Top 25 Films of 2015 – The Final List

It took until 2016 to get this list done, but that’s the price of being thorough…and loving movies.

I released a list at the end of the summer and another before the holidays. Of course, studios waited till Christmas and after to release some of the most anticipated films of the year. Just in time for the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees, here are my Top 25 – The films I liked, really liked, and loved.

25. Carol

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.58.38 PM

It’s elegant and shot beautifully. Cate Blanchett has the title character but Rooney Mara is the one you’re invested in. I would have loved to see this film shot decades ago with Audrey Hepburn in Mara’s role. Kyle Chandler’s classic look would have fit in nicely. Also enjoyed the appearance from Cory Michael Smith who is currently The Riddler on FOX’s Gotham. It’s fitting.

24. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MI Rogue Nation 2015

It was a strong year for blockbuster franchises. There are two more represented further down this list. The Mission Impossible series seems to get better as time goes on and fortunately for them, Rogue Nation hit theaters before Spectre did with a similar plot and much better execution. 

23. Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation 2015

Idris Elba seems to show us in everything he does that he is one of the best actors of our time, and this Netflix Original film gets him closer to the acclaim he properly deserves. Beasts of No Nation is also a milestone for Netflix that shows they should be taken seriously as a film studio and not just for television…Just try to avoid the string of unfortunate Adam Sandler flicks they will be putting out for a while.

22. Creed

Creed 2015

Creed is a very good sports movie. It reminded me a lot of the first Rocky film. I love how they filmed the fights and Sylvester Stallone deserves every “best supporting actor” nomination he gets. We’re reminded how great an actor he is, and how awesome a character Rocky Balboa is in this film. Michael B. Jordan is certainly in store for big things and this film is a clear sign of that. I just wished they held back on the cheese factor of a certain training scene and that his “big opponent” was a much more memorable character. 

21. Trumbo

TR_08395.dng

The acting in Trumbo is outstanding. The hype was real regarding Bryan Cranston’s performance. Both Helen Mirren and John Goodman play their parts very well. The correlation between how members of the American communist party were treated and some of our society’s current issues today strikes a chord. I just wish I hadn’t seen so many of the big scenes in the trailer already and that the directing was better.

20. The Big Short

The Big Short 2015

The more I think about The Big Short, the more I think I liked it. Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are all awesome in the film and it’s incredibly smart. Hamish Linklater is also an excellent complement, similar to his role in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams. The constant explaining of every economic term (which might have been necessary) gets distracting and the comedic approach takes away some of the necessary emotional investment. Had I not seen 99 Homes, I probably would have appreciated this film a lot more while watching it. 

19. 99 Homes

99 Homes 2015

Like The Big Short, 99 Homes takes place during the financial and housing crisis but it’s way much more of a punch to the gut. You get the perspective of people who lost their homes from the crisis, and it’s even more of a thriller because you have no idea how these people will react to those who have to break the news to them. Michael Shannon is also as good as anyone in supporting actor categories from this film.

18. Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton 2015

The music, the acting, the “Bye Felicia” scene…

Straight Outta Compton was an awesome biopic and it told a story that I think a lot of younger hip hop fans needed to hear, considering how influential members of NWA really are to the genre. The only reason I don’t have it ranked higher is because it did feel long by the end. 

17. Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy 2015

Love and Mercy was another biopic (also with Paul Giamatti as a jerk manager) that I enjoyed, but this one stuck with me a lot longer after. Paul Dano is great as young Brian Wilson and for once John Cusack is a lot less “John Cusack”-ish than he is in most of his roles. Elizabeth Banks also gives one of the more underrated performances in film from this year. If you’re like me, you probably listened to “Pet Sounds” for a week after seeing it.

16. The Walk

The Walk 2015

I’m a little disappointed The Walk isn’t getting more chatter during awards season. Obviously I think there are better films, but Robert Zemeckis did a brilliant job utilizing 3D, especially for the climax of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kinglsey were both remarkably charming as well. 

