best film: The Revenant gives Inarritu back-to-back best films of the year which is nearly unheard of (as of right now you have to (I believe) go back to 1923-24 with Buster Keaton and then Griffith, with basically no competition, back in 1915-16- either way- it’s an amazing feat. It’s also a feat that could be undone the next time I watch Mad Max: Fury Road because as of right now I have the two essentially tied. But for now I’m fine celebrating with breathtaking camerawork in The Revenant and use of analog filmmaking- large epic filmmaking- featuring some gorgeous natural setting and architecture as part of the stunning mise-en-scene. Easily his best work to date in that department.
most underrated: The short answer is The Revenant which is 34th on the TSPDT list for 2015. That’s really worrisome that so many critics missed the mark here. But, I have full confidence that over time they’ll come around—films this visually spectacular don’t go overlooked for long and certainly it’ll pass films like Magic Mike XXL, the Diary of a Teenage Girl (I like this film but I think 3 of this exact same film have come out since 2015 already) and others. But, since I already went on about The Revenant above this is a time to highlight some others that are just out-of-control underrated. We have the lobster at 19th, Victoria at 22nd, Sicario at 25th and The Big Short at #26. That’s my top 10 basically and these are the most visually remarkable films of the year. Meanwhile, see below, the consensus critics are too busy fawning over straightforward narrative-driven films like Spotlight, Brooklyn, 45 years, Room. I like these films and they’re worth seeing and studying but they will not age too well in comparison with the others I’ve mentioned. There’s not really a dedication to an aesthetic here.
most overrated: I’m a big admirer of Todd Haynes but can’t get behind his Carol here which currently sits behind Mad Max for the #2 slot on the TSPDT top list of the year. I have it closer to 15 or so. I so regard the work of Rooney Mara and Blanchett but wasn’t awe-struck by the painterly beauty of the film upon first viewing—so maybe I will be when I revisit.
gem I want to spotlight: I love Tangerine and Ex Machina and they are currently my #11 and #12 films of the year but I have to, given the chance, proclaim my love and admiration for Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. It has the most indelible image of the year (Theron amongst the dunes), is the best edited film of the year, and is not only a big fat capital “M” Masterpiece but one of the best pure genre films of all-time.
trends and notables: Star Wars came back and blew up the box office but to me the big stories are the back-back-year dominance of Inarritu and the comeback of the year award to George Miller. Both of these films changed the artistic historical narrative on these two auteurs. Sebastian Schipper’s one-take Victoria takes off where Birdman left off. It’s just another strong year in an increasingly strong decade. I think Terrence Davies’ 70mm Sunset Song is my #13 film of the year. That’s amazing and a sign of the year’s strength in depth. It’s a little early two recognize some of the more notable directing and acting debuts but Alex Garland feels important in Ex Machina as does Sean Baker with Tangerine and of course I already mentioned Schipper’s one-take wonder here in Victoria.
best performance male: It’s Leo’s year. He’s clearly one of the best actors of his generation (probably the best) and has already been in several films throughout the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s that were amongst the best of the year or decade. In The Revenant he gives a great physical performance in the year’s best film—enough said. Behind him I have to give a nod to his co-star in The Revenant Tom Hardy. Hardy, unbelievably, does very solid work in both the best and second best movie of the year. I’m not going to overlook him just because, in both movies, he’s standing next to the best overall male and female performances for 2015. Behind those two I think Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Colin Farrell (the lobster), Michael Jordan (Creed) and Benicio del Toro (Sicario) are all more than worthy of a mention.
best performance female: Charlize Theron may have won an Oscar for Monster in 2003 but she’ll be remembered for her work in Mad Max: Fury Road. She’s power and determination incarnate and gives just a will-rank-amongst-the-best-of-the-decade performance here largely with her eyes. Laia Costa’s achievement in Victoria puts her second to only Theron. Behind those two I have Greta Gerwig in Mistress America giving a comic performance Katharine Hepburn would be proud of and Alicia Vikander who has a dazzling year here and a highlight with her performance in Ex Machina.
- The Revenant
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Big Short
- The Lobster
- Inside Out
- Mistress America
- Beasts of No Nation
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives