The Best Films of 2015

Dave author picAs befitting the blood pact all movie bloggers must sign upon founding their website, what follows is a list of my favourite films of 2015. It’s been a strong year at the cinema, even if I felt it was a slight step down from last year (specifically, I didn’t see a single new film I warranted worth of five stars). This is maybe just a reflection of increasing standards on my part rather than decreasing quality; I’ve seen more than 500 films – new and old – both this year and last year, which perhaps means that I’m harder to please than I was when I was less gluttonous in my movie consumption.

I’ve kept the approach to eligibility that I took last year; specifically, if I’ve seen it but it’s getting an Australian general theatrical release in 2016, then it’s not eligible. You have to draw a line somewhere, and this way I’m simultaneously keeping things accessible for general audiences and hopefully, avoiding too much clashing of awards seasons films.

I will, however, include a short list of great heretofore-unreleased films after my traditional top 20, and then supplement that with top 10 lists from some other ccpopculture writers and some notable performances/scores/cinematography from the year (with less strict adherence to release dates).

Where I have diverged from earlier lists is avoiding a numerated list (though you can find a rough one of those on my Letterboxd). This is largely to accommodate the format I’ve used below, identifying the common themes or concerns of the 2015 films I loved rather than trying to justify individually why I loved them. Without further ado…

My Top 20 Films of 2015

The Force Awakens

Self-Aware Blockbusters:  Jurassic World and Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

You tend not to see ‘reputable’ critics’ lists of top films populated by action-packed blockbusters, and that’s understandable. Even the best such films are typically constrained by commercial concerns, too devoted to formula to allow the individuality and idiosyncrasy that defines great art to shine through (see: Ultron, Age of). Jurassic World and The Force Awakens, though, manage to double as great entertainment and reflections on said commercial constraints.

Like the much-maligned sequels I grew up with (back before ‘cinematic universes’ were a thing), each closely emulates the narrative structure of their predecessors, to the point where you could (smarmily, inaccurately) describe them as remakes. But Jurassic World is as much about re-enacting the thrills of Spielberg’s original as it is mounting a defence for itself – in an era where dinosaurs seem quaint compared to superheroes and their ilk – and subtly criticising its own reliance on nostalgia. Trevorrow delicately deconstructs Jurassic Park’s espoused environmentalism (where all animals should be cherished unless they’re scary velociraptors) while revelling in its fondness for merchandising. Maybe not a masterpiece, but egregiously misunderstood.

The Force Awakens is more conventional, but let’s not minimise the smartness of its self-reflexivity. Abrams has delivered everything fans jilted by Lucas’ prequels had hoped for, but incorporates commentary on those expectations besides. As I discussed in my review, most of the characters chafe against their destinies – destinies established in myth and solidified by the marketplace – reflecting both the repetition of fiction and the implacability of history. On one hand, Han Solo quips that there’s always a way around the shields; on the other, The First Order represent the toxicity of devoted fandom. Yes, these films each satisfy their obligation to mainstream audiences (and they’re populated with their fair share of flaws, besides), but they find time to doodle in the margins while they’re at it.

Breathe

Female Bonding: Breathe and Mistress America

Cinema’s sexism benchmark nowadays is the Bechdel test – for those unfamiliar, it simply checks if a film includes a pair of women who have a conversation about something other than a man. While I’m dubious about applying the test on a case-by-case basis, it’s effective at revealing the dearth of substantial female characterisation at the movies – especially when it comes to relationships between women.

It’s not a surprise, then, that films like Breathe and Mistress America – films that offer complex, multifaceted portrayals of female friendship – shone so brightly this year. Mélanie Laurent’s Breathe considers the intense friendship and equally intense enmity that forms between a pair of young teenage girls, honing in with unnerving accuracy on the dishonesty and manipulation at the heart of their relationship. The film is elevated by Lou de Laâge’s performance and an unspoken queer undercurrent, though somewhat marred by the bluntness of its climax (if it had ended differently, it’d be a contender for my favourite film of the year).

