The Best Things in Cinema from 2015

01.28.2016

THE REVENANT

When trying to decide just how much THE REVENANT meant to me, I kept returning to one shot at the center of the film: a sustained view of clouds rolling across a mountain top, set only to the sound of human breathing. Because that is literally all that matters in the world. When everything else falls away, you may one day find that the only thing you have left is the sound of your own breathing which means you are still alive, and whatever view of the eternal Earth happens to be facing you at that moment. I’m not convinced that Inarritu is a great director, nor that he even gets how to make a great film; but to me this is his undeniable “wrong clock getting to be right for one moment” movie — the perfect marriage of a story with an aesthetic. I saw it three times, and it made my Northwest heart weep and swoon every time.

 

DHEEPAN

I genuinely don’t understand how this wasn’t universally heralded as Jacques Audiard’s best film. A PROPHET was intricate, brutal, and mesmerizing, yes — but this film is A PROPHET with a heart. (That should have been the tagline.) Antonythasan Jesuthasan plays an immigrant caretaker whose basic human plight and emotional trauma make him immediately sympathetic. Then, as he slowly starts to develop feelings for the false wife and daughter who traveled with him across the sea, he becomes a figure of such overwhelming intensity that   

SON OF SAUL

99 HOMES

 

ROOM

The escape sequence, from start to finish, would be in my Top 5 Scenes of the year on its own, for pure, heart-stopping suspense. But the moment when the carpet falls away and Jack sees the sky for the first time is hands down the Movie Moment Of The Year for me. I can’t think of any movie in recent memory that created a more complex emotional moment. As the viewer you’re simultaneously locked in white-knuckle suspense (“Get out of the truck, get out of the truck..!!”) and moved to tears by the stunned look on the kids face, and rendered supplicatingly grateful for all of the small wonders in your own life, every beautiful time you’ve looked up at the sky without appreciating it. If Room had been pure shit for the entire rest of its 118 minutes — and it wasn’t — this still would have been an unforgettable bit of cinema.

 

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

 

45 YEARS

Crazy action scenes in THE REVENANT notwithstanding, the shot where Charlotte Rampling watches the slides on the projector in the attic is my Shot Of The Year. A breathtaking coalescence of composition, performance, and narrative that most films can only aspire to.

 

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

 

THEEB

 

VICTORIA

 

WILD TALES

 

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

The movie that made headlines at Sundance for being the most unwatchable film of the year turned out to be surprisingly entertaining and easy to watch. Culminating in a brilliant out-of-left-field sequence where someone opens a “Book of Climaxes” and unleashes a montage of pitch-perfect nail-biting climax scenes where we have no idea what’s going on but we totally get what’s going on.

 

EX MACHINA

I just really like Oscar Isaac undermining the dark, dramatic climax of the film with his goofy line “Fuckin’ unreal…”

 

SOUTHBOUND

1) It’s an anthology film with the very simply but totally great conceit that it plays out as one continuous narrative, rather than separate, isolated films, and 2) The middle film is just fucking great. Not gonna spoil it, just, check it out.

TANGERINE

I was so reluctant to watch this. And then I had a blast. Kudos to the filmmakers for nailing the tightrope walk of making a hilarious, entertaining, and not-alienating film while also being brutally truthful to the reality of the transgender street scene.

 

SICARIO

1) Denis Villeneuve just might be the best director alive right now at creating unbearable suspense and tension out of thin air; 2) This movie has the Requiem For A Dream score for this decade; the music is so fucking good it’s going to be quoted and copied and used in trailers for years to come.

 

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

Yes, it turns out the Oscars actually are racist. This movie was every bit as good as BROOKLY or BRIDGE OF SPIES, and Corey Hawkins totally could have been nominated for Supporting Actor. It's not a runaway masterpiece, but it is absolutely on a level with the obligatory middling awards frontrunners of the last several years.

 

IT FOLLOWS

wins the prize for Biggest Dropped Ball. David Robert Mitchell had the greatest horror film premise of the last 10 years in his pocket, and he fucked it up in the execution. Some seriously great moments made it through into the final product, but overall the thing is a mess. What a shame.

Somewhere between “It was pretty good” and “Nah, didn’t really do anything for me”:

 

Steve Jobs

Cartel Land

Cop Car

The Assassin

Phoenix

Bridge of Spies

Anomalisa

The Lobster

Brooklyn

The Hateful Eight

 

 

 

Actively disliked:

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Queen of the Desert

The Nightmare

Jurassic World

 

 

 

Still need to see:

 

Carol

The Tribe

Creed

Embrace of the Serpent