Films of the Year 2015

I couldn’t decide on just ten films this year, so I went with twelve instead.

Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
UK release date: 2nd January 2015
Review: “There are some brilliant moments of hilarity in here, some surprising and well-handled special effects and a few intensely emotional back-and-forths from actors giving their everything to their art. The first truly great film I’ve seen this year. I can’t recommend it enough.”

The Theory of Everything
UK release date: 2nd January 2015
Review: “Redmayne’s performance was astonishing. He completely nails it, working as both a great piece of acting and an uncanny impersonation. The frustration that must be felt by the thousands of sufferers of MND is channelled directly to the viewer by coupling some intimate close-up camera work with some exceptional acting. If Redmayne wins the Oscar next month it will be because of the latter parts of the film.”

Whiplash
UK release date: 16th January 2015
Review: “In the history of cinema, there have been a small number of characters so full of evil they barely resemble human beings anymore. We’re talking Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched, Ian McDiarmid’s The Emporer. I think we can add another one to the list after seeing Whiplash.”

Big Hero 6
UK release date: 30th January 2015
Review: “The animation is the really mind-blowing element of a film that scores highly across the board. It’s fast-paced without ever feeling like it’s trying to lose you in action. The detail given to the plethora of uniquely designed characters is notable, too, and this serves to make each character feel worthy of your investment. If they’re going to spend that long making Hiro’s hair look so awesome, he must deserve a bit of attention on an emotional level too.”

The Duke of Burgundy
UK release date: 20th February 2015
Review: “A highly satisfying, twisting and twisted tale that deserves a wide audience.”

listenupphilip

Listen Up Philip
UK release date: 5th June 2015
Review: “Each character is introduced to us from a position of imbalance and for the most part they spiral into a world of depression and failure. Schwartzman is in fine form throughout, in a role not too dissimilar to others we’ve loved to hate him in. Irritating and overly-confident characters are something of his forte, which is funny if not just because he comes across as anything but irritating in interviews he gives.”

Inside Out
UK release date: 24th July 2015
Review: “This is truly up there with the best Pixar films, no easy achievement given they have been responsible for so many of the best animated films over the last twenty years. It’s the perfect emotional rollercoaster to ride on whilst celebrating reaching the start of their third decade in the motion picture business.”

Irrational Man
UK release date: 11th September 2015
Review: “There are six listed cast members here, but there really are only two stars here. Phoenix and Stone make a formidable pairing. He may have put on some weight for this role, but Phoenix’s allure is still very much there and his convincing lost soul act is enough to make his appeal to the much younger Stone quite believable. It doesn’t quite reach the joyful heights seen in Midnight In Paris, though is streets ahead of the unfathomably popular Blue Jasmine. Well worth checking out if you can find it.”

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King
UK release date: 25th September 2015
Review: “Orion is a documentary worth watching, and it’s an experience enhanced if you know nothing about Ellis. It goes a long way into intimately portraying a man torn between being forced to hide behind a mask and enjoying the limited success he was achieving. It is balanced and as such avoids over-celebrating Ellis, concentrating on his personality rather than his success.”

Suffragette
UK release date: 12th October 2015
Review: “This is a powerful piece of cinema and a relevant work of art. It is essential viewing for all women, any of the 33.9% of the UK public who decided not to vote in the 2015 general election, and anyone with a passion for excellent cinema.”

Bridge of Spies
UK release date: 27th October 2015
Review: “This is an ode to traditional storytelling and any movements it makes to remind us of Spielberg’s supreme talents are trumped by its underlining of Tom Hanks as one of the greatest living actors. This is not a story about espionage, politics or the Cold War. It is a film about one man’s unwavering desire to stick to his principles.”

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
UK release date: 17th December 2015
Review: “J. J. Abrams has managed to pull off a minor miracle. In just over two hours he has erased most of the memories of the prequel trilogy, reminded us of the best of the original trilogy and set up a new storyline that has the whole world anticipating where the next steps will take us. The prospects for the future of the franchise all of a sudden look extremely rosy.”

Advertisements

Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)

In the history of cinema, there have been a small number of characters so full of evil they barely resemble human beings anymore. We’re talking Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched, Ian McDiarmid’s The Emporer. I think we can add another one to the list after seeing Whiplash.

J. K. Simmons’s portrayal of jazz conductor Terence Fletcher is absolutely remarkable and his Oscar nomination is fully deserved. Channelling his previous performance as newspaper owner Jameson in the 2002-2007 Spiderman trilogy but taking it to another level, removing the caricatured anger and replacing it with psychopathic traits of real malice, we are treated to a truly great cinematic performance.

The story charts 19-year-old Andrew Neimann (Miles Teller) as a first-year jazz student at the prestigious (and fictitious) Shaffer Conservatory music school. He lands a place in Fletcher’s jazz orchestra, an orchestra renowned for both the high performance standard and intense rehearsal conditions. Happy to meet the challenge, Neimann quickly realises he’s going to be pushed beyond the limits to achieve the thing that all aspiring musicians crave: perfection.

Teller’s performance is very assured, showing admiral talents in both his musicianship (he’s a self-taught rock drummer though had lessons to learn jazz drumming) and his portrayal of a young man trying to find the strength to pursue his dream and avoid a nervous breakdown. He has a bright future in the business, and this is an excellent way to announce yourself to the wider industry.

The film has come under criticism from avid fans of jazz for misrepresenting particular anecdotes used in the film and apparently poor musicianship from the lead characters. I’m no fan of jazz so I won’t comment on something I’m not confident on, but from my point of view the abilities of the performers was not something I felt was detrimental to the film at all. Indeed, it made me want to explore jazz a little more. But anyone can see this film is not about jazz. It’s about bullying, using jazz as a medium to tell the story. The jazz industry would do well to not underestimate the audience so much as to assume they wouldn’t get that.

I can’t recommend this enough to fans of great character portrayal. If Simmons isn’t awarded with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor next month it will be the wrong decision.

Whiplash is on general release globally now.