I'm publishing this top ten list now because it feels right. One year ago today, I published my very first review. Happy anniversary to me! Over the past year I've (hopefully) gotten better at writing about movies. I'm incredibly proud of what I've done, but more than that, I feel connected to film in a way that I haven't since I studied them in college a decade ago. This makes me extremely happy and excited. It can be stressful to get a review posted every week in addition to holding down a full-time day job, but working on something I love this much is inexplicably rewarding. Here's to many more years of going to the movies and attempting to express just why I'm so obsessed with them.
I want to take a minute to acknowledge the people who have supported me over the last year. Without their help, I'd be totally overwhelmed and too paralyzed by self-doubt to ever have typed word one. First, my editor Rob Payne has been an invaluable source of advice, expertise, and mentoring. With his guidance, my writing has become exponentially stronger. I'm a better writer today than I was a year ago, and I have Rob and plenty of practice to thank for it. I also want to thank my partner Rachel for her inexhaustible supply of patience, encouragement, and love. Rachel isn't particularly interested in movies, and I'm pretty sure having to sit through as many of them as I drag her to makes her want to scream, but she is nothing short of absolutely supportive of what I'm doing. I'm incredibly lucky to have found her, and without her help, none of what I've done would be possible. Thank you, Rachel, and I love you. Also, thank you to everyone who reads my reviews. Whether you've only read one, or you've subscribed to email updates, and you read everything I post, thanks. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
As of this writing, I've seen exactly 99 movies in 2015. In my ideal world, I'd like to see at least three times that many in a given year. There are a lot of movies I haven't seen yet that might very well find their way onto the below list once I finally see them; Tarantino's The Hateful Eight and the newsroom drama Spotlight are just two that come to mind as possibilities. I included a few 2014 releases just because I saw them so deep into 2015, and they made a strong enough impression that I had to include them. This list will probably look very different by next March when I've had the opportunity to catch up on many of the 2015 releases that I haven't been able to see yet. Finished is better than perfect, though, so without further ado, I present my top ten films of 2015:
*Note: Each movie title above the picture is a link that will take you to my review of that movie.
Dope is a fresh and funny look at what it's like to be an outsider within an already marginalized group. It has plenty of laughs, and some real heartfelt character development that makes it satisfying on more than one level.
Hands down the best comedy of the year. The improvisational style in the Christopher Guest mold kept me laughing from start to finish.
It would be enough if Grandma was just a return to center stage for Lily Tomlin, but it's so much more. It's also a tender, understated character study with great emotional depth. The supporting turn by Sam Elliott is pulverizing.
7. The Martian
The Martian is a superbly entertaining and satisfying sci-fi epic. I wrote about Ridley Scott more than any other filmmaker this year, and this movie is the perfect example of the director being back at the top of his game. Matt Damon gives possibly the performance of his career. Every element works together to make a thrill ride of a movie.
Everest is a harrowing account of a real life disaster that puts you right in the middle of the action. It's gripping and visually stunning. Adventures in nature is a topic that fascinates me, and this movie excels at exploring why people tackle something as extreme as climbing the world's highest mountain, and the consequences when things go wrong.
5. Steve Jobs
The writing and the performances combine to deliver an engrossing tale that dodges all the pitfalls of the biopic genre. Aaron Sorkin's tight structure explores an entire life by examining just three days in that life.
The Salt of the Earth represents the best that documentaries can offer. Wim Wenders brings an incredibly interesting life into focus in a way few can. The subject is a photographer, and his life's work is captured with stark and horrific beauty.
3. Lost River
What can I say, I'm an iconoclast. I'm joking, but this is about the only "best of" list where you'll find Lost River. One of the worst reviewed films of the year completely captured my imagination, and I haven't been able to shake it. The imagery and content by first-time director Ryan Gosling might be heavily influenced by others, but I was completely hypnotized by it. I can't wait to see it again.
2. Ex Machina
I put a pretty high value on the atmosphere and mood created by a film, and Ex Machina is steeped in both. It's also a movie that makes you think, both while you watch it and long after it's over. Fundamental questions about what makes us human, the perils of being able to create sentient beings, and where we fit in once we start doing so are at Ex Machina's core. It's a chamber piece that deals in philosophical quandaries much bigger than its setting.
One word basically sums it all up: bonkers. This movie runs on high octane insanity and pure adrenaline. The visual flair and stripped down narrative deliver a visceral punch that can't be forgotten. Tom Hardy's minimalist performance as Max, and Charlize Theron's ass-kicking, tough-as-nails Furiosa owned my imagination for 2015. If there is any justice in the universe, Fury Road will continue to be talked about by film lovers for decades to come.
I wasn't crazy about this when I initially saw it, but I've warmed considerably to it since. The images and mood of it have stuck with me, and I'm really eager to revisit it.
This completely insane homage to 1980s action/buddy cop/martial arts/sci-fi movies is a complete gas. Tricera-cop. Do I need to say more? It's only 30 minutes long and available to stream on Netflix as of this writing. Do yourself a favor, watch it now.
The movie is just fun. It doesn't take itself anywhere near as seriously as the first Magic Mike. That's the key to unlocking the campy joy of a group of male exotic dancers on a road trip for one final shot at oily glory.