About a month ago, as I sat down to write a list of my favourite movies of 2015, I realized I hadn’t seen nearly enough films in 2015. So over winter break I sat down and binge-watched the best of film last year, and here are the results, ranked according to both quality of filmmaking and my personal favorability towards the films. Unfortunately, this means this list is a bit subjective, so I apologize in advance for any inclusions or exclusions. Due to release dates in Victoria, some films have been left off the list (sorry, Leo), but all other films were fair game. If you disagree with any of my choices, feel free to find me in the Martlet offices and apologize for your bad taste.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Most of the time when you want to say why you enjoyed a movie, you start with what was good. What did the movie do well? What parts stuck out for the right reasons? For Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s easier to start with what was bad. The answer? Close to nothing. The acting is impeccable. World building is ambitious and enjoyable. The action — what the movie should excel at — is constant but always thrilling, somehow continuously pushing things beyond the high bars it sets throughout the movie. It says something when you have a flaming car explode in a tornado and you still manage to raise the ante. A strong female lead and the lack of a shoehorned romance is one of many cherries on top. If you haven’t seen it, what are you doing? This is the movie of 2015. Seriously.
I was not expecting to enjoy Carol. A slow, moving film about a shopgirl falling in love with a married woman in 1950s New York, it certainly isn’t the kind of film I expected to enjoy. With that said, Carol surprised me more than any other film last year. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara received Golden Globe nominations for their roles, and it’s easy to see why; their characters differ but still maintain a beautiful chemistry, and while the romance takes most of the film to develop, you never feel like things are moving too quickly. The soundtrack by Carter Burwell is my favourite of the year, and the ending of the movie is gratifying but not melodramatic. This is an understated film, but it definitely isn’t underappreciated — it’s on many best-of year-end lists for 2015, and for very good reason.
Unlike some of the others on this list, Spotlight was not a fun film. The movie, set in early 2000s Boston, is based on the true events surrounding a team of journalists at the Boston Globe and their investigation into abuse within the Catholic Church. Instead of a laugh-a-minute flick, Spotlight offers a perfect example of how to work with an all-star cast and make a film not dependent on shocking and spectacular action sequences but rather an important subject, a great director, and some superb performances. Mark Ruffalo is phenomenal, and the rest of the Hollywood A-listers do more than pull their weight. The pacing of the film is superb, and while the subject matter is intense, the movie never tries to spoon-feed morality or preach to you. Instead, it respects its viewers, allowing them to feel and discover along with its characters, ending on such a haunting note that the theatre where I watched the film stayed silent for several minutes afterwards.
Sometimes you experience a movie that you aren’t sure you liked, but then you catch yourself a week later still thinking about it and you realize how much of an impact it had. For me, Ex Machina was that film. This science-fiction indie film, which has all the hallmarks of a future cult classic, sees a young programmer administering the Turing Test — made to test the intelligence of a computer —to an android built and housed by his boss, a megalomaniac inventor. Ex Machina is a slow-burner, but it culminates in one of the most horrific and electrifying scenes I’ve ever watched, and its core messages are fascinating and worth thinking about. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson work well together as inventor and programmer respectively, and Alicia Vikander definitely deserves award consideration for her role as Ava, the android. Ex Machina uses science fiction not to amaze audiences with spectacular effects, but to ask questions we’ll probably end up pondering in the near future. If you want to watch a film that will intrigue you, seduce you, and perhaps even make you feel sick to your stomach, watch Ex Machina.
I wasn’t sure if this was a movie that I enjoyed as a Rocky fan or if it was actually a really good movie. But even if you don’t have a history of watching these kinds of films, I would recommend Creed. Sylvester Stallone is brilliant in reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, and Michael B. Jordan does an admirable job portraying the disenfranchised son of Apollo Creed. The boxing scenes are visceral and bloody, and the film unexpectedly turns into a bit of a tear-jerker as well. However, although the script hints at some interesting secondary characters and storylines, Creed frustrates in its inability to fully flesh them out. As far as soft reboots go, Creed still has a lot to teach other films (cough Star Wars cough) about reinvigorating a franchise while maintaining the same themes and feelings, and though it may not have anything new to say, it’s a feel-good film. And damn, did I feel good while watching it.