Posts Tagged ‘winter on fire’

My Ranked Films of 2015

March 26, 2016 Leave a comment

It’s hard to call one’s self a critic, or even an avid film enthusiast, without a top ten list to show for it at the end of the year. Granted, a year has not gone by in a couple of decades in which I haven’t put one together. However, if a list isn’t posted on the internet, does it really make a sound.

I originally intended for this to be smaller venture, but I couldn’t resist going a bit overboard. In result, I’ve done up a complete list counting down every movie that I’ve seen this year. It’s ranked, of course, since nothing seems to bring me better pleasure in life than ranking film-related material. It all leads up the my finalized top ten films of 2015. I’ve also thrown in an anecdote or two about each film, summing up what they all left me with.

Feel free to peruse, and stay tuned for the winners of the 6th Annual Edgy Awards in the coming week. Then, it’s officially on to 2016…


76. “San Andreas” – All of the endless forms of transportation utilized in this film couldn’t keep it from being the worst of the year. Too many ways to describe how horrid this film really is.

75. “Green Inferno” – What’s really hilarious is that this one of the better films I’ve seen by Eli Roth. Quite a curve he’s working on.

74. “Jupiter Ascending” – The apple falls very far from “The Matrix.” Creativity is abound, but any form of intelligence is out to lunch.

73. “The Cobbler” – Adam Sandler doesn’t need to cross his eyes or dress up like a woman for this film to be just as bad as the all the rest. Hard to believe the film’s writer/director created this mindless mess, while also helming one of the year’s best.

72. “Chappie” – One has to wonder exactly what happened to Neill Blomkamp’s talent, or if he ever had much to begin with? This film is pretentious in its own mindlessness and often times feels flat out alienating to its viewers.

71. “Blackhat” – The least thrilling thriller of the year. Sidebar: As a pioneer of digital filmmaking, why does Michael Mann insist in shooting with technologies that look like they’ve been dead for at least a decade?


70. “Aloha” – Cameron Crowe has really made himself the poster boy for “white people problem” movies. Emma Stone’s casting is just the icing on the cake.

69. “Serena” – An exhaustingly boring film to choke down. The magical chemistry of Cooper and Lawrence just could not bridge enough decades to fit this period piece.

68. “Goosebumps” – One couldn’t really go into this movie expecting a lot, but one could at least hope it could deliver a healthy dose of nostalgia. It did not.

67. Poltergeist” – I’d like to think that Rosemary DeWitt and Sam Rockwell could have knocked this out with a better script, but this film starts out “meh” and get’s worse along the way.

66. “Hot Girls Wanted” – Call me a sexist, but this ultimately feels like a documentary about people with job remorse. They can somehow try to spin this as abuse, but ultimately these girls all made their beds and now don’t want to sleep in them.

65. “Maggie” – Believe it or not, this flop is not Arnold’s fault. He certainly gives it his all in a beautifully understated role, but the film seems to be lacking in nearly all other arenas.

64. “Ricki and the Flash” – Despite a few decent musical numbers and a few satisfying moments, this film is jumbled full of characters who just don’t make a lot of sense.

63. “Crimson Peak” – Designed within an inch of it’s life, and don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous. However, the over-the-top story and characters strongly reduce any creepy scares or tension.

62. “Stonewall” – I’m usually not one to complain about historical inaccuracies, because they’re ultimately unavoidable to create a story. However, in this case, they seem to really get in the way of the story rather than aid it.

61. “Burnt” – This just isn’t Bradley Cooper’s year. Much like “Chef” last year, this film seems far more interested in generating food porn than creating decent conflict for its characters.


60. “Legend” – Tom Hardy has had some great performances this year and this is certainly no exception. The film starts out strong, and then falls victim to severe repetition, making it feel at least 30 minutes too long.

59. “Child 44” – Speaking of overlong Tom Hardy movies, this film’s heart is in the right place. Yet, as a functioning mystery, it lacks a real drive towards finding a satisfying solution.

58. “Youth” – Easily one of the most ostentatious films I’ve ever seen in my life. Tries so hard to invoke a Felliniesque quality (for shame), but instead comes up cold and distant. However, it is highlighted by the performance of Harvey Keitel’s career.

