So finally, here we are.
What a year for film. The year began poorly (both cinematically and personally), but ended even stronger than we’ve seen in some time. There’s a few towering above the pack, but just below the very best, 2015 still gave us an abnormally wide and diverse group of very strong films ripe for discussion and lingering shelf lives. Even outside of my higher ranked films, there’s new personal favorites close to my heart like Trainwreck, Brooklyn, and Magic Mike XXL to enjoy for years to come.
Major films unfortunately missed include James White, Son of Saul, and The Tribe – what else do you think I should catch up with?
If you missed the previous Best of 2015 posts, be sure to check out:
To spread the love, my 20-11 films are (in order): Phoenix, What We Do in the Shadows, Steve Jobs, The Look of Silence, Love and Mercy, Tangerine, Ex Machina, Inside Out, I’ll See You in My Dreams, and Shaun the Sheep.
On to the top 10…
10. Mustang (dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
A fabulous debut for Ergüven, the film is an embodiment of the youthful rebellion of its central sibling quintet and an urgent feminist call to arms. Mustang is burningly alive and achingly sad thanks to its emergent cast and grandmother Nihal G. Koldas while being a respectful examination of teenage sexual curiosity. It’s also directed with emotional range and visual verve that draws each sister uniquely at the same time it unifies them.
9. Chi-Raq (dir. Spike Lee)
A shaggy mix of verse, kinky humor, and timely anger, Spike Lee’s Lysistrata Redux is a vivid and delectable treat. Lee swings wildly between witty satire and vital polemic, somehow achieving his most resonant and entertaining film in ages. Blessed with an exceptional ensemble fully keyed in to the tricky tone, Lee’s Chi-Raq is hilarious, heartbreaking, sexy, and all opera.
8. It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
Somewhere between a suburban Dario Argento and a texting era John Carpenter, David Robert Mitchell has delivered a genre entry that’s oddly timeless. Openly allegorical, It Follows becomes a Rorschach as much about sexual consequences as the impending doom of adulthood. Recent low-fi horror duds should take note of its immaculate craft that only deepens the chills and pushes the metaphor.
7. Taxi (dir. Jafar Panahi)
It’s almost shocking that famously censored Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has crafted a film so inviting and warm that draws directly from his dire circumstances. Part documentary, part farce, Taxi is a sterling commentary on art’s ability to transcend social and political constraints and a fascinating rumination on theft. Between the most charming youth performance of the year in Panahi’s niece and the sobering final shot, the balance of tone here is nothing short of miraculous. (Review)
6. Spotlight (dir. Thomas McCarthy)
Thomas McCarthy has quietly become the under-acknowledged master of portraying the American everyman with lighter fare Win Win and The Station Agent, and here he uses his unassuming approach to character to aim at higher social awareness. Constantly simmering with rage, Spotlight‘s self-assured righteousness really sings as it calls into question our own complacency and witness to social injustice. (Review)
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
I could just put a paragraph of exclamation points and you would understand exactly what I’m saying about this film. It feels like a miracle that it even exists, even though the film is much more of a nightmare. Mad Max: Fury Road lives by a sheer singularity of vision that pummels through undeniable craft, unexpected human emotion, and adrenaline-manufacturing sequence construction. A mini-revolution of studio filmmaking.
4. Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
A film of fully composed dualities: captive and emancipated, simple and complex, mother and son. Lenny Abrahamson’s humanist approach favors the mundane over the sensational, allowing waves of emotion to flow with the audience organically. Deceptive in its unshowy, but precise construction, Abrahamson delivers a film coming as much from the brain as it does from the heart. Brie fucking Larson, you guys. (Review)
3. Heart of a Dog (dir. Laurie Anderson)
Heart of a Dog focuses on the personal, but has such a wide grasp. As Laurie Anderson details the death of her beloved dog Lolabelle, her disconnected mother, and (unspokenly) her longtime partner Lou Reed, she also draws in our shared cultural griefs of the post-9/11 world. Staring death in the face, she comes up with a supremely hopeful documentary of soul enriching heeling. (Review)
2. Sicario (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Almost monolithic in its implacable grimness, Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario has every element at play serving the same consistent vision of hellish corruption. Sharply edited and evocatively shot, this is a complete vision from a new cinematic master working at peak form. Reflective of the war on drugs itself, this one has no clear conscience and is not easily reconciled. The film is punishing and rewarding in equal measure and among recent bests for rattling audience tensions past the breaking point. (Review)
Best Film of 2015: Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
Soulfully attuned to the breathless and all-consuming state of being that is “falling in love”, Carol swoons right along with you. Packed to the hilt with unobtrusive, but informative period detail, Todd Haynes has gifted us with another masterpiece of observation. Not nearly the distancing exercise some have claimes, it’s sensually inviting to any attentive viewer with every gesture, every look, every touch that’s packed with unspoken meaning and rewards them mightily. Carol is a simply pure cinema. (Review)
filmmixtape’s Best Films of 2015
- Heart of a Dog
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- It Follows
And now for 2016!