It’s that time of the year again, we bid adieu to the past 12 months by looking at the best films to hit cinema screens.
It hasn’t been a classic, 2015, but it has presented us with some interesting trends outside of the norm. Most importantly given that we are a UK-based website, it was quite a spectacular for British film continuing a run of remarkable years on the bounce. We may well be striding nonchalantly into a subtly golden age for the British film and long may this continue. The second trend had more of a global footprint in the regularity of genre defying black comedies, showing the world that there is more out there than Will Ferrell and friends metaphorically filling their pants for the highest bidder; Long may that continue.
Without further delay let’s get down to business. Ordering was difficult; therefore outside of the top 5 it’s a bit of a free for all. One final note, this isn’t the definitive version of the geek show’s 2015 movie review – tune in to the upcoming 48th episode of cinema eclectica in which the guys will also look at their favourites, as well as all the ups and downs.
Subscribe to Cinema Eclectica here
Bill Condon and Ian McKellen did the rarest of things; they presented a fresh perspective on Sherlock Holmes. Mr Holmes sees the legendary detective in his old age trying to recall his last ever case which sees McKellen at the very peak of his powers. Acting older is a skill that few actors possess. Condon blends fact, history and interpretation lending a deceptive depth and intelligence to the year’s warmest and most watchable films.
Not without its structural problems, Dope is more than worth its place on this list by being the film that both Dear White People and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl tried and failed to be. Famuyiwa recalls the classic era of the teen comedy, the 1980s, without being overtly self-aware or lacking soul all of its own. Funny, charming and of immense character, Dope was elevated head and shoulders above its teen movie brethren thanks to Shameik Moore’s humble breakout performance.
What hasn’t been said about Pixar’s instant classic that hasn’t already been said? While it’s easy to dismissively synopsise Inside Out as ‘what if emotions had emotions’, lies a film of profound intelligence and impact. A great concept buoyed by unparalleled world building, character development and a subversive understanding of childhood. It’s great to have Pixar at their best.
Mis-sold as another haunted house feature, Del Toro’s was a horror film no-one expected. The Mexican favourite reinvigorated the gothic romance with all the passion and literacy we’ve grown accustomed to. Which would be enough, but add to that the most exquisite sets of the past decade and you’re onto something quite special. A divisive film and for those open to whatever the Mexican director was shooting for will find one of the year’s biggest surprises.
As pretentious as the titles implications are, Anderson joins in on the gag by having his third film in a trilogy about ‘being human’ scored by the most ludicrous Oompah score. With his cast dressed like they’ve escaped from the Woman in Black and a thickly black gallows humour slogging it out with the surreal, Pigeon is a hard beast to even comprehend. While ponderously slow and undeniably ‘arthouse’, Anderson’s darkly funny episodes offer an experience unlike any other in 2015, or any other year for that matter.
The biggest film on the planet right now, both critically and commercially thanks to it being both a film for star wars fans and non-fans alike. Even if it revisits the plot from IV and V, Abrams has captured something long-lost. Simply put, the Force Awakens feels like Star Wars. It’s almost an intangible quality, but for JJ Abrams to the wonder and glee we had for this galaxy far, far away cannot be underestimated. Star Wars is back and it feels better than we dared imagine.
Ex Machina is a film of undeniable atmosphere and character with Garland experimenting and finding his voice with admirable success. Few scriptwriters turn their hands to directing with anywhere near this level of ease, for someone to live up to their potential is beyond refreshing. Their where many small genre films with big ideas, but few had the flawless effects work, sound design or perfectly pitched three-hander carried by the years 3 run away breakout actor’s.
First of all, Tokyo Tribe has the best promotional art of 2015 hands down, another example of amazing production design too. Even if it has been described as Sion Sono at his most mainstream, this Hip Hop Yakuza musical sees the Japanese Super Auteur at his most playful and oddball since the undefinable Love Exposure. Hard to recommend to almost anyone and riddled with flaws, Tokyo Tribe is the pure expression of punk with an audacity which makes it almost impossible to not grin like an idiot before the films absurdly silly climax.
Unlike other titles, there was nothing slow about this Fassbender and Mendelson fronted pic, Maclean deconstructed the mythos with an audacious comedy while never forgetting to remind the audience of the cruelty of the vast, violent expanse of the early years of the lawless west. There are no hard-boiled anti-hero types or villains, just people wanting to survive and that is where Slow West enjoys its greatest successes. Just like Star Wars was film for non-fans, Slow West was for people uninterested in the Western. That is a hard egg to crack; only Maclean went and made it look easy.
Best horror film of the past 12 months, repackaging the slasher and monster movie into a satire of STDs. Its genre allusions crank up the tension beautifully via a horrific concept with no face and that knows no respite, what follows is a violent force of nature even when reality suggests otherwise. The finely-tuned atmosphere and slow burn sees horror at its best, turning an apparitional stranger into something that lingers long in the imagination.
