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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, September 30, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Film

And the 2015 RyMickey Awards come to an end with this year's final category -- Best Picture of the Year.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've become a bit nicer in my old age -- I doled out more B's and above this year percentage-wise than most other years.  Looking back, I may have been a tad too generous, but I feel like I've crafted a really solid Top Twenty list this year full of blockbusters, indie pics, documentaries, dramas, comedies, musicals, animation -- I really ran the gamut of genres which pleasantly surprised me when I began to realize what films made it into my Top Twenty.

I urge my few readers to give a movie or two listed below a chance -- more than half are streaming in some capacity, so check them out if any of them pique your interest.

Best Films of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix / SoA = Streaming on Amazon / SoH = Streaming on HBO)

#50 - Cinderella   ---   #49- The Peanuts Movie (SoH)
#48 - Manson Family Vacation (SoN)   ---   #47 - The Voices (SoA)
#46 - 45 Years   ---   #45 - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (SoA)
#44 - Batkid Begins (SoN)   ---   #43 - Grandma
#42 - 6 Years (SoN)   ---   #41 - I Smile Back (SoA)
#40 - Victoria (SoN)   ---   #39 - Everest (SoH)   ---   #38 - Circle (SoN)
#37 - I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (SoA)
#36 - We Are Still Here (SoN)   ---   #35 - The Gift
#34 - Jurassic World (SoH)   ---    #33 - Straight Outta Compton (SoH)
#32 - The Age of Adaline (SoA)   ---   #31 - Spectre

Honorable Mentions
  • #30 - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - (B) - A hip irreverence makes this cancer comedy a winner (SoH)
  • #29 - Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief - (B) - One-sided, but rather damning in its indictment of this unique religion (SoH)
  • #28 - The Girl in the Book - (B) - A sleeper film with two very nice female performances at its center (SoN)
  • #27 - The Hateful Eight - (B) - Typical Tarantino, and while I'd like to see him branch out a little more, this is a solid piece squarely in his wheelhouse
  • #26 - In the Heart of the Sea - (B) -  Much better and much more interesting than its lack of box office implies (SoH)
  • #25 - Beasts of No Nation - (B) - A sad tale detailing a horrific atmosphere that is occurring in our world today (SoN)
  • #24 - Anomalisa - (B) - A unique animated tale for adults
  • #23 - Sicario - (B) - Frighteningly realistic in its take on the US/Mexico drug war
  • #22 - About Elly - (B) - Another interesting flick from director Asghar Farhadi that details cultures unknown to most Americans (SoN)
  • #21 - Shaun the Sheep Movie - (B+) - Wonderfully animated and very clever in its ability to tell a story with hardly a word spoken

And the Top Twenty Are...

#20 - Amy - B+
Amy Winehouse never really impacted by musical landscape and it certainly didn't help that her heavily scrutinized public life made her quite unappealing to me.  However, this documentary told completely through interviews with Amy's family, friends, and the singer herself details the tragic story of Ms. Winehouse's early death at the age of 27.  Director Asif Kapadia never presents Amy as a victim, martyr, or saint, but hearing her own words describe the pleasure of the addictions that led to her downfall makes the singer's tragic end all the more poignant. (SoA)

#19 - McFarland, USA - B+
We've seen this underdog sports story many, many times before, yet thanks to a heartwarming turn from Kevin Costner, a well-cast group of unknown actors portraying the McFarland High School track team, and a sentimental story that comes off surprisingly non-treacly, McFarland, USA is a sleeper hit that hopefully more people will come to appreciate in years to come.  

#18 - Danny Collins - B+ 
Danny Collins is an example of one of those little hidden gems that I love to come across over a year of film.  The talented cast take what may have been a typical dramedy about an aging rockstar (albeit with some very clever dialog) and transform it into something more engaging than could be expected.  Underrated and under-seen, Danny Collins is one you should definitely add to your viewing queue. (SoA)

#17 - Inside Out - B+
I didn't hold quite the same affinity towards Inside Out as most critics, finding the film to be a bit lacking in the "heart" department despite attempts by the screenwriters and directors to try and pull on the heartstrings a few times.  For that, Inside Out doesn't land in the upper echelon of Pixar films story-wise for me.  However, visually, it's a bit of a masterpiece.  With wonderfully developed characters expertly voiced by their respective actors, Inside Out is a clever piece of animation.

#16 - The Last Five Years - B  
Attentive readers will notice that my RyMickey Rating for The Last Five Years is a 'B' which is lower than the previously discussed five films in this list which all garnered a 'B+'.  However, The Last Five Years provided a unique experience for me.  I know it's a flawed film.  But I really like it.  Detailing the story of the relationship of Cathy and Jamie, the film is told in a unique manner -- Cathy's side of their story is told from the end to the beginning, whereas Jamie's side of the story is told from the beginning to the end.  The two sides of the story intertwine creating a sometimes disconcerting experience, but an immensely watchable one.  And it's a musical with some heartbreaking and heartwarming songs from composer Jason Robert Brown.  All I'll say is give this one a chance.  It will not be for everyone -- in fact, I've shown it to a few people who think it's one of the worst things they've seen.  But, as I quote at the top of my blog, "The joy of watching movies...is arguing about them."  (SoN)

The Top 15 will be revealed by clicking that tiny little "Read More" to the lower left!

