time finding it. As a whole, 2015 was a rough haul, but below are the diamonds I found within it. (And as usual, I only consider films that were released theatrically in America in 2015.)

10. Best of Enemies
dir. by Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville
Watching two rich, entitled, middle-aged white dudes argue for 88 minutes isn’t my idea of gripping cinema. But holy hell did Best of Enemies prove me wrong. The documentary chronicles the live televised debates that archenemies William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal had leading up to the 1968 presidential election. Buckley (a staunch conservative) and Vidal (a dedicated liberal) absolutely loathed one another, but their hyper articulate and intellectual opinions forced them to respect each other. My vote for the best documentary of 2015 (just edging out Meru).

9. Anomalisa
dir. by Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman
I didn’t have the slightest idea what the stop-motion animated film, Anomalisa, was about when I saw it, and diving into specific details here would be criminal. It is best to go into this one as blind as possible, because the experience you’re likely to have watching it is an utterly engrossing one. The film is about a man going through a unique type of mid-life crisis that only Charlie Kaufman could conjure up. Perhaps Matt Patches, writing for Esquire, said it best when he described Anomalisa as “The most human movie of the year. And it doesn’t star a single human.” Hard to disagree.

8. Clouds of Sils Maria
dir. by Olivier Assayas
Clouds of Sils Maria had a healthy festival run in 2014 (including vying for the Palme d’Or at Cannes), but it was released in the states this past April. While in Europe, famed actress, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), gets hit with heavy news that forces her to reflect on her past. Additionally, the film patiently chronicles Maria’s complicated relationship with her loyal assistant (Kristen Stewart, who, in many ways, is acting for the first time here). And I haven’t even mentioned the play Maria is up for, which she starred in decades ago, but will now act alongside a fiery new talent (played to perfection by Chloë Grace Moretz). I could talk for pages about this subtle, engrossing piece of art, and I would barely scratch the surface.

7. Sicario
dir. by Denis Villeneuve
Few films are able to maintain the level of unbearable tension throughout their duration as well as Sicario. The film presents an unrelenting look into America’s current drug war from the perspective of three players: a veteran agent (Josh Brolin), an idealistic recruit (Emily Blunt), and a mysterious “helper” (Benicio Del Toro). The film’s flawless cinematography (by maestro Roger Deakins) and pulsating score (by Jóhann Jóhannsson) further enhance the effect of the film. And hell, did any film from 2015 have better standalone set pieces than Sicario? The traffic jam scene alone makes Sicario one of the most compulsively rewatchable films of the year.

6. Victoria
dir. by Sebastian Schipper
Victoria is a rare gimmick film that works on every level. The gimmick is simple, but no less astounding. The film is 138 minutes long, and was achieved in one take. No hidden cuts, no fancy tricks achieved through computer graphics – Victoria is legitimately one long shot. But what I loved most about the film is that it took its time revealing its titular heroine (Laia Costa) to us. We spend about an hour caring deeper and deeper for her, which makes the film’s second hour so tense. You may not agree with the decisions young Victoria makes, but my god if they didn’t make for one of the most exciting and impressive films I’ve seen in years.

5. The Hateful Eight
dir. by Quentin Tarantino
The Hateful Eight isn’t likely to convert Tarantino naysayers. The film is long, indulgent, and breathless, and I loved every second of it. Shot on gorgeous 70mm film, The Hateful Eight is Clue meets Agatha Christie, with plenty of Tarantinoian obscenity mixed in. The genius of the film is that it isn’t a movie about heroes and villains. There are no “good guys” in The Hateful Eight. Everyone is either bad, or worse. Like all of Tarantino’s films, I suspect The Hateful Eight will get better with subsequent viewings. And even at 3 hours and 7 minutes long, I can’t wait to dive into it again and again.

4. Wild Tales
dir. by Damián Szifrón
This outrageous film from Argentina was actually nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year (and should’ve won), but wasn’t released in U.S. theaters until February 2015. The movie is a series of vignettes connected by themes of coincidence, irony, dumb luck, and outlandish violence. It is, without question, the most hilariously entertaining film I saw in 2015. I watch it every few months, just to marvel at its acidic wit.