Mistress America presents a similar relationship between soon-to-be-half-sisters Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig; initially warm, then intense, then combative. But it’s infinitely lighter than Laurent’s approach, swerving into an extended, meticulously-blocked sequence of screwball comedy in its spectacular second act. Along the way, it finds time to flesh out its portrayal of female friendship with a reflection upon the artificiality of identity – the way we posture, and perform as ourselves, and construct ourselves in the image of others. (It’s also an effective palate cleanser for Baumbach’s other film of 2015, the uneven While We’re Young.)

(Honourable mention: The Duke of Burgundy, which has a lot to say about power relationships but tends to be overshadowed by its fetishisation of its aesthetics and subject matter alike.)

Magic Mike XXL

Male Bonding: Foxcatcher and Magic Mike XXL

On the other hand, male friendship is everywhere on the silver screen. Wander into any given cinema and you’re likely to encounter dudes exchanging witty banter (it’s the foundation upon which Marvel has built its empire, even). It remains rare to see such relationships depicted with any genuine insight, which is what makes Magic Mike XXL and Foxcatcher – two films with diametrically-opposed depictions of male relationships – so memorable.

Foxcatcher’s setting – über-rich dude’s wrestling ranch – and concerns – America Today, And Like, The American Dream And Stuff – is about as far as you can get from Breathe, but it has a peculiar resonance with Laurent’s film. The unspoken queer subtext, the wordless anxiety, the all-consuming jealousy, the forbidding atmosphere of wrongness. As an attempt to capture contemporary America, I’m not sure Miller succeeds, but as a chilling representation of noxious relationships, it’s spot on. I’ve written about Magic Mike XXL’s perfect take on male friendship recently, so I won’t repeat myself, but suffice to say: there’s a lot more to this male strippers road trip movie than you might expect.

(Honourable mention goes to The Mend, which is maybe the best depiction of infantile masculinity in crisis since The Master.)

Dope

Blackness on the Big Screen: Dope, Beyond the Lights and Creed

To justify the inclusion of Creed on my list (an entry that could’ve easily joined Jurassic World and The Force Awakens in their sub-category), I will redirect you to the above-linked article on it and Magic Mike XXL, wherein I talk about the authenticity of its romance – and how refreshing it is to see a believable relationship grounded in blackness, rather than some white 20 year-old screenwriter’s interpretation of blackness. Plus, the fucking craft in this thing! It plays its audience beautifully, earning goosebumps on multiple occasions (the true test of greatness).

I probably need more time to justify my inclusion of Dope and Beyond the Lights, each of which are fundamentally about blackness, and each of which has earned its fair share of likely justifiable criticism. Yes, there’s a hint of sexism and homophobia to Dope, and, yes, its Bitcoin montage is undeniably silly. So I’ll concede it’s a #problematicfave. But it’s just so. much. fun. A propulsive soundtrack – heavy on the ‘90s hip-hop – combined with sugar-hit colours and sugar-high pacing and a nuanced reflection on being a black teenage nowadays? I haven’t smiled more in a movie this year.

Beyond the Lights (relegated to an iTunes-only Australian release), meanwhile, arguably trends towards slut-shaming in its dichotomies of ‘authentic’ and ‘commercialised.’ If you interpret it as an excoriation of pop stars like Rihanna – and their unapologetic incorporation of their sexuality into their art – then, yes, it’s probably another #problematicfave. Such interpretations ignore that plenty of pop stars don’t have the autonomy of stars like Rihanna – they’re as much artworks as they are artists – and that not everyone is comfortable being compelled to gyrate in next-to-nothing. Defences aside, Beyond the Lights is mostly miraculous for its heartfelt romance between Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker; each perfect, each delicate, each wonderful.

Mad Max Fury Road

The Australian Outback: Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dressmaker

If 2015 is anything to go by, the reports of the Western’s death have been greatly exaggerated. There were plenty of respectable Westerns and neo-Westerns on the cinematic calendar, from Tommy Lee Jones’ feminist The Homesman through non-American colonialist Westerns like Theeb and Far From Men to weirder experiments: The Salvation, Slow West. (There’s The Revenant too, I suppose.) But the best Westerns of the year shared the same setting: outback Australia.

