Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number One

As I twirled words around in my head, seeking the right opening sentence to efficiently establish why I think The End of the Tour is the best film of 2015, I landed on an introductory declaration that felt exactly on target. It also seemed familiar, though. To be safe, I revisited my original review of James Ponsoldt’s understated triumph only to discover that I was about to inadvertently repeat myself, right down to the use of the adverb “devilishly.” I prefer to think that this means there’s an admirable consistency to my connection to the film, rather than the far less agreeable … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number One

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Two

I take great pleasure in the notion that George Miller finds takes the opportunities of caution presented to him by the entertainment industry and transforms them into wildly audacious cinematic creations. He did it nearly two decades ago when he parlayed his screenwriting and producing credits on the gentle hit Babe into more creative control, including the directing role, on its more ambitious, decidedly darker, and markedly beautiful sequel (which, of course, didn’t fare nearly as well at the box office). Now, with the studios’ seemingly unstoppable hunger for any project that carries even a hint of brand recognition and the possibility … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Two

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Three

Based on Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name, Brooklyn demonstrates the reservoirs of emotional power that can be tapped by telling a quietly compelling story unadorned by pushy narrative tricks, by letting the particulars of wisely conceived drama stand as the prevailing voice of the film. Set in the nineteen-fifties, it tells the story of a young immigrant named Eilis (Saoirse Ronan). She settles into an existence of minor yet impactful unease after journeying from Ireland to find her place in the title borough. The relatively modest scale of her challenges serves to settle the film into an endearingly realistic space … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Three

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Four

Befitting his status as a filmmaker approaching his octogenarian years, Ridley Scott is something of a throwback. Until The Martian, I didn’t realize just how far in Hollywood’s history his creative instincts lie. Since he made his feature directorial debut in the latter half of the second, Scott was easy to plop into the categories of the other auteurs from around that era, deeply informed by the greater artistic latitude afforded to those behind the camera. That he truly made his name with a pair of films that combined harder science fiction elements with more audience-friendly directness (as if George … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Four

Top Ten Movies of 2015 – Number Five

While I remain fully committed to only judging a movie by the material to be found in its digital frames, from the first flicker of storytelling life to the moment the closing credits complete their upward crawl to oblivion, there are admittedly time when knowing details of a creative path can bestow an added shimmer to an already shining cinematic effort. Inside Out, director Pete Docter’s follow-up to the tremendous Up, is a grandly inventive achievement all on its own, depicting the inner life a young girl as a sort of workplace comedy, with simple emotions personified and going about the … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 – Number Five

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Six

I’m tempted to name Tangerine as the boldest film of the year, although not really for the reasons that might immediately seem the impetus for that praise. Yes, the film gives its primary focus to a pair of transexual women of color (Mya Taylor and Kitani Kiki Rodriguez), both sex workers in Los Angeles, with a side consideration of the Armenian diaspora in the same city. Across the board, these aren’t communities or topics that most filmmakers, even those who are proudly independent voices, are especially anxious to address. Yet, the immersive view of these populations isn’t what makes the … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Six

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Seven

The comparison to All the President’s Men is irresistible, only because it is so apt. With Spotlight, named after the investigative journalism unit at The Boston Globe, director Tom McCarthy traces the efforts of a team of dedicated reporters examining the pervasive sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by members of the Catholic clergy and the reprehensible cover-up of those crimes by the institutional powers within the Church. Like Alan J. Pakula’s sterling 1976 drama, Spotlight approaches its subject with a commitment to depicting the meticulous toil that goes into building a devastating, revelatory newspaper article of undeniable fact, essentially celebrating the … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Seven

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Eight

Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth is spectacularly discombobulating. The bare bones of the plot make it seem as plain and direct as can be: Catherine (Elizabeth Moss), reeling from the death of her father and a recent breakup, goes to spend a week at a lake house with her best friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston). The broken neediness that Catherine carries with her parallels that of Virginia one year earlier, as does the lack of sympathy in others stirred by that vivid sorrow. The execution of the story, however, is anything but simple, with Perry taking the already strong emotions and … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Eight

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Nine

Approaching ten years since the heartless, virulently irresponsible greed of countless Wall Street hooligans decimated the United States housing market, the one part of the nation’s economy thought to be practically bulletproof, and nearly took the entire global financial network down with it, and the repercussions against the perpetrators have been practically nonexistent. Damning journalism and ferocious editorials haven’t shifted the national narrative. Maybe comedy can help.  In adapting Michael Lewis’s the non-fiction book The Big Short, which itself is infused with an apoplectic wryness, filmmaker Adam McKay brings his long history as a boisterously committed comic voice (mostly working … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Nine

Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Ten

With all due respect to the enjoyable spectacle from the end of the calendar year that put more eyeballs on Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson than ever before, Ex Machina is 2015 science fiction film featuring the two actors that approaches greatness. The directorial debut of Alex Garland, the film casts Gleeson as a programmer drone at a multinational tech corporation who gets selected for an exclusive trip to the home workshop of the company’s CEO (Isaac) with the promise of getting an early glimpse at the latest innovations. The breakthrough device is a robot dubbed Ava (Alicia Vikander), supposedly built … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Ten