15. The Hateful EightHateful Eight 2015

It’s not Quentin Tarantino’s best, but “Not Tarantino’s Best” is still better than most. The second half of the film was up there with some of his most entertaining…and bloodiest. For me, this was Walton Goggins’s coming out party on the big screen. Loved him in Justified and The Shield. I think it’s obvious Tarantino did too.

14. Mississippi Grind 

Mississippi Grind

It was too appropriate that I watched this film while waiting to hear my lottery numbers called. Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn has the All-American Asshole role down between this and Bloodline, yet knows just how to make you feel for him. Sure, Ryan Reynolds plays another good-looking fast talker, but his whole “who, what, and why” deal keeps you as intrigued as the constant gambling…which is enough drama by itself. 

13. Ex Machina

Ex Machina 2015

This was a big year for all 3 stars of Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac continued his path to Pacino-status with his roles in Show Me A Hero and Star Wars, which Domhnall Gleeson also stars in (as well as Brooklyn and The Revenant). Alicia Vikander has a good chance of getting both Best Actress and Supporting Oscar nominations for her roles in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. Her character, Ava, still haunts my dreams as well. It’s an unreal suspense film. 

12. The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour 2015

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen two actors be so natural interacting with each other for a film. That’s all this film is…a long weekend conversation from Bloomington-Normal to Minnesota and back, with honest thoughts and feelings. I’m happy to see Jason Segel is getting some acclaim as well for his portrayal of David Foster Wallace.

11. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs 2015

Yes, I’m a HUGE Sorkin fan, but I found the approach to this biopic to be incredibly original. It wasn’t your typical “start-to-end” story, but just 3 different periods in time and how each person has evolved in that time. It also helps that everyone involved nails it with their parts, especially Michael Fassbender.

10. Brooklyn

Brooklyn 2015

If anyone is challenging Brie Larson for Best Actress, it’s Saoirse Ronan. She and Brooklyn do an amazing job of making you feel all the emotions you can muster. It also helps that two of my TV crushes, Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak, Arrow) and Jessica Paré (Megan Draper, Mad Men), have solid roles in the film. The contrast in two worlds during the 1950s and how Eilis (Ronan) evolves is what makes the film.

 

09. Inside Out

Inside Out 2015

A movie about feelings makes you feel feelings…and even more than the typical Pixar feelings (which is saying a lot, considering the first 3 minutes to Up). It also helps that they casted all the right people for all the right feelings.

08. The Martian

The Martian 2015

I came across a Facebook friend listing his “Top 10” and he said he hadn’t seen The Martian because “It looked like Castaway in space.” He is very wrong…unless he values Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, and Kate Mara to all be a volleyball named Wilson. There’s also a Lord of the Rings reference that probably won the film “Best Comedy” at the Golden Globes by itself. 

07. The Revenant

The Revenant 2015

I have a very difficult time seeing anyone other than Leonardo DiCaprio winning Best Actor at the Oscars. Maybe Bryan Cranston, but Leo will be SO pissed if he doesn’t because of everything he went through for this film…It’s pretty evident.

06. Room

Room 2015

The Best Actress category at any awards show is Brie Larson’s to lose because of Room. Jacob Tremblay is amazing as well…just be prepared to have your heart strings pulled hard.

05. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2 hour long roller coaster of action, explosions, and rock’n’roll. I don’t recall taking a breath between the start and end. The twisted and beautiful mind of George Miller is on full awesome display. 

04. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015

I think we all have our personal movies that connect with us in more ways than most and matches our personalities. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl was that movie for me, my favorite from the summer. There’s also something about Nick Offerman as a sociology professor, robe-wearing, cat-obsessed dad that still tickles me funny.

03. Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies 2015

Bridge of Spies is about as good a film as you could ask for from a combination of Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers…I was pleasantly surprised to see that the latter wrote the movie once the closing credits rolled. It was all meant for someone like Tom Hanks to lead in. There is one scene toward the end that I found to be as powerful as any in 2015. 

02. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars- The Force Awakens

The best way I’ve heard The Force Awakens described is that it hit all the right spots in all the right ways…It really did. Nostalgia and newness brilliantly combined. Fantastic well-timed humor that the past films lacked. If you waited for something to disappoint you, you’d only be disappointed by the fact that you’re still waiting. It’s also the only other film, besides #1, that I went back to see in the theater again and appreciated more for it.

01. Spotlight

Spotlight 2015

I really don’t think there was a better performance by an ensemble this year. It was a refreshing take on journalism, not over-glorifying the industry but simply presenting how a paper goes about getting a story. All the comparisons to All The President’s Men are warranted. I will also stump hard for Mark Ruffalo getting Best Supporting Actor recognition, even when the category is heavy enough as is. 

 

What does your list look like? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

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Top 20 Movies of 2015 So Far (Part II)

“So Far” because The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Joy and Carol have yet to hit theaters. Once I get those in, I’ll have an updated final list.

“Part II” because I published a list at the end of the summer. Just 4 movies from my original Top 10 are still there and 2 don’t even crack the Top 20. 

With just a little more than a week left in the year, here are “The Best…so far.”

20. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MI Rogue Nation 2015

It was a strong year for blockbuster franchises. There are two more represented further down this list. The Mission Impossible series seems to get better as time goes on and fortunately for them, Rogue Nation hit theaters before Spectre did with a similar plot and much better execution. 

19. Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation 2015

Idris Elba seems to show us in everything he does that he is one of the best actors of our time, and this Netflix Original film gets him closer to the acclaim he properly deserves. Beasts of No Nation is also a milestone for Netflix that shows they should be taken seriously as a film studio and not just for television…Just try to avoid the string of unfortunate Adam Sandler flicks they will be putting out for a while.

18. Creed

Creed 2015

Creed is a very good sports movie. It reminded me a lot of the first Rocky film. I love how they filmed the fights and Sylvester Stallone deserves every “best supporting actor” nomination he gets. We’re reminded how great an actor he is, and how awesome a character Rocky Balboa is in this film. Michael B. Jordan is certainly in store for big things and this film is a clear sign of that. I just wished they held back on the cheese factor of a certain training scene and that his “big opponent” was a much more memorable character. 

17. The Big Short

The Big Short 2015

The more I think about The Big Short, the more I think I liked it. Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are all awesome in the film and it’s incredibly smart. Hamish Linklater is also to be an excellent complement, similar to his role in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams. The constant explaining of every economic term (which might have been necessary) gets distracting and the comedic approach takes away some of the necessary emotional investment. Had I not seen 99 Homes (see further down), I probably would have appreciated this film a lot more while watching it. 

16. Trumbo

TR_08395.dng

The acting in Trumbo is outstanding. The hype was real regarding Bryan Cranston’s performance. Both Helen Mirren and John Goodman play their parts very well. The correlation between how members of the American communist party were treated and some of our society’s current issues today strikes a chord. I just wish I hadn’t seen so many of the big scenes in the trailer already and that the directing was better.

15. 99 Homes

99 Homes 2015

Like The Big Short, 99 Homes takes place during the financial and housing crisis but it’s way much more of a punch to the gut. You get the perspective of people who lost their homes from the crisis, and it’s even more of a thriller because you have no idea how these people will react to those who have to break the news to them. Michael Shannon is also as good as anyone in supporting actor categories from this film.

14. Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton 2015

The music, the acting, the “Bye Felicia” scene…

Straight Outta Compton was an awesome biopic and it told a story that I think a lot of younger hip hop fans needed to hear, considering how influential members of NWA really are to the genre. The only reason I don’t have it ranked higher is because it did feel long by the end. 

13. Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy 2015

Love and Mercy was another biopic (also with Paul Giamatti as a jerk manager) that I enjoyed, but this one stuck with me a lot longer after. Paul Dano is great as young Brian Wilson and for once John Cusack is a lot less “John Cusack”-ish than he is in most of his roles. Elizabeth Banks also gives one of the more underrated performances in film from this year. If you’re like me, you probably listened to “Pet Sounds” for a week after seeing it.