Mad Max: Fury Road took both the concerns of the Western – gunplay, masculinity, the violence of life on the frontiers – and the car fetishism of its forebears to hyperbolic extremes. While I think its ‘feminist’ credentials have been overstated, it’s hard to quibble with the imagination and sheer craft behind George Miller’s intimidating achievement.

But my pick for best Western of the year is The Dressmaker, a film that trades gunslingers for seamstresses and revolvers for sewing machines. Jocelyn Moorhouse mashes up this ever-so-masculine genre with the traditional concerns of the “woman’s picture” – melodrama, intrigue, fabulous costumes – and produces something uniquely captivating. Its tonal restlessness isn’t for everyone, granted; one second you’re in a Mills and Boon novel, the next someone’s ankle’s been slashed open, but provided you can adapt to its (many) wavelengths, it’s perhaps the most entertaining film of the year.

Cemetery of Splendour

Dreams and Memories: Arabian Nights (Volume 1 – The Restless One, Volume 2 – The Desolate One & Volume 3 – The Enchanted One) and Cemetery of Splendour

One of the perks of watching a lot of movies over the last couple years is how effectively I’ve expanded my understanding of other countries’ cultures and concerns. Sure, watching a movie isn’t quite the same as travelling, but it’s a lot cheaper, and little decisions – where to cut, what to include, what not to explain – combine to provide a better understanding of life in another country than any dense tome could.

That said, despite the obvious political concerns of both Arabian Nights and Cemetery of Splendour, I can’t really say that I walked out of either film with a complete understanding of their economic or political situations. Miguel Gomes’ take on the ramifications of Portugal’s austerity measures is more likely to leave a lingering affection for a ghostly dog or chaffinch’s birdsong than it is to allow me to carry on a dinner party conversation about the country. And drifting through Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s membrane between sleeping and waking may not have left me with any robust understanding of modern-day Thailand. But each, in their own intoxicating, indelible way, have left me with a feeling that resonates, a sense of memories and emotions that’s far more evocative of space and time than any traditional documentary could approximate.

Cobain - Montage of Heck

Fact and/or Fiction: Cobain: Montage of Heck and Tehran Taxi

One of Arabian Nights’ most alluring qualities is its prevailing ambiguity between fact and fiction, as it slides from documentary to fiction without explicitly distinguishing between the two. While neither Cobain: Montage of Heck nor Tehran Taxi adopt the same fractured approach, each shares the same understanding that the line between truth and fantasy is frequently blurred.

Montage of Heck’s detractors complain that it offers little in the way of new information when it comes to its much-discussed subject. Sure. Beyond some achingly intimate home video footage, Kurt Cobain devotees are unlikely to learn anything new from this doco. Brett Morgen, despite his unprecedented access to Cobain’s archives, is less interested than providing a traditional documentary than an experimental evocation of the man. It’s a more interesting reflection on the fragility of identity under the pressures of fame than the mediocre Amy, and – thanks to its creative, mixed-media approach – a work of art in its own right. The contradictions and questions at its core aren’t answered, because sometimes life doesn’t have neat answers.

It’s not surprising that Jafar Panahi’s latest, Tehran Taxi, exhibits a similar disinterest in distinguishing between fact and fiction. Are we watching a scripted story, filmed on mobile phones and hand-held cameras with actors portraying the director’s fans and relatives as he drives a cab around Tehran? Or is this a blend of documentary and artifice? The fact that you’re unlikely to receive an answer to this is, of course, the point, but along the way you’ll find surprisingly warm humour and a thoughtful reflection on censorship in modern Iran.

(Honourable mention: Listen to Me, Marlon, which is similarly compelled by Montage of Heck’s distrust in singular identity, but is somewhat let down by the conventional linearity of its storytelling.)

