Impressive stuff this year from the men and women who make movies! That includes the folks both in front of and in back of the camera.
It is always difficult to narrow down the list to just ten. (That’s why I included a second ten.) Here we go with the best of the best…
- Trumbo. A stellar cast, led by Bryan Cranston in the title role, performs memorable scene after memorable scene. The true story of Hollywood’s postwar blacklist is serious business, but Trumbo has plenty of entertaining lighter moments as well.
- Brooklyn. A classic. Beautiful story with lots of real sweetness. Saoirse Ronan is my pick for Best Actress.
- Ex Machina. The best artificial intelligence film since Bladerunner. Strong acting among the three leads, particularly Oscar Isaac as the techie who alternates between extreme workouts and binge drinking.
- Spotlight. How remarkable to see a media outlet (The Boston Glove) think first about serving its readers instead of influential institutions and advertisers! The acting ensemble is one of the best ever. That includes bit players as well as the familiar stars.
- Room. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are mother and son held captive in backyard shed by a man who abuses her on a regular basis. Their escape and recovery provide an emotional upside to their horrible imprisonment.
- Joy. Writer/director David O. Russell’s best films are the ones that touch you emotionally…like Joy does. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a woman with spunk and drive, a character you can’t help but love.
- Steve Jobs. The acting is flawless. But it is director Danny Boyle’s structuring of this non-biopic and Aaron Sorkin’s script (not to mention Daniel Pemberton’s momentum-building soundtrack) that make this revealing look at the Apple legend a winner. (I’d love to see this script performed at the Rep next season!)
- Love And Mercy. The story of Brian Wilson is a tender, loving and, ultimately hopeful, view of the man. Beach Boy Wilson, a talented, troubled genius, is played by the award-worthy Paul Dano (young Brian) and John Cusack (older Brian). Of course, the music is wonderful.
- Creed. Michael B. Jordan brings a strong presence to the title role, but it is Sylvester Stallone’s return as an older, wiser Rocky Balboa who makes Creed a special movie and reminds us why Rocky took Best Picture four decades ago.
- Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. Three high school seniors, one of whom has leukemia. Despite this grim circumstance, the movie delivers a good bit of fun, some of which comes from the goofy parody movies shot by Greg and Earl. Olivia Cooke as Rachel gives a beautiful performance.
Okay, how about ten more? My second ten…
- Mad Max:Fury Road. This loud, angry spectacle of female empowerment sizzles as Charleze Theron kicks ass. The vehicles, the costumes, the settings, the soundtrack are all way over the top. My daughter saw this movie seven times.
- Bridge of Spies. Solid storytelling from Steven Spielberg, solid performance by Tom Hanks. This is how you make a great movie.
- The Martian. Matt Damon gets stranded on Mars. Kind of a serious situation but there’s plenty to chuckle about here. Director Ridley Scott demonstrates why he’s one of the best in the business.
- The Walk. Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s French accent is ridiculous but this is an emotional film. The depiction of the walk between the Twin Towers is stunningly realistic and nerve-wracking. And seeing the towers standing thirty years before 9/11 is moving.
- The Gift. Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and starred in this creepy tale about an old acquaintance who won’t go away. Tense and suspenseful.
- Shaun The Sheep. My favorite animated film of 2015. No dialogue, just grunts, sighs, burps, gasps, farts, chuckles and, of course, baaas. Cool characters and story.
- Inside Out. Pixar’s comeback film gets inside the head of a young girl where her emotions compete for control. It took incredible imaginations (and maybe some killer weed?) to fuel the creation of this trippy inner sanctum.
- Southpaw. Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer whose world falls apart. The redemption story is familiar but his performance is award-worthy.
- While We’re Young. Ben Stiller plays a forty-something filmmaker who tries to stay hip and relevant. Brilliant satire from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Charles Grodin who play’s Stiller’s father-in-law deserves a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
- Black Mass. Depp, John Depp. Whitey Bulger is a ruthless killer but he’s nice to his mom. Based on a true story of a criminal who made deals with the feds that allowed him to get away with murder, literally.
And, furthermore, 2015’s most disappointing films…
- Hot Tub Time Machine 2
- Jupiter Ascending
- Hot Pursuit
- Rikki and the Flash
- Fantastic Four
- Terminator Genesys
- Our Brand Is Crisis