RSS

Tag Archives: best actress 2016

Best of 2015: Movies

We’re right in the middle of awards season, and things are going to be heating up over the coming weeks as nominations are announced right and left. 2015 was a big year for movies, as we saw record-breaking grosses along with new distribution models and the domination of Walt Disney Studios. I gained a lot of new favorite movies this year, and my list runs the gamut of blockbusters to the art house specialties.

Honorable MentionsThe Walk, Clouds of Sils Maria, The Martian, Sicario, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Bridge of Spies

And now, my Top 10 Movies of 2015:

Carol

tumblr_static_2a4wm0wmt6o0kwg4wg4484ss8_2048_v2

Beautifully told and gorgeously shot, Carol succeeds in all departments. The story of two young women who fall for each other in 1950s New York feels like a relic of time gone by. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are convincing lovers, and sell you on their love with minimal dialogue. Sly looks, sensual provocations bring Carol and Therese together, and the film is a perfect representation of what makes people fall in love. Todd Haynes’s has such respect and admiration for his protagonists, and he extends that care to the filmmaking, with breathtaking cinematography and costume design.

The Big Short

bigshort

The Big Short, like Steve Jobs, is a riveting drama with its own rhythm. Adam McKay’s film gives you a behind-the-curtain look at what caused the housing collapse of 2008, and if this sounds like a bore, trust me, it’s anything but. The accessible approach makes it an appropriate film for any adult looking to learn some economics but also what caused them to lose their job. It’s a film that will make you mad but also intrigue you. The Big Short‘s ensemble of characters gives you a new perspective on the national economy.

Trainwreck

trainwreck-amy-schumer-bill-hader

Judd Apatow’s protagonists are always stunted in emotional growth, and what makes Trainwreck so invigorating is Amy’s transformation over the course of the two-hour film. She goes from carefree serial dater to mature professional 21st century woman, but her journey never feels like an “A to B.” Her speed bumps along the way harden her emotionally, and you’ll lust for her new relationship with Aaron to go well for her own sake. The film never makes judgments about behavior, as every character in Amy’s life has flaws of their own. Amy Schumer’s star vehicle is more than a great case for her leading lady status, it’s a complex yet straightforward raunchy comedy with an unforgiving cast of characters and sharp writing.

Love & Mercy

LOVE-MERCY-6

Music biopics are a dime a dozen, but the best ones are the ones that truly understand their subject. Comparing it to Straight Outta Compton might seem presumptuous, but both these films are creative endeavors that reflect the artists’ music as an extension of the artist themselves. Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, however, is unique in its take on Beach Boys’ frontman Brian Wilson’s life, as it tells a parallel narrative of Wilson’s life in the 1960s and his life in the 1980s. The two different actors show Wilson’s transformation from troubled creative to patient zero but never feel disconnected from the overall narrative. Gorgeously directed music recording sequences are contrasted with the somber reflective second half of Wilson’s life, and the links between the two are never ostentatious, always accessible.

Spotlight

rs_1024x759-150729120922-1024.spotlight-movie

Spotlight is unbelievable. Tough subject matter aside, this is a thrilling film, back when journalism would be described as “hard-hitting.” The ensemble is remarkable, and seeing them grapple with the personal and professional stress of the story is made riveting thanks to director Tom McCarthy’s emotionally rich script. It’s a film about deception and scandal, but also one about truth and justice, as the Spotlight team knows the stakes behind this story are sky-high. Coupled with great production design and more than a few standout sequences, Spotlight joins the ranks of Zero Dark Thirty and the podcast Serial as the best modern-day journalistic endeavors.

Mistress America

150812_MOV_MistressAmerica.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Screwball at its finest, Noah Baumbach’s second film of 2015 is one of his greatest, and marks his collaborations with Greta Gerwig as one of the finest in the indie business. There are a lot of films and programs about millennials in New York City, and Mistress America‘s take on a young college girl who bonds with her soon-to-be sister is simply a delight. There’s shades of Woody Allen here as the city comes to life as a supporting character, but the friendship between Tracy and Brooke is the real heart and soul, and gives the film a personality of its own. It’s the kind of film that you put in on a rainy afternoon, as it sucks you into their world and makes you feel not like an observer of the hijinks, but a real participator.

Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

On the surface, there may not be anything immediately fascinating about the movie Brooklyn. The story is not the most complex one, and it may look like a typical immigrant tale if you’re just window shopping. But Brooklyn’s simplicity is what makes it stand out, and it was refreshing to see a movie so classically told, one that won’t make you scream or shout, but rather one you’ll be admiring for years to come. Saoirse Ronan sells you on Eilis’s experience, as she’s torn between her new home in New York and her old one in Ireland. The elegant simplicity of the filmmaking and writing allows Brooklyn to focus on other things, and the result is a new classic, one that will never feel old or dated.

Room

la-la-ca-room-005-jpg-20150914

I was possibly the biggest emotional wreck in the theater after the movie Room. Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, and brought to the screen by director Lenny Abrahamson, Room has such a marvelous first act that you might wonder if the film can keep up the pace for the remainder of the film. Told beautifully and made with the tender touch of a mother, Room makes such a convincing bond between Ma and Jack. You’ll grow frustrated with them but also yearn for their release, and both Brie Larson and young actor Jacob Tremblay tap into these fictional characters and make them feel “ripped from the headlines” real.

Steve Jobs

steve-jobs-movie-2015-holding

Steve Jobs is electric filmmaking. The film retains such a rhythm throughout its entire run, and it makes the experience feel like you’re watching history being made, which you kind of are. Michael Fassbender gives the best performance of his career as the enigmatic Jobs, and Danny Boyle’s film allows him to explore new angles of Jobs that we may not have previously known. The brilliant three-act structure gives a Shakespearian atmosphere to the whole affair, and Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin never let the film lose momentum. Boasting brilliant direction and some great supporting turns from Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs is unlike any other film you’ll see this year.

Inside Out

gallery_insideout_thumbnail_75d4102c

Many (including this writer) thought that Pixar’s glory days were behind them, yet Inside Out is the studio’s best film to date. It’s worth repeating that Inside Out is a creative masterpiece, overflowing with ingenuity and attention to detail, with accomplished voice actors and a beautiful score. But then again, so are all of Pixar’s films. What makes Inside Out so special is that it may be the first animated film truly made for adults and children. Yeah, there are jokes that range from slapstick to witty quips, but the emotional mileage that Inside Out gets out of its protagonist Riley is simply unprecedented. You’ll think of your own adolescence as Riley struggles with hers, you’ll relate to Joy and Sadness and their adventure through Riley’s head, you’ll laugh and cry along with Riley’s parents as they adjust to a new home. What Inside Out does is make these experiences universal, while allowing the viewer to make it personal. All of this is coated with the signature Disney-Pixar polish that we’ve known and loved, and you’ve got a new classic for the ages.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Other

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brooklyn

Brooklyn_FilmPoster

Brooklyn is a beauty. It’s as classical as they come, telling the story of a young Irish immigrant torn between two worlds, but it gets remarkably complex despite seeming like yet another romantic drama. Bolstered by beautiful production design and a perfect cast, Brooklyn is one of the year’s best.

The film is all about our cultural identity, and for Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), hers has been shaped primarily by Ireland. When a chance at a job in an upscale department store in New York arises, Ellis jumps at the opportunity, leaving behind her family and friends in search of something new in 1950s Brooklyn. She shacks up in a boarding house for girls headed by the ostentatious yet hospitable Miss Kehoe (Julie Walters, a standout), and must adjust to life in the United States. Meeting Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) sets the sparks flying for a romance, as she quickly falls for him, but Ellis soon finds herself immediately drawn back to Ireland after a series of events.

Ellis is a dreamer, and it shows. Actress Saoirse Ronan is no stranger to complex roles like these, and she brings the practicality yet wide-eyed enthusiasm to Ellis. Initially reserved, she quickly grows to love the city of New York, but Ireland always remains a part of her. She’s ambitious, with dreams of becoming a bookkeeper, yet not closed off to new experiences. Ronan (who holds dual citizenship in Ireland and the U.S.) has found her muse in Ellis, and this is a performance we’ll be hearing much about this winter, I’m sure of it.

