The Last Word On 2015
Yes, it’s that time of the year again – you know, the end of it – where we suddenly go like everyone else in the world and get with the lists. As is rapidly becoming habit, our Top 10 is not a Ten again this year, it’s an Eleven (a slight improvement on last year’s Twelve.) And as before we cover the Awards year instead of the calendar year, so depending on your geographical place in the world, some of these might not have reached you let. But be patient, they’ll all be along shortly.
So, without further ado – save to say that, as is the way, we present these in the time honoured fashion of reverse order – here is The Last Word On Earth Top Ten (whoops, Eleven) Movies Of The Year Just About To Die, 2015.
Todd Haynes took on early murder-free Patricia Highsmith to deliver his most satisfying film, and one of the finest love stories of the year. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara (who really should both be up for Best Leading come awards – but won’t be) are both note perfect, smouldering of look, often remaining silent in their exchanges of the love that dare not speak it’s name. With shimmering photography from Edward Lachman and a delicate, insinuating score from Carter Burwell, Haynes and all concerned excelled themselves here. Doesn’t hurt that it also boasts the most satisfying ending of any film this year.
10: Ex Machina
Let’s face it – that tragedy of The Danish Girl aside (see below) – it’s been Alicia Vikander’s year more than anyone else’s, and a star was definitely born in Alex Garland’s assured, compelling sci-fi drama. A three-hander between Domhnall Gleeson, a wildly dancing Oscar Isaac and Vikander’s deeply seductive AI, this was smart, intelligent science fiction, as well as thoroughly gripping filmmaking. Garland very easily established himself as a director to watch, whilst Vikander simply crowned herself Breakout Star Of The Year.
9: The Hateful Eight
The 8th Film By Quentin Tarantino had shades of both the 1st and the 7th Films By Quentin Tarantino, but for all it familiarity remained a vicious and unique beast in it own right. At times almost an Agatha Christie western that explodes into uber-violence, Hate8 (as we’re all calling it!) was QT firmly stating that these are the movies he wants to make, and he’s making them the way he wants to. That may be long, graphic and with an intermission – but when the goods are this good, that’s fine with us. Fantastic haunting score from Morricone to boot. (Yes, we thought he was dead as well.)
Odd that writer/director Tom McCarthy can deliver the best work of his career (this) just mere months after his worst, the Adam Sandler disaster The Cobbler. Spotlight not only marks his strongest work but also a huge leap for McCarthy as a filmmaker. Wearing its admiration for All The President’s Men firmly on its sleeve, this true life look at the great Boston Globe paedo-priests take-down of the early 2000s was a grippingly compelling paean to the days of serious investigative journalism. And with probably the best ensemble cast of the year with Keaton, Ruffalo, McAdams, Schreiber, Slattery et al doing stand out work. In what’s proving to be a divisive awards season, this intelligent drama could very easily walk away with everything.
7: Bridge Of Spies
And speaking of movies that have a shot at sneaking in and doing big, Oscar-wise – Steven Spielberg relocated to the Cold War and not only proved to be his usual reliable self, but far more. Once again casting Hanks as his everyman figure, and bringing the Coens on board to beef up the script, Bridge of Spies was a decidedly old fashioned, powerful, talky drama, spiced with plenty of humour and a noticeably prominent turn for Mark Rylance. With this smart, provocative thriller, Spielberg proved once more that he is so much more than cinematic comfort food, he is the master of all he surveys.
6: The Martian
Ridley Scott finally makes a decent film. It’s been a while Sir Ridders…Yes, there was plenty of humour here, but no Golden Globes, it’s not a comedy. Instead it was a brilliantly realised survival tale, a look at the enduring nature of the human sprit, all wrapped up in a supremely entertaining science fiction blockbuster. And, despite a note perfect supporting cast, it featured a front and centre stand-out performance from Matt Damon as titular Mars colonist, a role that has surely put him head to head with Leo in this year’s major awards. The Starman bit was great. But Waterloo…wow.
