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Best Films of 2015

12/30/2015

Monte Yazzie
Movie Columnist

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Director George Miller drove this pulsing, bursting, no-holds-barred vehicle into the summer blockbuster scramble and completely destroyed all competitors. Miller builds an expansive world, without much dialogue, with the assistance of Tom Hardy, who plays Max Rockatansky. But don’t be fooled; this film belongs to Charlize Theron. As Imperator Furiosa, Theron confidently controls the film with stunning screen presence. Miller crafts a seemingly uncompromised film with near flawless execution, making “Mad Max: Fury Road” feel more suited for the arthouse than the grindhouse.

  1. Spotlight

“Spotlight”, a film about the investigation by the “Boston Globe” into the scandal within the Catholic Church, is a captivating and devastating experience. Tom McCarthy directs an exceptional cast, lead by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber, and narrates a film about investigative journalism in a straightforward manner while also allowing the film to unfold in a thrilling and stunning manner. It’s a film that never relies on anything more than displaying a group of hardworking people determined to reveal the truth, regardless of how intimidating the impact of the truth may be.

  1. Ex Machina

Good science fiction always asks difficult questions. Science fiction cinema didn’t get much better than “Ex Machina”, a methodically structured film with an intelligent narrative directed by Alex Garland. While many of the films that deal with science fiction are cluttered with special effects, Garland utilizes these tools to build an impressive, beautiful, and emotional artificial being known as Ava, played impeccably by actor Alicia Vikander. “Ex Machina” focuses on relationships between men and women, the advancing world and how it connects with progressing technology, and the trappings and limitations of science. It is an exceptional film that asks difficult questions and allows the viewer to interpret the answers however they choose.

  1. Inside Out

Pixar films have an undeniable emotional quality unlike other animated films. “Inside Out”, a film that takes place inside the mind of a young girl, is an impressive return to form for the company. The narrative is smart and poignant, while also being thought-provoking, asking questions for both children and adults to contemplate and, hopefully, discuss with one another. The animated world is incredibly unique, the casting of the characters is near perfect, and the story is accomplished in displaying how emotion changes throughout the rough and beautiful parts of maturing life.

  1. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Experience is an important aspect of adolescence; it has a way of preparing one for the unexpected but also teaching one valuable lessons about people and situations. “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl” is a coming-of-age story with a firm and grounded sincerity. All the trappings of a melodramatic teenage film are here but are instead shrewdly and cleverly implemented under the keen direction of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl” is an emotional experience, though it’s never devastating or heartbreaking but instead filled with heart and passion.

  1. Anomalisa

Human connection told expertly through stop-motion animation, “Anomalisa” displayed the pain, loneliness, and despairs of relationships and finding one’s self better than many films this year. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson co-direct this film about a solitary man leading a mundane life who has an unexpected encounter with a stranger, with charm and tenderness. This is a film about imperfect individuals dealing with complicated issues; it’s never easy or simply stated. “Anomalisa” is a challenging, yet heartfelt experience.

  1. Sicario

“Sicario” is a fascinating thriller about the war on drugs and the control and chaos that ensues while federal agents fight the faceless foe. It’s a film that lingers in an atmosphere of fear and builds suspense in subtle yet effective ways, whether the enchanting cinematography by Roger Deakins, which is a visual descent into darkness, or the narrative penned by Taylor Sheridan that displays the bleak disenchantment of fighting a faceless monster. “Sicario” is consistently tense and foreboding; it’s a film that drops the viewer in the middle of a frantic and confused situation, and then continues the journey amidst building chaos.  Director Denis Villeneuve is an impressive director, and “Sicario” is one of his best films.

  1. Brooklyn

Colm Tóibín’s novel about a strong-willed Irish immigrant living in 1950s Brooklyn found its film adaptation from director John Crowley. The story follows Eilis Lacey, an exceptional lead performance from Saoirse Ronan, as she comes to America in search of all it promises. Themes of homesickness, love, maturity, and the identity found in the place one calls “home” are all deftly handled throughout the film. Crowley paces the film with measured assurance, while avoiding the clichés and melodramatic trappings that hamper many dramatic stories. “Brooklyn” is an uplifting and sincere film.

  1. The Hateful Eight

In the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino, the director takes a group of unredeemable characters and locks them in a shack during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. The three-hour long epic, released in a special 70mm presentation, displays Mr. Tarantino meticulously building a mystery while also incorporating an interesting amount of social commentary that transcends beyond the time period depicted in the film; it’s compelling to see everything slowly unravel. The film finds further success with stunning cinematography and a beautiful score, composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone. “The Hateful Eight” is Quentin Tarantino self-indulgently doing what he does best.

  1. Carol

Director Todd Haynes builds a magnetizing connection of love between two women in the film “Carol”. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give phenomenal performances as two women drawn to each other in the 1950s. Their romance is witnessed from the initial blossom, starting as a chance encounter at a shopping counter, to powerful gazes across and next to one another, to the moment of intimacy; everything in their relationship is portrayed with subtle details, emphasizing mannerisms and movements and expressions. It feels in parts like a dream, accomplished through beautiful photography, in the sense that as the feelings grow stronger for these two women, so does their release from the constraints of their 1950s reality.

  1. Timbuktu
  2. The Revenant
  3. Straight Outta Compton
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. White God
  6. Creed
  7. Big Short
  8. The Look of Silence
  9. Wild Tales
  10. Bone Tomahawk

 

Honorable Mention:
Beasts of No Nation
Chi-Raq
Dope
Duke of Burgundy
Labyrinth of Lies
Love & Mercy
Mustang
Tangerine
Room
The Assassin
The Martian
What We Do In The Shadows
Youth