Best of The Best 2015: Kurland’s Top Ten Films
By Scott Kurland
This is always my favorite time of year, and most taxing. I have a lot of reviews I have to get up online like “The Big Short”, "H8teful Eight", and a few other films; I will post those later this week. However, I must drop everything to bring you my three top ten lists. If you’re new to my site and are unfamiliar with my style this is what I do, three top ten lists back to back. First up is this list “The Best of the Best”. These are my top ten films of 2015, in my opinion these are the best films. I might not include “Carol” or “The Danish Girl”, but I will give you some great films that left an impression on me. Then I go from good to bad with “The Worst of the God Awful”, these are the worst films 2015. Finally my favorite list “Hidden Gems”, these are the ten best films that everyone either past up on or didn't know were out yet and skipped them. So please with this new year enjoy these new lists. This is “the Best of the Best 2015.”
10. “Bridge Of Spies”
It pains me that no one really saw this film. “Bridge Of Spies” was poorly marketed and released a week after “The Martian”. Everyone saw “The Martian” because it looked like a pulse pounding thrill ride (which it was). Yet no one saw “Bridge Of Spies” because it looked like a boring Cold War office drama (which it wasn't.). It isn’t boring in the least, and Mark Rylance is a breakout star from this film. Spielberg goes back to his historical roots, and finds new ways to make the past come to life. Normally, the topic of the Cold War would seems incredibly unappealing. Yet!!! Spielberg and Tom Hanks create an endearing charismatic leading man in the form of James Donovan. Hanks is the best he’s been in decades, and Spielberg hasn't made a film this powerful since “Munich” .
9. “Best Of Enemies”
This documentary came in and went out of theaters in August, but luckily it was released on Netflix last month. “Best of Enemies” is a documentary that I thought I’d find tedious and boring because it’s all about the ABC News debates of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. What’s fascinating is how entertaining they were to watch. Buckley is depicted as the uptight conservative, while Vidal is the laid back liberal. What is great about this documentary is seeing how failing network ABC, exploited two men to become the top dog. This film is just the right amount of informative history blended into a full fledge Kangaroo court. If you have a chance check this film out on Netflix because it is something special.
This is the first year two documentaries made the list, I think this is the first year any documentary made the list. “Iris” was the final film of documentarian Albert Maysle. If you don’t know Maysle, he and his brother, David, really put documentary filmmaking on the map in the late 60s. Maysle’s final work of art follows fashion icon Iris Apfel through her New York Fashionista life. We get to see this legend of the fashion world at work. You’d be surprised how entertaining this film is, Apfel is larger than life and you can’t help but love her. Maysle takes a subject that would seem unappealing and he entices you. Like “Best Of Enemies”, “Iris” briefly played in theaters and is now available on Netflix. I adored Maysle and I’m honored to have him on this list.
Many people will see “Trumbo” as a biopic, but I see this as a cautionary tale. Throughout history there’s always been one man who tried to speak for the people only to get crucified by those in power. “Trumbo” is one of the most powerful and heartbreaking films I’ve seen this year. Cranston and Mirren’s masterful performances under Jay Roach’s superb direction is what truly make this film come to life. “Trumbo” almost ended up on my hidden gems list, but this deserves to be on the best of list because of the extraordinary true story of a man witch hunt in a crazy time of fear.
6. “Ex Machina”
There are some films I know will make this list the moment I leave the theater. “Ex Machina” was one of those films. Before I wrote my first review, before I even left the theater to get into my car, I knew this film was making the list. “Ex Machina” was released the same week as “Furious 7” and two weeks before “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”; which means no one really saw it. Yet, on Blu-ray/DVD it found a second life. Alex Garland’s bleak story warns you about artificial intelligence and robotics. This is a dark and dazzling film. If I’m being perfectly honest this is the film that should be nominated for every award, but it won’t. Oscar Isaac gives the performance of a lifetime as the lone inventor who creates a self aware robot. Yet the real delight for me was Domhnall Gleeson, because he brings the average guy to life. Gleeson talked about how this character was inspired by Tom Hanks and how flawlessly Hanks plays an average guy on film. “Ex Machina” is a very simple story with a complex center and stellar acting. Truly worthy of this list.
