Friday, January 15, 2016

DrogeMiester's Top 10 BEST Movies of 2015

We've finished another year in movies and so it's finally time to reveal my top 10 personal favorite movies of the year. A few things to note before we start. First, this is a list of my personal favorite movies. The movies I enjoyed most or the movies that I had a personal connection with. I've been told in lists like this that I'm wrong and that makes no sense. No, I'm not wrong. This is my list. It's biased towards what I liked. Second, I have not seen every movie this year. That's an impossible feat because there are so many that come out each year. But that's okay. It means that there's always more movies to discover from every year and I think it's good to always keep searching those movies out instead of only focusing on the new ones. In the future I probably will find several movies that should've been on this list. No problem with that, right? Finally, while I do enjoy assigning grades to movies, when creating this list I always ignore the grades that I gave. Thus you might find things in an odd order if you pay super close attention to the numbers I give out. Don't let that throw you off. A number is just a number. This is all about comparing the movies to each other, which is something I don't do when giving out an individual grade. So without further ado, let's begin!

10- Shaun the Sheep Movie

Inside Out was deep. The Peanuts Movie was full of nostalgia. Both movies had me laughing hysterically the whole time and both movies almost made me cry. Yet if you know me well enough, you shouldn't be too surprised that my favorite animated movie of the year is in fact Shaun the Sheep Movie. I absolutely love the stop-motion animation genre. These movies deserve to make as much money as the Pixar movies do because of the insane amounts of time and talent that it takes to make just one scene. To make a whole movie? Holy. Fetching. Cow. Yet few people give them the time of day and that's a shame. Concerning Shaun the Sheep Movie, by all accounts this shouldn't have worked. A feature-length movie based on those short little Shaun the Sheep episodes that don't even have actual dialogue? The fact that this does work is mind-blowing. Major creative juices were flowing here because I laughed harder and was more emotional in this movie than the other two animated movies I mentioned. And there was no dialogue. Yet this movie made less than $20 million in the states. Ouch. If you skipped this one, repent now and go rent it. The guys making these movies deserve your money.

9- The Revenant

I waited until this movie expanded to my area to make this list because I had a feeling that this would end up here. And I was right! Alejandro González Iñárritu blew my mind with Birdman last year and he did it again this year. Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio does get mauled by a bear, making this an intense and brutal survival story, but it's not just a survival story. The themes of love, revenge, family, and racism are so strong and beautiful. No one makes the best decisions, yet you can't fault anyone too much for the decisions they make. Not even our antagonist Tom Hardy. Best of all, the cinematography in this movie is some of the best cinematography that I have ever seen. What they accomplished in this movie with 100 percent, pure natural light is absolutely mind-boggling. This just won Best Picture at the Golden Globes. Was that deserving? Eh. I don't know. I'd pick a few others before it, but if this does win Best Picture at the Oscars, I'm not going to be complaining. And speaking of which, give Leo his Oscar already! He should be winning his second or third at this point. Not his first.

8- The Martian

Big budget space movies have been quite the trend recently and I'm not even talking about Star Wars. I'm talking about Gravity, Interstellar, and now The Martian. In terms of the overall cinematic experience, I still think Gravity is the best of the three. However, in terms of story and theme, The Martian easily wins. And please, can we cut it with the "it's not scientifically accurate" argument? None of these three are perfect in those terms, It's like the argument after every single biopic that "that's not how it happened in real life!" You're missing the point. Gravity took me to space and made me feel that I was never making it back to Earth with it's amazing use of 3D. Interstellar was emotional and tragic until the ending got weird and confusing. The Martian taught some amazing life lessons that can be applicable to everyone in any situation. No we're not all going to be stuck on Mars, but all of us are going to be facing our own challenges that seem impossible to overcome. We can either give up and whine and complain our way through life or we can take it one step at a time. You can either focus on trying to get from Mars to Earth (figuratively speaking) or you can focus on figuring out how to get food for the next day. And you can have a sense of humor. Laughter can literally make you live longer. That's not just an expression. That's fact. Medically proven. What a great thing to remember! Thank you Matt Damon and Ridley Scott!

