I want to make clear the rules of my list compared to some other critics, most notably where I live. I live and work in the UK which is on a different film schedule to the US so there are some notable exceptions to films that might be on this list so that is why Creed, The Revenent, The Hateful Eight, Joy and The Big Short are not here. While they might turn out to be the five best films of the year the fact of the matter is they are not eligible for my list. And with that here are my honorable mentions for films that were noteworthy but not in my Top 10.
A lot of people just struck off this film as childish and not worth your time however I will look at them dead in the eye and say “Bottom” (cue maniacal giggling). This was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had in a cinema this year because it knew it was childish and a bit stupid but it ran with it and made a Minion the king of England, I mean come on. King Bob for 2016.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation:
It was fine. 2 hours of fine, nothing done badly, nothing done brilliantly apart from the jaw dropping stunts and Simon Pegg will never not be charming as anything. I was tempted to see it a second time.
A lovely understated film with another masterful performance from Saiorse Ronan (Oscar bells are ringing…). If you want a film that’s like a warm coat and makes you smile then Brooklyn is for you.
One of the surprises of the year. Joel Edgerton directs and stars in a modern thriller with the feel of a Hitchcock classic.
Bridge of Spies:
Spielberg really knows how to make films. I understand that statement is like saying Daniel Day-Lewis is good at acting but I feel some people might have written him off after War of The Worlds. Within 40 seconds of the film you just sigh and relax knowing that you’re watching something made at the highest level of experience and knowledge.
Lady In The Van:
As an actor Alan Bennett plays always provide two hours of fun. This film (based on his real life) was funny, uplifting, sad and proof that Maggie Smith is one of the finest actress’ of our time.
A quick mention to Birdman and Whiplash as they both came out in the UK this year but considered 2014 films. These are two of the greatest films ever made and if you haven’t seen them then stop reading this article and start watching.
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for…
Amy Winehouse was one of the brightest talents of the 21st century with a voice and soul beyond her years. This documentary by Asif Kapadia (of Senna fame) showcased the brilliance behind the media storm and showed just how brilliant a songwriter she was while also highlighting the poisoned chalice of fame, people who led her astray and the voice that made the world stop and take notice. Focusing on her close friends and family and her unique lyrical take on the world Amy documents the downfall of an icon in a way that can only be described as heartbreaking.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I was so pleasantly surprised by this film. A filmmaker who doesn’t trust anyone enough to call them friends categorized his high school into sections and blends in by being part of every section. Within 5 minutes I was already thinking I love this film. He is then ‘forced’ into a friendship with a classmate who has just been diagnosed with Leukemia and over the course of her treatment he makes her his first original film as a tribute.
After I saw this I understand why this received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Not since The Perks of Being A Wallflower have teenage characters received the same amount of respect for what they have to go through. It also has a fantastic soundtrack with brilliant use of Brian Eno on multiple occasions.
- The Martian
Ridley Scott you talented filmmaker you! The Martian is a tour de force film starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels amongst probably the best supporting cast of the whole year including (breathe) Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor to create probably the funniest non-comedy this year.
Matt Damon is stuck on Mars with very little chance of survival but through the power of his botany prowess and the miracle food that is potatoes he “sciences this s**t out of this” to give him every hope of getting home. NASA meanwhile work tirelessly to try and bring him home in a film that is the best advert for a career in engineering that I’ve ever seen.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
Who the hell saw this coming??
Kingsman follows Eggsy played by Taron Edgerton as he’s brought through the elite secret spy training facility of The Kingsman by the most unlikely action star Colin Firth (who is badass in this movie) as they try and stop the deadly Richmond Valentine played perfectly by Thamuel L Jackthon. Sorry Samuel L Jackson has a magnificent lisp here.
Kingsman takes everything you love about James Bond but treats it like it was Kick-Ass with the screenwriter from Austin Powers. Basically it’s so so so so much fun. The church scene alone was enough to cement it’s place on this list and makes me listen to Free Bird by Lynard Skynard in a totally different way for the better now. Rock on Kingsman rock on.
- Love and Mercy
I have never been a huge fan of The Beach Boys but hearing people talk about Brian Wilson and his mindbogglingly brilliant songwriting process was always interesting so I went into this movie without any preconceptions and it blew me away.
Brian is played by two people, in the 60’s by Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) and in the 80’s by John Cusack (High Fidelity, Say Anything etc.) and the story documents the writing, recording and reaction to the, now seminal, album Pet Sounds as well as Brian after he had lost his mind and was in the legal care of Dr Eugene Landy played by an on fire Paul Giamatti. The 80’s section also follows his relationship with Melinda Ledbetter played by Elizabeth Banks.
This film features the most brilliant representation of music as a concept in the head of a genius through the masterful score of Atticus Ross who took stems from different Beach Boys songs and melds them into a logical thought process inside Brian’s drug-addled mind.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max is a perfect film. Objectively without any personal opinion you can only say those words, everything about it is literally perfect. Its energy is front and center at every moment and the film takes a breath at logical places and allows the audiences to catch their breath too. It has one of those opening sequences that set the tone perfectly and then doesn’t stop for an hour. The now famous line “Oh what a lovely day!” is one of the highest-octane moments in the film and that’s ON THE WAY to an action scene, it does not let up. People have complained endlessly about how there is no story and to that I laugh simply say that that’s the point! This film is not story heavy so it can focus on the artistry of its stunts and action sequences.
