by Adam Riske
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Bone Tomahawk, Bridge of Spies, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, Turbo Kid, Unfriended
10. Mad Max: Fury Road – An ingenious, extraordinary epic with masterful filmmaking by George Miller and imaginative (mostly practical) set pieces and stunt work. It’s the action movie of the year in that it completely goes for broke with kinetic editing, wacky characters, vivid cinematography and a heart-thumping score. The memorable characters stuck with me, in particular how Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Tom Hardy’s Max learn that it is in their mutual best interest to cooperate with one another. Refreshingly feminist as well, it’s a movie that suggests that women are maybe not only equal to men of action but possibly superior to them on the battlefield. Super exciting and a great time at the movies.
Inside Out - Despite liking some of them, I haven’t had a Pixar movie on my top 10 list since 2007’s Ratatouille. Inside Out is their biggest home run since then. It’s a spectacular and refreshing experience that ennobles animation in a way, imploring its peers to be dense and unique as well as humorous. It doesn’t hurt that the movie is genuinely touching for adults, acknowledging that emotions that once made us happy can, with age and circumstance, now make us equally melancholy. Enough can’t be said either of Michael Giacchino’s score, which ranks up there as one of my favorites of the year as well. Inside Out is a great movie full of ingenuity and creativity.
8. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino’s dark, ballsy, operatic and exciting new movie is full of great moments and wonderful characters played beautifully by its ensemble cast. The thing I appreciate most about The Hateful Eight is what a fascinating departure it is from the writer-director’s previous work. His characters in the past have been seedy but many still had redeeming qualities and here he abandons all hope and goodwill. This is an angry movie, full of despair and raw feeling but also the joy of filmmaking. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Tarantino has chosen the wide clarity of 70mm for this movie; he wants us to see, in sharp focus, the widespread pervasiveness of casual racism in the DNA of America. It’s a smart and very perceptive movie about people so far-gone that their hate and despicableness is invisible to them.
6. Slow West – John Maclean’s Slow West is an amazingly good movie – a lonely and singular vision of a specific place, time and genre. It showed me things I haven’t seen in a Western before and it never compromises into being something conventional. The movie is full of memorable sequences and terrific performances, in particular by the great Michael Fassbender. This is such a beautifully sad, cynical and remorseless movie full of memorable sequences, especially a tragic stop at a general store. This is a movie that removes all romanticism from the great American myth of the cowboy and life on the trail. It’s tense, ripe with drama and surprisingly funny in sports in a gallows humor sort of way.
The Revenant – A suspenseful, unrelenting frontier survival thriller (with exquisite cinematography) that had me rapt with attention for its entire lengthy 2-1/2 hour runtime. The Revenant is a remarkable achievement from a sheer filmmaking perspective from writer-director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and a risky, dangerous film. It also features brilliant and brave performances from its excellent cast, led by Leonardo DiCaprio (in a punishing physical performance) and Tom Hardy (great here as the villain of the piece). It’s a rewarding experience to watch but also a grueling one. You feel like you’ve been through something after you’ve watched it. I honestly don’t know how they achieved some of the nightmarish sequences shown in this movie. This movie softens nothing. It blew my mind.
4. Creed – Great performances by Michael B. Jordan (who is especially impressive in the boxing sequences), Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson highlight Creed, the best Rocky movie since the original. It’s everything a fan of the series could hope for and more. Creed is fascinating in the way it unfolds with one great scene after another thanks to the sure, confident work by writer-director Ryan Coogler, who does a terrific job of paying homage to the series’ foundation while still forging his own path. A romantic and courageous sports movie about likeable people I loved spending time with. I loved every single minute of Creed and can’t wait to see where the franchise goes next. This movie makes you feel great.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A very good blockbuster that is secretly great. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is special for a number of reasons but especially how heartfelt it is from a character and filmmaking perspective. The new cast, led by the awesome Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, is phenomenal and lively. J.J. Abrams went for a big target and succeeded completely in making a joyous, spirited, fun and beautiful looking action-adventure that celebrates everything we all originally loved about Star Wars. I’ve never used this word before, but this movie is resplendent. I can’t stop watching it. I could make an argument that this is the second best movie in the franchise after The Empire Strikes Back. A wonderful movie and the most entertaining experience I had in a theater in 2015. 60 portions!!!
2. The End of the Tour – A terrific movie from James Ponsoldt that delivers of the promise of his previous feature, The Spectacular Now. The End of the Tour is a movie about great conversation and offers no easy answers about the existential crisis that is being an unhappy male in your 30s. No movie this year affected me emotionally as deeply as The End of the Tour. It’s so humane and such a great experience (it’s as much an investigation of what makes someone brilliant as it’s anything else) with a fascinating script and a career-best performance from Jason Segel. This is a movie I could watch over and over again. It’s a movie that may not be perfect but that’s perfect for me.
