Meredith’s Top 10 Movies Of 2015
I had a tougher time ranking films this year than I ever have before. I don’t know why that is - we were rich in great films for 2015, but if you’re willing to look beyond tentpole releases, pretty much every year is rich in great films. But for some reason, though I felt fairly confident in whittling my list down to the below movies, I balked internally every time I thought about ranking these ten titles against each other. All I know, and what I know with bone-deep conviction, is that Crimson Peak was my favorite film of 2015. Other than that, I’m at a loss.
So, in alphabetical order, and with immense gratitude for a year of such beautiful and varied cinema:
AMIRA & SAM
It feels a hundred years since I first saw Amira & Sam at Forever Fest, but as a festival release, Sean Mullins’ love story between veteran and immigrant wasn’t eligible for my 2014 list, and here I am, thirteen months later, still swayed by its small beauty and bright humor. This is a tale of oddballs and outsiders whose love for each other helps them belong for the first time in their lives. It’s funny and lovely and deserves your attention if you missed it over the past year.
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson tap into something elemental with Anomalisa, an indispensable truth that can rattle and move you and reveal something unknowable within you. It’s a movie that knows who you are, what you fear and dread and want. It’s a terribly sad film, but also a beautiful one, the weird and lovely animation bringing to light its devastating themes in a way that live action just couldn’t. Anomalisa doesn’t shy away from a very unhappy honesty, making it one of the bravest films of this year, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also very, very funny.
A sweeping gothic romance rife with everything that entails: forbidden love, ghosts portending evil, a mysterious and dashing stranger who devotes himself to our plain jane protagonist, a drafty old castle that is sinking into the crimson clay on which it sits. The gothic romance is perhaps my favorite literary sub-genre, and Guillermo del Toro delivered a stunning example that I will treasure forever.
Alex Garland’s directorial debut is a perfect sci-fi novella brought to vivid, enormously visual life. It examines the weighty male ego and unseemly motivations in the shadow of scientific progress, using a tiny cast and one location to tell a story as big and profound as the universe, or as small and personal as “boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy loses girl.” There are no heroes here, but Team Ava nevertheless.
Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have crafted the most perfect feeling of dread in their family horror flick, a wire-tight suspension that feels as if, any moment, the wheels could fly off, leaving the entire structure to collapse in a fiery end. It’s gorgeously made and wickedly conceived, and lodges itself in your brain for good.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
The action, made up largely of practical stunts, is breathtaking, the world is absorbing, but what I love best about George Miller’s long-awaited return to the universe of Mad Max are the hundreds of tiny, subtle ways that this film tells the story of women. His name might be in the title, but Max is smart enough to know that this is Furiosa’s story, and it’s a heartbreaking, enraging, absolutely triumphant story.
I saw this film back to back with Crimson Peak, and it was a testament to the immense and changing talent of Jessica Chastain. But let’s be honest - this is Matt Damon’s movie, and he expresses fear, loneliness, determination and wry humor in a way that makes The Martian that much more rousing and deeply felt. It’s a film that celebrates the adaptable, applicable brilliance of an engineer’s mind, but The Martian also reminds us that without the undying cooperation of those on the ground, Mark Watney never would have made it home.
With Room, director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue, adapting from her own novel, manage to make the small vast and the vast very small. Though the tiny shed in which Ma and Jack are held captive can feel awfully claustrophobic, the love these two share, and the boundless imagination that Ma helps to foster, have a powerful transformative effect on their surroundings. Room is a tribute to that love and imagination and, thanks to a tremendous Brie Larson, it is also a tribute to strength.
Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight takes one of the biggest, most dramatic stories of our time - the Catholic Archdiocese child molestation scandal - and presents it in a quiet, straightforward narrative. The score is small and unassuming, and the story is presented without manipulation, because McCarthy understands that the story itself is so significant, so profoundly upsetting, that it needs none. Spotlight is also a presentation of extremely good journalism, the kind that requires months of street-hitting, book-hitting legwork by assiduous and intelligent writers who only want to reveal the truth.
Paul Feig gave Melissa McCarthy the role she has long needed, and she certainly didn’t squander it. As meek desk jockey turned super spy, Susan Cooper proves herself to be brave, brash, sexy and hilarious, and Spy updated the James Bond myth in a much more subversive way than the handsome, white, thin, straight, British - but poor! - Eggsy of Kingsman could do. Both movies are fun, funny and liable to get a crowd up on its feet, but only one of those films stars Melissa McCarthy at the top of her game.
Honorable mentions: 45 Years, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, Hateful Eight, I’ll See You in My Dreams, It Follows, Kingsman, The Look of Silence, Mistress America, Sicario and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.