We hope you have been enjoying our look back at what the cinema had to offer us in 2015. We are gearing up for tomorrow, in which we will announce the mxdwn list of the Top 10 films of 2015. Before we get there, however, we would like to salute a number of films that came very close to making our best of the year line-up. Below are the eleven movies (ten plus one for luck) that while failed to crack our elusive top tier, showcase some of the eclecticism and dynamism that appeared on movie screens throughout the past twelve months. Take a gander.
Amy is one of the finest documentaries ever made. This movie invites us inside the tragic life of Amy Winehouse and gives us a chance to celebrate her immeasurable talent and experience her pain. The movie forgoes typical documentary structure and uses voiceover narration set to a breadth of footage of Winehouse, with minimal cutting to talking heads.
THE BIG SHORT
Read our review.
Most people would likely agree that this film had a great chance of putting its audience to sleep, however filmmaker Adam McKay was clearly aware of that fact when putting his movie together. McKay uses clever and humorous tactics to make economics interesting, or in the very least, momentarily entertaining. The ensemble cast is one of the strongest this year with Steve Carell and Christian Bale each being particularly impressive. The artistic choices, including the mid-2000s soundtrack and Ryan Gosling’s cavalier narration, appropriately build the audience up only to tear them down at the film’s bitter end.
Read our review.
Thematically challenging, tonally schizophrenic and filled to the brim with phrenetic energy, Dope is a rare film that manages to be both profoundly intellectual and immensely entertaining. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa’s film is a roller-coaster ride that make salient points about race and identity in modern America but feels like Superbad‘s socially conscious and ambitious cousin. Featuring breakout performances from Shameik Moore, Keirsey Clemons, and A$ap Rocky, Dope is an unmissable experience that feels tapped into tomorrow’s headlines, despite it’s killer 90’s-inspired soundtrack.
THE END OF THE TOUR
The End of the Tour genuinely surprised me by being incredibly heartfelt and featuring fascinating dialogue. Jason Segel proved himself more than capable of playing the late David Foster Wallace, one of the most influential writers of the past century. The entire film was incredibly simple but surprisingly moving. It’s a movie centered on seemingly simple dialogue between two writers that manages to be extremely inspirational.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Read our review.
A film of contradictions that feels both epic and intimate, a film of a different time and incredibly modern and somehow manages to be the least and most Tarantino-esque film in his oeuvre. Exquisite scripting, and featuring great acting, an awesome score, and gorgeous production design coming together in fabulous 70mm to create something that feels truly unique. Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, and Jennifer Jason Leigh are stand outs in a fantastic cast that manage to keep the tension taught over its nearly three hour running time. With a great story and compelling racial politics, The Hateful Eight might be Tarantino’s most wholly successful work to date.
David Robert Mitchell takes a simple concept, distills it to its horrifying core, then sets it lose on a dreamlike version of suburban Detroit. It Follows manages to be genuinely frightening while delivering on a unique premise and creating an innovative new face to the decades old ‘sex kills’ horror trope. Mitchell’s script never treats it’s strong young cast- lead by the talented Maika Monroe- as fodder for the killing machine. It’s the rare horror film that empathizes with its main characters, treating their youthful missteps and naivete not with scorn, but with a real sense of compassion. The film boasts beautiful cinematography and one of the best scores of the year, giving it an almost mythic quality. It Follows isn’t just one of the most unsettling horror films in years, it’s one of the best films about growing up.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE
Read our review.
Hands down the most affecting movie I saw all year; it had me nearly crying multiple times. The immediacy of the co-director interviewing the very men who put his brother to death and the reality of a populace willingly forgetting a massive genocide is wholly unnerving. Beautifully made and sharply poignant.
Read our review.
Without question, the gritty, rigorous, and visceral film it was meant to be, Alejandro G. Iñárritu proved himself, yet again, as a force to be reckoned with by producing a hauntingly beautiful film that is as exhilarating as it is nerve-wracking. Leonardo DiCaprio brought unparalleled ferocity to his role but he could never upstage the ferocity of the untamed wilderness that he struggles to survive in. Considering its laborious and challenging production, The Revenant is an extremely impressive film that could only be brought to life by a fearless and insightful director. Above all, The Revenant is an intensely compelling story set against a backdrop that is both beautiful and terrifying.
SON OF SAUL
One of the most significant movies of the year and one, I would gather, few really want to watch. Compelling and harrowing, László Nemes’ amazingly visceral feature follows Saul (in a beautiful performance by Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz working the gas chambers who encounters a child who may be his son. His goal: to try and offer his son a proper Jewish burial and in essence bring him a peace in death that couldn’t be found in life. Difficult, unsettling and essential, Son of Saul sounds like a punishing experience yet is elemental filmmaking as it builds to perhaps the most raw and honest cinematic depiction of the Holocaust the screen has ever seen. Even more incredibly, Son of Saul marks Nemes’ debut as a feature director; the masterful cinematography (large parts of the film are composed of long single takes), haunting sound design, crisp editing and pure conviction of the material signifies the discovery of a great filmmaker.
Read our discussion.
In what I feel is the performance of the year, Michael Fassbender embodies the spirit of Steve Jobs without ever really looking a lot like him. He captures the well-documented genius and the arrogance of the tech pioneer in Danny Boyle’s dazzling Steve Jobs. The movie, brilliantly scripted by Aaron Sorkin, centers on three separate product launches. The film takes place in 1984, 1988 and 1998, all was shot in a different format for each segment (16mm film for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998 – brilliant). Much like last year’s Birdman, we walk and talk behind the scenes with the characters as they discussing mundane things and yet, it is always thrilling. Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels provide great support but Fassbender is front and center the entire way through.
I put this weird acid/nostalgia trip of a film on my list not for any arbitrary reasons like writing, directing, or acting. I put it on this list and because with its blend of pastel post-apocalyptic landscapes, buckets of blood and gore, childlike awe and wonder, gnome stick, high-octane bicycle chases, and 80s-inspired synth soundtrack, I don’t know if I’ve seen a film this year (or ever really) quite like it.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.
Also be sure to check in all week for continued Best of 2015 coverage. Previously covered: