Finally, my Top 5 films of 2015.
First, an omission, Love And Mercy, the film that documented the dark years of Beach Boy (and musical genius) Brian Wilson should have been in my Top 15. Actor Paul Dano also should have been nominated for his brilliant portrayal of the young Brian. Paul Giamati is also sensational, as he always is. I also must admit, there were two films I didn’t see this past year that may have made my Top 15 list. Due to a continuing series of weird events, I missed several SAG screenings (at least 3) of The Martian.
When it finally became available at my local Red Box, the “box” broke down. So I guess I just wasn’t meant to see this one.
Beasts of No Nation: I’ve heard it was very well done with outstanding performances, I just somehow missed it.
“The Big Short”: I tried to watch this one twice, and fell asleep both times. I know this was an important film this year, it just didn’t interest me. I’m hearing it is one of the 3 strongest contenders for Best Picture, along with The Revenant and Spotlight.
Now, for my Top 5:
5. WHAT HAPPENED TO MISS SIMONE?: Originally a Netflix bio of famed singer/pianist/social activist Nina Simone, it hit the big screen for a very short time. Rare footage of Nina’s fine performances throughout her long career are featured along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Walter Cronkite, Stanley Crouch, Dick Gregory among others. Nina started as a classical pianist, before branching into Jazz, Pop, Folk and many other genres of music. This film pulls no punches on Nina’s penchant for creating controversy with not just her social commentary, but her music itself. She once said “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” Her recordings of “Sinner Man,” “I Loves You Porgy,” “Mississippi God Damn,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” still hold up today. Nina’s 1959 recording of “Little Girl Blue” was so influential, it became a surname for Janis Joplin, after Janis recorded her own version of it in 1969. “Little Girl Blue” is also the title for a recent bio on Joplin. What Happened Miss Simone? is one of the best bio films of an artist, I have ever seen. Others must love it too, as Billboards are all over LA right now, stating it has been nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Documentary” category. Too bad it didn’t win
4. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: Almost everyone thinks this was the ideal sequel to the original 3 Star Wars films. It became the fastest film to ever reach the billion dollar mark, yet may not surpass Titanic and Avatar in total box office receipts. Harrison Ford heads a cast of veterans including Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill (albeit, a brief appearance), C3PO, The Wookie, and R2D2. They are all back along with very competent new characters played by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver. The Star Wars series is indeed a true cultural phenomenon. Disney Studios and director J.J. Abrams did it justice by respecting the legacy, yet pushing ahead. Rumor has it, the film was finished less than a week before it’s release, which kept it from Oscar consideration.
3. ROOM: I don’t want to give away the plot, but this is a real thriller. Lenny Abrahamson directs what will become a cult classic. Brie Larson just may win Best Actress, but 7 year old Jacob Tremblay just may be the best child actor since Shirley Temple.
2. CAROL: I’m surprised this was not nominated for Best Film. I love “period piece” movies, and this one was almost flawless. Set in the early 1950’s, it follows the forbidden love of two adult women. Kate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are both exceptional in their roles, but to me the stars were the old cars, radios, tv’s, refrigerators, motels, neon signs and Christmas decorations. I didn’t catch one flub until the last 15 minutes, when President Eisenhower delivers his first State Of The Union speech in early 1953. Then, a 1955 Chevy quickly drives by. Other than that, I loved it !
1. SPOTLIGHT: How anyone can even consider The Big Short for Best Picture” is beyond me. In Spotlight, Director/Screenwriter Tom McCarthy (along with screenwriter Josh Singer) has assembled an incredible ensemble of talent, reminiscent of All the President’s Men and Network, two of the best films of my lifetime. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel Mc Adams, Live Shreiber, Stanley Tucci,and John Slattery head an outstanding cast of what we have very few of today, REAL journalists. They are part of the Boson Globe’s Spotlight Team of dedicated, investigative reporters. Set in the early 2000’s, you slowly watch a tepid, torturous story of child abuse and cover ups, dating back 20 years, unveiled just as it happened. Boston politics and the church involved all do their best to keep the truth from being published, but it was. The Boston Globe team won a Pulitzer Prize for their work. Spotlight is by far my pick for “Best Picture” of 2015. I said that when I first saw it last summer, and I still think so as academy voters agree.