“It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times… And Then There Was A Lot Left In The Middle.”

ZF Best Films of 2015 logo WebIt is a genuine treat to go to the movies! Tonight I sat with my popcorn and coke and smiled all through The Hateful Eight. I have been able to see 51 films released this year, not a ton, but I am thankful for the stories that I heard and the art that I witnessed, and I am looking forward to what I will see in the next months to round out 2015. One thing that I noticed this year is the safe route. I was looking forward to Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation and Terminator Genisys, continuing the stories that I love! But those films didn’t make my list. I don’t think they were bad films, I just thought they were a little predictable and people pleasing. They made me really appreciate when directors and writers and cinematographers and actors take a chance, and do something a little different. Here are my thoughts, amateur as they are, on my favorite films of 2015.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road

Every year there is a film that I see multiple times in the theater. I do this because I like it, but mainly I feel that it must be seen as large and loud as many times as possible. This year that movie was Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller, thank you for all your attention to detail and your love of post apocalyptic action. And thank you for creating a real flame-shooting electric guitar! And thank you for creating a character like Imperator Furiosa and for casting Charlize Theron! And thank you Charlize for shaving your head, driving that rig and being a true female hero that is brave and vulnerable. And I am even thankful for edible silver spray paint and the theme of “Witness Me!” with the War Boys. Ahhh, I could talk about Fury Road for days and this summer I did. When you are this thankful for a film it claims the top spot on your list.


2. Ex Machina


I watched Ex Machina a couple times this year and with each viewing I am all the more convinced that AI will take over one day… well I’m convinced until I talk to Siri on my phone. (She is dumb as bricks sometimes!) Ex Machina is the thriller that you don’t expect, it sits with you after you leave the theater and makes your brain turns for days. And hello Oscar Isaac! Fingers crossed that you are nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar. Nathan is an incredibly complex character and you pull it off with ease and sweet dance moves. (PS… Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander acted in 11 films this year and they were stellar in all of the roles!) And here’s hoping that this original story by Alex Garland is recognized by the Academy and everyone. Ex Machina is excellent, I will own it, I highly recommend it, and it is a close second to Fury Road.


3. Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy

I love the Beach Boys but I never knew the story behind Pet Sounds or Good Vibrations. I just knew that they are literally the sound of Summer. But to watch Love & Mercy and to see the agony that Brian Wilson went through in his life, has made me consider his music differently. It made me wonder at how we consume art and good creations made by people with mental or physical disabilities and yet we care so little for their health. It made me wonder about how far we have to go to truly care for and treat mental illness. Love & Mercy made me want to listen to all my Beach Boys albums and it made my roommate instantly look up more information on Brian Wilson and his wife and manager Melinda Ledbetter. These are all signs of a good film, a good story, a true narrative of our time. If you haven’t seen Love & Mercy Redbox it TODAY! PS… Way to go Paul Dano, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti! All solid performances. And, dear gracious Elizabeth Banks, how did you find the time for so many roles in 2015! (Love & Mercy, Magic Mike XXL, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2, Pitch Perfect 2 & Wet Hot American Summer!)


4. The Revenant


Yes, I’m a sucker for Leonardo DiCaprio, and I really do want this to be his year, but that is not the reason The Revenant made it into the top 5. No, the sheer magnitude of filming without artificial light in sub-zero temperatures for over a year makes me respect the efforts of the crew. The Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, who I totally have a crush on, is deeply beautiful. And the journey that we watch Hugh Glass go on is horrific and awesome! The word revenant means a person who has returned from the dead and I know why Alejandro González Iñárritu used it in the title. While I was watching The Revenant I kept saying out loud, “How is he still alive?” And I know everyone keeps talking about the bear scene but… THERE IS A REASON WHY EVERYONE KEEPS TALKING ABOUT THE BEAR SCENE! It is insane. Seriously this is DiCaprio’s year, he should win for this role, not for the bison liver and not for the frost bite but for the stare at the end of the film. PS… Make sure you see this on the big screen, it is worth the extra dollars and the babysitter for the kids!


5. Trainwreck


Everyone needs a laugh, and I now understand that a movie that is smart and funny is hard to come by. Enter Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow and Trainwreck. There were a lot of women being funny in 2015, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in Sisters, Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne in Spy, but Schumer tops them with Trainwreck. Yes, there is foul language and yes, there is a scene that you can’t unsee with John Cena. (PS… I love you John Cena!) But the story of a single lady being afraid to fall in love and dealing with bad life choices is well told and relatable. Schumer is the star but her costars are comic gems and so are the athletes that make cameos. (LeBron James, Tony Romo, and Marv Albert) And what the even heck Tilda Swinton! What can you not do? Trainwreck isn’t for everyone but the laughs and honesty moved it into my top 10. Way to go Amy Schumer… You are the real deal, and way to go funny ladies of 2015! Thanks for helping us smile and giggle.