5. “Inside Out”
Pixar has always been able to make masterpieces, but they out did themselves with “Inside Out”. The idea of going inside the mind of an emotionally confused eleven year old girl is genius. On top of that; having the foresight to include some of the most heartfelt dialog and characters is just the cherry on the sundae. “Inside Out” reached levels in animation filmmaking no one thought was possible; and they did it with such a small animation crew which is unheard of. There's so many genres packed into this film. You have the buddy cop story, but that’s just the surface of the film. At the heart of “Inside Out” you have a family drama, a coming of age story, and the loss of innocence. This is a smart film that proves why animation isn’t just for kids, but it’s also for adults as well.
4. “ The H8teful Eight”
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film is a bloody epic western rampage. The simple story of a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) stuck in a blizzard with his bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and six other mad men plays out like an Agatha Christie story. However, Agatha Christie never blew anyone’s head clean off nor did she toss the N-word around freely. Tarantino tells his story with gorgeous 70MM panavision film which gives off such vivid imagery. There is also a great new score by living legend Ennio Morricone which will remind you of his earlier works with Sergio Leone. I love this film, but be warned that this is not a movie for the squeamish. There’s a ton of blood and heads exploding, plus special effects are provided by Greg Nicotero the man who gave us “Evil Dead 2” and James Caan's swollen legs in “Misery.” That’s how you know this picture is gruesome. Yet, I loved this gory gut ridden bloodbath. “H8teful Eight” earns its number four spot.
3. “Mad Max: Fury Road”
This shouldn’t surprise you dear reader, I’ve been singing this film’s praises since May. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of the most thoughtful dramas masking itself as an action film. At 70 years old George Miller shows the world what you can do right if the studio trusts you. Replacing Mel Gibson with the strong silent Tom Hardy was choice casting. Focusing more on the women and less on Max also returns “Mad Max” to form. A lot of people complain that this movie doesn’t focus on its lead. Yet if you remember “Mad Max” and “Mad Max: The Road Warrior”, Max spoke a total of 100 words between those two films. If you need a real number in “Mad Max” he had about 84 lines. In “Road Warrior” 16 and most of those lines are “I just came for the gas”. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, which once again shows us how powerful this number three movie is.
Like usual the number one and two films were a coin toss. I loved both of these films equally and they both blew me away. The only reason “Room” is number two on this list because the quarter landed on tails and “Room” was on the heads side. “Room” is one of the greatest films about abuse an abduction to ever hit the screen. Brie Larson as a damaged kidnap victim gives the best performance of the year, hands down. Jacob Tremblay as her son that saves her is pretty impressive for a seven year old actor, this kid is the next Elijah Wood. “Room” is a wonderful and emotional film, directed by Lenny Abrahamson the man who made last years sleeper hit “Frank”. Abrahamson is one of the most experimental directors we have and he needs to keep making movies, because they’re absolutely glorious films to watch and look at.
AND THE WINNER IS…
It’s funny to me that "Spotlight" is number one. Thomas McCarthy made “Spotlight” probably one of the greatest films to come out of 2015. However, McCarthy also made “The Cobbler” one of the worst films to come out of 2015. I am baffled beyond words, yet “Spotlight” is a masterpiece. McCarthy assembles a stellar cast filled with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schrieber, Rachel McAdams; just to name a few. McCarthy’s tale of the Boston Globe Spotlight team investigating the Boston archdiocese only to discover the horror that lied within. “Spotlight” is one of those films that you’ll want to see over and over again because it is just that good and inspiring. I know this film is a true Oscar Contender, and in a few weeks when the nominations come out you will see this nominated for so many award. “Spotlight” is the best film of 2015.