Evan Paszamant ’18
2015 has been an outstanding year for Hollywood. Both Walt Disney Studios and Universal Studios have had their highest grossing years ever, courtesy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Age of Ultron for Disney, and Jurassic World and Furious 7 for Universal. Personally I was not a huge fan of Jurassic World, but hey money is money right? Anyway, besides the blockbuster movies of 2015, there were also many smaller films (i.e Tangerine and Son of Saul) that won over the crowds as well. I created this list with no order in mind but all of the movies listed deserve to be on this top 10 list. As you might know, Dr. P has already written an article about his top 10 films of 2015. It’s a tough article to follow. Yes I am giving my own list to show a comparison but in no way am I saying that my list is better. That’s for you to start a conversation about and to decide. If you want to ever want to talk about any of these movies or others not mentioned, I’m all ears!
- Straight Outta Compton
Set in 1998, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of the groundbreaking new group N.W.A’s first album, Straight Outta Compton, depicting a brutal, painful life in Southern California. Originally I was not keen on seeing this movie since I had no idea who N.W.A was and I’m not a big Hip-Hop fan. This movie though is so much more than the music. The movie goes in-depth into the FBI’s involvement against the group and doesn’t leave much out, compared to some movies these days that are claimed to be “based on a true story.” It shows how, given time, friends can turn into enemies and enemies can turn into friends. Did I mention how amazing the soundtrack to this movie is? Though Straight Outta Compton may not be your traditional movie or one you would imagine yourself seeing, it is definitely one of the best films of the year. Not necessarily an Oscar contender, but still a very good movie.
When I originally watched the trailer for this movie, I was intrigued but not for the reason why I ultimately fell in love with the movie. I thought that I was seeing a comedy about two transgender sex workers who go in search for one of their cheating boyfriends, who is also their pimp. I’m sure that one day, somebody will use that same plotline to create a comedy, but Tangerine is not that movie. Sure I laughed, but there was so much more to the story and the characters. This was one of those movies where I fell in love with the characters, and that seldom happens to me. The two female characters had so much depth, exposing the layers of dealing with conflict as well as reality. This movie is not one to be missed. Another awesome tidbit about this film is that it was made using an iPhone! Nobody really wanted to produce the film, so the director decided to film it using his iPhone. Some directors, including Mad Max’s George Miller, are planning on making an iPhone-filmed movie in years to come.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Oh what a lovely day it was when legendary director George Miller announced that he was creating the fourth film in the Mad Max saga. What fans and moviegoers didn’t know though was that this film would be ranked as one of the best films of the year by numerous newspapers and film organizations. Mad Max Fury Road tells the story of Max and Furiosa, at first trying to escape the wrath of Immortan Joe, but later trying to conquer him and his army. The film is pretty much a 2-hour apocalyptic car chase with every psychotic car, insane weapon or wild character imaginable. What I love about this movie is that it is easy to follow and is not like any other action movie I have seen. You know a rough plot of the movie but you do not know how things are going to happen. One of the reasons the film is so unique is that it’s edited with lots of different rapid cuts. The film is edited to perfection by George Miller’s wife, Margaret Sixel. My fingers are crossed that she will win best film editing at the Oscars! Lastly, unlike so many movies these days, Mad Max Fury Road uses very little computer generated imagery (CGI). All of the stunts, explosions and chase scenes were actually filmed on location. This makes the movie so believable. The little CGI used in the movie was merely to create some adjustments to the background and some additions to sandstorms.
This movie is giving Pixar’s Inside Out a run for it’s money for best animated feature film at the Oscar’s this year. Personally I still favor Inside Out but Anomalisa is a very close second. Unlike Inside Out, Anomalisa is a very realistic story about an emotionless man going through a midlife crisis. The film takes place in a high end hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, and centers around a man trying to compose himself for a presentation to a major company as well as trying to find love once again. I know what you’re thinking, “Claymation cannot be serious! I mean look at Tim Burton movies!” To be honest, there have actually been some major serious claymation movies in past, most notably the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s very depressing film Mary and Max. However, Anomalisa is beautifully created to a point where the film’s characters feel more human than actors in some live action films. Another thing that makes this film so unique is that since it is more of an adult movie (this film is not for kids 12 and under!) the film can add more adult content. I cannot write what happens in this movie because it is not “school appropriate” but trust me when I say that this film is definitely worth watching.
- Inside Out
Inside Out. I had so much faith in this movie when I first heard about its’ concept a few years ago and had even more faith when I saw the first trailer. This movie really is something special. First off, Inside Out has one of the best voice casts of any animated film. You can really hear and feel the emotions of the emotions. Second, the story is beautifully crafted and is one of the best story lines Pixar has ever made. Maybe that’s why the screenplay is nominated for an Oscar. It is so easy to follow and everyone can relate to this movie one way or another. Sure the movie has quite a few sad moments, but in the end, after you go through every emotion, this movie really pulls out the best in you. Though I still find myself considering Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast to be my favorite animated films of all time, Inside Out comes in at a close 3rd.