6. Tangerine


Tangerine is the little movie that won over my heart with a powerful ending! Sean Baker’s 2015 film that was shot completely with an iPhone 5 is an inspiration to film makers but it’s the story that Baker found while getting to know his neighborhood on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland that captured my interest. For eight months he listened to the stories of transexual prostitutes on the streets in order to tell a truthful and funny Christmas story. I would love to see Baker nominated for this film, his inventive genius with filming and casting and even the soundtrack will be studied and examined by film students for years to come. In many ways Tangerine is the movie of 2015 and it shows that your don’t need a big budget or a big name to make a good movie.


7. Inside Out

INSIDE OUT – Pictured (L-R): Joy, Sadness. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSIDE OUT – Pictured (L-R): Joy, Sadness. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I watched Inside Out for the first time on a international flight back to the States. I was tired, sitting way to close to a complete stranger, focused on a tiny screen, dealing with earbuds that didn’t work that great but despite all that I laughed till I snorted and cried like a baby! That folks, is the sign of a WONDERFUL film. It was so good we watched it with my youth group at church and discussed how joy and sadness play out in our everyday lives. Inside Out is not just a movie for the younger buddies, this is a movie for every human. We all deal with joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust on a daily or in my case hourly basis. And PS… Bill Hader, you were in two of my top 10 films of 2015. Make sure Inside Out is a movie you see, even if you are an old lady with no kids! (Thumbs pointing at me.)


8. The Hateful Eight

hateful eight

So, I did just see The Hateful Eight last night and I haven’t had a ton of time to process it but some things you know almost instantly. It’s like Clue and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly had a baby and that baby was The Hateful Eight or Quentin Tarantino or something awesome! It’s such a good and complex story that you forget that Channing Tatum is even in the film. The colors and brilliance of Samuel L. Jackson’s costume and character are dazzling as is Kurt Russell’s amazing mustache! (The costumes are bonkers good in this film.) But the star of the show is Jennifer Jason Leigh, where have you been all of my life! she plays the outlaw Daisy Domergue who rocks a booger shooting, black eye sportin’, tooth missing look as no other woman could. Tarantino does not disappoint with The Hateful Eight, he brings a style and a return to an older technique of film making. Love him or hate him, Tarantino is a unique voice and I love the song he’s singing!


9. The Martian


Okay, I am so happy that Ridley Scott is obsessed with space. (Keep going Ridley Scott!) The Martian, or Gravity with humor and Matt Damon, is a wonderful action/comedy/drama that surprised me this year. It’s not as serious as Interstellar or Gravity and I think it really is the humor that made it a treat to watch and a film that I recommend to almost everyone.  The Martian is why we love the movies! It’s a fantastic tale of a life we could never experience with acts of heroism and moments of relatable lightness. You leave the theater smiling and thankful that you will never grow potatoes out of your co-workers poop on another planet! And while I appreciate everyday real stories in film, sometimes it is a gift to escape into another world for a couple of hours. PS… Matt Damon you are BRILLIANT!


10. Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs rounds out my top ten based strictly on the actors performances. Sure, Jobs’ life was interesting and the story is told inventively by Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle but the acting is Oscar caliber. It’s not just Michael Fassbender, there is not a weak link in this team. Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels are all cast perfectly and totally on point! Rogen was the biggest surprise to me, I normally dislike his style and his choice in characters but he is perfect as Steve Wozniak. But my favorite part of the film is the interactions between Apple CEO John Sculley, Daniels and Jobs, Fassbender. I hope they are all nominated for their work but especially Fassbender and Daniels who gave two of my favorite performances of the year. And seriously, to every human out there that owns an iPhone or iPad, we need to acknowledge the person that created that device and think through why we like and support what we own, not just consume it.


01/02/16 UPDATE:

I saw Spotlight, and it is definitely in my Top 10… At this point I’m saying it’s a tie for Third with Love & Mercy. The cast works well together to tell the complicated and important true story of the Boston Globe’s investigative report on the child molestation charges against the Catholic Church in Boston. Please read Erik’s review and see it if you can. (I had to drive an hour to see it, it was worth every mile!)


Close, But No Cigar… Rounding Out The Top Twenty

11. Straight Outta Compton

12. The Big Short

13. What Happened, Miss Simone?   

14. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared


16. While We’re Young

17. The Connection (La French) 

18. Phoenix

19. What We Do In The Shadows   

20. Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief


Bottom Of The Barrel 

Serena, Aloha, Mortdecai, Magic Mike XXL