2015 is officially over and it’s good to brush it all off with officially saying what I loved the most. I’ve already posted the collection TUMP top ten recording as well as my favourite films I saw while trudging through film cannon last year. I ask you guys to check those out. However, if you’re looking for my personal best, in written form so you can scroll to the bottom and make sure I’m still sane (or am I?), then feel free to do so here.
20. Cinderella (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
Disney princesses have come a long way since the 40s. The world complained that they inspire bad role models for women, and they sort of do. This year Star Wars became the latest to fall under the Disney umbrella and we can sort of see Rey as the new embodiment of what we want women in movies to be like and I’m sort of happy for that sort of progress in representation and varying stories. At the same time the old fashioned magical charm doesn’t lose much for just being what it is. So instead of looking at Cinderella as a step very far back I look at it as just a loving remembering of the best parts of those older stories. The film packs a lot whimsy and charm such that you can’t help but fall in love with its hopeful sensibility.
19. The Gift (dir. Joel Edgerton)
Forgetting niceness and manners at the door where a wrapped present awaits us of Joel Edgerton’s feature length directorial debut. This film is a perfect example of stereotypical psychological tension based horror being done perfectly right. We watch on as the weird one pesters the successful one and we peer deeper at the “good” one who just wants to be left alone. We’ve all had those social encounters where we are nice and civil and try to scuttle the other person we really don’t want to interact with rather than just be honest and say goodbye and no, so why not make that the beginning of the worst time of your life.
18. Kung Fury (dir. David Sandberg)
I wanted to find a reason to take this off of the list. It’s dumb, almost too dumb to be put on a list with the word “best”. At the same time however this film is special. It’s a 30 minute short which is a spoof on 80s action TV shows. It has everything all of those shows needs, cops and kung fu. Then we time travel to fight Hitler and the puns write themselves almost. It’s so fun to just watch it move from beat to beat refusing to stop or make any sense.
17. Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler)
Rocky movies are warm, they’re comforting, and while for the most part you’re watching someone endure some harsh training it comes as the cost they pay for an amazing pay off at the end when they succeed in the ring. There’s something about boxing films that are super satisfying. Whether it’s the concept of watching Little Mac knock out the bigger guy, or that for the most part they are always underdog stories. As Rocky was this simple rookie getting the title shot randomly we watch on as the one fighting with a name that we watch him earn no matter how much we know in the real world (and at some points in the film) people continue to question whether he deserves to use it.
As much as I’m a purist, this new version of Fighting Stronger still works on me.
16. Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland)
I love technology. As we automate more and more things in the world we continue to ask how long it will be before true artificial intelligence will happen. We have so much cloud computing happening and getting better and better. I just watched a talk on the new technology some manufacturers are planning to use to self-driving cars and how they are “learning” scenarios and what they mean to a driver and it excites, and frightens me immensely.
So when Alex Garland takes me to an eccentric billionaire’s home to test the bounds of a supposed A.I. to find out if it can fool the “real” thing then I can’t help but wonder what sort of questions I would ask to see if I could find the borders of that system’s parameters. Add in some creepy ideas and some weirdly lovable dance scenes and what more do you need from science fiction.
15. Kingsman: The Secret Service (dir. Matthew Vaughn)
Action is my middle name. That’s after James and Bond, and yes I don’t have much else going on this week either so tell me your story.
Kingsman is one of the most satisfying comedies of 2015 that plays so much with our knowledge of british spy films without ever making us want to use the word spoof. It is so playful, joyous and amazingly packed with action sequences that we’ll be watching repeatedly for years to come.
14. Girlhood (dir. Celine Sciamma)
When we think of teenage films we think of some silly thing where the worries of our protagonist are minimal and at the end they learn that the thing they’ve been striving to make them happy is really not that necessary and all they need they had all along. Here is a film about a young teen who’s striving for happiness in a world where that really isn’t that easily available. Throughout the film we watch on as bad decision after bad decision are made in pursuit of happiness, without Will Smith, and we watch on as the happiness is always gained for a short period and slowly evaporates in front of us and her. We watch again as the search begins again with another decision and hope that this time it will stick longer.
It is a film of fleeting emotions that I can’t help but want to get more and more out of.
13. What We Do in the Shadows (dir. Taikka Waititi)
When vampires exist for long enough they have to learn how to exist in the world so as to be able to enjoy themselves and at the same time not starve. Throw in a documentary crew as we join in these small boys club of vampires who live in town. We dive into their fraternity of vampiric activities. It’s no different than any group of dysfunctional guys trying to not run into werewolves and get some dinner tonight.
12. Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach reminds me that when Greta Gerwig wants a thing that’s completely unreasonable I can still enjoy watching her swirl around the bowl heading down into failure. The film makes us care about the worst people who want nothing but their own success if even at the cost of others, but watching on as awkwardness and unspoken social norms are broken for the sake of forward motion.
