2015 BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR – Part 1: Picks 20-11

SLIP-2015-BestMovies1

You can hear the drum rolls in the distance. It’s that time of the year. Critics online and “in print” are making their picks for the Best Movies of 2015. It was a great year for blockbusters and Oscar worthy films. A few indie gems also landed with impact.

Slip/Through rates fun movies alongside serious ones. While 5 star reviews are rare, a drama is just as likely to receive a high rating as a blockbuster adventure. There is no shame here ranking EVIL DEAD 2 up there with SEVEN SAMURAI.

Let’s dig in… Each pick will have a quick nerdy little blurb.


Stay tuned for the Top 10 Movies of the Year, coming soon – followed by an Honourable Mentions article.


20. LIFE ITSELF

Documentary // Starring: Roger Ebert // Directed by steve james

Legendary film critic, Roger Ebert, changed the landscape of movie reviewing. Before YouTube and podcasting, movie nerds deconstructed the art on TV. Well, really there were only a few nerds. Two of them (Ebert & Gene Siskel) changed the medium forever. This is the emotional story of Ebert’s rise to fame, from his earlier aspirations as a writer, to film critic extraordinaire.

19. BEASTS OF NO NATION

drama/war // STARRINg: ABRAHAM ATTA, IDRIS ELBA // written & DIRECTED BY CARY FUKuNAGA

The first movie from Netflix Studios is a contemplative tale of ethics and morality. Young actor, Atta, explodes onto the scene with a complex character with an emotional arc. Elba is decent as a corrupt warlord disillusioned by his own propaganda. The highlight is the amazing cinematography and bold direction from Fukunaga. This one feels like FULL METAL JACKET meets APOCALYPSE NOW.

* Check the review *

18. JOY

drama // STARRING: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, BRADLEY COOPER, ROBERT DE NIRO // WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY DAVID O. RUSSELL

This inspirational true story has divided the critics. Lawrence delivers another impressive performance. Despite some awkward surreal elements that miss the mark, the overall emotional response makes this one worthy of praise. There aren’t many movies that leave you feeling so good. This modern fairy tale worked for me. It helps to have a hero who spits venom when backed into a corner.

* Check the review *

17. ME, EARL, AND THE DYING GIRL

drama/comedy // STARRING: thomas mann, OLIVIA COOKE // DIRECTED BY alfonso gomez-rejon

Dismissed by some as an After School special, this emotional tale is actually rather cynical. Movie nerds will enjoy tons of Easter Eggs, as our protagonist is a geeky cinephile who films his own spoofs of classic movies. An unlikely relationship forms, but steers clear of romance. This is a coming-of-age story about friendship and the lasting effect someone can have on your life. This is another inspirational tale that is filmed unconventionally.

* Check the review *

16. ANT-MAN

action/comedy // STARRING: PAUL RUDD, MICHAEL DOUGLAS, corey stall, EVANGELINE LILLY, MICHAEL PENA // DIRECTED BY PAYTON REED

This surprise crowd-pleaser delivered tons of laughs with a focused story bent on saving a child rather than saving the universe. Rudd played the drama and action as well as the laughs. Pena nearly steals the show as a comic sidekick. The action is really inventive, especially when it scales all the way down to the miniature world.

* Check the review *

15. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

action // STARRING: TOM HARDY, CHARLIZE THERON, NIChOLAS HOuLT, hugh keays-byrne, rosie huntington-whitely // WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY GEORGE MILLER

This was the best ride of the year. Watching the latest MAD MAX was like riding a roller-coaster… the wooden kind… that shakes the crap out of you. While the plot was rather thin and the dialogue rather sparce, the bombastic spectacle assured we were entertained. Theron takes over the movie, while Hardy takes a back seat. The stuntwork is incredibly impressive, and the large scale cinematography made this action flick feel epic. Personally, I could have cared more about Max, and would have enjoyed more motives for his mission. The Furiosa storyline deserves its own feature, and was much more enjoyable than Max’s journey of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

* Check the review *

14. HATEFUL EIGHT

western/thriller // STARRING: KURT RUSSELL, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, BRUCE DERN, TIM ROTH, WALTER GOGGINS, michael madsen, CHANNING TATUM // WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO

Tarantino knows how to milk the tension. He’s proven a master at it already. This version of RESERVOIR DOGS in a cabin, uses the entire runtime to try and figure out who’s lying to who, and who will win the bounty. Filled with dark comedy and brutal violence, the epic vistas elevate this concept to another level. This is more than a violent shoot-em up, there is a lot of compelling character work going on. Unlike most Tarantino flicks, which are deliberately slow-paced, HATEFUL 8 actually felt slow at parts. The first few chapters were amazing, but there may have been one too many.

