My Top Films of 2015

Here’s the top 10. This is the list I submitted to, for the Individual Top 10s of 2015.

About Elly (made in 2009, but just getting a US release now. By the great Asghar Farhadi. Review here.)

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014; d. Olivier Assayas. Review here.)

Girlhood (2015; d. Celine Sciamma. Review here)

Magic Mike XXL (2015; d. Gregory Jacobs)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015; d. George Miller)

Phoenix (2015; d. Christian Petzold. Review here.)

Creed (2015; d. Ryan Coogler. Wrote about it for’s 10 Best Films of 2015.)

By the Sea (2015; d. Angelina Jolie Pitt. Review here.. And more thoughts on it here.)

Taxi (2015; d. Jafar Panahi. Review here.)

Brooklyn (2015; d. John Crowley).

Other wonderful films from 2015:

The Revenant
Mistress America
Love & Mercy (Review here.)
The Assassin (review here)
Welcome To Me
Spotlight (review here)
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (saw at Ebertfest.)
Crimson Peak (review here)
Mustang (review here)
Carol (review here)
It Follows
Arabian Nights
The Ocean of Helena Lee (review here)
Goodnight Mommy (interviewed the directors)
El Cinco (this doesn’t really count: I saw it at Tribeca and it hasn’t had a US release yet. But I loved it and would love for people to keep their eyes peeled for it. Review here)
Meadowland (interviewed the director)
Christmas, Again (review here)
Eden (review here)
Ex Machina (review here)
Inside Out
Diary of a Teenage Girl (review here)
Straight Outta Compton (review here)
Room (review here)
Son of Saul
The Martian (review here)
45 Years
James White (review here)
The Big Short (review here)
The Mend
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Queen of Earth

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35 Responses to My Top Films of 2015

  1. Kate says:

    Thank you Sheila. I know it’s not your favorite but it makes it easy on someone like me who doesn’t get out much and loathes big screen duds. I wanted to let you know I always print your list and post it at my neighborhood video store. They’ve come to love it and point it out to people making decisions on what to rent. Surprised you haven’t reviews Danish Girl. I thought it was exquisite!

    • sheila says:

      Ha! Thanks, Kate! Love the thought of my list up at a video store! (I also love the thought of people renting “Taxi” who might otherwise never have heard of it.)

      And I wouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t review Danish Girl if I were you. :) I didn’t like it, and I usually don’t review stuff I don’t like (unless, of course, I’m paid to do it).

      But I’m glad you liked it. To each her own.

      • Louis says:

        I find that negative review of films are just as informative than positive ones, maybe more so. I certainly hope to see more of your film reviews.

    • sheila says:

      I’m not sure your taste in movies – but I just saw a screener of 45 Years (which is on my list – well, not the Top 10 list, but the longer one) – and it’s incredible.

      Charlotte Rampling will probably be nominated for an Oscar (I’ve always loved her), but I thought Tom Courtenay was equally good (although his role is a little bit smaller). It’s a devastating film with one of the best “final moments” I’ve seen in a long long LONG time. I almost couldn’t believe when the director cut away, and the credits began to roll, that he had dared to end the film in that moment.

      If I was interviewing him, I would ask if he had planned it that way.

      It’s really good – I think it just opened?? Not sure if it’s in limited release – check around. Really really good movie – an actor’s paradise, that’s for sure, although the script/direction is excellent too. (Director also wrote the script.)

      • Kate says:

        45 years opens here on Wednesday and I have it scheduled – my cousin saw it on a plane and raved about it. Saw Christmas, Again (thank you) and also seeing Man Up this week. I’m a teacher on Christmas Break – this is my time! About Danish Girl – we have a 15 year old friend/neighbor just the age of my kids whom we’ve known her whole life and last week she announced on Facebook she is now a boy. The movie was timely and powerful for me. Darn – I’d love to hear your thoughts about it but I did guess that you didn’t review things you didn’t like which I find very kind so thank you for that too!

  2. sheila says:

    The Revenant is still under embargo in terms of reviews – it opens next week. I’ve already written mine up, so will post whenever other reviews start to go up.

    Like I said somewhere else, I had a huge problem with Birdman – all of which leads back to the director. The Revenant has its pretensions (the worst part of the movie), but I was overall impressed. A very difficult watch, but recommended!