57. “Southpaw” – Oh so very by the numbers boxing movie. Sure the template is effective, but it certainly doesn’t make it worth watching. If there were a reason, it’s Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s electric, once again.

56. “Mr Holmes” – The character element of an aging Sherlock Holmes is intriguing, and is a match made in heaven with Sir Ian McKellen. However, as a whole, the movie is ultimately a bore.

55. “The Wolfpack” – The film seems to want to keep everything as cut and dry as possible, but at least a little production value might have been an improvement. At times, I sometimes felt that weirdness of this family was really worthy of a feature-length doc.

54. “Digging for Fire” – I never was a fan of Joe Swanberg’s version of mumblecore. Here, he has by far the most elaborate cast and production and he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with it.

53. “Spy” – It’s no “The Heat” and certainly no “Bridesmaids”. There certainly are a flourish of funny moments, but not enough to make this film thoroughly worthwhile.

52. “The Hunting Ground” – Overall, this documentary is flawed and, honestly, more than a little irresponsible. The film functions 100% as an advocacy piece and purposely avoids opposing viewpoints or data. The strongest parts of the movie are the testimonials of the victims. Yet, the decision to prominently feature the widely discredited Erica Kinsman case and report it as virtual fact is detrimental to the impact of the other survivors’ stories.

51. “American Ultra” – Jesse Eisenberg proves once again that he can carry the weight of a variety of films. However, the absurdity of the plot cannot be balanced out with the sharp direction.


50. “Z for Zachariah” – When you set out to create a post-apocalyptic film on a low-key scale, you better have the story to back it up. This one does not quite pull it off, but does feature surprising performances by it’s three leads.

49. “Anomalisa” – Despite hovering around the middle of my list, I would probably consider this most disappointing film of the year, or at least the most overrated. A massive undertaking, but equally pretentious, as well as being the least entertaining film Charlie Kaufman has ever made.

48. “Trumbo” – Entertaining, insightful and finally featuring a breakout film role for Bryan Cranston. Still, I feel like this could have been much, much better.

47. “Truth” – Cate Blanchett gives a powerhouse performance. No surprise there. Yet, the film has a lot of difficulty maintaining a sense of tone and actually seems to contradict its own message.

46. “The Walk” – Gordon-Levitt’s goofy portrayal of Petit, as authentic as it may be, just grows irritating after a while. The actual rooftop scenes are more than a little harrowing, even with the outcome is already well documented.

45. “Tangerine” – Absolutely electric with live-wire energy, but it’s plot is really kind of apathetic towards its characters. One can only hope that the fantastic Mya Taylor is offered more well-deserved work in result of this.

44. “Everest” – Certain moments of the film are as harrowing as any you’ll see this year. Certain elements feel off kilter, though, in particular such an all star cast spread so thinly. Furthermore, the ending comes off less cathartic as it is straight-up depressing.

43. “Slow West” – A surprisingly colorful western with some fantastic set pieces that unfortunately feels like it is over before it even begins.

42. “Trainwreck” – It’s extremely refreshing to see a Judd Apatow film oozing with estrogen for a change. Amy Schumer carries the film well, though the weight really isn’t all that heavy.

41. “The Hateful Eight” – QT has never swung and missed completely, but in my mind, this is his second straight foul tip. The dialogue is not quite up to par for the auteur, and the film’s over the top nature nearly makes it irrelevant, anyway.


40. “99 Homes” – Garfield and Shannon do a decent job of playing off each others’ engaging talents. Yet, as the film tries to find a middling conclusion, that satisfaction is lost in the shuffle.

39. “Straight Outta Compton” – Music biopics have certainly a lot more generic in the past, and the timeliness is certainly a strong factor with this story. Yet, like many films this year, the ending feels rushed, which is strange for a 150+ minute film.

38. “Joy” – As it turns out, not everything David O’Russell touches turns to gold. While very entertaining at times, the film misses the mark on a number of levels, in particular, it doesn’t really feature a third act.

37. “Bone Tomahawk” – There’s really no reason this film should work, and yet, somehow it does succeed on multiple levels. It’s certainly not high art by any means, but puts an interesting horror spin on the average western with absolutely no punches pulled.

