The Best of 2015

The top ten

Inside Out
Inherent Vice
Carol
It Follows
Mad Max: Fury Road
Girlhood
Selma
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Phoenix
The Look Of Silence




Film Of The Year
Inside Out

Inside Out runs headlong into talking about the consequences and reasons behind early-onset depression, yet wraps this conversation up in the dressing of an adventure story… There’s a wonderful lesson here about self-acceptance which raises the bar for the genre in many ways, and is done so without seeming overbearing.”

I went back to the cinema repeatedly for this one (and it’s not as if I’m not there enough already) and found myself itching for the home release. The funny thing is that, prior to this, I had always been something of a Pixar skeptic, not really gelling with their output in the way so many people do. Consider me a convert. I’ve caught up with most of the titles I’d dismissed (almost all of them, guiltily), yet still Inside Out remains the pinnacle of their output to date for me, personally.

After three years of giving the Film Of The Year to niche, awkward, audience testing films (all of which I still stand beside), it’s kind of refreshing to celebrate something that is for absolutely everyone. More than that, as Amy Poehler herself expresses on the bonus features available on the bluray (yeah, I’m a nerd, so what), Inside Out feels like a humane film. Something that makes the world better.  Something that contributes. A joy, fittingly.



Inherent Vice

“Anderson’s film is too wacky, too itchy and far too goddamn randy. In much the same way that Kubrick never seemed to tire of his more adolescent preoccupations, Anderson still has a hot-streak for the sexy”

A big-hearted gumshoe comedy film, if Anderson films can be equated to Kubrick films then Inherent Vice feels like his Dr. Strangelove, wherein an entire society seems to be teetering on the brink of madcap hysteria. Don’t worry too much about the convoluted story, embrace the feel of the thing. Joacquin Phoenix ties together a sprawling cast in what warmly goes on record as Anderson’s most romantic film to date.



Carol

“In the main this is a showcase for Mara and Blanchett, and the chemistry captured by Haynes is intoxicating. Theirs is a relationship built from gestures, out of necessity of the times and their politics. Advances come in the form of hand movements or glances, barely caught winks and hand-written notes.”

Carol is still fresh in the memory, as intoxicating as it’s titular character’s sweet perfume. It lingers. Rooney Mara is sensational, as is Cate Blanchett. Together they ought to be leading this film to Oscar recognition. But don’t dismiss it as mere awards-hungry prestige filmmaking. There is much more to it than that. I look forward to seeing it again.



It Follows

“Mitchell’s confidence behind the camera on this, his second feature, is disarming. Together with his director of photography Mike Gioulakis, he presents us a rich, dreamy vision of suburban America pitched in cool blues, warm golds and deep blacks. A world of vast lawns, quiet roads and subtly persuasive menace.”

An idea so insidious, so simple, yet so frightening that it’s a small wonder it’s taken so long for someone to do it. Like a walking, stalking Gregory Crewdson photograph, It Follows oozes menace just as well as it brings back pangs of nostalgia for adolescence. The central conceit is ripe for deconstruction (metaphors for STDs, death, life etc), but the film is much more than an intellectual exercise.




Mad Max: Fury Road

“The details in this movie are mind-boggling, as meticulous and intricate as the choreography of the perfectly times chaos and destruction that propels the film along and keeps it mutating with energy that ricochets down through cinema history, from the itchy vigor of early Sam Raimi right back to the glorious visual playfulness of Buster Keaton.”

Since it’s physical and digital release there’s been a minor backlash against Mad Max: Fury Road that I don’t fully understand. To complain that the story is simplistic, for instance, is to miss the point. It’s the journey (both ways) that electrifies. Miller’s film is both svelte and crammed-to-the-rafters. The latter comes from the seemingly inexhaustible creativity on screen. Simply, it’s the most imaginative action film to have appeared in years.



Girlhood

“Sciamma’s method here is exceptional. Girlhood boasts moments of stylised beauty, long slow tracking shots that fetishise youth set to (a) rousing score, yet these scenes are countered by a consistent sense of truth and realism. It’s a delicate balance but Sciamma makes it seem effortless.”

Understated but impressive with performances that convince totally, Girlhood is as much a celebration of youth and self-empowerment as it is a comment on the lack of role models for the young in modern society.



Selma

“A fierce and important reminder that reform and equality are not finalised issues to be boxed up as history, but ongoing causes that demand raised voices.”

Selma has weathered a busy year for cinema and still stands strong as one of the most indelible pictures to have appeared. David Oyelowo’s central turn is totally convincing, sidestepping the usual biopic trap in which impersonation becomes imitation. Prestige pictures are easy to roll the eyes at, but DuVernay’s film succeeds because it doesn’t care if it’s adored or not. The irony is that this probably should’ve been the picture to take home Oscar glory this year.



Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Kumiko works in tandem with Fargo in a strange way. It invites the viewer to invest in something that is knowingly false, and at the end plays a trump card – one akin to the clever self-referential finale of Adaptation – asking the audience to accept and believe in the lie, just as Kumiko does.”

With the TV spin-off of the Coens’ film going from strength-to-strength, don’t skip this intriguing sideways glance at a mini cultural whirlpool. Anchored by a thoroughly bewitching central performance from Rinko Kikuchi (which has drawn justified comparisons to the work of Chaplin), Kumiko is a quiet slow-burn, sure, but one that is ready for you to unearth if you’re prepared to seek it out. Alexander Payne produces, and his presence is deeply felt.



Phoenix

“The richness of Phoenix makes such suspension of belief readily welcome – the central relationship is too ripe with fascinating interplay, both intellectual and emotional. Loose those high-concept strings, allow this phoenix to soar, and hopefully you’ll be amply rewarded. I certainly was.”

Phoenix sneaks up on you, powered by its melodramatic Hitchcockian central conceit toward the year’s most breathtaking mic-drop finale. Holding it all together is a great performance from Nina Hoss as Nelly; one that earns the overused description “transformative”.



The Look Of Silence

“Rarely if ever does anything feel contrived or designed to overtly prejudice the viewer. Here the guilty hang themselves.”

Where The Act Of Killing felt surreal and appalling in equal measure, The Look Of Silence is more quietly devastating. But don’t let that put you off; this is important, incendiary documentary filmmaking and deserves inclusion on your must-see list whether you’ve encountered Oppenheimer’s work before or not.



The best of the rest…

Magic Mike XXL
Jauja

Mistress America
The Duke Of Burgundy
Timbuktu
Spring
Whiplash
The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
The Lobster
The Tribe

Tangerine
Ex Machina
Starry Eyes
Enemy

Bridge Of Spies

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