The naturalness, simplicity, and charm of this "meet-cute" tale of two American strangers who meet one night in a foreign country make Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong a surprisingly fun viewing experience.  I was expecting nothing going into this one and I was pleasantly taken in by real-life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg whose chemistry created a film that lacked the pretentiousness of its cinematic cousin Before Sunrise, but was still just as enjoyable as that critically acclaimed piece.  (SoN)

#14 - Creed - B+
I had never seen a Rocky movie prior to 2015 and now that I've seen all seven films in the series, I can say that Creed is the best made (although not my favorite) film in the septet.  Creed cleverly acknowledges its roots while also trying to create its own two legs upon which to stand.  Director Ryan Coogler's visceral, in-your-face style makes us feel more a part of the action than ever before and it also brings us Sylvester Stallone's most captivating performance as the now-aged Rocky Balboa. 

#13 - James White - B+ 
Grippingly acted, James White is a heartbreaking look at the relationship between the self-destructive title character and his ailing, cancer-stricken mother.  James White admittedly takes a little while to get started and I even hit a point where I almost thought I'd turn this one off.  However, in the end, the film pays off big time creating a realistic relationship between mother and son that is beautifully portrayed by Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon.  (SoN)

A lushly lensed romance reminiscent of films shot decades earlier, Far from the Madding Crowd succeeds by never feeling slow-moving or ostentatious.  It embraces old school aesthetics and storytelling, yet somehow feels fresh and modern.  With a wonderful performance at its center by Carey Mulligan as an intelligent, independent, and hard-working estate owner, Far from the Madding Crowd is anything but stuffy which is a characteristic I was expecting prior to seeing the flick.

#11 - Spotlight - B+ 
I certainly do not begrudge the Oscar win for Best Picture Spotlight earned this past year.  Its straightforward, no frills approach does a great service in honoring both the victims sexually abused by Catholic priests and the investigative journalists who exposed the massive cover-up by the Catholic Church.  While I think there were three better films nominated for Best Picture (and ten better films overall), Spotlight is a movie that deserves to be seen and respected.  (SoN)

#10 - The Martian - B+ 
Funnier than I expected, The Martian is also surprisingly smart going into great detail about how stranded astronaut Mark Watney manages to stay alive on Mars for years.  I never expected to be as engaged as I was when watching Ridley Scott's film, but the director does a great job of tonally balancing the piece with humor and drama, making it one of the most enjoyable big budget blockbusters of 2015. (SoH)

If you had told me last year that a Star Wars movie would land in my Top Ten films of 2015, I would've called you insane.  Let me remind you that I had never seen a Star Wars film prior to nine months ago, so this placement is utterly shocking to me, but it's absolutely deserved.  While I've yet to watch episodes I-III, Episode VII is the best of the Star Wars movies I've seen.  It excels in terms of story, acting, directing, and (obviously) special effects and it's a pretty gosh darn good popcorn movie to boot.  The film certainly echoes its predecessors, but I think director/screenwriter J.J. Abrams does a fantastic job of creating a jumping off point for future stories without abandoning all that came before it.

#8 - Love & Mercy - B+ 
Love & Mercy, the biopic of Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, thankfully lacks the sentimental gooeyness that often accompanies flicks of this genre.  The film's clever back-and-forth balancing act showcasing Wilson at two points in his life (Paul Dano as the younger and John Cusack as the older) makes this biographical undertaking a lot more unique than I ever thought possible with both eras of Wilson's life getting their fair shrift.  With a fantastic performance by RyMickey Award winner Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy should've been more of a player in the 2015 awards season, but was unfortunately left behind.  (SoA)

# 7 - Trainwreck - B+ 
I had no intention of enjoying Trainwreck when I popped in the BluRay.  I thought for sure I'd be turned off by Amy Schumer whose persona I don't gravitate towards in the slightest.  Color me surprised then when I found her screenwriting debut to be a cleverly modern take on an old-school romantic film.  Sure, there's raunch and Doris Day would've balked at spouting some of Schumer's character's lines, but there's an old school quality to all of the characters in the piece that make this film oddly charming.  Although director Judd Apatow often tries to imbue heart into his films, I find them empty and emotionless more often than not -- that isn't the case here at all as Schumer has brought out the best in Apatow and Apatow has helped to create a new cinematic star in Schumer.(SoH)

#6 - Ex Machina - B+ 
Ex Machina will likely not be everyone's cup of tea.  It's an often talky scientific parable that questions whether technology is advancing too rapidly for humans to really comprehend its effects on our culture.  But it's also a tautly directed, tensely written film featuring a quartet of actors who vividly bring to life writer-director Alex Garland's increasingly enervating story.  Yes, there will likely be moments where you think it's moving a little slow, but the payoff in the film's final act is so worth the wait.  (SoA)

What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary that places the audience in a Real World-esque setting where creatures of the night stop acting nice and start getting real.  The writing and directing team of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have crafted a humorous spin on vampire tales by taking us inside the shared flat of a group of vampires as they deal with each other, everyday life, and - of course - werewolves.  Filled with physical comedy and verbal barbs, the entire cast is game at both types of humor, and the sense of whimsy that permeates throughout the film makes the whole flick even funnier.

I was absolutely fascinated throughout the entirety of The Stanford Prison Experiment which presents a riveting, real-life story of twenty-four Stanford college students recruited to play either prisoners or guards in a week-long psychology experiment that goes horribly wrong.  I'm no a psychology buff in the slightest -- in fact, I think it's mostly a load of hooey -- but The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film I didn't want to end.  The talented ensemble should take a lot of the credit, but director Kyle Patrick Alvarez has created a film that doesn't play like a documentary.  Instead, this is a tense, discomforting two-hour cinematic journey into human behavior.

#3 - Steve Jobs - A- 
Told in three acts in "real time" with each detailing the forty minutes prior to an important product launch in his life, Steve Jobs is a unique experience provocatively written by Aaron Sorkin and cleverly directed by Danny Boyle.  This is a concept that shouldn't have worked, but somehow riveted me.  Boyle utilizes different filming techniques and distinct musical scores, while Sorkin creates three different, though cohesive Steve's - one youthful visionary, one nastily vengeful, and one older and wise - along this cinematic journey.  The duo have taken a standard biopic and twisted it on its head, creating a remarkable picture jam-packed with resonant dialog.

I chose the picture above to represent Steve Jobs because while the film certainly places its titular character front and center, it's also all about his relationships with others including that of his ex-wife and young daughter with whom he has a very rocky relationship.  These important people in the life of Steve Jobs enter into the picture in the minutes leading up to his pivotal product launches in a way that couldn't have ever happened in real life, but somehow seems perfectly natural and believable in the world Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle have created.  This film won't appeal to everyone, I readily understand, but it worked remarkably well for me. (SoH)

#2 - Brooklyn - A- 
Charm.  Elegance.  Simplicity.  Three words that sum up Brookyln, one of the best cinematic romances in years that tells the heartwarming story of Irish immigrant Eilis (the wonderful Saoirse Ronan) and her journey to America in search of a better life.  Despite the heaviness seemingly depicted in the picture above (and the love triangle aspect at the heart of the film), director John Crowley's film has some wonderfully comedic moments mixed in with the incredibly compelling love story, foregoing flashiness for simplicity thereby allowing Nick Hornby's script to really come alive with an all-around wonderful (and RyMickey Award-winning) acting ensemble.  This is a romance for the ages that not only gives homage to the immigrants who formed our country, but also honors our country as a whole for the opportunities it can provide if you strive to work hard and be the best you can be. (SoH)

#1 - Room - A 
The biggest compliment I can give Room is I found myself so incredibly enveloped and taken in by the story and the flick's two main characters that I didn't want their journey to end.  I could sing the praises of this film for paragraphs on end, but you've already seen my plaudits for it the past two weeks:

  • The wonderful Brie Larson as one of the top two leading actresses of the year
  • The tour de force performance from newcomer Jacob Tremblay as the Best Actor of the year 
  • The lovely Joan Allen as one of the best supporting actresses of the year
  • Lenny Abrahamson's top five taut and emotional direction
  • Emma Donaghue's top two screenplay that balances a tricky tenuous roller coaster of emotions 
  • Two of the top five best scenes of the year that made me either sit on the edge of my seat or cry

No other film captivated me in this way in 2015.  Room is, undoubtedly, the best film of year and I urge you to watch this one.  I can't fathom you'll be the least bit disappointed.  (SoA)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009


  1. observations:
    Thrilled that What We Do In The Shadows made it on this list :).
    I still love The Last Five Years (I watched it again recently--maybe not as thrilling the second time--but still so good/compelling).
    Despite watching Far from the Madding Crowd twice in theatres, it just didn't for me. Can't place my finger on it--perhaps the story itself and my lack of interest in that and nothing to do with how it was interpreted and presented.
    Still need (and intend) to watch Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Brooklyn (Newsies accent alert), and Room.
    I always enjoy going over your lists.

  2. Obviously thanks for reading them still. I'm at a bit of a crossroads with this blog -- unsure of whether to continue or not. I'm trying to decide if it's lessening the enjoyment of the moviegoing experience for me. (You'll notice I've written few reviews over the past month -- part of that is life being busy and the other is lack of interest.) We shall see.

    As far as this post, though, a few thoughts.

    - I was expecting NOTHING from Far from the Madding Crowd except to be bored out of my mind, so when that didn't happen, I think I was impressed. I thought Carey Mulligan was great, though. Quite possibly, the best role I've seen her take on yet.
    - You haven't seen Room? Seriously get on that!!!!
    - And no Brooklyn? So fantastic!!!
    - Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is admittedly a throwaway and it's probably not as good as my 2am viewing made it seem, but I enjoyed it.
    - And What We Do in the Shadows was a humorous surprise! Kind of oddly sweet, too. Not overly risqué...