3. Breathe (Respire)
dir. by Mélanie Laurent
There’s one of these every year. A film I haven’t heard of, but slowly gains my attention by appearing on end of the year Best Of lists. For me, Breathe got a personal push from fellow blogger Sati of Cinematic Corner, who urged me to see the film, assuming I would fall in love with its confident style and delicate theme. And holy shit, was she right. The film earnestly depicts the joys and heartaches of two young women who become friends, and then don’t. As directed and co-written by Mélanie Laurent (perhaps best known for her performances in Inglourious Basterds, Beginners, Enemy, and more), Breathe is a film of merciless, quiet power. I had never heard of Joséphine Japy and Lou de Laâge, who play the two leads in the film, but damn if I won’t keep a careful eye on the rest of their careers. Do seek this film out; it’s a thing of sheer wonder. Also, Breathe contains what is easily the best ending to any film I saw in 2015. It literally took my breath away.

2. Love
dir. by Gaspar Noé
I have yet to meet anyone (online or in person) who adored Gaspar Noé’s 3D romance, Love, as much as me. But adored it I did. The film is one of the most accurate, visceral encapsulations of young love (and the memory of that love) that I’ve ever seen. I remain utterly inspired by the fearlessness of everyone involved with the film. From Benoît Debie’s stunning, still, neon, 3D cinematography, to Noé’s perfectly random choice of music, to the actors’ conviction in participating in unsimulated sex scenes – there wasn’t a single thing about Love that I didn’t, well, love.

1. The Revenant
dir. by Alejandro González Iñárritu
As far as I’m concerned, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant was the only masterful film released in 2015. Every single second of its running time demanded my full attention. For a film to work as well as The Revenant does, every aspect of filmmaking has to flow harmoniously. Starting with the story, The Revenant contains an ingeniously compelling narrative. Part survival film, part revenge thriller; part melancholic romance, part revisionist western. Iñárritu and his co-writer, Mark L. Smith, raise the stakes so high for the intelligent but battered frontiersman, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s his Oscar to lose), that the tension becomes excruciating. Glass is a man alone, continually preyed on by everything in his path, be it harsh weather, savage beasts, vengeful Native Americans, and sadistic men in his own company.

That’s the story, and it is a damn good one. Additionally, The Revenant is the best looking film of 2015, with jaw dropping cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, who is now officially our finest living director of photography. Lubezki’s work in this film should certainly earn him his third straight Oscar (after Gravity and Birdman). The thundering music, Stephen Mirrione’s skilled editing (the quick flashbacks tell us so much more than we initially think), Jack Fisk’s flawless production design – there simply isn’t a faulty part of the film to be found. It is a flawless cinematic achievement from one of the world’s most courageous directors.

2015 in Review

70 comments:

  1. YEEEEEEEY!

    I'm so psyched that you loved Breathe. The young actresses are just incredible and both make my line ups. That ending and that closing shot were just insane. I thought the film dragged a bit when they visited the countryside midway, but the standalone scenes and the whole intrigue and especially the performances made the movie.

    I'm so glad to see The Revenant on the top spot, I'm seeing it in 23 days. Would you say it's Inarittu's best? How about Hardy performance ranking among Locke, The Drop or Legend?

    I did enjoy large parts of H8 but the treatment of Daisy and the subsequent behavior of Tarantino defenders I saw pretty much everywhere the issue was raised just soured the movie for me. That said, the scene where JJL plays the guitar and the flashback chapter are fantastic

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for recommending Breathe. It devastated me in all the best ways. I loved it.

      My favorite Hardy performance is in Warrior, and his work in The Revenant rivals that for me. He is a very, very bad man in the film, and he plays it with utter conviction. There's no "Tom Hardy" in his work. I'm stunned he isn't a frontrunner for supporting actor.

      I loved that flashback chapter in H8. Anything with more Michael Madsen is always a good thing.

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  2. Amazing list of films I...still need to see and can't wait to!!!!

