The Best Films of 2015 (#5-1)

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Now, here we are. The end of the road. Below you will find my picks for the five best movies of 2015. I promise not to cry if you won’t. If you need to catch up, then you better click here, here, here and here. And now, let’s get this over with.

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5. Carol

A love story that some have (incorrectly) dismissed as too cold or distancing, Todd Haynes’ Carol is an exquisite, secretly powerful film about how people fall in love and—in the case of the coupling at its center—how society routinely can get in the way. It is this sense of time and place that gives Carol its extra power, and little, well-observed details throughout help to paint an epic picture around what is otherwise a thoroughly modest drama. Thanks to Haynes and the two Oscar-nominated performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, little things like how characters look at each other are filled with extra, profound meaning. For those willing to get lost in its universe, Carol is enthralling.

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4. Phoenix

There are many reasons to adore Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, but chief among them is the ending, which is the most show-stopping final scene I’ve seen in quite some time. However, it wouldn’t have half the impact it does without all the impeccable build-up, and the story of a Holocaust survivor (the awesome Nina Hoss) who reunites with a husband who doesn’t recognize her (Ronald Zehrfeld) provides enough drama on its own. As it moves through from moment to moment, and Hoss’ character plays along with her husband’s plans, Petzold continually tightens the dramatic screws until an emotional atomic bomb goes off in the final moments. People have used Vertigo has a comparison for this film, but by the end it develops into something entirely unique.

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3. It Follows

It Follows is an old-fashioned horror movie in every sense of the word—stylistically, it most obviously evokes John Carpenter—but the fears its exploits are universal. The film’s big bad is a shapeshifting, sexually transmitted monster that is passed along from person to person, but if it catches up to you, it kills you, and then starts moving back up the chain. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, this is one of the most affecting horror movies I’ve seen in years, and those who nitpick the logic of the monster completely ignore this movie’s goals, and the glorious ways it accomplishes them. (In general, I’m not one to look for so-called “plot holes.” Shut up and watch the movie.) Much of the credit also goes to Maika Monroe in the lead role, who perfectly captures the vulnerability of a teenager who becomes trapped in this nightmare of a situation. The entire movie is terrifying on its own, but she makes it heartbreaking as well.

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2. The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to his 2013 documentary The Act of Killing (the best film of that year and one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen) once again explores the Indonesian anti-communist purge of the ’60s and the gaping wound it has left in Indonesian society even all these decades later. This time, however, the approach is less sensational, but perhaps more emotionally affecting; instead of asking the perpetrators to revisit their crimes, The Look of Silence follows a middle-aged man whose brother was brutally killed in the purge as he confronts many of the men involved in these atrocities. The reactions are horrifying, and if Oppenheimer and his anonymous protagonist went out looking for remorse, they find almost none. One of the most notorious moments in The Act of Killing comes when one of the gangsters brags that “history is written by the winners,” and these films show just how devastatingly true that is. For the losers of this particular massacre, there may never be any real justice. But movies like Oppenheimer’s are courageous, even dangerous undertakings that shine a light on something most people are all too happy to ignore.

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1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Simply put, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen. It’s difficult to count the ways in which this movie is awesome, but just about all of them can be traced to the feet of one George Miller, who brought his Mad Max universe into the 21st century so effortlessly it feels like it’s always belonged here. This is the perfect example of everything a movie of this scale should be. The way Miller mixes practical and digital effects, the crystal-clear way in which he choreographs his action sequences, and the subtle but vital way in which it pushes back against the way women are treated in most movies of this type. (This is even true of past Mad Max movies.) It’s a film that mixes the familiar with the revolutionary, and modern blockbuster tendencies with the quirks of Miller’s Ozploitation roots. It’s a symphony of chaos and unforgettable visuals, and it sets a new bar for all future movies of its type.

Thanks to all for joining me on my return to The Screen Addict. I hope to periodically keep posting general thoughts and ramblings here throughout the year to come. Glad to be back!

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