More than any other year this decade, 2015 had a sufficient amount of prestigious films that had distinct narratives about women being considerably perplexed and troubled with their particular situations. Perusing the films on my list, I started to realize that a vast number of them contained women longing to attain an ideal, a passion, or a faint semblance of hope that the future can and will be brighter. From all over the globe these individuals sought love and respect only to encounter threatening obstacles, some that could be overcome and others that could barely be comprehended, let alone endured.
The atmosphere that Harley found herself in in Heaven Knows What was beyond volatile and dangerous, but it didn’t prohibit her from dreaming of a better existence for herself and her lover. A lethal assassin is summoned back to her homeland to carry out a murder but is unable to do so due to her growing consciousness in The Assassin. Two women who fall spellbindingly in love in Carol each possess desires to create a lasting bond with each other despite society’s unbending morality. Looking to move up in the ranks of the FBI and make a name for herself, Kate unquestionably steps too far out of her comfort zone where she quickly meets the most ruthless of men in Sicario. And the women of Mad Max: Fury Road are acquainted with an impossible to comprehend evil but are willing to go through an unrelenting gauntlet to attain their ideal.
Here are my Top 30 Movies Of 2015…
Now here are the best films this year had to offer:
30. Buzzard– Directed by Joel Potrykus
29. Beasts of No Nation– Directed by Cary Fukunaga
28. Mommy– Directed by Xavier Dolan
27. The End of the Tour – Directed by James Ponsoldt
26. Tangerine– Directed by Sean Baker
25. What We Do in the Shadows– Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
24. Bridge of Spies– Directed by Steven Spielberg
23. Clouds of Sils Maria– Directed Olivier Assayas
22. Mississippi Grind– Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
21. Wild Tales– Directed by Damian Szifron
20. Listen to Me Marlon– Directed by Stevan Riley
19. Leviathan– Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
18. Room– Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
17. Glass Chin– Directed by Noah Buschel
16. White God– Directed by Kornel Mundruczo
15. Ex Machina– Directed by Alex Garland
14. The Assassin– Directed by Hsiao-Hsien Hou
13. Creed– Directed by Ryan Coogler
12. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem– Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkmbetz
11. The Tribe– Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Directed by Sebastian Schipper
An absurd achievement right here. Sebastian Schipper’s German film is monumental on multiple levels. The craftsmanship at work here is genius, at once leaving the viewer in complete awe and emotionally shattered. With the daunting task of shooting his entire film in one take, Schipper miraculously avoids having his film become a gimmick. What is unexpected here is the film’s unrelenting narrative that furiously and poetically unravels in the span of one night. It is just enough time for a young woman to be entranced by the powers of love and quickly devoured by them, only emerging as a woman we faintly recognize from the film’s beginning.
9. Heaven Knows What
Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie
What a sad, sad film. Ruthlessly devastating, Heaven is remarkably restricted to the lonely, depraved lives of hustlers, drug dealers and drug abusers. Brought to startling vividness, Ben and Joshua Safdie’s unrelenting film is unsparing in its depiction of human lives inevitably corroding at the expense of the incessant addictions: drugs and love. Watching such lives we wince and shutter just as the characters do. It’s an immersive, unshakable experience that slowly begins to narrow its focus on a young woman not only attempting to combat her heroin addiction, but desperately striving to stay alive despite Love’s illimitable dominion over her. A startling realization when you realize all this woman wants is something that slightly resembles affection.
8. Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller
Easily the best action movie I have seen in years! But I love this movie because it goes for something more than simply action. A brief moment of sublimity pierces George Miller’s ceaselessly catastrophic atmosphere. It occurs mid way through the film while our protagonists are still enduring a ruthless onslaught of violence, unconsciously handed out by Immortan Joe and his cohorts. A simple glance between two characters happens and the potency of this is undeniable. This reveals Mad Max‘s true genius: a film incorrigibly bent on evoking Hell on earth somehow manages to encapsulate humanity, love, redemption and hope in a mere few seconds.
Directed by Todd McCarthy
Films that dissect the process of diligently uncovering a specific thing are difficult to appreciate. The amount of surgical precision evident in this film can easily go unnoticed. How we tell a film like is magical is by how it keeps us enraptured and engaged. The film flies by in a matter of seconds. With no glitz or glam, McCarthy meticulously charts a team of journalists realizing they can expose a secret that is beyond comprehension:the Catholic church’s widespread cover-up of priests who molested children. What a gargantuan topic this is, and McCarthy downplays it terrifically by dwelling on the journalists’ journey as they stumble upon more and more evidence rather than the ramifications on the victims and the church. It’s a supremely engrossing film that captures the magic of pristine, old-fashioned journalism (taking place in 2001).
Directed by Todd Haynes
A simple glance and a hand being placed on another’s back nonchalantly can be absolutely piercing. It’s a true mystification how such plain gestures can evoke torrents of emotion but Carol finds itself greatly enraptured by the pangs of an unfulfilled desire and also by the scarce moments of ecstasy such a desire can provide. Director Todd Haynes masterfully evokes a foggy,dreary Manhattan of the 1950s, where mores were strictly and religiously adhered to. One wrong step and society won’t hesitate to regard you in the harshest light. From the dreamy Manhattan streets, the elegant fashion of the times, the immaculate decor of department stores during the holiday, to the snow-filled days picking out Christmas trees, Carol is by far the year’s most beautiful film. But Haynes isn’t merely keen on seducing us with his eye for quality aesthetics; his intent is to floor us with a suppressed romance, one that deprives two women happiness and that same one that could also lead to years of delight.