36. “Dope” – For most part, the film is a thoroughly played out story of a teen boy getting buried in shenanigans for his dream girls affection. It’s an original spin, but not anything earth-shaking. It does bring it all together with a hell of a closing statement.

35. “Cobain: Montage of Heck” – A highly insightful and educating documentary, but at times it is over the top, even for telling a life story such as this one.

34. “Clouds of Sils Maria” – I will admit that this film can be relentlessly tedious at times. However, it’s peppered with a handful of revelatory moments. Kristen Stewart gives, what hopefully will be a career turning performance.

33. “Creed” – I have to say, as someone who has not so much respect for “Rocky”, I wanted to dislike this movie more than I ended up. It’s still a pretty basic story and the performances are nowhere near as grand as made out to be, but it is well excecuted. The one take fight scene is remarkable.

32. “Grandma” – Lily Tomlin sets the place on fire in this film that unabashedly takes on women’s issues in ways most films don’t dare touch. I just wish the film wasn’t one and done in the time of some network TV pilots.

31. “The Danish Girl” – Eddie Redmayne simply is getting better and better as an actor which each performance, and here, I believe he may have reached a peak (though I hope not). The performers give it their all, as well as the design team, but the film still feels a bit on the surface, as well as unfortunately “safe.”


30. “Jurassic World” – I feel like this film has gone from anticipated to beloved to scrutinized to reviled by the general public. People just can’t let those heels rest. Without a doubt, the film has it’s flaws, but it’s still a rousing adventure with some legitimately thrilling scenes. Meanwhile, as Ray Arnold would say in the original: “It could have been worse…A LOT worse.”

29. “Suffragette” – This film really seemed to come and go without turning any heads. While not groundbreaking, it’s effective in a by-the-numbers fashion. Carey Mulligan gives a highly overlooked performance, as per usual. Her one on one with Brendan Gleason is dynamite acting.

28. “Love & Mercy” – Definitely the better of the two music biopics this year, with an interesting story structure. Paul Dano was passed over for what absolutely should have been his long time coming first Oscar nod. The movie could have done better than the “wrap-up” ending that it leaves you with.

27. “The Visit” – I have no shame counting myself among those believing M. Night Shymalan’s talent had gone the way of the Dodo. However, this surprising gem of genuine subjective filmmaking is as unnerving as it is hilarious (intentionally, this time).

26. “Black Mass” – It’s obvious that Scott Cooper is a director of extraordinary talents. I’ve often wished that his film’s scripts, whether self-written or not, measured up. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting after this film. What’s crucial here is possibly the best performance of Johnny Depp’s career. He electrifies every scene that he appears in.

25. “Ex Machina” – In some ways this little sci fi gem has a healthy dose of Hitchcock in it’s veins. Alicia Vikander has gotten all of the attention this year, for this performance or others, but Oscar Isaac is the true standout as J.D. Salinger meets Mark Zuckerberg.

24. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – This film was heralded at Sundance as the second coming, so I was relieved to see it brought back down to earth by the mainstream critics. It’s certainly one of the best teen comedies to come out in the last decade, but at times, it feels more than a bit forced.

23. “Bridge of Spies” – I find it interesting how the 90-100 minutes of this film is nearly flawless. Everything is on point and the Tom Hanks embodies Jimmy Stewart even more than normal. However, during the third act, the once high stakes seem to drop through the floor.

22. “Beasts of No Nation” – The film does succeed in delivering several truly cathartic moments. Idris Elba nails his role as the sadistic, egocentric guerrilla leader. However, even a film like this should be able to deliver some entertainment value among all of the carnage.

21. “Cartel Land” – The perfect real-life counterpart for the similarly themed “Sicario”, succeeds very well. While the stories of the film’s two cross-border subjects. However, it’s the successes and horrors lived by the Mexican people as a whole that really stay with you.


20. “Diary of a Teenage Girl” – Glad I decided to check out the independent beauty of a film. While at times, the rough edges can get a little under the skin, it’s a quirky, if not raunchy look at female sexuality and independence. Bel Powley shines, but Alexander Skarsgard steals his fair share of scenes.

