Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Top 20 of 2015 continued (Top Ten)

And so I arrive at that time of year when I have to suck it up and commit to a top ten, although it's been a bit harder in the past than it was this year. That's not to comment on the relative quality of the class of 2015 to any other year. I think it was a very fine year indeed, just one with less position shifting than usual. Subsequent viewings of certain titles merely galvanized their place on this list, with little depreciation (or significant appreciation) in value. We'll see if the years allow any of them to rise to the top.

The only oscillating I ended up doing came down to my top two. Imperfect, arguable masterpieces both -- you could also say the same of #3 and #4 -- who each sat in my #1 spot for lengthy stretches throughout the year; A testament to their staying power. At the end of the day, I had to go with the one that moved me most at first blush. Even once multiple revisitations have softened its novelty, that intense initial response is a hard feeling to forget.

But all ten of these deserve gold stars. They have given voice to the voiceless, kept us on the edge of our seats in moments of silence and bombast alike, horrified us with brutal truths, and made human emotion beautifully tangible. Without further ado, my Top Ten Movies of 2015:

#10: CREED (dir. Ryan Coogler)
If it's beat-for-beat predictable and a tad melodramatic, that's only because a good sports movie should be those things, and this is more than just a 'good' sports movie. It's directed and performed with more intelligence and texture than the seventh Rocky movie deserves, assembled with riveting visual rhythm and a blood-pumping soundtrack (auspiciously laced with echoes of Conti throughout);
An absolute crackerjack of a crowd-pleaser.

#9: ROOM (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
Captivity is comforting and freedom stifling in Emma Donoghue's perceptive adaptation of her own bestseller. Abrahamson effectively composes his images to communicate the worldview of a child growing up a prisoner without even realizing it. It's no walk in the park, but it is compelling drama, glued together by the palpable mother-son chemistry of the heart-wrenching Brie Larson and the perspicacious 8-year-old revelation Jacob Tremblay.

#8: THE LOOK OF SILENCE (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
Oppenheimer left plenty of jaws hanging in moral outrage with his 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, in which Indonesia's 1960s communist witch hunt is boastfully recounted by those who did the slaughtering. But it's this more lyrical companion piece, which shifts focus to the victims, that proves a superior essay on unhealed social wounds. Not so much an investigation as a quiet, still, haunting work of art.

#7: SICARIO (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
A twisty, pulpy screenplay executed with hitman-like precision makes for the most cringe-inducing, butt-clenching, excruciating thriller of the year (all in the best way). The boundary between good and evil in the hopeless war on drugs is blurred beyond recognition under Villeneuve's tightly coiled direction, holding our gaze hostage throughout the bleakest of scenarios. Hitchcock would approve.

#6: SPOTLIGHT (dir. Tom McCarthy)
A journalistic procedural as dense and talkative as this one requires utmost attention, but McCarthy rewards that attention with rich dramatic payoffs and a superb collective performance by a cast that's greater than the sum of its parts.
It's also a sobering reminder of the power of the press, which bears consideration in an age when the media strives more often for traffic than for truth.

#5: STEVE JOBS (dir. Danny Boyle)
The verbosity of Aaron Sorkin's authorial voice and the fervour of Boyle's visual punctuation prove a winning tandem. Together with a stellar cast orbiting the Oscar-worthy Michael Fassbender, they shatter the dusty biopic mold through an artful interpretation of Jobs' life and work (and the tenuous relationships therein). Character studies as witty and perceptive as this are rare beasts.

#4: SON OF SAUL (dir. László Nemes)
Can a true masterpiece come from a first-time feature director? Nemes makes a strong case with this incredible subjective study of the concentration camp experience, made all the more horrifying for the peripheral focus in his lens and on his soundtrack. Visceral and brutally poetic, it could challenge Schindler's List as the penultimate Holocaust drama; Difficult but essential viewing.

#3: CAROL (dir. Todd Haynes)
The emotion is powerful but never overstated in Hayne's exquisitely shot, elegantly penned period romance, wherein furtive glances, gentle touches, and musical swells speak volumes for characters whose true thoughts and feelings are rarely spoken aloud. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara stir a quiet, tactile passion that makes them a screen couple for the ages.

#2: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (dir. George Miller)
Miller's singular, post-apocalyptic action opus is surely the year's most unlikely masterpiece; A face-melting marvel of craft, and a furious feminist war cry.
The bombast is at first overwhelming (by design, of course), but multiple viewings allow the thematic notes to be heard over the beautifully orchestrated pandemonium. Sit back, buckle up, and revel in its glorious madness.

#1: INSIDE OUT (dir. Pete Docter)
In truth, Pixar has executed this formula with more finesse before, but the culminating effect here is transcendent, its finest moments surpassing the studio's most flawless past efforts. This wonderful invention of cinema does more than simply make you laugh and cry – It blithely examines the human condition, finding profound truths in a candy-coloured world of pure imagination.

Congratulations to all of my top twenty movies, but especially my top five, the Best Picture nominees for my own personal awards. Winners in all the other categories will be unveiled Friday.


  1. Praise for Inside Out - also my #1 film of the year! How the Academy managed to ignore it in Best Picture is a question that will haunt me until the day I die.

  2. Nice top 10!
    (Room is my #10, Inside Out is my #7, Mad Max: Fury Road is my #3, Steve Jobs is my #2, and Sicario is my #1.)