13. THE MARTIAN

sci-fi // STARRING: MATT DAMON, JEFF DANIELS, JESSICA CHASTAIN, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, KATE MARA, KRISTEN WIIG, MACKENZIE DAVIS // WRITTEN BY DREW GODDARD // DIRECTED BY RIDLEY SCOTT

This incredible adventure had its fair share of laughter too. Survival has rarely been this exciting. Instead of using guns to overcome obstacles, Damon’s character has to use his mind. The spectacle and thrills were amazing, but the ensemble cast proved distracting. That said, Ridley Scott returned to form proving he’s still the best at science fiction adventure. The visuals alone are a delight to look at.

* Check the review *

12. DOPE

comedy/drama // STARRING: shameik moore, tony revolori, kiersey clemons, ZOE KRAVITZ, kimberly elise, A$AP ROCKY // written & DIRECTED BY ricky famuyiwa

The big surprise of the year was this energetic comedy in the vein of Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING. We get a refreshing character in a familiar setting. Our heroes love 90s hip hop culture, and enjoy their outsider status. These retro nerds are thrown into crime, when drugs are placed inside our hero’s backpack. Most of the film plays off like a chase, but really the story is framed on a coming of age device. This movie has a John Hughes vibe, feeling more like BREAKFAST CLUB and less like BOYZ N THE HOOD. The young lead actor (Shameik Moore) delivers a real stand-out performance, amongst the year’s best.

11. CAROL

drama/romance // STARRING: CATE BLANCHETT, ROONEY MARA, sarah paulson, KYLE CHANDLER // written by phyliss nagy // DIRECTED BY TOdd haynes

Subtle and complex, this careful approach to the relationship drama is masterfully handled by Haynes. With a delicate subject matter, Haynes balances the emotion so it never goes over the top or gets too on-the-nose. For example, he will often obscure a clear view of his characters. He will show them behind a window reflecting the outside world, or cascading with rain, begging us to wonder what they are thinking.

Astounding performances utterly captivate the viewer, inviting us to step into their skin. While Blanchett gets all the hype, Mara delivers a much more subtle and mesmerizing performance. Her gaze is magnetic, drawing us towards participation. The bold structure frames the ending in a new context, ensuring this drama is never boring. I’m not normally excited by this genre, but this one was masterfully executed with a sure hand.


Stay tuned for the Top 10.

The list may evolve as I catch up on some high profile Oscar-buzzed films like THE REVENANT,  MACBETH, INSIDE OUT, COP CAR, ROOM, ANOMALISA, KNIGHT OF CUPS,  BROOKLYN, CHIRAQ, THE GIFT,  AMY, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, LOVE & MERCY, SLOW WEST, and TANGERINE.

Expect some changes in the 20-11 range as I see more of these films in the coming weeks.


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What do you think?

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27 thoughts on “2015 BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR – Part 1: Picks 20-11

  1. What I love about this list is how varied it is, not just award gatherers and the good blockbusters but small films that may have slipped through the cracks. Definitely living up the the name and spirit of the site.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched Dope because it was marked as “road trip movie”. I liked it a lot! I love a movie when I can’t predict what’s going to happen and this one did a good job!
    I may watch some of the others one day 😀 (but for sure, Joy)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that when I was searching road trip movies and I found one I saw and loved, I looked at the part where it says: “people who like this also liked…” and I clicked on it and I thought: why not?
        I’m really glad I did it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Heheh I hear ya. Lotsa people loving Mad Max. It was reallllly exciting. That said, I think I like Hardy’s Revenant a little more 😉 So many great movies this year though. This Top 20 is already evolving since I’ve seen more and more of the “best” films this year. Stay tuned for an update and the Top 10.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Totally agree with with Dope and Me, Earl… With the latter, enjoy Olivia Cooke anyway after watching her in Bates Motel but just wish she wasn’t dying in everything! Still quite a few from that list I’d like to see (Joy, Carol) but am I the only person that thought Mad Max was just a bit…meh?! Interested to see your top ten 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also didn’t like Mad Max as most people. Story was meh, but action was whoah shit! So in that regard it was one of the best. Sometimes I want character though, so that’s why you’ll see a lot more drama higher up the list. Carol is a great example of a character piece that totally delivers! I hope you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved “Dope” surprisingly. I enjoyed “Mad Max” but that freaky guitar playing guy on the front of the truck totally weirded me out. Loved “The Martian”. “Antman” I thought was going to totally stupid but it was fun. Can’t wait to see the Top Ten!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you said. Except I was dying to see Dope and had high expectations. I’m a 90s hip hop fan myself, and a nerd too, so naturally… It was tons of fun too along with drama. And Shamiek Moore is a revelation.

      Martian and Antman were way more fun than I expected too. Madmax had a lot of totally weird me out stuff, like rubbing nipples, facemasks, mouth spraying, etc. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rob. I’ll have to look into Life Itself, but this list is evolving, so it’s already on the way out. Thanks for looking out though. I only use the Google in my brain, old school style heheh.

      I really enjoyed Martian and H8 too, but there’s just so many great flicks this year. Some just rooted deeper with me, while some were more surface good 😉

      Like

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