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Friday, January 1, 2016

My Top 12 Films of 2015

I've been looking back at everything from the year and will try to throw a couple indie and foreign flicks in with the mainstream ones. Didn't see everything but quite a lot. Let's go in reverse order.

12. Labyrinth of Lies
I think this is Germany's nominee for Best Foreign Film. It uncovers the first time - in the 50s - that Germany started to take responsibility for what happened in WWII. The lead lawyer is a composite of a few real crusaders, and he does an excellent job of giving heft to this tough subject/

11. Spotlight
The cast was stellar - in particular Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber - and the subject was handled deftly and without excess pomp. It's a straightforward, well-done film, and the list of abuses compiled at the end will knock you for a loop. 

10. Clouds of Sils Maria
Everyone I've read has mentioned Kristen Stewart for Best Supporting Actress. Who knew? I really enjoyed this film set mostly in the glorious Alps. At times a meditative take on acting, at other times life, Juliette Binoche and Stewart make a formidable team.

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Maybe it was because the 2 young stars were in attendance, but I thought this played out originally and without the usual melodrama. The short films within the film were a wonderful conceit and it's worth seeing just for those.

8. Ex Machina
This film might get forgotten since it came out fairly early.  I've seen Oscar Isaac's name tossed out for Best Supporting Actor and it's well-deserved. This was the coming out party for Alicia Vikander who also shined in Testament of Youth. Again, original and thought-provoking.

7. Carol
This film featires standouit performances from Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. I must admit it made more of an impact after I read about Patricia Highsmith, the famed mystery novelist whose book, The Price of Salt, was director Todd Haynes' taking-off point. Maybe goes on a tad long but it's beautifully done.

6. Love & Mercy
This showed the creative process of making music better than any film I can recall. Brian Wilson is a genius - and a strange guy.  The music is real so how did he come up with it?  We see it in recording sessions and in his mind. Elizabeth Banks rescues the movie's other parts along with the always reliable Paul Giamatti. 

5. Mustang
Beautiful scenery on the Turkish coast is the backdrop for a tough tale of 5 sisters being cruelly treated by their uncle. It was hard to imagine how this one could muster a happy ending but the director does, and you walk out feeling empowered, Great performnces that give each sister an identity. It's France's nominee for an Oscar.

4. The Martian
Who else besides Matt Damon could have played this role where he was by himself for half the film? I really liked 1) how they handled the science; and 2) the way it felt inclusive. Instead of shouting diversity it just tells its story with a representative cast that gives the material an added oomph. Ridley Scott is still the man.

3. Brooklyn
Beautifully made, Nick Hornby's script is one part rhapsodic, one part tender a nd one part humorous. Saoirse Ronan gives what should be an Oscar-nominated performance as the woman torn between two credible lovers. I like when films don't make the decision easy for the lead character (as opposed to the Hallmark Channel).

2. Creed
I put Fruitvale Station high up a couple years ago, and Michael B. Jordan has won me over again with the story of Apollo Creed's son. Sylvester Stallone reprises his Rocky role but in such a low-key, intelligent fashion that he wins you over all over again. Add Tessa Thompson - who I loved last year in Dear White People - and the always dependable Phylcia Rashad, and you have quite an ensemble. One of the few films to move me last year.

1. Bridge of Spies
I just thought that this was the best-made film of the year. Mark Rylance should win the Oscar for best supporting actor - amazing how he changes in every role. And like Matt Damon in Martian who else could have played this role than Tom Hanks? Directed by Spielberg and with a script by the Coen Brothers, this film has suspense, tense situations and a fitting conclusion. It's good, old-fashioned film-making,

12 other films I enjoyed: Seymour An Introduction (need to see more of the documentaries), Mistress America, About Elly, Star Wars, The Big Short, Chi-Raq, Grandma (girl opposite Lily Tomlin was excellent), Spectre, Second Mother, Non-Stop, Straight Outta Compton and Mississippi Grind.

Films I have not seen but would like to: Results, Slow West, Inside Out, Mad Max, End of the Tour, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Beast of No Nation, 45 Years

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