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« Retro Sundance: 1991's Poison | Main | Sundance Buzz Pt 1: Birth of a Nation, Manchester by the Sea, Tallulah »
Monday
Jan252016

Best of 2015: Nathaniel's Top Fifteen

When you devote your life to the movies, you come to cherish the movies that give back as if they're devoted, in return, to you. Yes, you, specifically. Our consumption of movies may be communal but in some ineffable way, especially when it comes to list-making, they're deeply personal; movies in conversation with your soul. At least if you're doing it right. It's painful enough to "rank" a top 15 for 2015. So I included a second tier of favorites. The 30 best of the year, according to your host, took place all over the world as we know it (Germany keeps popping up as does seemingly every place with an arid climate in an odd but starkly beautiful coincidence) to weirdly recognizable places beyond it (Why, Jakku, you look so much like Tattoine!). The unifying thread might be that however alien their perspectives and locales (inside a young girl's brain, locked in a 10 x 10 shed, or chained to the back of rusted death machines in hallucinatory sandstorms), they resonated as if deeply familiar.

Nathaniel's top 30 films of

If you're looking for __ you won't find it:
I liked Magic Mike XXL -- you may recall that Magic Mike (2012) won the Film Bitch Bronze medal here in 2012 as third best of its entire year -- but can't join the unexpected bandwagon of critics who decided they loved the sequel well after it left theaters. I did enjoy it a lot, though. Also just missing the list, not from an absence of affection exactly but "best?" attributes, is Ridley Scott's disco-lite outer-space romp The Martian. I'm far less keen on recent Oscar nominees like The Big Short, Straight Outta Compton, The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, Trumbo, Son of Saul, and The Revenant but they need not cry from my qualms, indifference, or distaste (depending on the picture) since they have stadiums full of cheering sections elsewhere

And this list is about positive, nay giddy, love. So on to the best of the best. 

15 (Very) Honorable Mentions in Alpha Order
Please seek out: The Troubles via Yann Demange's electric debut '71; Desiree Arkhavan's hilarious bisexual Iranian-American hipster romcom (a genre we didn't even know we needed but love) Appropriate Behavior; Spielberg & Hanks's absorbing Bridge of Spies; Disney's girlie lush live-action Cinderella spin; Olivier Assayas's actressy-angst at those Clouds of Sils Maria; Celine Sciamma's infectiously observed but profoundly sad GirlhoodLily Tomlin & Paul Weitz's Grandma focused road trip; the waking nightmare game of sexual tag in It FollowsIceland's formally compelling beast and man oddity Of Horses and Men; Brazil's smart socioeconomic collisions in The Second Mother; Paul Feig & Melissa McCarthy's Spy romp; Disney's easy money $4 billion bet The Force Awakens; Tom McCarthy's soulful journalism procedural SpotlightAaron Sorkin's presentational Steve Jobs triptych; Xavier Dolan's queasy, queer, razor blade dangerous Tom at the Farm; and the director, crew, and cast who pulled off that continuous shot jaw-dropper stunt that was Victoria... and pulled it off with feeling. 

Without further ado and with deep appreciation...

NATHANIEL'S TOP 15 OF '15
🎶 they're speaking my language baby 🎶 

 

I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
(Brett Haley)
Bleecker Street Media. May 15th
92 minutes 

A movie as unassuming as Blythe Danner's still waters star turn, and as gently surprised by its twilight romanticism as the wonderful theme song. It's easy to imagine this film becoming a staple, a comfortable blanket to wrap yourself up in on lonely nights; an old dear friend that understands the value of finding new ones.

You're a good drinking buddy!"

