Samstag, 23. Januar 2016

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2015

 Hello there puny humans,
yet another year has passed and it is time to look back at the incredible cinematic year that was 2015. As always, this top ten list is based on German release dates, which are slightly shifted from the initial dates. As a result, films like Taratino's The Hateful Eight and Inarritu's The Revenant weren't able to make it here, but films like Whiplash still could. Furthermore, it is important to note, that I am still a human being and it is not possible for me to watch every movie ever (especially in a year where I conducted my bachelor thesis, and planned a 4 month stay in India), so I've missed some little jems like Straight Outta Compton, Sicario and Creed. When putting together this list, I was suprised by myself that eventhough a lot of releases this year were big blockbusters of a franchise (Marvel, Star Wars, Hunger Games, Bond, Mission Impossible, etc.) most of the films on this list are not. It was not easy, but to me, a fresh and original idea can compensate minor flaws in execution. Ultimately it came down to the question of: "Which film would I watch again right now?". Now without further ado, I present to you my (maybe a little suprising) personal top ten films of 2015:

Opening this list is Pixar's newest hit. While the animation studio has always produced great movies, Inside Out is something very special. Not only charming, funny, and cute, but also with a nice message that even some adults can still learn from, it is a wonderful family film. As a psychology student, I could also appreciate that some scientific theories were woven into the film (for example the headquater team resembling five of Ekman's six basic emotions). If the cleverness wasn't enough, the passionate voicework of the cast makes this film very sympathic as well. Joy is the role Amy Poehler was born to voice. Overall, this movie is a heartwarming, fun time and a film I will definitively watch with my future kids. 

Yes, this horror comedy beat out a couple of big blockbusters for me this year. Why? Because this film's got style. The creature design of Krampus alone makes this movie totally rewatchable. The film is bubbling over with cool new ideas and yet the use of practical effects over CGI gives this movie a nice old-school vibe. Throw in a great score by Douglas Pipes and I am sold. And then of course, I have a sweet spot for fun creature features a la Gremlins. Sure, there was room for improvment, but Krampus still felt incredibly fresh. It made me laugh AND gave me the chills. No jump scares needed. And technically it also has a nice message, that it just puts forward aggressively. Some people might not be able to get on board with the idea of an Anti-Santa, but I totally loved this film. And as I already said in my initial review: The ending felt perfect. 

Once more, Guy Ritchie reminded me why he is one of my favorite filmmakers. If you want witty dialogue, an ensemble cast, gangsters, crime and bad boys with guns, you either go to him or Tarantino. But while the latter will give you a haunted house version, Ritchie's is kind of a bouncy castle: Flashy, colorful, a little goofy, but over all tons of fun. The cast is not only beautiful but has great chemistry as well. Henry Cavill is more suave than he ever was and Armie Hammer makes clear that he is very much underrated. Together they have such entertaining and charming quips, that some critics interpreted it as a secret romantic relationship between the characters. But also Alicia Vikander (who has decided to make her Hollywood debut in not one, but three movies this year) manages to hold her own against these two using her naturally given combination of sexy and cute. Other than that, the film offers the typical stylistic direction, music and weird humor of Guy Ritchy, resulting in sequences that sometimes are a little bonkers. But in a good way. Despite strong competition, this was the slickest spy movie of the year to me.

Being mostly overlooked before its release, Ex Machina quickly gained a lot of praise by fans of the science-fiction genre. Rather focussing on characters and dialogue, this film is more of an intellectual thriller than a big action spectacle. The limitations in actors and settings give it a claustrophobic vibe and suck you right into the film. As such an (almost philosophical) take on artificial intelligence should, it poses a lot of questions about our own existence as well. Since its release last summer, I've re-watched it multiple times, because it is one of those movies you want to show to your friends so that you can talk with them about it. Additionally, it stars three of the best upcoming talents at the moment, who bring in the acting prowess to prove it. Domnhall Gleeson nails the role of the every-day guy the audience can relate to, and while Alicia Vikanda's graceful depiction of the robot Ava is superb, it is Oscar Isaacs endlessly charismatic performance of the douchy, alcoholic genius, Nathan, that totally steals the show. Most definitely worth your time. 

„People keep asking me if I'm back. Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back!“ Hardly ever has Keanu Reeves spoken truer words. After a long break from acting and only two mediocre films, he redeemed himself with a bang. Or rather multiple bangs, because John Wick is a gun-wielding menace with no intention of saving ammunition. Admittedly, there have been more than plenty tales of a one-man army driven by revenge, but John Wick gives this concept two little twists that make it stand out. On the one hand, he is neither avenging his wife nor his daughter, but a cute little puppy called "Daisy", which might be a first in the action genre. On the other hand, this movie builds a hilariously strange underground world where being a hitman seems to be the most casual thing ever. All of that is topped with a perfect match of excellent stunt- and camera work. Needless to say, John Wick is one hell of a ride! Click here to read my full review. 

