A few days ago I posted my choices for the worst movies of 2015 and forgot to mention that the list was mine, and that the choices were mine. As with any list, favouritism comes into play. Whether you, as gracious readers, agree with my selection is a different matter entirely. Opinions are what make this world go round.
So now I bring to you the fifteen films of 2015 that spoke to me the most, for whatever reason, in whatever way. Again, these choices are personal and may not necessarily adhere to critical standards. Also, all titles had release dates in Australia in 2015, which is why movies like The Revenant and Carol have been omitted (not that it'd be mandatory for them to be here), and a couple of 2014 titles have been recognised. Have a read, folks, and be merry.
Before we get into it, though, here are my six Honourable Mentions: Bridge Of Spies, Coming Home, The Gift, The Intern, Top Five, The Walk.
15. 'Slow West' (dir. John Maclean)
Slow West is a sad movie. Its climactic shootout unites many outlaws and civilians in a kind of swift bloodbath, and it's great fun, but poor Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), pursuing a love that knows not where or really who he is. His plan is so porous it almost double-bluffs him, and he pays dearly for it.
14. 'Tomorrowland' (dir. Brad Bird)
Here is a movie I probably enjoyed more than most. Tomorrowland is Disney doing its thing, providing swooping science-fiction acrobatics while hurrying innocent characters along its plot of environmental protection. Some visuals reminded me of Star Wars, while others peeled back layers and introduced me to new sights and new sounds. If you were disappointed by The Force Awakens' lack of original concepts, I suggest you tune the dial and visit Tomorrowland.
13. 'Far From Men' (dir. David Oelhoffen)
Economical. Insightful. Dangerous. David Oelhoffen's Far From Men is a wounded study of a former French soldier erasing his past of violence and death by teaching a new generation of Algerian children. It's a perilous world. Wars are being fought. Sides are being taken. And like John McClane, Viggo Mortensen's Daru is a man caught in bad situations at the wrong times. He just wants out.
12. 'Wild' (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée)
Wild is a movie that works beneath the surface. It winds its pitch while Reese Witherspoon treks across the western United States and releases only when it's all over and we've had a chance to sit back and ponder the experience. Witherspoon delivers a finely tuned performance as real-life Cheryl Strayed, and the American landscape that envelopes her is at once both inviting and hostile.
11. 'Straight Outta Compton' (dir. F. Gary Gray)
Dirty yet clean. Fun yet morose. Loud yet soft. Straight Outta Compton ties a band of young musicians together by finding their common interests and exploiting them. Stitched with powerful actors playing likeable characters, either exploding or imploding, it made me want to listen to N.W.A., which is all that needs to be said about that.
10. 'Sicario' (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Denis Villeneuve is interested in the human psychological condition, often examining strife and questions of ethics in characters that hold sturdy moral foundations but waver as they reach the spire. In Sicario, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is shoved into an unfortunate encounter between the CIA and the Mexican cartel and is pressured to remain steadfast. This is a tight, haunting movie. And the beat goes on...
9. 'Macbeth' (dir. Justin Kurzel)
If you can get behind the linguistic complications of Bardspeak, Macbeth will emerge as a beautiful film of ugly catastrophe. The shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies, the movie takes on the visage of a classical oil painting draped in pools of black. The score lurks ominously overhead while foggy tints and slow-motion make this a truly melancholy, wistful, brilliant experience.
8. 'The Martian' (dir. Ridley Scott)
Almost never does a Hollywood film treat us to an ensemble of well-rounded, genuine, nice characters. There's always a sour cynic lurking around somewhere. The Martian, directed by the old-timer Ridley Scott, is pristine and noble. A fairytale of corporate and international cooperation. A sharp, stinging advocate of spacey CGI. And a rather delightful little film.
7. 'The Lobster' (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Lobster, directed by a man of surrealistic proportions, is unlike any movie I have seen. Bizarre beyond measure, it tells the rather sweet story of a man and woman falling in love while running away from people who either want them dead or transformed into animals. That's right -- transformed into animals. In this world, men hunt men, women hunt women, and sometimes they get confused and hunt each other. Rewards are doled out. Marriages are formed. And all the while, Colin Farrell's moustache remains glorious.
6. 'It Follows' (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
I have only recently stepped into the darkness that is horror, and what a horrifying step this was to take. Playing on inherent irrational fears of being followed by something or someone for lengthy periods of time, this quiet, disturbing picture quite acutely captures the terror of inescapable danger. Yes, it is riddled with character and narrative inconsistencies, but so what? This is a genre that lends itself to disbelief.
5. 'Selma' (dir. Ava DuVernay)
Another 2014 feature to receive a 2015 Australian release, Ava DuVernay's emotionally raw and personally empowering film sidesteps many biographical cliches in favour of true passion.
4. 'The Assassin' (dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
It is not without coincidence that my top four selections are led by independent women. Hou Hsiao-Hsien's first feature film in eight years is a mystifying experience, carefully framed and coloured, centred around a plot that hangs together by the sheer force of will. This is the most beautiful movie since Ida, and the most befuddling since Batman & Robin. And yet there she stands, the assassin in black, sophisticated and damaged, living in a world that's elegantly fractured.
3. 'Inside Out' (dir. Pete Docter)
On concept alone, Inside Out might be the greatest Pixar movie. Add to that a charming little girl who has to cope with a big move to an unfamiliar city, five adorable emotions running rampant in your head, a beloved imaginary friend, personality islands, trains of thought, imagination zones, drama, tension, happiness, sadness, the family unit, wit, humor, sparkling animation, memory balls, and you've got the formula to a grand, grand movie. Ingenious filmmaking.
2. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (dir. George Miller)
Watch Mad Max: Fury Road. That's all I'm gonna say.
1. 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (dir. J.J. Abrams)
Am I a fanboy? Well, yes. I had to fight with myself time and time again over my top three films, all of which I think deserve to be number one. These are films that remind me why I see films in the first place. Inside Out literally arrives with the brains. Fury Road is outstanding physical filmmaking. The Force Awakens captures the heart and soul of the legacy of movies. Yes, it draws from what has come before, but that is its charm. Its birthright. This is the spectacle of film, reworded, rephrased, re-empowered for a brand new generation. And the future now looks promising.