Wednesday 30 December 2015

My 'Best Films of 2015'.

So here we are - and I must say that it wasn't easy to pick just ten out of the mere seventy-eight I've seen. (Long gone are those times, never to return, when I'd see twice as many, and upwards, within one year). But competition for excellence just within these relatively few has been fierce, and I do rather hang my head to think of some of the worthies I've omitted from the final cut. (What! No 'Force Majeure', 'Far from the Madding Crowd', ''Irrational Man', 'Grandma', 'Mia Madre', 'Suffragette', 'Bridge of Spies' - nor even 'Brooklyn'? No. Sorry about that!) 

My adopted method was initially to choose thirty from this year's tally, next to select half of them, and then to jiggle and juggle a chosen final ten into an ordered list. In this way I've come up with the selection in sequence with which I feel most comfortable, ignoring, as far as I could, any sentiment that certain films ought to be included because they might have been expected to be there. It's my very own personal selection of the film experiences which have given me the most pleasure.

Oh, and before someone notices and complains that the order of the chosen few are not in the order of ratings I gave them at the time (nearly always decided immediately on returning home after seeing them), I have to state that there's the additional factor of the time taken for a filmic experience to 'mellow' in the mind. Thus, certain entries have gained in value in my mind's opinion over time (e.g. 'Lobster', 'Whiplash') whilst others have faded, if maybe only by a little (e.g. 'Sunset Song', 'The Lady in the Van'). 

So, this is it, in ascending order:-

10) The Lady in the Van - Dame Maggie Smith with the words of Sir Alan Bennett, both at the top of their game:-

9) Carol - Cate Blanchett, in a singularly brave-for-its-time, Patricia Highsmith story, showing us once more why she is one of the very best of all actresses around:-

8) The Lobster - modest, yet remarkably effective, quirky film with a near-unrecognisable Colin Farrell in untypically restrained mode:-

7) American Sniper Taut, believable, Iraq-war, Clint Eastwood-directed thriller with pumped-up Bradley Cooper ably holding the focus:-

6) Whiplash One of those films that rattles around the brain for a long time afterwards. Scary J.K. Simmons is the big bully, tyrannical tutor of a jazz 'big band' class. Timid Miles Teller is on drums:-

5) Still Alice

Julianne Moore in her deservedly Oscar-winning, heart-wrenching role as a 50-year old woman suffering from the onset of Alzheimers. A profoundly moving: film:-

4) Sunset Song

Director Terence Davies works his magic again, this time in rural north Scotland in a small-scale, family tale of romance, dreams and squabbles. Quite extraordinary.

3) Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales)

 The Argentinians pull a rabbit out of the hat with this utterly marvellous, often outlandish, (subtitled) anthology of six short stories - unrelated apart from a very tenuous common thread. Part of its wonder for me was its total surprise, coming out of nowhere with no warning:-

2) 45 Years

There was no doubt that this had to be included, and in an exalted position too. Tom Courtnay and Charlotte Rampling (the latter never been better) attempting to celebrate their long-term wedding anniversary when a ghost from his past emerges and sows seeds of doubt in her mind. Intensely human drama which brought me as close to tears as I've been in a long time in the cinema, which itself is real rarity.:-

And the winner is:-

1) Ex Machina

I was astonished at how good this was, even against my own expectations, being science fiction - not one of my favourite film genres (with one or two glorious exceptions) - though this is, gratefully, an earth-bound tale. It was one of those films where I felt like pinching myself to confirm that I wasn't dreaming that I could find something so enjoyable.  What makes it even more extraordinary is that it's the directorial debut of novelist Alex Garland, this film also being his own story. And, not least worth mentioning is the presence of (phwoarrrrr!) bushy-bearded and muscled-up Oscar Isaac as computer scientist with delusionally ambitious aims:-

I think this will be the most controversial of my Top 10 inclusions, and furthermore, to have it nominated as my ultimate 'Film of the Year' may well be too much for some. Well, if so, I can live with it. The film did get, as far as I could make out, very good reviews all round on its release, only I would go so far as to rate it a step or two beyond being just 'very good'.

And as per convention, I'm going to end with my choice of 'Turkey of the Year'. No, not the recent Star Wars, though it was a close-run thing. No, this year's mouldy raspberry award goes to:-

Tomorrowland - which not only George Clooney's starring role could rescue. See it if you dare! Or perhaps if you're wanting something to send you to sleep:-

Now it's nearly time to dive into 2016 - and there are some pretty interesting items already on the list, such as...........


  1. Of your top ten, I have seen only Still Alice. It's a very good film that I enjoyed. On your top ten that I will most likely see is Ex Machina.

    1. Do see 'Ex Machina', FB, if only because FB himself would be cheering you on for it starring a really great you-know-what growing on O.I.
      But even apart from that feature the film pushed all the right buttons for me, which was all the more astonishing because it's a subject matter which rarely appeals to me.
      Do give some of the others a chance too if you can, having received my 'seal of approval'.