7- Creed

Here we have a seventh movie in a beloved franchise that began in the late 70's. The franchise has had its ups and downs, but in 2015 a new director and team comes on board to essentially reboot the franchise. It's not an actual reboot, but a new beginning with new characters to focus on and follow. To successfully do this, we bring in the old characters we all knew and love as our supporting cast and essentially make the same movie as the original movie just with new characters in those old roles. And it worked! IT WORKED!! Does it matter that Creed and Rocky are like the same exact movie? No! IT DOESN'T! Because every one of these movies in this franchise follows a specific formula and if you try to drastically alter that tried and true formula, you're going to fall flat on your face and no one is going to like your movie. But yet, despite following this formula, Creed still has several things that separate itself. Our main character played by Michael B. Jordan is trying to figure out where he belongs in this world and watching his character progress throughout the movie is beautiful. Helping him out is Rocky himself, whose character in this is a whole lot deeper. Sylvester Stallone gives the performance of his career. This is a beautiful character piece that is topped off with some fantastic fighting sequences that gave me all the feels.

6- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A lot of people are talking about Brooklyn right now and for good reason. It's a pretty good movie that is now officially a best picture nominee. But when it comes to movies from Sundance in 2015, I happened to think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a better movie. You can look at the title and think that you've already seen the movie. You can read the premise and think it's just The Fault in Our Stars 2.0. You'd be wrong on both accounts. This isn't a romance movie. This isn't another typical teenager in high school movie like The DUFF or Easy A. Even though I liked all three of those movies I just mentioned, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a whole lot more. This is the most honest and real movie that I've seen about what it's like for a teenager going through high school while trying to deal with the failing health of a friend that you care about. This was such a raw, emotional movie. I related a lot with our main kid. I thought his friend Earl was the perfect friend. Best of all, I absolutely loved Olivia Cooke from Bates Motel as our dying girl. While I'm happy for Saoirse Ronan for her newest Oscar nomination, Olivia Cooke should've been the one to get that. Why was she not in the conversation? Oh yeah. Because her movie came out in the Summer instead of at the end of the year. Stupid Academy probably forgot this movie existed.

5- The Gift

I watched a lot of Hitchcock movies this year. The man is the master of making a good thriller, which is what my favorite genre of movie is. In watching so many Hitchcock thrillers, I realized that they all follow a formula (once again, following a formula is NOT a bad thing). Three main elements of that formula are as follows: a compelling villain, a satisfying conclusion (usually a good twist), and a realistic and/or relevant story. I won't dive deep into all of those elements, but if you think of the best Hitchcock thrillers (like Psycho and Vertigo), they all nail those three elements. In fact, Hitchcock or no Hitchcock, all the best thrillers follow that formula. And yes, you guessed it. So does The Gift. In fact, I feel that The Gift is a modern Hitchcock thriller. The villain, played by director, writer, and star Joel Edgerton, is deep and complex. You can relate to him and understand why he's doing what he is doing. The movie has several twists and turns that keep you on the edge or your feet as well as a jaw-dropping conclusion. And yes, the themes of bullying in the movie are very relevant in today's society. On top of all that, all the actors, especially Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton are amazing and the movie is very well crafted in all aspects. What a directorial debut for Joel Edgerton!

4- Ex Machina

Speaking of thrillers, how about the genius sci-fi thriller Ex Machina? A movie that, once again, FOLLOWS A FORMULA! Think about it. What happens in just about every movie that attempts to touch the subject of artificial intelligence? And what happens in Ex Machina? Exactly. I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't seen the movie, but I am glad I will have a large following for this one because a lot of people have loved Ex Machina. It's shown up in just about every top 10 list that I've seen and I've been on the band wagon from the second I stepped out of the theater back in April. This movie is amazing! It's also one of four movies that I seriously considered putting number one. The fact that I have it at four almost feels like an insult, but instead is more of a compliment to how strong this movie is. The suspense in this movie is insane. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time because I had no idea what was going to happen. The moment I figured it out, I was shocked and stunned. The more I've thought about the events in this movie, the better the movie gets. And how about our trio of phenomenal actors who all gave Oscar-worthy performances? Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, and Alicia Vickander are amazing in this movie. I'm now glad that all three have achieved mainstream success. Isaac and Gleeson are in Star Wars (Poe Dameron and General Hux) and Vickander got herself an Oscar nomination. It sadly wasn't for this movie, but at least she got one.

