Friday, February 12, 2016

2015 Top 10

Before I begin, let me address the elephant in the room.

The Revenant is not on this list. I didn't see it and I don't plan to anytime soon. Perhaps you think this makes my list illegitimate somehow, given all the acclaim this movie has received, and in a way, I can't say I blame you if you did think so. 

There's something you gotta remember about me and this blog, though: I am not a professional reviewer. I don't aspire to be one. I make conscious choices as to which new releases to see, and I pay to see them out of my own pocket. Given the often competitive nature of film blogging, there's pressure to see and write about certain movies because of all the hype around them. Everyone's gotta weigh in with an opinion about this or that. As a result, it's easy to forget that if I want to, I can also choose to not see a movie, and I think if I hadn't spent last year devoted to classic film and sitting out the Oscar race, I wouldn't have realized this simple fact. 

I'm not blind. I see that The Revenant is not I Spit on Your Grave, and when it comes time to make my Oscar predictions, I intend to pick it for Best Picture. Someday, years from now, when all the buzz around it has subsided, I'll sit down with it and see what the big deal is about. If WSW is still around by then, I'll even blog about it. 

But not now.

UPDATE 2.14.16: Looks like I've been duped! I was one of many who had been led to believe that The Revenant had a scene in which DiCaprio gets raped by a bear. Michelle informs me that this is not so, that it was in fact, an exaggeration of the facts by an overzealous website. Now see, if I had been following the Oscar race this year, I would've known about this, but who could've predicted this would happen? Apparently the bear scene is still fairly intense; it's just not, y'know, sexual. This changes things. Does it change things enough that I"ll go see the film after all? Stay tuned...

10. Ex Machina. In what's been a hell of a year for sci-fi movies, this one shouldn't be forgotten. A little bit on the predictable side, but still a very thoughtful twist on the can-androids-be-human-too trope from screenwriter turned director Alex Garland. And needless to say, the visual effects that made Alicia Vikander into an android are fabulous.

9. Bridge of Spies. I wasn't entirely sure Spielberg and Hanks could sell me on this Cold War drama, but they did. The big surprise for me, though, was Mark Rylance, the emotional center of the film, who does a lot with what seems like a little.

8. Mr. Holmes. Once again, Ian McKellen kills it, this time as an older version of Sherlock Holmes solving one last mystery at the end of his life. Even if you're not a Holmes fan, you're sure to appreciate this, the latest collaboration between McKellen and director Bill Condon. Laura Linney is delightful as well.

7. Creed. And in what's been a pretty good year for sequels and spin-offs, too, comes this highly entertaining film that gives the Rocky Balboa franchise a fresh and modern spin with a great new character. Apparently director Ryan Coogler wanted to make this for a long time, and his passion for this story shows through, getting the best performance from Sly Stallone in years and turning Michael B. Jordan into a legitimate star.

6. Spotlight. For my money, the best ensemble film of the year. Journalism like what's on display in Tom McCarthy's drama about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals may be in decline, but you'd never know it from this movie, which measures the emotional impact not only on the victims, but on the reporters involved as well. Nothing flashy, just good old fashioned storytelling the way it should be.

5. Brooklyn. It was only a matter of time before somebody gave Saoirse Ronan a star-making role like this one: an Irish immigrant in 50s Kings County, New York, and it's a joy to see her all grown up at last, as a beautiful young woman in a sympathetic and quietly powerful performance. This is only the beginning of what will be a long and fruitful career for her. I can't wait to see where she goes from here.

4. The Martian. Well, if I'm ever trapped on Mars, I know how to survive now, don't I? Ridley Scott continues the hot streak of hard sci-fi movies out of Hollywood (Interstellar, Gravity, Her, Cloud Atlas) with this tale that's both brainy and fun at the same time - a rare combination indeed.

3. Inside Out. Perhaps the most original and purely imaginative movie of the year, and like the best Pixar movies, it operates on more than one level. It sounds extremely highbrow - the personifications of the conflicting emotional states of a little girl's mind learning to coexist - but in the hands of co-directors Pete Doctor & Ronnie del Carmen, it's a rollicking adventure and a tearjerker at the same time. This really should've been a Best Picture nominee.

2. Carol. What more can I say about this breathtaking, unconventional love story from Todd Haynes? Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara both knock it out of the park with two bold performances in a story that doesn't try to explain why they fall in love with each other because ultimately, it doesn't matter. This film is about the pursuit of love, and having the courage to follow it wherever it may lead. Would that we were all brave enough to live that way.

1. Room. A movie that took me completely by surprise, went places I didn't expect it to, and was executed with great precision and skill, Room was unlike anything I've seen in years. What could've been an exploitative B-grade thriller - woman abducted, held prisoner inside a shed for years and gives birth to kidnapper's child - is handled with great sensitivity by director Lenny Abrahamson, with a powerhouse performance by Brie Larson at the heart of it all - and there's a name you better get used to hearing more of in the future. This one's a first-class winner no matter how you slice it.

2014 top 10
2013 top 10
2012 top 10
2011 top 10


  1. I feel like I've missed something about The Revenant. I have just seen the trailer once, and it looked big and good, but maybe exhausting.

    I adored Ex Machina this year the way I adored Under the Skin last year. I wish more people would see both of those films! They are a type of thinking SciFi that a lot of people don't know much about.

    I've seen a measly four of these. This weekend should bump me up one or two more. :)

  2. UNDER THE SKIN was another Top 10 movie for me. Creepy and very stylish. Dug that one a whole lot.

  3. I like your comment about "Carol" not exploring the why of falling in love. Love is never about why; it just is.

    My sister Maureen is really big on "The Revenant". She found it quite moving and describes DiCaprio's performance as close to one in a silent movie. Sounds interesting, and she is very enthusiastic, but I don't want to spend my going out money.

  4. I saw her talk about it on Facebook, in fact. Came semi-close to convincing me.


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