I wanted to find some way to send 2015 neatly on its way, so here I present to you, my favourite movies of 2015. They may not be the best movies, or the most critically acclaimed, (though granted, most of them are) but they are movies that made me enjoy being at the movies, and gave me the movie-watching experience that I hope for every time I step through the double doors and into the theatre. Looking at the list, I can confirm what I've suspected all year; I really like the science fiction genre, and I wish I hadn't felt so unwelcome within it as a child. Give me a killer robot or a dystopia and I'm there. In any case, here are my five favourite movies of 2015, presented in no particular order.
I initially didn't realize that Creed was a Rocky sequel until closer to the film's release. All I knew was that my bae Michael B. Jordan looked hot and ready in the trailer, and I was going to see it to make up for the abysmal Fantastic Four movie. What I got was so much better. I'm not particularly familiar with the Rocky franchise (it's about boxing, Stallone is in it, there are some stairs he runs up that one time?) so I was able to watch this film and enjoy it on its merits. The great cinematography, the great casting, the solid, emotional performances from MBJ and Sylvester Stallone specifically, but also the quiet and resonant performances from Phylicia Rashad and Tessa Thompson. The incredible soundtrack and a plot that didn't plod or pander, but told a rich, fulfilling story of a young man trying to prove his worth to himself and the world while standing in the shadow of the legacy of a father he never knew. It was amazing all around and I can't wait to see it get showered with awards.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Well if I didn't know anything about Rocky, I knew even less about Star Wars, and mostly because I'd been actively avoiding the franchise since infancy. I'm contrarian by nature, and immediately skeptical of anything many people praise. I'd simply never had any real interest in the franchise and was content to simply sit with the knowledge I'd soaked up through osmosis through the years. On the other hand, I'm also a big sucker for seeing other people nerd out about the things they enjoy, and boy did the nerds nerd out about Star Wars! The excitement was palpable and I gave in and saw the movie. I loved it. No reservations, no equivocation. My peripheral knowledge was more than enough to get me through the film. It clearly paid homage to the original trilogy while seamlessly weaving in new lore and new characters, all of whom I adored. I may never go back and watch the first 6 films, but Episode VII was definitely right up my alley. (Additionally, on the strength of John Boyega's performance, 2011's Attack The Block was recommended to me. Watch it immediately.)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
It's hardly a secret that I loved this movie. I've written about it several times now and always with effusive praise. And my reasons for loving it remain the same; it is a moving, feminist film that gives women complexity and agency without exploiting their trauma for salaciousness. The movie is tight and compelling with an incredible performance by Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, perhaps topped only by the visual majesty of the world that the film presents to us. Deep blues and harsh oranges frame a desperate journey to liberation from all that would seek to harm women who simply want to make their lives their own. From the noble self-sacrifice of Angharad for her sisters to Nux's final tribute in death, this film built a amazing, complex, visually stunning, feminist story out of what essentially, is one long car chase.
As much as I vowed to avoid what I call "Big Dick Movies": white men doing white men things, I was immediately drawn to this film when I saw the trailers. Space epics tend to freak me out, but I love things that challenge my sense of wonder, and The Martian promised to do exactly that, and delivered. Matt Damon's cluelessness aside, this was an amazing film that did a wonderful job of showing the sheer resilience of the human spirit, and the power that can be harnessed when people are working single-mindedly towards achieving a single goal. It showed women and people of colour (though very few women of colour) in roles of authority and importance in which their intelligence and competence is never questioned. It genuinely made me wonder what I might have done if I'd felt as inspired to solve problems as a child struggling with math, rather than feeling discouraged and pushed out because the logic did not make sense to me.
This is going to upset the hardcore fans, but I loved every single minute of this dumbass movie. I really, really did. I had never seen the previous films and mainlined them all the weekend before I saw this one. They were fun and enjoyable and amazing and I finally understand why people loved so much. I am down for a killer robot any day, all day, and Terminator 2 is a literal classic. So how could you not love this ridiculous little film? It's basically a two hour long hodge-podge of fan service wrapped around a paper thin plot! I literally squealed with delight during the recreated opening sequence, lovingly rendered shot for shot. It was delicious and I couldn't get enough. And as terribly campy as this film was, it managed to draw a truly touching performance out of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the aging and arthritic Pops. I've already seen it 3 times and it always hooks me.
Turns out, 2015 was a pretty decent year for movies. Some of my other favourites were Ex Machina, (which had it's feminist problems but provided a nice deep foundation from which to build critical analysis of race and gender), Spy, (which was funny as fuck) and Inside Out (which told a complex story about the importance of sadness in a way kids could understand.)