 

CHI-RAQ
(Spike Lee)
Roadside Attractions. December 4th
119 minutes 

By no small margin the most uneven and sometimes downright sloppy movie on this 15 wide "Best" list --  stop reading the teleprompter Samuel L Jackson, learn your damn verse! But, a permanent truth: perfection isn't everything. Vitality of voice, with something actually worth saying, counts for quite a lot with so many polished but empty-headed and safe pictures clogging up each year's awards pipeline. Spike Lee won an Honorary Oscar shortly before anyone saw his reworking of Lysistrata, transported to contemporary Chicago (nicknamed Chi-Raq for its crime rate troubles). Nobody knew that his best movie in 15 years was about to hit to make that statue feel retroactively less of a tribute to past highs (Do The Right Thing, 25th Hour, etcetera) and more of an "it's about damn time!" honor for a still relevant artist. Chi-Raq is... Crazy. Funny. Sexy. Anguished. Silly. Mad. Experimental. Sickening. Sober. Even Optimistic. In short, "It's 'EVERYTHING!' as the queens say. Now if only everyone would go see this bold bawdy and beautiful everything. And, did someone say "Queen," I can hear Miss Helen (Angela Bassett, who also Got Her Groove Back of late) shaking her head at the meager box office receipts.

Y'all make my tired ass tired!" 

 

SICARIO
(Denis Villeneuve)
Lionsgate. October 2nd
121 minutes 

If Denis Villenueve's movies get any more tense they're going to explode by the second reel. With its opaque characters, disturbing worldview, and descent into figurative darknees -- a nice contrast from the (mostly) sun blasted arid visuals - and especially that writhing snakey soundscape, this thriller imagines the drug war as two interlocked oroborus devouring everything in their mutual destructive paths.

Nothing will make sense to your American ears. But in the end you will understand.

 

CREED
(Ryan Coogler)
Warner Bros. Nov 25th
133 minutes 

The inspirational sports film is nearly the hoariest of all movie genres, so the good ones look for signs of fresh life. Creed even takes that literally with a Child Of... gambit to relaunch a franchise. The best sports films find the spiritual within the corporeal. Why does Adonis fight? Does he even know? If Creed doesn't quite transcend its genre it sure the hell elevates it with Coogler making a huge leap as a filmmaker from his Fruitvale debut, two wonderful performances beautifully matched, and the bruised intimacy of finding and claiming your full self.

I don't know him. That aint got nothin to do with me."

 

45 YEARS
(Andrew Haigh)
Sundance Selects. December 23rd
95 minutes

Short stories, already neatly packaged and tight, are the most underrated of source material for films. That's especially true when they're opened up and newly imagined by emotionally astute filmmakers (see also Brokeback Mountain and Away From Her). Blessed by a masterclass in acting from Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years pivots suddenly on its quiet course to reexamine a half century's worth of love.

I think I was enough for you...

 

THE TOP TEN

A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE
(Roy Andersson)
Magnolia. June 3rd
101 minutes

Those patient dreary tableaux that invite you to look around and wait -- the magic is that they're less dreary and more hilarious the longer you do look at them. Andersson's absurd static spectacles of human folly and suffering shouldn't be funny, but are. Or in one specific head-scratching case, aren't. How to feel about Andersson's pathetic yet occasionally endearing chalky white zombies, the barely living subjects of this trilogy about being a human being. 

I'm happy to hear you're doing fine."

 


MUSTANG

(Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
Cohen Media Group. November 20th
97 minutes

Mustang's very adult drama begins in the great outdoors with an innocent adolescent dip in the ocean, all giddy squealing, unself-conscious play, and post-school release. From there it's all constriction, as the world of these normal teenagers gets squeezed ever smaller until they're actually behind bars in their own home. These girls, with so much life in them, can't be so easily contained in this scrappy, funny, sobering and marvelous feminist debut. 

Everyone's talking about your obscene behavior!"

