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Film Babble Blog’s Top 10 Movies Of 2015 (With Spillover)



As the Academy Award nominations are going to be announced tomorrow, I thought it was finally time to unveil my top 10 movies of the last year. I saw over a hundred movies on the big screen in 2015, and I found it to be a good, not great, year for film. 


There are a number of notable films I haven’t seen yet, but, of course, you can never see ‘em all. So let’s get right to my favorite motion picture picks of ’15, in descending order:



10. ROOM (Dir. 

Lenny Abrahamson)




Like I said in my review last fall, if Brie Larson doesn’t get a Oscar nomination for her harrowing role as a woman who’s been held captive in a backyard shed for five years taking care of her five-year old son (the result of a rape by her abductor), I’ll be very offended. The kid (Jason Tremblay) was pretty 
“on” too.


9. THE MARTIAN (Dir. Ridley Scott) Astronaut and can-do acheiver Matt Damon sciences the shit out of his predicament of being stuck on Mars, and it makes for an inspirational epic of cerebral sci-fi. Read my review here.

8. INSIDE OUT (Dirs. Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen)


It’s been five years since a Pixar film made my top 10, and this one definitely wins a placing because, as I wrote last summer, it pulls every heartstring there is.

7. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
(Dir. Quentin Tarantino)



The Eighth Film by Quentin Tarantino, as it’s identified in its opening credits (who else does that?), is his most divisive work for sure, but its bloody Western mix of THE THING with RESERVOIR DOGS, with a splash of Agatha Christie, really entertained the bejesus out of me. Here’s why.

6. ANOMALISA (Dir. Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman)



A stop-motion emotional masterpiece from the guy who brought you BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION, and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. And it’s the second film on my top 10 that has Jennifer Jason Leigh in it! My review of this delightful yet unnerving piece of high art will be posted when it opens in my area later this month.


5. CAROL (Dir. Todd Haynes)



Todd Haynes’ film follow-up to one of my favorites of 2007 (I’M NOT THERE) is a sophisticated, complicated, and immaculately artful look at a lesbian love affair in the oppressive era of 1950s New York City. The performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are as pitch perfect as their setting. Read my review.

4. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
(Dir. George Miller)



As I wrote in my review last May, George Miller’s fourth entry in the MAD MAX series is a “brutally brilliant blast”; “an orgy of fire-breathing cars, pole-swingers, chainsaws, steampunk thugs, and gas fire explosions all given a heavy metal soundtrack by a masked musician with a flame-throwing electric guitar atop a vehicle piled with amplifiers.” And it’s even more awesome than that sounds.
3. SICARIO (Dir. 

Denis Villeneuve)




As modern action movies go, as much as I loved MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, this superbly dark cartel counterinsurgency thriller got to me more. The terrifically intense turns by Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro have a lot to do with that. My review.

2. THE REVENANT
(Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)



Leonardo DiCaprio deserves (and will probably get) the Oscar for what he went through in the punishing wild here, but I predictTom Hardy will at least get a nomination too for his supporting part. The film itself, as well as Iñárritu, may also get nods, but coming after last year’s win for BIRDMAN, I wouldn’t bet on it. My review.


1. SPOTLIGHT (Dir. Tom McCarthy)



Tom McCarthy’s fifth film, his follow-up to last year’s infamous Adam Sandler flop THE COBBLER (WTF?), which focuses on the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team into the scandal of child molestation and systematic cover-up within the Catholic Church, is a clean, precise procedural about a extremely messy, and unsettling subject. 


The perfect storm of an excellent cast including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Liev Schreiber; a sharp, involving screenplay, along with its top notch editing, score, and Masanobu Takayanagi’s cinematography all collide together to make this my #1 movie of 2015. I’ll be shocked if the Academy doesn’t reward multiple categories for this one. My review.

Spillover: In no particular order, here’s a bunch of other 2015 favorites:

LOVE & MERCY (Dir. Bill Pohlad)


THE BIG SHORT (Dir. Adam McKay)



STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (F. Gary Gray)



AMY (Dir. Asif Kapadia)



THE END OF THE TOUR (Dir. James Ponsoldt)


Legacyquel Tie: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Dir. J.J. Abrams) / CREED (Dir. Ryan Coogler)

STEVE JOBS (Dir. Danny Boyle)

THE WALK (Dir. Robert Zemeckis)


EX MACHINA (Dir. Alex Garland)


THE SALT OF THE EARTH
(Dirs. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado & Wim Wenders)

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG
(Dir. Noah Baumbach)



MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie) – Hey, it’s a lot better than SPECTRE!