- It Follows
Over the past decade or so, more and more horror movies have been using the cheesy jump-scare effect to trigger fearful reactions from the audience. In my opinion, jump-scares kill a horror movie. The music always builds up and quickly gets quiet for 3 seconds before the scare and the entire audience knows what’s about to happen. Most modern horror directors believe that by adding jump-scares into their movies, it will create greater scares than a horror/thriller movie with an incredible script building up to the climax of the film (Silence of the Lambs). Fortunately, It Follows, by David Robert Mitchell, has a great build up and does not rely on jump-scares to terrify the audience. If only more horror movies would follow in It Follows’ footsteps. It Follows tells the story of a girl who is trying to run away from a curse that is passed sexually. She is continuously chased by ghosts of the curse’s past and tries to get help from her friends who cannot see the curse’s victims. Beautifully filmed and the soundtrack is killer. I might even go to say that this is in the top ten list of best horror films of all time. Maybe I’ll make that list later on down the road….
A dramatic look into the spiraling path of fame, Amy tells the hopeful and tragic story of award winning singer, Amy Winehouse. The documentary is very broad in the information it covers about Amy Winehouse’s life and is pleasing to the eyes. I find some documentaries to have very poor film quality, but the team behind Amy was able to take some of the best footage from the artist’s life and blend it seamlessly with her incredible music. Amy Winehouse’s music was always able to tell a story and the documentary is able to do the same thing. Another thing I love about this documentary is that the interviews with other people are only in audio form rather than cutting away to show the interview happening. This allows the viewer to remain focused on Amy’s story rather than focussing in on the interview. All in all, a great documentary. My money’s on Amy winning best full length documentary at the Academy Awards this year.
- Son of Saul
What makes Son of Saul so unique, besides the fact that it is a foreign language film, is that it gives American audiences a new perspective and a different tone towards Europe in WWII, specifically during the Holocaust. The film takes place during a day and a half in the life of a Jewish concentration camp prisoner who is also a member of the Sonderkommando, a prisoner assigned to burn the dead. When Saul is working one day, he spots a dead body who he ultimately takes to be his own son, and so he goes in search of a rabbi to properly bury him. However, at the same time, a group of prisoners begin to plot a sabotage of one of the camp’s crematoriums. As you can expect from a film about the Holocaust, Son of Saul is a painful, disturbing, and hard film to watch. The world really needs more films like it. The director, Laszlo Nemes, leaves nothing out of this film. He goes into the grittier side of the Holocaust by filming from a prisoner’s perspective which not a lot of films cover. He also did not cheaply create this film. Nemes painstakingly made sure that every detail was precise including the design of the film’s focal point, the crematorium. He hired a museum historian and expert from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to recreate the crematorium exactly how it was during the camp’s operational days. Do not let the subtitles ward you away from this film. Son of Saul is meant to be seen by everyone and really is one of the most powerful films made in recent memory.
- Still Alice
Based on the incredible and impactful novel written by Lisa Genova, Still Alice tells the story of a Columbia University linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early onset alzheimer’s disease. The audience slowly begins to see Alice unravel starting with forgetting her daily jogging path to ultimately forgetting her own family. It is a sad story to say the least but the Academy Award Winning portrayal of Alice by Julianne Moore proves to be one of the best performances of the year. Julianne Moore is not playing herself in this movie, she is playing a woman slowly falling away from life. I’m sad to say this, but a lot of films nowadays really cast the wrong actors and actresses to play roles and all the audience sees in these characters are the people playing them. However, that is not the case in Still Alice. Kristen Stewart plays Alice’s daughter who is trying to become a professional actress but ultimately comes to aid her ailing mother. One of the saddest movies of the year and yet the most touching, Still Alice is one movie you cannot miss. Also, for those who enjoyed the book and fear that the movie cannot compare, I have heard (though I still have to read the book) that the movie is pretty spot on!
I’m arguing that this is best film of the year. Both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s brilliant performances really deserve Academy Awards (Brie Larson more than Jacob but both still very good performances). The direction and screenplay in this movie is so breathtaking and different. The script sounds so unique. I can’t really describe the writing style except to say that it sounds so innocent, like a child speaking. It immerses you into the story so deeply that you begin to love and hate some of the characters and change your opinions of them throughout the film. Based on the novel of the same name, which is loosely based off of the Fritzl case, Room tell the story of Ma and her son Jack who are held hostage in a 10×10 ft shed for 5 years in their captor’s backyard. The audience follows their story from living everyday in a room to escaping their captor, ultimately attempting to live a “normal” life. Even though Ma had seen the world before, the only world that her son, Jack, knew was the world his Ma made for him in their room. Jack slowly begins to understand the difference between real and imaginary and what the world really is. This transformation in Jack is really what makes this film so special and both heartbreaking and heartwarming to Room’s viewers.
Movies that are excellent that didn’t make it to my list:
Beasts of No Nation