 


INSIDE OUT

(Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen)
Disney/Pixar. June 19th
95 minutes

We moodier types have more than five emotions in our heads. And they're not entirely gendered. Our personality islands aren't islands at all, but neighborhoods that overlap in a complex city of self. You can quibble for days with the individual ideas within Pixar's unusually inventive joyful tearjerker, but that's part of its beauty; it's a high-concept pitch that actually digs deep into what makes us us. That it encourages us to ditch all the compartmentalization it's initially pushed, particularly between the beautifully voiced Joy and Sadness, and understand that all our selves function best together, is the kind of profound adult truth that you'll sometimes only get from a kid's movie. Pixar's return-to-form is an overachiever, too: Along the way to its glorious insight, it makes room for inventive detours, dream tropes, and even the dim adult recall of imaginary friends from childhood. All of that and it saves the best joke for last. 

I'm positive that you'll get lost in there!"

 

BROOKLYN
(John Crowley)
Fox Searchlight. November 4th
111 minutes 

Here's to the beauty of old fashioned storytelling and the unmawkish embrace of the sentimental. John Crowley's adaption of the bestseller about an Irish girl (Saoirse Ronan) creating a new life for herself in America is guilelessly romantic and resonant for those of us who've started anew.  It's also smart enough to understand that you can go home again, if not to the same place... 

Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass.

 

PHOENIX
(Christian Petzold)
Sundance Selects. July 24th 
98 minutes 

The year's most haunted picture. And it's not just the ghosts of The Holocaust speaking profoundly through this story of a concentration camp survivor (Nina Hoss) who willfully picks back up with the husband who betrayed her in the war. It's the ghosts of Love and The Past, continually pulling us back to what we've lost long ago for good.

Time is so old and love so brief
Love is pure gold and time a thief

 

EX MACHINA
(Alex Garland)
A24/Universal. April 24th
108 minutes

Alex Garland's has written about zombies (28 Days Later) and clones (Never Let Me Go) and dying suns (Sunshine) and has specialized, essentially, in closed communities (the aforementioned plus The Beach) and inevitable descents into chaos and madness. For his directorial debut, he's outdone himself synthesizing those experiences and themes into this brilliantly tight and disturbing sci-fi chamber piece. His most intimate work yet, despite the pretentious riffs on big ideas, Ex Machina distills down to a triangular erotic noir about three humans (or, uh, close approximations thereof) who are playing each other... or about to get played. 

Would you like to be my friend?  

 

TANGERINE
(Sean Baker)
Magnolia. July 10th
88 minutes

Great comedies usually have a moment of lift-off, where you're not so much swept up as "let's go!" giddy that you're about to be. So goes Tangerine just one scene in as volatile Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) charges out onto Los Angeles cement, her best girlfriend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) hurrying to catch up, already losing the battle to cool Sin-Dee's drama down. From that moment on, music thumping, you're strutting alongside them, terrified but eager to see where this already memorable day will take you. Beyond Donut Time as it turns out, though we'll circle back, in this dazzling movie that keeps collecting memorable desperate funny characters on its collision course. In heels. I'd give up Christmas gifts forever if it meant a holiday comedy this bracing each year. This isn't the sort of film that launches franchises, but oh that it could...

Oh yeah, she's back. She's back and she's going hard"

 

ROOM
(Lenny Abrahamson)
A24. October 16th
118 minutes 

Hi Room. Hi wardrobe. Hi skylight. His egg snake. Hi chair. Hi Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), two trapped souls that are constantly giving each other their strong in this expertly acted, inventively staged, drama that goes both macro and micro in its unusual study of captivity, parenting and childhood, the lies we tell ourselves to make both peace with and sense of our worlds. And the discovery when we step from our little intimate worlds into the greater one. Room starts small but in the end it's very large indeed. 

There's so much of 'place' in the world."

 

MAD MAX FURY ROAD
(George Miller)
Warner Bros. May 15th
120 minutes

If warriors are awaited in Valhalla than George Miller, who must have slayed many Hollywood executives to engineer this absolute triumph of big-budget extravagance, will surely be heralded by all the Valkyries and greeted by Odin himself when he passes from this Earth. We're feeling religious sinceFury Road was quite evidently touched by the gods. From its nightmare no-escape opening, to that hallucinatory drive into a sandstorm that can only be described as mythological in its grandeur, to its superb use of visual grammar, color and design as chief storyteller, every move is carefully orchestrated for maximum kinetic story pleasure. But it's more than craft and visual mechanics. The bold strokes characters and feminimism and the crudely genius forth-and-back narrative elevate it further still. In the end it's its own "green place," an impossible oasis in an otherwise barren land of blockbusters.