So, those are my picks for 2015. Let’s see what Oscar has to say about it tomorrow morning.


More later…

Todd Haynes’ CAROL: Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara Find Forbidden Love

Now playing at an indie art house, and maybe a multiplex or two, near you:


CAROL (Dir. Todd Haynes, 2015)

Todd Haynes sixth film, CAROL, his follow-up to his masterful 2007 Dylan deconstruction I’M NOT THERE, has been drawing comparisons to John Crowley’s BROOKLYN, which was released earlier in the prestige picture/Oscar bait season of fall 2015.


Both are New York City-set period pieces concerning young women who work in Macy’s-style department stores, both illustrate the coming-of-age experiences of these women in the restrictive society of the early 1950s, and both are based on bestselling, award-winning novels.

And there’s the fact that BROOKLYN director Crowley was once even attached to direct CAROL.

But while BROOKLYN is a well made, and very good looking drama, Haynes’ CAROL is something else entirely – a much more sophisticated, complicated, and immaculately artful work, which is stunningly gorgeous while BROOKLYN is merely pretty.

An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 book “The Price of Salt” (later re-named “Carol”), the film is told through the eyes of Rooney Mara as 20-something aged shopgirl Therese Belivet, who becomes intrigued by Cate Blanchett as the much older (40-something) Carol Aird, a wealthy New Jersey housewife, when they meet over a counter at Frankenberg’s department store.

Carol is Christmas shopping and asks for Therese’s help looking for a doll for her daughter. The two converse pleasantly, then Carol forgets her gloves on the counter when she leaves. Therese arranges for the gloves to be sent to Carol’s home. Carol calls Therese at work to thank her for sending the gloves, and invites her out to lunch where they hit it off further.

In the meantime, we learn that Carol is going through what could become a messy divorce from her angry husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), while Therese, who dreams of being a photographer, has a boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), who wants to marry her, and live together in France. We also meet Sarah Paulson as Carol’s bestfriend/former lover, who’s relationship is a source of Harge’s chargrin.

Carol invites Therese over for dinner, but the night, and their budding romance, is interrupted by Harge, who demands that his wife go with him and their daughter Rindy (Kk Heim) to Florida for Christmas, but she refuses.

Later, Harge’s lawyer cites a “morality clause” against Carol that would grant him sole custody of Rindy.

Despite this situation, or because of it, Carol and Therese embark on a road trip out west, before which Therese breaks up with the increasingly frustrated Richard.

On the road, the pair gets closer but things go askew when they find out that a P.I. (Cory Michael Smith) that Harge hired to get incriminating evidence on Carol, has been recording their lovemaking (tastefully shot, of course) through their hotel wall.

To fight for custody of Rindy, Carol departs back to New York, leaving Therese behind and their relationship up in the air.

Of all of Haynes’ fine films, CAROL most resembles his 2002 Douglas Sirkian-inspired drama FAR FROM HEAVEN, which also dealt with the taboo of homosexuality in the McCarthy era. But while HEAVEN had a high gloss to its look, CAROL, shot by the same cinematographer, Edward Lachman, has more of a subtle, darker grain. Many shots echo Life Magazine photography in their muted yet still vivid colors.

The always reliable composer (and long-time Coen brothers collaborator) Carter Burwell’s score is a beautiful embellishment to the proceedings. It swoons and swells effectively throughout, never calling too much attention to itself. Mixed into the soundtrack are a well picked batch of ‘40s and ‘50s songs, mostly Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks tracks).

But it’s the performances by Blanchett (yes, there will be an Oscar nomination) and Mara (maybe) that stand out the strongest. Both women bring to nervous life the dialogue in the sharp screenplay by Phyllis Nagy (another nomination, I bet), with Mara’s story arc of a woman blooming finding confidence after years of shadowy confliction, nicely blending with Blanchett’s worried perseverance.

CAROL is another late year addition to my top 10 of 2015 (coming soon!). From the absorbing aura of its near perfect period design and visuals, to its tense yet tender handling of its love story, along, of course, with the terrific turns by Blanchett and Mara – it all made a very poignant impression on me.

More later…