Looking Back: Jeremy Reveals His Top 10 Favorite Films of 2015
by Jeremy Kirk
January 11, 2016
Another year comes to a close, another opportunity arises to reflect back on the best in film. As with any space of time, there were ups and downs in the film world throughout 2015. Many films brought with them huge levels of anticipation only to disappoint, some had small amounts of anticipation and completely blew us away. No one ever expects to make a bad film, and the best audience members never go into a film expecting – or wanting – to hate it. We all love movies. The varying levels with which we admire certain, specific films is what makes the entire art form as exciting as it is. The passion we all have for cinema is what keeps us scouring the theaters for the best the artists whose work we're experiencing have to offer.
Found here, for you perusal, are the top 10 absolute best feature films those artist delivered in 2015:
Granted, there were a number of film that could have ended up at the #10 spot on this list, but only one of them has you coming back time and time again for a rewatch. For a number of reasons Spy ended up being the best comedy of the year, and most of those reasons have something to do with the outstanding cast writer/director Paul Feig has amassed here. Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne are on equal footing for hysterical impact, both offering countless moments that has you returning for more. It's Jason Statham, though, who steps outside his own comfort zone here and delivers a comedic performance that is truly memorable. It's the sort of comedic timing that has critics and audiences alike expecting the actor to walk away with a few awards because of it. Even if that doesn't happen, it's not stopping Spy from being the funniest and most rewatchable comedy of 2015.
#9. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Growing up a teenager in the heart of the Nirvana-led Grunge Era, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a relentlessly entertaining and equally eye-opening look at the mind of a genius and the isolation and sensitivity such a genius must withstand. Brett Morgen pieces together letters, recordings, and first-hand accounts with incredible ease, the life of Kurt Cobain effortlessly unfolding as no narrative film could ever capture. Along with Amy, 2015 was a groundbreaking year for how true-life stories can be told. It just so happens both films chose to depict the life of a musical artist who was taken from the world far too soon. For personal reasons, though, as well as personal tastes, Montage of Heck was 145 minutes of fascination, excitement, and enlightenment, a clear standout in a year where there were ample amounts of superb, documentary filmmaking.
#8. White God
So much more than the story of a girl and her dog, so much more than the tale of an abandoned dog who joins a canine revolution, White God is a film brimming with subtext and incessantly driven by emotional connection. Writer/director Kornél Mundruczó delivers a powerful and challenging, metaphorical experience as only examples of art outside the Hollywood system can offer. White God is unique both in its depictions and the ensuing range of emotions that follow, and it serves as an example of a filmmaker whose future works are sure to be anticipated with the highest level of excitement.
We were well into 2015 before this sci-fi/horror/romance story from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead was knocked from the top spot. For the majority of the year, this was the film to beat, particularly since I first saw it at the 2014 Fantastic Fest. Though better films finally did find their way to us, Spring remains a unique and moving story of overcoming one’s own environmental and biological defects for the sake of love. At the very least, it serves as an impressively strong reason to keep us watching for any future stories this brilliant, filmmaking duo deems worthy to tell. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will blow us away as Benson and Moorhead did with their first film, Resolution, and they absolutely do with their follow-up, Spring.
#6. The Hateful Eight
What, Tarantino isn't gonna make the list? Even when Quentin Tarantino isn't delivering masterpieces that bend filmmaking rules in all the right spots, he's offering interesting stories full of amazing characters that usually off one another in gloriously ridiculous ways. The Hateful Eight is more than a sweeping Western filled with surface-level gore, though. Even when Tarantino is telling straightforward stories of revenge and justice, he's sprinkling ideas throughout, adding depth in his characters' motivations, and keeping his audience always on their toes. The Hateful Eight may not be remembered as fondly as Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds, but it's a Tarantino film through and through. They are always, ALWAYS, worthwhile.
Given the general, minimalist set-up, Room was certain to be an interesting film to say the least. What director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue, adapting from her own novel, deliver is so much more than that. Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay nail every moment as a mother and son who create their day-to-day lives within the four walls that have become their reality. The directions the story takes and the very world the co-leads have devised for themselves - and what happens to it - develops a tale that is both highly original and endlessly engaging.
#4. Ex Machina
Screenwriter Alex Garland has been on my radar for some time writing such awesome works of cinema as The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, and the criminally underseen Dredd. Even his impressive novel, "The Tesseract," was adapted in 2003 by Oxide Pang, and the lesser-known film is worth seeking out. It goes without saying that his directorial debut brought with it a heavy sense of anticipation. Believe it or not, Ex Machina defies those expectations.
A stellar work of sci-fi writing, Ex Machina is incredibly simple, easily understandable, and terrifying in a way that has you questioning technology and just how far we're willing to go. Aided by a trio of rising and exceptionally gifted actors – as well as an impressive, minimalist, production design – Garland delivers the most eye-opening, cautionary tale in quite awhile. Years down the line, Ex Machina will be looked back on as an engaging and frightening film, or, if the film serves to be as prescient as I think it may be, our future, robotic overlords will see it as a slapstick comedy. It's a win-win either way.
#3. Mad Max: Fury Road
An endless demolition derby of metal and sand, Fury Road and the details we had on it before its release would have easily won the title of Most Anticipated Film of 2015 were it not for a little saga known as Star Wars. Even then, it was George Miller who revitalized his own sci-fi series with as much excitement as you could possibly load into a single film. The world Miller has created for Mad Max over four films is grand. Though he doesn't quite connect the dots between them, each entry into the series continues the trek into full-on, post-apocalyptic dystopia.
It's with Fury Road that Miller finally, and blatantly, asked the question, "Who killed the world?" It's a question that, juxtaposed with the insane barrage of speeding trucks and exploding cars, almost answers itself in the mirror the filmmaker finally holds up to his audience. Besides that, Fury Road is a perfectly executed blast of creative escapism, an action movie that wholly transcends its genre thanks to the filmmaker's impeccable skill. Mad Max: Fury Road, in time, may be viewed as the perfect action movie.
We knew Creed wouldn't be a bad movie. Even with the Rocky series devolving into the joke it had become by the time its fifth installment came around, we just knew this "reboot" would have something more to offer. The filmmaker behind it, Ryan Coogler, had something to do with that. After Fruitvale Station, there was little doubt Coogler would follow up with a work that was less than stellar, even if that work was a spin-off of a series that had 6 installments and 40 years under its belt.
Creed is an inspirational story that continues to grow and grow in quality with each viewing. The training montages and boxing matches are excellent examples of the quality of excitement Coogler brings. It’s the emotion, though, that proves Creed nails it. The relationships and conversations Coogler includes here are simple and straightforward, but there’s a genuine quality to them that grounds the emotional weight felt in every one of his characters. It’s a quality not felt in this series since 1976 when audiences and critics alike fell in love with the Rocky character the first time. There’s a reason the first film stands in such high regard, and Coogler has either matched or excelled in every possible aspect. Only time will tell if Creed has similar staying power, but as far as initial reactions go, it appears this franchise has a new, undisputed champion.
A masterpiece of execution. That description alone would warrant a motion picture ending up on a Best of the Year list. Marry that level of execution, thanks to the master animators at Dan Harmon's Starburns Industries, with an equally accomplished story of love and life by Charlie Kaufman, and it doesn't come as a surprise the resulting film makes it all the way to the top of this list. Anomalisa, co-directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, is tragic in its unflinching depiction of human flaw, those choices we make that end up shaping our world for the better or worse.
So, too, is it a story full of Kaufman eccentricity, and the characters he and his co-director shape are as real as any human characters put to film this year. The choices are real, the outcomes, however odd to our world, are genuine and full of deep meaning. In a time when films are loaded with out-of-this-world imagery, it's both shocking and understandable that it takes stop-motion characters to reflect our lives back at us so well.
Honorable Mentions: Beasts of No Nation, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, Shaun the Sheep, It Follows, Magic Mike XXL, Youth, MacBeth, Cartel Land, The Martian, The Gift, The Big Short, What We Do In the Shadows, The Nightmare, Best of Enemies, We Are Still Here.
What do you think of Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2015? Do you agree or disagree with his picks?