The Top 10 Films Of 2015
Sometimes writers and compilers of year-end lists try to preface their selections with a paragraph or two that ties everything up into a neat little package. When it comes to writing about pop culture and art we often search for some kind of unifying theme or trend that is used as signifying for a sea of change or movement in our society. In the end, though, the breadth of movies that comes out in any given calendar year is almost entirely arbitrary.
This year's selection felt a little less robust than last year's (although this writer's enthusiasm for the top two movies was sky-high), but it'd be silly to proclaim that as some sort of fin de cinéma. In fact, one may argue the opposite point by highlighting the strong presence of big-budget, star-driven "Hollywood" films in this list, but dozens of other titles show that most mainstream filmmaking remains as boring as ever.
No, this is just a list highlighting 10 (and then some) movies that were released between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 that I readily enjoyed. It's not comprehensive, nor is it intended to be authoritative. They're just very excellent movies worth watching.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road (directed by George Miller)
A well-oiled, perpetual motion machine of chaos and carnage, and I don't mean the cars.
9. Tales Of The Grim Sleeper (directed by Nick Broomfield)
If Mad Max was the overwhelming sensory experience of watching the components and mechanisms of an enormous device all move in sync, then Tales Of The Grim Sleeper—a riveting documentary of the notorious South L.A. serial killer—is the examination of the crumbling civic institutions of our fair city.
8. Kung Fu Killer (directed by Teddy Chan)
An unabashed homage to kung fu movies past, marrying Chang Cheh's brutality, Lau Kar-leung's stunning choreography, and the campy sensibilities of the best of Golden Harvest Studio. Pure bone-crunching bliss.
7. Blackhat (directed by Michael Mann)
Leave it to Michael Mann—one of the first of the elder generation of filmmakers to embrace cinema's digital wave—to make the first truly sensual cyberthriller. Screens are no longer cold, polished interfaces anonymously connected through miles of cable, but a part of Blackhat's tactile world.
6. Saint Laurent (directed by Bertrand Bonello)
A wildly slapdash mix of style, form, color (god, the colors) and the sexiest blazers ever. A biopic that boldly betrays the staid conventions of the genre—a tribute fitting its subject.
5. Creed (directed by Ryan Coogler)
In a business where it's par for the course to mine the past to feed an audience's nostalgia, Creed reinvigorates the practice of rebooting a beloved franchise by treating the past as a living, breathing presence. This rich character-driven drama, Creed is also one of the best sports movies in years. Its swooping, purposeful long takes of the matches highlight not just the brutality, but the grace needed inside of a boxing ring.
4. Carol (directed by Todd Haynes)
When love can't even be spoken of, it's the gestures that reverberate the most. A glance, a touch of the shoulder, a stare from across a diner booth. Todd Haynes does Wong Kar-wai in this modest romance.
3. Bridge Of Spies (directed by Steven Spielberg)
Classical American filmmaking is the now least fashionable mode of storytelling, but Steven Spielberg's Cold War thriller is like a breath of fresh air at the multiplex.
2. Jauja (directed by Lisandro Alonso)
Lisandro Alonso's mysterious Western, starring Viggo Mortensen, is a testament to cinema's ability to take you on a journey—not just across inhospitable landscapes, but also across time.
1. The Assassin (directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Hou Hsiao-hsien's is the world's greatest living filmmaker. Leave it to him to take one of the most overdone genres (the wuxia epic) and transform it into one of the most beautiful, sui generis films ever made. See it on the biggest screen you can find.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Beloved Sisters, Buzzard, The Forbidden Room, 45 Years, The Look Of Silence, Magic Mike XXL, The Mend, Phoenix
The Worst Movies Of 2015 (with notes): Lost River (stupefyingly bad), Lava (Pixar's pre-Inside Out short—insipidly bad), Jurassic World (offensively bad), Spotlight (ingratiatingly bad—this will win the Oscar)