Top Ten Films 2015

Just to be upfront with you all, I have not been on my game this year when it comes to getting my arse out to the cinema to catch all the new releases. One thing and another, and another, and another, has stepped in my way over the last 12 months and I’ve missed out on several of the year’s most acclaimed movies.

That said I’ve still seen plenty of good stuff, and here’s my rundown of the best.

10. Inherent Vice

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As baffling and hallucinogenic as Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of a 70s noir told through the eyes of a stoned PI is lots of fun even when it’s totally bizarre (which is most of the time).

Joaquin Phoenix proves to be a hilarious comedy lead, and the perfect vessel through which to tell such an offbeat tale.

9. The Hallow

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British director Corin Hardy’s silver screen debut is about as perfect a horror film (for me) as they come. For someone who grew up on the Evil Dead films, and has huge respect for the creation of new and original monsters, Hardy’s Irish Faery Tale is a brilliant twisted story, filled with the perfect blend of chills and thrills.

Major kudos to Hardy and his team for knowing the benefit of practical effects, and using them wherever possible to truly add to a horrifying situation.

8. Ant-Man

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The film that everyone predicted would flop. The one that drove Edgar Wright away (Boo Marvel) and seemed destined to fail…was actually really good fun: A comedic heist movie played as a small (on all levels) story utilising super-powers as a backdrop from which to reveal great characters. I loved it.

There’s still plenty of Wright’s influence on the script and in the many visual gags, which adds something unique to the MCU. It’s just a shame we’ll never get to see Wright’s original vision, as I’m sure that would have taken it to a different level.

7. Beasts of no Nation

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Released in select cinemas and Netflix on the same day, Cary Fukunaga’s (True Detective) film about the horrors of violence and the impact it has on children is hugely powerful. The story rests on the performances of Idris Elba and young lead Abraham Atta, and in these two capable actors’ hands the film is elevated ten-fold.

It’s a tragic watch, particularly the moment in which Agu (Atta) mistakes a terrified woman for his mother. This powerful image alone tells you all you need to know about the impact of war on the minds of men.

6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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After so many years slagging off the prequels, perhaps the greatest thing about JJ Abrams Episode VII is that it got us all smiling and in love with a galaxy far far away again. Admittedly, like other Abrams films, the story has faults which become apparent on closer scrutiny, but the crucial thing is that whilst sitting in a cinema seat The Force Awakens delivers a complete thrill ride.

I’ll be back to see it at least another couple of times on the big screen, and already looking forward to watching the blu-ray on repeat for years to come.

5. Assassination Classroom

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An alien comes to earth after destroying half of our moon and decides to start teaching a failing high-school class in Japan. The subject of his lessons: How to assassinate him. They have until graduation to complete the job and if they fail he will destroy the Earth too.

Hands down the most batshit insane film I’ve ever seen. This is Japanese cinema at its most playful, imaginative and offbeat. I laughed so hard at this film, as much for how ridiculous it was as how funny the gags were. But importantly I had an amazing time watching it.

4. Macbeth

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The most visually arresting retelling of Shakespeare’s masterwork as has ever been. For purists of the Bard this is most likely not a great experience, abridged as it is, with much of the dialogue delivered in hazy mumbles of delirium. But for those who know the story well and want to get lost in the world of the characters, this is just the ticket.

Scotland becomes a mythical quagmire, beset on all sides by fog and ultimately by flame. DoP Adam Arkapaw creates an intoxicating landscape in which the titular character’s madness becomes all the more palpable. And Fassbender’s performance is totally magnetic. You will lose yourself in the experience.

3. Selma

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Released in the UK just before the oscars, and somehow snubbed in all the major categories, this biopic of Martin Luther King, set around the events that led to the marches in Selma 1965 immediately became one of THE important movies about the civil rights movement. I cannot believe Ava DuVernay was left out of the Best Director category. The shots of the bridge in Selma alone are worthy of a gold statue, and then the central performance by David Oyelowo, well, it’s the kind of thing that makes being a film fanatic so worthwhile.

I made a list a while back of films that all schools should show. Selma makes that list without breaking a sweat. I hope all young people get to see it and then learn from it.

2. Whiplash

Left to right: Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

I saw this back in February and at that point thought nothing would beat it to film of the year. As a musician and someone constantly in the pursuit of certain ambitions, this film truly hit home for me. There’s never been such a visceral visual representation of the dilemma of what it means to be great.

J.K. Simmons was (rightfully) given the Best Supporting Actor oscar for this. His tyrannical tutor Fletcher is a scary reminder that sometimes it takes being berated and beaten down to get the best out of ourselves. And in doing so it asks the question, was Fletcher right to turn his students suicidal with pressure? The truth is more ambiguous, but the results can’t be denied. Like 2014’s Nightcrawler this is a horror story for the go-getter generation

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

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By far the best film of 2015. This is the quite simply the perfect film. Technically stunning, visually arresting, impeccably choreographed, uniquely original, filled with characters who act in accordance with who they are as people, detailed with so much authentic world-building…I could go on. So I will.

It’s rare for me to come out of a cinema and be so supercharged with excitement that I can’t stop talking. I usually turn quite insular after a film whilst I reflect on what my rounded opinion is, but with Mad Max: Fury Road I just couldn’t hold on to my mouth. It left my jaw on the floor, and having now re-watched five more times I can confirm that it just gets better.

Like Wolf of Wall Street, Mad Max is a seasoned filmmaker creating something with 100 times more fight and passion than the younger generations. It’s a lesson in cinema and it deserves to win all the awards ever!

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

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