Jack Smith, Online Screen Editor
2015 has produced some great films, and I have experienced a good share of fun with more serious fare. My selection is based on a mix between what I considered my favourite and the ‘best’ film experiences of the year, and so, I believe that everybody should check out these movies if they get a chance.
1 Out of all the films that stood out to me this year, the one that has stayed with me most is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s glorious The Assassin which totally blew me away at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Saying that it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen feels like an understatement. For me, The Assassin is an aesthetic achievement that rivals the best in any art form and just seems like absolutely essential viewing for anyone who considers themselves a film fan. Its pacing is, of course, much slower than to what many people may be accustomed, however the effort is well worth the reward. The Assassin is released in cinemas this coming January (so I may be cheating a bit by choosing it here) and I know I will be going back to see it again, if not several more times.
2Having read Patricia Highsmith’s novel in anticipation, and after its unanimously positive reception at Cannes, I was expecting great things of Todd Haynes’ Carol and I can certainly say, having seen it twice, it delivered in every possible way. It is an incredibly subtle and exceedingly well-crafted film, a shining example of why I go to the cinema; it moved me in a way that made me consider some of the most profound aspects of what it is to be human. Go and watch it right now, then go back and watch it again.
3As soon as I saw Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, I knew it would be one of this year’s highlights. As someone who shamefully does not go to see many documentaries, I wasn’t sure what The Look of Silence would do for me as I had not seen Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing from which this one follows on. Both beautiful and harrowing, Oppenheimer exposes many violent and worrying truths about the Indonesian genocide through interviews disguised as eye-tests with its perpetrators.
4I gave The Duke of Burgundy 5 stars back in March as it demonstrated film’s capacity to really affect an audience on a different level. It is a brilliant cinematic experience that plays with all your senses. It didn’t get much attention on release, but it is definitely deserving of your time as I haven’t seen anything quite like it.
5One of the most exciting young filmmakers working at the moment, 26 year old Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature is his best yet. Charting the volatile relationship between a troublesome teenage boy and his mother, the Quebecois director received a lot of attention for the film’s 1:1 aspect ratio which makes for a claustrophobic viewing experience that shakes you to the core. Dolan’s use of aspect ratio also works to create the film’s greatest moment, which I won’t spoil but you will know it when it happens because of how it affects you physically.
Ben Londesbrough, Screen Editor
1The premise of Alex Garland’s directorial sci-fi debut is a man giving the Turing test to an android to test its artificial intelligence. Combining impressive special effects with a heavy philosophical idea, Ex Machina achieves a chilling vision of the future, focusing on the relationship of humans with the technology it creates. The film features exceptional performances all round from Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, and contains a brilliant final twist, sure to prompt discussion and awe.
2Sicario means ‘hitman’, and this film explores the dark underworld of Mexican drug cartels and the powers fighting against them. Emily Blunt features as an FBI agent enlisted to help a special task force in bringing down a prominent druglord. In a world dominated by men, Blunt’s strong and firm yet understated performance, grounds the film in a struggle not only against unlawful activity, but the struggle of gender. Sicario is a taut, slow-burning thriller with two great, yet quiet central performances from Blunt and Benecio Del Toro, topped off with beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins.
3With the likes of Song of the Sea, Home and Shaun the Sheep, the competition of the children’s market in 2015 has been particularly strong. However, Pixar’s Inside Out, which is about emotions in our brains, is surely the best. Boasting a rather interesting concept, the film is rife with Pixar’s classic charm and hilarity. In a cinematic climate plagued by sequels, prequels and reboots, (of which Pixar are also culprits) Inside Out is an original children’s adventure, not just for kids, but for anyone looking for an interesting and fresh film.
4Although, admittedly, I do have a soft spot for the Mission Impossible series, the newest entry Rogue Nation, is very much deserving of a top spot. Tom Cruise, albeit crazy in real life, cannot be criticised for the energy he puts into this series, from doing his own stunts to producing the film too. In this tense action blockbuster, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is stripped of his status as an IMF agent, and is forced to work against the CIA in order to pursue the illusive terror organisation, The Syndicate. It’s another very consistent entry to this explosive franchise, and much, much better than Spectre.
5A film about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has to tread carefully, but Still Alice, which is elevated to new heights by an amazing performance by Juliane Moore, treads bravely and poetically. She stars as a linguistics professor who slowly starts to lose her words, balancing her relationships and job against the increasing pressures of her disease. To some, the film may appear overly sentimental and award-mongering, but to see it like this is cynical. It is predictable, but it’s honest filmmaking on a subject that is hard to portray on screen sensitively. Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin provide great support in this touching story of a woman fighting for her memories.