Best Films of 2015
If you could find someone who hadn’t ever seen Star Wars, any of the SW films, or knew of its history and gave them a blind test side by side of Jupiter Ascending and The Force Awakens they would both get equal scores.
I write about films from the point of view of a film aesthete. That description teeters like a fulcrum between really being informative to my audience about film and being really pretentious. Take for instance 2001: A Space Odyssey. I will go out of my way to see that film whenever it plays theatrically – in the past I’ve seen in twice presented in 70mm. But to a neophyte 2001 can be one of the most boring films ever made.
That means my best films of 2015 should be taken with a grain of salt. Please note: at one time salt was used as currency, so a grain or two might actually be worth something on the open market.
Right off the bat the three best films of 2015 are a doc, a foreign film and a mainstream Hollywood movie that kind of died at the box office. Steve Jobs from Universal, a movie studio owned by my least favorite internet provider, just slays with its perfect script and its pitch perfect performances. Son of Saul, a Hungarian film directed by László Nemes, turns the killing factory of Auschwitz into a compelling series of tracking shots that adhere to an Aristotelian unity of time and space and tell an unsettling story of survival. Then there’s the Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley debate doc Best of Enemies. The film doesn’t just tell the story of the 1968 televised debates between the two pundits. It takes in the cultural and political upheavals of the era.
1) Steve Jobs
2) The Big Short
3) Mad Max: Fury Road
4) The Revenant
6) Ex Machina
8) The Martian
9) It Follows
11) Clouds of Sils Maria
14) Beasts of No Nation
15) The Hateful Eight
I don’t live in a universe where there are only ten best films. So here’s an imperfect baker’s dozen, plus a few others, guaranteed to glue your eyes to the screen. The choices run the gauntlet of genres; thriller, stop motion, action, art film, romance, science fiction, horror.
Other factors are at work in differing films that may not make the top percentile: acting, cinematography, script, or special effects. Nick Nolte in A Walk in the Woods or Tom Hardy in Legend, and Brie Larson in Room or Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn turn in strong performances that speak volumes about the technique of acting.
Alicia Vikander gets her own category with leading and supporting roles, accented by her intense commitment to the character, in the following films released in 2015: Testament of Youth, Seventh Son, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Aaron Sorkin’s script for Steve Jobs has multiple quips plus one jaw dropping line after the other, all jam packed into a perfect structure.
Where do you even start with camera work when you have the eye of Emmanuel Lubezki shooting in snow and natural light in The Revenant. Or, Roger Deakins’ cold hard photography for Sicario. Add in John Seale’s impressive action footage for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Anomalisa, a Charlie Kaufman scripted and directed stop-motion dramedy may be considered animated but its hard-R situations and character self-loathing making it somewhat of a unique alternative to, say, Shaun the Sheep Movie, the latter an Aardman production that spins its tale sans dialogue.
1) Best of Enemies
3) Sunshine Superman
4) Steve Jobs – Man in the Machine
5) Where to Invade Next
6) Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
7) What Happened, Miss Simone?
9) The Hunting Ground
10) Danny Says
Documentaries are not always the top of the pyramid in terms of film choice. The highest grossing documentary of 2015 is Amy, which has grossed 8.4-million. A lot for a doc but the total represents the amount a mediocre studio film makes on its opening weekend. The above list combines films that had advertised engagements as well as films that you might have to search for.
Best Foreign Films
1) Son of Saul (Hungary)
2) The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Sweden)
3) Winter Sleep (Turkey)
4) The Tribe (Ukraine)
5) White God (Hungary)
6) The Assassin (Taiwan)
7) Assassination (South Korea)
8) Coming Home (China)
9) Taxi Tehran (Iran)
10) A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden)
Foreign films are even a more mixed bad than doc and narrative features. In some cases the films were seen at film festivals and not available to the average bear. Some of the films like Winter Sleeps were popular on the 2014 festival circuit but only played in Houston theatrical this year. One thing is certain, these films display diverse glimpses into other lifestyles and cultures while also adhering to cinematic skill.
— Michael Bergeron