2015 has been quite the year so far and if the next five months of the year can match up to the opening seven then it will go down as one of the best in recent memory. After much deliberation here are my top 10 of 2015 so far.
Also down at the very bottom is a less detailed list of my 10 worst of the year so far.
Love is Strange
10: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Billed as the first ever ‘Iranian Vampire Western Movie’ A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the most cine-literate and original take on the vampire genre since 2010’s Let The Right One In. Mixing genre conventions, gorgeous cinematography and a score riffing on 80’s snyth and Sergio Leonne A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a must see for any true horror fan out there.
9: It Follows
Well it’s been a good year to be a horror fan so far. It Follows proved to be one of the most surprising movies of the year so far- taking all horror movie expectations and flipping them on their head. The film, which could also be seen as precautionary tale about STI’s was genuinely frightening, riffing on the works of Todd Haynes and John Carpenter it reminded us that not all horror films have to rely on lazy jump scares to be successful.
8: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
This rather obscure little film from Sweden turned out to be one of the darkest and most comic explorations of existence put onto celluloid in recent years. Completing the unofficial ‘living’ trilogy from director Roy Andersson, the film is a series of short skits, some related, some thrown in seemingly for the hell of it, all of which offer some slight observation on the nature of mankind.
A Pigeon Sat on the Branch Reflecting on Existence is certainly not going to be to everybody’s taste, most will be put off by the title alone- however those who enjoy it will find something profound and moving in this movie.
7: Slow West
The Western genre has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. The Coen’s 2010 remake of True Grit reminded us all just how good the genre can be whilst Tarrantino’s Django Unchained in 2012 was both a critical and box office success.
The latest movie in this western renaissance is the debut feature from writer/director John Maclean starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit McPhee and Ben Mendhelson. Clearly inspired by the work of the Coen Brothers the film is an often hilarious, yet somewhat eye opening look into the wild west and the destruction of the native culture at the hands of Europeans. Whilst never being preachy the film manages to get its message across through a brilliant script and some top notch performances. It also includes perhaps the best visual gag of 2015 so far in its final sequence.
The debut feature from writer/director Alex Garland turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far. Garland, who has previous writing credits on films like 28 Days Later and Sunshine showed off his talents behind the camera, creating one a morally ambiguous and engaging sci-fi fable exploring gender politics and the nature of artificial intelligence.
It also featured a nerve shredding score and some stunning performances from Oscar Issac, Domnhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, who has been one of the year’s break-out stars so far.
5: Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest feature has proved to be his most divisive yet- rather unsurprisingly I find myself in the camp that thought it was another home run from Anderson.
Arguably the most consistent director on the planet Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pyncheon’s notoriously difficult Inherent Vice was a tale of paranoia and lost dreams. Joaquin Phoenix provided his best performance since his turn in Anderson’s last film, The Master, whilst Josh Brolin showed a side to him we’d never seen before as ‘Bigfoot’ the chalk to Doc’s cheese.
Whilst many may dismiss this as nonsensical rubbish those willing to engage with Inherent Vice will find a fascinating study of not only Doc’s character but also of an America on the brink of collapse.
Xavier Dolan is one of the most exciting directors around, and at the tender age of 25 he looks to have already set his standard pretty high. His fifth movie Mommy, which won the Jury Prize at last year’s Canne Film Festival is a striking portrait of a mother attempting to raise her troubled son in a society that is willing to help neither of them.
Dolan’s script is deserving of all the attention it has been given- its gritty, kitchen sink realism makes Mommy a visceral and at times extremely difficult film. The choice to change the ratio of the screen half way through the movie may be seen by some as a cheap gimmick, however I found it to be one of the bests moments of cinema this year.
If Asif Kadapia’s documentary about Amy Winehouse doesn’t win him another Oscar next year then there is something seriously up. Amy is a touching tribute to the voice of a generation. A detailed and poignant exploration of a tortured soul who inevitably died long before her time.
Kadapia could have easily pointed the finger of blame here but instead he opts to let the story tell itself, from cradle to the grave, and allows his audience to make their own mind up. Featuring never before seen footage of the singer Amy is devastating, a film that will make you laugh, cry and ultimately make you want to go home and slam Back to Black straight into your CD player.
2: Mad Max: Fury Road
2015 has been plagued by sequels, reboots and remakes, so perhaps one of the biggest shocks of the year so far is that it is a rebooted franchise that has supplied us with one of the most original and exciting blockbusters in recent memory.
Mad Max Fury Road is a non stop thrill ride- George Miller’s insistence on the use of practical effects make for a refreshing change in a time where cinema is crammed full of CGI and green screen, whilst Tom Hardy makes for a brilliant replacement to Mel Gibson’s iconic Max.
The star of the show here however (apart from the director) is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, who starts the rebellion that sets the whole film in motion. What a refreshing change it made to have a strong female lead character in the film, especially in an action franchise that has been built on its masculine credentials.
Miller’s movie is bold, innovative and above all else bloody exciting. If you didn’t get a chance to catch this on the big screen then you seriously missed out.
1: Inside Out
Pixar have always had a special place in my heart, but since 2010 they seem to have been running a bit flat on the ideas front. Toy Story 3 seemed like the end of an era and Pixar have not managed to live up to the magic of their former years since then.
Thankfully all that has changed this year with the release of Inside Out, a film that can not only proudly stand alongside the best Pixar has to offer but can almost stake its claim as their best film of all time.
The story of the emotions living in the head of an 11 year old girl seemed at first perhaps too ambitious. Pixar had been on a slump and it looked as though they could have bitten off more than they could chew. So I guess the lesson is here is never to doubt what is on its day, the best studio in the world.
Inside Out is funny, heartbreaking and more than once incredibly profound, featuring some great voice work from the likes of Amy Poehler and Bill Hader this is the best film of 2015 so far, and it is going to take some beating.
The Ten Worst Films of the Year So Far
10: Lost River
9: Ted 2
8: Search Party
6: Taken 3
5: Unfinished Business
4: The Cobbler
3: The Girl Next Door
2: Fifty Shades of Grey
1: Paul Blart Mall Cop 2