Here it is at long last. After spending January catching every damn highly recommended film that premiered in 2015, I’m finally ready to give a good and proper Top 10 list. So buckle up, and witness The After Lobby’s first Best of the Year.
Honorable Mention: What We Do in the Shadows
Not on the Top 10, but this film was sadly overlooked by a lot of people because it wasn’t given a proper wide release. Premise is a mockumentary-style dark comedy about vampires living in New Zealand. It’s absolutely bizarre and increasingly macabre, but it’s goddamn funny and brings the laughs flawlessly. Coming from the mind behind Flight of the Concords, this is a great extension of that style into something that is both charming and surreal at the same time. Don’t know when I’ll write a proper review on it, perhaps when it gets Netflix distribution, but you should check it out on Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon.
#10 99 Homes
Starring the guy who should have been nominated and who should have won the Best Actor Oscar, 99 Homes is a thrilling and sober exploration into the world of foreclosures in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The beauty of this film is not in showing you how horrible it is for people to live without their homes after getting evicted, but showing you just how easy it is to be seduced by money and power as well as the twisted logic used to explain someone’s horrible actions. Tense, exciting, and highly informative, it has everything I love in a movie with the added bonus of stellar acting and direction.
Like I said in my review, I’m ashamed I missed this in theaters. This is one brutal fucking movie that goes way beyond dramatizing the drug war. It goes into an exploration over the subject of rape as a concept, as a weapon, and as a metaphor for what goes through the minds of the perpetrators and survivors. With a haunting score and top notch direction, Villenueve once again dives us deep into our darkest impulses and forces us to confront them.
Just to cheer everything up after two sobering choices, I got to include my most inspirational and uplifting film of 2015. Creed delivers the goods on everything a Rocky movie needs (training montages, great character exchanges, and stellar fight choreography) and goes above that to tell the tale of an underdog from a fresh new perspective that has sadly been overlooked by the Oscars. A great interplay between Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone has helped cement this movie to the cream of the crop.
We got so many “based on a true story” movies in the tail end of 2015 that this one sadly got overlooked by critics who downplayed its importance and by audiences who didn’t want to deal with its rough subject matter. But as the finest investigative journalism film since All the President’s Men, this is one slice of true stories you shouldn’t miss. A cast of veteran thespians demonstrate the importance of speaking up for people who didn’t have a voice while simultaneously demonstrating that sensationalism and rushing a story just to be “first” can do far more harm than good. The Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal’s effects are being felt fifteen years later after coming to light, and it’s an important journey to see to the end.
#6 The Martian
Goddamn this was so good. A wonderfully executed science fiction story with an ensemble cast of actors and actresses depicting a tale of survival while showing the importance of never giving into hopelessness was good enough for me. Add a very humorous script with people who knew how to deliver punchlines and stellar special effects, and you get one of the most pleasing theater going experiences I had all year.
#5 Inside Out
For a few years there, we were all really worried about Pixar. The legendary studio came out with weak cartoon after weak cartoon and thought they lost their pizzazz. Thankfully they came back this year stronger than ever (ignoring The Good Dinosaur) with a film that expertly told an imaginative story while successfully deconstructing emotional development in a child that just had her life upended. Even though the “stakes” were not as grand as some other entries on this list, Inside Out more than made up for it with genuinely touching characters that made you feel the stakes were high. And of course, I can make people who’ve seen it cry with the simple phrase: “Take her to the moon for me.”
#4 The Hateful Eight
A surprise for me as I did not expect a Tarantino movie to crack my Top 10 after the muddled Django Unchained disappointed me entirely. Unlike that mess, The Hateful Eight has only grown in my estimation since release to be one of Tarantino’s most socially-conscious effort in…a long ass tine. There are tons of layers involving racism and storytelling that you can read and write essays on; but even without diving into those layers, there’s still an entertaining westerner to be found here complimented by a fantastic score from one of the all-time legends of cinematic history. Another ensemble piece where all characters gave go-for-broke performances, this is one damn good and tense thriller.
#3 Mad Max: Fury Road
I fucking love this movie. Of all the films on this list, this is truly my favorite to rewatch over and over again. Screw anybody who says “oh I’ve seen this before.” Bullshit, when esteemed directors everywhere are proudly announcing they had to pick their jaws from the floor after watching this flick, you damn well better pay attention. Brilliantly shot action sequences that impact you throughout the two hour run-time are connected by a somewhat simplistic story that acquires more depth when you realize it’s really about feminism versus uber-machismo. This is the best directed film of the year and George Miller deserves every ounce of recognition he’s receiving. The only reason it’s not on the top of my list is that it didn’t make me cry.
No, the following two brought me to the verge of tears.
#2 Beasts of No Nation
Fuck the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for ignoring this film. People were lapping praise after praise upon it for being one of the toughest and most brutal films to watch in 2015 especially with Idris Elba’s best performance meant for a silver screen. But no, because it premiered on Netflix, the Academy had to get all snobbish about including it in the running. They can piss off, because you should see this film over the front runners like The Revenant and The Big Short. Giving you a harrowing and emotional story of a young boy serving as a child soldier in Africa was wrenching enough, but it’s so impeccably shot and well acted that you could feel it was real.
Of all the movies that I saw in 2015, the one that truly stabbed me in the heart and came close to breaking me had one of the lowest profiles through the awards season. And yet Room delivered a beautiful and moving story about the relationship between a mother and her son, and the lengths a mother would go to protect her offspring. Heartbreaking in so many places, especially from the perspective of the young actor, the film still manages to give you a tearjerker of a conclusion filling me with hope and biter sweetness. Truly, it’s the best film of 2015 and I do hope you check it out.
Now that you saw the best of the year, why not see what were my worst of the year while you’re at it?
Below are films that didn’t make the Top 10, but hell yeah you should definitely make the time to check out. Click on the poster for my review or a link to a review that I dug. In alphabetical order, here are my: