Top 20 of 2015: 15-11

15. Slow West

Slow West

“Filmed in New Zealand, it offers great visuals as Jay and Silas make their way through this journey they’re on.  There are several shots of scenery, whether  a backdrop of mountains or field of wheat or just a field of wild plants that the horses slowly slink through, that stuck with me after the movie was over.  There are also several scenes that stayed with me as well, including a tragic encounter at a trading post with a reveal that felt like a knife in the gut.  At the end of the film there is a sequence of shots that shows everyone who has died in this film, working backward until we get to the very first one.  It’s a sobering set of shots that shows the human cost of what has transpired.”

14. The Big Short
The Big Short 1

“There’s a lot of information to disperse in this film’s 130 minute runtime, and handled incorrectly it could have been a snoozer about a very important subject in modern history.  Instead, Adam McKay, the man best known for collaboration with Will Ferrell in Anchorman and other comedies, has crafted a smart, witty, entertaining, and scathing critique of Wall St. and what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what was or was not done about it afterward.”

13. Creed

“[Adonis] constantly feels he has to prove himself, partly because he doesn’t want to let down the Creed name, a surname he struggles with because of a complicated relationship to a father he never knew.  Throughout the whole film, Donnie’s decision to pursue a life in the ring is questioned by those around him and a clear answer is never given until a quiet moment between he and Rocky in the big fight, revealing what Donnie feels he has to prove.  It’s an answer that resonates and rings true and the poignancy of the moment is the best punch the movie lands at the exact right moment.”

12. Room
Room 2

“Abrahamson and his cinematographer use the camera to effectively convey Jack’s first exposure to unfiltered sunlight as well as being able to see more than 10 feet away, often times blurring the picture or washing it out in light.  They do a great job of putting us into the shoes of this little boy who’s world has almost literally had its walls blown away to reveal an exponentially bigger world.  There are also close up shots of wide-eyed wonder on Jack’s face as he sees tree and leaves for the first time, something that almost derails him from his brave mission of escape.”

11. The Hateful Eight
Hateful Eight 1

“Having all of these unsavory characters holed up together in one location for the majority of the film feels like a callback to Tarantino’s directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs, right down to having Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, a Tarantino regular, involved.  The film also plays out a lot like an Agatha Christie mystery drama, and given the snowed-in elements and the presence of Kurt Russell, I also couldn’t help but be reminded of the atmosphere of paranoia in John Carpenter’s The Thing.”

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