5. About Elly
Directed by Ashgar Farhadi
A young woman completely emotionally distraught sits in an empty kitchen in utter disbelief after she can’t find the courage to tell the truth. Prior to this moment Iranian director Asghar Farhadi effortlessly depicts family and friends enjoying a weekend getaway in a resort home situated on the beach. One friend is peer pressured into coming and the result of such a small decision has huge ramifications. Farhadi has crafted a superb masterpiece that dwells on moral consequences, the idea of truth and the innocent people helplessly wrecked by such occurrences. About Elly is beautiful to behold. The confidence Farhadi exhibits as director is breathtaking, as is his ability to adequately pen such a story. I’m completely taken aback by how he is able to reel me in to his world and make me feel like I’m partaking in his film.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
A morally ambiguous and ruthlessly aggressive film, Sicario vividly and unabashedly depicts the primitive qualities of mankind and our inclination to reveal our violent tendencies when we are pushed to the limit. Taking bits and pieces of his previous film, Prisoner, Villeneuve masterfully unravels a scary, intense revenge film that never ceases to keep us afraid. This is his masterwork and it has a specific character that is akin to those played by legends such as Eastwood and Japanese megastar Toshiro Mifune. A film of such intimidating intensity, Sicario is something to behold. What a brilliant portrait of evil, revenge, and courage. Sheer perfection.
Directed by Christian Petzold
Petzold’s masterful film warrants endless contemplation after viewing it. Borrowing themes from classics such as Eyes without a Face and most notably Vertigo, Phoenix emanates a timelessness that few contemporary films manage to exhibit. The idea of identity, the ramifications of the past, and the potential good prospects of the future are beautifully explored and tweaked to give director Christian Petzold’s film a unique conceit that haunts us.
Directed by John Crowley
There hasn’t been many convincing love stories captured on film over the last few years. Absolutely none exist in the past decade or so that warrant legitimate comparisons to the inimitable classic romantic tales from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, all that somehow possessed and expressed an intoxicating, even at times angelic, atmosphere. Not long ago I began to reflect on such movies and ruminate on the possibility of one somehow magically existing today. What a surprise Crowley’s film is. It gets it all right. Just when you think there’s a moment the film will imitate others it astutely ignores convention and sentimentality and adheres to its own path. Brooklyn is the perfect example of why I am so passionate about film. Every movie I sit down to watch I’m longing for that special film to transport me to some other realm, punch me in the gut numerous times, seduce me with immeasurable emotion and eventually reduce me to a puddle of tears with the same immeasurable emotion which has now transformed into a profound feeling that proves to be too intolerable for my own good. It’s rare this happens. Leaving the theater after this film I was still infected with Brooklyn’s abundance of feeling. No other film this year rendered me in a similar state.
1. The Revenant
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu
Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
here every cowardice must meet its death.
– from Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno
Little in cinema slightly prepares you for this unforgettable masterpiece. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” was Dante’s admonition. That same quote can easily apply here not because of the imminent insufferable chaos that occurs within the film, but because like Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inarritu creates a wholly unique atmosphere that never existed before and imbues it with a vitality that startles, scares and astonishes beyond words. What a visceral experience this is. Existing somewhere between myth and truth, The Revenant poetically and savagely depicts a man in his most primitive state forced to shed every remnant of his humanity in exchange for a ruthless tenacity hellbent on survival and revenge. Not only are these primitive instincts key themes in this film, but also evident in DiCaprio’s performance, which is reduced to primitive grunting and groaning – a man intent on survival and living off the idea of revenge. Fresh from his award-winning film Birdman, Inarritu isn’t slowing down, delivering an extremely dissimilar film that towers over his oeuvre and which is a consummate work of art in every aspect. Helping Inarritu attain his masterpiece is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who scrupulously and miraculously captures the beauty and frightfulness of the untouched landscapes of America in the 1800s. Filming in parts of Canada and Argentina, the camera never ceases as it admires the treacherous landscape, every act of violence and especially every act of revenge. Inarritu and Lubezki manage to conjure a realm strictly reserved for literary heavyweights. Cinema hasn’t seen the likes of this film before.
I enjoyed reading through your list. There were even 2 or 3 I’ve never heard of. Many of my picks for the year are a little more populist (Kingsman, Ant-Man, It Follows, Love and Mercy).
I was just wondering if you would please comment a little further on the movie Brooklyn. I have not seen the movie but a criticism I hear repeatedly for it is the feeling that the main character played by Saorsie Ronan is seemingly handed everything in life and that as a result there isn’t much drama to her life (or the story).
I’m usually not game for slow movies unless they have some other interesting feature at play (I liked Eyes Wide Shut partially because it felt like a horror movie for instance). I’m asking you about this because Brooklyn doesn’t look like it is deserving of all the rancor I’ve heard leveled against it. I’ve heard the same criticism for the B-rated sci-fi movie Jupiter Ascending, as far as the main character as a a woman not doing much and being thrown around by the narrative.
Comment by broodling — January 5, 2016 @ 9:10 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed the list. Please seek these movies out. Especially the ones you aren’t familiar with.
She may be handed a lot in life. That’s definitely fair to say. She receives Micah support from family and friends. But I think the film is more concerned with her journey in finding true love. If this is the case them she isn’t handed anything. Life happens and obstacle arise and she’s met with several daunting life changing decisions.
Brooklyn is a flat out romantic masterpiece. So much emotion here. Watch this film and see how you take it.
Shutout to Eyes Wide Shut. Serious cinema right there. Its stature continues to grow as the years quickly pass.
Comment by David DiMichele — January 8, 2016 @ 10:48 pm