The Best Movies of 2015
Not until I finished this list I noticed that three out of my ten favorite movies of the year are about children defying adults. I guess that says a lot about me (nothing I am ashamed of).
I have been disappointed quite a few times in the movie theater this year. The movies I really hate are Tomorrowland (dull), Inside Out (pedantic, noisy and dull), The Man from U.N.C.L.E (smug, lazy and dull) and The Assassin (excruciatingly dull).
I had high expectations of Sion Sono’s film Tag (Tokyo Tribe being my favorite movie of 2014), which turned out to be hypocritically sexist and just tedious, Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse, which was just weird for weirdness’ sake) and the latest installment of Mission Impossible, which has its moments but on the whole is rather unsatisfactory. Also the second Avengers film was a terrible mess.
I did like, however, Ant-Man, which I didn’t have high expectations of but turned out to be perfect popcorn fun, and SPECTRE, which is not as good as the other James Bond films starring Daniel Craig (there’s a really lame escape scene featuring an explosive watch) but has a great opening scene which contains one long unbroken shot set at the celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico City, and the voluptuous Léa Seydoux.
Honorable mentions for The Kindergarten Teacher, a somewhat disturbing Israeli film about a woman obsessing with an infant who has an incredible talent for poetry and The Duke of Burgundy, a beautifully made movie about the sadomasochistic relationship between two women, which turns out to be something completely different from what it first seems. The Visit is finally a really good movie again by M. Night Shyamalan. I saw two excellent off-beat westerns: Bone Tomahawk, rather gruesome, and the ironic Slow West. Also not to be missed is The Falling. And I had great fun with the gory Attack on Titan, based on the manga of the same name.
10: Ryuichi Hiroki: ‘Her Granddaughter‘
A woman moves in her recently deceased grandmother’s house and finds out her grandmother had a lover who’s of the opinion he has equal rights to the property. He is a pushy, sexist, arrogant, extremely unlikable oaf who makes a fool of himself by making the most awkward advances at her. Despite all this she ultimately warms up to him.
Totally unbelievable but well-written and endearing romantic comedy with a special appearance by the great actress Sakura Ando, who starred in the excellent 2014 drama 100 Yen Love.
9: Sean Baker: ‘Tangerine‘
I can´t believe this movie is shot entirely with an iPhone! It´s a bittersweet tragicomedy about two transgender prostitutes on Christmas eve in Los Angeles. One of them just returned from prison and discovers her boyfriend, who is also her pimp, has been doing it with another woman in the meantime.
She is determined to find him and the woman to give them both a good what for. We follow them through the city until they split up, for bread has to be put on the table, and then there’s a chain of events that are as sad as they are hilarious.
This is a very colorful film that’s nonjudgmental, unpolitical but really, really human. It’s about loyalty and betrayal, hypocrisy and the need, sometimes, to just shut the fuck up and let things go to preserve harmony. It is sad but never lachrymose and the acting by everyone involved is simply superb.
8: Joann Sfar: ‘La Dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil‘
Joann Sfar is one of the greatest graphic novelists of the world but he’s also a pretty brilliant film maker. A few years ago he made a biopic unlike any other biopic about the life of French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg called, you guessed it, ‘Gainsbourg‘.
After that Sfar made an animated feature based on his graphic novels series The Rabbi’s Cat and this year he surprised us with both a new installment of The Rabbi’s Cat and this film, which is a Hitchcockian thriller set in the seventies.
It’s very atmospheric and sexy, has many tense moments and a big fat plot twist. Impeccably acted, tightly directed. Sfar not only is an incredibly productive work horse, he is also immensely talented with a knack for female characters. He is, truly, a connoisseur of women. But what would I know, right? I mean being a man.
7: Deniz Gamze Ergüven: ‘Mustang‘
Five adolescent girls bursting with life grow up on the Turkish countryside with their grandmother and their conservative macho uncle. The film starts with a bang when the girls have been playing in the water with boys, sitting in their shoulders mock fighting each other.
They are ratted by the village’s Islamic saint and grandmother scolds them for “rubbing their crotches agianst the boys’ necks”. Hearing this, the littlest of the sisters runs outside to set fire to the chairs on their porch, for “aren’t these chairs also perverted for having had our behinds on them?” Subsequently she attacks the woman who ratted on them: “Do you think wearing shit-colored robes gives you the right to judge on others?”
Regular readers of this blog understand of course I immediately fell in love with this character. The whole film is like this: the girls are constantly trying to break free from the constraints put on them by their grandmother and uncle but also by the rest of the village. It does not help, they keep escaping until the uncle puts bars in the windows and makes the house into a virtual prison.
The girls are untamable and hence, I guess, the title ‘Mustang’. This is a great movie. I saw it after The Falling, a British film about a girls’ school in the sixties, where two girls start a rebellion against the very strict authorities just by fainting. Totally different culture, same dynamics. I recommend everyone to see these films together.
6: Jon Watts: ‘Cop Car‘
Two really dumb boys wander through the fields, poke into snake holes, fuck around until they see an abandoned police patrol car with the keys still in it. They take the car joyriding but the owner is a redneck sheriff played by Kevin Bacon who was off disposing a dead body and about to get the other one still in his trunk.
He is, understandably, not pleased and what follows is a nail-biting cat and mouse play during which you’ll find yourself yelling at the boys to not fucking play with those guns they found in the car and to certainly not listen to the crook they find tied up in the trunk and who is far from dead.