3- Spotlight

Another movie that I'm embarrassed that I have so low. If Spotlight is your favorite movie of the year, then I'm right there with you. I just have four favorite movies. This is literally 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d. Spotlight is just 1c and you'll realize why once you look at the other two ahead of it. Perhaps there is a bit of bias on my part with this movie because my major is journalism and this is a journalism movie. But remember? I can do what I want with my list. Last year I included Kill the Messenger in my top 10, another journalism movie. That one I felt like I was all alone on in defending it. This one I have people on my side. I don't know what the difference is between the two, but whatever. They're both great in my eyes. Kill the Messenger shows that sometimes the journalist is the victim when he or she tries to break an important story. Spotlight shows what can happen when the world decides to listen to a journalist when he or she (or a group of he and she's in this instance) breaks an important story. A journalist can literally change the world and save lives. Apparently there have been thousands, if not millions of children around the world in the last 30-40 years at least that have been victims of sexual molestation in the hands of Catholic Priests. This is the story of the group of journalists that uncovered that scandal. I knew this was a problem, but I didn't know how big of a problem it was until I watched this movie. I'm calling this the most eye-opening and most important movie of the year. Which is why I wanted to put it at the top.

2- Mad Max: Fury Road

Oh what a day! What a lovely day! I loved Mad Max: Fury Road from the second the movie started. I didn't think the rest of the world would love it, too, but I'm kinda glad they did! I mean, 10 Oscar nominations? Are we for real? That almost never happens for a movie like this! But yet, few action movies made are as perfect as Mad Max: Fury Road. Every sequence. Every shot. Every cut. Every scene. It's all perfect. And to think that it was all done with very limited CGI. It was all done by practical effects. The vehicles in this were real. The explosions actually happened. Real stuntmen performed all of the crazy stunts you see that most directors would choose to do all by computer. All of this is edited together so perfectly that the flow is just right. The cinematography is amazing. The visual effects are fantastic. The costumes are great. The makeup and hairstyles are brilliant. The actors are fantastic. The story is perfectly simple, yet the characters are deep and complex. Few action movies in the history of action movies are constructed and executed better. In fact, in celebration of it's huge day with all the Oscar nominations, I re-watched this movie because I now own it. I watch this movie all the time. It makes me happy when I am sad. It entertains me when I am bored. I wanted to put this number one. In fact, I almost just did. But there's another movie that deserves that honor and you know what it is by now.

1- Star Wars: The Force Awakens

That's right. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is my favorite movie of 2015. It's been a long time since a movie that I've been this excited for this rewarding. I promise I'm not just fanboying over Star Wars. I reviewed all six previous Star Wars movies and thus provided an in-depth analysis of why I like Star Wars so much and what I expected from this new movie. And it did exactly what I wanted it to do! Yes, it follows the same formula that A New Hope followed, but as I've been shoving in your face in this post, that's not a bad thing! I'm not going to dive into this any more than I already have, but I will suggest you watch this analyzed review by Chris Stuckmann that I just linked right there. There's so much to praise! The movie is a character piece that dives specifically into both Rey and Kylo Ren. It's their movie. Rey is such a great protagonist. I love everything about her and everything she does. And Kylo Ren is such a deep, troubled villain. I love how broken and conflicted he is. It makes him a better villain. I'm excited to see where the rest of the trilogy takes these two. It was great to see Han, Leia, Chewie, and the gang again, but what's more impressive is how I cared more about our new characters. Not just Rey and Kylo, but also Fin, Poe, BB8 and others.  I love the return to practical effects. I love the sets. I love the visuals. I love the cinematography. I love the John Williams score. I love the action sequences. I just absolutely love this movie! J.J. Abrams and company have successfully made the third best Star Wars movie!

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