Innaritu is back to his miserablist worst. This is such a simple-minded exercise in violence and dreariness, it’s hard to see past the hype about the authenticity of the whole enterprise.
The Hateful Eight (Tarantino, 2015, 4.5)
Perhaps the political themes of the film and their modern resonance will become clearer on a second screening, but it’s going to be a while before that second screening happens. This was a long, brutal and dull film, without the chutzpah, humor and cleverness with which Tarantino made long, brutal films feel anything but dull in the past.
The Big Short (McKay, 2015, 5.8)
The type of film where the most of everything is on offer the most acting, the most editing, the most wig, the most fake tan, the most music, the most shrieking, the most machismo but the least reward is taken away. For all the information delivered Margot Robbie in the bathtub, McKay is clueless about how to make the impact of the financial crisis/fraud be felt in any meaningful way.
Heart of a Dog (Anderson, 2015, 5.5)
A personal essay that surely feels more powerful, intimate and significant to Anderson than it does to the audience.
Straight Outta Compton (Gray, 2015, 7.6)
The inaccuracies in the band’s history, and (the deserved) accusations of misogyny aside, Straight Outta Compton is a powerful film. Its ensemble of cast of newcomers all deserve star roles in many films to come, particularly Jason Mitchell, whose turn as Eazy E captures the blend of bitterness and heartbreak that has become the man’s legacy. It is also remarkable that the scenes of interaction between band members and the police and the chaotic environment of Compton at the time are still shocking to see on the screen. It’s a testament to Gray’s force behind the camera that despite the harrowing news one hears about the treatment of minorities by the police in America on a regular basis, the film never lets us feel desensitized to the injustice.
Results (Bujalski, 2015, 7.9)
Such a delightful oddity! Bujalski’s film never moves in the direction one expects it to, be it from shot to shot, or in the overall arc of its story, but it never loses sight of the story’s ebbs and flows. Consistently funny and energetic, and surprisingly fresh with its gender politics.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Elkabetz/Elkabetz, 2015, 8.1)
The archaic insanity and misogyny of fundamentalist religion knows no bounds; Gett knows how to perfectly channel the audience’s rage through this story of Israel’s broken justice system. The vast, rotating ensemble of performers are uniformly strong.
Blackhat (Mann, 2015, 5.7)
There are individual sequences that are riveting in their intensity and visual construction, but this is a profoundly stupid film.
45 Years (Haigh, 2015, 8.1)
Andrew Haigh’s follow-up to his brilliant debut, Weekend, proves that he was no one-hit-wonder. His deep, empathetic understanding of human emotions and relationships is one of a kind. This is a film that, with the aid of two exceptional performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, shows fragile the strongest bonds can be and how complex love truly is. It’s an immensely moving film, made even more powerful with its final shot.
The Assassin (Hou, 2015, 7.0)
Gorgeously shot and opulently designed, Hou’s latest is a visual feast, but the director’s insistence on conveying moods and creating atmospheres in this sparsely plotted film often comes at the expense of his curiosity. The Assassin has a lot of potential for historical and political exploration.
The Mend (Magary, 2015, N/A)
It’s entirely possible that on this particular night, my mood wasn’t right for this film. Equally, it is possible that The Mend is far more deeply preoccupied with appearing bold and curious than with creating fully realized characters and relationships. I bailed with twenty minutes left on the clock, but nothing suggested that the finale would engage me more than the sluggish, tonally confused build-up.
The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941, 7.6)
An impressive for Huston, though in retrospect that is no surprise, of course. One of film noir’s earliest example is a technically complex, thrilling film, with a charming performance from Humphrey Bogart, but it is undermined by the film’s loose grasp of tone, often veering suddenly, and needlessly, into comedy. The score is particularly at fault.
The Lobster (Lanthimos, 2015, 7.9)
Darkly, absurdly comic in the fashion we’ve come to expect of Lanthimos in the first half of the film, unexpectedly, tenderly romantic in the second half. It’s satirical, but also deeply honest and heartbreaking, aided by two wonderful turns from Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.
Mistress America (Baumbach, 2015, 8.0)
Like a less emotionally complex follow-up to Frances Ha, but equally endearing and entertaining. This is a sharp and astute look at the confusions of youth and one of the year’s funniest films.
Carol (Haynes, 2015, 9.4)
Haynes’s sturdy formalism and the meticulousness of his storytelling is such that when the emotional blows are delivered, one truly wonders how and when so much deep, personal engagement with the film came to be. Haynes remarkably depicts every specific emotion and memory associated with love, the small, insignificant moments that linger when one is truly in love, and most films skip over, become moments of majestic grandeur in Carol. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are a dream.
Creed (Coogler, 2015, 8.1)
The death of an American myth, the birth of an American dream. Bombastic, sensational directing from Coogler; measured and careful performances from Jordan, Thompson and Stallone. Creed deftly handles the literal and figurative passing of the baton from the old guard to today’s generation.
Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One (Gomes, 2015, 9.4) (link to review)
“Arabian Nights is a work of grand ambition, a film that is at once heartbreaking and confrontational, transcendent but grounded in the mundane realities of living with poverty. Gomes has made what will quite possibly be regarded as the definitive film about the global economic crisis.”
James White (Mond, 2015, 7.3)
One of the strangest films of the year, and desperately begging for repeated viewings to works its way into the audience’s mind. Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon deliver stellar performances as a mother and son in dire straights. James White is a powerful, intense and overwhelming experience.
Room (Abrahamson, 2015, 7.0)
The wheels fall off the film in the final third, but it’s tender, powerful and tense in the lead-up. Brie Larson is magnetic, as expected, but the true revelation here is Jacob Tremblay, who delivers what has to be one of the best child performances of all time.
Brooklyn (Crowley, 2015, 7.7)
Saoirse Ronan is searing in her role as a new Irish immigrant to New York City in this charming, beautifully executed story. Brooklyn is the type of film that could have been cheesy and ordinary in lesser hands but is incredibly moving and powerful, even if it’s not a particularly inventive artistic accomplishment.
Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One (Gomes, 2015, 9.4) (link to review)
“The longing voice of the narrator and Gomes’s romanticist touch paint a wistful, heartbreaking picture of the sorrow that has taken root in the community. Aided by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s tactile photography and the director’s unparalleled knack for using pop tracks effectively, “The Owners of Dixie” contains the most heartfelt and emotionally resonant moments in the Arabian Nights epic, a majestic chapter that highlights the director’s humanist sensibilities.”