filmmixtape’s Top Ten Films of 2015

So finally, here we are.

maxresdefault.jpg

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…

Continue reading “filmmixtape’s Top Ten Films of 2015”

Advertisements

filmmixtape’s Best Actress of 2015

What a year for leading actress performances. The first longlist for my Best Actress picks yielded over thirty serious candidates and it was like pulling teeth to narrow down to a final five. Fan favorites and personal darlings had to be dropped with thoughtless abandon, so forgive the many exclusions. The lineup I’ve chosen was ultimately the ones that lingered hardest in my brain and wouldn’t leave my mind.

BestActress-RAMPLING.png

Cate Blanchett – Carol

  • She’s physically indicative of Carol’s mental state and intentions, but never delivers a mannered or cheaply telling moment. Her every longing and regret is so present in her physicality that she creates an aura of unspoken emotion around herself. Once she finally speaks her mind, Blanchett becomes the source of the film’s catharsis and appropriately unfetters Mara’s Therese (and the audience) anew.

Emily Blunt – Sicario

  • Blunt plays Kate as a knotted muscle of blind morals and ambition, becoming the surrogate for the audience’s increasingly unbearable tension. The film wouldn’t click without the humanity she brings to the role and her economy in suggesting Kate’s unspoken depression. The threat of violence and potential for irreparable sacrifice is plain on her face from the word go.

Brie Larson – Room

  • Filled with specificity of Ma’s pain, but open enough to acknowledge that there are things about her experience that will remain unknowable to her loved ones and the audience. She makes Ma more than a savior, but a complex woman frozen by trauma into the immature mind of a teenager. Like the film itself, Larson modulates her anguish for the sake of Jack and the audience while remaining fiercely honest.

Rooney Mara – Carol

  • Her Therese is changed by love both in the moment and over the course of the film in clear ways, but Mara never cheapens them with obviousness. She may be flung out of space, but she’s also unexpectedly plain spoken, allowing Mara’s natural screen presence to take hold. From her sense of longing, to her anger, to her cold heartache, she is always the perfect compliment to Blanchett’s Carol.

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

  • A performance that’s at its most transformative in the silences, with whole revolutions happening on Rampling’s face as her understanding of her marriage crumbles. Her consciously dissipating connection to Courtenay as she becomes more interior predicts the conclusion’s sharp turn without diminishing its impact. To put it cheaply, it’s as if she’s living on the screen rather than acting in it.

The Winner is after the jump!

Continue reading “filmmixtape’s Best Actress of 2015”

filmmixtape’s Best Director of 2015

One of the reasons that helped 2015 be such a strong year for film is the strength of vision from a large number of directors. This was truly a director’s year and that was reflected both inside and outside of the studio system, with big gambles in approach being taken from The Revenant to Room, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Tangerine. Here are my choices for the directors crafting the strongest point of view:

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

  • Crafted without sensationalism and with a distanced respect to moments of privacy, Abrahamson approaches Room with stunning emotional and visual intuition. The film’s two halves are distinct and different in style, yet the whole film remains cohesive. He makes the unbearable subject palatable without sacrificing honesty.

Todd Haynes – Carol

  • The film is fascinated with the unspoken and Haynes loads every frame with subtext that informs both character and circumstance. Crafting the film to a gradual swell of emotion, he turns Carol into an invigorating and cathartic experience not unlike falling in love. No one makes period look as natural as he does.

Spike Lee – Chi-Raq

  • A swift reminder that the filmmaker is one of the shrewdest at blending tones and finding hilarious humanity within larger social conflicts. The whole thing shouldn’t work but it does glouriously, as much a transplant of ancient Greek theatre as a music video. Welcome back, Spike.

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Not since Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge has such a distinct directorial vision been given such a large scale to run amok. Miller throws so much on the screen visually and thematically, but has a refined sense of when to draw us in and when to hold back. That the film isn’t a complete mess is due to his complete control of his art.

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

  • He corals every element behind and in front of the camera to serve his point of view and finds ambiguous depth in an already strong procedural script. His control of what’s happening on screen and to the audience borders on the fascistic. He’s becoming one of the best at challenging audiences in genre packages.

See the winner after the jump!

Continue reading “filmmixtape’s Best Director of 2015”

filmmixtape’s Best Actor of 2015

The lineup below is one far quieter than is usually seen in Best Actor lineups – look anywhere on the internet and you’ll see that the current generation of film is all but completely centered on male protagonists in grand heroic or tragic stature. I found the field of leading male performances underwhelming this year, and narrowing down to a final ballot mostly easy for the few I viewed passionately. Oscar prefers things a bit more showy, and you’ll find my only crossover to be the most ostentatious of my lineup.

BestActor-COURTENAY.png

Tom Courtenay – 45 Years

  • He’s thrown by the discovery of his lost love’s body, but his own recent brush with death haunts with unspoken pathos. His regrets and failings shine clearly while the narrative gaze is on his wife. Courtenay acing Geoff’s transition from despair to acceptance as partner Charlotte Rampling is on the exact opposite course is crucial in establishing her devastating arc.

Paul Dano – Love and Mercy

  • Finally given a role that puts his soulfulness center stage, Dano is more open-hearted and accessible than he’s ever been. From his charm and deep well of sadness, he makes you hear “God Only Knows” as if for the first time. He plays Brian’s invading mental illness with a helplessness that informs so much on Brian’s situation in the film’s 80s portion.

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

  • Fassbender is usually cast in roles that demand introspection or physical externalizing of buried emotion, so naturally his work in Jobs is invigorating for his verbal dexterity and stymied emotional communication. Acing the challenge shows him as an actor who can truly master any role, and one who should be considered among the top tier of his generation.

Jason Segel – The End of the Tour

  • Segel underplays each moment much in the way that David Foster Wallace tried to brush aside his sudden success. The marvel of Segel’s work is the tension built within silences, and the slow reveal his Wallace lets down his guard while revealing his deepest defenses.

Jacob Tremblay – Room

  • The complete reverse of Brie Larson’s Ma: as open and x as she is unknowable and removed. His understanding of Jack’s post-Room trauma and thawing goes beyond director-led and builds intuitively. His chemistry with Larson rivals that of any two seasoned adult actors this year.

The Winner is after the jump!

Continue reading “filmmixtape’s Best Actor of 2015”

For Your Consideration: Best Cinematography

ICYMI I ran a fun list of outsider candidates for this stellar year of expert cinematography. Included were such diverse ranging titles as the euro single take Victoria, the chillingly sexy Ex Machina, and the iPhone ingenuity of Tangerine. But my true favorite among the bunch is Danny Cohen’s masterfully economical work in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. His work blew me away initially for how he captures Jack’s ignorance to the limitations of his tiny home by finding an unexpected amount of visual variety within the cramped space, and like the film itself, his work has lingered since. Here’s hoping his name can make it in among the heavyweights competing for space in an always dynamic category.

Room-screaming-at-ceiling.png