2015 was a truly massive year for cinema, and, in particular, good cinema, which made organizing a comprehensive list nearly impossible. Seeing all of the heavyweight contenders was a chore, and despite checking my mailbox on an hourly basis, no “For Your Consideration” screeners ever showed up. This year has seen as many highly touted releases as it has quiet, emotionally-shattering sleepers. 2015 was my first year as a UK-based (for four months anyway) critic, so being able to share my passions for film with a different culture has been an eye-opening experience. Moving abroad allowed me to view cinema from an unusual vantage point and has afforded me some spectacular opportunities (like seeing Barry Lyndon on 35mm, or How to Be a God on the big screen). I, like anyone ranking something as abstract and subjective as art, could tinker with this list for years, but I (unlike many people making year-end lists) have a deadline. So here is the list of films that stuck with me the most, in a totally immaterial order that could change tomorrow.
Dylan Moses Griffin perfectly sums up my thoughts HERE.
The fact that Tangerine was shot on an iPhone (and that it garnered the accolades it did) will undoubtedly lead to a massive influx in the micro-budget film world, but not every camera phone-wielding hopeful can be Sean Baker. A lucid and intoxicating traipse across Los Angeles, Baker’s film is a heartfelt rush to the head that extends across racial, sexual, gender and social boundaries.
6. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
Peter Strickland’s flare for sound (a continuation of his work on Berberian Sound Studio) and visual dynamism generate a sumptuous experience beyond the bounds of traditional filmmaking. Anchored by fantastic performances from its focal women, Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen, The Duke of Burgundy was one of my more effortless choices.
4. A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
Darkly glib and exceedingly bizarre, Roy Andersson’s vignetted portrait of life is as enthralling as it is truthful and hilarious. Still cameras focused on stage-like sets convey a sense of theatricality, while the absurd recurring characters and a situational anarchy work against the assumed glum of the pale-faced actors. A Pythonesque surrealism and penchant for unusual interruptions define the finale to Andersson’s trilogy of life (Songs from the Second Floor/You, the Living) and make it one of this year’s most unique films.
As much as I wanted to leave room on the list for full length features, I could not think of a single more affecting film of 2015. Earlier this year when Don Hertzfelt’s short “premiered” on Vimeo, I made the decision (perhaps foolishly) to watch it once a day for the 30-day rental period. Thinking that it might prove to be a chore, the month passed far too quickly, and left me, somehow, wanting more. I have seen World of Tomorrow more than any other film of (or in) 2015, and each time it triggers new emotions while coloring both previous experiences (and those yet to come). For this incredible reason, no other film can truthfully top my list.
Top 5 Documentaries of 2015
5. The Seven Five (Tiller Russell)/I Am Big Bird (Dave LaMattina, Chad N. Walker)
4. Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry, Clay Tweel)
3. The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle)
2. Iris (Albert Maysles)
1. Junun (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of London, England. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.