Two new films and 10 favorites of 2015
BEST OF 2015: It’s been a very good year at the movies. Never mind the gripers. Look at the list down there at the bottom. Those are fine films I couldn’t squeeze into this top 10. That’s proof right there. And I didn’t even count films like The Revenant, 45 Years and Son of Saul that deserve to be here, except for one thing. They haven’t opened here yet.
Also, Canadian films. I’ll leave them to next week when Canada’s Top 10, a presentation by the Toronto Film Festival, arrives here.
So, these are the 10 (don’t tell anybody, it’s actually 11) that I enjoyed most this year, listed in alphabetical order. Why? Because how do you decide whetherMad Max is better than Tangerine? And where then do you place Inside Out?
THE BIG SHORT:
Adam McKay’s vibrant and irreverent re-telling of the story the documentaries have had pretty well to themselves: the corruption and thievery that almost toppled the world financial system back in 2008 and cost everyone of us money. Humor and anger elucidate.
BROOKLYN: A richly emotional film exploring common feelings among immigrants (and maybe outsiders of all kinds): homesickness, uncertainty, displacement. Saoirse Ronan gives an enchanting performance as the young woman who has to find the courage to rise above it all.
CAROL: The emotions are honest and that’s why anyone, no matter their orientation, can respond to this lesbian love story. Cate Blanchett is imperious; Rooney Mara is sheepish. They blend perfectly and then have to fight for their rights in 1950s America.
GOING CLEAR: The Scientology documentary is the only film I gave 5 out of 5 this year. It’s an eye opener about the deepest beliefs of the psychological therapy that bills itself as a religion and about the underhanded tactics of its leaders. Great clips of Tom Cruise orating.
Pixar uses imagination, wild swoops of fantasy and great entertainment chops to explore the psychology of children. An 11-year-old girl is uprooted to another city and while she’s sullen on the outside, five emotions in her head scramble to assert themselves. Great animation, rambunctious humor and deep respect for children’s feelings.
MAD MAX FURY ROAD: George Miller re-invented the action film by stripping away the improbable and the artificial and giving us a sleek, ultra-fast, barebones thriller with weighty issues like women’s equality inserted ever so succinctly between the gear changes.
THE MARTIAN: Ridley Scott bounced back from a couple of bloated, pompous efforts to endorse streamlining and show science at work. You get completely involved in the efforts of an astronaut (Matt Damon) who has to improvise to stay alive when he’s abandoned on Mars.
ROOM: This one is partly Canadian (author Emma Donoghue lives in Ontario and child actor Jacob Tremblay lives here). Brie Larson acts a remarkable picture of resilence as a mother protecting her young son while being held captive. It’s creepy but highly emotional.
SPOTLIGHT: The details, difficulties and most all the need for investigative journalism have rarely been so vigorously portrayed. A fine ensemble cast enacts the work of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit that tracked down the facts about pedophile priests and a church coverup.
STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS:
I used to love movies like this. That was my reaction to the very first film and this one has rekindled that joy. There are flaws, sure, but building on the spirit of those original three, and letting us forget the dullness of the three prequels, are major achievements.
TANGERINE: A screwball comedy of sorts about a woman searching for her cheating boyfriend. So? Well, she’s a transgender prostitute; he’s her pimp and this is one very funny movie. The acting is completely believable and natural. The camera gets close but doesn’t intrude. It’s filmed on an iPhone.
And these are the other films that could just as easily have been in that list. They’re all worth seeing:
Amy, Ex Machina, GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, Meru, Monkey Kingdom, 99 Homes, The Price We Pay, Song of the Sea, Steve Jobs, Timbuktu, Trumbo, White God