Friday, January 8, 2016

Best of Film: 2015 Edition

The year in film in 2015 was kind of a head-scratcher for me, in that I think there are many incredible films, and many very average films, and not much in between them. Each film on this top 10 list (and those from 11-20, really) either pushed the boundaries of cinema, or were exceptional examples of what traditional cinema can and should be. Listed here are all the 2015 releases I watched.

  • The Tribe- Taking place in a Ukranian deaf high school, The Tribe proceeds with no dialogue and no sign language subtitles, forcing the viewer to fully engage with the action in a wholly unique way. There is also no score, however this is not a silent film; you hear the world around the characters, violent and unsettling as it often is. Bleak, austere and often hard to watch, first time director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy creates an astonishingly original film, the formal rigor and accomplishment of which seeks to, and often does create, a new cinematic language.
  • Listen to Me Marlon- A documentary concerning Marlon Brando's career, entirely comprised of insights from the man himself by using a lifetime's worth of audio diaries. Like The Tribe, this film is formally inventive not just in that it transposes the subject's words over his consumable persona, his acting performances, but it becomes as much about the creative process as it is about the story of one of its finest purveyors. Unexpectedly moving and profound.
  • Carol- By far the most exceptionally traditional film I saw in 2015, and the best film Todd Haynes has created since his other unimpeachable masterpiece, Safe. A rather straightforward love story, Carol has what I consider to be Cate Blanchett's finest performance, rivaled by her breakout co-star Rooney Mara. Each frame drips with passion and desire thanks to Ed Lachman's stellar cinematography, and Phyllis Nagy's scrip, adapted from Patricia Highsmith's novel, is lean and evocative. A perfect film.
  • Inside Out- Pixar's best film in a while. Funny, emotionally resonant, with rare heroes and a great message.
  • The Duke of Burgundy- The year's other best film about a lesbian romance, this time under the auspices of a BDSM dynamic, though it goes much further and becomes much richer than that.
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl- Bel Powley is the year's breakout performance in this sex-positive film about adolescent female sexuality.
  • Tangerine- A buddy comedy about 2 trans women of color. The talking point is that it was shot entirely with iPhones, gloriously I might add, but the film is incredibly unique in its representation.
  • Heart of a Dog- Laurie Anderson's heady and heartfelt documentary about everything from her rat terrier to government surveillance and the death of Lou Reed. One of a kind.
  • Phoenix- If Vertigo were set post WWII, with a feminist slant. Nina Hoss and director Christian Petzold continue a wonderfully fruitful collaboration.
  • Crimson Peak- del Toro''s gothic romance was incorrectly marketed as a horror film, which hurt reactions when people were confused/disappointed. But this is a sensationally evocative genre film that is gorgeously produced.
Other great films: 45 Years; Magic Mike XXL; Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem; Futuro Beach; Beloved Sisters; Cinderella; Entertainment; Experimenter; The Look of Silence; Jauja; Faults; What Happened Miss Simone?; Mustang; The Kindergarten Teacher; Tom at the Farm; Eden; Mad Max: Fury Road; Son of Saul; Brooklyn; In Jackson Heights; Joy.
Films I did not like: The Big Short; The Revenant; Chi-Raq; Mommy; Sufragette; Blackhat; White God; Jurassic World; While We're Young; Dope; Amy; James White; Sicario; Love.

Films I still need to see: The Wonders; Victoria; The Mend; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Creed; Macbeth
Most overrated: Spotlight, a serviceable film that never distinguishes itself in either its script, direction or acting. A film about a topic as infuriating and timely as this should have made me angry and sad, but I felt nothing. Those who love it praise it for its "workmanlike" procedural aspect of journalism, but is that really the best way to tell this story? I don't think so.
Actor: Walton Coggins (Hateful 8); Gregg Turkington (Entertainment); Leland Orser (Faults); Tom Courtenay (45 Years); Géza Röhrig  (Son of Saul)
Actress: Elisabeth Moss ( Queen of Earth); Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara (Carol); Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl); Charlotte Rampling (45 Years); Ronit Elkabetz (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem)
Supporting Actor: Paul Dano (Love & Mercy); Tye Sheridan (Entertainment); Mark Duplass (Creep); Harvey Keitel (Youth); Sam Elliot (Grandma)
Supporting Actress: Katherine Waterston (Queen of Earth; Steve Jobs); Kristen Wiig (Diary of a Teenage Girl); Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak); Rachel Weisz (Youth); Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful 8; Anomalisa)
Best Year: Kristen Wiig- Everyone is talking about Alicia Vikander, who is great in Ex-Machina and appropriately weepy in The Danish Girl. But, to me, the biggest standout is Kristen Wiig, who gives an incredibly nuanced performance in the comedy/satire Welcome to Me, and an unexpectedly powerful one as the oblivious mother in Diary of a Teenage Girl. Her background role in The Martian is a non factor, but as a whole she's choosing interesting roles and doing diverse work, which makes me excited for her career.