5: Alejandro González Iñárritu: ‘Birdman‘
Breathtaking movie about a film star, played by Michael Keaton, finally taking a shot at being taken seriously by directing and starring in a play by Raymond Carver. He got famous, however, by playing a superhero, Birdman, in a franchise that petered out eventually and the people who matter in the world of true art, the art critics, are determined to destroy this play and his reputation long before it even premieres.
Birdman consists of a couple of long, unbroken shots in which we follow the actors from the stage through the coulisses to their dressing rooms and out again, on the street, to the roof of the theater. The acting is very intense, all the actors are fantastic, the dialogues are fast and furious, the timing is impeccable. It’s tense and funny, it bursts with energy, what a great movie.
4: Sebastian Schipper: ‘Victoria‘
Incredible movie about a talented (piano player) Spanish girl in Berlin hooking up with a bunch of total losers and completely ruining her life in an hour and forty five minutes. The movie consists of only one, long take. So no cuts, no time lapses, this is taken in just one long shot.
I heard the crew rehearsed this for three months and then filmed it when they felt confident they could do this in one take. An amazing feat, considering everything that happens in the film, all the actors and extras being there in in time at the place where they’re supposed to be. It takes a while for the film to gain momentum, but then it really pays off. A masterpiece.
3: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala: ‘Ich Seh, Ich Seh‘ (‘Goodnight Mommy‘)
This Austrian movie is sold everywhere as a horror flick but to me this is more of a comedy with a rather grim ending. It’s about two boys, twins of around twelve years old, living in a remote house in beautiful surroundings. They play in the fields and the lake and the woods without a care in the world until their mother comes home.
It seems she’s had an operation and her head is covered in bandages, and the boys immediately suspect she is not their real mother, considering she was always a sweet, caring woman but somehow suddenly turned into a total cunt. Oh, and she also doen’t seem to know she is a rather well-known weather woman on national TV, which they find out playing a game called ‘Ich seh, ich seh’.
This is when a psychological war starts between the boys and the woman, which they win easily, being the little cruel Nazi bastards that they are. I guarantee you you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time.
This is a masterly directed, exhilarating movie and the boys, quite beautiful and charming, are incredible actors and comedians. I had quite a few laughs and didn’t see the plot twist, a genius plot twist that is heart-breaking, coming at all, although there are get quite a few hints (in retrospect) to what is going on here. I like the summery atmosphere of the film and the Austrian German spoken by the actors. Also, I want a bathroom like that.
Austria, by the way, is the scariest country I have ever been and I will not ever go there again if I don’t have to.
2: George Miller: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘
You must not watch this at home on your television screen. See it in a theater. It is a roller coaster of a movie. Even the high brow arty farty film critics loved this colorful spectacle. I love how in the first 45 minutes or so the main character, Mad Max, is nothing but a helpless bag of blood stuck to the hood of a car in the most hellish, incredible car chase (through a desert storm!) I have ever seen in a movie.
1: Hirokazu Kore-eda ‘Our Little Sister‘
Kore-eda is one of my favorite film directors. Like no other he gives meaning to the seemingly insignificant and shows the universal in the particular and the grand dramas in the small events. Our Little Sister is about three sisters who adopt their fourteen year old half sister after meeting her for the first time at their father’s funeral.
Nothing big happens in this film. It is just a very warm, endearing and carefully composed portrait of four women, and how they learn to know their deceased father through each others eyes. It has sadness and comedy and many moving moments. It is a true cinematic gem.
We watch the sisters eat with each other, quarrel and make up with each other, confront their own doubts and grievances and meet the other people in their village, among others the terminally ill proprietress of a small eating house and her loyal regular costumer, played by the always charismatic Lily Frankie (who also is the only good reason to see the rather disappointing new film by Takashi Miike, Yakuza Apocalypse)
Nothing earth shaking, it is quite the opposite of Mad Max, which was my favorite of the year before I saw this film, but I wouldn’t want anything else from Kore-eda. His films console us because they are about people who lead the same ordinary lives as we do, and make the same mistakes, and are forgiven for it.
I had the tremendous privilege of interviewing Kore-eda a few weeks ago, when he was in Amsterdam for the promotion of this film. You can read it here, if you know Dutch, that is.
op 04 01 2016 at 10:16 schreef Thomas E:
Mooi lijstje. Dank voor het attenderen op films en regisseurs waarvan ik het bestaan zelfs niet wist. I’ll take my pick!
op 04 01 2016 at 14:59 schreef Tim:
I watched Victoria yesterday. Great movie. Every second you are waiting for something to go horribly wrong. And of course: everything goes horribly wrong.
The actors are great, especially the three ‘losers’: charismatic, funny, polite, but they never stop intimidating Victoria. They are scary as fuck. Yes, indeed a masterpiece.
op 04 01 2016 at 15:03 schreef Sasha Berkman:
Ik sluit mij aan bij Thomas. :)
op 04 01 2016 at 15:38 schreef Luisa:
Ik hou van jouw lijstjes, Peter! R. en ik zaten al te gillen tijdens het bekijken van de trailer van Goodnight Mommy. Mad Max heb ik gezien, en die vond ik voor zijn soort ook heel goed. Vanuit mijn blokhut in het bos is het soms lastig bepaalde films te vinden als het geen Hollywood blockbusters zijn. Ik ga mijn stinkende best doen om ze allemaal te zien.
op 05 01 2016 at 02:23 schreef nouja:
Laat Breedveld gewoon lekker Ape gaan met film- en televisierecensies :-)
Want die muzieksmaak van ‘m is niks.
En die politieke stukjes natuurlijk helemaal niks.
op 05 01 2016 at 20:25 schreef Kees T.:
Mooi stuk, Peter, ik hoop weer meer van je te lezen.