Top Films of 2015: 10-1
The first weeks of 2016 dawn upon us leaving the success or failures of 2015 swiftly in the past, a year in which I have well and truly have had to wait until the last week of the year in order to fully decide my top ten favourite films thanks to the late, late release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the continuation of the famous saga which, unless turned out to be absolute an absolute drag, was inevitably going to end up being one of my favourite films of the year. With this in mind, the final list has finally been completed and the best 2015, in terms of movie magic, has had to offer begins with…
10. Wild Tales
Deliciously dark yet uproariously hilarious, Damian Szifron’s anthology of revenge leans heavy on the use of black horror and dry wit whilst not shying away from the ridiculousness of primal human nature in society today. I mean come one, almost everyone on the planet has had a barmy with a traffic warden and it is situations like these that are turned well and truly on their head and portrayed with a pulpy style reminiscent of the best comic violence auteurs like Tarantino and even Sam Raimi. Check it out now.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s completely off-the-chain, ludicrous and wholly spectacular revamp of the famous cult classic Mad Max franchise in which a baby-faced Mel Gibson has been replaced with the stern English chops of Tom Hardy has ultimately in retrospect thwarted all previous expectations of its’ critical sustainability due in part to it’s simply mind-blowing stunt work and artistic tendencies with John Seale’s cinematography being a standout performance. Sight & Sound voted it the third best film of the year but for me it sneaks just in at ninth.
8. The Gift
Oh Blumhouse Productions, how you make me weep with both resentment and sheer admiration on a rather annoyingly regular basis. How can a production company resort to releasing such turgid disgraces to horror such as any of the Sinister, Insidious sequels but then also create films like The Gift, a cleverly scripted and brilliantly acted chiller thriller written, directed and starring Joel Edgerton which brought about one of the most horrific jump scares I can recall in recent memory. If there ever was a blueprint for heading in the right direction for Blumhouse then The Gift is it. Please abide by such. Please.
Preposterous and simply bewildering on first glance, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s satirical glance on the state of Hollywood and the trials and tribulations of actors and actresses in general definitely takes some warming to and ultimately becomes a better film with each and every watch. Winning the Oscar for best film in 2015 was met with a whole lotta skepticism by many but in a strange, roundabout sort of way, by allowing the Oscar ceremony to fully embrace a film that basically sticks it’s two fingers up at the current climate of Hollywood is rather comedic in itself. Birdman works, it just takes some time to fully understand why.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
“Every generations has a story” claimed Disney and boy were they spot on. From the minute John Williams’ famous Star Wars overture blasts on to the screen within The Force Awakens, you know you are in safe hands, yet J.J Abrams’ continuation of the famous saga does more than settle for returning back into the saddle again after the peril of the prequels and instead introduces a new set of heroes for a new wave of Star Wars fans in the form of Rey and Finn whilst incorporating a complex, evil, and wholly interesting villain in the form of Kylo Ren. Simply marvelous. P.S, who else got a remote controlled BB-8 for Xmas?
There is something rather strange and fundamentally patriotic about my undeniable love for the James Bond series, a series in which its’ peak was arguably tipped by the release of Skyfall back in 2012 and a film that SPECTRE had a barrel load to live up to, yet after the dust has settled and feelings have finally settled down, it seems there isn’t much point in comparing the two with both strangely enough being completely different movies even if being molded by the same franchise. SPECTRE has strangely had some bad press by many, particularly across the sea in the US of A, but for me it continues the success of Skyfall and allows the beauty of Bond to continue well into the future.
Shakespeare meets Kill List with a hint of 300. What more do you want? After the dark and desperate display of directing in Snowtown, Justin Kurzel attempts to go full throttle darkness with the latest desperation of the famous tragedy starring the wonderful Michael Fassbender and the equally majestic Marillon Cotillard in the roles of Lord and Lady Macbeth respectively. It may not be for everyone, granted, but for the Wheatley-love that resides within me, Macbeth is the closest thing to a all-out cinematic blackout in terms of tone I have seen since Wheatley’s own masterpiece, Kill List.