Szifron’s Oscar Nominated Wild Tales is yet another portmanteau, the running thread through this Argentine satire is violent escalation brought about by issues occurring in the country today. That’s the theory; in practice the film is another wildly dark comedy full of lashings of violent gallows humour. A film which sees retribution against the DMV, an amazingly escalatory roadside fracas and the perfect pre-title sequence provided some of the biggest laughs of the year. Cruel, disturbing, funny, dark, satirical and always fun to watch, Szifron explores the dark heart of human nature.
Paul Thomas Anderson has always been a director we’ve respected more than outright loved and with the supposedly unadaptable Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice, he readdressed that balance. This dazzlingly dizzy neo-noir that perfectly evokes the decadence of the 1960s, being led by vividly colourful performances from some of the finest actors working today, Inherent Vice is a world that is joyful to just spend time in. Its labyrinthine and classic approach to the mystery may be a little esoteric and hard to approach; but this lavish style with a wacked out Joaquin Phoenix made for the arthouse favourites most enjoyable and re-watchable film to date.
The English language debut of Greek serial weird auteur Yorgos Lanthimos is every bit as weird as we’ve come to expect from the director of Dogtooth. A dystopia of the most real sense and relatable sense; whereby those who are single are threatened with the potential of being turned into an animal. Lanthimos makes this world work through dividing the film in two halves to give both perspectives light and a deadpan humour that feels as if it was written by more sexed version of Father Ted’s Dougal. It’s depressing, bleak and imaginative with it, but it also manages to be fun at the same time. For that alone it deserves it place at number 8.
The most destructive thing on the mountain isn’t the sliding onslaught of avalanche, its masculinity. Östlund uses the instigator of snowy doom to pull a family apart thanks to male pride, sometimes this is done through heavy conversation and sometimes this is done through outright parody in the odd occasion Force Majeure earns its status as a comedy drama. Beautiful in a way only Scandinavian films can be, Östlund works magic by allowing us in under the question of – what would be do under those circumstances.
David Zellner presented a definitively unique wanderlust picture, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is the depiction of one woman, one sole statistic in a country devastated by loneliness and depression. That may make the film sound more po-faced than is the case, but there was a joy to be found in turning a cult legend about Fargo back to cinema. Satirising Japanese society with an impressive understanding while founded in great character moments in Bunzo. With Rinko Kikuchi’s dominatingly small performance, David Zellner’s subtle direction and a fantastically weird aesthetic, Kumiko won us over as early as its February release.
Tomm Moore is marking out his own territory, employing Irish folklore to tell exquisite stories of family and childhood. Mentioning that first before the peerless beauty illustrates Moore work ethic, there is no aspect of the film that isn’t as good as it possibly could be. The cast is perfect and the performances flawless, making the star power of the competition look extremely antiquated. Song of the Sea does enough to make us tear up through visuals alone, Song of the sea is one of the most beautiful films we have ever seen and it’s matched beat for beat every step of the way.
The perfect anti-police procedural, instead of wrapping things up perfectly in a neat little ball explaining every little (see earlier film Prisoners), it unravels into irrepressible disorder suggesting a story that we may never know in its entirety. With Sicario, Villeneuve finally fulfilled his potential in the English language even if the film is trying its hardest to be divisive. Villeneuve’s greatest success is more fundamental than that. Sicario joins the perfect scenes club; the police raid in Arizona, the bridge sequence and the culmination of the tunnels – all of these scenes are perfect in that nothing could be improved upon, staging, Deakin’s Cinematography, performance, everything is stellar.
Peter Strickland is marking himself out as one of the most imaginative directors working today. He imagines a world inhabited only by women, S & M is the norm and the two leads are lepidopterologists – they like butterflies. Using surrealism in his character development, sly humour, machine gun paced montage and a smorgasbord of eccentric references, yet he still manages to make the year’s most relatable relationship drama. Few directors make surrealism as joyously expressive as Peter Strickland.
The only film in the list that didn’t get a theatrical release; Lee Su-Jin’s Han Gong-Ju is yet more proof that Korean New Wave was far more than just a platform for the ‘big 5’, it was also exposure for some phenomenal talent. Even with the reception the film received prior to release, socks were well and truly knocked off. An effecting, supremely confident début that shows the world that Korean cinema is just as intelligent, smartly directed and vital as it was under the safe hands of its big named directors. Few films in 2015 came even remotely close to touching the wonder that was Han Gong-Ju.
Fury Road feels like the movie that George Miller has wanted to make all these years, functioning as a stand-alone in the franchise and reimagined as a scruffy iterant warrior in the mould of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Exposition and development are all delivered in the small details of world design and the monolithic vehicles that scar their way across the wasteland. On camera affects, the most literal interpretation of the titular role ever from Tom Hardy, Theron’s instantly iconic Imperator Furiosa and the larger-than-life cinematography. We were blown away by Fury Road; it’s as simple as that.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE 2016 MOVIE ARTICLES, COMING UP TOMORROW ARE OUR MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES OF THE NEXT 12 MONTHS.