Due to my job I’ve seen many, many films this year. Some bad, some good, some fantastic. It’s really been a great year for film, and restricting this list to only 10 titles was really a struggle. This may be the only time I’m thankful that the films that usually attract Oscar nominations are released in early 2016 in Australia, otherwise I would likely have to squeeze the likes of Carol, Son of Saul, Room, The Hateful Eight, and Spotlight in here.
Please take a look at my favourite films of 2015 below, and sound off in the comments with your favourites!
10. 45 Years
Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
There is just one week until Kate Mercer's 45th wedding anniversary and the planning for the party is going well. But then a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. By the time the party is upon them, five days later, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate.
I feel a little bad listing this as technically it hasn’t been released outside of film festivals yet – I’ve only seen it due to my job (humblebrag). However, I have no doubt that everyone will adore 45 Years and absolutely fall in love with Charlotte Rampling. Her performance is one of the best of the year, and if she doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination I’ll be bitterly disappointed. This is, quite simply, a classically beautiful British film with a dark undertone weaving through the narrative. Smoke gets in your eyes, indeed.
9. Inside Out
Directed by: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
Honestly, can Pixar do no wrong? Ok, so let’s not talk about Cars, but Inside Out has to be one of the best the studio has made. I was so absorbed in Riley’s world and was really invested in her story, and I, of course, shed a tear or two (par for the course with Pixar, really). This was such a fun and unique story with characters you really cared about, and emotional events everyone could relate to. When I first heard about this film I was a little apprehensive about the concept, but I should have learnt by now that Pixar rarely go wrong with their films.
8. It Follows
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But a seemingly innocent physical encounter turns sour and gives her the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her teenage friends must find a way to escape the horror that seems to be only a few steps behind.
I think I permanently bruised my boyfriend’s arm while watching this in the cinema. I get scared in movies during the best of times, but when you combine it by watching it in a dark cinema with nowhere to hide your eyes I was a nervous wreck watching this! The most terrifying thing about It Follows is that “It” takes on the form of a random person and slowly walks towards the main character for the entire film, which means you’re constantly looking at all of the people on screening and wondering if they are “It” or simply a background character. There are some truly terrifying moments in this film, but very little in the way of blood and gore, which I appreciated. This is one of the most unique horror films I’ve seen in years, I loved it.
7. When Marnie Was There
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cast: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura
A young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As the friendship unravels it is possible that Marnie has closer ties to the protagonist than we might expect.
This is perhaps the last film being released by the marvellous Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, a fact that makes me depressed every time I think about it. When Marnie Was There is another fantastic addition to the collection, and has many elements that the studio is famous for: breathtaking animation, strong female characters, original stories, a beautiful score, and the desire to watch the film again and again. The world imagined in When Marnie Was There was so beautiful that I wish I could drop myself amongst the pastel water coloured scenes.
A documentary on the late singer/songwriter, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
This documentary had me in tears by the end. From the opening scene of a teenage Amy Winehouse singing “Happy Birthday” to her friend with the most incredible voice, to the tragic final scene of her body being removed from her house in London years later, I watched transfixed at how such a talented young woman was destroyed by alcohol, drugs, bulimia and the people that were supposedly her family and friends. It was incredibly hard to watch footage of late night talk show hosts making jokes at her expense while she was clearly unwell, yet I remember so vividly how she was the butt of many jokes at the time – shamefully, I most likely made them too. I’ve found it quite hard to get this documentary out of my mind, as well as her amazing songs that were featured throughout.
5. The Look Of Silence
Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer
A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers.
First of all, if you haven’t seen Joshua Oppenheimer’s first documentary The Act Of Killing, please stop reading this list immediately and go and watch it. It is not only one of the best films I’ve ever seen (documentary or otherwise), it is one of the most powerful and unique pieces of art I’ve ever seen. Because I love this film so much, here’s a bit of information about it: In the 1960s Anwar Congo was a leader in Indonesia’s pro-regime paramilitary group, Pancasila Youth who, along with his band of dedicated followers, was amongst those who participated in the murder and torture more than a million alleged Communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. Proud of their deeds, which have still gone unpunished, Anwar and his pals are lauded as national heroes, and are delighted when the filmmakers ask them to re-enact these murders for their documentary – in any genre they desire. Initially Anwar and his friends enthusiastically take up the challenge using hired actors, making elaborate sets and costumes, but eventually as the movie violence is played out and reconstructed, Anwar’s conscience begins to stir and feelings of remorse surface.
The Look Of Silence is a companion piece to The Act Of Killing and while not as unique a premise, is still incredibly powerful and essential viewing. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.
4. The Assassin
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Satoshi Tsumabuki
A female assassin during the Tang Dynasty who begins to question her loyalties when she falls in love with one of her targets.
This is a beautiful, quiet film that I adored, although I can admit may not be for everyone due to the slow pace. I couldn’t get enough of the absolutely exquisite cinematography of this film, and at moments it truly left me breathless. I was lucky enough to see this at the Melbourne International Film Festival in a cinema that usually only screens the biggest blockbusters, and it was wonderful to have been able to witness it on such a large screen.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Megan Gale
An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and most everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There's Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.
I’m not sure if there’s anyone in the Western world who hasn’t yet seen this, but if you haven’t get on it son! Mad Max: Fury Road is so much fun to watch, and as both a woman and an Australian I appreciated it on a multitude of different levels. Imperator Furiosa is such an incredible heroine, and the “wives” are all more than one-dimensional damsels in distress that so often appear in action films. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely spectacular cinematography and editing on this, the vibrant blues and oranges made this an absolute treat to watch on the big screen. I also really appreciated that this film didn’t go down the Game of Thrones route, shall we say, of showing the implied sexual violence as a way to manipulate the audience’s emotions. HBO, take note.
Directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Cast: Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu
Set in a remote Turkish village, this film tells story of a 13-year-old girl who tries to break free with her sisters from the rigid destiny imposed on them by their family.
Mustang no doubt flew under the radar of most this year, and indeed hasn’t been released theatrically in many territories yet. Please, please keep your eyes out for this one. It is a beautiful, incredible film that is essentially Turkey’s answer to The Virgin Suicides, sharing many similarities to Sofia Coppola’s classic cult film and is perhaps even better. The score was done by Warren Ellis (known collaborator of Nick Cave) and is a gorgeous accompaniment to the film. I loved the girls in this film, I love how their struggle against their strict guardians and the patriarchy is portrayed, and I wish there were more films like this made.
Directed by: Christian Petzold
Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf
A disfigured concentration-camp survivor, unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.
While contemplating what was ultimately my favourite film of 2015, I happened to watch David Ehrlich’s compilation of his favourite films of 2015. He featured the song 'Sing Low' during the last few minutes of the video, a classic song that permeates throughout Phoenix and ultimately culminates in one of the most powerful endings I’ve ever seen on film. I don’t want to give too much away about this beautiful film, but it’s truly worth seeking out and I’m sure will stick with you for a long time.
Honourable mentions go to: The Dressmaker, Sicario, Our Little Sister, The Hunting Ground, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, The Overnight