Immediately tagged as THE blockbuster year for cinema, 2015 bared witness to a cinematic empire striking back, a Starlord proving he can do the dinosaur and Shia LaBoeuf expressing an eagerness to marathon his entire back catalogue.
From rapturous romances to heavy hip-hop hysteria. A flaming guitar solo to a feverish drum sequence. Narrowing down the eclectic excellence of this year’s cinematic offerings has proved as difficult a task, as trying to convince Matt Damon to embrace the genre of disco.
Before i channel an Apple co-founder in grandly revealing my top 12 of 2015, here are a worthy selection of honourable mentions.
20: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
19: 52 Tuesdays (Sophie Hyde)
18: Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
17: Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (Brad Bird)
16: The Gift (Joel Edgerton)
15: Straight Outta Compton (F.Gary Gray)
14: Amy (Asif Kapadia)
13: Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
12: Brooklyn (John Crowley)
Adapted from Colm Toibin’s acclaimed novel, director John Crowley married the vibrancy of a contextually rich period, with beautiful incisions into the hopeful yet torn mind of Saorise Ronan’s exquisitely played Eilis. The relatable struggle no matter our background of where our true home really lies, Brooklyn was a well poised and heart-swelling beauty that reinforced the national treasure ‘status’ of Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, with rising stars Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen on fine form as the distant love interests.
11: It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
The desolation of suburbia set to a ‘to die for’ eerie electronic score, with the deliberately underplayed theme of STI’s jarring with the escalation that horror demands. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows tapped into the everyday to create an evocative film filled with dread that thrillingly nodded to the genre classics of the 1970’s and 80’s, led by Maika Monroe’s protagonist whom is refreshing within the confines of the genre in her tormented and engaging nature.
10: Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle)
A project hindered by various dropouts. Accentuated by the initial apprehension of its eventual leading man. Yet the triple threat of director Danny Boyle, writer Aaron Sorkin and actor Michael Fassbender created an enthralling portrait of a technological pioneer in Steve Jobs, with all the difficulties that come with such unflinching ambition. At one stage, he may not have been able to get a computer to speak. Yet ‘Jobs is a timely reminder that heavyweight verbal tussles can be just as compelling as glossy big-budget spectacle.
9: Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
Grabbing my attention early with its wonderful poster riff on The Third Man with its final product treating gripped audiences like well.. Prisoners. Denis Villeneuve’s palm-sweatingly tense drugs thriller cemented him at the top of the directorial game. From the taut house of horrors opening to the chillingly still observation that stifles its closing moments, the tight trio of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro all proved fittingly intoxicating in their performances.
8: Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
Where so many Shakespearean re-imaginings play it safe, Justin Kurzel’s remarkable version of Macbeth embraced the vigour and verve that was similar of Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus and crafted an absolute stunner. Almost like our once bated breath suddenly saturates the immersive battle sequences, the emphasis on powerful psychology merely played to the strengths of its murderous double act Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. All reunited for Assassin’s Creed. On this outstanding evidence. It’s no wonder fans are salivating at the prospect…
7: 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
With his previous effort Weekend, it was all about the heartbreak of the immediate attraction. In the tremendous 45 Years, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay convey the late unraveling of their lengthy marriage with painstaking looks that linger long in the memory, complimented by the immaculate minimalism of director Andrew Haigh’s direction and distinctive voice.
6: Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
Most Summer blockbusters so often get caught up in convoluted plotting. Try telling this to director George Miller. At the tender age of 70, his lean, mean, exhilarating machine that was Mad Max Fury Road dared to be sparse in dialogue and relentless in awe-inspiring spectacle. Measured in the madness of his iconic character, Tom Hardy’s steely presence was merely upstaged by the empowering excellence of Charlize Theron’s instantly iconic Imperator Furiosa. A grand and truly great statement of how big-budget fare should be done.
5: Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen)
The film that saw an animated giant go meta on us, Inside Out took the scare simplicity of the much-loved Monsters Inc. and amplified it to exquisite and tear-inducing effect. Talk of islands that resemble a Nintendo game menu to represent our core values. A remarkably simple sophistication to the visual tapestry that represents our own head space and the emotional buttons we press. A genre that is so often tagged as kids fare. I suspect many adults could have benefited from such an incredible work in their younger years…
4: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J Abrams)
10 years on from the questionable quality of the completed prequels. The Force Awakens to much relief banished any lingering negativity that we may have to rename its director Jar Jar Abrams. As much a crowd-pleasing shot of nostalgia with the return of beloved favourites (Ford’s Han Solo/Fisher’s Leia) as it was a supremely confident leap into a hopeful future for the franchise led by impressive newcomers (Boyega’s Finn/Ridley’s Rae). Promising a new trilogy. Excited by its start. In the hands of Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow, i can’t wait to see how it finishes…
3: Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
The blood, beads of sweat and the tears that is poured into Damien Chazelle’s dazzling Whiplash, made for a feverish and ferocious experience whose body-horror tendencies are viscerally realised. In a world where ambition is often frowned upon and the mere idea of saying ‘good job!’ is disregarded, Miles Teller’s under-appreciated fearlessness in the face of the monstrous ‘dictator’ J.K Simmons proved a dizzying double act, leading us to a finale that deserved multiple ovations.
2: Carol (Todd Haynes)
From the outset, Todd Hayne’s achingly beautiful Carol is quite simply the most breathtaking and generous of gifts that isn’t that far away from cinematic heaven. The sheer restraint and care of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara’s on-screen showings as they depict a spellbinding relationship in an era of great oppression, leaves you entranced and almost banishing the idea of this being a film. Measured. Mesmeric. Masterful.
1: Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
A potentially throwaway shot of Antoine-Olivier Pilon’s Steve swinging a trolley around in dizzying fashion. The breathtaking and hope-filled expansion of the aspect ratio to the potent and poignant montage consisting of the dreams one had for their sibling, set to an eclectic soundtrack (Oasis and Ludovico Einaudi mere examples). Director Xavier Dolan takes the themes of his already stellar back catalogue, to create a heart wrenching masterpiece centered around a mother’s (Anne Dorval’s brilliant Diane) unbreakable bond with the unpredictable behaviour of her ADHD-suffering son. Nothing feeling wasted. Every visual or musical choice creating a moment that is imprinted on the mind. At only 26, i can only wonder in amazement just how much more Dolan can grow in stature as a director. Astonishing.