With the sequel to Blade Runner in the hands of Sicario director Denis Villeneuve, I can safely say my original feelings of utter horror and sheer doubtfulness have well and truly been grounded due to the continuation of Villeneuve’s remarkable career so far. Continuing his success story of Incendies, Prisoners and Enemy, is Sicario, Villeneuve’s white-knuckle thriller focusing on the dodgy dealings of the US Government around the Mexican border and the Cartel. Two set pieces particularly set the tone for the film with the tensest traffic jam ever and a venture into a dark and dangerous tunnel, combining in a film so engrossing it’s hard to not talk about it after every watch.
2. Inside Out/Song of the Sea
A bit of cheating here but it was simply impossible to decide which was better out of the two best animated features of the past few years or so, if not ever, with Disney’s Inside Out sharing a wide range of similarities with Song of the Sea, a beautifully crafted animation based around Irish folklore and featuring some of the best use of music that has been heard this year. What do both movies have in common I hear you scream, well a wide range of imagination for starters as well as a sheer amount of attention to detail and scenes that are guaranteed to pull tightly at the heart-strings. Who says these films are for kids? If so, class me a child and I will wear it with pride if animated films continue to be this rich and rewarding.
If you are a regular visitor of Black Ribbon, you will no doubt be aware of my sheer admiration for Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s simply masterful and dramatic exploration of desire, admiration, willingness and eagerness in the world of music, helmed terrifically by the most deserved Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor in recent years in the form of J.K. Simmons as Terrence Fletcher, the menacing and simply terrifying musical teacher who obviously takes his educational standpoint from that of Drill Sergeant Hartman in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, please do, and you will witness the best film of 2015. Trust me.
Best Film Scenes of 2015
Within every great movie is a scene of equal greatness, whether it be a memorable moment of character progression, a tear-jerking loss of a key character, or even something as trivial as a note of music that pulls at the heartstrings in a way that affects a particular viewer. Throughout 2015 there have been a vast amount of particular movie moments where the magic really kicks in, scenes in which have left a long-lasting impression within my mind and have resulted in either making the film a better picture or just a fantastic scene on its’ own ground albeit being in a overly mediocre movie. Within this list is Black Ribbon’s top ten most memorable scenes of 2015, starting promptly with…
10. A Meeting With Macha – Song of the Sea
Song of the Sea is many things. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring. Genuinely tear-inducing. Yet one of the things I didn’t expect from Tomm Moore’s animated masterpiece is the scene in which our beloved heroes come across the legendary owl-witch known as the Macha, whereby we witness the darker side of the Irish folklore in which Song of the Sea is based upon. Although most of Song of the Sea is undeniably child-friendly, the introduction to the insidious Macha was genuinely startling, resulting in a hallucinatory dream-scape of evil owls and creepy Irish folklore legends.
9. Confrontation With Jobs – Steve Jobs
Although Steve Jobs is directed by the fine hand of Danny Boyle, it undoubtedly belongs to the craftsman of screenplays himself, Aaron Sorkin, with its’ three-act structure being an effective stage for which Sorkin is allowed to play upon. Of the many wordy dialogues within the film, the scene in which Jobs is confronted by John Sculley within the second act of the film is the one that stands out the furthest, with Sorkin’s brilliant script being fully embraced by the acting duo of both Fassbender and Daniels whilst being offset with flashbacks of the past, all of which results in a heavy sense of escalating drama that gives credence to the simply unfair talent that Sorkin has unleashed upon directors such as Boyle and David Fincher, both of whom have enjoyed undeniable success because of such in Steve Jobs and The Social Network respectively.
8. Day of the Dead – Spectre
Before Spectre was even released, director Sam Mendes made sure that his latest entry into the Bond canon was set to have one of the most epic opening scenes in the film’s 53 year history, with the famous Day of the Dead in Mexico City being the backdrop for the return of everyone’s favourite English super-spy. Beginning with a seemingly one-take shot following Bond through the streets of Mexico City and onto the rooftops above, Spectre’s opening scene definitely ramps up the thrills and skills, with Bond mercifully tracking down and defeating a high-ranking agent of SPECTRE all-the-while attempting to keep the poor innocents of Mexico City with their lives intact from the rogue helicopter in which our enemy decides to escape within. Mr Mendes, you were right. The opening scene of Spectre is one to be treasured.
