Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best of 2015: The Best New Movies I Saw

With a few hours left to go in 2015, I've watched 151 movies this year.

For my purposes, 53 of them were new releases, including some that for Academy Award purposes, or for list makers who have better access to everything, or for the main IMDB parentheses date, are officially 2014 movies.

But several of the "prestige films" that may have opened in New York or LA in December 2014 didn't hit Chicago area cinemas until January, February.

In a couple cases, movies may have played one screen in Chicago--typically the Century or River East--around Christmas 2014, but didn't open in the suburbs until awhile later.

Then there are movies--many of them foreign--that may have played film festivals throughout 2014 but didn't actually open anywhere in Chicago, or even on any U.S. screens beyond festivals, until sometime in 2015. (I'm really not sure how film festival screenings count against Academy Award eligibility for a given year.)

So while acknowledging the imperfections, I am essentially counting as eligible any movies I watched over the past 12 months that I didn't have a reasonable chance to see previously.

I realize that this logic could theoretically make eligible films that showed up for a week at the Siskel Film Center, Facets or the Music Box in, say, 2012--or didn't even--but only came to DVD, cable or Netflix in 2015, but in reality it means that I'm looping into the choices below about 7 movies technically from 2014 that I didn't get to see until 2015.

Given my erosive memory, there's always the possibility that films seen almost a year ago may suffer in my thought process next to ones seen just this week or month, but it's also possible I may recall something as even better than I would now find it to be.

So, take my rankings for what they're worth.

To augment my rankings, I also provide the Top 10 choices of my friends Dave and Brad, both--like me--members of the Chicago Film Discussion Meetup Group.

Obviously there are numerous other lists like this but I enjoy pointing out Paste Magazine's list of The 50 Best Movies of 2015, which further serves to reveal how many substantive movies I didn't see this year, whether I could have or not.

For no entirely explainable reason, I've decided to cite my favorite documentaries separate from feature films, possibly because some were never released in theaters.

Anyway, enough with the preamble, here are my:

Best New Movies Seen in 2015 -
Feature Films
(F = Foreign; 14 = Officially a 2014 release)

1. Selma (14) 
2. Room
3. Phoenix (F)
4. Two Days, One Night (F, 14)
5. 99 Homes
6. The End of the Tour
7. Love & Mercy
8. Wild Tales (F)
9. Spotlight
10. Carol
11. Still Alice (14)
12. The Martian
13. The Big Short
14. American Sniper (14)
15. Ex Machina
16. Brooklyn
17. The Gift
18. The Danish Girl
19. Trumbo
20. Bridge of Spies

Honorable Mention (in preference order)

A Most Violent Year
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Son of Saul
Straight Outta Compton
Force Majeure 
Desert Dancer
A Borrowed Identity
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Last Five Years

Notable 2015 Movies Not Yet Seen
Anomalisa, Chi-Raq, Steve Jobs, Sicario, The Revenant, White God, The Tribe, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amselem, The Peanuts Movie, It Follows

Notable Movies Seen But Not Cited Above 
The Hateful Eight, Trainwreck, Youth, Mad Max: Fury Road, While We're Young, Far From the Madding Crowd, Woman in Gold, Joy, Z for Zachariah

The Best New Documentaries Seen in 2015

1. The Jam: About the Young Idea
2. Keith Richards: Under the Influence
3. Amy
4. Lambert & Stamp
5. Red Army (14)

Didn't see: Cartel Land, Janis: Little Girl Blue, Iris, Seymour: An Introduction

Saw, didn't love: Cobain: Montage of Heck

Dave's Top 20 Movies of 2015

1. Wild Tales (F)
2. Human Capital (F, 13)
3. Tangerine
4. Mommy (F, 14)
5. Two Days, One Night (F, 14)
6. Steve Jobs
7. Carol
8. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (F, 14)
9. Spotlight
10. Goodnight, Mommy (F, 14)
11. Victoria (F)
12. The Gift
13. Bridge of Spies
14. Phoenix (F)
15. The End of the Tour
16. Leviathan
17. Selma
18. Inside Out
19. Inherent Vice
20. The Hateful Eight  

Brad's Top 11 Movies of 2015

1. Inside Out  
2. Mountains May Depart (F)
3. Mad Max: Fury Road 
4. The Hateful Eight 
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
6. Son of Saul (F) 
7. Tangerine 
8. Anomalisa 
9. It Follows 
10. Love & Mercy
11. Spotlight

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