BW/DR Staff Picks: The Best Films of 2015

Fran Hoepfner, Contributing Editor:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

That Mad Max: Fury Road was not only good but really and truly fantastic was the singular biggest surprise, not just for me, but for everyone this year. It was incredibly intense and truly heartfelt, and Charlize Theron created one of the most memorable heroines in years.

2. Magic Mike XXL

Don't make me keep telling you why you should see this movie.

3. Sleeping With Other People

In terms of comedies and romances and romantic comedies, Sleeping With Other People was an unexpected gut-punch. Writer and director Leåslye Headland understands the way people talk and connect and love each other. Beyond the outstanding writing, this film had both the best soundtrack (yes, better than Magic Mike XXL) and the best use of slow-motion of any film that came out this year.

4. Slow West

Slow West is cool and weird and beautiful and funny. It's 82 minutes long. A perfect Western that kicks you in the shin on its way out. It's on Amazon now. Just experience it.

5. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

In terms of performances, there was no more outstanding combination of actors than Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård (I'm serious), and Kristen Wiig. The three of them are profoundly tragic, occasionally funny, all painting a complex and unsettling portrait of female sexuality. I'm still rattled by this film.

Charles Bramesco, Contributing Writer:

1. The Duke of Burgundy
2. Tokyo Tribe
3. Clouds of Sils Maria
4. Youth
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. The Tribe
7. Crimson Peak
8. World of Tomorrow
9. Anomalisa
10. Eden

Lauren Wilford, Contributing Writer:

Room

Because some darknesses are so desperate and all-consuming, the possibility of rescue so remote, that the sudden light of salvation can blind you. Because things get better but they don’t get better. Because sometimes the people you love suffer heartbreak so unutterable that it would be obscene to try to enter into it: you have to hide in a wardrobe or stare at the bathroom door they’ve closed behind them, aching for the healing you couldn’t begin to offer. Because beauty and wonder, in spite of everything, quietly continue to assert themselves. Because you can’t go home, but after and amidst all the suffering, a new home will find you.

The End of the Tour

Because someday someone will fascinate you, haunt you, keep you up at night. They will have something you don’t, and it will drive you insane. You will study them, talk to them, see all of the things you have in common, and start to feel that you could have what they have, do what they do. You will think this is about them, but it is about you. You’ll fall a bit in love with them. You will get drunk on conversation and the idea that you are having real communion with someone you once thought of as a god. Your head will continue to swirl with theories of why they are how they are, and how they do what they do. You’ll get suspicious and disenchanted and defensive. And at the end of it all, you’ll find that you did, in fact, encounter something special. All of us talk about being a good person. You think you’re a pretty good person. But this was someone who had actually put in the rare work that goes into being a good person. Not a god, no, but with all the attendant qualifiers, a kind of saint, after all.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Because sometimes it feels like bad things are barreling at you in a malevolent hoard at a hundred miles an hour, and you need to smear engine grease across your brow as war paint and get in your rig and drive like hell. Because it’s not just for you, it’s for the ones you’re driving. Because sometimes you need one or two or eight shots of adrenaline to keep moving through the muck that stands between you and freedom, and to earn the kind of triumph that sends you crashing up through the roof: bloodied, stunned, thrilled, and as ready as you’re going to be for the fallout.

Brooklyn

Because the ghosts of your unlived lives are always there, ready to whisper in your ear all the lovely things that might have been if you hadn’t turned at that sign back there. You’ll ignore the whispers, or whisper questions back, until they demand a full-throated answer from deep in your body: yes or no. This life or that one. This you or that you. And you’ll crumple, or you'll rise.

Song of the Sea

Because people need to be who they are, but sometimes that comes at a real cost to the ones they hold close. Because sometimes someone leaves or changes for reasons that you never get to know, and all you have left is the grief. Because sometimes the one who needs to leave or change is you. Because we need to help each other do the strange, painful, beautiful things that we are born to do, and to fight those who would rather see us hemmed in, blocked off, turned to stone. Because transformation hurts, but transformation saves.

Kelsey Ford, Senior Editor:

Sicario
Inside Out
The Witch
Dope
Ex-Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road

Elizabeth Cantwell, Managing Editor:

The Best Films That I Saw In 2015, Which Were Not All Released In 2015; Please Remember That We Exist In An Age Of Streaming Now, Because Of Which Linear Time And Its Importance Has Nearly Been Eradicated:

1. Magnolia (1999)

I had never seen this movie before and then I did and it changed my life, end of story. (My husband and I have been talking about how very little these days seems to truly move us emotionally, but I was so moved emotionally by Magnolia that I kind of wanted to burst into tears every so often for a week afterwards for reasons of either joy or loneliness or intense anxiety.)