7. The Walk – The Walk
Although not exactly the greatest film of the year, with the release of Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk essentially just being a dramatic re-telling of the superior documentary Man on Wire, one thing the film did have going for it was the exceptional titular sequence in which Philippe Petit crosses the Twin Towers with nothing more than his wit and skill as a wire-walker to keep him alive. As a self-confessed hater of heights as it is, the concluding 30 minute scene of The Walk was a sheer nail-biting collage of vertigo-esque tension, where even though I was fully aware of Petit’s incredible success, resulted in an sense of intolerable discomfort in the best way possible, something of which is owed simply to the brilliant way in which Zemeckis’ titular act is filmed. Simply breathtaking.
6. F**K Tha Police – Straight Outta Compton
Some of the best films are those that unexpectedly turn out to be real gems and surpass any expectations they have had before it, and in the case of Straight Outta Compton, F. Gary Gray’s real firecracker of a drama based upon the rise of the notorious hip-hop group, N.W.A, what a surprise it was to witness its’ brilliantly managed explosive temperament and uncanny portrayals of the genre’s most decorated patrons. Within the film’s many great scenes is the recording sessions of the group’s titular debut album, particularly that of their most notorious single, “F**K Tha Police”, recorded after a confrontation with the somewhat backward’s handling of the Los Angeles police department whose racial stereotypes present in the early 1990’s are made abundantly clear within Straight Outta Compton, yet it’s the ferocious response from the group into recording arguably their most famous hit which creates one of the most entertaining scenes of 2015.
5. Showdown With Gordo – The Gift
Written, directed and starring Joel Edgerton, The Gift proved to be a real tense and taut claustrophobic chiller thriller with Edgerton sinking in almost too well into the role of Gordo, the creepy stalker hell bent on making the lives of both Simon and Robyn Callum rather awkward with a selection of creepy get-together’s and unwanted hand-delivered gifts. The real winning success of The Gift however is down to the nature in which Edgerton’s portrayal of Gordo is one of a rather mixed and ambiguous nature, resorting to feelings of compassion towards someone who is obviously rather troubled at heart. One of the most incredible scenes within The Gift is when we witness the rather fiery Simon confront Gordo at his place of work, yet instead of being on the side of the targeted Simon, the sight of Gordo’s sheer embarrassment as his real life is discovered results in a collage of conflicting feelings, something of which has stayed with me ever since the film’s release.
4. Madness Prevails – Macbeth
Transferring the dark, twisted tale of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the big-screen is no easy feat in itself, yet Snowtown director Justin Kurzel manages to embrace the bloody nature of the famous text and turns it into essentially a horror flick with glorious displays of violence, something of which won’t exactly be shown to schoolkids examining the play for the sake of education. Of the many great scenes within Kurzel’s adaptation is when we witness the titular Macbeth, played majestically by Michael Fassbender, start to go completely bonkers at a royal feast in front of his loving, loyal wife and fellow ruling family and friends where, reeling from the violent slaughter of Banquo by his own hand, Macbeth begins to hallucinate his bleeding, pierced body dining at his feast, resulting in a crazed, frightened Macbeth showing how the power of being King has truly began to corrupt him. It’s a wonderful scene and one in which Fassbender’s raw and ripe acting talents are once again put on display.
3. Thermal Imagery – Sicario
If Sicario is not the film that finally wins the simply brilliant Roger Deakins an Oscar for his cinematography skills then I am pretty sure nothing will. One of the most talked about shots of the year is the scene in which we witness the spook-like militaristic agents disappear into darkness in search of a drug-trafficking tunnel and it is here where the best scene of the film begins. Switching between complete darkness and thermal imagery, our venture into the pitch black tunnel of horror, all seen through the eyes of unknowing FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), is nail-biting tension in its’ most extreme, even more so than the scariest traffic jam ever we witness earlier in the film, yet it is the ambiguous nature of both our heroines nature and what lies for her in the tunnel which makes this particular scene a true gem and definitely the most tense twenty minutes of the entire year.