99 Homes

Life on the Fringes: Infinitely Polar Bear and 99 Homes

I could comfortably have filed 99 Homes above as it, too, accentuates the ambiguity between documentary and fiction, drawing from Bahrani’s own experiences researching displaced home-owners in Florida in the wake of the GFC. The real genius of 99 Homes, however, is how effectively it captures the desperation of poverty and the complacency of financial success within the one picture. Kicked out of his home, Andrew Garfield’s character links up with the eternally-shady, (ever-incredible) Michael Shannon to kick other people out of their homes. He does so partly because he has no other options, partly out of greed. But once he’s established himself financially, he finds himself increasingly complicit in immoral behaviour – because it’s a lot easier to go along with a corrupt system than buck against it. Taken in toto, 99 Homes is a compelling portrait of the limited choices afforded within American capitalism.

Infinitely Polar Bear tells a similar story about restricted choice, centred on a 1970s biracial family with a bipolar father (Mark Ruffalo) and two (incredibly adorable, yet totally believable) children. It’s a warm portrait of a love challenged by circumstance, anchored by unfussy filmmaking and plausible performances. It’s about how “living within your means” is never quite that easy, and it’s refreshing in its simple, humanistic approach to a story that could’ve easily – and incorrectly – lent itself to hyperbole.

Sicario

The Impossibility of Individuality: Sicario and The Lobster

Cinema, by its very nature, tends to privilege the individual. Tales of the one triumphing against the many vastly outnumber their inverse. Both Sicario and The Lobster take the opposite approach, centring on protagonists caught within unjust systems – one, the morass that is America’s “War On Drugs” in Mexico, the other, an archly artificial evocation of our monogamous, heteronormative society.

Each proffers the false promise of revolution, of victory, before snatching it away. Emily Blunt’s morality is consumed by a dark vortex of dismemberment, torture and worse. Colin Farrell’s craving for human connection is sabotaged and compromised by warring systems of strict ideology, unconsciously adopted even when their overt strictures are broken. though there are moments of grace in each film, neither offers any optimism; these films sink their arms to the elbow of our unpleasant society, and in their futile searching they find something grim, something true.

It Follows

The Best Film of 2015: It Follows

The early days of ccpopculture focused intently on genre cinema; particularly horror. This coincided with my deep(ish) dive into horror movies, a vast sea with a fertile layer of algae atop a murky pool of mediocrity. One too many shitty, half-assed knock offs sent me searching for the pleasures of arthouse cinema and the like, but my love for great horror remains; it’s just that great horror remains exceedingly rare these days.

It Follows is that, and more. It offers everything you want from great horror: a disquieting evocation of the unknown curdling into existential terror; purposeful, thoughtful cinematography; and an unsettling soundtrack that’s unapologetic about its influences. Yes, it’s tailor-made to appeal to anyone with a fondness for late-‘70s/early-‘80s horror (*raises hand*), but it’s also very much it’s own thing, open to multiple interpretations while never allow its intellectual approach to overshadow its deeply-felt scares.

It Follows does everything I want great cinema to do. It had me intensely attentive through every minute of the film, yet possessed a satisfying depth that rewards close and careful analysis after the fact.

Unreleased:

Spotlight

  1. 45 Years

45 Years is not director Andrew Haigh’s best work in 2015 – that would be season two of Looking – but this finely wrought examination of an established relationship crumbling away at its foundations demonstrates the same insight into character and craft as his superlative TV series.

  1. Brooklyn

Basically a really good chick flick, but I’m down with that.

  1. Carol

Watch this space. My first viewing of Carol, Todd Haynes’ sumptuous lesbian period romance, has left me with a cavalcade of questions, only exacerbated by reading Highsmith’s original novel. I’m not quite prepared to pass judgement on the film until a rewatch, but it’s definitely good, and possibly great. Still, you – you being Aussie readers – gotta see it when it hits cinemas in January (or at Palace’s previews on New Years).

