I don't like to talk about my living, but I work for Sony DADC doing DVD/Blu-ray QC, and I have yet to see some of the contenders for best of 2015 partly because I will be working on them. Such is why I have to say that this list is unfinished and may never be. But, let's do it.
1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - I ended up working on a release of this movie, and my job is such that I don't always get to watch a movie from beginning to end. Some times I only get to watch, say, the first or last thirty minutes of a movie. But I never had a pass on FURY ROAD where I didn't jump up and down like a little kid when the tanker is being attacked by the men on the sticks. At worst, one could say that FURY ROAD is nothing more than the platonic ideal for an action movie. Nothing more...
2. CAROL: Todd Haynes is a master, and this is one of the best love stories this side of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. How amazing is Kyle Chandler? That guy can do anything. Seriously. Compare his performance in this to his work in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Dude can play any kind of America male. And he doesn't even give the best performance in the film.
3. TANGERINE: Great films are often not only entertaining, and TANGERINE is entertaining AF, but it also paints a portrait of a world and a place that you get to experience. As someone who lives not far from Santa Monica and Highland, there was something magical about getting a look, however "real," into the world of the trans people who are around but are generally not people I get a chance to rub elbows with. It's too bad that "I felt like I learned something" is often an insult, but like the great works of neorealism - which this is a peer - you get to experience empathy while watching this movie while also being entertained.
4. BRIDGE OF SPIES
5. THE MARTIAN: Masters doing master shit. This is cinema. Both are films that people are going to start watching on cable and forget that they had other things to do. Would it help?
6. MAGIC MIKE XXL: Joy. That Channing Tatum sure knows how to dance, doesn't he?
7. STEVE JOBS: This is Aaron Sorkin's best screenplay, which is saying something. This is also Danny Boyle's best movie, which is also saying something.
8. RICKI AND THE FLASH: I have seen this film three times now. At first it was like "oh, this is better than I thought it would be." By the third viewing, when I break down as I sing along to "My Love Will Not Let You Down" I have to acknowledge that this is a kind of perfect movie.
9. DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL: When I first heard Liz Phair, I felt like something exploded inside of me, as I was a teenage boy who didn't realize that a woman could feel like that (it was a different era). I can't imagine what a teenaged me would have made of this film, but like TANGERINE, there is truth here.
10. SICARIO: I never thought the guy who made PRISONERS would ever make anything that wasn't pretty nonsense. I was wrong.
11. IT FOLLOWS: It's called dream logic, and I'm fine with that.
12. EX MACHINA: A brilliant heist movie wearing science fiction clothing.
13. THE GIFT: It's unfortunate I wasn't asleep at the wheel when I was watching the MPAA card for Joel Edgerton's feature film debut, but it's also telling that he manage to grip me and fear for the possible violence ahead even though the film received its R rating solely for language. Being such a master of tone on a first film suggests Edgerton could be the best actor/director going today, so someone should give the man some real money.
14. THE LOBSTER: "We developed a code so that we can communicate with each other even in
front of the others without them knowing what we are saying. When we
turn our heads to the left it means 'I love you more than anything in
the world' and when we turn our heads to the right it means 'watch out,
we're in danger'. We had to be very careful in the beginning not to mix
up 'I love you more than anything in the world' with 'watch out, we're
in danger'. When we raise our left arm it means 'I want to dance in your
arms', when we make a fist and put it behind our backs it means 'let's
14-16. SPOTLIGHT/ROOM/BROOKLYN: SPOTLIGHT is probably my favorite of these three, but they are all solidly made, well-acted films that will probably come off better when they are out of awards season. SPOTLIGHT is the sort of film that could be called underrated, unless it wins too many awards, and then that could be held against what is a great little movie about procedure.
A case could be made for: BLACKHAT, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, CREED, MISSISSIPPI GRIND, MISTRESS AMERICA, GRANDMA, THE WALK, IRRATIONAL MAN, INSIDE OUT
MORE TO COME... EVENTUALLY