My Top Ten for 2015 is a hodgepodge of styles, cinemas, genres, but all touch on something essential to my taste—unique and/or great storytelling. It is true that there are many reasons to watch cinema that have nothing to do with narrative, though it is still an overriding part to most any modern film. And I appreciated the landscape this year, which showed me so many different ways to tell a story, whether classically, with a distinct indie vibe, in the animated way of the art house, within the big budget mold, or on the grandest of scales. It was a subtle year, no doubt. There weren’t too many splashy releases. The Oscar Race is more open than I remember it being in a while. The independent scene keeps churning out quality low-budget, high concept films. Hollywood franchises saw a good many reboots and nostalgia trips, with a couple of them reaching higher heights than I saw coming. The world cinema continues to be underrepresented in America, but still some goodies came overseas. And a few old reliables like Spielberg and Tarantino came out of their slumber to drop some awesome bombs on us. 2015 gave us a lot to be grateful for, as many films spurred great debates, and many others forced us to be a tad more reflective, investigative, and challenging of our own tastes and opinions to separate the cream from the crop. And out this intensified scrutiny comes diverse and well-reasoned selections.

 

While my fellow film-loving brethren at TMB are compiling their lists and will have them posted for you all to see (I certainly will be taking a looksee), here is my Top Ten List of the Best Films for 2015, with a quick Shout Outs section (apeing my man Richard Brody’s inclusive approach over at the New Yorker) to mention some of the ones I left on the outside, and I want to follow that up with a Worst Ten List, just to indulge myself. Happy New Year, and here’s to another great year in cinema.

Shout Outs: 

Stinking Heaven, Nathan Silver

The Assassin, Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Christopher McQuarrie

The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer

Queen of Earth, Alex Ross Perry

Top Ten Worst Films:

(10) Star Wars: The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams (9) Joy, David O. Russell (8) It Follows, David Robert Mitchell (7) Trainwreck, Judd Apatow (6) Black Mass, Scott Cooper (5) Krampus, Michael Dougherty (4) The Martian, Ridley Scott (3) Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn (2) Youth, Paolo Sorrentino (1) Human Centipede 3, Tom Six

Top Ten Films of 2015

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10: The Duke of Burgundy

Director – Peter Strickland

Starring – Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiarra D’Anna

Synopsis: A woman who studies butterflies and moths tests the limits of her relationship with her lesbian lover.

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9: Mistress America

Director – Noah Baumbach

Starring – Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke

Synopsis: A lonely college freshman’s life is turned upside down by her impetuous, adventurous soon-to-be stepsister.

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8: Carol 

Director – Todd Haynes

Starring – Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Synopsis: In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.

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7: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director – George Miller

Starring – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron

Synopsis: A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

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6: Buzzard

Director – Joel Potrykus

Starring – Joshua Burge, Joel Potrykus

Synopsis: Paranoia forces small-time scam artist Marty to flee his hometown and hide out in a dangerous Detroit. With nothing but a pocket full of bogus checks, his Power Glove, and a bad temper, the horror metal slacker lashes out.

Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) meets with his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S. in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.

5: Bridge of Spies

Director – Steven Spielberg

Starring – Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Synopsis: During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

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4: Heaven Knows What

Director – Ben and Joshua Safdie

Starring – Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Buddy Durress

Synopsis: Harley loves Ilya. He gives her life purpose and sets her passion ablaze. So, when he asks her to prove her love by slitting her wrists, she obliges with only mild hesitation, perhaps because of her other all-consuming love: heroin.

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3: Hard To Be a God

Director – Aleksey German

Starring – Leonid Yarmolnik, Aleksandr Chutko, Yuriy Tsurilo

Synopsis: A group of scientists is sent to the planet Arkanar to help the local civilization, which is in the Medieval phase of its own history, to find the right path to progress.
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2: The Hateful Eight

Director – Quentin Tarantino

Starring – Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir

Synopsis: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

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1B: Phoenix 

Director – Christian Petzold

Starring – Nina Hoss, Ronald Zerhfeld, Nina Kunzendorf

Synopsis: A disfigured concentration-camp survivor, unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.

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1A: Bone Tomahawk

Director – S. Craig Zahler

Starring – Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons

Snyposis: Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

1 COMMENT

  1. Clichéd it may be, but as we learned from Meatballs, it just doesn’t matter, at least in this case. I wouldn’t want a single frame changed. I’d also say that Antonio Moreno and William Austin contribute greatly to the film, and even Priscilla Bonner too; I absolutely love the expression on her face at the restaurant when she realizes Cyrus’s attention is on Betty Lou instead of her. Priceless.

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