  1. Spotlight

A superbly-crafted newspaper picture that creates nail-biting tension through its relentless focus on its ghastly subject material – the Catholic Church’s despicable neglect with respect to child abuse – and its recognition that institutions foster such evil through fostering the simple reluctance of individuals to buck the system. Necessary viewing.

  1. Sherpa

A legitimate competitor to It Follows for the best new release I’ve seen this year, Sherpa provides a portrait of inequitable capitalism that finds room for the epic scale of Everest, the intricate machinations of its economics, and the fragile humanity of its participants. For more, I’ll direct you to my review from Sydney Film Festival, which I think is one of my favourite pieces of writing of this year.

Best “New to Me” Films of 2015

10. The General

9. The Age of Innocence

8. Close-Up

7. Take This Waltz

6. The Long Goodbye

5. Sherlock, Jr.

4. All That Jazz

3. That Obscure Object of Desire

2. Brief Encounter

1. Fanny and Alexander (The TV Cut)

Best Performances/Cinematography/Scores of 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Actress:

Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Shu Qi (The Assassin)
Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara (Carol)
Mae Whitman (The DUFF)
Zoe Saldana (Infinitely Polar Bear)
Greta Gerwig (Mistress America)

Actor:

Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero/A Most Violent Year)
Paul Dano (Love and Mercy)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Z for Zachariah/Secret in Their Eyes)
Nate Parker (Beyond the Lights)
Josh Lucas/Stephen Plunkett (The Mend)
Vincent Cassell (Partisan)

Supporting Actress:

Lou de Laâge (Breathe)
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria/Camp X-Ray)
Mya Taylor (Tangerine)
Tessa Thompson (Dear White People/Creed)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL)

Supporting Actor:

Emory Cohen (Brooklyn)
O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton)
Adam Driver (The Force Awakens)
Josh Brolin (Sicario)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
LeBron James (Trainwreck)

Cinematography

The Assassin
Sicario
Carol
Magic Mike XXL
Breathe
Timbuktu

Score/Soundtrack

The Revenant
Creed
Sicario
Dope
The Mend
Inherent Vice

 

Jono author picJonathan’s Top 10 Films of 2015

  1. Trainwreck

Amy Schumer’s brand of racy, irreverent humour really tickled my funny bone. I look forward to more screenplays penned by her.

  1. Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

A satisfying (if risk averse) return to form for the granddaddy of blockbuster franchises.

  1. Sicario

America’s war on drugs takes centre stage in this tense and eerie thriller that showcases gritty performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.

  1. The Intern

I thoroughly enjoyed this lightweight and somewhat elegiac comedy that features a healthy sprinkling of commentary on sexism and ageism in the workplace.

  1. Jurassic World

Jurassic World is a disarmingly smart dino-sized blockbuster that escalates spectacle while slyly subverting the audience’s escalating appetite.

  1. The Gift

The Gift

Everything is not as it seems in this smart, twisty debut offering from Aussie Joel Edgerton. More please, sir!

  1. The Martian

Matt Damon will charm your socks off in this love-letter to all things science and engineering.

  1. Inside Out

Pixar shows they have gas left in the tank with a delightful and moving look into the mind’s eye of a child. Inside Out stands shoulder to shoulder with the studio’s finest efforts, including Up and Ratatouille.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

What a sensational movie! Fury Road masquerades as a glorified, extended car chase sequence; but legendary Aussie filmmaker, George Miller, has, in fact, crafted something akin to a feminist masterpiece. Miller understands that, when the world goes mad, the base aspects of human nature take precedence. In Fury Road It is every man for himself (leaving the preservation of dignity and family to the beleaguered women). Charlize Theron electrifies as Imperator Furiosa.

  1. It Follows

It Follows is a film that comprehensively capitalises on a single, clever idea. It is, at once, a triumph of genre that pays homage to horror classics from yesteryear (HalloweenJaws and Nightmare on Elm Street) while trailblazing a new standard for independent cinema and scary movies in general. I suppose it does not terrify in the ostentatious way that The Exorcist or Insidious might, but I prefer the deliberate, calculating way that It Follows builds atmosphere and dread. I adore horror films that embrace the adage that what is not seen is most scary. It Follows is the patron saint of this cinematic philosophy. Consider that the film’s most suspenseful scene takes place in broad daylight on a sandy beach as a group of unsuspecting revellers are stalked by ‘it’ (and I’m not talking about a man-eating shark). It Follows is my all-time favourite horror movie.