12. Ex Machina

Ex Machina 2015

This was a big year for all 3 stars of Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac continued his path to Pacino-status with his roles in Show Me A Hero and Star Wars, which Domhnall Gleeson also stars in. Alicia Vikander has a good chance of getting both Best Actress and Supporting Oscar nominations for her roles in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. Her character, Ava, still haunts my dreams as well. It’s an unreal suspense film. 

11. The Walk

The Walk 2015

I’m a little disappointed The Walk isn’t getting more chatter during awards season. Obviously I think there are better films, but Robert Zemeckis did a brilliant job utilizing 3D, especially for the climax of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kinglsey were both remarkably charming as well. 

10. The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour 2015

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen two actors be so natural interacting with each other for a film. That’s all this film is…a long weekend conversation from Bloomington-Normal to Minnesota and back, with honest thoughts and feelings. I’m happy to see Jason Segel is getting some acclaim as well for his portrayal of David Foster Wallace.

09. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs 2015

Yes, I’m a HUGE Sorkin fan, but I found the approach to this biopic to be incredibly original. It wasn’t your typical “start-to-end” story, but just 3 different periods in time and how each person has evolved in that time. It also helps that everyone involved nails it with their parts, especially Michael Fassbender.

08. Inside Out

Inside Out 2015

A movie about feelings makes you feel feelings…and even more than the typical Pixar feelings (which is saying a lot, considering the first 3 minutes to Up). It also helps that they casted all the right people for all the right feelings.

 

07. The Martian

The Martian 2015

I came across a Facebook friend listing his “Top 10” and he said he hadn’t seen The Martian because “It looked like Castaway in space.” He is very wrong…unless he values Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, and Kate Mara to all be a volleyball named Wilson. 

06. Room

Room 2015

The Best Actress category at any awards show is Brie Larson’s to lose because of Room. Jacob Tremblay is amazing as well…just be prepared to have your heart strings pulled hard.

05. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2 hour long roller coaster of action, explosions, and rock’n’roll. I don’t recall taking a breath between the start and end. The twisted and beautiful mind of George Miller is on full awesome display. 

04. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015

I think we all have our personal movies that connect with us in more ways than most and matches our personalities. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl was that movie for me, my favorite from the summer. There’s also something about Nick Offerman as a sociology professor, robe-wearing, cat-obsessed dad that still tickles me funny.

 

03. Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies 2015

Bridge of Spies is about as good a film as you could ask for from a combination of Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers…I was pleasantly surprised to see that the latter wrote the movie once the closing credits rolled. It was all meant for someone like Tom Hanks to lead in. There is one scene toward the end that I found to be as powerful as any in 2015. 

02. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars- The Force Awakens

The best way I’ve heard The Force Awakens described is that it hit all the right spots in all the right ways…It really did. Nostalgia and newness brilliantly combined. Fantastic well-timed humor that the past films lacked. If you waited for something to disappoint you, you’d only be disappointed by the fact that you’re still waiting.

01. Spotlight

Spotlight 2015

I really don’t think there was a better performance by an ensemble this year. It was refreshing take on a journalism, not over-glorifying the industry but simply presenting how a paper goes about getting a story. All the comparisons to All The President’s Men are warranted. I will also stump hard for Mark Ruffalo getting Best Supporting Actor recognition, even when the category is heavy enough as is. 

 

Stay tuned for the final list after Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Joy and Carol are released. Till then, let me know what your favorite films from 2015 are on Facebook or Twitter.

