10. The Revenant (dir. Alejandro G. Inarritu)
The most grotesque film of the year, in that it’s both beautiful and revolting at the same time. While I don’t agree with all the awards hype surrounding Leo’s powerfully realistic screams of pain, director Inarritu and cinematographer Lubezski succeed in bringing a fairly hollow and often repetitive screenplay to thrilling life with groundbreaking visuals.
9. 45 Years (dir. Andrew Haigh)
Running an incredibly tight 95 minutes, Andrew Haigh’s (HBO’s Looking) 45 Years unfolds more like a blackbox stage production than a film. Using several long takes and two-person shots (as opposed to close-ups), we get to see Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay’s wounded married couple actually play off of each other. Rampling and Courtenany deliver two of the best and most meticulous performances of the year that give a seemingly dull premise, life or death stakes.
8. Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley)
The trailers for Brooklyn were misleading. They made the film seem like some sappy tween take on the Irish immigrant story when actually Brooklyn is the farthest thing from that. While it doesn’t sugar coat the grittiness of the immigrant’s journey, it doesn’t get bogged down with cynicism either. Sairose Ronan and Emory Cohen give incredibly empathetic performances that completely reel you in. Brookyln is very pretty and optimistic little film. My mom would love this.
7. Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
Another film that manages to be warm without ever being sentimental, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is an incredibly overwhelming experience. As Joy, Brie Larson solidifies herself as one of the best actors working in the industry and nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay is equally impressive as Joy’s son. This is the type of film that could have easily sank into Lifetime Original Movie territory, but Abrahamson is wise to never make it exploitative or ever make it about Joy’s psychopathic abductor. Instead Abrahamson opted to make a film about the strongest bond of all, between a parent and their child.
6. Sicario (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Agonizingly suspenseful and flawlessly crafted, Sicario is a powerful exploration of the United States involvement in the ongoing Cartel wars. Featuring riveting performances and Roger Deakins cinematography, Sicario is a morally ambiguous descent into hell.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
George Miller has created what is hands down one of the greatest action films ever made. What’s most impressive, is how he’s able to build characters and a universe through the action sequences. With only a combined ten minutes or so of non-action sequences, Mad Max: Fury Road is a grand operatic spectacle that uses stunning and outrageous imagery to tell it’s story. It’s where art and entertainment meet for a drunken night and have wild unprotected sex. Prepare to get fucked.
4. Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
Todd Haynes completely transports you to the 1950s in this tender and cerebral love story between a married woman and a naïve shopgirl trying to come to terms with her sexuality. Many period films set in the 1950s look like the 1950s, but very rarely do they feel like they were actually made in the 1950s. Carol is kind of like Frank Capra’s Blue is the Warmest Color.
3. The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
Joshua Oppenheimer’s perfectly shot, gut-wrenching companion piece to 2013’s The Act of Killing is far and away the best documentary feature of 2015. While The Act of Killing focused on the Indonesian death squad leaders of the 1960s, The Look of Silence focuses on the victims and their families struggling to accept and forgive the atrocities that were committed against them. Not nearly as provocative as The Act of Killing but much more emotionally reasonant. This is an extremely intelligent documentary that carefully and thoroughly examines the country’s politics and the human condition without falling into the tired clichés that plague most documentaries being made today.
2. Son of Saul (dir. Lazlo Nemes)
More of a character study than a Holocaust film, the soul crushingly bleak Son of Saul follows a jewish man in Auschwitz, Saul, who has completely lost his mind. Saul is a sonderkommando, which were jewish prisoners granted special privileges in exchange for leading other jews into gas chambers. While cleaning up “the showers”, Saul discovers a teenage boy barely clinging onto life that he believes is his son, giving him something to live for.
Impressively shot on aspect ratio 1.37:1, which is like a vertical rectangle, the camera hangs on Saul like a hawk the entire 107 minute runtime. We don’t see much, and pretty much everything in the background is out of focus. We hear the screams though. The Nazis angrily shouting, the prisoners begging for mercy, the sound of fingernails frantically scraping on the gas chamber doors, ect. It’s a revolutionary film in terms of technical filmmaking, but it’s an unfathomably difficult watch.
1. Anomalisa (dir. Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman)
As much as I loved Inside Out, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion animated study of narcissism and depression blew it out of the fucking water. One of the most wholly unique movie-going experiences I’ve ever had in my life, Anomalisa creates two painfully realistic characters desperate to find solace in each other. Completely free of any easy Hollywood cliches, Kaufman’s completely crowd-funded Anomalisa is both funny and thought provoking. In a world where Star Wars and Marvel merchandise rule all, a film getting released as unique and honest as Anomalisa is a miracle.
The End of Tour
The Hateful Eight
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
GEORGE MILLER for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
TODD HAYNES for CAROL
ALEJANDRO G. INARRITU for THE REVENANT
DUKE JOHNSON and CHARLIE KAUFMAN for ANOMALISA
LAZLO NEMES for SON OF SAUL
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
CHARLOTTE RAMPLING for 45 YEARS
CATE BLANCHETT for CAROL
BRIE LARSON for ROOM
ROONEY MARA for CAROL
SAIROSE RONAN for BROOKLYN
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
TOM COURTENAY for 45 YEARS
CHRISTOPHER ABBOT for JAMES WHITE
MICHAEL FASSBENDER for STEVE JOBS
BEN MENDOLSOHN for MISSISSIPPI GRIND
GEZA ROHRIG for SON OF SAUL
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
CYNTHIA NIXON for JAMES WHITE
MARION COTILLARD for MACBETH
JANE FONDA for YOUTH
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH for THE HATEFUL EIGHT
ALICIA VIKANDER for EX MACHINA
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
JACOB TREMBLAY for ROOM
STEVE CARREL for THE BIG SHORT
IDRIS ELBA for BEASTS OF NO NATION
TOM HARDY for THE REVENANT
MARK RYLANCE for BRIDGE OF SPIES
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
ANOMALISA – Charlie Kaufman
BROOKLYN – Nick Hornby
CAROL – Phyllis Nagy
THE END OF THE TOUR – David Margulies
ROOM – Emma Donaghue
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
INSIDE OUT – Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen, Meg LaFauve and Josh Cooley
THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Quentin Tarantino
IT FOLLOWS – David Robert Mitchell
JAMES WHITE – Josh Mond
SPOTLIGHT – Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy
EMMANUEL LUBEZKI for THE REVENANT
ROGER DEAKINS for SICARIO
MATYAS ERDELY for SON OF SAUL
ROBERT RICHARDSON for THE HATEFUL EIGHT
JOHN SEALE for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
THE BIG SHORT
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON