Best 25 Films of 2015 (Part 2, #1-12)

As I’m making this list, I realized how difficult it is to compare and rank films which I have seen 10 months apart from each other. Obviously my feelings for those I’ve watched recently are a lot clearer than my impression for films I watched last summer. Hence, for example, the difference between #12 and #9 is probably not quite set in stone. Nevertheless, this rounds up a good year for me as a film lover. (For #13-25, please click here.)

12. Creed (USA), directed by Ryan Coogler

Make fun of Stallone all you want, but he has created a couple of the most iconic movie characters in the past 30-plus years. Having witnessed the ups and downs of Rocky the character and the film series after all these years, I am pleased to see him passing the torch to the right people—director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan—instead of running it to the ground like some of his less fortunate forays (Rocky V). As heartwarming as it is to see Stallone finally getting the award recognition that has eluded him since the first Rocky, Jordan proves to be a formidable successor to the people’s champ,carrying the film not only with his physical prowess but also defining its soul with great vulnerability. Coogler did a magnificent job at taking a legendary franchise to a new direction while applying his artful touch (how about that boxing match in one long take?) to this expectations-defying spin-off. Also, the focus on Philadelphia’s black neighborhoods and the titular character’s backstory has inadvertently (or craftily) imbued Creed with the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement.

11. Force Majeure (Sweden), directed by Ruben Östlund

Force Majeure doesn’t just mine social awkwardness for jokes, but delves deeper into its characters’ insecurities, making this a thoroughly fascinating yet cringe-worthy affair. Writer-director Ruben Östlund, who used to direct skiing films, fills the whole film with an unshakable air of eeriness and malaise as a family trudges through the rest of its vacation in the aftermath of a near crisis. The result is a painfully funny critique of the masculine mystique.

10. Mistress America (USA), directed by Noah Baumbach

“She was the last cowboy, all romance and failure. The world was changing, and her kind didn’t have anywhere to go. Being a beacon of hope for lesser people is a lonely business.” Nothing sums up Greta Gerwig’s Brooke better than this gleefully maudlin and idealized tribute by the younger Tracy (Lola Kirke). Director and co-writer Noah Baumbach teams up with Gerwig once again after the magical Frances Ha for another take on friendship and the perpetual dreamer who is not so young anymore. Gone are the hip black-and-white New Wave-inspired aesthetics, and in comes the madcap screwball comedy that is reminiscent of Lubitsch and Sturges (or a nod to Baumbach’s mentor Bogdanovich). The scene in which Brooke and company confront her ex-friend Mamie-Claire (best name of the year) at her house with cats, husband, guest and neighbor in tow captures the cast’s frantic energy Continue reading “Best 25 Films of 2015 (Part 2, #1-12)”