“A top 10 isn’t cool,” Justin Timberlake said in The Social Network. “You know what is cool? A top 125.” Well, life is meaningless: I know it, you know, and if you weren’t sure, this blog post will confirm it.
In 2011’s roundup I swam through cold weather to Bill Callahan’s favourite island. In 2012’s roundup Joaquin set the Instagram filter to “Kenicky”. In 2013’s roundup Carruth paddled with red herrings. In 2014’s roundup I missed more films than a Penrose triangle has corners.
This year? Well, like I always say, life’s not worth living, but let’s relive it anyway. For more, follow @halfacanyon.
1. Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve) – 9/10
2. Mommy (Xavier Dolan) – 9/10
From I Killed My Mother to I Killed My Son.
3. Mistress America (Noah Baumbach) – 9/10
After embodying Charlie Brown in Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig is in Lucy van Pelt mode for Mistress America, a deft screwball comedy exhibiting the humour and empathy absent from While We’re Young.
4. Phoenix (Christoph Petzold) – 8.5/10
Desperate Nelly spent years under torture, dreaming only of returning to Johnny, and is now determined to follow through, even under absurd circumstances. The disguise doesn’t mask a pain that can only escape through singing someone else’s song.
5. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin) – 8.5/10
Sonically, visually and moustache-ly audacious, Maddin is on fire as he dreams the molten dream of an overflowing kaleidoscopic volcano.
6. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) – 8.5/10
It’s like the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen realises he and his new girlfriend are incompatible because she doesn’t appreciate the lobster. And such small portions.
7. Tokyo Tribe (Sion Sono) – 8.5/10
Putting the ‘yo’ in Tokyo.
8. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland) – 8.5/10
The silhouette of a midnight smooch will no longer suffice for cinematic expression of affection. When pissing down someone’s throat can be an everyday routine, like making two cups of tea instead of one, it’s apparent that their love – or at least keeping a relationship alive – boils down to observing what the other isn’t saying.
9. Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme) – 8.5/10
10. Carol (Todd Haynes) – 8.5/10
Imagine if in Brief Encounter they got the train together, and one of them was like, “Huh? I’m flung out of space?”
11. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso) – 8/10
What is it that makes a film function and move forward?
12. Tangerine (Sean Baker) – 8/10
“Merry fucking Christmas. You know what I’m saying.”
13. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller) – 8/10
Intrigued about whether it’d work in its other forms, like on TV, in black-and-white, in 3D, or as a novella penned by Furiosa.
14. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry) – 8/10
15. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell) – 8/10
Remember that time you played tag, fell over, hurt yourself, then said, “This is the worst game of tag ever!” Well, you’re wrong.
16. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson) – 8/10
17. Manglehorn (David Gordon Green) – 8/10
Pacino’s face is a Shakespeare soliloquy.
18. The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy) – 8/10
Works better on second viewing.
19. Brooklyn (John Crowley) – 7.5/10
A film for anybody who’s emigrated from one country to another, battling loyalties and lovers, only to realise that home is where the heart… wait, that’s already a phrase?
20. Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi) – 7.5/10
Before Taxi Tehran, I hadn’t seen a Jafar Panahi film. And in a way, I still haven’t. No official credits exist for the road movie shot on the sly, for Panahi is still under house arrest and banned from filmmaking by the Iranian government.
21. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle) – 7.5/10
Blood on the drum tracks.
22. Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) – 7.5/10
A house that snows and serves porridge. No wonder the ghosts never leave.
23. Dear White People (Justin Simien) – 7.5/10
An open letter won’t reading. I mean, watching.
24. Just Jim (Craig Roberts) – 7.5/10
His character in Submarine wanted to make a biopic of his life, and here’s Roberts’ semi-autobiographical debut – it really takes off in the second half as a psychological horror.
25. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher) – 7.5/10
When making honey stops making money, a family of beekeepers reconsider their lifestyle.
26. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams) – 7.5/10
I don’t even like Star Wars. Well, I guess I do now.
27. Hard to Be a God (Aleksei German) – 7.5/10
A nihilistic comedy sketch with crazed maniacs who happens to be dapper jazz enthusiasts.
28. The Infinite Man (Hugh Sullivan) – 7.5/10
I look forward to seeing it again, a year from today exactly.