2. Selma (2014)

I found this film truly powerful, and managed to get caught up entirely in it even though I was sitting in a movie theater with a whole school group of teenagers. David Oyelowo's performance is incredible.

3. The End of the Tour (2015)

IF YOU WANT ME YOU WILL FIND ME CRYING ON THE COUCH AND HOLDING INFINITE JEST

4. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

About halfway through watching this I realized that my jaw was literally hanging open like some sort of cartoon character.

5. Marty (1955)

My husband had hip surgery and all he wanted to watch while he was immobile on painkillers on the couch was random old movies that no one thinks about anymore, so we watched this and I would really recommend this to anyone even if you have zero painkillers in your system because it is about loneliness and fear and taking chances and putting yourself out there even when you're not a movie star attractive extrovert confident person and Ernest Borgnine is really good and when was the last time you heard that phrase?

Chad Perman, Editor-in-Chief:

1. The End of the Tour
2. Inside Out
3. Room
4. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
5. Magic Mike XXL
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Spy
8. Creed
9. Love & Mercy
10. The Hateful 8

Anna Sjogren, Contributing Writer:

Four Top Films, Four Haikus:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

She wins, though one-armed.
He hands her the smoking gun;
She's a better shot.

2. Grandma

Wise Lily Tomlin.
Granddaughter is in trouble;
Help is on the way!

3. Spy

Undercover broads;
Few gadgets, plenty of wit.
Eat your heart out, Bond.

4. The Martian

Red planet, stranded.
A villain-less adventure:
Man versus the land.

Christopher Fraser, Operations Manager:

I'm the sort of person who logs every movie he watches, so I can say with confidence that I watched a ton of movies this year but barely any 2015 releases. Rather than go into detail for each recommendation, in the interest of keeping things snappy here's a few lists instead. But I liked all of these, at least.

Movies that actually came out this year:

Ex Machina, Alex of Venice, It Follows, Tig, Ant-Man, Steve Jobs, Spotlight (2015).

Movies that came out a little earlier that I only got around to this year:

The Congress, Frank, Metro Manila, Wild, Noah, Boyhood, Obvious Child, Gone Girl (don't hate me), Lilting, The Overnighters, Coherence, 20,000 Days On Earth, We Are The Best!, Citizenfour, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The Guest, Force Majeure, The Book of Life, Life Itself, The Dirties, Whiplash, Predestination, Big Hero 6, John Wick, Tracks, Rosewater, The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, Pride, Love Is Strange, Inherent Vice, Maps to the Stars, Lost River, Dear White People, While We're Young, A Most Violent Year, Clouds of Sils Maria, Faults, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, Mad Max: Fury Road, Good Kill, Cut Bank, Camp X-Ray.

Movies that came out prior to 2013 (a short list that betrays a shameful bias toward recent movies when it comes to my viewing habits):

Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Hugo (2011), The Raid (2011), The Emperor's New Groove (2001), Blue Velvet (1986), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Magnolia (1999), Heavenly Creatures (1994), Wet Hot American Summer (2001), In the Mood for Love (2000), Byzantium (2012)

Andrew Root, Senior Editor:

Because I saw far fewer movies than I intended this year, a best-of list would be difficult to scrabble together. As such, here is a transcript of a conversation I had with my dear friend Kate during the closing credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron that was my favourite movie moment of 2015 (Spoiler Alert):

KATE: I don’t get it.
ME: What do you mean?
KATE: Quicksilver. Are they going to bring him back?
ME: No, I think he’s dead for good.
KATE: But they didn’t deal with any of the stuff from the comics.
ME: What stuff?
KATE: The twincest stuff.
ME: WHAT.
KATE: In the comics Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch have an incestuous relationship. I wanted to see how they were going to handle that.
ME: What on earth made you think that the biggest franchise in the history of film would feature TWINCEST?
KATE: IT HAPPENED IN THE COMICS.
ME: Marvel is owned by DISNEY.
KATE: IT HAPPENED IN THE COMICS.
ME: They will never show that in a movie.
KATE: They might.
ME: They won’t!
KATE: ...they might.