Friday, January 1, 2016

The Top 25 Films of 2015

We always knew 2015 was going to be a big year for movies. Hollywood put an unusual number of blockbuster reboots on the slate for this year promising new installments of some of the movies’ most beloved series. But 2015 had some surprises for us nevertheless. As the ashes from the Sony Hack continued to drift in the beginning of the year, we found ourselves having some very uncomfortable but very necessary public discussions about equity and diversity in the movies and the movie business. 2014 was something of a watershed year for race in American cinema, but in 2015 gender seemed to be the battlefield. 

“Gamergate” and the Geek Girl Wars seemed to finally register on screen this year. My favorite film of the year subversively usurped the laconic male hero and introduced a formidable heroine not only his equal but in many respects his superior. By the time Rey arrived in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (so much a rip off of itself that they should've just called it Star Wars: Another New Hope) we had already been having a months long discussion of gender representation and what a female hero looks like. 

This was also a year of intense nostalgia. Looking backward excessively has been an unfortunate part of new American cinema for some time, but in 2015 it hit new heights. So many films this year involved the passing of the torch from one hero to a younger one. 1985 haunted 2015 like a friendly ghost: the last time Mad Max graced our screens was 1985 and “the future” portrayed in Back to the Future Part II (which came out in 1989 but narratively is linked to 1985) came and went. Sylvester Stallone never had a bigger year than 1985 and here he is again 30 years later, poised to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Can this nostalgia take us anywhere farther in the next 12 months or will it cycle down before inevitably cycling up again? We can’t know. But it is fascinating to ponder how much movies crystallize both our yearning for the past and our insatiable lust for the new. I don’t think any other medium is so shaped by this tug of war. 

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road - USA/Australia - d: George Miller
  2. Timbuktu - France/Mauritania - d: Abderrahmane Sissako
  3. Love & Mercy - USA - d: Bill Pohlad
  4. Tales of the Grim Sleeper - USA - d: Nick Broomfield
  5. Adieu Au Langage - France/Switzerland - d: Jean-Luc Godard
  6. Chiraq - USA - d: Spike Lee
  7. Sicario - USA - d: Denis Villeneuve
  8. Mustang - France/Turkey - d: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  9. Tangerine - USA - d: Sean Baker
  10. The Look of Silence - Denmark/Indonesia - d: Joshua Oppenheimer

11. The Big Short - USA - d: Adam McKay
12. Clouds of Sils Maria - France/Germany/Switzerland - d: Olivier Assayas
13. The Hunting Ground - USA - d: Kirby Dick
14. Son of Saul - Hungary - d: Laszlo Nemes
15. Amy - USA/UK - d: Asif Kapadia
16. Room - Ireland/Canada - d: Lenny Abrahamson
17. Welcome to New York - USA/France - d: Abel Ferrara
18. The Diary of a Teenage Girl - USA - d: Marielle Heller
19. Carol - USA/UK - d: Todd Haynes
20. Spotlight - USA - d: Tom McCarthy

21. Steve Jobs - USA - d: Danny Boyle
22. Show Me A Hero - USA - d: Paul Haggis
23. Inside Out - USA - d: Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen
24. Best of Enemies - USA - d: Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville
25. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Faith - USA - d: Alex Gibney

Honorable Mentions: Magic Mike XXL, While We’re Young, Beasts of No Nation, Results, What Happened Miss Simone?, Mistress America, Ned Rifle, Anomalisa, Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice Mapping a Detroit Story, Meadowland

The Acting Purple Heart goes to Gerard Depardieu for fearlessly offering up his body as a metaphor the corruption of privilege in Welcome to New York.

Best Performances, in order:
  1. Brie Larson - Room
  2. Juliette Binoche - Clouds of Sils Maria
  3. Elizabeth Banks - Love & Mercy
  4. Teyonah Parris - Chiraq
  5. Charlize Theron - Mad Max: Fury Road
  6. Günes Sensoy - Mustang
  7. Katana Kiki Rodriguez & Mya Taylor - Tangerine
  8. Winona Ryder - Show Me A Hero
  9. Bel Powley - The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  10. Cobie Smulders - Results
  11. Olivia Wilde - Meadowlands
  12. Catherine Keener - Show Me A Hero
  13. Cate Blanchett - Carol
  14. Marion Cotillard - Macbeth
  15. Jada Pinkett-Smith - Magic Mike XXL

  1. John Cusack & Paul Dano - Love & Mercy
  2. Benicio Del Toro - Sicario
  3. Jacob Tremblay - Room
  4. Abraham Attah & Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation
  5. Stanley Tucci - Spotlight
  6. Nick Cannon - Chiraq
  7. Bishop Blay - Out of My Hand
  8. Liev Schreiber - Spotlight
  9. Michael Peña - Ant-Man
  10. Paul Giamatti - Love & Mercy
  11. Oscar Isaac - Show Me A Hero
  12. Michael Fassbender - Macbeth & Steve Jobs
  13. John Cena - Trainwreck
  14. Sylvester Stallone - Creed

The Vilmos Zsigmond Color Cinematography Award: No film was more visually striking than Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, shot by Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. He translated the internal hellscape of Shakespeare’s doomed power couple and externalized it in striking ways. 
-First runner-up: to Roger Deakins, A.S.C./B.S.C. for his work on Denis Villeneuve's Sicario.
-Second runner-up: to the late Ryo Murakami for his work on Out of My Hand.
-Third runner-up: Ed Lachman, A.S.C. for his luminous work on Carol, shot on Super 16mm.
-Fourth runner-up: Cary Fukunaga who pulled a Soderbergh in directing and shooting Beasts of No Nation.
-Fifth runner-up: Likely Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C./A.M.C. for his work on The Revenant.

The Gianni Di Venanzo Black & White Cinematography Award: no award this year.

The Howard Hawks Directing Award: Steven Soderbergh for his triumphant second (and final) season on The Knick.

The William Cameron Menzies Production Design Award: to Thomas E. Sanders for his work on Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak. 
-First runner-up: Colin Gibson for Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Theodora van Runkle Costume Design Award: Jenny Beavan for Mad Max: Fury Road.
-First runner-up: Wendy Chuck for Spotlight, because good costumes aren't always beautiful. Sometimes costumes are great because they're real and true.

The Margaret Booth Editing Award: to Ronald Bronstein & Ben Safdie for Heaven Knows What.
-First runner-up: Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Alan Splet Sound Design Award: to Eugene Gearty & the sound department of Love & Mercy. Stunning work. 

The David O. Selznick Producing: Jeph Loeb, because TV Marvel (specifically Netflix-Marvel) shamed movie Marvel this year. In a year where the best picture Oscar winner was in part a screed against super-hero films, Loeb’s work on Daredevil and Jessica Jones shows great, meaningful work can be done with super-heroes that outstrips the middlebrow drivel that frequently wins our awards.

The Grant Tinker Television Award: No TV show pushed the boundaries of the medium like Transparent.
Runners-up: Better Call Saul, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Knick, Master of None, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, Adventure Time.

Great Disappointments: the final season of Mad Men, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina.

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