I’m not quite ready to call my top ten reads of 2015 – not least because I can squeeze in at least one more after The Dark is Rising, and the candidates to pick up feature prominently on other Top Tens for 2015. So, you know, opportunity for a late entrance. Now I’ve seen Stars Wars, I am ready to call my top 10 films of 2015.
I’ve seen just over a dozen films at the cinema this year, which suggests films have a shot at the top ten that don’t really deserve it (San Andreas, I’m looking at you). But as I’m not precious about release date and I saw lots more movies on aeroplanes and small screen release, I’m going to consider all films I saw for the first time in 2015.
Outside the top 3 and in no particular order:
Ex Machina – I saw this recently and I still almost forgot it. You might think that’s a bad sign; quite the opposite. It’s such good scifi, I’m still processing. Consciousness, right to life, gender politics, complicity – it’s all here, in a stunningly shot package that will horrify anyone who picks it up thinking ‘ooh Oscar Isaac, he’s the hot one from Star Wars‘.
Mission Impossible Rogue Nation – unexpectedly beat seven shades out of Spectre by giving us a kick-ass female agent who never requires rescuing or romancing, and understood that the government makes a far better villain than a shadowy terrorist mastermind with a white cat. I need to watch this again to satisfy my new crush on Rebecca Ferguson.
Jurassic World – this summer’s present to my inner child. Jurassic Park was the first film I saw twice, and Sam Neill seeing his first dinosaur still makes me well up. Jurassic World is the best film in the franchise since (I know, faint praise). Yes, it’s trope-tastic, jumps the shark and has those heels (there were bigger issues, frankly), but yay, velociraptors!
The Theory of Everything – I’ve been a bit of a fan of Eddie Redmayne’s for a while, and it’s wonderful watching him seize centre-stage alongside the Cumberbatch as a star of his generation. However excited I am about watching him snog Whishaw in The Danish Girl next year (and oh, I am), his performance in Theory is eerie and the film is as uplifting as you’d expect. Award bait? Sure, but it earns them.
Cake – oh my god, Jennifer Aniston can act! I loved this darkly funny and moving tale of a woman lashing out at those around her as she struggles to come to terms with chronic illness and overwhelming grief. I watched it back to back with Wild, and it did Reese Witherspoon’s award effort no favours, as Cake won hands-down on story, characters, acting and pace.
Whiplash – I am conflicted about Full Metal Jazz. It more than earns a place here purely for J K Simmons, whose ferocity carries the beat from start to finish, but it is all about macho bullying. And it sort of validates it, which bothers me a lot. But I can’t take my eyes off it. And the drumming is amazing.
Steve Jobs – A fascinating character on a personal journey that changed the world. It’s a sharp Sorkin script, a fabulous Kate Winslet in support, and frankly I can watch Fassbender do pretty much anything anyway. Then it hit me in the feelings at the end, even if I know how awful it would be to work for someone like this.
Best of the best, counting up:
3 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
We’ve finally got the
remake sequel we’ve been waiting for. Darth Emo and the Giant Goblinking take on a new band of plucky reprobates and discover that girls can be a handful. Ren is my second crush of 2015, and her costume is a cosplayer’s gift. I’m not a cosplayer. I could be a cosplayer. Episode VII channels Episode IV with extra awesome and a side of classic cheese, for an outcome of total win.
2 – Mad Max: Fury Road
The marvellous Charlize Theron (hello crush number three) is a woman warrior in a man’s post-apocalypse, with Tom Hardy strictly in laconic support. Sure it’s possible to pick holes in the feminism, but with middle-aged lady bikers, a politicized harem and the eponymous hero handing the big fucking gun to Furiosa to take the shot because he’s not sure he can, this merits a place near the top.
1 – Inside Out
Beats Mad Max to the top spot because even trying to write about it makes me cry. Um, give me a sec. Right. This is up there with the Toy Story trilogy for delivering clever, funny, insightful human comedy in unexpected ways. Abstract thought! Broccoli pizza! Fly with me… When Pixar is bad, it’s still pretty good; when it’s good it is stellar. This may be their best yet.
The Second-Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – wins the ‘top rant about tea’ award. Take note, American cousins: how we take our tea is the one thing we Brits are really militant about. Not taking tea in spite of being British is also a way of taking tea, just so we’re clear. It’s still a strong opinion on tea, see. It was tough not including this in my top ten, because it has all the charm.
Paddington – wins the ‘most British film of the year’ award. Already a household feel-good favourite. Is there anything Ben Whishaw can’t do?
Locke – wins the ‘it’s much better than it sounds, honest’ award for being a radio play with a screensaver of Tom Hardy driving down an English motorway. You can tell it’s an English motorway – he never runs out of roadworks.
The Program – wins the ‘he did what?’ award for Ben Foster’s dedication to his art. Ben Foster apparently took what he had to in order to get under the skin of Lance Armstrong, but the outcome is an excellent watch.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (I & II) – wins the ‘more endings than Return of the King’ award. I’m not a fan of splitting films, so it’s ironic that Mockingjay Pt 1 and Harry Potter 7A (Harry on Camping) are probably my favourite films in their respective franchises. Part 2 had great set-pieces, but became a flabby narrative mess with dodgy pacing.
Finally, nods to Birdman for technical and artistic excellence; and Into the Woods, which was all set to win the ‘Alan Rickman Award for Scenery Chewing’ until I saw The Force Awakens. Unfortunately for Meryl Streep and Chris Pine, Domhnall Gleeson wins the award for chewing scenery hands-down. I foresee a long and illustrious career now he’s added this coveted talent to his already impressive resume.
Guilty pleasures prizes to:
Black Sea for doing exactly what it looked like it would
San Andreas for being a brilliant night out for all the wrong reasons.
Dishonour and disdain
…to Spectre for reverting to sexist wish fulfillment bullshit and to Blackhat for managing to make the technology the most believable thing in it. My reaction to both is entirely a product of disappointment. I hate being so let down.