Saturday 2 January 2016

My 30 favourite films of 2015 (part two #20-11)

Numbers 20-11 on the countdown of my 30 favourite films of 2015 (UK release dates), including It Follows (pictured above)...

20. Appropriate Behaviour
(Director: Desiree Akhavan UK release date: March 6)
Hilarious relationship comedy/drama following the travails of a bisexual Iranian woman in New York. First-time writer/director Akhavan delivers razor-sharp one-liners, one after the other, like her life depends on it. But the film is underpinned by an atmosphere of longing and heartbreak as she battles to come to terms with the break-up of a long-term relationship.
19. A Most Violent Year
(Director: JC Chandor UK release date: January 23)
A moody, slow-burning crime drama from Chandor (Margin Call) that somehow makes the business of selling heating oil utterly compelling. Amongst many other things, it's a vivid portrait of a flawed man desperately trying to hang on to his sanity, dignity and humanity in the face of enormous provocation. It also boasts superb performances from Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac and David Oyelowo. 
18. 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. Evelyn and Cynthia (played by Borgen's Sidse Babett Knudsen) seemingly live in a world from which men are totally absent, where their lifestyle is the norm and discussing the purchase of a “human toilet” is about as controversial as a trip to Lidl. 

17. 45 Years
(director: Andrew Haigh UK release date: August 28)
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are the married couple about to celebrate their 45thwedding anniversary when a ghost from the past threatens to destroy everything they hold dear. It’s an astonishing, heartbreaking drama replete with two superb central performances. The best British film this year bar none.
16. Starry Eyes
(director: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer UK release date (DVD): March 16)
The year's most scandalously unappreciated movie is a whip-smart and gruesome horror flick that slunk unheralded into UK stores as a budget-priced DVD. A satirical headbutt in the face of Hollywood, Starry Eyes pulls no punches in its desire to skewer the way in which the movie industry dehumanises and humiliates the young and ambitious. It's genuinely nasty, heartbreakingly sad and Alex Essoe is note-perfect as doomed, desperate Sarah.

15. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu UK release date: January 1)

A great big strutting peacock of a movie that puts the satirical boot into actors, acting, ego, hubris and superhero franchises. Did it deserve the 2014 best picture Oscar over Boyhood? Who cares, it's a hoot from start to finish and former Batman Michael Keaton - a heady mix of manic energy and self-loathing - has never been better. 
14. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
(director: Alex Gibney UK release date: June 26)
This enthralling and forensic take down of the L Ron Hubbard-founded religion cult is a real eye-opener from which Tom Cruise ("the nicest man in the world", according to TV's Graham Norton) does not emerge well. Scarily, the Hollywood superstar seems totally rational compared to David Miscavige, the organisation's leader who is variously accused of "intimidating, beating, imprisoning and exploiting subordinates". Trailer Below

13. It Follows
(Director: David Robert Mitchell UK release date: February 27)
It might owe a debt or two to John Carpenter, but Mitchell's second feature is a genuinely unsettling horror with a single, brilliant idea at its core. The director is mostly concerned with conjuring an oppressive atmosphere but when the scares arrive they don't disappoint. 2015 wasn't a vintage year for horror but this was a rare treat.
12. Slow West
(director: John Maclean UK release date: June 26)
Former Beta Band DJ/keyboardist Maclean’s debut feature is a bleak but occasionally very funny western starring Michael Fassbender as an outlaw-turned-guide for a young Scot (Kodi Smit-McPhee) searching the American badlands for his long-lost love. The final blood-and-guts shootout somehow manages to contain one of the year's very best sight gags. Trailer below

11. Whiplash
(Director: Damien Chazelle UK release date: January 16)
Abusive music teacher Terence Fletcher (Oscar winner JK Simmons) pushes talented young musician Miles Teller to the edge in a punishing drama. It's a fascinating and intense battle of wills that plays out more like Raging Bull than the kind of thing you'd expect to go on at an elite music academy. Who knew the world of jazz drumming could be so brutal or so entertaining? 

**Next up: My top 10 films of 2015**

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