Spotlight – My favorite movie of the year is the amazing and heartbreaking Spotlight. It allows us to spend time with a group of fiercely intelligent and passionate people (terrific performances from the best ensemble cast of the year led by Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton) working together to expose a great injustice on one of the largest stages possible. It’s a thoughtful and enraged movie that celebrates human and journalistic integrity and also works as a detective movie in the same way as 2007’s masterpiece Zodiac. I’ve been a fan of writer-director Tom McCarthy in the past but Spotlight is on a whole other level of greatness.
Here’s hoping that 2016 is another great year for movies.
We DID match quite a bit! 7/10 of our titles are the same (albeit in a bit of a different order, but I love all my choices). And frankly, the three differing choices that you have (Slow West, The End of the Tour and The Revenant) I'm sure could have EASILY made my list...had I seen them. :-/ReplyDelete
The End of the Tour has me especially intrigued, and I really regret missing it. Your description of it touching on the subject of being an unhappy man in your 30s sounds like it would hit close to home for me, unfortunately.
Anyway, I think you and I are like movie soulmates, Adam. :)
Let me know what you think of the other 3 when you get a chance to catch up with them :-)Delete
I sure will! I added them to my Netflix queue, so I should be getting to them in the next few days.Delete
Just letting you know that The End of the Tour is on iTunes.Delete
Oh! Even better! I'll get on that!Delete
It's also at the redbox last time I checkedDelete
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I still haven't made my top ten, but I think mine will be closer to yours than all the others I've heard so far (maybe just because I've seen more of them). I'm glad someone else liked The End of the Tour as much as I did. At first I was annoyed by Eisenberg's character, but it became obvious pretty quickly that he was written to be kind of a naive douche who saw himself as a deep artistic intellectual. His conversations with Wallace were kind of this revelation that maybe he was missing the point. Plus, how often do you see a genius depicted as a guy who loves junk food, movies, and chewing tobacco? I really loved it.ReplyDelete
Yeah, it pretty great. Did you see The Spectacular Now?Delete
I loved the Spectacular Now, but I had a hard time with The End of the Tour. I never really bought Wallace being a genius, they kept saying that he was, but his concerns often seemed shallow or petty to me. Maybe that was the point, it is a film im still trying to grapple with.Delete
Oh man. Now I will definitely want to see The End of the Tour to figure that out.Delete
I think a point the movie is trying to make is that genius is undefinable. Wallace, as depicted in the movie, is a very "normal" guy in all respects except his writing. The fact that we never see him writing is probably why it's harder to crack why he was a genius (at that one thing).Delete
Thanks Adam, I feel like Uk is in the sticks, I have only seen two of your top ten, maybe I should spend less time watching Bloody Birthday, Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine 81, and The BurningReplyDelete
Ps why do all my films Have B in them? I dont even know the answer
My list is so narrowed from what I have seen, we are getting The H8tefull Eight opening this weekend though and I really like Emily Blunt so I need to make the effort to see that film too soon ;)
Thanks Dennis! I liked your list too. Good to see Tales of Halloween get some love.Delete
Really good list Adam, I liked all these films (haven't seen the Revenant or The Hateful Eight yet) and loved most of them. Spotlight, Mad Max and Sicario will be on my list. Also it is great to see someone championing Creed, I know it received great reviews but it has been surprisingly absent from top ten lists. It might be my favourite 'passing of the franchise torch movie' this year.ReplyDelete
And as soon as I wrote that I realized that I realized I forgot Mad Max is a 'passing of the franchise torch movie'...Okay, so it is #2. Still, great movie.Delete
Thanks Josh. I enjoyed reading your list too on the other post. There's a number of movies on your list that I haven't had a chance to catch up with yet.Delete
I'm interested in knowing what films on my list you haven't seen. Im guessing one of them is A Pigeon Sat on A Branch Reflecting on Existence. I highly recommend seeking it out. A great example of style perfectly matching content. Although be warned it is a film that posits human existence is both a tragedy and a comedy.Delete
PS: just saw The Hateful Eight and I agree with you and it is now on my list.
I haven't seen Phoenix, Girlhood, Pigeon or Duke of Burgandy yet.Delete
That's my list. I really enjoyed so many others and still have a lot I need to check out. Really good year for movies in my opinion. Enjoyed reading your list Adam!
Ooh, I forgot about Dope! Dope's great.Delete
Thanks Chris! Glad to see Slow West getting some love :-) It's been a bit overlooked at the end of the year. Anomalisa was really interesting too.Delete
Nice list Adam - we match on 6/10 - the 4 we don't (Spotlight, The Revenant, Slow West and The Hateful Eight) I haven't seen - I'm feel pretty confident they must be great.ReplyDelete
Started reading "Infinite Jest" and I'm really loving it - so far it feels like the lovechild of Joseph Heller and John Irving that took the drug from Limitless - I'd recommend it and I feel like watching the movie and getting to know the author a bit helped.