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  3. Hey, we both have Sicario as our number 7! Very neat list. Here's mine:

    1. Room
    2. Brooklyn
    3. Inside Out
    4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    5. Mad Max: Fury Road
    6. The Big Short
    7. Sicario
    8. The Martian
    9. Spotlight
    10. Ex Machina

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    1. Good stuff man! I really enjoyed Room. Larson and Tremblay (and Allen, for that matter) were incredible.

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  4. Nice! I'm seeing The Revenant on Friday when it drops in my neck of the woods. Sicario made my number 8 spot on my preliminary Top Ten. Still so many I need to see, including the rest of your list. The Hateful Eight turned me off a bit. The 70mm was just immaculate, man, but I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I had a similar reaction to Django, so I am in no way giving up on it. Will be seeing it again this weekend, most likely. I am a Tarantino junkie from way back, but his latest stuff has just not hit me the way his earlier stuff did.

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    1. Cool list man. I liked Bridge of Spies a lot more than I expected to. Hanks was doing something a little different than he normally does. There was a slyness to him that I dug. And Rylance was remarkable.

      Pulp Fiction is my second favorite film of all time, so QT's newer stuff doesn't nearly hit me as hard as his earlier stuff. So I do get what you mean.

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  5. Great choices. In fact, all of the ones i have seen here ended up on my top 20 list so i guess i should check out the rest of them as well. Victoria and Love are two i definitely want to watch. Both of them sound fantastic. Here are my top 20 movies (i'm sorry, i always have trouble narrowing it down to just 10):

    20. Straight Outta Compton (I'm not the biggest N.W.A. fan, but i like some of their music. Straight Outta Compton, the track, is one i often listen to at least. And this movie was way better than i expected.)
    19. Spotlight
    18. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (There are way too few action movie blockbusters that still do practical stunts and action sequences as well as the M:I movies anymore. If Tom Cruise can do a stunt without the help of a stunt man or CG, you can bet your ass he is gonna do it.)
    17. It Follows (The only horror movie in a long time that has actually genuinely creeped me out. It would have been much higher on the list if the ending was better.)
    16. Steve Jobs
    15. Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellen's best performance in years and one i sadly believe is gonna be mostly overlooked this award season.)
    14. Anomalisa
    13. Sicario
    12. What We Do in the Shadows (One of the funniest movies i have seen in a long time)
    11. Mad Max: Fury Road

    10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
    9. Creed (I am a huge fan of the Rocky movies, but i had no hope that this was gonna be any good. Thankfully i was proven way wrong. Stallone has not been this good since Cop Land)
    8. Room
    7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Yeah, i'm a Star Wars fan. So i'm just so damn happy to finally get a good Star Wars movie again after that awful prequel trilogy.)
    6. The Revenant (Yeah, this is definitely the year Leo is getting his Oscar. He deserves it for what he had to go through making this movie alone)
    5. The End of the Tour
    4. Ex Machina
    3. Inside Out (Yeah, i'll admit it. This movie made me cry like a little girl when i first watched it. Best Pixar movie since Up.)
    2. The Hateful Eight (I have already seen this twice and it was even better the second time. Everyone in the cast were fantastic, but if i had to pick a favorite, i would have to go with my man Walton Goggins. He definitely stole every scene he was in. I really hope this movie opens up more doors for him. Not enough people watched him on The Shield or Justified.)
    1. Beasts of No Nation (This is a movie that definitely came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. I just decided to watch it on Netflix one night without really knowing all that much about it beforehand, and it just left me speechless. And if Idris Elba gets snubbet at the Oscars again after this i will lose all hope in humanity. He was completely lost in his role here.)

    So that's my top 20 so far at least. There are still a lot of movies i want to see from 2015, like the rest of the ones on your list that weren't on mine. I also really want to check out 99 Homes, The Lobster, Trumbo, Carol, Tangerine and Mississippi Grind to name a few. It really has been a great year for movie in my eyes.

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    1. Great stuff here man. Goggins was my favorite part of The Hateful Eight as well. He was such a goddamn trip. Priceless. What We Do in the Shadows was so damn funny. And I love that it's only 86 minutes! I think Elba will pull out a nom, but it will be close. That film has a lot working against it, as far as Oscar politics go. Just because it aired most prominently online.