 

Steph author picSteph’s Top 10 Films of 2015:

  1. Wild

Gritty is one word that comes to mind when I think of the film Wild. A revitalising role for Reese Witherspoon, the high emotions and intense adventure of the film leaves audiences feeling as though they themselves have just walked the Pacific Crest Trail.

  1. Still Alice

A realistic portrayal of a family having to adjust their lives too early to accommodate the onset of their mother’s Alzheimer’s. All actors, particularly Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin, give strong performances in an understated film whose pure focus is the familial effects of an unforgiving disease.

  1. Selma

Selma

Ava DuVernay shines a bright light on the significance of the story and town of Selma that unfortunately many people were unaware of. DuVernay’s direction and (uncredited) writing skills paired with David Oyelowo’s stirring portrayal of Martin Luther King make for an incredibly powerful historical film; not to be viewed as a documentary but an exceptional piece of storytelling.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

While not usually the type of movie I opt to watch, Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely one of the best action films of 2015 and shows just how good Australian filmmaking can be. Don’t think it’s all about action though; while there is plenty of it, the narrative is engaging with intelligent characters and yes, it does feature quite a number of independent women – finally!

  1. Inside Out

As with most Pixar films, it feels as though the filmmakers are targeting adult moviegoers more than kids, and Inside Out is no different. I’ve heard this film described as Psychology 101 with colourful characters which is a pretty accurate description. Witty, nostalgic and beautifully animated, Inside Out will leave you feeling all of the emotions (pun intended).

  1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl might seem like your overly emotional teen movie, but is actually a humorous and entertaining adventure following three young people who live in world of societal stereotypes and eccentric characters. An intelligently written and heartwarming coming of age film that brings a freshness to the “terminally ill teens” genre. Plus, movie buffs will enjoy the countless references to classic films throughout it.

  1. Holding the Man

Coming away from this film, I felt incredibly proud of Australian cinema. Based on the novel by Timothy Conigrave and successful stage play, Holding the Man is a poignant love story for the 21st century. Stunning performances from Ryan Corr and Craig Stott along with beautiful cinematography give audiences an eye-opening and emotionally charged experience that will hopefully have an impact on how we see love and what it stands for.

  1. Tangerine

Tangerine

Known to many as the film that was shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine has been taking the festival circuit by storm. While a film about a transgender sex worker and pimps is not really marketable to a mainstream audience, the film boasts an engaging script, stand-out sound mix and sharp editing. As well, the creative cinematography is definitely worth the watch.

  1. The Dressmaker

Like many Australian films, The Dressmaker is quirky, comedic and visually attractive. Judy Davis’ one-liners and witty sense of humour was a standout for me, as was Kate Winslet’s Australian accent – who knew a foreigner could get nail it? Overall, a highly entertaining and uniquely Australian film.

  1. Suffragette

If you’re a Meryl Streep fan and are going to see her, don’t, as she only makes a “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance. Suffragette IS however, a poignant film that gives audiences a snapshot of the early feminism movement. Superbly acted and nicely paced, Suffragette will make you reflect on your own life and how the courage of these brave women has influenced today’s society.

 

Harrison Forth author picHarrison’s Top 10 Films of 2015:

The thing about ‘best of’ lists is that they’re rarely concrete catalogues. Often I revisit and alter my assessments from previous years with new considerations and additions. When determining my ‘best of’ list I usually choose my favourite films of the year, the ones that lingered for days after watching and for which I would have no hesitation in watching again. That’s the sign of a great film for me. As I prepared this list for 2015, I noticed that my top 10 shared a number of similarities – either in tone, narrative or effect – and so the piece developed accordingly. Of the films I saw in 2015 according to the Australia release schedule, here is my (non)definitive ‘best of’.