Witness me! 

 

CAROL
(Todd Haynes)
Weinstein Co. November 20th
118 minutes

Todd Haynes, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara so superbly render the initial excitement and inexorable pull of love, in its queer specificity that I'll frame my #1 placement in the same way. This is what infatuation feels like: I met Carol three months ago and I couldn't stop thinking about her, wanting more and more of her; This is what falling in love feels like: I've seen her multiple times and she continually surprises and enthralls. My favorite thing about her is constantly changing and often found in miniature gestures, a lit cigarette, a hand twirl, arms intertwined, locked eyes. True Love is right around the corner, as this will be a lifelong romance. The Great Films stay in your heart for always.

What a strange girl you are."

 

Please do share your feelings about these 15 (or 30) beauties in the comments. Were they also speaking your language?

P.S. Yes, this means the FiLM BiTCH Awards for 2015 are under way! Nominees announced in following categories

Page 1 Picture, Director, Adapted and Original Screenplays
Page 2 Actor, Supporting Actor
Page 3 Visual Effects, Makeup, Editing
Page 4 Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
Page 5 Body of Work
Page 6 TBA
Page 7 TBA

More categories will be announced daily until we're done! 

P.P.S. If you're curious about previous years of top ten, remember there's a pull down menu so titled from the site's top banner to investigate such things.

P.P.P.S. Previous Year In Review Articles:
15 Best LGBT Characters |  15 Creative Inspirations
15 Movie Theater Memories | 15 Scariest Moments
15 Hardest Working Actors | 15 Screen Hunks
15 Best Movie Animals  | 15 Worst of the Year 
15 Amazing Co-Star Chemistry  | 15 Biggest Hits 
15 Delicious Music Videos | 15 TV Moments
15 Red Carpet Looks  | 15 Most Popular Tweets

 

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Reader Comments (48)

I struggled to figure out my top ten; don't have the brain power to tack on another five.

1. Spotlight
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Steve Jobs
4. Ex Machina
5. The End of the Tour
6. Brooklyn
7. Sicario
8. Creed
9. Carol
10. Room

Unseen titles that might make this list: James White, Chi-raq, Son of Saul, Coming Home, The Lobster, 99 Homes

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Hooray!
Thank you for this exquisite and thoughtful list.
Phoenix, Mustang, and Chi-Raq are now at the top of my To-See list.
I think this is the most films I've ever seen from your Top 15 list at the time of announcement, it usually takes me months to catch up (maybe it still will depending on dvd release dates).
Bravo!
You are hands down my favorite film critic.
Keep up the amazing work.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBenji

I'm still in catch up mood (I haven't seen far too many of these) but here's 15 films I think will be keepers way down the line, alphabetically with what feels like my top five asterisked:
-45 Years
-'71
-Brooklyn
-Carol*
-Chiraq
-Ex Machina*
-Girlhood*
-Inside Out
-It Follows*
-Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
-Mad Max Fury Road*
-Phoenix
-Pigeon Sat on a Branch
-Sicario
-Tangerine

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAR

Very well written capsules.
I personally didn't have much of an emotional response to the movies released last year. My second viewing of Bergman's "Scenes from a Marriage" topped everything I saw.
From 2015 I felt passionate towards 5 movies that I believed set out to examine the human experience with truth and depth.

1. The Look of Silence
2. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
3. Anomalisa
4. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
5. Stray Dog

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMr.Goodbar

Great selection, especially seeing Carol and Ex Machina at or near the top!

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Diary of a Teenage Girl is my number 1. I can't remember, did you see it, Nathaniel?