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    2. Yeah, it's the whole Netflix thing that has me worried about Idris Elba's chances as well. He did get a Golden Globe nod at least so that is a step in the right direction.

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    3. Yeah for sure. Either way, that film broke the tide. Movies premiering more strongly online are going to start to be the new norm.

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  6. I didn't see enough films this year either due to location, money, and other things but I enjoyed what I saw. Here is my list so far as I'm going to see The Revenant next weekend as I'm going to see The Force Awakens again but with my brother-in-law. Wild Tales and Clouds of Sils Maria are currently in my 2014 best-of list so far as the former is now one of my parents' favorite films.

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    1. I'm so fucking happy you liked Love. I'll give your full review a proper read tomorrow, but it is great to see it there. Can't wait to hear what you think of The Revenant.

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  7. I've got so much catching up to do. Haven't seen any of these, yet. They all sound fantastic, though.

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  8. Great list! I have yet to see most of them (excited for The Revenant!), but the three I've seen (Clouds of Sils Maria, Sicario, Wild Tales) are excellent films.

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    1. Thanks! So glad you liked Maria and Wild Tales. I wish more people saw those!

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  9. Great list! I'm so thrilled to see Clouds of Sils Maria and Respire here. I still need to see a few more major films from 2015 (mostly foreign language films like Mustang and Son of Saul), but overall I found it to be a very good year, though I totally get what you mean by many films being underwhelming.

    My top 5 (for now) would probably be this:

    1. Carol
    2. 45 Years
    3. Inside Out
    4. Tangerine
    5. Respire

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    1. Yay Respire! I enjoyed all the films on your list. Tangerine is so, so important. Not only because of how it was shot, but because it was made for just $100k. That's the most impressive part about that film for me.

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  10. Now obviously I had to make a list of this year's "best" films here:
    http://musicmotionmadnessfilm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/2015-365-days-in-5-great-films.html

    And whilst I didn't see as much this year to feel justified in saying it was a poor year for movies- those I saw were vastly outplayed by the best of 2014,13,12 and certainly 11. Wild Tales and Love are first on my list going into 2016 but what interested me most here was your no.1. I didn't think much of The Revenant AT ALL and if anything have had a Mad Max-esque disconnect with your praise for it- because I saw nothing other than the visuals (which to be fair literally took my breath away) that drew me to it- Just felt like a shallower Children Of Men with a fresh set of Colonial America paint thrown on and bigger actors in the mix :/ I guess the best thing about film though is its OK to disagree and better yet to discuss, and I'll give TR another try considering what I MIGHT see the second time around :)

    Are there any movies this year you're looking forward to in particular?

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    1. Great list! I can't WAIT to hear your thoughts on LOVE. It's so damn good. I think you'll really appreciate it. I hear what you're saying about The Revenant, but I respectfully disagree. I thought that film had more emotion (conveyed without words), passion, and compelling narrative than any other 3 films (combined) from 2015.

      Knight of Cups is what I'm most looking forward to in 2016. But there's plenty more. The Neon Demon, Hail Caesar, The Light Between Oceans, Nocturnal Animals, Silence... hopefully it'll be a good year!

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  11. Great list! Yours looks very different from the others I've seen. I also have Sicario on mine for now (Waiting to see a few more films until I post it) I have Breathe saved in my Netflix queue. I can't wait to see that one.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah I'm surprised I haven't been given more crap for my list yet! But I dunno, a lot of the most popular films from 2015 just didn't really do it for me. Oh well. Can't wait to hear what you think of Breathe.

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  12. Of those 10 I've only seen the Hateful Eight so far. I haven't started ranking 2015 films yet since I don't do my post until after the Oscars (to give me time to catch up on the late in the year releases).

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    1. Gotcha. Excited to see your list post Oscars.

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  13. Well, damn. I haven't seen a single one of these movies yet. Breathe is on my Netflix queue. I saw it mentioned in an article on overlooked films of 2015, and it looks exactly like my cup of tea.