    • Kate says:

      I had a problem with Birdman too! My husband came out raving about it and couldn’t understand what was wrong with me.

      • sheila says:

        I think that film is so flattering to delusional middle-aged men that I wanted to puke.

        Plus, it doesn’t understand theatre – and condescends to theatre.

        Very very pretentious.

    • Barb says:

      I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on Birdman–if you reviewed, I apologize, I obviously missed it. I saw it recently, while all my boys were on a hunting trip (natch :-) ) and I’m still not sure what to make of it. Mostly I found it exhausting! I needed it to stop for a moment and take a breath–and those segways from night to morning just didn’t cut it. The only time it slowed down was when Emma Stone was onscreen (and I mean that as a compliment).

  3. sheila says:

    And Son of Saul opened on Friday (small run at Film Forum in NYC).

    Will probably be nominated for an Oscar – I saw it after I submitted my various Top 10 lists to different sites – so it’s not listed.

    It’s a very difficult film. And so gripping it zips by – it literally was over before I knew it, and I felt like I didn’t breathe once while watching it.

    The lead actor – Géza Röhrig – is a really interesting man with a fascinating background.

    It’s a terrible terrible story – but a great film.

  4. Ed Carlevale says:

    If we shift the focus from movies to blogs, you would head my list of the Best Blogger of 2015. It is staggering the volume of work you produce. I don’t know you but your sensibility is part of my world just the same, and I was never more grateful for that sensibility than in your defense of By the Sea. I’ve been reading you for a couple of years, and my sense is that this year was a watershed for you, from Gena Rowlands to your film and all the great writing in-between. Thank you for all of it.

    You are so prolific that I constantly think of eBooks that you should collect your work into — an eBook on acting and acting coaches, another on longtime managers like Colonal Parker. Your reviews of first-time directors are just in a league of their own, and I can’t think of any other writer who takes the time and gives such care to introduce new artists to the world. It’s such a gift to them and to us. Packaging those reviews and perhaps adding interviews would be a great thing.

    I often want to comment on your posts but for some reason never chime in. However, I have to circle back and add my favorite bit from Truman Capote’s unfair but very wonderful goring of Marlon Brando, “The Duke in his Domain.” As Brando is beginning to open up, Capote leaves him talking and fills his readers in on Brando’s career up to that point. It goes on for three pages and only comes to an end when Capote asks Brando, “How did you break your nose?”

    Poor Brando has apparently been talking away all this time. “…by which I don’t mean that I’m always unhappy. I remember one April I was in Sicily…” It’s as if Capote deigns to turn Brando’s microphone back on, just so he can answer his question. It comes off as incredibly funny and incredibly mean, a real Truman moment.

    Thanks again Sheila for all your wonderful writing. Best wishes in the new year!

    • sheila says:

      Ed – I am so touched by your comment that I don’t even know what to say except a heartfelt thank you.

      It means so much that you respond to what I’m doing, and that you get something out of it. Thank you!!

      and hahahahaha in re: Capote and Brando.

      // It comes off as incredibly funny and incredibly mean //

      HAHA I know, right?? That whole interview is so insane.

      and thanks for the vote of confidence in re: first-time directors. I am looking to do more of that, and have some queries in the works to talk to more people. I love people who are starting out strong, and starting out personally. Hope for the future of movies!

      Best wishes to you too, and thanks again.

  5. mutecypher says:

    I wanted to see Anomalisa, but with moving across an ocean and getting settled in a new place and job, I missed it. I see it on a lot of “best of” lists, but not yours. Did you miss it too( I think it was out around your surgery) or did it just not give you enough oomph to make even your extended list? I know you are a Kaufman-phile.

    • sheila says:

      Haven’t seen it yet. Missed the press screenings – think I was on vacation. I’ll catch up with it – it sounds so interesting (first of all) but then the reviews make it sound totally profound (which is not a surprise, but still)!

      • sheila says:

        and then of course I went to see Force Awakens this afternoon. Pretty fun. You’ve probably seen it already?