19. “It Follows” – Saying that this is the best horror film of the year is stating the obvious. Director Mitchell understands that the most essential tool that separates the men from the boys in the horror genre is solid tone. He maintains it with thick atmosphere, haunting music and some of the most nightmarish wide shots you’ll ever see.

18. “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” – Advocacy pieces tend to work a lot better when in your corner you have footage of thousands of peaceful protestors being massacred in the street. Hard to put up an argument against a doc like this. By the end, it’s hard not wanting to take up arms alongside these brave individuals no different from any one of us.

17. “The End of the Tour” – Unlike “Anomalisa,” this film crafts a moving and highly involving film about depression. Jason Segel confirms what many have alluded to that with a little effort, he could very well be the next Tom Hanks. For as much as he will warm your heart in this film, he will also break it if you let him.

16. “Steve Jobs” – Admittedly, this is actually a lesser work for Aaron Sorkin. Yet even minor Sorkin is better than 90% of other screenplays written this year or any other. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet absolutely tear up the scenery, as if either knew how to do anything less.

15. “The Look of Silence” – While, in my opinion, not as quite as groundbreaking or intense as its counterpart “The Act of Killing,” it still presents an searing human rights argument in ways that will leave you stunned and breathless.

14. “Carol” – The best gay-themed romance film since “Brokeback Mountain” (though not nearly on the same artistic level as the latter). It is so because, while the setting and times may not have been conducive, the gay love story is just that: a love story, without questions or inhibitions, it’s as true and natural as anything “straight” cinema has to offer.

13. “Amy” – After a lot of deliberation, this does remain the highest ranked documentary I’ve seen this year. While it may not tackle oppression, human rights, or even Wall Street, it does paint a beautiful portrait of a highly visible yet little known artist. Insightful as anything else produced this year and edited with such a fine and steady touch.

12. “The Martian” – It’s interesting that Ridley Scott’s best film in nearly a decade is maybe the least “Ridleyesque” that he’s ever made. In this case, the film’s greatness is less a question of style as pure skill. Mixed with the tangible and entertaining script and Matt Damon’s magnetic performance, it’s impossible not to recommend this movie to anyone.

11. “The Big Short” – Obviously, this extravaganza of a film just barely missed my final cut, but by narrow margins. I have to say I was surprised that McKay was able to pull off not only the movie’s comedic prowess, but it’s deep, cutting message. “Short” leaves it all on the field and strikes quite a nerve in its wake.


10. “Brooklyn”


Directed by John Crowley
Written by Nick Hornby

This film is a harkening back to the glory days of post-war America, capturing a time when possibilities and opportunity were boundless and the American dream was still plausible. In many ways, the filmmaking style is one in the same, embodying the simple but golden age of filmmaking. It succeeds on both fronts, and does not overreach for either goal. Saoirse Ronan is pitch perfect and Emory Cohen continues to make his case for better roles. A thoroughly satisfying film, start to finish.


9. “45 Years”


Written and Directed by
Andrew Haigh

I had read one critical analysis of this film that compared it in so many ways to a ghost story. However, the characters are haunted by something much more real and tangible: the past. You feel it lurking in the wind, around the corner and up in that horrible, horrible attic. Saying this film is subtle is an understatement, and it takes an effort to let the film pay off. The rewards are as tragic and thought-provoking as anything you’ll see this year.


8. “The Revenant”


Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Mark L. Smith

It’s hard to tell at this point whether this film is over or underrated, and I suppose it could swing both ways. The film had such high expectations, anything less than a masterpiece is a bit disappointing. A masterpiece it’s not, but still a magnificent example of filmmakers laying it all on the line to achieve their vision. Said vision is something that everyone who can stomach it should experience in all of it’s majesty. It somehow seems to expand the limits of what cinema can offer, mostly by using natural techniques. At the same time, the heavily computerized bear attack will go down as one of the most harrowing scenes in film history.


7. “Sicario”


Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Taylor Sheridan

Without a doubt, there is no filmmaker working today that I am more excited about than Denis Villeneuve. I am floored by the way he can captivate his audience. With this film, he touches on a level of intensity I’ve seldom, if ever seen, in American filmmaking. There is literally no point in this film in which any of the characters seem safe. Those are stakes often taken for granted in this day and age. Emily Blunt delivers a fine performance of grounded strength. Meanwhile, this may not be the undisputed finest role of Benicio’s career, but it’s definitely one for the books.


6. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”


Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan

Let’s be frank about this: I am still pinching myself. Never in my life could I imagine that the single most anticipated sequel in cinematic history, of a series that is just about the most sacred form of nostalgia that I hold dear, would not only meet expectations, but in some ways surpass them. J.J. Abrams can go ahead and retire now, for it will be a tall order for him ever to top this achievement. Props furthermore for Disney for reinventing the film franchise without alienating it. Against all odds, we have a Star Wars installment to show future generations without it being prefaced by an apology.


5. “Room”


Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Emma Donoghue

Even if this was a total bust (which, thankfully, it most certainly is not), it would still go down as the film that heralded Brie Larson as the best young actress working in Hollywood today. I was already on board after granting her my Best Actress Edgy award for “Short Term 12”, two years ago, however, it will be nice to know that we’re now all on the same page. The movie itself is a work of beauty, inspiration and life-affirmation. You would be hard-pressed not to break down into tears at least once during the runtime. A lot of credit is due to director Lenny Abrahamson. Without his steady hand, this could have easily slipped into Lifetime movie territory.


4. “Mad Max: Fury Road”


Directed by George Miller
Written by Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy and George Miller

There is no film released last year that I have re-watched more times than this one. Through and through, my mind echoes the same sentiment as when I emerged from my first viewing: this may well be the best straight-up action film EVER made. Furthermore, no film from 2015 did more to subvert my own expectations, which bolsters the previous statement even more. How much can a self-respecting film aficionado anticipates brilliance from half-naked renegades performing drive-bys on each other in a post-apocalyptic expanse. Now, it’s a benchmark achievement. George Miller deserves every accolade that he received (as well as all those he didn’t), for helming this perfect storm of design, style, craft and controlled mayhem.


3. “Son of Saul”


Directed by Laszlo Nemes
Written by Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer

Let’s preface by saying that I am still in the camp of “Schindler’s List” being a pure masterpiece in ever way, as well as the best film to date about the Holocaust, a mantel not likely to be toppled. However, for those that believe that this topic (really a genre, in itself) is one and done, this film will lay you out. Without a doubt, the most physically paralyzing and emotionally devastating film since at least “12 Years a Slave”, if not further from there. Debut filmmaker Nemes ought never make another film for this will be tough to top. Be prepared to leave this film with a heavy heart, for the bleeding from the scars of this inconceivable period of history will never stop, just as films like this should never stop being made.


2. “Spotlight”


Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Written by Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer

Most years, my number one favorite film is a clear cut choice with no question. This year, it was a touch choice, and with not much more than a coin flip, this could be my Best Pic. Easily the best film about journalism since “All the President’s Men” almost 40 years prior. It’s importance lies not in its subject matter (which is both heartbreaking and galvanizing), but in its demand for an inquisitive and ruthless free press. This is old school filmmaking at its finest. “Spotlight” could have been made forty years ago or forty years from now and it would still have the same impact, because superior acting, direction and damn near perfect writing never go out of style.


1. “Inside Out”


Directed by Pete Docter
Written by Josh Cooley, Pete Docter and Meg LeFauve

This is the first time in not only my short lifetime, but in the entire breadth of cinema that I’ve been recording top ten lists, that an animated film has achieved my top spot for the year. This is no coincidence or chance, it’s simply that no animated film has ever reached the heights that this movie has. I recall being in the theater as the climax approached, and I found myself weeping. Not because of the film’s emotional impact (which is enough to weep gallons, on its own), but because I was floored at just how damn good it turned out to be.

Much like last year’s best film, “Boyhood”, this is a coming of age film. And just like its counterpart, “Inside Out” tackles the genre in ways you’ve never seen before. Both Riley’s story itself and the personification of her emotions are as intelligent as they are creative, and as hilarious as they are cathartic. This is the best film of 2015, the best film Pixar has ever produced, and quite possibly, the greatest animated movie in cinematic history.


Well, I must admit, that was a bit more of an undertaking than I had anticipated. Hope you all enjoyed it. Stay tuned for the winners of the 6th Annual Edgy Awards, coming soon…