11. Slow West (dir. John Maclean)
I like Westerns. When we watch on as a youngster lost in the western range seeking a friend is found upon by an opportunist we start counting down for things to implode. The west has been revealed in the last decade to be a barren wasteland that we question why people bothered to even try to make it work. Why do this much work to make this world when you could’ve just done more with more fertile lands in other countries? Oh right, gold.
10. Phoenix (dir. Christrian Petzold)
A disfigured concentration-camp survivor returns home to Germany to reconnect with her husband. Upon finding him he doesn’t recognize her and decides to use her to benefit from his suspected dead wife’s inheritance. It becomes a ticking clock of when will he find out? When will she tell him? What will happen? The film builds tension through curiousity and just having our character’s weird desires to forgive this man rule her love. The question you have to ask yourself is what do you think they do when the film is all over?
9. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
When a film is this loving towards movies I can’t help but love it. This feels like the best version of what Be, Kind, Rewind was supposed to be. It pulled together all of the best parts of teen romantic comedies with a film that not only has characters that adore movies we film lovers love, but also presents the movies themselves as something the film itself loves. The film is filled with references that are so acute at times it can’t help but make you smile when you manage to catch one, as if it’s a secret and it didn’t want to say it outright for everyone to point.
8. It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
STDs aren’t supposed to fun, or so my high school videos told me, so why did I have so much fun with this movie. The film creates real heavy levels of tension so simply with the most ridiculous of villains that it’s almost unfair. As it’s explained to us at first it’s almost too silly to be true, but as we watch and have this theory tested and shown to be real we fear for everything we ever could imagine. We start to tally up who’s slept with whom and how we can subvert this line of sexual frivolities.
7. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper)
That film we keep mentioning that it’s a two plus hour single take movie and nothing more keeps pushing itself into my list of movies I loved. Instead I like to look at it as a thriller crazy one night film where a young woman makes quick friends with a few nice enough seeming guys one night and eventually accidentally escalates to the point of a bank robbery happening. Things can move far pretty quickly when bad decisions are made, and sometimes you aren’t the one who makes that decision. The film never makes it’s filmmaking seem as important as some more prestigious films, which is what makes this movie even more endearing. It’s just a movie about how things get a bit crazy sometimes.
6. The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott)
A film about man who’s stranded on the surface of Mars to suffer somebody’s disco playlist.
Matt Damon makes this film possibly the best “alone” film you will watch as we cheer on our endangered astronaut as he solves problem after problem and ends up surviving to continue solving problem to the next day. No matter how many things can or will go wrong and cause more obstacles show up for Damon’s character he keeps mostly upbeat and making fun in a smartassed way that we would probably be at work normally typing out reports and any other mundane task.
5. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle)
When genius is thrown around so often it’s easy to want to tear down a business man who’s somehow known as a technologist, it’s nice to be introduced to the broken and realized version of him that may not be “real” but definitely feels more real than all those ads you’ve seen. Watching on as three launch events are about to occur we see how he handles pressure and wanting to blow expectations out of the water.
I can’t help but fall in love with this film with enough performances that it could rent a few out to a film in need and such showy filmmaking and dialogue that it seems weird that Boyle and Sorkin hadn’t worked together before.
4. Bone Tomahawk (dir. S. Craig Zahler)
I think I mentioned I love westerns. I love westerns with Kurt Russel. He has the swagger that he perfected in films like Escape from New York and The Thing that just makes a cowboy that much more a cowboy. So when this rescue mission becomes even more dangerous we watch on as a posse of men take on what might possibly be the most brutal Natives I’ve even seen in a film like this. It builds itself so sweetly without wasting a moment of film. We have a slew of characters that we love so much that it makes it that much harder to watch characters leave us along the way.
3. The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
The sequel to The Act of Killing we watch on as an unknown subject interviews people involved in the genocide of the communists in Indonesia and tries to find out if they feel any remorse for killing his brother during that time. It’s frightening and disturbing to watch this movie wondering every minute if this is the person who will respond poorly to this interview and line of questioning and if we’ll have something more than just question and answers in this film.
It’s the most on edge I’ve been with a documentary that I can recall.
2. Queen of Earth (dir. Alex Ross Perry)
Every once in a while a film is sold on performances and this is one of those occasions. Elisabeth Moss plays the lead as she descends into a state of depression that borders on insanity and begs your attention. The film isn’t an easy watch, but at times it’s sublime with how Moss will chew a scene into something exciting as we watch her worm her way in and out of mental states.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
How hard is it to sell this one at this point? Mad Max is on Fury Road and has the most interesting world and purest dose of cinema anyone saw at the multiplex this year. It’s so good that I almost feel bad for those who walked out confused by it’s frenetic unapologetic tone and style of action. As we watch Max move from victim, to villain, to hero within the span of two hours and even better to watch Furiousa take her place among the gods of great strong women in film it’s just exhilarating. This is a film that will be taught in school as how to edit and how to structure worlds.
What made your list?