The thing about ‘best of’ lists is that they’re rarely concrete catalogues. Often I revisit and alter my assessments from previous years with new considerations and additions. When determining my ‘best of’ list I usually choose my favourite films of the year, the ones that lingered for days after watching and for which I would have no hesitation in watching again. That’s the sign of a great film for me. As I prepared this list for 2015, I noticed that my top 10 shared a number of similarities – either in tone, narrative or effect – and so the piece developed accordingly. Of the films I saw in 2015 according to the Australia release schedule, here is my (non)definitive ‘best of’.
1. Inside Out
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
In 2015, two filmmakers delivered ambitious showpieces of ingenuity and seemingly unrestrained vision: Pete Docter and George Miller. Their films Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road, respectively, were technical majesties and, most importantly, unparalleled for their ability to transport audiences to another world – whether that’s the cerebral headquarters of a maturing child’s mind, or the explosive desert highways of a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
4. Cobain: Montage of Heck
Selma is a stirring historical drama about the Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights movement, while Cobain: Montage of Heck is a harrowing biographical documentary about the tortured mind of Nirvana’s frontman, yet both films are remarkably intimate and visceral feats. Selma conducts itself gracefully, allowing peaceful moments to breathe and finding profundity in small human interactions. On the other hand, Montage of Heck provides a disturbing but entirely sympathetic insight into the ontogeny of Kurt Cobain’s awe-inspiring mind, so deeply personal that it feels like Cobain’s ghostly presence inhabits every frame.
6. Beasts of No Nation
At the epicentre of both ’71 and Beasts of No Nation is a reluctant soldier entangled in a setting of civil unrest, forced to take extreme measures to survive. Neither film eschews the brutal depiction of warfare, instead emphasising its pointlessness and demonstrating that rarely is any political conflict strictly black and white. However, both films endeavour to cling on to a sense of compassion, dispelling any judgement of each film’s moral ambiguity in favour of a final expression of humanness.
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Is it a coincidence that both Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are the seventh films of their respective franchises? Probably, but it’s no accident that both films harness the emotional power of their original film’s legacy to steer its narrative and thematic course. Creed and The Force Awakens are most effective when they reverently echo their own cinematic histories – each offering many goosebump moments – while at the same time contributing something fresh and exciting.
9. The Lobster
10. Wild Tales
The humour of absurdity is used to great effect in both The Lobster and Wild Tales. Wooden, prosaic dialogue leavens the dry wittiness of The Lobster, set by its outlandish dystopian premise. The film is often as disturbing as it is comical, examining the cognitive constructs of relationships through bizarre pretences. Wild Tales is similarly disturbing in its use of the absurd, but with much more ‘laugh-out-loud’ intensity. This Argentinean anthology of short stories is delightfully and eagerly chaotic, picturing the wild side of humanity in a six eccentric parables.
Next 10 (alphabetical order): Birdman, Bridge of Spies, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, It Follows, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Sicario, The Gift, The Martian, The Night Before.
REVISION: As predicted, I need to make a drastic but deserving alteration to this list. After rewatching the masterful Bridge of Spies, I have decided in belongs much higher on this list in the #3 position.