Putting the top five in an order was a really tough task, and I didn't expect that the number one spot of my most anticipated films of 2015 only got fifth place. But don't be fooled, I was completely ecstatic after leaving the theatre! Avengers: Age of Ultron perfectly captures what it is like to read a Marvel comic: All your favourite heroes (and more) coming together, big huge action pieces, tons of quips, grand visual effects and camera work that strongly resembles the panels of a comic-book. This film is like an unstoppable juggernaut that at the same time manages the balancing act of standing on its own and setting up multiple sequels. Yes it moves fast, maybe too fast for some, and there is a lot going on, but as a Marvel fanboy I enjoyed the heck out of it. This film is stuffed with "Hell yeah!" moments and the 'Hulk vs Hulkbuster' fight alone had me cheering in excitement. My inner 8 year-old has hardly ever been so satisfied.
Who knew a film about jazz music could be this haunting? Whiplash is an absolutely fantastic film that brilliantly depicts the interesting relationship between a student and his mentor. Both characters are pretty messed up on their own, but it is their interaction that constantly puts you on the edge of your seat. Outstanding performances, absolutely quotable dialogue and then of course the way music is woven into all this. The ambiguos ending still comes to my mind sometimes and it is a film that thrilled me through and through. To me the final jazz concert of this film had higher stakes than Matt Damon's rescue in this year's The Martian. My review had nothing but praise for the film, and months later I still stand by that statement: Whiplash is intense from start to finish!

The force is not only awake, it went out for an early morning run. Yes, Star Wars is back! How great is that? As the release date came closer, the whole planet seemed to get more and more pumped. When I sat in the theatre for the midnight premiere and the opening crawl appeared, I already said to myself "Holy shit, this is awesome, I am watching a new Star Wars movie!", and then the rest on the film didn't allow me to calm down either. The Force Awakens is a fantastic new entry for this absolute popculture phenomenon. While the film is very reminissent of the original trilogy, there are enough of new elements to the saga to get me incredibly excited for what's coming next. The new characters are anything but uninteresting, and Daisy Ridley, John Boyga, Adam Driver and (once again) Oscar Isaac give splendid performances. Even Harrison Ford seemed to be enjoying himself. Episode VII had everything I wanted from a new Star Wars movie: Action, nostalgia, mystery, lightsaber duels, space battles, a little philosophy and a constant sense of wonder. The legend continues, and easily takes my number three spot.

While some spots on this list were changed around during the writing process, my top two choices were undisputed. Landing on second place for my favorite movies of last year, is a film that completely took me by storm. Mad Max: Fury Road is exactly what the title suggests: A crazy, furious ride. So much so, that it let's the other well-known car driven franchise with a 'furious' title look like an elementary school play. Basically the whole movie is one giant car chase that hardly gives you any time to take a breath. George Miller has unleashed all his creativity it seems, resulting in a bizarre and wicked world that is unparalleled. It gives us wonderfully strange characters, and eventhough the title reads 'Mad Max', Charlize Theron's Furiosa is the secret star of the film. Furthermore, the stuntwork in this movie is out of this world. You won't believe it, but everything that seems like it could have been done with practical effects, was done so. It looks real, because it is real. Every single frame of this movie could be sold as painting. It is a visual masterpiece. A true action extravaganza through and through. I can say nothing more than: "Oh, what a film! What a lovely film!"


"People, they love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit."
Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman gets, without a doubt, the number one spot on this list. I fell in love with this movie on an artistic as well as on a personal level. It is so multilayered that I had the feeling no review (including my own) really captured what the film was like. On the one hand, it is a film about showbusiness itself. Cheeky but respectfully addressing the merits and flaws of big action blockbusters as well as intellectual, "sophisticated" art, it concedes both of them to a right to exist. On the other hand it is also a story about people, about their hopes, dreams, fears, disappointments, and views of where they belong in this world, but more importantly about the fact that everyone of us, no matter how we appear on the outside, has his own hidden baggage to carry around. I personally saw a lot of myself in Riggan Thomson and found my own thoughts in his dialogue including a little nagging Birdman on my shoulder. Additionally, the movie resonated with me emotionally, because of its theater/backstage setting. As someone who has acted in plays as well (though on a much tinier scale), I could totally dig the atmosphere connected to such a place and event. Of course I would be a fool not to mention the artistic value of the film. The actors are on the top of their game across-the-board, and the impressive choice to compress the whole movie (including multiple time jumps) into one single take does not only showcase Emmanuel Lubezki's camera skills, but also makes the viewer an additional character in the film. With tons of great sequences, that leave room for interpretation, a few seemingly supernatural elements thrown in and an ending that gets discussions going, you can find new things in Birdman with every view. To me, it is not only my favorite film of 2015, but also one of my favourite films of all time.

So these are my Top 10 films of 2015. Do you agree? Disagree? Are you wondering why I didn't put The Martian on here? (an extra article on that might come in the future). Feel free to share your opinion by commenting below. Other than that I just hope you are excited for 2016, because just as last year, there are a bunch of big and interesting films to come out: Captain America: Civil War, Batman V. Superman, Star Wars: Rogue One, Deadpool, Fantastic Beasts, The Nice Guys and many more... Let's see which movies make it on next year's list!

Your Cinemartian

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