Monday, February 22, 2016

The 50 Finest Films of 2015: #20 - #11

The top 20 of 2015. Angry dogs, male strippers, dread filled horror and the return of a champion. These films weren't able to sneak into my top ten, but don't be fooled: these are remarkable and exciting movies that need to be seen. 

20. Carol

Between the cast, the set designs, the replication of the period it is set in and the love story being told, Carol is impossibly beautiful. It's a film that is dripping with sensuality and passion, with every tiny detail being so perfectly executed that it will both steal and break your heart. Neither of them are going to walk away with the trophy on Oscar night, but Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara more than deserve their nominations and I hope it's enough recognition to persuade more people to see this movie.

19. Creed

I am more than willing to admit that I was a serious doubter of the film Creed ahead of its release. The idea of bring the Rocky franchise back yet again only this time focusing on the son of Apollo Creed just screamed of desperation to me, a plot begging to make a buck for studio execs incapable of an original idea. The original idea part may still stand, but Creed is a total winner. What a joy, to see Stallone give such an amazing performance portraying the character I associated with him growing up, and Michael B. Jordan is terrific in the lead. The real star of the film though? Director Ryan Coogler. Everything he brought to this film was top notch, but that one specific long take boxing sequence had me in awe from start to finish.

18. White God

I mean no disrespect, but anyone who declares that the plot of White God is silly or unrealistic needs to do a quick search for the definition of the word "allegory" and reconsider. One must not always take the images depicted at face value because the power of this film lies with the message being told beneath the surface. At a time when racial and economic injustices are regularly making headlines, the sight of these dogs, these "beasts" finally having enough of the abuse and fighting back in the streets is extraordinary. Brave, startling filmmaking with an ending that will give you goosebumps.

17. World of Tomorrow

A 16 minute long animated film makes my top 20 of the year? You better believe it. World of Tomorrow by the genius Don Hertzfeldt is even more impressive due to its extremely short length because the amount of moving images and beautiful dialogue delivered in that time seems impossible. His previous masterpiece titled It's Such a Beautiful Day also utilizes stick figures to tell a profound story, and it may seem difficult to take these films seriously but truly absorb the imagery and listen to every word. Remarkable. 

16. Magic Mike XXL

I never expect everyone to agree with me on a film, but I find the extremely cold reaction to Magic Mike XXL to be surprising. Mixed critical reaction and pretty poor scores from users on IMDB, and as I watched the film for the third time the other day I was left thinking about the disconnect people are having that I don't understand. With so many films screaming for more diversity, here we have one that is incredibly open minded and with a huge heart on so many levels. There are multiple opportunities for the movie to come off as mean spirited but it never once happens, and the crisp cinematography presents every person regardless of gender, race, age or size as being equally beautiful. The story is of gorgeous, perfectly built men who strip but I love that they are the ones who are vulnerable and facing the realities of life after the lights dim. One last ride, one last show and my god it is so entertaining.

15. Spotlight

Quite the transition from Magic Mike to Spotlight, as one film is designed to make you feel special and the other, well, isn't. Spotlight isn't meant to make you feel good, it's meant to hit hard and leave a lasting bruise on your heart. It does. Telling the true story of a specific team of journalists working for the Boston Globe that investigated deeper into the allegations of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church than anyone else would, Spotlight is one of the finest journalist pictures in a long time, taking the perfect no nonsense and no flash approach to such grounded, honest storytelling. 

14. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Like so many indie films I adore, I have come to accept that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one that many love to hate. That's okay. I will keep on believing in the film, an extremely funny and also completely moving work. You may read the plot synopsis and think oh, it's just another teenager driven cancer sob story. Another The Fault in Our Stars. It's simply not the case, as here we avoid the tropes that go along with a love story and rather focus on the honesty that is being a selfish shit growing up and not opening your eyes and truly seeing the world. Does it depict high school in an authentic manner? No, it doesn't, but I don't think it means to. I think what we are seeing is an exaggerated perspective of everything, like we are looking through the eyes of an awkward teenager who is desperate to fit in and afraid of being alienated. The me of many years ago can relate.

13. It Follows

After years of turning my back on the horror genre thanks to nauseating Saw and Hostel films and a desperation to latch onto the tired found footage sub-genre, recently there has been a resurgence. Thank goodness for filmmakers like Ti West, James Wan's surprising The Conjuring, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook and of course It Follows by David Robert Mitchell. It's a slice of horror cinema that has me looking over my shoulder yet mesmerized by the gorgeous photography and wonderfully creepy electronic score by Disasterpeace. We could use more originality and intelligence like that found in It Follows.

(Note: 2016 is no exception to the above post. In fact, we already have a better horror film than all those listed above. Can't wait to gush about you on next years list, Robert Eggers!)

12. What We Do in the Shadows

I love comedy, so I mean no slight to the genre when I say that I am absolutely shocked I have a film like this rated so high. Why do I say that? Because I love good, smart, truly funny comedy and it feels like we don't get nearly enough of it anymore. What We Do in the Shadows is a revelation that only gets better with repeat viewings, as you catch all the subtleties that make every scene so delicious. A mockumentary about vampires living in New Zealand, the film is insanely quotable and with a short, fast paced running time I can watch it again and again.

11. Respire (Breathe)

A sexy, terrifyingly terrific drama about a teenage girl named Charlie who lacks the confidence to maintain a social life until she is befriended by Sarah, the type of girl you know you should steer clear from but her beauty and rebellious nature is irresistible. Directed by Melanie Laurent, the title proves to be fitting because in the end I had to remind myself to do just that: breathe. 

The next list will be the last for 2015, my ten favorite films of the year. Some are probably obvious choices. Others, not so much. 


  1. World of Tomorrow is just utter cuteness

    1. I am moved by it too Cody. Some of the lines in that very short film truly made me think. Don Hertzfeldt is a treasure.

  2. Oh, I have seen 4 of these (Me and Earl, It Follows, What We Do In Shadows, and White God). All great choices for a "best of" list.
    Some of my guesses for your top 10 (in no particular order) are: Force Awakens, Mad Max, Sicario, and........ Fantastic Four!!! :)

    1. haha spot on. You do have three of the films pegged, no doubt.

      For what it's worth, Fantastic Four wasn't quite bad enough to make my worst of list! I would go back and make one change to that list after the fact, but it would be to sub The Danish Girl in and drop the best of the bad off of it. The Danish Girl absolutely belongs on that list.