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    1. Breathe is the one I'd recommend to you above the others. I think you'll love what it "says" about young women that age. And how it says it.

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  14. What!!!, No Carol? No 45 Years? No Tangerine? No Mad Max? Anyways, still a solid list though Alex! Happy to see "Breathe" in your list. But "The Revenant" rubs me off, sorry. It's a beautifully looking, slog film that is just pretentious in its own way.

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    1. Saw 'em all, enjoyed most of them, but not top 10 worthy for me. Glad we agree on Breathe!

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  15. I couldn't agree more with you regarding this year...it's an okay year, but not a great year. I don't care what the debaters are saying--it's just a ho-hum year. Period.

    Your list is quite unique though!I'm excited to see The Revenant at #1! It just got released today, and I cannot wait to see it!!!

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    1. Yep, could not agree more. Ho-hum year for sure. Can't wait to hear what you think of The Revenant! Leo's Oscar is waiting.

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  16. Hey Alex, that looks like an awesome list so happy to see Sicario and Clouds of Sils Maria there. I haven't had the chance to see many films from last year but the ones I did get to watch here are my rankings:
    1.) Carol
    2.) Brooklyn
    3.) Sicario
    4.) The Hateful Eight
    5.) 45 Years
    6.) Clouds of Sils Maria
    7.) Tangerine

    I am soon going to be watching Room and The Revanant and hopefully I'll find some way to watch Anomalisa.

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    1. Good stuff, really enjoyed your list. If they run Rooney for supporting actress, I think she has a great shot at winning, which I think is awesome.

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  17. "There are no “good guys” in The Hateful Eight. Everyone is either bad, or worse." People who complain about the treatment of Daisy as unfair to the rest of the people in the film are unable to wrap their head around that concept. Has it gotten that bad that people are unable to divide people into either hero (or anti-hero) or villain? H8, if anything, is Tarantino's darkest film. No Candyland explosion. No Hitler getting killed. It's an ugly, perverse look at the dark corners of America.

    The Revenant just might be my number 1 film as well. It rendered me unable to move from my seat.

    Great list and write ups!

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    1. Love this comment. I just got wind of people complaining about a misogynist vibe in The Hateful Eight yesterday and, with respect to those arguing that point, I think it's nonsense. It just feels like more of the "Listing to me! LISTEN TO ME!" cries of social justice warrior snowflakes that are so prominent among Millennials. But oh well.

      Dude seriously, how much did The Revenant rock?

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  18. 2015 was an odd year. While 2014 was pretty damn impressive, 2015 felt lacking. Granted there weren't many films from this past year I've seen, but that's mostly because there weren't many I wanted to see. However, the ones that stuck with me, in all honesty, they really stuck.

    1. The Revenant. I honestly didn't think anything would top Mad Max: Fury Road for me. Then I saw this, and after it was over, I sat stunned for a few minutes.
    2. Mad Max: Fury Road. Not just one of the best films of the year, but also my favorite action film of all time.
    3. Sicario: Left me shaken.
    4. Inside Out: Pixar's back, baby, and with such a strong emotional punch.
    5. The Hateful Eight: I'm one of the lucky few who saw the Roadshow version. That was as cool as expected, but I was caught off-guard by how vicious the film itself was. You gotta admire a film takes things this far into places this dark.
    Still in order of preference, but this is where I get more reserved in my praise. Like going from the four star films to the three and 1/2 star films.
    6. The Gift: Disregard all trailers. This is no ordinary thriller.
    7. The Martian: I've often said I struggled with Ridley Scott, but that's because I've never seen him do a film as entertaining and funny as this.
    8.Ex Machina: Intriguing.
    9. Kingsman: The Secret Service: For when you just want to have a damn fun time.

    Like I said, there were a lot of films I didn't see. The ones I still really want to are: Tangerine, The Assassin, Spring, Hard to Be a God, Queen of Earth, pretty much everything on your list that I haven't also mentioned, The Wolfpack, Timbuktu, Bone Tomahawk, and Goodnight, Mommy.