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Carol is exquisite, as are your choices, your thoughts, your writing and you. So well thought out and explained - these are my OSCARs. Each year, they make far more sense than the oscars and have ten times the thought behind them. Thank you, for being you - by far my favourite pundit/critic/actresssexual on the web.

I had hopes that Spy would make it in to your 15 ha, but alas! Now release the acting nominees! I'm dying here :D

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

Carol is an exquisite movie, as are your choices, your write-ups, your awards and you. The FB awards are my Oscars each year - I've been waiting for weeks so thank you for the hard work, thought and care that goes into them. You are easily the best critic, pundit, actressexual and writer out there according to me so keep being exquisite and applying this much thought into things - we love and appreciate it.

I had a slim hope that Spy would make your top 15, but alas - I'm sure you'll rectify this with Rose Byrne and supporting actress though right? :D please announce your acting nominees soon, I've been waiting patiently for weeks :D

Again, know that we love and appreciate what you do! (First comment failed so excuse the gushing if it does ever reappear)

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I always look forward to this list, excited to see how all the films you've championed all year stack up against one another. And with such succinct but eloquent blurbs! You're a great role model as a cinephile.

My Top Ten (five of which make your top ten as well):
10. I'll See You in My Dreams
9. Creed
8. Carol
7. Brooklyn
6. Far From the Madding Crowd
5. Clouds of Sils Maria
4. Mustang
3. Son of Saul
2. Inside Out
1. Tangerine

Here's to a brilliant 2016 at the cinema!

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Tessa! I always look forward to this! You have such impeccable taste, I always base my "catch up" films on your lists! Thank you again! Agh! I can't wait for your acting award announcements!

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKaa

What an amazing year! You could even pull a reasonably good top 10 from your "almost" list. I'm especially happy to see "I'll See You in my Dreams" show up. It's starting to fall off of my eventual list and is making me feel like a bully or something for excluding it.

January 25, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Thanks for posting this! I had been waiting for it!

This wasn't my favorite film year, certainly not compared with the last few years... There were plenty of movies I liked, but not many movies I loved, and I wasn't a big fan of many of the consensus favorites. Anyway, here are my most liked movies of the year, the ones that really stand out to me, presented in alpha order (foreign films included as 2015 films if I first had the opportunity to see them in 2015):

Best of Enemies
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
The End of the Tour
Ex Machina
Going Clear
Grandma
Inside Out
Joy
Mommy
Phoenix
Steve Jobs
What Happened, Miss Simone?
White God
Wild Tales

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I can't remember the last time Rachel Getting Married was threatened as my favorite movie of the last ten years, but it happened two or three times in 2015. That's a good-ass year.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

What a fabulous list. My top 5 of the year:

1. 45 Years
2. Carol
3. Son of Saul
4. Brooklyn
5. James White
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Room
8. Tangerine
9. Ex Machina
10. Beasts Of No Nation

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Love the mention for 71. That film was intense! Also really looking forward to seeing Phoenix and Room eventually. NOT interested in seeing that pigeon movie (what an awful title!).

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Thank you for you support of underseen foreign-language movies.

People MUST see Phoenix. Nina Hoss/Petzold is one of the best director/muse partnerships of this century.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Our lists are more similar than usual this year.

If I extend to 15:

15) It Follows
14) Brooklyn
13) 45 Years
12) The Nightmare
11) Bone Tomahawk
10) What Happened, Miss Simone?
9) Ex Machina
8) Unfriended
7) Carol
6) Advantageous
5) Suburban Gothic
4) Iris
3) A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
2) Mad Max: Fury Road
1) Tangerine

And if I dumped documentaries from the list, we'd have more in common. I really need to see Mustang, as everything I've read suggests I'll like it a lot.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I can't imagine how difficult all these Film Bitch Nominees are. I know when I try to come up with final lists I get overwhelmed. But I really, REALLY appreciate the heart and soul and WORK you put into these. I LOVE all your extra awards - I absolutely LOVE them. Thanks so much for keeping up the tradition!