I want to read Infinite Jest. Probably will get to it this Summer. I'm reading "I Lost it at the Video Store" right now. It's good.Delete
Oooh, that looks good.Delete
End of the Tour also made me pick up Infinite Jest, wow what a writer, love Wallace's style, I'm only halfway through it at this point, very long and thought provoking.Delete
Great list! I have 5/10 of your picks on mine, but I still consider my list in an unfinished state. I might put out what I have so far, but I still would like to see The Renevant, Spotlight, and The Big Short before I call my list done.ReplyDelete
Nice! Those three you haven't gotten to yet are all very good. The Big Short would have made my top 20.Delete
Okay, as someone who's never seen a boxing movie and frankly finds the very idea of the sport nauseating, I don't like to be "that guy" who's just an obnoxious Negative Ned, but even I can only take so much gushing over Creed before I ask: this is really fundamentally a movie (and franchise) about guys hitting other guys in the head for fame and fortune, right? With maybe a supporting character or two playing lip service to the notion that maybe a smart young man has better things to do with his time, but they end up cheering him on and he gets the girl anyway, yeah? (I saw part of Southpaw, and the scenes of the hero's little girl cheering him on in the ring and taking his hits as moral outrages creeped the hell out of me. Hitting people is only okay when your daddy does it, is that right, little girl?) It might have been one thing when it was the 70s, and Rocky had no other way out of poverty than smushing brain cells for a living. But a contemporary bright young man with all kinds of potential, getting into the sport that killed his father as a way to get over his absent daddy issues, over the objections of his adoptive mother? That's... not a story I have any interest in, frankly. (Granted, in the physical sense, I am a total coward.) Am I missing something? :PReplyDelete
If it's not for you, it's not for you. There's nothing wrong with that. If you're willing to go with the premise, however, there's a lot of reward to get out of the Rocky franchise. It's much better than Southpaw.Delete
No, dumbass, boxing is a metaphor. A metaphor for...the...other ways...men smush each other's brain cells? No, wait, it's a metaphor for you shutting the hell up! No, you know, it IS kinda weird that we (still) glamourize and romanticize boxing - I haven't really followed the actual sport in awhile but I do love the movies for some reason - I guess it speaks to some sort of primal part of my brain? Stop making me question my brain, El Gaith! Rocky movies are pretty fun though, man, and do serve as a metaphor for our own struggles and triumphing against the odds and all that stuff - until Creed the actual boxing in the movies was mostly pretty bad anyway - definitely not what I'm in them for.Delete
I can think of probably 10 things the Rocky movies (and Creed) are about before I'd name boxing. Boxing only serves as a stage for things like romance, redemption, fighting for what you care about, and occasionally even forgiveness. But then again, what do I know? I'm the pro-wrestling fan here.Delete
Your foster parents are kinda dicks, huh?Delete
I don't know my wrestling very well. Was Hulk Hogan already Hulk Hogan when Rocky III came out? If not he should've just stayed as Thunderlips. Far better name.Delete
Terry Bollea was wrestling as Hulk Hogan before Rocky III, but he wasn't the Hulk Hogan he would become around 1984. My guess is that the movie studio owned the rights to the name Thunderlips. Besides, Vince McMahon Sr. came up with the name Hulk Hogan while the wrestler was in the WWF in the late '70s. I don't know if that means they owned the name outright (they own every character name these days for marketing and licensing), but I bet it has at least something to do with money and sticking to the name that the WWF gave him. Plus, Thunderlipsmania doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Hulkamania.Delete
Our lists are very similar, but I'm not willing to finalize mine until I see The Revenant and Anomalisa. I will say, though, that we share our number one spot...light...ReplyDelete
Nice! Post your list when it's ready. I'm super curious.Delete
Ok. I love hateful eight and yet somehow really hate it. Im sorry Patrick, but 70mm is wasted indoors. Characters make out of character decisions. The narration feels unnecessary and spontaneous. But the worst sin is that Zoe Bell is wasted. She's terrible, had sex with six horses and is still just swinging her legs. But so damn cute! That's this movie. It's Tarantino fan service and I'm sad you give it Carte Blanche for style points. It's the farm scene from inglorious basterds without the meaning.ReplyDelete
No need to apologize or be sad. I think it's great and I love it.Delete
James..What did you love about it?ReplyDelete
Good list Adam, I'm still waiting on a few of your picks here in Australia, most notably Spotlight and The Hateful Eight - which is a mere 48 hours-ish away. I cannot wait.ReplyDelete
That's awesome. Let me know what you think of it after you see it.Delete