        It was great because I went this morning (11:50 show) – so it’s a Monday. School day, work day. The people who were there – I have no idea who they were – weirdos like me. It’s in a gigantic IMAX theatre which I’m sure was packed all weekend – but today there were probably … 50 people there? All scattered around. It was a bit eerie. But great, because we all were in the same mood.

        Everyone (all 50 of us) applauded when Han Solo appeared. When any of the original cast appeared. So it had a nice cozy nostalgic vibe to it – very very friendly, but there were only 50 of us so it was like a private screening.

        So many more to catch up with – bah!!

        • sheila says:

          (although it would be fun to see TFA in a huge crowd – just not this past weekend. Too crazy for me. My friend Jen and I went to a 7 pm show of CREED on Saturday night – and there was a crowd of people in a holding pen – out in the cold night – waiting to be let in for the 8:30 show of TFA. It was hilarious – I was like, “Is U2 playing here or something?”)

          I’ll probably go again on a weekend night just to get the Full Monty of the raucous crowd.

        • mutecypher says:

          Oh, apropos of something else.

          I picked up my daughter from college in San Fran on Saturday and we did a few days worth of road tripping in Northern California before heading to Fresno for Christmas with the family. I’d made a long Christmas playlist for the ride; the playlist included Dino’s Christmas album. About the third time through my daughter exclaims “wow, Dean Martin can really sing!”

          Thought you’d get a kick out of that.

      • mutecypher says:

        I haven’t seen TFA yet. I will go because people I love want me to see it with them. And I am relieved that it has gotten good reviews.

        I know you’ve written of your love for the less loved later films, and I read Camille Paglia’s praise for the beauty of Revenge of the Sith, but I just can’t get there. I have a white hot hatred of Yoda. The pompous green syntax murderer presided over the almost complete obliteration of the Jedi. The guy he spent half his days working with was the head of his evil rivals. He expresses grave misgivings about Anakin, but lets him become a Jedi anyway. And then he does nothing to keep an eye the kid. Yoda is the definition of a failure. But he’s the Wisest of All in the SW-verse. Bah.

        Sorry for the rant, clearly I have unresolved daddy issues. Or something.

        I’m hoping that TFA will be an opportunity for me to grow.

        Glad you enjoyed it. Movies like that are even more fun to share when in a big audience.

        • sheila says:

          Star Wars was one of the first movies I saw in a movie theatre (and blah blah blah, everyone says that, “it represents my childhood”, etc. – although that is not true for me at all) – but honestly, it’s all about Empire Strikes Back for me (and that’s pretty much because the kiss in the asteroid belt single-handedly launched adolescence. ha.)

          The prequels I watched with my nephew – and while I didn’t care for them all that much at the time – I read David Edelstein’s piece (I think it was his) about them and thought he brought up some great points. Damn, I think it was him. Basically it was a reaction to all of the “Screw George Lucas and Yay JJ Abrams” chatter – which I think is pretty unfair and stupid. Whatever article I’m thinking of basically made the point that: TFA caters to the fans of the original trilogy. It gives you all the beats you want: Millennium Falcon, Chewie, glimpse of R2, insider references to “trash compactors” blah blah. It’s pandering, but whatever. It’s expected. But Edelstein (I think) said: Still and all, it’s EXPECTED – and George Lucas was actually trying to do something different with those prequels, and create a political system and a backlash, and an intricate interconnected world of power and jostling for power – that was actually far more original – and VERY “unexpected.” They may not have been successful – but the attempt itself was bold, risky, and original. I liked thinking about that. Not sure I agree, but whatever, it’s fun thinking about.

          But the ga-ga thing going on right now – and the ga-ga thing that has been building for MONTHS … I don’t feel it. (I was sick of TFA talk 3 months ago). I get it. I do. People are excited. I do not want to take anything away from them, (and it’s so boring to have to even say that!! How can one woman’s opinion on the Internet ruin someone else’s good time? Toughen up, kids. Plenty of people dismiss shit I like, and I don’t care at all.) But these films did not define my childhood. My nostalgia for them is just not as strong as some other things from back then. Maybe I outgrew it. I don’t know.

          I did think Revenge of the Sith was beautiful to look at – mournful, filled with loss and dread, and the dread of what was to come. Actually all of the prequels had beautiful sequences – but the acting … OY. AWFUL. And the dialogue was atrocious. Ewan McGregor was bad. Everyone was bad, I thought. I pretty much wrote them off (but not in the embittered “this hurts my soul” way that some other fans did.) And I watched them enthusiastically because my nephew loved them, and he saw THEM before he saw Star Wars itself.

