Staff Picks: Best of 2015 Part 1

Staff - January 21, 2016

Lucas

1. Horse Money

The almost overwhelmingly poetic journey into the subconscious of a traumatized immigrant is the best film of the year; its shadowy cinematography and experimental dialogue are not for everyone (there were a few walkouts at International House), but it will stick to your mind for days.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller's apocalyptic symphony from hell was the blockbuster we never knew we needed so much: it's intense, beautifully shot, surprisingly progressive, and single-handedly showed us the enormous potential of action films made under the right circumstances.

3. The Assassin

Quoting Kleber Mendonça Filho, no film has been as committed to the goal of making every frame a painting since Barry Lyndon.

4. Carol

Though less biting than the Douglas Sirk masterpieces that inspired it, Carol is a beautiful melodrama that is simultaneously restrained and heart-melting; the kind of film that shows you the trick and then tricks you anyway.

5. 45 Years

The performance powerhouse of the year: simple in its seamless cinematography and straightforward plot, complex in its emotional build-up.

Nikhil

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Few films use the form of film in such a turbocharged blaze of Technicolor brilliance. Fury Road shouldn't exist, and some moments in the film are so unreal that it feels like it doesn't.

2. Victoria (podcast)

This one-take wonder from German director Sebastian Schipper is another cinematic marvel that isn't about the gimmick of its unbroken shot (unlike last year's one-shot Oscar winner Birdman). Daring, moving, a sight to behold.

3. Creed (podcast)

Along with Fury Road, Jurassic World, Furious 7, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 can be said to be the year of the satisfying sequel. Creed joins the ranks of Fury Road as a film that uses the sequel format to continue the story of its predecessors while crafting a legacy of its own.

4. Badlapur

Not enough people know who Sriram Raghavan is, but his brand of Indian neo-noir consistently outperforms everything else in Bollywood; this is one of the best crime yarns of the year, with an arid bleakness that smells like an almost empty bottle of scotch that's been left out in the open for a while. And the opening shot is genius in its own subversive way.

5. The Hateful Eight

Tarantino's latest is a locked-room mystery that turns your heart ice cold when you witness the nastiness of its characters. After a disappointing and indulgent Django Unchained, Tarantino returns with one of his most mature works till date.

Ritwik

1. Spotlight

Although Spotlight does not draw attention to its technical aspects much like 2015’s other films, it succeeds in telling a thrilling and gut-punching story through the brilliant work of its cast and pitch-perfect script.

2. Steve Jobs

Following the success of The Social Network, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin delivers another masterful script, bolstered by a revelatory turn by Michael Fassbender and crackling dialogue that is far more thrilling than any action you’ll find in a Hollywood blockbuster.

3. Sicario

2015’s most brooding and bleak movie is Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, which blends high octane set pieces smart, layered storytelling. Also, that border scene contains the year’s most suspenseful and nerve-wracking moments.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

There’s not much to say about this absolute gem of a film - George Miller’s return to the Mad Max saga after three decades is quite simply an action masterpiece.

5. What We Do in the Shadows

Criminally underseen, this vampire mockumentary won me over despite my dislike for most comedies, while proving the power and delight of original films in a franchise-heavy landscape.

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Alex

1. World of Tomorrow

The quirks of digital animation are exploited to disorienting effect in World of Tomorrow, echoing director Don Hertzfeldt’s similarly disorienting picture of the far future; the film packs themes such as time, fate, and genetics into 16 minutes, offering further evidence for Hertzfeldt’s status as an important creative voice in contemporary filmmaking.

2. Entertainment

The campy bars, seedy hotels, and empty expanses found in Entertainment will unsettle viewers, and for a good reason; the irony of a comedian traveling through the desert, an entertainer with no audience, reflects a profound nihilism that lacks the importance to call itself tragic and marks Rick Alverson’s latest film among this year’s more provocative cinematic statements.

3. Anomalisa

A sense of disillusionment haunts the hotel where Anomalisa is set, in which old age thwarts the romantic and creative interests of an acclaimed customer service writer. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s thoughtful dialogue, perceptive script, and surreal images eerily amplify the threatening undercurrents of everyday interactions, returning to the fatalism characteristic of Kaufman’s strange and lonely alternate reality.

4. Inside Out

As touching as it is entertaining, Inside Out deftly navigates between characters’ mental states and the external world with undiminished lucidity. The film’s playful character design, quality animation, and imaginative premise prove Pixar again to be a leader in animated storytelling.

5. Creed

The pacing of Creed is like that of a good music video: moving not in unison with the unfolding events, but in counterpoint. Long takes, slow motion, and incidental shots charge Adonis Creed’s rise to stardom with subtle environmental details that sports films rarely linger on - Creed successfully appeals to longtime fans while sustaining the narrative energy to stand on its own.

Rahel

1. Dope

In this engaging comedy, a group of self-professed high school geeks living in Inglewood, California, accidentally come across a backpack full of dope. They must find a quick way to get rid of it before the drug dealers who own it find out. With its developed characters and a mix of 90s nostalgia and present-day culture, Dope cleverly presents darker aspects of these kids’ lives in humorous ways without failing to legitimize their struggles.

2. Inside Out

Inside Out cleverly explores our daily interactions with our own emotions. By personifying the emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear, this light-hearted film explains how our emotions can affect our lives. It’s sure to tug at your heartstrings as it shows what it’s like to be inside the head of an 11-year-old girl.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Though it’s been thirty years since director George Miller returned to the wasteland, Fury Road still contains the rampant energy and excitement found in his previous Mad Max films. This time, Max (Tom Hardy) teams up with Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to save a group of imprisoned women from a villainous and tyrannical overlord (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In what is essentially a two-hour road chase, Fury Road tells much of the story through visuals, rather than through dialogue. It encapsulates its audience with an amazing combination of dazzling visuals, stunts, and practical effects.

4. Magic Mike: XXL

This light-hearted comedic sequel still retains the charm of the original, but ditches much of its melodrama. Channing Tatum returns as the stripper Magic Mike, who takes a break from his furniture business to join his buddies on a road trip to South Carolina, where they take part in a stripper competition. Though the film’s plot is predictable, it’s still satisfying to watch the friendships develop, and to meet some new characters along the way.

5. Reality

In this engaging and nonlinear drama, a cameraman pitches a horror movie to a studio executive and is given 48 hours to record an Oscar-winning scream for the film. The events are explored through multiple timelines, thus leaving the audience to piece together what is really occurring.

Check out Pt. 2 of our Best of 2015 list!