This dichotomy of cultures gives Brooklyn its central conflict, and screenwriter Nick Hornby manifests this in Ellis’s two admirers, Tony, whom she marries before returning to Ireland, and Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), who pines for her affection back in her homeland. She doesn’t dislike Jim, but her admiration for the big city and her hatred for small town gossip piles on the pressure, and she finds herself at a crossroads. Her mother (Jane Brennan) isn’t helping either, as Ellis must hide her marriage to Tony from her old friends and family out of fear that they might think she has departed from her Irish identity.

Brooklyn is brilliant at getting at how where we come from shapes who we are, but it doesn’t trap us forever. The themes of immigration are explored in two excellent scenes with Ellis aboard the ferry to New York – just look at how much she’s changed from her first trip out of her country. Upon returning, she helps another young girl who reminds her of herself. The development here is outstanding, and the writers made great use of the run time. The film also surprisingly possesses a Woody Allen sense of playfulness, with the humorous beats and momentary lapses stemming primarily from cultural divisions. What seems like a straightforward romantic drama has quite a few jokes up its sleeve, and this is a refreshing pleasure.

Brooklyn goes the extra mile in making not only a well-written piece of escapism, as it’s easy on the eyes as well. Meticulous attention to detail is present in the costume and production design, and they all reflect how Ellis has changed in this impressionable period of young adulthood. The film makes great use of colour, especially in Ellis’s various outfits. Normally these aren’t things I notice in films because little thought has been given or they fail to stand out, but Brooklyn pulls out all stops to make you feel invested in the story with this added emphasis on production. Cinematography from Yves Belanger makes it clear that this is Ellis’s tale and Ellis’s alone, and the camera lingers on her for extended periods, highlight the most significant moments in Ellis’s life. The production is beautiful, drawing you in with the dreary claustrophobic streets of Ireland and contrasting with the open air of Brooklyn, and the score from Michael Brook hits all the right notes.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Best Movies of 2015 (so far)

6 months into 2015 and it’s time to start looking ahead to awards season where the best films of the year will be recognized. This year has been record-breaking for the box office but we’ve also had a fair share of smaller films that have taken the art house scene by storm. With half of the year under our belt, I thought I’d share what I think are the best films of the year so far. This is in no particular order, as I’m not sure of where these will place come year-end, or if they will even make my final list.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

NEnBsmtCJwyaqv_2_b

This one I know for sure is my #1 this year. Kingsman is hands down the best kind of fun you can have at the movies. It’s sharp, tightly paced, well-acted, and features outstanding action sequences (including the best I’ve ever seen in a church). The great cast adds plenty of charm to the film and the plot will keep you engaged the entire time. No other film this year is as risqué, action-packed and hilarious as Kingsman.

Love & Mercy

love-and-mercy-02_0

A spin on the traditional biopic, Bill Pohlad’s affecting drama about Beach Boys’ lead singer Brian Wilson is an outstanding portrait of a tragic man. The decision to feature two different actors at two different periods in Wilson’s life is a bold one, and it pays off handsomely. Paul Dano and John Cusack are excellent, and Elizabeth Banks shines in an unexpectedly well-developed supporting role. The unorthodox storytelling techniques, mirrored with unique cinematography and storytelling mechanics makes Love & Mercy a joy to watch.

Inside Out

inside-out

I try to avoid superlatives, but Inside Out is Pixar’s best film since Finding Nemo. Inside Riley’s head, a psychological plot unfolds like none other this year. Kids will adore the bright colors and funny slapstick, while adults will stick around for the affecting drama and sharp wit. But Inside Out goes the extra mile and delivers a commentary about the hardships of growing up and how being emotional is an important part of that.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Is there a better blockbuster this year than Jurassic World? Hell no. Jurassic World takes us back to before superhero movies ruled the summer, when all it took was good old dinosaurs. At the wheel are Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who are a great pair, and while the plot might not always sing, seeing dinosaurs never grows old.

Clouds of Sils Maria

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

A very unconventional choice for me, as Clouds of Sils Maria is very experimental, but no less engaging than the other films on this list. Kristin Stewart gives my favorite performance of the year thus far, as Clouds examines one woman’s pursuit of career excellence in a Hollywood that would consider her past her prime. Olivier Assayas’s excellent script and wonderful dialogue make this trip to Switzerland one worth taking.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Other

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,