    I keep getting tempted to put The Babadook on my list, but while I saw it in 2015 (Redbox), that was 2014, wasn't it? Either way, it's a great movie, and to anyone who hasn't seen it, I highly recommend it.

    One more thing. Pan is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Ever. It's almost as bad as Transformers 2, the worst movie ever made.

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    1. Great stuff here! LOVE that The Revenant comes in at number 1. And I dug your comments on the other films you chose. Can't say I braved Pan, but bless you for doing so haha. I just read that Alicia Vikander has a good shot at winning the supporting actress Golden Globe tomorrow for Ex Machina. How cool would that be?!

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    2. Whoa, it's March already? Sorry it took this long to get back to you.

      Anywho, Vikander gave probably my second favorite female performance that year, behind Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (By the way, I've been dying to know what your thoughts on that movie were.)

      Also, about Pan, *deep breath* What a piece of worthless garbage that was. Wanna know how bad it is? The sloppily paced and even worse edited opening sequence establishes the film as being set during the Blitz. You know the Blitz, the German bombing of London from 1940-1941, what with the keeping calm and the carrying on. This is already a red flag: the Peter Pan character was introduced in J. M. Barrie's play "Peter and Wendy" which was first staged, and I assume set, in goddamn 1904, a setting which was also carried over into the 1953 Disney movie. Pan is supposed to be a prequel. How can a prequel be set in the future? What is this Lost? Don't be like Lost; that show totally went downhill once that flash-sideways BS came in. But this is a minor complaint, unlike the scene when they are entering Neverland and the pirates are all excited for Blackbeard so they start chanting a rallying cry. That rallying cry (I am not making this up) being "Smells Like Teen Spirit". What the hell. Then they do it again later with "Blitzkrieg Bop". What. The. Hell. Then there’s the poorly rendered CGI, the overdone or underdone acting (It’s as if none of the actors were given any direction, so the all just tried to wing it), the sloppy editing, the sloppy SOUND editing, the casting for the Native Americans (all played by Asians or Caucasians. They somehow made Rooney Mara even paler for her role as Tiger Lily), the complete misuse of Tinker Bell (a lens flare. Seriously. A lens flare plays Tinker Bell), and the worst closing line in film history. “Hook, do you think we’ll always be friends?” “Sure thing, kid. Nothing could possibly go wrong.” Screw this piece of crap. There’s probably a lot more wrong with it but I’m about to give myself an aneurysm just thinking about it. I just had to get the word out, to warn everyone of the horrendous harm this pathetic excuse for a movie will bring. If someone says they want to see Pan, pass onto them my message, Alex. You’ve got to tell them! You gotta tell them! You tell everybody. Listen to me, Alex, You’ve got to tell them! Tell them SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!!! AND THAT PAN REALLY FUCKING SUCKS!!!!!!!

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    3. Wow, okay, yeah, never, ever, EVER watching Pan. Holy shit.

      I was quiet about Fury Road, because it seemed (or seems) that damn near every person alive loved it. I was not one of them, but now that almost a year has passed, I'd be curious to go back and revisit it. I just wish I knew going into the film that it did not contain a shred of story or character development. That really took me out of the movie while I was watching it. But now I of course know that was Miller's intention. And don't get me wrong, I didn't hate (or even dislike, really) the movie. I just wasn't as in love with it as everyone else.

      And the way people harped on the film's use of practical effects was baffling to me. Granted, there were more practical effects than other films of that size, but I LOT of it was CG. I mean, hell, it was nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar!

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  19. Dope list! Here's mine

    10. Ex Machina
    - Because thought provoking, intelligent sci-fi is the best sci-fi. Because "Get Down Saturday Night"

    9. The Hateful Eight
    - Because Tarantino continues to mature as a storyteller. Because I truly felt I was part of something special seeing this in glorious 70mm

    8. Carol
    - Because Blanchett and Mara are two of the best working actresses of this generation. Because Carter Burwell's score is magnificent.

    7. The Martian
    - Because it's the feel-good movie of the year. Because it's Ridley Scott's best since Gladiator. Because "Starman"

    6. Phoenix
    - Because it's Vertigo with a post-WW2 backdrop. Because that ending will destroy you.

    5. The Revenant
    - Because if this don't get Leo that golden statue, nothing will. Because Lubezki is the best working DP.

