For the past three years, I’ve been ranking every film I see- just the new releases, from January 1st to December 31st. The rankings are subjective, based entirely on how much I enjoyed and/or connected with or appreciated the film rather than on some sort of objective artistic criteria. Basically, this is a list of 140 films released in 2015 ranked according to how much I liked them.
Read the Full 2015 List HERE.
Both Duplass brothers make an appearance in this part of the list. As do Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Joss Whedon, Rebel Wilson, Olivia Wilde, Armie Hammer, John Green and Amy Winehouse, for starters.
No duo in Hollywood history (and I’m including Affleck & Damon in this) has been able to make as much out of simple friendship as Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. Sisters is kind of dumb and super obvious, propped up on maddeningly simplistic characterization, but there is an intangible magic that happens when you put Fey and Poehler together that makes the movie a delight even if its only honest merit is Ike Barinholtz as the hunk next door (I am wholeheartedly in favour of this new Barinholtz as unlikely dreamboat thing. I’ve met Ike Barinholtz; his dreamboatiness sneaks up on you but it’s very very real). There’s so much history and chemistry and easily detectable love between Fey and Poehler that watching them onscreen together, especially playing sisters, is more fun than the movie earns on its own and watching them fight is more painful than makes sense.
52. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Only Joss Whedon would care enough about Zeppo Hawkeye to give him that surprising subplot (and that standout scene with Scarlet Witch). Avengers 2 isn’t nearly as good as Avengers 1– it’s too big, too fight-full, too CGI-filled and is seriously lacking in Loki- but it’s the last we’ll see of Whedon in the MCU and his presence will be so missed, because he cared enough about Hawkeye to give him a subplot! Only Joss Whedon could have built a movie this giant and flashy and have its best scene be the core group sitting around at a party metaphorically measuring penises by attempting to lift a giant hammer.
53. The Longest Ride
The trailers for this latest in the Nicholas Sparks five-hankie romance oeuvre betrayed none of its heart and little of its charm. The story of young, lovely Britt Robertson and her studly bull-riding beau (Scott Eastwood) is merely the mediocre-to-nice-enough frame to the far more stirring story of Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston in 1940, as told, as many a Sparks story is, by the hero as an old man (Alan Alda, the best of all old man storytellers). Chaplin and Huston are enchanting and honest as Ruth and Ira, dramatic leads in a complex period tale too good for the company its keeps. Art is as much a major subject as bull riding, sacrifice as much a theme as romance and quiet strength as much the order of the day as the usual sentimental Sparks tears. The Longest Ride is more than what the promo department will have you believe and that’s always such a refreshing change.
54. She’s Funny That Way
This fantastical memory story about the tangled lives of theatre people and their lovers is anchored by an intriguingly unreliable narrator who is also the leading lady played with beautiful subtlety by Imogen Poots. Will Forte has never looked better, Kathryn Hahn’s brilliant performance gets bigger as our heroine feels more strongly about her craziness and Jennifer Aniston is at her best as a sociopath. With a sprawling all-star cast, everyone is someone in this fantasy world, all leading up to the ultimate cameo twist right at the final moment.
55. Paper Towns
The Fault in Our Stars (also by John Green) puts its irreverent, self-aware non-conformity right up front. Maybe as a reaction to the mainstream-ification of that story or maybe because I simply lost the faith, I spent most of Paper Towns feeling incredibly annoyed by the Quentin (Nat Wolff)’s insistence that Margo (Cara Delevingne, dull as rocks) is some sort of Stargirl-esque miracle of a non-conformist, anti-authoritarian, life-changing presence. Ugh. Quentin’s friends (Justic Smith and Austin Abrams) provided their share of delight as the movie started in on its “chase the miracle girl” story but I rejected the central conceit so I rejected the film. But it turns out I’m a moron. It turns out John Green was rejecting the conceit too. It wasn’t his conceit at all. The story he was telling was less Manic Pixie Dream Girl and more a girl is just a girl, a person’s just a person, no matter what you make them in your mind. The last ten minutes or so of Paper Towns are brilliant- thoughtful and truthful and emotional and shocking without bloodshed or scandal or anything traditionally “shocking”. It only ranks this low because I don’t like films that only get good in retrospect.
56. Manson Family Vacation
This Duplass property is weird and sad and intimate, of course. The pacing is off and Jay is not as strong a dramatic improviser as his brother but it’s a creative, thoughtful story about all the things that “family” can mean.
This sad doc is 100% old footage with recorded interviews as voice-over. I wanted to care more about it than I did.
58. The Man from UNCLE
I got a little bored partway through this stylish spy caper that could stand to be a lot funnier but Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander are both wonderful (I love Armie Hammer; why doesn’t Hollywood love Armie Hammer more?) and Henry Cavill has a perfect throwback movie star appeal, if only they could get him a suit that fits.
59. Pitch Perfect 2
We didn’t need this movie. In fact, I kind of wish they hadn’t made this movie. Sure, I’m always happy to see Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick and even Brittany Snow; I’m happy the great Hailee Steinfeld continues to make serious inroads towards the massive stardom she missed when she didn’t get to be Katniss and I appreciate this franchise for being the place where short, unassuming, golden-voiced Skylar Astin is the strapping love interest. The new film doesn’t use Jesse enough (though I’m so happy they used Benji more!) and it’s wildly cheesy, but it’s an enjoyable 2 hours. That said, one of the reasons Pitch Perfect was great was because it was a new film with new characters and a lot of stars we hadn’t seen much from before, released in a film landscape so saturated with sequels and sevenquels and adaptations and revamps that the thought of a wholly new blockbuster is sadly refreshing. Pitch Perfect 2 makes it part of the problem.
60. The Lazarus Effect
This science thriller has one of the best casts of the year with Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass in the lead roles and the likes of Donald Glover and Evan Peters supporting (guys, Evan Peters!). It’s a great, ambitious premise and the film starts off strong and fun but at a certain point it loses all intellectual drive and becomes more of a straight thriller than the philosophical drama it could have been. This and Ex Machina are like two roads diverged in a wood.