Favorite Films of 2015

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2015

Another year down. Another crop of films obsessed over. This time, I decided to go against ranking things in a traditional list. Instead, I've simply compiled 15 of my favorite films and placed them in alphabetical order. All have given me cinematic pleasure throughout 2015. All are worth cherishing.


by Jericho Cerrona January 14, 2016


About Elly

Asghar Farhadi's masterful picture is both a gripping human drama and an intellectually probing critique of Iranian society, with one of the year's most most gut-wrenching sequences involving a missing child that's a tour-de-force of staging and movement. A subtle, tense, and emotionally devastating piece of work.

Amour Fou

Writer-director Jessica Hauser takes the skeletal real-life story of mentally ill playwright Heinrich von Kleist's obsession with Henriette Vogel and then drapes a daring black comedy over the bones. High privilege, repression, and aristocratic good manners; all deftly filmed in static long shots. A simultaneously provocative and humorous triumph.

Approaching the Elephant

Amanda Rose Wilder uses a fly-on-the wall approach in this non-linear documentary examining the 2007-2008 year at the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey which effectively distills the difficulties of teaching young children the finer points of democracy. Troubling, illuminating, and often very funny.

Crimson Peak

A maximalist vision of 1940s Old Hollywood-influenced haunted house pictures and full-bodied gothic romance, Guillermo Del Toro's unabashed homage is one of the purest distillations of a filmmaker's vision brought to the big screen in quite some time. Jane Eyre, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frankenstein, Hitchcock, Kubrick's The Shining, Mario Bava, and Edgar Allen Poe all get thrown into a pot that's distinctly Del Toro; resulting in an unwieldy, rumbling beast of a movie spitting blood, snow, and nightmarish ghouls.

Gangs of Wasseypur

This is India's The Godfather; Anurag Kashyap's magnificently contained epic about familial ties, betrayal, and the societal conditions which create and nurture gangsters, spanning decades and entire lives from the 1940s to the 1990s. Despite it's gargantuan running time, the film rockets along spinning information, names, places, and moments of brutal violence with stunning precision.

Hard to be a God

A disorienting descent into madness, a deranged mutilation of proper civilization, and a flat-out masterpiece, Aleksei German's swan song is like watching Terry Gilliam trapped inside Tarkovsky's brain while Herzog whispers indecipherable mantras. An extraordinary synthesis of human barbarism and gallows humor strangling the past, present, and future into one gangrene-infested stew.

Jauja

Lisandro Alonso's bold experiment follows Viggo Mortensen's wandering Dane as he searches for his 15-year-old daughter across the 19th-century Patagonian wilderness. The sight of characters placed up against the beautiful savagery of the landscapes creates it's own kind of movie magic; creating an existential nightmare disguised as a minimalist Western.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Nadav Lapid's esoteric drama about the bond between a teacher and her 5-year-old pupil is a stark political statement about the nature of art in Israel as well as a contradictory tale straddling the line between exploitation and expression. Thought-provoking and controversial ideas are posed, but never concretely answered, giving the film a deeply haunting quality.

Lil' Quinquin

Originally filmed as a French TV miniseries, Bruno Dumont's singular achievement follows a bumbling detective trying to solve a small-town string of bizarre murders, but really, the film is about maintaining a strange tone; merging macabre comedy and visual gags with a sophisticated use of framing and literary references. The grotesque folly of man has seldom been so deftly achieved.

The Look of Silence

2013's jaw-dropping The Act of Killing would always be an impossible act to follow, but Joshua Oppenheimer hasn't so much made a sequel to that ground-breaking documentary as an extension of the same world. Here, he follows Adi Rukun, an optometrist who was born two years after the Indonesian genocide ended in 1966 as he interviews some of the killers who still remain in positions of power. The results are disturbing, revelatory, and deeply moving; giving a voice to the multitudes of nameless victims forgotten by time.

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller returns to the Mad Max franchise and proves that a 70-year-old auteur can deliver an insane action spectacle with a nifty feminist twist to boot. A gonzo thrill ride that comes out with all guns, spears, gears, spikes, and flame-thrower electric guitars blazing, and the best film released by a major studio in years. Believe the hype.

Mommy

Ferociously alive and brimming with the kind of passionate cinematic risk-taking only a 25-year-old filmmaker could muster, Xavier Dolan's latest is like witnessing raw exposed nerves and a bloody heart. Loud shouting matches, gaudy pop tunes, deeply committed performances, and artful filmmaking choices unsure, as Dolan unspools a sprawling story of the dysfunctional bond between mother and son, along with the helpful neighbor caught inside their chaotic undertow. Self-indulgent and overlong? Sure. But also emotionally wrenching and cinematically exhilarating.

A Poem is a Naked Person

Following country/blues musician Leon Russell during the height of his popularity in 1974, this rambling, gleefully stoned-drunk documentary from Les Blank was shelved from distribution for some 40 years. Though superficially a concert film, there's an obsession with Russell's motley clan of weirdos and rural Oklahomans surrounding the recording studio permeating every frame with off-kilter weirdness. An unforgettable distillation of a lost time and place.

Timbuktu

A protest film under the guise of an intensely powerful human drama, African filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako creates a prism into which we witness a city overrun by Islamic fundamentalists who implement rigid rules onto the population. There's a rare balancing of opposing ideologies at work here--with poetry and humor being juxtaposed with moments of brutal violence and bigotry. A shrewd, upsetting, and essential viewing experience.

Time Out of Mind

Richard Gere plays a homeless man struggling to survive on the streets of New York City while hoping to reconnect with his estranged daughter, but don't let the odd casting choice keep you away from Oren Moverman's artful rendering of a complex issue. Shot with long lenses through refracted mirrors and windows, the stylistic choices here challenge the way we view the problem of homelessness by never announcing itself from a pulpit, but rather, by trapping us inside the headspace of a man whom society has given up on. An important film, contemplative in approach and powerful in restraint.


OTHER FILMS I LOVED THAT JUST MISSED THE CUT:

Entertainment, Queen of Earth, Phoenix, What We Do in the Shadows, Uncertain Terms, Salvation Army, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Stations of the Cross, Futuro Beach, Buzzard