List by-Jarrett Leahy
I have finally had a free moment to finalize the AmateurCinephile.com Top 10 Movies list for 2015, and only a month later than I originally hoped to have had it posted. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve seen all the possible candidates from 2015, and I’m sure there will be one or two I’ll later regret not having on this list, but I feel this is a pretty accurate depiction of what I found to be the best in the year of film circa 2015…
-Spy: Going in with minimal expectations may have aided in my enjoyment, but I must confess Melissa McCarthy’s Spy was a bit of a shocker for me. A comedienne whose talents have been squandered in the past, Spy left me thoroughly amused thanks to the aid of a stellar cast including fellow funny woman, Miranda Hart.
-The Gift: Australian actor Joel Edgerton’s first crack at writing and directing gave us The Gift, a taut and extremely tense Hitchcockian thriller co-starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall that’ll leave you squirming in your seat throughout.
-Straight Outta Compton: Straight Outta Compton, the NWA bio-pic, is an unexpectedly adept and entertaining look at the rise and fall of one of hip-hop’s most feared and influential 1980’s rap groups.
-Star Wars: The Force Awakens: An end-of-the-year box office smash, Star Wars: The Force Awakens felt a bit too much like a remake of the original 1977 film to crack my top 10 list, but credit must be given to J.J. Abrams for creating quite the nostalgia trip.
-Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Only the second feature film from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl turned out to be quite sweet & charming despite it’s melancholy subject matter (cancer) and self-righteously nettlesome lead character.
-Room: a movie that just missed cracking my Top Ten, Room will forever be the film that announced to world what many cinephiles had already discovered in films like Short Term 12 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Brie Larson is really good.
10. Dope– A gifted, inner-city high school senior finds his dream of attending Harvard University jeopardized when he unwittingly comes into possession of an illicit package. Blessed with a killer 90’s hip-hop soundtrack, writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s comedic drama offers a surplus of laughs thanks to pitch-perfect chemistry from the film’s trio of lead characters all while delivering a very relevant message.
9. The Hateful Eight- As an ardent Tarantino fan, I must confess that this was the first time I had to contemplate whether one of his films was actually worthy of Top 10 inclusion. While not quite as masterful as past achievements, The Hateful Eight still brings together all the elements you’d expect from a Quentin creation: a stellar cast, striking cinematography, and a caustic script filled with its fair share of barbed language and bloodthirsty violence.
8. Mad Max: Fury Road- It’s extremely rare that the fourth film of a franchise, made thirty years after the previous effort, would wind up being the best of the bunch, but that is what 70-year-old Australian director George Miller managed to do with Mad Max: Fury Road. Blessed with two star-studded performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road is a terrifying, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride extravaganza that will no doubt leave you exhausted.
7. Mistress America- A lonely college freshman joins up with her free-spirited, prospective sister-in-law to explore the quirky happenings of New York City. Mixing elements of screwball and comedy of manners, Mistress America, the follow up to the near perfect 2013 comedy, Frances Ha, is a witty breath of fresh air that offers yet another reason why writer/director Noah Baumbach is quickly rising up my list of favorite filmmakers.
6. The Big Short- The Big Short is a scathing examination of the 2008-09 American housing bubble and the small group of outsiders who saw the opportunity to cash in on the arrogant miscalculations of our nation’s top banking institutions. Bursting with sterling performances from a sensational cast of A-list stars, The Big Short’s array of sardonic humor helps make much of the film’s financial terminology more coherently digestible for the banking layman. An enlightening must-see, who would have guessed Adam McKay, the director of Anchorman and Step Brothers, could step so far outside his comfort zone and create such a pertinent, satirical tour de force?
5. Spotlight- Based on a true story, Spotlight showcases the behind-the-scenes efforts of a group of Boston Globe investigative reporters who dared to take on the Catholic Church and expose the institution’s unfathomable molestation scandal. Spotlight’s meteoric ascent to the 2015 Best Picture Academy award is more than well deserved. Writer/director Tom McCarthy does a masterful job not to sensationalize the gory details of the misconduct, instead highlighting the immense efforts it took the team of gifted writers to bring this essential story to light.
4. The Revenant- While on a fur-trading expedition, a frontiersman is mauled by a bear and left for dead by the hunting party he is leading. The latest work of art from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Amores Perros) The Revenant is an expansive epic with spectacular cinematography, delivering an arduous journey of survival and revenge that should (and did) finally bring Oscar gold to acting megastar Leonardo DiCaprio.
3. Inside Out- After an unexpected run of mediocrity, it is such a relief to see Pixar back on top. A truly innovative creation that delightfully explores the inner emotions of young adolescent girl, Inside Out offers both childlike wonder, while delivering an emotional depth that will melt even the most frigid of adult hearts (thank you Bing Bong).
2. Sicario- Sicario is the latest example of why director Denis Villeneuve, a native of Quebec, Canada, is considered one of today’s finest filmmakers. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and highlighted by yet another milestone performance from Academy Award winner, Benicio Del Toro, Sicario is a blood-curdling, behind the scenes examination of our ongoing war on drugs with the powerful cartels just over our border in Mexico.
1. Ex Machina- Caleb, a gifted computer programmer, is selected to take part in a secretive A.I. experiment at the secluded estate of his brilliant, mercurial boss. As the week progresses however, Caleb begins to suspect there may be more to this experiment than he was originally led to believe. One of the most skilled and assured directorial debuts of recent memory, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a transcendent, science fiction masterpiece that examines the exciting and terrifyingly unknown future of artificial intelligence. Alicia Vikander may have won this year’s Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Danish Girl, but it’s her astounding portrayal as the alluring cyborg Ava that will be her lasting legacy from 2015. Dark and engrossingly thought provoking, Ex Machina puts forth a myriad of questions as to what exactly is true consciousness and what ethical boundaries are there, if any, when it comes to our creation of artificial intelligence.
Here’s hoping 2016 is a great year in movies for you all. Happy viewing…-JL
-Editor’s Note: Room should be much higher!-MZ