Top 20 of 2015: 10-6

10. The Martian
The Martian

“Regardless of location, whether on Mars or back on Earth, the weight of every decision is felt.  Even though there was less tension and immediate visceral impact, it invokes a similar feeling that two 2013 films did: Alfonso Cauron’s Gravity and J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost.  There is a constant, palpable feeling that everything is tenuous and moment to moment for the Mark; even at times when it seems that things are going well only one or two things need to go wrong for it to go really, really wrong.”

9. Mistress America
Mistress America 2

“The film hits a high point when Tracy, Brooke, Tony (because he has a car), and his girlfriend Nicolette (because she has trust issues), take a trip to the Connecticut suburbs to sell Brooke’s former best friend and nemesis, Mamie-Claire and her husband, Brooke’s (possibly stolen, possibly not) ex-boyfriend Dylan, on an investment opportunity.  What follows is a straight up screwball comedy involving about eight characters (including the neighbor and a random pregnant woman) in one house with many rooms, names being deliberately repeated, people paired off momentarily into separate rooms, and lots of laughs.  It’s a surprisingly impressive high-wire act of moving pieces and fast dialogue that is wonderfully pulled off and very entertaining as some of the dialogue becomes more absurd.”

8. What We Do In The Shadows

“The variety of vampire humor mixed with the mundane and unglamorous is where the film really finds its laughs.  Nick can’t get over how cool it is to fly, even if he is terrible at it and it is easier to just use the door, because why use the door when you can fly?  The ability to morph into different creatures results in a hilarious bat fight between two characters.  The bad blood that exists between vampires and werewolves results in some really great moments of taunting between the two groups, especially when the werewolves start to lose their cool and are chastised by their pack leader Anton to remember their mantra “werewolves not swearwolves.”  A quick discussion about the appeal of virgin blood produces one of the funniest lines likely to be uttered in a movie this year.  And there are some great references to classic vampires movies and tropes (hypnosis, silver, sunlight, among other things) that produce great laughs and sight gags.”

7. It Follows
It Follows 2

“Writer/director David Robert Mitchell has crafted a haunting movie.  The idea for the story apparently germinated from a recurring nightmare he had as a child, of a mysterious person walking toward him.  That nightmare is effectively conveyed through this film.  There are a lot of horror flicks that will employ a slow-walking monster (a zombie, or a ax-wielding killer maybe), and here it is expertly done.  The film is dripping with this sense of creeping dread that builds and builds throughout the 100 minute runtime.  It stirred up connections to The Ring, Halloween, and even Invasion of the Body Snatchers for me.”

6. Spotlight
Spotlight 3

“Director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) creates an unglamorous look at investigative journalism, and it is unglamorous in the best way.  It shows the heavy lifting, the leg work, the nitty-gritty of investigative journalism.  You feel the long hours these people are putting in and also the weight of the subject matter.  In a way, it feels like they are putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle, and they start out not knowing if it is a 1,000 piece puzzle or a 10,000 piece puzzle.  They are not even sure where the borders for this story are, as it seems even new kernel of information they uncover only increases the scope of their story.  It’s helpful, I think, that McCarthy found himself in the last season of HBO’s The Wire, a show itself that was constantly expanding, with the season McCarthy was involved with focusing on the newspaper industry of Baltimore.”


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