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The Best Films Of 2015

In the tradition of end-of-year rankings, here are my favorite movies over the past 12 months. They are in alphabetical order and, by total coincidence…that means my top two films are listed last.

’71


Jack O’Connell stars in the claustrophobic drama about a rookie British solider abandoned by his troops in hostile IRA territory in Belfast. It’s an intimate and powerful experience of war.

45 Years


This beautiful and quiet film stars Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling as they re-examine their marriage when a long ago delivered letter arrives. It’s an elegant adult emotional thriller with a twist.

Anomalisa


Felt figures dating and having sex and pondering life star in Charlie Kaufman’s painstaking, heartfelt animated meditation on what we are.

Clouds of Sils Maria


Kristen Stewart gives a high calibre performance in an intimate drama set in the mountains as she navigates her boss’ celebrity, which ironically mimics her own. Great cast.

Duke of Burgundy


Love, sex and OCD are packed tightly into an overgrown house. Two women (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna) play out their desires in a familiar ritual of duty, punishment and sex. Haunting and darkly entertaining with top notch performances.

Every Thing Will Be Fine


Wim Wenders had an inspired notion to take a personal drama out into the Quebec countryside during a blizzard and shoot in 3D. That’s how the film made my list. James Franco, Rachel McAdams and Charlotte Gainsbourgh star.

Inside Out


No film has delved into the child’s mind as brilliantly and lovingly as this film from Peter Docter. Looks gorgeous too. An all-star vocal cast brings it to vivid life.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter


This Fargo fangirl odyssey that’s plain spoken yet drenched in mysticism. David Zellner directs Rinko Kikuchi and packs a powerful punch.

Miss Julie


Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain star in Liv Ullman’s carefully constructed adaptation of The August Strindberg play with its searing insights into human nature. Like this line, on love “I liked and it made me sick I could not eat or drink because of love. I don’t use that word.”

Paddington


One of the year’s most joyous films with a sterling cast and an adorable bear discovering that love is unlimited.

Phoenix


A unique look at the Holocaust through the eyes of a woman disfigured and facially reconstructed. She is her own double as she searches for her husband who may have cruelly betrayed her. Nina Hoss is superb.

Room


There is no resisting this emotionally charged drama about a woman and her son held captive and finally freed. How do we navigate such a rare and transformative event? It’s emotionally and spiritually uplifting with stellar performances from Brie Larson, 10 year old Jacob Tremblay and Joan Allen.

Slow West


A remarkable debut drama about a young Irish boy who heads to the Wild West in search of the girl he loves. He sees wondrous sights as he crosses the US and hooks up with an outlaw. It’s heaven and hell. Stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender.

Spotlight


Tom McCarthy’s well balanced and fast-paced look into the investigation into widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo bring their A-game to unnerving subject matter.

Star Wars: the Force Awakens


Goes without saying. The seventh in the franchise may be the best, delivering the joy, nostalgia, whimsy, adventure and visual beauty we expect. Many delicious heart-tugging moments and superb set pieces. That’s just for starters.

Straight Outta Compton


The story of the rise of NWA is the heart of this excellent film. A stellar ensemble includes next gen of the original artists and it is the real deal, a cinematic achievement. O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell star.

Tangerine


If you don’t fall in love with these hard-as-nails street workers plying their trade in LA you have a heart of stone. It’s Christmas Eve as cross dressing prostitutes try to fix stuff. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor and Karren Karagulian are aces.

The Forbidden Room


Guy Maddin goes further than ever into absurdist, Gothic and grainy beauty with this masterpiece. Stars Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Charlotte Rampling and Geraldine Chaplin.

The Big Short


Dense, smart dialogue, go-for-broke performances by Steve Carrell, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling make the true story of the financial collapse of 2008 clear as a bell. Three men foresee the housing bubble bursting but no one pays attention. It’ll make your blood boil.

The Hunting Ground


Kirby Dick’s documentary confronts the campus rape epidemic from various points of view. Intelligent, measured and heartbreaking, it ignites powerful responses and in some ways is life changing.

The Revenant


Alejandro González Iñárritu’s blistering vision of a hellish Wild West is the stuff of nightmares. Leonardo DiCaprio hits a career peak in his relentless participation in what must be one of the most difficult films ever made. He isn’t the star. It’s Nature, an uncaring and hostile but beautiful force that punishes fur traders and soldiers in 1820’s.

Youth


Bliss. Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Rachel Weisz are gathered in a resort hotel high up in the Alps where each seeks his own kind of healing. It’s an emotionally complex story bringing together intellectuals, artists and seekers nearing the end of their ropes. Magnificent.

What was your favorite movie of 2015?


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