Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Year in Film (2015)

Not even going to pretend this is some sort of credible "Best of" list, like something Metacritic ought to include in its calculations, or that you as interested reader and/or cinephile ought to take note of. In 2014, I saw a total of 178 films, thanks in large part to the extended summer break. This year, that number was down to 99. What can I say? Life happened. More mingling and dealing with the real world. More theater. Less time in the dark of the cinema/in front of my laptop.

Read this, instead, as a personal celebratory farewell: What I liked; what I enjoyed the most; what, on a very personal level, defined the year in cinema. My posts stopped at movie no. 94, and this piece can only mean I'll no longer blog about the rest: From the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), the New Wave section full-length film winner, "Ari: My Life with a King" (No. 95); the disappointing "Walang Forever" (No. 96); and the rightful (but disqualified) Best Picture winner, "Honor Thy Father" (No. 97); and then Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs" (terrific) and Tom Hooper's "The Danish Girl" (beautifully captured but trifling as junk food).

As with last year, my longlist included films from this and last year that I saw this year. Thus, for example, the presence of "That Thing Called Tadhana," which I missed during the 2014 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, or the Argentinian darling "Wild Tales," which I only saw in February.

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1. The Lobster (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
The best films are the ones that keep surprising and delighting at every turn. Before I knew it, two hours had gone by--and I was so hungry for more.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
A post-apocalyptic chase fever dream you wouldn't want to wake up from.

3. Wild Tales (dir. Damián Szifron)
It stays true to its title. "Ida" was the respectable winner of the Foreign Language Oscar; this would have been the more fun and daring choice.

4. Tangerine (dir. Sean S. Baker)
Two transgender Black women hunt down a girl on Christmas Eve. Unsparingly crass and unapologetically vulgar. One of the year's most joyous surprises.

5. That Thing Called Tadhana (dir. Antoinette Jadaone)
You want to know what real heartache looks like?

6. Selma (dir. Ava DuVernay)
A worthy challenger to David Fincher's "Gone Girl" as the best directed film of 2014.

7. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle)
An engrossing three-act play fueled by the words of Aaron Sorkin and the highly accomplished turns of Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.

8. Honor Thy Father (dir. Erik Matti)
The devils behind the MMFF disqualification scandal were right to fear this one: It's the best Filipino film of the year.

9. The End of the Tour (dir. James Ponsoldt)
A work of enviable intelligence, thanks to Ponsoldt's restrained direction, Donald Margulies' absorbing distillation of the sources and Jason Segel's compelling portrait of the subject.

10. Sleepless (dir. Prime Cruz)
You leave the cinema thinking about the idea of romance: how it is to fall in love, how it is to be loved.

And another ten, because what the heck, give love, not hate: Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas); Mia Madre (dir. Nanni Moretti); Inside Out (dir. Pete Docter); Journey to the Shore (dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa); Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu); Love Is Strange (dir. Ira Sachs); Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland); The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott); Bridge of Spies (dir. Steven Spielberg); Ari: My Life with a King (dir. Carlo Encisco Catu).

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My pick for performance of the year is ALICIA VIKANDER in "Ex Machina." You'd have to give it to anyone who can make a seemingly bland robot so damn sexy and scary at the same time.

My 19 other favorites, in alphabetical order:
  • John Arcilla (Heneral Luna)
  • Juliette Binoche (Clouds of Sils Maria)
  • Rose Byrne (Spy)
  • Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)
  • John Lloyd Cruz (Honor Thy Father)
  • Tirso Cruz III (Honor Thy Father)
  • Matt Damon (The Martian)
  • Blythe Danner (I'll See You in My Dreams)
  • Glaiza de Castro (Sleepless)
  • Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
  • David Oyelowo (Selma)
  • Angelica Panganiban (That Thing Called Tadhana)
  • Érica Rivas (Wild Tales)
  • Dominic Roco (Sleepless)
  • Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  • Jason Segel (The End of the Tour)
  • Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria)
  • Tilda Swinton (Trainwreck)
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