Saturday, January 2, 2016

My List of the Top 10 Films of 2015

This past year, I broke my record of the number of times I’ve watched a single movie in the cinema (which was previously three times). I’ve watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens five times in theaters. In its first 10 days of release, in fact. I’ve watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens five times in theaters and it isn’t even in my top 10 films of the year.

It could be a testament to how much of a really good year it was in film, or it could be a testament to #brand loyalty. I definitely see The Force Awakens as the former, but seeing that it came out in the last month of the year, I also choose to see it as a summation of the year in film. The Force Awakens, and a couple other films this year, excelled at picking up from where they left off in their filmography, and progressing further with something new. A few of the films in this list share that same attribute and so do a few other films not on this list. It’s exciting to think that in a few years, we’ll be looking back at 2015, and remembering it as a monumental year in film.

The Top 10 Films of 2015

Paramount Pictures
Director/Writer Christopher McQuarrie took Mission: Impossible to new heights with his continuously decreasing action sequence structure. It’s just amazing how the film starts off with its biggest action set piece then progresses with each action sequence getting smaller and smaller, with the momentum of the film never faltering. It’s an intricate blockbuster and an incredibly fun ride that makes for a really good double feature with Ghost Protocol, because of how different the two installments are.

20th Century Fox
This past year, I was thankful Ridley Scott took a break from dour films like Prometheus and Exodus: Gods & Kings to give us a bright and hopeful sci-fi film about human survival. The Martian is funny, gorgeous, and a completely satisfying movie-going experience. The film is supported wonderfully by its cast and even more so by its director, who delivers on his first great big-budgeted film in a while.

08.) The Mend

For a film about a deadbeat, The Mend has a lot of life. Director John Magary’s debut feature film is hilarious, sad, angry, dynamic, and ultimately about brothers and truth. Follow the incredible Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett on a film that’s like a rollercoaster, but with no slow build-ups, just a lot of impressionable downs. The editing of this film is majestic. There’s no way I’m not going to give myself time off to watch this again.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Pixar went back to basics to awaken the child in me. After years of teaching kids how to deal with emotions and life through animals, inanimate objects, and other non-human characters, they actually went and made a film that features emotions as the main characters that teach the audience how to handle emotions. The result is pretty spectacular. Characters that could’ve easily been one-note all took on so much life and meaning. They built a cute and vibrant world around the characters in a clever way. And the film completely nailed its silent, emotional gut-punches. The scene where Joy accepts sadness at the bottom of the Memory Dump was pretty much when I knew the movie would be at my Top 10 at the end of the year.

06.) Crimson Peak

Universal Pictures
Director Guillermo Del Toro has proven himself a creative genius willing to break the boundaries of genre filmmaking. Del Toro confidently challenges the horror genre with a dark romance that is atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful. It doesn’t have a shocking twist, it doesn’t follow the “build up, scare” structure, the story simply unfolds as it follows Del Toro’s vision. The set pieces take on a life of their own (sometimes literally) and the actors completely fade into the pageantry of the piece. It’s Del Toro channeling classic and foreign horror techniques, and with his firm handling of cinema in the director’s position, it’s a stand out horror film that should be remembered for quite some time.

05.) Clouds of Sils Maria

IFC Films
This is my Birdman. Clouds of Sils Maria is a perfect marriage between text and subtext, and boasts one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking screenplays presented this year. It completely succeeds at being a film about coping with age and the overtaking of the new generation, and all of its meta commentary, with the excellent use of perspective – both from the two main characters and the audience. It also has two stunning performances from Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, and even a really good performance from Chloe Grace Moretz. It definitely has loads to unpack on its first viewing, but further viewings and analysis has proven this one of the best films that 2015 had to offer.

04.) Room

A24 Films
Room is a bold, emotional exploration of the mother-son bond and the world a parent creates for their child. Writer of the film and the novel on which it was based on, Emma Donoghue crafts a sometimes tearful, but mostly uplifting coming-of-age drama that is accented beautifully by Lenny Abrahamson’s nuanced direction. The film also features two of the best performances of the year in Brie Larson, who is an absolute cinematic treasure, and Jacob Tremblay, a nine year old actor who has the perfect balance and command over his role that most adult actors dream of having. It’s set on a small scale, but it’s definitely one of the most breathtaking cinematic experiences I’ve had in 2015.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Most people think I’m joking when I say Magic Mike XXL is in my top five movies of 2015. I’m most certainly not. Magic Mike XXL is the definition of a “pleasure movie”, but where it differs from the likes of a Star Wars: The Force Awakens or a Kingsman: The Secret Service (films that aim to pleasure fans or audiences craving for a hyperviolent escape in cinema) is that it aims to serve the female audience. And that’s a film I can thoroughly get behind. Producer Steven Soderbergh and director Gregory Jacobs perfectly and intentionally deliver a no-conflict, road trip film that’s all about having fun. And the drivers never take their foot off 11, as the film is complete with spot-on comedic timing, insane dance numbers, and one of the best single scenes in movie this year. There’s nothing fundamentally different between this film and the other inventive and entertaining blockbusters I’ve put on this list, other than the dudes being healers instead of fighters.

02.) Creed

MGM Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures
All I wanted to do was chant “Creed! Creed!” multiple times after watching this film. Director Ryan Coogler brings back the Rocky series after a nine-year resting period with a film that passes on the torch from Rocky Balboa to Adonis Creed. It solidifies itself as *the* boxing movie of the 2010s, as it incorporates the familiar “underdog” story utilized a lot in sports movies with the fresh perspective and unique sensibilities brought by Coogler. Also, this one of the films I mentioned earlier that shows respect for the legacy left behind by the old generation, while also showing willingness to progress further with new and relevant stories. That frame right there with Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone (who are both phenomenal in the film) perfectly captures that. I’ve never watched a single Rocky film, but I can’t help but feel that the way I feel for this film is how audiences felt for Rocky back in 1976.

Warner Bros. Pictures
The 80s had Die Hard. The 90s had Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The 2010s? Well, if you ask me, I’m going to say Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller resurrected his 80s Austrailian, dystopian action series with a jolt of adrenaline mixed with gussoline, and I don’t think the action genre shall ever go back to the way it was (at least, from my point of view). Fury Road’s true genius lies not in its simplicity, but its ability to tell a complex, multi-layered story mostly through action and visuals. I’m always astounded that a blockbuster film in 2015 was able to tell a convincing romance story, a villain-turned-hero story, and a story about a man and a woman forming a genuine camaraderie to overthrow the patriarchy, all with only brief moments of exposition. It’s the type of filmmaking that makes me fall in love with the craft all over again. Plus, the gorgeous cinematography and color pallete, Miller’s use of practical effects, and Charlize Theron’s absolutely amazing performance as Furiosa make the film endlessly rewatchable. There was not one film in 2015 I deemed perfect… except for Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a perfect film. Witness.

That was my 2015. It was a pretty good year, and I can’t wait to see where I am when I look back at it with more age and new knowledge. It was a monumental year, one that will hopefully be remembered for ages to come.

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