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Ok here's my Top 15 (sure to change in the coming weeks after I've seen Anomalisa, 45 Years, Arabian Nights, Son of Saul, etc.). I realize this may not jibe with Oscar eligibility
1. Leviathan
2. Timbuktu
3. Tangerine
4. Carol
5. Room
6. The Second Mother
7. Inside Out
8. Victoria
9. Clouds of Sils Maria
10. Song of the Sea
11. Paddington
12. Mustang
13. Spotlight
14. Bridge of Spies
15. Ex Machina

Best Documentaries: Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock 'n' Roll, Best of Enemies, The Look of Silence, Janis: Little Girl Lost, Chuck Norris vs. Communism, Amy, The Pearl Button, Heart of a Dog, Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

My favourite film of last year was Leviathan. My favourite film this year is Phoenix. They are both masterpieces of guilt, longing and sad acceptance. European directors are producing profound films that speak to our past, our present and our future.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Pleasantly surprised to see "I'll See You in My Dreams" here. I'm not sure it'll make my own top 10, but it was a lovely meditation on aging that I have a feeling I'll return to as I get older. And Blythe Danner really should've gotten more Oscar traction for her performance, even if it was a competitive year.

Overall, count me as one of those who saw a lot of films I liked this year, but not so many that I loved. Which makes the top 10/15 list that much harder, as it seems like more than half of what I saw belongs in the "honorable mention" category!

I really need to see Phoenix and Mustang - the latter, at least, is still in theaters here in D.C. But first, 45 Years!!

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Lylee -- i think Phoenix is streaming on Netflix now.

January 25, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Given that my top 2 are your top 2, naturally I like this list. And it's nice to see Brooklyn here too, since I think it's an under-appreciated (I'm still confused as to why that's the case) gem. But I think the inclusion of I'll See You in My Dreams is my favorite thing about this list. It wouldn't make my top 10 (I'd rank it something like 12th-15th best of the year), but the more I reflect on the year, I know that one is going to stick with me a lot more than most of the movies that I'd rank ahead of it as "better" films. It's just a thoroughly lovely piece of work - both the film as a whole, and Danner's performance.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I watched TANGERINE on OnDemand while I was snowed in this weekend. It was everything people said it would be! Loved it :)

Well I think your not giving The Big Short it's due. Nothing could be more timely and it's not easy to make these corporate crimes understanable to the general public.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlen Risdon

@Glen—It's easy if you're Margot Robbie in a bathtub*.


*I hope this meme never dies.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

There is only one 2015 film that I consider indispensable (third from the bottom of the list) and most of the films Nat (or commenters) cited were hovering somewhere outside my top 15, here in no particular order:

Spy
Carol
Room
Creed
Sicario
Victoria
Chi-Raq
Mustang
Brooklyn
Tangerine
Steve Jobs
Suffragette
Son of Saul
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Also I just realized that you cited *31* films, but that's okay, we'll just pretend Steve Jobs didn't make it.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAR

Great read. We share a top 2, like most.

I will say, I proudly had Magic Mike XXL in my top 5 at the half year mark and never wavered from it standing there.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

Fascinating list, certainly all the ones I've seen were fantastic in their own way.

On the other hand none of these movies are so obscure I've never heard of them, and I think I've seen more than I usually would from your annual list.

Has 2015 had fewer hidden gems in your opinion?

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

Oh, and forgot to say.

Thank you so much for doing this, it's always a great pleasure reading your lists.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

Love the list. All the movies run the gamut in terms of story, genre and diversity. Always a pleasure to read.

Here are my Top 15.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Brooklyn
3. Steve Jobs
4. Truth
5. Room
6. Ex Machina
7. Creed
8. Mistress America
9. Son of Saul
10. Grandma
11. Clouds of Sils Maria
12. Carol
13. Going Clear
14. The Intern
15. Ricki and the Flash

The last two have their flaws, but I'll be damned if they weren't the most fun this year and tried to do some interesting things or explore slightly atypical characters.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChris James

BJT -- "hidden" is such a weird word for gems nowadays when social media has made everyone's opinions about everything so accessible. but i suppose some gems do slip by just from the sheer volume of the noise. i think with movies its usually do to the loooooooong wait for release after the initial hype for festival films.