    4. Inside Out
    - Because these animation auteurs returned to form with their most high-concept effort yet, with that perfect blend of creativity and entertainment (and tears) for young and old.

    3. Spotlight
    - Because this had an unbelievably good ensemble cast (literally every actor was great). Because it's a restrained and meticulous ode to the power of journalism.

    2. Anomalisa
    - Because we can count on Kaufman to make another great film about being lost in your own mind. Because despite featuring puppets, it captured the human condition better than any film this year. Because "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"

    1. Mad Max: Fury Road
    - Because "I LIVE! I DIE! I LIVE AGAIN!" Because "WHAT A DAY! WHAT A LOVELY DAY!" Because the age of the reboot-quel may not mean the death of cinema after all if true mad-men like George Miller are behind the camera. Because it's the best action film since the Matrix. Because Imperator Furiosa is an instant classic movie heroine.

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    1. Great stuff man. Phoenix was such a hidden wonder. I'm so glad I discovered it. I can't wait to watch it again actually. And I love that Anomalisa came in at number 2 for you!

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    2. Because "Get Down Saturday Night"!
      Greatest reason ever. I'm gonna tear up the fucking dance floor!

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  20. I am so bored of the negativity on social media and blogs about THE REVENANT, so it's particularly awesome that this was your number 1. I am really looking forward to seeing THE HATEFUL EIGHT and ANOMALISA within the next week.

    I think that 2015 was a good year in film, but not an incredible year. I still found 25+ films I loved, but only a couple of masterpieces. For me 2015 was great for mainstream/Hollywood stuff - in general, blockbusters seemed to be of a higher quality. Indie arthouse and foreign didn't seem as strong. Of course there are exceptions both ways, but that is my take.

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    1. I think your second paragraph is fair. I mean, after all, 2015 was the biggest box office year ever so obviously a lot of people loved it! I'm just typically not into the bigger movies, so the year kind of fell flat for me.

      As for The Revenant hate... I just laugh it off. All of the petty arguments against it seem very silly to me. I mean, not liking a film is one thing (opinions are opinions), but bashing it for no discernible, intelligent reason is just laughable. But I'm so glad you loved it as well!

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  21. Alex-- I love your list. Some great choices here. The Revenant was incredible. I think you liked it more than I did, but it really was a breathtaking film. I hope DiCaprio finally wins this year! As you know Sicario was one of my favorites too! Both you and Sati made me curious about 'Breathe.' I will have to add that to my list.

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    1. Thanks so much, Mariah! Oh, Breathe... wow, just... wow. It really stunned me. It's a very gentle, quiet film, but it packs a massive, literal emotional punch. Like whoa.

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  22. Wonderful list! Love seeing Wild Tales, which I considered a 2014 release, on here, as well as Sicario and Victoria. I have some reservations about The Revenant, but it gets better the more I think about it. Clouds of Sils Maria and The Hateful Eight are good, though I wish I liked them more. Still need to see Anomalisa, Best of Enemies, and Breathe (Respire), which I rented recently but haven't watched yet.

    I need to catch a few more big ones before I post mine, but here's where I'm at right now.

    1. Mad Max: Fury Road
    2. Phoenix
    3. Amy
    4. The Revenant
    5. Testament of Youth
    6. Sicario
    7. Brooklyn
    8. Victoria
    9. Spotlight
    10. Ex Machina

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    1. Great stuff. I liked Phoenix much more the second time I saw it. She'll definitely be making an appearance on my top female performances list. Also love that Victoria made your list. Wish more people saw that one.

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  23. Victoria is also in my top 10 of 2015. The Revenant looks like a film I HAVE to see on the big screen. I enjoyed the puzzle of Clouds of Sils Maria-I failed at decoding it and what it all meant didn't reveal itself until I read interpretations online.

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    1. Good stuff man. Wasn't Sils Maria so captivating in that way? Can't wait to hear what you think of The Revenant.