29. Sunset Song (Terence Davies) – 7.5/10
Agyness Deyn will become one of those stars with names that down the line everyone will just now how to spell – the way Schwarzenegger is part of Microsoft Word’s dictionary.
30. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata) – 7.5/10
Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Poochie leaves Earth to return to his people? No reason.
31. A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor) – 7/10
I think Oscar Isaac is our generation’s Robert De Niro. Can’t wait to see the terrible comedies he does 30 years from now.
32. Selma (Ava DuVernay) – 7/10
It was Selma-ch better than I was expecting.
33. Gemma Bovery (Anne Fontaine) – 7/10
You can take the doomed romantic heroine out of London, but you can’t take London out of the doomed romantic heroine.
34. Love is Strange (Ira Sachs) – 7/10
Still keeping the lights on.
35. Irrational Man (Woody Allen) – 7/10
Aspiring assassins and Agatha Christie wannabes take note: “the perfect murder” must also factor in an element of existential fulfilment for the killer. That’s the theory proposed in Irrational Man, Woody Allen’s introspective, occasionally funny detective caper about finding meaning in life by taking away someone else’s.
36. Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón) – 7/10
I don’t even like the middle four stories – that’s how knife-sharp the bookending chapters are.
37. Top Five (Chris Rock) – 7/10
Chris Rock, once again, modernises the classics.
38. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour) – 7/10
As the night was just humming, I promptly fell off my skateboard.
39. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller) – 7/10
When Andy Kaufman took up wrestling (as seen in Man on the Moon), the intended shock value was from a TV celebrity subjecting himself to a brutal sport, as if trying to make the audience say, “Taxi, please.” There’s a similar appeal in seeing multimillionaire John du Pont (Carell) embroider himself with the daily mechanics of training the US Olympic wrestling team – one of the last things I dream about whenever I scratch my lottery cards.
40. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs) – 7/10
The day I quit my job selling yogurt to become a drunk middle-aged woman.
41. The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky) – 7/10
Cursed hair today, gone tomorrow.
42. Ex Machina (Alex Garland) – 7/10
In being emotionally manipulated by Ex Machina, I believe I also passed the Turing test.
43. Lost River (Ryan Gosling) – 7/10
44. Force majeure (Ruben Östlund) – 7/10
“I’m a victim of my own instinct.”
45. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas) – 7/10
When K-Stew became K-Spew.
46. Spy (Paul Feig) – 7/10
Even better after realising how much of Spectre is just flat one-liners.
47. The Falling (Carol Morley) – 7/10
There are three different types of each person: who you want to be, how other perceive you, and who you really are.
48. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma) – 7/10
“I told myself that was a perfect moment and that I’d never forget it.”
49. Inside Out (Pete Docter) – 6.5/10
Sporty, Posh, Baby, Scary, Ginger. When Geri left The Spice Girls, five became four, which on the outside didn’t change much apart from marketing. To an extent, Inside Out hinges upon the same dynamics, whereby the human mind is made up of five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust), but is in hidden disarray when Joy and Sadness vanish from HQ.
50. Grandma (Paul Weitz) – 6.5/10
In 1999, Paul Weitz popularised the term MILF with American Pie. Now older and by default wiser, he’s avoided any GILF gags with Grandma.
51. Brand: A Second Coming (Ondi Timoner) – 6.5/10
He may be a narcissist, but he’s your narcissist. His words, not mine.
52. Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe) – 6.5/10
Out on Yorkshire’s wily windy moor, it’s sinister and chilly – so bring a coat and milkshake.
53. Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Grey) – 6.5/10
Paul Giamatti is the ultimate movie manager.
54. Big Hero 6 (Don Hall, Chris Williams) – 6.5/10
It’s through the robot that Hiro mourns and learns to cope with loss. RoboCope?
55. Futuro Beach (Laro, Aïnouz) – 6.5/10
A beach without water is delightfully evocative of an imperfect second chance.
56. 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrami) – 6.5/10
57. Love (Gaspar Noé) – 6/10
An hour into Gaspar Noé and chill, and the film gives you this look like 10cc has shot onto your 3D glasses.
58. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle) – 6/10
Divided into three chapters, each before a product launch, Sorkin’s screenplay has an air of Studio 60 in its rush of excitement and notion that the real drama is always backstage – as it was with the Sony hack, funnily enough.
59. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) – 6/10
Me and Earl and the Dreaded Sundown.
60. Aloha (Cameron Crowe) – 6/10
Exploding a satellite for romantic redemption is the new “holding up a stereo by the window”.
61. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland) – 6/10
Safe was about Julianne Moore’s allergy to the 20th century. In Still Alice, her family’s allergic to the 21st century.
62. War Book (Jack Thorne) – 6/10
A stagey re-enactment of what would happen in a stagey re-enactment of a potential WWIII. It works, even if at times a bit like hiring theatre actors to read out comments written under Guardian news stories.
63. Mississippi Grind (Anna Boden, Ryan Flech) – 6/10
Also known as: White Men Can’t Jump (From Gambling). Because it reminds me of White Men Can’t Jump. Because it’s about gambling. Because it’s about hustling. Because there’s a basketball scene. Because it’s about two guys. Because Mendelsohn says “I’m bad with money”, which I believe is word for word from White Men Can’t Jump.
64. Black Mass (Scott Cooper) – 6/10
Black Mass is to The Departed what The Departed is to Goodfellas.
65. Enemy (Denis Villeneuve) – 6/10
A history teacher (Gyllenhaal) spots a familiar minor character in a DVD and wonders: wasn’t that dude in Moonlight Mile?
66. Testament of Youth (James Kent) – 5.5/10
A testament to youth and verse.
67. Trainwreck (Judd Apatow) – 5.5/10
It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a trainwreck to cry.
68. Slow West (John Maclean) – 5.5/10
As the Beta Band’s DJ, Maclean’s deft scratches and samples were what made the music more engaging than other dreary wannabes. But his role means he’s probably the person to blame for “Monolith”, a semi-interesting noise collage that disrupts the flow of The 3 EPs.
69. Rosewater (Jon Stewart) – 5.5/10
Could have done with a moment of Zen.
70. Focus (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa) – 5.5/10
For some reason, it deserves 55%. Can’t get that number out of my head.
71. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée) – 5.5/10
A hiking trip.
72. The D Train (Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel) – 5/10
“I peaked in the 11th grade.”
73. Ant-Man (Peyton Reed) – 5/10
When Ant-Man battles Falcon, it at least confirms you’d rather spend a film with Rudd, rather than the more conventional Avengers gang. It’s the standard Marvel defence: it should be better, sure, but it also could be so much worse.
74. Tomorrowland (Brad Bird) – 5/10
It’s not such a small world after all.
75. White Bird in a Blizzard (Gregg Araki) – 5/10
After the explosiveness of Kaboom, Araki has somehow made a very “Gregg Araki” movie that takes his pop aesthetics without the emotional or anger.
76. The Overnight (Patrick Brice) – 5/10
If this sex comedy feels like a typical Duplass brothers film with better actors, that’s because it is.
77. By the Sea (Angelina Jolie) – 5/10
A little bit Polanski, a little bit Wonderwall, a little bit by the zzz.
78. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach) – 5/10
There’s a line in Jon Ronson’s new book regarding the press coverage of Justine Sacco that amounted to: “old media saying to new media, ‘don’t hurt me’”
79. Do I Sound Gay? (David Thorpe) – 5/10
It could have been a decent 15-minute chapter on This American Life, I suppose.
80. Appropriate Behaviour (Desiree Akhavan) – 5/10
I couldn’t get over the Annie Hall-isms – being honest about the influence isn’t enough.
81. Ned Rifle (Hal Hartley) – 5/10
For fans only – they did pay for it.
82. Spring (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead) – 5/10
The concept of “love at first sight” is challenged when a few more sights consist of being killed in a horrible fashion.
83. Jupiter Ascending (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski) – 5/10
If you want to see a princess be rescued by a dog-person on a flying surfboard, you’re in luck.
84. Harmontown (Neil Berkeley) – 5/10
Because it’s Harmon, it follows the circular plot structure diagram thing he loves so much. No more circles, please.
85. Knock Knock (Eli Roth) – 4.5/10
Peaks with DJ Keanu in headphones working the decks.
86. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaufhan) – 4.5/10
Some kind of spinoff of The Apprentice. I mean, apart from You’re Fired.
87. Heaven Adores You (Nickolas Dylan Rossi) – 4.5/10
Incredibly unsatisfying for die-hard Elliott fans, and probably unseen by anyone else.
88. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon) – 4.5/10
This film’s long. Like, Eugene O’Neill long.
89. White God (Kornél Mundruczó) – 4.5/10
Spent it all thinking, “How did this get made?” Outside of the metaphor, though, it’s a bit bone-dry.
90. Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu) – 4.5/10
Writing reviews becomes its own adventure when battling a dark voice emanating from the corner of the room – specifically an old photograph of myself, questioning all my past decisions in a gravelly Christian Bale voice.
91. Suffragette (Sarah Gavon) – 4.5/10
Exaggerated heroes and villains are sign-posted, clearly through a 2015 eye, with Carey Mulligan’s character a vague symbol of martyrdom.
92. Containment (Neil Mcernery-West) – 4.5/10
For many antisocial Londoners, a nightmare scenario is being trapped inside an apartment building and thus forced to converse with the neighbours: why are the doors locked, and why are Hazmat suited figures circling the perimeter?
93. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Steve Pink) – 4.5/10
No one wants to say this, but the end-credits sequence – in which they travel to time – is quite funny and makes HTTM3 a possibility.
94. Güeros (Alonso Ruizpalacios) – 4.5/10
A misdirected water balloon followed by more misdirection; a chase movie not chasing anything. Didn’t do it for me.
95. A Girl at My Door (July Jung) – 4/10
I seem to be alone in finding it really heavy-handed, with a plot that defines the characters, rather than the other way around.
96. The New Girlfriend (François Ozon) – 4/10
Peaks with the Up bit.
97. The Duff (Ari Sandel) – 4/10
Suppress your individuality to win the jock.
98. Spectre (Sam Mendes) – 4/10
With Monica Bellucci gone faster than it takes to say her name, it’s apparent how many of the film’s decisions – especially the overseas sections – were based on marketing.
99. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow) – 4/10
The top 10 people I wanted to be eaten by dinosaurs.
10. The person next to me in the cinema: She was eating a hotdog.
9. The younger kid: Smug. The equivalent of the kid from Aliens you want to die.
8. Judy Greer: To save her from wasting her talents on fruitless roles in this (just a mother who can’t hold back tears) and Tomorrowland (just a mother who doesn’t appear on screen).
7. Colin Trevorrow: Little to no tension in final act, which demonstrates what happens when you give a giant sci-fi blockbuster to someone who’s only directed one indie film. Saying he’s a huge fan of the original doesn’t mean much – millions of non-palaeontologists are, too.
6. Whoever thought it’d be funny to put Claire in heels the whole time, shoot it in slow motion, and have an irrelevant plotline about how she should be ashamed for a) not wanting children b) prioritising her job over her shitty, annoying nephews who she doesn’t see anyway: Just saying.
5. Jimmy Fallon: His quest to go viral will never end.
4. Jessica Chastain: For throwing the papers in the air and yelling, “Eureka!”
3. Derek Connolly: For co-writing a script that had Pratt and Howard stroking a dead dinosaur, among other things.
2. The older kid: Aside from being too old for the role, he brings a lot of creepy energy, from the way he stares at Howard, and the implication that he’d rather be sending dick pics than watching a Mosasaur.
1. The I-Rex: Interesting to no one. Even within the park, its special skills (ability to speak to raptors, camouflage, changing heat patterns) don’t make it appealing to paying visitors; just makes it more likely to escape when dumb people open the enclosure door.
100. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (David Zellner) – 4/10
A cinematic mocking of a mentally ill Japanese woman who, thankfully, doesn’t pick up The Ladykillers.
101. True Story (Rupert Goold) – 4/10
The potential cat-and-mouse dynamics are more like a cat yawning next to a mouse rushing its lines because it’s got another Faulkner movie to direct the next day.
102. American Ultra (Nima Nourizadeh) – 4/10
103. We Are Your Friends (Max Joseph) – 4/10
Needy title, needy film.
104. Camp X-Ray (Petter Sattler) – 4/10
An attempt to shine a light on the ugliness of how detainees at Guantanamo Bay are mistreated, but will be remembered for its Westernised perspective of torture: a prison library that stacks the first six Harry Potter books, but not The Deathly Hallows.
