Saturday, January 16, 2016

Best Movies of 2015

The year provided us viewers with a wide variety of quality movies. My Honorable Mention list is long. I've got three sci-fi movies right there in the middle of my top ten. There were a few important movies made (Spotlight, Grandma). A lot of entertaining ones (The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many more). The funniest ones were brought to us by women (Sisters, Trainwreck). We're still missing a representative output of roles for ethnic actors or movies voicing minority voices. Even still, some quality movies produced.

10. While We're Young
I have a few different categories for movies. There's "must see in theaters" movies that I'm super jazzed about. There's "it's nominated for awards" movies that I'll see because others are talking. And there's "Redbox" movies which for lack of a better term, are movies that I'll catch on a lazy Saturday when I don't have much else going on. While We're Young fell into the "Redbox" category. Directed by Noah Baumbach and very much in his style, the movie deals with getting older and trying to remain relevant and trying to determine what's actually important. While I've come to appreciate Baumbach movies, this one surprised me by not only being thoughtful and well-executed, but it was enjoyable to watch.

9. Room
Room is about a young woman who is captured for years and kept in a single room with the son begot from her captor. The movie is broken into two halves: the former in captivity, the latter dealing with getting reacquainted with the outside world. What sold the movie for me was the moment between the two halves. The sense of overwhelming wonder and freedom was amazing to witness.

8. The Hateful Eight
I've always had a tumultuous relationship with Tarantino. He revels in violence and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to using racially charged language, two things that don't necessarily draw me to a movie. Yet he typically has a goal in mind, and uses a lot of style getting there. He's also a master film. He pays homage to classics while creating his own. I was able to see The Hateful Eight in 70mm, complete with movie programs and an intermission. The movie is a who dunnit, allowing Tarantino to explore the basest nature of humanity. And the violence, racially charged language, style, and engrossing story telling were in full swing.

7. The Martian
This movie is based off the sci-fi novel of the same name. The productions of the two couldn't be more different. The book, self-published online until its popularity garnered its publication, was heavily researched by author Andy Weir. Not exactly known for its prose, it was a read enjoyable for its scientific accuracy matched with the snarkiness from its central character. The movie, on the other hand, had blockbuster written all over it. Starring Matt Damon (and everyone else) and directed by Ridley Scott, the movie was exactly why going to the movies is fun. There's suspense, a clear goal in mind, and incredible visuals.

6. Ex Machina
A more thoughtful sci-fi offering, Ex Machina explores the implications and dangers of AI, specifically AI that could pass the Turing test. With great acting from and Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, and Domhnall Gleeson and arresting visuals, I loved this movie.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The only criticism I've heard about this movie is that it's a repeat of Episode IV: A New Hope. This very well be true, but I'm not going to complain about a return to the glory days of the original trilogy. I found the new characters to be brilliantly conceived and the movie is an absolute joy-ride.

4. Sicario
Wow. Director Denis Villeneuve is an expert with creating a slow burn. Also directing out-of-nowhere thriller Prisoners, both movies had me completely enthralled from beginning to end. Sicario follows an FBI agent (Emily Blunt) as she joins a government special task force to bring down a drug cartel. The slow reveal of what it takes to get this done is a heart-pounding one and is anything but black and white. I also saw this movie in a really nice movie theater with reclining seats and impeccable audio/video equipment.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Despite being someone who's familiar with movies, my only context for the Mad Max series was that it was a post-apocalyptic movie starring Mel Gibson and filmed in Australian. Nothing in there necessarily caught my attention and I never took the time to watch the originals. When Fury Road came out to universally positive critical acclaim, I was intrigued. I watched the movie in theaters and thought, "What did I just watch?" Then I thought about it more, talked about it with others, and read a handful of the thousands of articles out there. I grew to appreciate it. I re-watched it over Christmas. The role(s) of women, the mere spectacle of it all, the power struggles. It's all wonderful and what action movies should be.

2. Spotlight
This is a movie about The Boston Globe investigating and writing about the story of a number of Catholic priests sexually abusing a large number of defenseless children and the systems that kept it secret. Not exactly a pick-me-upper. Yet the story is expertly unveiled. It would be easy to rely on the horrors of the topic to get the point across but Spotlight slowly explores Boston culture, the Catholic church, and the legal systems in place that kept (and continues to keep) offenders from being prosecuted. With a brilliant script and acting, this movie is a must-see.

1. Inside Out
Disney Pixar has a sterling reputation for good reason. Inside Out continues their reign at telling good stories. While they've always been experts at capturing human emotion, this time they do so explicitly. The story has whimsy and is as funny as ever. The voice acting is on point. And as usual with Pixar movies, I cried. Ultimately, the movie allows space for all sorts of emotions, a message that is as important for (Christian) adults as it is for children. This movie is really, really good.

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)
Amy, The Big ShortCarol, Crimson Peak, The Danish Girl, The End of the Tour, Far from the Maddening Crowd, The Good Dinosaur, Grandma, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, It Follows, Joy, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mistress America, The Revenant, Sisters, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Trainwreck, The Wolfpack

Highly Anticipated (in alphabetical order) [UPDATE: favorites made bold]
Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Creed, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Meru, Steve Jobs, Straight Outta Compton

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