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  24. I think this is the first time I haven't seen any of the films listed on one of your year end lists! But quite a few are on my want to see list; The Revenant (actually I'll be going to see that tonight), Sicario, Anomalisa are the main ones, with Victoria, Love and Wild Tales I wouldn't mind seeing as well.

    My Top 10

    10. Ted 2/Spy - both pretty good mainstream comedies but yeah kindof filling out my list
    9. SpongeBob Movie - Pretty trippy and surreal for a kids movie
    8. Shaun The Sheep Movie - I wondered how they'd extend to movie length continuing without dialogue but Aardman did it again
    7. Good Kill - Ethan Hawke has been on a roll the last couple of years
    6. Mad Max - Fury Road - I don't think anyone thought this would be as good as it was, but I wasn't quite in love with it as a lot of people were
    5. It Follows - a simple premise but very effective
    4. Paper Planes - a great little aussie family film
    3. Star Wars - The Force Awakens - Yes they finally made a Star Wars film that can stand with the original trilogy
    2. Ex Machina - the best sci-fi of the year, Alex Garland has started his directing career impressively
    1. Kingsman: The Secret Service - the most fun movie of the year, and the best Bond movie that's not Bond (in fact I like it more than any Bond film). Who knew Colin Firth could kick serious ass?!

    But the best movie I seen all year was Birdman which was a 2014 movie but didn't come out in Australia till 2015.

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    1. I thought Good Kill deserved to be discussed far more than it was. Everyone in that was great. And I enjoyed The Force Awakens much more than I thought I would. I had no idea it was essentially a remake of A New Hope, but I really dug it.

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  25. I could not get into The Hateful Eight, and I consider myself to be a die hard Tarantino fan. I'm usually in awe of his films, and this one left me wondering what I just watched. Oh well, maybe I need to see it again.

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    1. You know, I was the same way about Inglourious Basterds the first time I saw it. But after giving it a few rewatches, I grew to love it. I think QT's films have a way of growing on you, especially if you're a die hard fan.

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  26. Some really great movies on here and ones I need to see. Im seeing Anomalisa Sunday, and I plan to rewatch Hateful Eight later this week. Breathe looks great and mainly because of it's director. Really want to see Victoria and Love but I doubt they will come to theaters where I live.

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    1. Good stuff man, hope you're still interested in Breathe, Victoria and Love when they drop on DVD/Blu-Ray. All definitely worth a watch! Thanks for the comment!

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  27. I like the list, and am a great fan of your work. The Revenant is somewhere on my Top 20 for last year. In fact, I just recently made a video beginning to highlight my Top 20. I'll post the link if you're interested, I don't want to spam.

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    1. Thanks Sean! Dude, I'd love to see it, please feel free to post it!

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    2. Awesome man - I'll check it out soon!

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  28. Great list. I saw Breathe at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014. Definitely a great ending :) Can't remember all of it but I liked the emotion that went into it.

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    1. Thanks! So happy you're a fan of Breathe. That ending... my god.

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  29. I've been reading through these comments and noticed you might be avoiding something... I totally get not wanting to provoke arguments and I know from just talking honestly about how I feel about Nolan's recent work can antagonize people for the strangest of reasons...

    Maybe I'm wrong but regardless: Are you ever going to address Mad Max: Fury Road? I really didn't take to it and was interested what all the radio silence was about. Just curious :)

    Also: Saw Shame again for the third time tonight. Still one of only two films I've seen yet that I'd put anywhere near a best of the decade list.

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    1. Haha you're funny. I actually just discussed my thoughts on Fury Road yesterday on this post. Here's my comment.

      Shame, man, that one will always hit for me. Always.

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    2. Ahaha oops. Seems I wasn't as thorough as I should have been :P

      I felt a similar way actually: Fury Road didn't engage me on any level because I felt there was little to no character to back up the effects everyone was harping on about. Also that sped up segment in the beginning was awful imo- just WHY

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    3. Yeah it just wasn't for me. Sped up action like that rarely suits my tastes. But, again, oh wellllll.

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  30. Nope, Anomalisa sucks.
    Totally agree (well, mostly) with all the other films in the list, though.

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