Wednesday 8 July 2015

My top 20 movies of the year... so far (part #1)

Blimey, those six months just sped by, didn't they? And with them lots of very, very good films. I don't know whether we've had a stone-cold classic yet but with the likes of Todd Haynes' Carol, Michael Fassbender starring in Macbeth, and Crimson Peak from Guillermo del Toro scheduled for later in the year, there's still plenty to look forward to in 2015. Of all the films I've seen there is only one I can honestly say I hated – American Sniper – but that was more about its lousy politics than Clint Eastwood's skill as a director or the merits of Bradley Cooper as an actor. 

Anyway, the rules here are simple: all films under consideration had to have had a UK cinema release between January 1 and June 30 2015 (to prevent moans of 'But surely that was out last year', I've even included each film's official UK release date, courtesy of No straight to Netflix/Amazon Prime or straight to DVD/Blu-ray movies were considered (sorry, Starry Eyes). 

Not being a professional critic, there are dozens of films I've yet to catch up on that have been released in the last six months (The Falling, White God, and Slow West to name but three) but of those I've seen – 59 as of this morning 
 these will be my 20 21 favourites. Let's start with numbers 20-11, shall we?

=20. Selma
(Director: Ava DuVernay UK release date: February 6)

The fact David Oyelowo wasn't nominated for an Oscar for his astonishing portrayal of Martin Luther King still sticks in the craw. The rest of this civil rights drama doesn't quite hit the heights of the British actor's performance but is powerful, heartfelt stuff nevertheless.

=20. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
(Director: Roy Andersson UK release date: April 24)
Bizarre comedy following the antics of two dour salesmen as they attempt to flog a range of hopeless novelty items. There isn't a coherent plot as such, just a string of loosely connected sketches each commenting on some aspect of human existence. Gloriously odd.

19. Blind
(Director: Eskil Vogt UK release date: March 27)

Fantasy and reality merge in this extraordinary Swedish film from a first-time writer/director about a young blind woman struggling to come to terms with isolation and paranoia. Boasts a great central performance from 
Ellen Dorrit Petersen (below)

18. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
(Director: David Zellner UK release date: February 20)

Terrific but elliptical drama charting a young Japanese woman’s quest to find the briefcase full of cash buried by Steve Buscemi’s character in the movie Fargo. Is the titular Kumiko mentally ill or merely so alienated from modern life that taking refuge in fantasy is her only option? 

17. Inherent Vice
(Director: Paul Thomas Anderson UK release date: January 30)

Vague and sprawling, this adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s similarly opaque novel features Joaquin Phoenix at the top of his game. Perhaps a difficult film to truly love but it is nevertheless enormous fun.

16. Jauja
(Director: Lisandro Alonso UK release date: April 10)

A weird and woozy ‘western’ set in the wilds of 19th Century Patagonia and starring Viggo Mortensen (below) as a Danish engineer on a quest to find his missing daughter. I’d be surprised if I saw a more visually stunning movie all year.

15. Wild
(Director: Jean-Marc Vallée UK release date: January 16)

Reese Witherspoon is terrific as an emotionally shattered young woman hiking a thousand miles up America's west coast in a bid to come to terms with her mother's death and the downward spiral it has plunged her into.

14. Foxcatcher
(Director: Bennett Miller UK release date: January 9)

Haunting adaptation of a true story featuring superb performances from a strong cast. Steve Carell is creepiness personified as John E du Pont, the unstable multi-millionaire who founds a wrestling academy to train US Olympic hopefuls. Suffice to say, it doesn’t end well...

13. Wild Tales
(Director: Damián Szifrón UK release date: March 27)

Argentine portmanteau featuring six stories about rage and vengeance. The final sequence centring on the meltdown of a couple’s relationship at their wedding (below) is a tour de force of bleak humour and brutal emotion.

12. The Duke of Burgundy
(Director: Peter Strickland UK release date: February 20)

BDSM and lepidoptery (the study of butterflies and moths) make strange but beguiling bedfellows in this eccentric and gorgeous lesbian relationship drama. Not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

11. Mad Max: Fury Road 
(Director: George Miller UK release date: May 15)

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, pictured at the top of the page) returns to the post-apocalyptic Aussie badlands in a movie for which the term high-octane was surely invented. Charlize Theron’s badass Imperator Furiosa steals the film out from under him though.

Numbers 10-1 coming later in the week...

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