Revisiting the best movies of 2015 in time for awards season

· Jan 6, 2016 Tweet

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The holidays are over, you’ve binge-watched all of “Star Wars” and “Making A Murderer,” but there’s still nearly two weeks to kill before school starts. With awards season about to get underway, now is the perfect time to revisit 2015’s best movies.

10. “Trainwreck”

Featuring the always deliciously caustic Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”) and a massively talented comedic cast, “Trainwreck” was far and away one of the best comedies of 2015. The story of a woman sleeping her way through life before ultimately settling down with “the right guy” isn’t the most original idea a screenwriter has had, but the harsh and unforgiving way in which Schumer and company modernize and liberate this tale brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the romantic-comedy genre.

9. “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

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The number of spy movies that can be considered on the level of James Bond quality-wise is depressingly small. There is Jason Bourne … and not much else. Luckily, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the little-known comic book “The Secret Service” brings along a delightfully violent addition to the ranks of good spy movies. Anchored by newcomer Taron Egerton (“Testament of Youth”) along with old hands Colin Firth (“Before I Go To Sleep”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“The Hateful Eight”), “Kingsman” carries itself with an air of light silliness, without descending into full-on parody.

8. “Steve Jobs”

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It seems as though nobody can make a Steve Jobs biopic that is both good and successful at the box office. Ashton Kutcher tried, and ended up with an abject failure. Now, Michael Fassbender’s (“Macbeth”) latest attempt has been met with universal critical acclaim, but with fairly pitiful box office numbers. Ignoring its minimal receipts, “Steve Jobs” is a far better film than its predecessor.

Following the titular character backstage at three major Apple events, it does not pull punches when it comes to emotional weight, and finally does the enigmatic figure of Steve Jobs justice.

7. “The Overnight”

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A nice follow-up to last year’s “Listen Up Philip,” Jason Schwartzman (“7 Chinese Brothers”) once again stars in a movie seemingly designed to make viewers uncomfortable. This wacky little indie flick by sophomore director Patrick Brice swings for the debauched fences and knocks it out of the park with a shockingly vulgar Adam Scott (“Krampus”) turning in a particularly excellent performance.

“The Overnight” is not a long movie, but it really does not need to be. Any more would almost feel overcrowded and drag down the visceral impact of Brice’s beautifully vulgar indie.

6. “Sicario”

Once again, the supremely talented Denis Villeneuve has created an excellent movie poised to be completely shut out of awards season. “Sicario” follows FBI agent Kate Macer, played by an American-accented Emily Blunt (“Into the Woods”), as she descends deeper and deeper into the sick, twisted world of the infamous Ciudad Juarez. Blunt turns in an excellent performance, but it is Benicio del Toro’s (“The Little Prince”) portrayal of CIA agent Alejandro Gillick that steals the show.

The moral grayness of “Sicario,” especially that of Gillick, is what really makes it more interesting than your average procedural fare.

5. “The Hateful Eight”

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Quentin Tarantino, in an effort to stop dancing around the point, decided to finally make an actual Western instead of the neo-Western “Inglorious Bastards” and “Django Unchained.” Of course, being a Tarantino flick, “Hateful Eight” is also an Agatha Christie-style locked door mystery, as part of Tarantino’s ongoing effort to avoid conforming to any one genre. Perpetual cast member Samuel L. Jackson (“Chi-Raq”) plays a major role, especially in what will surely be the most well-remembered scene of the movie. Talking to an unapologetically racist former Southern general played spectacularly by Bruce Dern (“Cut Bank”), the undisguised malice Jackson summons is chilling.

With excellent performances from the rest of the cast, including a nearly unrecognizable Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Anomalisa”), “The Hateful Eight” is an interesting new turn in Tarantino’s ever-bizarre filmography.

4. “Carol”

The only movie that can justifiably be named “Oscar Bait” that ended up being better than mediocre, “Carol” is a resounding gut punch of a romantic drama. If Cate Blanchett (“Truth”) does not at least get seriously considered for Best Actress after this performance, there is no justice. It’s also nice to see a movie that follows a lesbian couple without fetishizing the concept, a depressingly common misstep in stories like these. Blanchett and Rooney Mara (“Trash”) both bring solid performances, as the movie does not give its characters an easy ride.

That said, the film manages to end in a way that is soundly satisfying while also not underwriting the struggles characters underwent to get there. “Carol” will grab you tight and never let go, all without resorting to the typical same-sex love-story cliches.

3. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

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After the spectacular disappointment that was the prequels, J.J. Abrams’ new creation is like a direct shot of adrenaline. It didn’t take itself too seriously, there wasn’t any boring political melodrama and the acting was quite spectacular. But beyond comparison to far lesser films, “The Force Awakens” stands alone as an excellent flick. The new characters, especially Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, click better than anyone could have hoped. A recommendation is in order, but is also somewhat pointless. Odds are most, if not everybody, has seen it already.

2. “Inside Out”

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Pixar has been a little off since “Toy Story 3.” With uninspired releases like “Brave” and “Cars 2,” audiences might have started to think that maybe the studio long held as the pinnacle of animation was starting to slip. But “Inside Out” put all those thoughts to rest.

Benefitting from a spectacular voice cast, this tale of an 11-year-old girl’s personified emotions really should make you cry, with one scene in particular being a guaranteed tearjerker. Those who have seen this animated masterpiece know the scene, those who do not may find themselves weeping uncontrollably in front of their friends. Animation and writing savant Pete Docter can be blamed for bringing audiences young and old alike to tears, and every other emotion as well over the course of this literal emotional rollercoaster.

1.  “Spotlight”

In a year without a breakout favorite for the major awards, “Spotlight” seems to be far and away the best of 2015. This is not a movie for the faint of heart; the story of the Boston Catholic Diocese covering up prolific, ongoing sexual abuse of children induces spectacular amounts of anger. This movie will cut deep, especially for those who were raised Catholic, but the real story of the movie is the investigative team that uncovered the massive scandal.

“Spotlight” doesn’t idolize the role of journalists in modern society, but it also doesn’t shy away from their importance. Ultimately, the balance between an organization as powerful as the Boston Diocese and the journalists investigating its wrongdoings is what sets it apart from other films in 2015. Nothing else can compare.

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This article was published Jan 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm and last updated Jan 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm

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