Before I get into my top 5 movie picks for 2015, I have a confession to make. I haven’t yet seen the Star Wars: the Force Awakens, even though it was a pretty sure pick for the list. It literally opened just a few days ago, and my love for Star Wars isn’t quite enough to deal with the infestation of nerds that is sure to be packing the theatre. I like nerds just fine (hello, I’m definitely one of them), but theatre mania and opening weekend madness is not something I have any interest in. I’ll likely see it in like a month, when the hype has calmed down; here’s hoping that I don’t stumble across any spoilers in the meantime! Okay, and now to the films that actually did make the list!
Kingsman: the Secret Service (2014)
There seemed to be a lot of spy movies out this year, ranging in seriousness from the latest in the James Bond franchise (Spectre) to the Melissa McCarthy-led Spy, but the one that really stood out from the genre for me was Kingsman. I saw this relatively early in the year, and was immediately charmed by the careful balance of action-packed stunts (I don’t think any of us will be able to look at Colin Firth the same way again) and the slightly less-than-subtle jokes (mostly centring around Samuel L. Jackson’s well-meaning villain), so it was a sure pick for the list. It might have had to compete directly with Spectre if I had managed to see it in time, but the library is keeping me waiting, so the dilemma of potentially having two spy films in the list was nonexistent!
Song of the Sea (2015)
This movie was totally adorable! Like I haven’t seen an animated film be this good since the peak of Studio Ghibli circa Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Not only is the animation style absolutely stunning and unique in a world washed with Disney and claymation (which are totally fine, but there’s a touch too much of it sometimes), but the mythology adds a whole other level of sophistication to the storytelling. Most of us who know anything about folklore have heard stories of the Selkies - seal-women who can shed their skins to become human for a time, but who ultimately return back to the sea, leaving their loved ones bereft - but this is the first film that I’ve seen which really explores this legend in-depth successfully. To top it all off, the protagonist’s brother, Ben, has an adorably charming large mutt who looks like he could be related to Oscar & Felix (the large and silly pups I babysit).
Woman in Gold (2015)
This film was at the very top of my watch list this year, and even after having to get it from the library twice (note to self: always check that you’re putting a hold on the DVD version since you don’t own a blu-ray player…) it was totally worth the wait! Not only is this film about art theft during World War 2 (a topic that intrigues me very much) and specifically about repatriation of the art that was stolen by the Nazis, but it’s a totally true story that manages to translate well on screen. Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds play surprisingly well opposite each other, and it’s ne’er impossible not to get complete caught up in their struggle to take down the Austrian government in court. Not bad for a little old lady and her lawyer, eh? I have yet to see the documentary that chronicles the entire story (Stealing Klimt), but that’ll go on my watch list for next year.
Age of Adaline (2015)
For a film that isn’t actually very complex, I absolutely loved the experience of watching this movie. The story is simply that of a woman who stops aging, and the complexity of her falling in love in the modern world and potentially having her secret revealed, but the way that the story is told makes the film feel like it’s a book. There’s careful placement of outside narration, the characterization is subtle, and the imagery is simple but effective, which culminates in elevating the emotional quality of the film to a place that it would not have been able to achieve otherwise. Plus, this film is absolutely perfect for Blake Lively, as it gives her the vehicle to prove that she’ll become one of these classic woman (a la Tilda Swinton, Helen Mirren, and Cate Blanchett) who will continue to be fabulous for the entirely of their lives with seemingly little effort.
Even with the success of Maleficent last year (a sure shot for the top-5) I was very sceptical of this film going in. Unlike it’s predecessor, which focused on the untold story of the villain, the story of Cinderella is something that I much prefer to see given a relatively traditional spin. It is a classic fairytale after all, and messing with the story too much can potentially end in disaster. But Disney kept it pretty simple this time around, and didn’t even allow for the odd choice in fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to throw the story - though I will admit that I was less than thrilled with Carter’s lacklustre performance. Even though I’m still a die-hard cynic when it comes to romance in the real world, I didn’t find myself wanting to throw up too often while watching this film, since both Cinderella and the Prince are given at least some realistic personality traits besides both being beautiful and fated to fall in love. And really, even the die-hard cynic needs some fairytale romance in her life!
*images from IMDB