I see a lot of movies because of my job. Around 150-200 a year. I am not kidding. So while my tastes and yours may differ in terms of what’s good, I promise you that I am a rock-solid authority on what’s bad. I have seen the worst movies of the year. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I have seen things that I can never unsee. I am intimately acquainted with the garbage that Hollywood and indiewood produce on a weekly basis. That comedy that looks like the worst thing ever committed to film starring a beloved movie star? Seen it. That fantasy occult movie starring some marble-mouthed action star? Sat through it. Twice. That gratuitous, exploitative horror movie made for five cents in someone’s backyard? Watched half of it, puked, had to go back and watched the rest. (Spoiler alert: I am not a fan of horror and therefore haven’t seen It Follows.)
So when I see a movie I enjoy, it shines like a diamond. Sometimes I weep with relief. It’s like Fagin brought me a cookie after months of eating gruel. That’s why I love to celebrate the best movies of the year. Also why I couldn’t limit myself to just ten, but awarded a bunch of honorable mentions as well. Because for the first time in a long time, this list could have been 20 films long. Filmmakers got their act together this year, and we are the richer for it.
Without further ado, here’s my list of the 10 best films of the year, in no particular order, with honorable mentions because I just can’t make the tough choices, damn it!
Ex Machina–One of the best science-fiction films to come out in a good long while, a creepy, prescient tale about a remarkable woman and the men who try to control her. Also highlights one of my favorite themes of the year: great roles for women.
Spotlight–You think you know the story of how the Catholic church covered up rampant pedophilia for so long, you think you understand the scope of the problem and the human element, but you don’t. This is more than a film about great journalism. It’s a film about how the system doesn’t always fail the victims.
Steve Jobs–This could have been an epic disaster. The director and screenwriter seemed mismatched. Fassbender seemed miscast. Instead, it’s a visual and verbal symphony, and every single actor captivates you. But none more than Fassy, in the first of two Oscar-worthy performances he gave this year.
Macbeth–This is the second. But more, it’s a streamlined, visceral, and mesmerizing interpretation of the Scottish play. It strips the text away, but in the service of really making the story into a film, with visuals and reaction shots conveying more than even Shakespeare’s prose could. And Justin Kurzel is a major new talent.
Mad Max: Fury Road–A batshit crazy feminist action film. The epic visuals. The death-defying practical stunts. Furiosa. All from the mind of an unsung master.
Inside Out–Still sobbing.
Diary of a Teenage Girl–A beautiful, honest, and enrapturing coming of age film about the real travails (and dreams and ambitions and fumbles and fights and love affairs) of a teenage girl. Must-see.
Sicario–Another portrait of a flawed female character thrust into circumstances not only beyond her control, but a situation that governments and law enforcement agencies are struggling to come to grips with. It’s strength, like hers, is in its stillness. And props to my fellow Quebecois Denis Villeneuve for his masterful direction.
Crimson Peak–A love letter to the Victorian Gothic. Two strong vital female leads in Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain, and Tom Hiddleston at his creepiest and most romantic. What’s not to love?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens–Watching this was like being a kid again. There are movies not on this list that might be technically better, but nothing that comes close to rivalling the experience of watching this and loving it. And loving the new characters as much as the old. And seeing Han Solo be Han Solo again.
Excellent movies about difficult but riveting subjects: Room, ’71, Beasts of No Nation
Best comedy that didn’t quite make the list: Trainwreck
Mediocre movie I loved: Victor Frankenstein
Has everything working for it but just fell short of perfection: Carol
I liked this a lot more than everyone else: Avengers: Age of Ultron
More entertaining than any movie about real estate and economics has any right to be: The Big Short
Because seeing movies on film, in the cinema, with a crowd is still the most fun thing ever: The Hateful Eight
Further proof that Andrew Haigh is one of the most insightful and observant filmmakers working today: 45 Years
Further proof that Ridley Scott has still got it, even if he often hides it: The Martian
Furthermore (i.e. not among the best of the year):
Film critics are falling all over each other for that I loathed with every fiber of my being: Anomalisa (seriously, do not waste your money)
Yes, I am a woman and I sat through this macho BS twice: The Revenant (cinematography is beautiful, though)
Films I haven’t seen yet: The Danish Girl, Sisters, Creed
Hit me up in the comments with your picks and pans!