2. Goodbye Bing Bong – Inside Out
I love Disney, I’m not afraid to say it, and I love Inside Out even more. Not only is it wholly original and incredibly intelligent but it also features the most heartbreaking cinematic moment of the year by a long shot. After falling into the subconscious and memory dump of Riley’s mind, Joy and imaginary friend Bing Bong attempt to escape via that of Bing Bong’s homemade rocket ship yet after being originally unsuccessful, Bing Bong sacrifices himself to get Joy safely back to head office, who subsequently disappears into dust, much to the despair of everyone, including myself, who found it hard to hold back the tears, regardless of the extent to which lip biting came into effect. It’s a scene as heartbreaking as the death of Mufasa and reinforces Disney’s ability to make every human resort to their inner child and weep with sheer sadness. Damn you!
1. A Final Encore – Whiplash
The final ten minutes of Whiplash are among the greatest of cinema within the past decade or so, if not of all time, with the final drum solo combining sheer tension and thrills, resulting in a storming final encore for both Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman and Damien Chazelle’s simply brilliant drama surrounding the abusive teachings of Oscar winning supporting actor J.K. Simmons as the terrifying Terrence Fletcher. Although drumming and the entire aspect of drums are as exciting to me as a wet flannel, somehow Whiplash is a film that just is just majestic in its’ execution with Tom Cross’s editing one of the many reasons for such, and it is here within the final scene where his skills are truly put to the test, resulting in a stunning tour de force of blood, sweat and tears which left me simply breathless. With that in mind, scene of the year belongs to Whiplash, and boy does it deserve it.
A Seaside Rendezvous
With every passing year, the wide range of ingenious minds behind the art that is animation seem to be getting better and better with Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea a prime example of the boundaries to which the animated feature can be explored upon and to what extent the endless opportunities such a genre of film can be used to create something simply beautiful to behold. In a time where “popcorn cinema” is seemingly taking the big bucks with the endless cycle of brainless, un-imaginative bore-fests, what a sheer pleasure it was to behold and admire Song of the Sea, a gorgeous, traditionally animated masterpiece that not only triggered a wide range of emotions inside, but left me with a sense of blissfulness that encapsulated to the full, the five year old child inside me.
After suffering the loss of both a mother and wife during childbirth, father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) and son Ben (David Rawle) are left to raise their seemingly mute new sibling Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) within the confines of their lighthouse along with family pet Cu. After years of solitude, Conor’s mother forces the children to move with her into the city, leaving the lighthouse, the sea, their father and Cu for good in order to build a new life in the suburbs, much to the sadness of both brother and sister who quickly decide to find their way back to the one place they feel they belong. On their journey back home however, Ben becomes wary of his sister’s new-found abilities to not only communicate with creatures of folklore and legend, but to possibly be that of a Selkie, a mythical creature derived from the ocean and that of a seal, leading to an adventure of a lifetime with an overall goal to return home to their father once again.
In my review of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, I noted that each and every frame could easily be frozen and presented as a work of art in its’ own right, something of which can be said of Song of the Sea, a film that not only has layers upon layers of magical and mystical imagery in almost every scene, but has clearly taken the time to add the smaller and minute details that make its’ sense of wonder even greater, even if they aren’t that important in the context of the film. Many times I simply pointed at the screen in awe of its’ beauty and sheer charm, whether it be the image of buried, sleeping animals in the ground, or the mosaic-esque design of the woodland where we are treated to an almost x-ray vision of our character’s surroundings. Along with the overall design of the film, the writers’ brilliant imagination encompassed the underlying mystical traits of the film, with the scene in which we are introduced to the Owl Witch/Macha in particular being one of the many examples in which all the positive elements of the film came together in expertly fashion.
When it comes to the many positive elements of Song of the Sea, I could seriously and willingly go on all day about them as there is so much to love and so much to take away, with the film concluding with scenes that will most definitely want to make you grab for the nearest tissue box, even if you are too stubborn to admit it. If a film like Song of the Sea was released every week into a global audience, I strongly believe the world will be a much better place, but with its’ limited availability in UK cinemas, it’s a sure possibility that it may go under the radar, a sad fact to take in, yet if you do manage to find the chance to watch Song of the Sea, please do, as Tomm Moore’s animated masterpiece is a film that pulls on the heartstrings, embraces the magical, mystical elements of Irish folklore to the fullest and leaves you with a genuine feeling to experience it all again, a recipe for success if ever there was one.
Overall Score: 10/10