It’s been a good year for film. There’s not any other way to say it. I saw 60-odd films this year, far fewer in theatres but far more at home than last year, and of those, I remember the majority being good!
There are many movies I haven’t seen yet: Anomalisa, Duke of Burgundy, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Carol, Son of Saul, Bridge of Spies, The Look of Silence, Green Room, and so many others. Bone Tomahawk, one I’ve been particularly looking forward to, isn’t even out in Canada yet.
Films that are fantastic but didn’t quite make the list include Trainwreck, Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Brooklyn, It Follows, The Martian, The Hateful Eight and (again) so many others. Ultimately, it was tough to narrow it down to just ten films because while it was easy to choose my top three, choosing only seven more proved pretty challenging. There were a lot of great movies in 2015.
I’ve also put together a worst-of-list for the last several years, but I decided not to do that this year. I know that some people look forward to it, but I’ve decided to focus on the positive rather than the negative despite the latter being the bigger draw on the web. And besides, we all know that Pixels was the worst film of the year by a country mile.
So what did make the top list? I’m glad you asked.
Two kids find a cop car and take it on a joyride. Unfortunately, they don’t know that the cop car belongs to crooked cop Kevin Bacon, who left a body in the trunk. If the set-up isn’t enough to get you on board, know that Kevin Bacon is in top form as the crooked cop and has a fantastic monologue in the middle. The two kids at the centre of the story are pretty great, playing precisely the two kinds of kids that fall in together and get into trouble together. It’s challenging and energetic and dark and a hell of a ride.
Brie Larson seems like she’s been an up-and-comer forever now. She’s turned in some excellent performances, but this might be the one that finally proves to be her big break. In Room she runs the gamut of emotions first in captivity, struggling to survive with her child-by-rape in a tiny room and later in freedom as she desperately tries to re-adjust to the world and help her son figure out a world he’s never seen. It’s a real tour de force performance that has already garnered Golden Globe and SAG award nominations.
People complain that there aren’t any movies for adults anymore, but Spotlight is precisely that: The true story of the journalists who uncovered not only the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston area but the systemic complicity of almost the entire city. Spotlight doesn’t proceed at a breakneck pace or feature much in the way of shocking character background; it’s just a straight-up story of a group of professionals doing their job to expose a problem in the face of a community that would rather ignore it. The story itself is shocking despite being one we can remember from the news.
Not a ghost story (as was advertised) but rather a story with ghosts in it. Guillermo del Toro transports us to a dark, gothic mansion that is as much a character in the story as humans and a trio of humans whose pasts are as haunted as the estate is. It’s easy to see that this gothic love story wouldn’t do so well when it was being advertised as a horror film –I wonder why studios market films so weirdly sometimes– but the movie we got was better than the one we were being sold. Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska are both great, but the film is worth seeing for Jessica Chastain, whose performance is over-the-top crazy gold. Pair all this with settings and costumes dripping with detail, and you have yourself a real winner.
As if looking inside a child’s mind isn’t a brilliant enough idea, Inside Out is a wonderfully told story about sadness and its place in your life. It’ll make you laugh, and it’ll make you cry, and it proves that Pixar is at the top of their game, telling unique and original stories—also, bonus points for the perfect casting of Richard Kind.
What We Do In The Shadows
It’s hilarious. That’s all you need to know. A story about centuries-old vampires trying to make it in the modern world is a good enough set-up, but the execution here is top-notch. From the fully fleshed-out supernatural world to the examinations of how exactly a vampire dresses for a party, there’s something to be loved in every scene of this movie.
Magic Mike XXL
Yeah, I liked the movie about male strippers –sorry, male entertainers– this year. The plot is pretty thin; the bros go on a road trip, one last ride, to a convention to make some cash and have an epic time. Along the way, they meet many women of many ages and sizes and make them all feel great about themselves. The boys do so by throwing off the personas they’re expected to keep up and instead being true to their own unique personalities. That’s right, the movie about male strippers is firmly sex-positive and strongly feminist, and just a good time all around.
A man wins a contest to spend a week with his reclusive, genius employer. When he arrives, he discovers he will be the human component in a sort-of Turing test. What follows is an examination of what it means to be human, what it means to be captive, what it means to feel, and ultimately what it means to be free. Every viewing reveals something else; everyone has an opinion about the ending. Ex Machina is the most thoughtful movie on this list and my third favourite film from 2015.
Of all the later sequels that came out this year (there were a ton), Creed might be the most successful. The plot of the film echoes the original Rocky in all the right ways but offers a fresh new take on the underdog story, gives Sylvester Stallone a chance to stretch his legs and act again (he’s nominated for a Golden Globe he deserves to win), and passes the torch to a new, young star whose story I personally can’t wait to see more of. Toss in some great training montages and a nail-biting one-shot boxing match, and you end up with my second favourite movie of the year.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Do you know why I chose this shot from the film? Because that’s what it felt like watching the movie. In the best way, of course. Fury Road is an assault on the senses pausing only to give the characters and audience a few short breaths before continuing, and what an assault it is. Featuring the best car action in a film I can remember, a plot condemning toxic gender relations, and a strong message of hope, Mad Max is my favourite film from 2015.
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