Another year, another 12 months of the good, the bad, and the ugly of what cinema has to offer. Here are Editor Alex Moss’ Top Ten Favourite Films. Note: not best. These are the films he enjoyed the most in 2015. Simple rule, if it was released in the UK in 2015 it’s eligible to make the list. There is one small issue, as a bonafide Jedi enthusiast/obsessive (yes Alex is one of those weirdos who actually put down Jedi as his religion on the last census) there is no way of knowing if The Force Awakens will make the list…. But fear not. If it does, it will be a Top Eleven of 2015. You get one for free because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
While it got a limited release on Boxing Day, Birdman was technically not released nation wide until 1st January 2015. So here it is, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stunning dissection of the ego, the id and of course the narcissism that comes with washed-up actors. There’s laughs, satire and endless character whimsy but it’s Iñárritu’s fluid, seamless, one-take execution, combined with Michael Keaton’s pitch-perfect performance, that captivates utterly. Special mention should also go to Emma Stone and Ed Norton for bringing beating heart and over-inflated/damaged masculinity in respective performances.
David Robert Mitchell proved that with a simple concept, smart script and near flawless direction, horror really can be one of the most evocative and immersive genres out there. It’s creepy, has you checking every frame for the “It” of the title, and never lets you second guess it. It Follows is easily one of the best directed films of the year. It oozes with a sense of ‘80s nostalgia that would make John Carpenter proud, with styling slick enough to get Kubrick’s nod of approval.
A definite return to form for Pixar who had perhaps rested on their laurels with Cars 2 and Monsters University, Inside Out is so much more than an animation movie. It is a universal tale that will leave you reeling from the realisation that, beneath the surface, we all experience the same emotions as we go through life. Rarely do you want to applaud a film for opening your eyes to the truth about your own psyche, but Inside Out is the sort of film that should be studied by therapists. It certainly does their job in a more digestible and accessible way than sitting on a couch talking it out.
Okay: full disclosure. For me, Aaron Sorkin will go down in history in the same cinematic breath as Billy Wilder. He is the sort of screenwriter who can turn even the most seemingly dull subject matter into something lyrical, riveting and brimming with smart dialogue that rolls off the tongue. With Steve Jobs, he does for Apple what he did for Facebook. He dissects something you think you know and understand and creates something epic, but told on the smallest, walking-and-talking scale. Fassbender is captivating in the titular role and this is one film that you can expect to be seen fighting hard for a Best Adapted Screenplay come Oscar season.
Great sci-fi gets in your head like a scratch you can’t quite itch. It makes you think, it challenges and it takes you on a cerebral ride that leaves you pondering the repercussions long after the credits have rolled. Alex Garland’s musings on artificial intelligence does all of the above and more. Set in one house, this is sci-fi with grand ideas rather than sprawling vistas, but with Garland’s script and directing, combined with engaging performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaacs, you are always captivated. Ex Machina also marks another staggering turn from current Hollywood darling Alicia Vikander who, as the AI at the centre of the film, manages to leave you smitten and terrified in equal measure.
On paper, The Martian is essentially Cast Away set on Mars. But with a perfect balance of a drama and comedy script from Drew Goddard, and inventive direction from master of sci-fi Ridley Scott, The Martian manages to be so much more. In no small way, that’s thanks to a typically brilliant performance from Matt Damon. It’s the kind of performance that should be Oscar nominated, but due to its more comedic elements, will probably be overlooked. But the key thing is that the comedy is Watney’s, Damon’s character, way of handling the inexplicable situation he finds himself in. A gripping and thoroughly enjoyable film from start to finish.
A film about jazz drumming sounds less than interesting. But Damien Chazelle’s film is quite the opposite. Thanks to its perfect-tempo script, the film about an ambitious drummer coming to quite literal blows with his bandleader is one of the most thrilling films in recent memory. There’s a sense of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket at work here, with Oscar winner J.K. Simmons in the drill sergeant role and Miles Teller as Private Pyle. It is the kind of film that has you so involved it will leave you breathless and exhausted, in the best way possible.
Mad Max: Fury Road
A film that nearly never happened so many times is normally not a film to make its way through the hell that is Hollywood. But, like the title character, it takes a lot to keep Mad Max down. The modern action movie is too reliant on CGI explosions. There’s an artificiality to it. But George Miller, thirty-six years after he first created Mad Max, showed the would-be contenders to the action crown how it’s done. Hardy and Theron are brilliantly stoic, hostile and brimming with rage, but the star of the show is Miller’s relentless ability to grip you with the carnage on display. The opening twenty minutes are the most wonderfully exciting in recent memory.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
For many, this one was a little too naval-gazing and overly sentimental. But while many seemed to get hooked on Olivia Cooke’s heart melting Dying Girl, the point of the film was in fact the Me, played by Thomas Mann. Adapting his own novel, Jesse Andrews’ script is just the right balance of romantic, dramatic and whimsical. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon brings a delicate touch of direction and – crucial to why it makes this list – pays loving homage to all things Silver Screen. A genuinely affecting coming of age story that has you smiling and crying in equal measure, as you fondly remember your formative years.
Released at the start of the year, many have tried to forget the oppressive, seething terror that was Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. Such is the dread-filled true story of the wrestling brothers that Shultz encounter with billionaire John du Pont, that there is almost an ambiguity to the story at hand. Miller’s unnerving, locked-off camera allows his actors, in particular a career best Steve Carell, to dominate the frame in often uncomfortable silence. It is a daunting film to behold but utterly infects the mind with its ability to get beneath the skin. The fact that it’s all true makes the experience all the more harrowing.