Imagination

  1. Inside Out
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road

In 2015, two filmmakers delivered ambitious showpieces of ingenuity and seemingly unrestrained vision: Pete Docter and George Miller. Their films Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road, respectively, were technical majesties and, most importantly, unparalleled for their ability to transport audiences to another world – whether that’s the cerebral headquarters of a maturing child’s mind, or the explosive desert highways of a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Intimacy

  1. Selma
  2. Cobain: Montage of Heck

Selma is a stirring historical drama about the Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights movement, while Cobain: Montage of Heck is a harrowing biographical documentary about the tortured mind of Nirvana’s frontman, yet both films are remarkably intimate and visceral feats. Selma conducts itself gracefully, allowing peaceful moments to breathe and finding profundity in small human interactions. On the other hand, Montage of Heck provides a disturbing but entirely sympathetic insight into the ontogeny of Kurt Cobain’s awe-inspiring mind, so deeply personal that it feels like Cobain’s ghostly presence inhabits every frame.

Conflict

  1. ’71
  2. Beasts of No Nation

71

At the epicentre of both ’71 and Beasts of No Nation is a reluctant soldier entangled in a setting of civil unrest, forced to take extreme measures to survive. Neither film eschews the brutal depiction of warfare, instead emphasising its pointlessness and demonstrating that rarely is any political conflict strictly black and white. However, both films endeavour to cling on to a sense of compassion, dispelling any judgement of each film’s moral ambiguity in favour of a final expression of humanness.

Legacy

  1. Creed
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Is it a coincidence that both Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are the seventh films of their respective franchises? Probably, but it’s no accident that both films harness the emotional power of their original film’s legacy to steer its narrative and thematic course. Creed and The Force Awakens are most effective when they reverently echo their own cinematic histories – each offering many goosebump moments – while at the same time contributing something fresh and exciting.

Absurdity

  1. The Lobster
  2. Wild Tales

The humour of absurdity is used to great effect in both The Lobster and Wild Tales. Wooden, prosaic dialogue leavens the dry wittiness of The Lobster, set by its outlandish dystopian premise. The film is often as disturbing as it is comical, examining the cognitive constructs of relationships through bizarre pretences. Wild Tales is similarly disturbing in its use of the absurd, but with much more ‘laugh-out-loud’ intensity. This Argentinean anthology of short stories is delightfully and eagerly chaotic, picturing the wild side of humanity in a six eccentric parables.

Next 10 (alphabetical order): Birdman, Bridge of Spies, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, It Follows, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Sicario, The Gift, The Martian, The Night Before.

7 thoughts on “The Best Films of 2015

  1. My favourite film of the year was also ‘It Follows’ … Great lists all round! Looking forward to reading your thoughts on ‘Carol’ … I liked it, didn’t love it – I haven’t read the book though :/

    • Thanks! I’m hoping to write a long(ish) review around its Aussie release date, once I get a clearer grasp on it. *It Follows fistbump*

  2. Great post! I can definitely stand by It Follows being at the #1 spot…it was so original and refreshing. I wouldn’t put Jurassic World on any list…I thought it was awful. Great post!

    • Thanks Courtney! I suspect Jurassic World will be an unpopular inclusion for most of my readers, but that’s my cross to bear. Happy New Years!

  3. Always enjoy reading your stuff to get some viewing recommendations, Dave.
    Not sure if some of these would be excluded due to release dates but my top 5 for films I saw this year – at least 2 of which I would not have gone to see if not for your review – were Infinitely Polar Bear, The Lobster, Paper Towns, Inside Out & The Belier Family;

    • Cheers Colin! Those would all definitely be 2015 films, and all good ‘uns (I wasn’t big on Paper Towns, I’ll admit, but it’s certainly charming). I still have to see The Belier Family though! Have a great New Years 😀

  4. Pingback: Best Films of 2015 | Three Forty-Four

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