Each year I keep a list of my favorite films...all leading up to this post. As I began to narrow it down I was left with ten films, each of which had at one point been in contention for my favorite film of the year.
I haven't loved a list this much since 2010. (“Black Swan,” “127 Hours,” “Blue Valentine” “How To Train Your Dragon” and “The Social Network” among them!) And before that? 1994.
It has been quite the Oscar season, and today my “27 Days of Oscar” series--with its many hashtags: #oscarcatchup (On nomination day, with 41 films nominated, I still had 27 features and 15 shorts to watch.) #oscarproblems (How the heck do I get a copy of “Theeb” without traveling all the way to the Abu Dhabi!) and #oscarsolutions (ask people with even more experience than me for help!) comes to an end.
I celebrate in two ways. By sharing my favorite films with you and by watching the Academy Awards. Something I have loved since I was a kid. I still enjoy it like a kid today, and hope you will as well.
Now, my Top 10 Films of 2015.
When I heard that “Mad Max: Fury Road” was opening the Cannes Film Festival (a slot which has had no critical success in the past several years), I had little expectation for it to be any good. But, my Dad (who had seen and loved the previous Max films) and I decided to go see it on opening day anyway, before having read any of the praises from Cannes. Within the first few minutes I was electrified by this stunning visual opera. I remember turning to my Dad shortly after the first major race and saying “I don't think I've breathed until this second.” I saw the excitement in his eyes as well. This film was special.
“Mad Max” is set in a futuristic wasteland where water and gasoline are rare, and follows Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron in a powerful turn) as they attempt to escape leader Immortan Joe along with his imprisoned runaway brides.
It's a masterful cautionary tale with the dial turned turned up toward infinity...and my favorite film of the year.
“Carol” written by Phyllis Nagy, based on the book “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith and directed by Todd Haynes, explores the relationship between a young aspiring photographer (Rooney Mara as Therese) and the more experienced Carol (played by Cate Blanchett), who is going through a difficult divorce with her husband. “Carol” is a gorgeous film, a perfect sum from remarkable parts. From its superb score by Carter Burwell to production design by Judy Becker and everything in between, “Carol” is both tightly wound and luxuriously erotic all at once. It's a true shame this film was not nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.
Speaking of shame. “Beasts of No Nation,” directed and shot by Cary Joji Fukunago boasts what I consider the best performance of the year, by first time young actor, Abraham Attah. (Also not nominated...this time for Best Actor) “Beasts” is not the easiest film to watch, but it is always beautiful in its depiction of the brainwashings of war.
Joshua Oppenheimer directs thisincredible documentary chronicling an Indonesian man who confronts the people (and their families) responsible for brutally murdering his brother during the 1965 purge of “communists.” Oppenheimer experiments (as he did with “The Act of Killing” with staging and observation in a way that no other documentarian is doing today.
“Clouds of Sils Maria” is a haunting meta-drama which stars Juliette Binoche as movie star/stage actress Maria Enders who agrees to take part in a revival of the play that launched her career, playing opposite hot/young American actress Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz) in her original role. In her best role to date, Kristen Stewart plays Valentine. She is subtle, sexy and sharp giving one of the best performances of the year.
Aaron Sorkin (screenwriter) and Danny Boyle (director) took a risk telling the story of Steve Jobs in 3 acts, each focusing on product launches (The Apple Macintosh, the NeXt Computer and the iMac G3) told in real time. And for me it absolutely paid off. Fassbender as Jobs and Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman are fantastic. And had Leo gotten an Oscar for “Wolf of Wall Street”, Fassbender might be winning tonight! It seems very much Sorkin's film, but Boyle not only directed those actors to great performances, but also navigated the story in a most thrilling way along with editor Elliot Graham (who was robbed of an Oscar nomination.)
Shot by Emmanuel Lubezki and directed by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, “The Revenant” is a survival story, set amongst fur traders in the 1820's. There is so much more to this film than grunting and bear fights. It explores revenge and racism during a time in the United States after Americans took land from Native Americans and before The Civil War. It tells a story with almost no dialogue...especially from star Leonardo DiCaprio. The final act had me at the edge of my seat wondering exactly how the story would end...which says something considering we knew EXATLY where it was headed.
With “Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy (with co-screenwriter Josh Singer) has delivered a detective story with no bells and no frills...allowing the story to unfold as it happened, exposing the truth of child abuse and its cover up in the Catholic church in Boston on screen as it actually was uncovered by the Spotlight investigative team journalists from the Boston Globe, under the leadership of its first Jewish editor. “Spotlight” is not only a great film, but also a reminder of the importance of investigative journalism.
Quentin Tarantino's “The Hateful Eight” is his most settled in film to date. Without the flash (Tarantino flash is not on the same level of regular flash...keep that in mind) of “Django” and “Inglorious Basterds” we are left with a really fun, lusciously rendered, well acted and electrically written mystery.
There is much more to Los Angeles than Hollywood, and from my personal experiences there...especially the ones that happened in wee hours of the night...“Tangerine” absolutely nails life in the city of Angels...for the non angels. It's a simple story, really. It's Christmas Eve at the Donut Shop and Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) has just gotten out of jail and discovers from her best friend and fellow transgendered prostitute Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that her boyfriend Chester has cheated on her. So begins the big hearted/full throttle adventure of Sin-Dee's search for Chester and his mysterious “fish.”
World of Tomorrow
Embrace of the Serpent
The Big Short
Star Wars: The Force Awakens