105. Cake (Daniel Barnz) – 4/10
The one where Rachel hallucinates about Anna Kendrick coming back from the dead to not do the ‘Cups’ song.
106. Chappie (Neil Blompkamp) – 4/10
107. Burnt (John Wells) – 4/10
I found a newfound appreciation for Bradley and Sienna’s former co-star, the toy baby from American Sniper.
108. The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (Tom Harper) – 4/10
Scary how little I remember of this.
109. Tiger Orange (Wade Gasque) – 4/10
So direct and clichéd throughout, mixing clumsy dialogue with wooden performances, it could be me making a cake (“wooden” because of the spoon, and “dialogue” because I don’t use correct ingredients).
110. Hits (David Cross) – 3.5/10
When David Cross reviewed last year’s Pulp doc for Talkhouse, he ranted against the common practice of professional critics seeing indie films – especially docs – through online screeners. That reasoning doesn’t apply to Hits which forwent a traditional release for a BitTorrent “pay what you want” strategy, which also reflects the half-heartedness of the film’s satire. (FYI, I streamed it on Netflix.)
111. Mortdecai (David Koepp) – 3.5/10
Screenplay could use a shave.
112. Creep (Patrick Brice) – 3.5/10
Mark Duplass wants to hang out for the day? I’m already scared.
113. The Salvation (Kristian Levring) – 3.5/10
Eva Green says it all by not saying anything at all. Huh, like the Ronan Keaton song.
114. The Intern (Nancy Meyers) – 3/10
115. Pixels (Chris Columbus) – 3/10
Until Sandler puts effort into his films again, I can only hope he’s reawakened by a nightmare in which falling from the sky are his past glories in the form of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and that guy from The Wedding Singer.
116. The Face of an Angel (Michael Winterbottom) – 3/10
You think it’s going to be about Amanda Knox, but actually it’s an overly serious portrayal of a male writer who can’t stop thinking about pretty faces.
117. Staten Island Summer (Rhys Thomas) – 3/10
Really an SNL movie, but not advertised as such because it’s 2015.
118. The Cobbler (Thomas McCarthy) – 2.5/10
Every superhero sounds absurd at first. Batman, Ant-man, Half-a-Canyon-man. Well, I can certainly get behind The Cobbler, an un-Sandler Sandler superhero bitten by a radioactive cliché: never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.
119. Terminator Genisys (Alan Taylor) – 2.5/10
All that money – and yet the wacky title’s the most interesting bit.
120. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) – 2.5/10
This is the part where I snidely imply the only sad bit was how much time they made on their unfunny Criterion parodies, but I guess the fictional characters (and anyone in real life) can say the same thing about this blog, perhaps dropping in “the dying URL” for good measure.
121. Son of a Gun (Julius Avery) – 2.5/10
It’s rarely a positive sign when the most thrilling moments of a heist film concern chess moves. As in literal chess moves, not a metaphor for diligent planning.
122. Are You Here (Matt Weiner) – 2/10
Matt Weiner, what happened? Seriously, I need to know what happened in the last episode of Mad Men because I missed it on TV. But on the subject of Are You Here, huh? Is this to make us appreciate Don Draper now you’ve taken him away forever?
123. Hot Pursuit (Anne Fletcher) – 1.5/10
I’ll Walk The Line between The Good Lie and declaring This Means War, but Hot Pursuit – from Reese Witherspoon’s production company – should be sent on an Overnight Delivery down the Freeway to A Far Off Place. I’m sure Reese set out her Best Laid Plans, not Cruel Intentions, for what’s a Devil’s Knot of a crime comedy but the Vanity Fair poorly sets up her Legally Blonde police officer character for Wild shenanigans pieced together with Mud.
124. Vacation (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley) – 1/10
Netflix has an analytics function that dictates its original programming solutions. For instance, House of Cards came from a crossover of users watching American Beauty and the original BBC’s House of Cards. This is a film written with Venn diagrams – and someone forgot a compass. (Because it’s a vacation, so the compass helps them find the way, but also a compass is something you used to draw circles.)
125. Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (Steve Martino) – 0/10
Great, now Woodstock’s a Minion. Like Charlie Brown kicking Lucy’s football, The Peanuts Movie is something no one should ever see.
There are a few 2015 releases that would have made this year’s top 10 like Anomalisa and Cemetery of Splendour. But they must wait. Life can only get better. Take care.