Bob's Top 10 Movies of 2015
2015 was a great year for me (I got engaged to the love of my life!) and a pretty good year for movies. Here are my 10 favorites.
10: Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl
Your mileage on Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl will depend on your tolerance for coming of age movies and quirk, but not as much as you may think. The title and the plot (awkward young guy does some growing up thanks to his friendship with a girl with cancer) sound like an unbearably quirky indie flick overly impressed with its own cleverness, but the actual film is mostly charming and endearing without being obnoxious. Some element work better than others, and some of the dramatic turns in the film feel a little labored, but overall this a creative and likable movie.
9: Goodnight Mommy
Goodnight Mommy has been compared to the works of M Night Shyamalan , but that is a generous comparison to M Night. This is an artful, atmospheric horror movie that excels at unsettling you. The ending is a little too easy to predict, but the journey to that ending is as creepy and memorable as any horror movie in recent memory.
8: The Circle
Because you probably haven't heard of the movie, here's a brief synopsis: A group of 100 people find themselves abducted and put in a strange room. They must vote to kill one person every ten minutes, or a person will randomly die. The last person left lives.
This movie won't appeal to everyone, as the characters are paper-thin representations, the dialogue is a little clunky at times, and the premise requires the viewer to buy in. The Circle is a movie that is interested in exploring a singular idea: How would a group of random people decide who lives and dies? It does this in a really compelling fashion with suspense and some nice surprises. Absolutely worth a watch on a rainy Netflix night.
Most comedy movies are terrible, and one of the biggest reasons is that they so heavily rely on stars to "do their thing" that so many comedy screenplays feel like an afterthought. "We'll just have Jim Carey be wacky or Adam Sandler be goofy or Robin Williams be manic." Melissa McCarthy is the latest in a line of comedy stars to get this "privilege". Spy is so special because the script does all the heavy lifting, not McCarthy. It's hard not to be charmed by a movie with so many jokes, even when some of them don't land.
6: Love and Mercy
There are fewer genres that adhere to formula as strictly as the Biopic. Take a famous person with an interesting life, dramatize the exciting stuff, leave out the filler, and cast an Oscar-hungry actor who is willing to gain or lose 30 pounds. Because of this, these films usually succeed or fail based on the performance of the lead and your interest in the subject. Love and Mercy proves what a difference one bold stylistic choice can make in the genre and is a much more memorable and powerful film for it.
As creative, funny, and inventive as a movie you will see this year.
Room is a one-of-a-kind film (and novel). Its subject matter is unusual, if not entirely unheard of, but the tone is what really sets Room apart. The story at the core of Room is unbearably dark, but instead of being bleak, the film is hopeful and incredibly humane. It's a delicate balance that Lenny Abrahamson hits perfectly. It's an incredible directing, writing, and acting accomplishment.
In a year where the other big movies based on real events feature a shill for the Home Shopping Network (Joy) and greedy investment bankers taking on greedier monsters (The Big Short) and present them in a ludicrously saintly fashion, the fact that the protagonists in Spotlight come off as real people is a great testament to the careful and confident work of Tom McCarthy. Directors making movies based on a true story could learn a lot from Spotlight.
This film just keeps growing on me. Beautiful and interesting both aesthetically and as a story, this is worth seeing regardless of your tastes. How many surreal dramas starring puppets are you going to see in your life?
1: Ex Machina
Horror films get a lot of flack for featuring people making unfeasibly stupid decisions (DON'T GO UP THE STAIRS), but at least the characters making those mistakes are usually dumb horny teens. Sci Fi, however, features characters that are supposed to be incredibly intelligent doing impossibly dumb things for no reason other than it is convenient to the plot. I'm looking at you, every single adult in Jurassic World.
Ex Machina is so refreshing and so fun to watch because it actually makes all of its characters intelligent. Instead of dressing up characters in lab coats and giving them some fake science Mumbo jumbo to speak and calling it a day,
Garland builds three characters that behave in a way that makes sense for three people that are supposed to be very intelligent to behave. Watching this film unfold is incredibly satisfying, especially because it never feels like it is cheating as it delivers every thrill and surprise.