We thought this was by far the most purely entertaining enjoyable blockbuster of the year…until we saw our Number 4 (see below.)
Were it not for the fact that she disappears for a large chunk of the third act, Brie Larson would be a shoo-in for every Best Actress gong going. As it is we think the big ones might be headed elsewhere (see Number 2, below) but Larson is nonetheless remarkable in this deeply felt, Fritzl inspired tale of a young woman living trapped in a single room shed, with the five year boy fathered by the man who kidnapped and raped her. But as much as Lenny Abrahamson’s beautifully moulded tale deals with their lives in that restricted environment, it’s when they get free, and the fraught nature of adjusting to life in the world outside Room that becomes truly riveting. With a heart-capturing performance from young Jacob Tremblay, Room is very probably the most beautiful film this year not made by Pixar.
4: Star Wars – The Force Awakens
“Chewie – we’re home” – and for many, so were they. JJ took on possibly the highest pressure gig in town and, boy, did he deliver. The greatest thing about The Force Awakens is that it was a Star Wars film. Not those strange imitations that George Lucas knocked off a decade or more ago. This was proper Star Wars. Like it used to be. It felt the same – that said, it did make use of not only Lawrence Kasdan but many of the plot elements of the original. But it brought so much that was new to the saga that it felt completely fresh. And adventurous, And thrilling. And life affirming – you know, like a Star Wars film. Apparently, they’re going to make some more.
3: Inside Out
God, Pixar know how to make sad films. Inside Out, probably their finest movie to date (and that’s saying an amazing amount) purports to be a movie for families and all ages, but in reality it’s a film for adults to cry over, lamenting the fact that their children will one day grow up, if they haven’t already. And at its core, that’s all this wildly inventive, brilliantly realised film is – a story of growing up, and the pain that inevitably comes with it. Like all great Pixar films, at its core it’s remarkably simple, just layered with layer upon layer of their amazing smarts and invention. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be moved to emotional distraction. And when Bing Bong does that thing – oh, don’t get us started…
We’re quite happy to give Saoirse Ronan the Oscar, the BAFTA, the Whatever Else right now. Her utterly captivating performance in Brooklyn is a perfectly judged thing of beauty that, like the film it dominates (and she is on screen in just about every scene) captures the heart and never lets go. A film about immigration and emigration, set on both sides of the world and looking at the chasm of the world in between, John Crowley’s 1950s set tale is powerful, touching , human and tinged with a deep sense of loss, for people, for place, for time, for absence of all the aforementioned. Without Ronan it wouldn’t be as good a film as it is; with her it’s simply amazing.
1: Steve Jobs
After its initial festival screenings, and before it unexpectedly tanked at the box office, the awards buzz on Steve Jobs was extraordinarily high. Now it’s down to a vague possibility, maybe something for Fassbender. Which is ridiculous. Despite its lack of profit this is still by any reckoning a remarkable film. Much has been made of Aaron Sorkin’s very clear three-act structure (the forty minutes before three of Jobs’ product launches,) labelling it theatrical in style. But, under Boyle’s hugely distinctive direction, it’s anything but. This film pulses, it vibrates, the director rapidly cutting, projecting images and Dylan lyrics onto walls and floors, changing film stock and moving to digital, Boyle’s own energy finding a perfect symbiosis with Sorkin’s walk and talks and rapid fire literate dialogue. It’s like a cinematic workout that engages the soul and elevates the mind. No film this year crackles with the sheer energy of Steve Jobs, or features as strong an array of performances, not only Mickey Fass himself, but the likes of Winslett, a brilliant (fresh from The Newsroom) Daniels, and a superb only slightly unexpected Seth Rogen. Forget the stigma its box office failing seems to have attached to this movie, this is filmmaking of the highest order. (Plus it ends on Shelter from the Storm – and you can’t say fairer than that.)