          TFA has some freshness to it, and the two new stars are wonderful. I was thankful for how FUNNY it was. Star Wars was goofy schlocky vaudeville. You can talk about Joseph Campbell all you want – but (in my opinion) it’s the humor that matters, that made it entertaining, and not a big ponderous bore. JJ Abrams did not make the mistake that Christopher Nolan made with Dark Knight (let’s make Batman suuuuuuuuuuuuper serious so that all of the fans can feel justified that what they love is important. So silly!)

          Star Wars is a space opera where a gigantic yowling furry creature is also a co-pilot. It’s kind of stupid. But it’s entertaining, and funny. Don’t take it too seriously. (That was my issue with the prequels – too serious – although, again, I think it was David Edelstein who had some other thoughts on them. I’ll check around and see if I can re-trace my steps to find that article.)

          It’s kind of like fans who called the last Indiana Jones movie “cheesy” and hated it. Uhm, Raiders WASN’T cheesy? Since WHEN? (I loved the last Raiders. Thought it was a hoot.)

          So TFA is legit funny – the humor is in the script, but also in the acting – and yeah, the galaxy is threatened and the rebellion is losing and blah blah … But without humor … it would be deadly. In other words, I’m too old for that shit. There are serious movies out there this year. 45 Years. Son of Saul. Even Welcome to Me is serious. These films can TAKE a serious tone. I don’t think Star Wars really can – and TFA doesn’t try.

          It was good to “see” everyone again, that’s for sure.

        • sheila says:

          and I don’t know Paglia’s piece – I have to find it! She’s so crazy and I love to hear whatever it is that she’s grooving on. (Her piece on Real Housewives was brilliant – and she was RIGHT!!)

          I saw “Sith” in the movie theatre and honestly the only thing I remember is the last shot. So … I don’t know. It’s weird. The prequels didn’t stick in my brain at all.

          • mutecypher says:

            Paglia’s piece is in Glittering Images.

            I loved the originals, and Empire most of all. I watched it 8 or 10 times when it came out. It made me so happy. I took a vacation day from work to get in line for Return of the Jedi. Yes, I was one of those.

            I will go with you in terms of the acting and the even worse dialogue in the prequels. I also don’t have any problem with the folks who love them, it’s wonderful to have art and entertainment that you love. I am not going to tell anyone else how to feel about them or what to like.

            I think my Yoda-hate comes from real life experiences with people who sought leadership positions and then did terrible jobs. I am surprised by my own strong reaction to him, clearly it’s not the movie and the sack of felt with the voice of Fozzy Bear. But it really is my reaction. I don’t think he appears as a ghostly presence in TFA, so I can probably enjoy the movie on its own terms.

            I’ll find out tomorrow.

          • mutecypher says:

            I also really liked the animated series set during the Clone Wars. There were some very good stories and interesting arcs, and decent dialogue.

            I just yelled at the TV whenever Yoda appeared.

            Dawn, I’m a nerd bitching about Star Wars on the Internet. I need to go reread Blood Meridian or something.

          • sheila says:

            hahahaha Go ahead and bitch!

            People have strong reactions to these movies – clearly they tap into something primal. A friend of mine is so anti-Jedi that he’s practically on the side of the Empire. (Especially the Jedis in the prequels.) He’s like, “They’re moral fascists. At least the Empire is HONEST about being tyrannical. The Jedis try to control everyone and also want absolute power but they pretend they’re more enlightened about it. It’s bullshit.”

            My friend is a history buff, too – so in the Jedis he finds evidence of the strange love affair with fascism that sometimes occurs in the American Left. The Right has its issues too but at least they aren’t hypocrites (according to my friend.) So the Jedis are basically the American Left, convinced they are morally superior, but they’re morally puritanical in a way that makes them hypocrites. (And on and on. My friend is hilarious when he gets going on this.)

            I think it’s funny and interesting the things people hate/love about these franchises.

            And then of course the universally reviled Jar Jar Binks – which now I can’t even believe really happened.