    2. Thanks FB, and (it goes without saying), but I'll say it) a happy, fortuitous and healthy one to you too.
      And just to underline 'Ex Machina', the facial growth that Oscar I. sports in that film would more than grace your own blog, so your seeing it is an absolute MUST for that reason alone.

  2. Love the list.
    I've seen a few of these, other have yet to play here, and 'Still Alice' is a favorite ... mostly for Moore; I had an aunt die of Alzheimers this year so it hit hard.

    I do hope to see the Maggie Smith film becuase I love her.

    And, as always, you are my Go-To for film reviews, so thanks for the list.

    And for the Turkey Award because I saw that one bomb before it even opened!

    1. Thanks, Bob. I don't mind if anyone wants to take issue with my choices, or their order, but I get enormous satisfaction having pleased you with it.
      This year there was actually more competition for the top placings than there was for the 'Turkey', but I'm also pleased to have squeezed in a mention of those which didn't quite make it into my final list - and all of those I was terribly sorry to have left out.

  3. Good list Ray... 45 years, Sunset Song and Wild Tales (not times I think) are the ones I've seen and are worthy choices. I can't make up my mind if I should see the DVD of Ex Machina. I have an aversion to sci-fi but it does look very good in the trailer!

    1. 'Ta' for the Tales/Times point out, Craig, which I've now corrected.

      I too have enormous misgivings about sci-fi films (a bit strange then that my all-time fave is one!) but 'Ex Machina is not so far-fetched as for me to feel the exasperations I get for, say, the SW films - and it's set only a little way into the future anyway.

      I'd be very interested if anyone can come up with titles that they felt I ought to have included or mentioned as near-misses - though it would help if I had seen them and yet not put them in. There must be quite a number in the left-outs seen but which I've cold shouldered.

  4. Raymondo...interesting
    What are you looking forward to in 2016?

    1. Now that would be telling, J.G. Oh, you already guessed that?
      No, I actually don't know much more than what's in the first coupla months, but the soon-to-be-seen 'The Danish Girl' looks most intriguing.

  5. I also liked ex-machina. I didnt expect it at all.

    1. Glad to hear it, Sol. It hasn't been seen by many people, and I think that's a shame. My positive response was highly individual and I wasn't sure that others would share it, but a number have even if they may not have nominated it as their best of the year.

  6. Happy New Year Ray. Be Safe, Be Happy, Be Amazing!

    Love Sol xx

    1. Thank you, Sol - and you too plus a whole lot more.

  7. Ray, it's a shame that I don't have the opportunity to watch nearly as many "new" films as I used to, but I always enjoy reading your excellent (intelligent) reviews. It's obvious that you put a lot of thought and effort into this list.

    It's still early morning here in Tennessee on Thursday, New Year's Eve. I have no plans - only a quite evening with my trio of cats and probably a late meal.

    You're a delightfully special person Ray and I hope your 2016 will be a good one.

    1. (This is my second attempt to respond. First was, I think, too long).

      Now 8 a.m. on New Years morn. Retired last night 9.30 with my beloved and aged Blackso with me under the duvet, only his head protruding. We were woken at 15 mins to midnight by fireworks (B. does especially dislike the 'whooshy' ones) but they were over half an hour later. The other two cats are not nearly as troubled.

      Thanks for what you say about my film reviews but, believe it or not, they really do make me cringe at how superficial and often downright poor they are. I only re-read them if someone has a pertinent comment to make about a particular one, otherwise, apart from ironing out grammar and punctuation, after writing I try to forget them. Nevertheless, what you say I am thankful for.

      Thanks too for your wishes but when I read your blog I get the feeling that your need for a positive 2016 is far greater than mine. Whatever, I hope you get through it as smoothly as you deserve - and certainly without any noteworthy mishaps.
      Thanks again.

      Now let's have another go to publish this........

  8. Ps
    Happy New year old bean , hoping 2016 will be a cracker xxxxxxx

    1. So. It's OLD bean, is it? Just because I'll hit the ominous seven-zero this year there's no need to rub it in! ;-) .....repeat ;-)

      Thank you muchly for your wishes, J.G. They are treasured, as is only right. And I hope that yours will go like a bang too - an extended, positive one.

  9. 78 is impressive. 21 was a lot for me. Twice as many as usual. I have to agree that 'Ex Machina' is at or near my top too. And I loved loved loved 'Whiplash' but we saw that last year.

    '45' and 'Lady in the Van' has yet to open here, but both are on my 2016 list.

    1. So glad you dropped in, Blobby - and I really do appreciate your thoughts immensely.
      I was afraid a number of people would strongly disagree with me about 'Ex Machina', but am really reassured that there seems to be approval of my including it.
      Yes, 'Whiplash' was a strange one, but very memorable. It also had imagination, a quality not so common in today's mainstream films.
      But do see '45 Years' when it comes out there. I'll eat my hat if you're not deeply moved.

  10. Someone agrees The Machina movie is awesome.

    1. It's quite taken me aback to find that a respectable number of film-watchers have held as high opinion, or near thereto, as I have towards it, Dr Spo. I'd expected that my response had been very individual, but am so pleased to find it was much wider than that.