January 25, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love your list but I was not overwhelmed with Carol and it would not have made my top ten.

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

My favorites this year :)

1. Brooklyn (by a long shot)
2. Ex Machina
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. I'll See You in My Dreams
5. The Martian
6. Inside Out
7. Room
8. Carol
9. The Hateful Eight
10. The Big Short

Honorable mentions: Spy, Star Wars TFA; Tangerine; and Bridge of Spies

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Travis -- nOOOOooooo how can you love something as sweet and moving as Brooklyn and make room for Hateful Eight. Nooooo ;)

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

YAY!!! as glorious and fascinating a read as i hoped i'd be. and impeccable taste as always :)

January 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterryan

Nat - Eclectic tastes? ;) I'll admit to being swayed somewhat by the bf who loooooved Daisy.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Travis -- i'm just giving you a hard time. I get it. we should all love movies of disparate moods and types. just not that one ;)

January 26, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

"...just not that one." Heh heh.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Benji -- i meant to say thank you. that' every sweet of you.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I couldn't make up my mind on a #10 or #1 so I had two ties:

10. Eden
Phoenix
9. Sicario
8. Beasts of No Nation
7. Tangerine
6. Li'l Quinquin
5. The Tribe
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
3. Mustang
2. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
1. Carol
The Duke of Burgundy

Love for Magic Mike XXL (cringe worthy), Victoria (this one shot conceit wasn't great for Russian Arc, and now it's just down-right tiresome), and White God & The Hateful Eight (both started promisingly then became self-indulgent bores) is lost on me.

Regrets: No room for Room.

January 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIshmael

1. Brooklyn
2. Steve Jobs
3. Hateful Eight
4. Anomalisa
5. The Walk
6. The Big Short
7. Carol
8. Room
9. The Revenant
10. Spy

January 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Nathaniel - I sought out Phoenix after reading it on this list and just saw it last night - I'm totally blown away. Nina Hoss has me questioning my already crowded actress lineup. Thank you for championing hidden gems like this!

January 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean Diego

^ aaaand I just read the conversation about "hidden gems". I'd say that "Phoenix" was still hidden, despite it's accessibility.

January 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean Diego

Lovely list. Here's mine...

01. CAROL
02. SON OF SAUL
03. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
04. SICARIO
05. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
06. 45 YEARS
07. INSIDE OUT
08. SPOTLIGHT
09. THE END OF THE TOUR
10. TANGERINE

February 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

1. Brooklyn
2. Spy
3. The Revenant
4. The Martian
5. Clouds of Sils Maria
6. The Final Girls
7. Room
8. Mr. Holmes
9. Inside Out
10. The Hateful Eight

April 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarci

Your words for each contestant are sublime. Some of your choices have nudged me to re-evaluate my own. But ultimately the majority of choices are sympatico. Since I think this is a thread about sharing I will share, but my choices should be taken with a grain of salt or, perhaps, the price of salt:

#30 Red Knot
29 Girlhood
28 Taxi
27 The Shrew's Nest
26 Felt
25 The Walk
24 Land of Storms
23 Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
22 Alleluia
21 Entertainment
20 La Sapienza
19 The Kindergarten Teacher
18 Mistress America
17 Queen of Earth
16 The Assassin
15 Spotlight
14 Far From Men
13 Room
12 45 Years
11 Sicario
10 Eden
09 Phoenix
08 Beasts of No Nation
07 Tangerine
06 The Tribe
05 A Pigeon Sat on a Branch....
04 Li'l Quinquin
03 Mustang
02 Mad Max - Fury Road
01 TIE
The Duke of Burgundy
& Carol

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohnP

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