2015 was an amazing year for films of all shapes and sizes, the kind of year that makes you feel thankful for being a film geek. Any given year I tend to see roughly 300 films per year, with just over 100 being new releases. That figure fell by a third in 2015, coming in at 200 films and 63 of them new releases. There’s a very good reason for that: I currently live in a tiny Danish town, with a population of around 6000 (mostly elderly) people and a single public cinema, that has 4(!) showings a week, and rarely has absolutely up-to-date premiers (a factor of distribution as well as financial viability), except for Star Wars. That was day-and-date, because of course it’s Star Wars.
So what does all this mean? Well, it’s not as if 63 is an insignificant number of films, so I don’t believe my opinion is rendered meaningless from lack of quantity. Mostly, my situation led me to seeing a gargantuan amount of TV, which was also insanely good this year, and to be fair I less actively sought out lesser regarded films than in years prior and I didn’t go to a film festival. At the end of the day, 2015 was a crazy good year for consumable entertainment, so let’s be happy about that shall we.
Oh, and of course here’s the obligatory count of have-not-seen-but-wish-I-had-(curse-you-film-school!)-so-that-explains-why-it-is-not-on-the-list movies: The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Steve Jobs, Carol, Room, Tangerine, Slow West, Victoria, Creed, 45 Years, Spotlight, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Anomalisa, Mistress America, Dope, Chi-Raq, Macbeth, Crimson Peak, and many many more, because it’s impossible to see everything released in a given year.
Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mommy, Ant-Man, Bridge of Spies, Straight Outta Compton, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, While We’re Young, The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?, Trainwreck.
11. What We Do In The Shadows
I love the hell out of Flight of the Conchords, so the dry New Zealand style of comedy agrees with me. WWDitS has the New Zealand style and charm in boatloads, taking the mockumentary format and delivering a hilarious vampire comedy. Endlessly quotable and enjoyable.
10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Definitely the only black-and-white Iranian Americana Vampire Western released this year, but not the best by default. Heaps of style and originality, seek it out.
One of the first films I saw this year, one I didn’t expect anything from but it’s been on my list for the entirety of the year, still memorable to this day, absolutely lovely in everything it does. It has heart, lots and lots of heart.
8. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
After the masterpiece that was Ghost Protocol, I was absolutely unsure if Christopher McQuarrie, who directed Jack Reacher (a film I thought very little of), could deliver but he did so in spades as I’m torn if this is even better than Bird’s 2011 effort. Oh, and Rebecca Ferguson is an instant star.
7. Ex Machina
Alex Garland’s stellar, small scale but big ideas, debut directorial effort has brilliant performances (especially from Alicia Vikander, who had a tremendous year), thoughtful meditation on A.I., an amazing female role, astonishing effects and the greatest dance sequence in recent memory.
6. The Martian (Vivek’s Review)
Look, I kind of like Prometheus, but I still couldn’t argue that Scott seems to have lost it (The Counselor in particular is profoundly and insultingly terrible), but what a way to prove that there’s life in those old bones. Fantastically entertaining, clever and smart, great screenplay and one of Matt Damon’s best performances. It scienced the shit out of me.
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (My Review & Vivek’s Analysis)
Alright, it’s not as profound an event as The Avengers, but it’s still so much fun, moves at a crazy clip and has tremendous ramifications within the MCU. It felt like a movie made for me and I’m thankful for it, few films this year gave me more geeky glee, well, only one film did to be fair, more on that later.
4. Inside Out
Pixar has been on somewhat of a downward slant of late, and hearing the concept of “exploring the inner life of a kid through personified feelings” wasn’t exactly an immediate sell on them being able to pull it off in their slump, but man did they ever pull it off. The result is an emotional meditation on the nature of growing up and that embracing sadness has its place in a person’s emotional growth. Pair that a Michael Giacchino score and you’re in for tears. Guaranteed.
3. It Follows
So profoundly uncomfortable, unsettling, and utterly terrifying, yet also quite sweet. It feels like a horror film made in the 70s or 80s, but with remarkable clarity. Perhaps its greatest strength, apart from the tremendous synth score by Disasterpiece, is how it’s secretly one-half 80s kids movie; parents are completely absent and the kids have to resort to figuring things out with their kid movie logic. Melding that with its intensely terrifying horror premise makes for truly original alchemy.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (Vivek’s Review)
I’m not sure what there’s left to say. What a breathless achievement of action direction. So tight, so spartan, so inventive, so crazy. A singular feat of cinematography and editing, effortless world building that other films would kill for and characters that are rounded and whole without heaps of dialog and exposition. A vivid and beautiful masterpiece.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Sure.. it might not be an ‘objectively’ better film than Fury Road, but no other film this year made me feel the way Star Wars did, and quite frankly it made me feel things that no other Star Wars film made me feel, a boundless sense of wonder and newness in something that I’ve known so intimately before. I find myself more involved and fascinated by new characters than I’ve ever been with Star Wars, and in general TFA has some of the most immediately likable characters put to film. That fact that it echoes A New Hope doesn’t bother me in the slightest, as it all feels like poetry me. The cinematography and editing are also first class, portraying the world in way which is so much more dynamic and exiting than ever before. The Force Awakens made the franchise that means the most to me, on a deeply personal level, feel real again, and nothing compares to that.
Here are my Worst Films of the Year, so as to show the polar opposite of my tastes:
10. Fifty Shades of Grey
8. Seventh Son
5. Taken 3
2. The Throwaways
1. The Leisure Class
Other Assorted ‘Awards’
Best Dance Scene That I Wish Was Longer of the Year: Ex Machina
Most Disappointing Because Its Predecessor Was In My Top 3 the Year it Came Out of the Year: Spectre (Seriously, easily the worst spy movie in a year filled great spy films, just so slight, flat and inconsequential)
Just Fine, Not So Profoundly Terrible as Other People Say of the Year: Tomorrowland, American Ultra & Chappie
Most Fascinating Flaming Garbage Fire of the Year: Fant4stic
Awful, Pretentious Drivel That No One Will Have Heard and I Only Saw Because the Director Came to My Film School of the Year: Bridgend
Most Depressingly Talented Person Working on a Terrible Film of the Year: Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey for Fifty Shades of Grey
Is The Director Going Deaf? Oh, He Actually Is, For Terrible Achievement in Sound of the Year: Blackhat
Oh My, All The Emotions of the Year: Star Wars: The Force Awakens