ReelBob’s top 10 films of 2015
By Bob Bloom
As a movie reviewer, I am required by law and the precepts of the film critic’s code to post a top 10 list toward the end of the year.
In 2015, that chore was more difficult than in previous years. This was a very strong year for movies with several very good films not making the cut, not because they were unworthy, but because I found I had a fondness or closer connection to other features.
So, here are my choices. Full reviews of the titles in my top 10 can be found at ReelBob.
1. “Spotlight” stands out above the rest because of the manner in which it celebrates the journalistic process.
We watch as the Spotlight team of reporters from “The Boston Globe” peel away layer after layer of a systemic cover-up by the local diocese of Catholic Church to hide the actions of pedophile priests.
The film features a great ensemble cast, headed by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James, and crisp direction by Tom McCarthy.
2. “Room” is an emotionally charged experience that will have you crying and laughing, because a mother’s boundless love and protection makes life as a captive in a 10-foot-square shed as normal as possible.
Outstanding performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay make you want to sit through the film a second time.
3. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the most exhilarating and relentless movie of the year, a nonstop action romp as 70-year-old director George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic world he created more than 40 years ago.
4. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a joyous and solid return to that galaxy far, far away. In the capable hands of director J.J. Abrams, the film pays tribute to the past, while moving the franchise forward.
5. “The Big Short” takes a calamitous subject, the Great Recession of 2008, and shows how a group of outsiders saw it coming and profited off the greed and stupidity of Wall Street, bankers, mortgage lenders and insurance companies.
6. “The End of the Tour” looks at the five days that “Rolling Stone” reporter David Lipsky spends interviewing acclaimed author David Foster Wallace.
The film is an exceptional feature that takes you inside the psyche and insecurities that cling to a writer.
7. “Carol” is an elegant and stylish period piece that focuses on a romance between an older married woman and a young department-store clerk.
The movie, meticulously directed by Todd Haynes, features muted, but strong, performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
8. “The Martian” is a magnificent and stirring achievement, a celebration of man’s ingenuity and resourcefulness, based on the best-seller by Andy Weir. It is an inspiring and thrilling feature highlighted by Matt Damon’s intelligent and optimistic turn as stranded astronaut Mark Watney.
9. “Ex Machina” asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?” This excursion into science fiction and artificial intelligence makes you think about what separates man from machine.
Alicia Vikander stands out as Ava, an A.I. creation that is the focus of an experiment to see how human she has become.
The movie keeps you on your mental toes as you wonder what its endgame will reveal.
10. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” avoids the slippery slope of too much sentimentality as it tells the story of an aloof high-school student who, at the insistence of his mother, spends time with a classmate dying from a form of leukemia.
The experience makes him realize the value of companionship and friendship.
Other films during the year also provided several entertaining and thought-provoking moments.
Below are five titles, in alphabetical order, that deserve recognition:
• “Amy” is a sad and depressing documentary that looks at the short life of singer Amy Winehouse.
The movie celebrates her life, while turning a harsh spotlight on those closest to her who took advantage of her celebrity.
• “Anomalisa” is writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s look at loneliness, the difficulty in making connections and love.
The story uses stop-motion animated characters to tell its story, and the concept works very well.
Despite its artifice, “Anomalisa” is a very human feature.
• “The Hateful Eight” is Quentin Tarantino’s boisterous, outrageous, profane, violent and self-indulgent three-hour plus Western epic that, beneath all its bombast, looks at racism, sexism and deception.
With Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins, among others, the film may enrage and incite you, but it also will entertain and give you a few laughs.
• “Son of Saul” takes you on a journey into hell as it follows a Sonderkommando, a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz, who is among those forced to burn bodies after removing them from the gas chambers.
The movie, told almost exclusively from Saul’s point of few, is a harrowing and nightmarish exploration that avoids sensationalism. The film is Hungary’s submission in the Academy Awards’ best foreign-language film category.
• “Straight Outta Compton” follows the rise of N.W.A., the black hip-hop group whose angry lyrics frightened and infuriated the white establishment during the 1980s.
The movie turns a light onto the social upheaval of the times, as well as the shady and brutal tactics that were widespread in the music industry during those turbulent years.
But at its heart, it’s the story of five young men using words and music to comment on what they perceive as an unjust social system that purposely pens them in a dangerous and depressing environment that won’t allow them to escape.
Finally, without comment, here, again in alphabetical order, are my selections for the five worst movies of the year. If you saw any of these, my condolences, and I hope you have recovered from the experiences:
• “Fifty Shades of Grey”
• “Jupiter Ascending”
• “No Escape”
• “Run All Night”
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.