            In re: standing in line: I stood in line for hours for the second “Raiders” movie, so I get it. The “Raiders” movies were more important to me than the Star Wars franchise – or, at least, they made a bigger impression, and they still live inside of me somehow – as an influence, one of my great loves as a teenager.

          • mutecypher says:

            I had heard your friend’s interpretation before – without the tie to the Left. I think it hangs together pretty well. I avoided comparing Yoda to any past or present presidents, but the temptation did arise.

            Sprading of Raiders, I read a story recently that it was Marcia Lucas,George’s first wife who, when editing Raiders, realized that it needed a final scene with Miriam. So Spielberg added that final scene on the steps. It really would have felt different without that ending. And I was so glad to see her character in the most recent one. Those are great movies (excepting the second, maybe),

          • sheila says:

            hahaha Yoda as US President. A lot of “the Force” is basically “stop your brain from working” which is the kind of New Age mumbo-jumbo I find not only silly, but insulting. I will never ever turn off my brain.

            There’s a little of that in this new one, too – but at least it’s treated in epic fashion and not the whole “The Force actually runs through the blood-stream in little corpuscles of awesome” thing that was just awful.

            In re: Raiders: Oh God, it was so good to see Miriam again!! I saw it at the Ziegfeld on opening day – a massive theatre – and the audience erupted into cheers.

            Cheers for this middle-aged actress who barely works anymore (for shame).

            It brought tears to my eyes.

          • sheila says:

            and yes, agreed on Temple of Doom.

          • Paula says:

            Glad to hear someone else liked The Clone Wars series. For an animated series, it had a gritty element. Not polished and straightforward hero stories but a messy mix of secondary characters and backwater locations. Going to see TFA Christmas Day.

            Fun fact, mutecypher. If you drove down from Seattle to SF, you drove right by George Lucas’s house and Skywalker Ranch in San Rafael (my old house too.)

            I agree about Yoda. He reminds me of too many real life people. All platitudes, little actual guidance. He did kick ass with a light saber in one scene but not enough to offset the other.

  6. mutecypher says:

    Back to the start of my comment, I am looking forward to talking about Anomalisa once we’ve both seen it. Looks like it’s coming to Seattle in March.

    And President Yoda. He wasn’t very effective with the Galactic Senate, I wonder how he’d do with ours. You have to have been born with midochlorians to access the force, that killed a lot of fanboy boners.

    More roles for Karen Allen, agreed.

    • sheila says:

      // You have to have been born with midochlorians to access the force, that killed a lot of fanboy boners. //

      hahahahaha Thank you for pulling out the scientific word, I am very impressed, I tried to block it out like Jar Jar Binks.

      I’ll try and catch Anomalisa the week after I get back from Christmas. That’s a relatively slow week (as of now, anyway).

      Have a happy holiday, by the way!!

      • mutecypher says:

        Hi Paula-

        I flew into SFO, then we went to Ukiah, then up to Richardson Grove for the redwoods, then to Fresno, so we went through San Rafael twice. We went through Golden Gate Park on the way back, and there’s a William Gibson novel where George Lucas purchased the GG Park and made it another Skywalker Ranch. I always get a kick out of that thought when I drive through it. George has good taste in real estate.

        Ventriss ruled in the Clone Wars.

      • mutecypher says:

        Happy holidays to you too, Sheila!

        Just saw TFA. Not really read to talk about it.

  7. Lennox says:

    Hi Sheila,
    Thought I’d share my list, since we both have the same #1 and I’m looking forward to seeing Fireworks Wednesday at Film Forum. It may seem a bit late for this exercise, but I finally got around to seeing Anomalisa which I thought might be a contender.
    1. About Elly (Asghar Farhadi)
    2. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
    3. Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan)
    4. Carol (Todd Haynes)
    5. Tangerine (Sean Baker)
    6. Hateful 8 (Quentin Tarantino)
    7. Far from the Maddening Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg)
    8. Breathe (Mélanie Laurent)
    9. Brooklyn (John Crowley)
    10. Room (Lenny Abrahamson)

    Worst Film of the Year: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
    Most Overrated: Inside Out (Pete Docter)

  8. sheila says:

    Loved Breathe, too! I reviewed it for Ebert, and really enjoyed it.

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