And just because we couldn’t let it lie – here’s a couple of other special (and not so special) mentions –
Most Ill-Judged Performance/Film Of The Year – Eddie Redmayne & The Danish Girl
Yes, he’ll undoubtedly be nominated. But why? Tom Hooper’s film is as confused as Redmayne’s central character for the most part, unsure of what it is and even what it’s trying to say. And as for Redmayne himself? What a disaster. The man can’t walk past a frilly dress without furtively looking around and then giving it a quick fondle when no one’s looking. It’s more like a pervy Benny Hill sketch than a serious drama. And just as laughable. Throughout the whole movie Redmayne offers up a grand gamut of two expressions – smiling wistfully when he isn’t wearing a frock. Smiling contently when he is wearing a frock. Don’t be fooled by the nominations this woefully mishandled movie will get – this is the emperor’s new clothes. (And yes, Eddie, you can put them on if you want.)
Best Short Of The Year – Lava
Yes, it’s Pixar again. What better way to ease yourself into a movie about the death of your children’s childhood than a film about a singing volcano falling in love? Played in support of Inside Out, Lava was a ridiculously sweet little Hawaiian number, full of the spark and imagination we expect from Pixar, delivered here at their very highest level. We’d almost go as far as to say it was the best love story of the year (but we kind of said that about Carol already. OK, Best Granite-Based Love Story Of The Year.)
Least Funny "Comedy" Of The Year – Daddy’s Home
In a year that offered up the likes of The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard, Vacation and Hot Pursuit, this snuck in at the every last minute to clinch this one. Seriously – 96 minutes and not even one laugh?? It would be easy to say Will Ferrell was on autopilot throughout, but he’s not . He’s crashing and burning all over the shop.
Oldies Of The Year – Michael Caine in Youth & Lily Tomlin in Grandma
Both were early calls for potential awards noms but as the season moves ahead their chances seem to dwindle. Nevertheless, both these veterans produced some of the best work of their careers this year. In a role tailor-written for her by Paul Weitz, Tomlin was fierce, funny, acerbic, quick witted and moving in a non-sentimental way as she spent her day trying to drum up cash for her granddaughter’s abortion.
Meanwhile, in Paolo Sorrentino’s lyrical, bittersweet Youth, Caine showed he knows more about expressing himself on camera than just about any other screen actor working today.
Best Brian Wilson Of The Year – Paul Dano Or John Cusack?
Difficult call this one. We liked them both. The under seen and undervalued Love & Mercy featured Dano as the younger Wilson, and for this the actor made some concessions to the real man, looking like him, dressing like him, having his hair cut like him, even singing like him. It was very impressive. Cusack meanwhile – as Wilson the elder – seemed to make no concessions to the Beach Boy whatsoever, looked like John Cusack, but simply channelled Brian’s inner hurt and damage in an almost existential way. (Although he did make one concession – the long black coat was nowhere to be seen.) Yet both worked remarkably well and, in a curious way, perfectly complimented each other. So we can’t call this one. Go and check out the film if you haven’t seen it – and decide for yourselves.
Worst Terry-Thomas Impression Of The Year – Johnny Depp - Mortdecai
Why Johnny? Why??
Best Little And Little Seen Time Cop (But Not Timecop) Time Travelling Mindfuck Movie Of The Year – Predestination
Ethan Hawke teamed up once more with the Spierig Brothers for this brilliantly convoluted time travel noir that mixed Dick smarts with Heinlein source material. This was wildly imaginative and managed to hold together really well; small in scale, big on ideas and huge on ambition. Plus it has a “Fizzle Bomber” and you don’t get many of those to the pound.
Biggest Flop Outside Of A Marvel Movie – Chris Hemsworth
First Michael Mann’s intriguing Blackhat totally stiffed, then Ron Howard’s whale movie went belly up, both suggesting that maybe this particular Hemsworth brother is not the box office draw Hollywood would like him to be. Next up for the actor – a little something name of Thor 3. Followed by Avengers 3. And Avengers 4. Wise move, Chris, wise move.
Best Use Of Tom Cruise Hanging Off A Plane Of The Year
Tom Cruise hanging off a plane – Mission Impossible Rogue Nation. Man’s mad.
Happy New Year!
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Now, more than ever.