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 Girlhood; Lily Tomlin & Paul Weitz's Grandma focused road trip; the waking nightmare game of sexual tag in It Follows; Iceland'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 Spotlight; Aaron 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
Bleecker Street Media. May 15th
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!"
Roadside Attractions. December 4th
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!"
Lionsgate. October 2nd
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.
Warner Bros. Nov 25th
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."
Sundance Selects. December 23rd
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
Magnolia. June 3rd
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."
(Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
Cohen Media Group. November 20th
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!"
(Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen)
Disney/Pixar. June 19th
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!"
Fox Searchlight. November 4th
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.
Sundance Selects. July 24th
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
A24/Universal. April 24th
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?
Magnolia. July 10th
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"
A24. October 16th
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
Warner Bros. May 15th
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.
Weinstein Co. November 20th
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