The 2016 SAG Award Nominations and My Thoughts

The 2016 SAG Award nominations were announced Wednesday morning, and two things struck me:

  1. The Screen Actors Guild LOVED Trumbo, maybe a bit more than me.
  2. I don’t think they’ve seen Fargo yet on FX. Seriously…

This is just one of several award shows (which airs Jan. 30th on TNT and TBS), but it’s one of the few that gauges my interest more than others because it acknowledges both the film and TV world. Here are the nominees and some quick thoughts on each category.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Johnny Depp – Black Mass
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

I really have no problem with this category. I have yet to see Revenant or The Danish Girl, but I don’t doubt the performances of DiCaprio or Redmayne carry their films like the other nominees. If there was someone that I would like to see get more credit, it’s Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace in End of the Tour. It didn’t take much transforming, aside from the obvious hair and glasses, but Segel’s performance is as engaging and natural as any from the summer…especially in his interactions with Jesse Eisenberg.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Helen Mirren – Woman In Gold
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back

I can’t get upset about this category because I think it’s Brie Larson’s award to lose, and hers alone. However, I’m surprised Jennifer Lawrence was left out after another highly anticipated David O’Russell  role. Of course the film hasn’t hit theaters yet, so I can’t really talk..Alicia Vikander deserves more love for Ex Machina because she still haunts my dreams for her performance.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christian Bale – The Big Short
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room

This category is HEAVY. Even without Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Sylvester Stallone (Creed) or Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), it looks stacked…but I’d like to see them all in it.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Helen Mirren – Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Helen Mirren has 3 nominations here and I’m not sure she’s winning any of them. It will be fun to see what her batting average is though by the night’s end. I would be interested to see what kind of buzz Jennifer Jason Leigh gets after Hateful Eight is released.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • Beasts of No Nation
  • The Big Short
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Trumbo

Spotlight is my favorite film from this year and it deserves all the good things that come its way. I am surprised both The Martian or Steve Jobs were left out of this category, considering how star studded their casts were. Their performances didn’t disappoint either.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

  • Idris Elba – Luther
  • Ben Kingsley – Tut
  • Ray Liotta – Texas Rising
  • Bill Murray – A Very Murray Christmas
  • Mark Rylance – Wolf Hall

I don’t have many thoughts on this other than (1) Luther rules, (2) I turned off A Very Murray Christmas after 10 minutes and (3) Where is Oscar Isaac for Show Me A Hero. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

  • Nicole Kidman – Grace of Monaco
  • Queen Latifah – Bessie
  • Christina Ricci – The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
  • Susan Sarandon – The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
  • Kristen Wiig – The Spoils Before Dying

I literally have zero thoughts about this one, because I haven’t seen any of the nominated performances yet.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
  • Jon Hamm – Mad Men
  • Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
  • Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
  • Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

I’m happy to see Rami Malek get props for playing the best introvert on TV, but this is Don Draper’s victory lap and I don’t see anyone getting in his way. I’m also always shocked to not see Mads Mikkelsen ever nominated for Hannibal. I guess that’s for fringe loving types like me.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes – Homeland
  • Viola Davis – How To Get Away With Murder
  • Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
  • Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
  • Robin Wright –House of Cards

Viola Davis has the momentum from the Emmys but I will always maintain that the past two seasons of House of Cards have been great nearly because of Robin Wright as much as Spacey.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Ty Burrell – Modern Family
  • Louis C.K. – Louie
  • William H. Macy – Shameless
  • Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
  • Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent

Modern Family to me is “What Will Phil Dunphy Do Next?” because that’s all I watch for now, but Jeffrey Tambor holding a torch for the transgender community has become way more important.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black
  • Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
  • Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
  • Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Poehler Thug

That is all.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • House of Cards
  • Mad Men

If you’ve been watching the second season of Fargo, you’re probably wondering if perhaps the actors didn’t know how to spell it filling out their nominations, considering every Monday night feels like the show’s best episode…If you’ve been watching Homeland this seasonyou might be wondering why it’s on here. The season finale is in a week and I still have no idea if it was good or not this year.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Key & Peele
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Transparent
  • Veep

I would love to see Key & Peele ride off into the sunset with some hardware.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

  • Everest
  • Furious 7
  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Fury Road is one of the best films of this year and a modern classic. Pick against it and you lose.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • The Blacklist
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Marvel’s Daredevil
  • The Walking Dead

I just watched end Episode 2 of the first season again. This is why I love Daredevil.

How are you pulling for this Awards season? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.