If ‘The Last Five Years’ had not come out this year I would genuinely say this is the best musical of the year as the car scenes are almost balletic in their beauty and precision. Besides, the plaudits this film deserves should go to George Miller, the director of photography and the stunt coordinators and a mention to Junkie XL for the most epic score of the year. Oh and the Doof Warrior was the most amazing thing in the world for about four weeks and still is one of the absolute movie highlights of the year. However brilliant this film was on a technical level the reason it is at number 5 instead of 2 (it’s original position) is because it failed to affect me on an emotional level which is what 4-1 did so well.
- Steve Jobs
I love Aaron Sorkin scripts, if it was a food I would eat it every day at the exact same time while walking around my house talking to various different people about things at twice the speed of a normal person.
Steve Jobs focuses on three product launches of Jobs’ mesmerizing career; the Macintosh following the iconic Superbowl advert in 1985, the NEXT Cube after his dismissal from Apple in 1988 and finally his legendary and triumphant return to the Apple spotlight with the iMac in 1998.
This film is the best example of how to turn a play into a film, while I’m well aware this was not a play first it was written so and Danny Boyle took Sorkin’s awesome script and applied the magic touch of 4 brilliant actors at the top of their games (Michael Fassbender as Jobs, Kate Winslet as his head of marketing Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak and Jeff Daniels as former Apple CEO John Sculley) where every one of them deserves an Oscar nomination especially Seth Rogen.
Steve Jobs is one of two films I have willingly gone to see twice in the cinema this year because it is a perfect storm of everyone, in front and behind the camera, firing on all cylinders to create a lasting piece of art about one of the most influential humans to ever have lived. It also is one of two films this year to feature a leading character you as a viewer should despise and hope to lose however due to the aforementioned perfect storm you can only root for him and when he walks out on that stage to introduce the world to the future it’s hard not to feel like the right person won.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
So much was riding on this and I’m not going to spend a lot of time here because nearly everything I have to say was said in my own review on this website which can be found here (http://www.ticgn.com/star-wars-the-force-awakens-review-spoiler-free/).
Having seen the film a couple more times since I stand by my comments however, putting it in the same bracket as 2001 and Blade Runner was a bit over the top. I would like to add that the comparisons to Episode IV, that the internet love to make, in terms of themes and plot make absolute sense and why these connections are being made out to be a bad thing is beyond me. Star Wars VII is still the best Star Wars movie in my opinion and staying with science-fiction and Oscar Isacc and Domhnall Gleeson at number two we have…
Where to begin. Ex_Machina is the brainchild of Alex Garland, writer of the magnificent 28 Days Later, and his love of artificial intelligence. Starring Alicia Vikander as said AI known as Ava, Oscar Isaac as her creator Nathan Bateman and Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb the man charged with Turing testing her.
I love movies that make me think and this had me rattled for months. The questions it brings up about choices, free thought, how we might be influenced were so profound and so brilliant that I started to realize this film is not about artificial intelligence but about something much darker, just how easily the human brain can be fooled into thinking that we’re the smartest things in the room when in fact we couldn’t be further from where we think we are.
The performances are amazing, Alicia Vikander is one of the most exciting actresses in the world right now and to watch her for five minutes is a master class in how to act like a robot acting like a human acting like a robot it’s truly stunning. Isaac and Gleeson also butt heads repeatedly to fantastic effect to create a film that has taken me almost a year to finally grasp it’s level of hyper-intelligence. Ex_Machina was more than worth the journey of discovery into the uncanny valley and into the light only to look at Ava once again and to know that I was still stuck in the darkness, thinking I was the smartest person in the room.
- Inside Out
Some films are really clever (Ex_Machina and Steve Jobs), some films are really funny (The Martian and Star Wars), some are emotional (Amy and Love and Mercy) and some just make you smile (Kingsman and Mad Max)
Inside Out is everything and more.
From the moment the premise and original teaser was released this film had potential to be something really special and boy did it deliver.
So Riley is moving cities with her parents and she is struggling to adapt and stay happy while trying to adjust to a new school, new situations and making friends. That’s enough of a plotline for a live action film but here it goes so SO SOOO deeper.
The emotions are in charge of keeping her going by planting happy memories to keep her chipper, everything for 11 years has been perfect until Sadness starts ‘corrupting’ memories and making happy thoughts into sad ones. Joy tries to stop her and the two of them are accidentally sent to long term memory and they have to get back to headquarters before Riley loses sense of all emotional balance. That’s what the film’s about.
One thing I can’t shake is how clever this film is. Every single aspect is pure genius; from the way you sometimes can’t get a song out of your head to why dreams are so out of the blue sometimes it covers vast amounts of the human mind in understandable ways so everyone can get the jokes and concepts.
And because it’s a Pixar film sure enough there’s an emotional sucker punch coming towards you in the final 3rd that’s gonna hit you right in the feels.
This film has everything but because it’s an animation there will be a stigma against it from the Academy and the BAFTA’s so it’ll probably get a nomination for best film but won’t win even though it should! If it doesn’t win best-animated film then the world is fundamentally wrong.
So there we go, my Top 10 list. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Either way leave a comment with your thoughts and your favorite films of the year and what do you think will be top next year.
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you next time in a cabin in the snowy mountains with 7 other distasteful company members…