The Top 50 Films of 2015

30.) 99 Homes – Ramin Bahrani is a director on the rise, so even though 99 Homes stumbles towards a clumsily disconnected ending, it continues the director’s hot streak of making small-scale movies vacuum sealed with an overwhelming amount of financial and compassionate poverty. Michael Shannon demonstrates why he is one of the best in the business as a real estate shark, while Andrew Garfield credits his dramatic talent in an all-willing role to provide for family and self. 99 Homes might look light on the surface. Make no mistake; this drama can be, at turns, a modern-day horror tragedy. Don’t miss it.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

29.) Ex Machina – You realize somewhere halfway through this wicked smart Turing test of a movie that you’re as much a subject of the science as the characters in the film. And Alex Garland’s brilliant debut feature is only elevated by the quality of the cast and the originality of his script. Ex Machina comes across as a picture about motives – right and wrong and muddled – either clashing or coalescing as one. The ending will divide and alienate audiences, which is perfect, because not enough movies are brave enough to do that anymore.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

28.) 5 to 7 – This quaint, friendly romance went so far below that radar in 2015 that I don’t think anyone even knows about it. And what a shame that is, because 5 to 7 actually has a lot to say. Some critics labeled it as male wish-fulfillment. But if you step back and simply observe through an unbiased lens, you realize that it serves the dreams and the aspirations of both sides; here a young American man having an agreed upon affair with a married French woman. With two beguiling leads, 5 to 7’s clichés and tropes never corrupt the evocative and dreamy atmosphere of its luscious world.

Where to watch: Available to rent

27.) Gaspar Noe’s Love – Only the French could get away with such an explicit film and never allow the characters to be exploited. And when I say explicit, I really mean it. The coitus is front and center, at times bordering on pornography while still maintaining enough artistic integrity to actually have value. Behind all the carnal knowledge lies a deeper understanding of separation, addiction, and mankind’s uncanny desire to go after what we don’t already have. Be warned…this isn’t for the faint of heart. But believe me when I say that Gaspar Noe’s Love is the kind of boldly original sexual odyssey that we just don’t get in America.

Where to watch: Netflix

26.) Christmas, Again – As unconventional a yuletide story as you’re bound to see, this little gem and somewhat hidden holiday film runs the entire gamut of the season’s emotions. The highs, the lows, and the waining moments between each crest. It’s the tale of a Christmas tree salesman, choosing a lonely and isolated road before reluctantly opening his door to strangers. Christmas, Again is a tiny snowglobe of a movie, filled with people and interactions and dialogue as rich as they are real, as well as being a launching pad for its complex leading man Kentucker Audley.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix

25.) James White – In the opening moments of James White, the titular young man sits alone in a bar. Headphones on, searching for solace through smooth jazz while electronic music thumps in the background. So many movies start off errantly; this unwraps a canvas. From there the painting is of a troubled, disenfranchised, privileged youth navigating recent losses in his family. First dad, now his dwindling cancer stricken mother. James, supremely played with aplomb and a pitbull tenacity by Christopher Abbott, stumbles through the streets of New York. He’s confrontational and afraid. The subject matter may be well-trodden, but what strikes viewers as feeble assures itself with a violent, brash attitude longing to be tamed.

Where to watch: Netflix

24.) Amy – The torment of this doc on singer Amy Winehouse – as you’ll come to realize – is how much love and passion was housed inside her anachronistic soul. She was of a different time and place than what was her present, a rare breed of talent not made to cope with the trials of celebrity status. Amy, in its strongest moments, provides a small glimpse outside the paparazzi portraits and TMZ tabloids to finally introduce the world to a gentle spirit gone too soon.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

23.) Call Me Lucky – Like most of you, I hadn’t heard of comedian Barry Crimmins before heading into this documentary. Yet once the credits roll, you come to know the man as intimately as those in your most inner circle. At first glance this appears to be just another biography, but hold with it. Call Me Lucky is comical, unsettling, and tragically personal. You stay because of Crimmins’ magnetic presence, and are left deeply moved by the curses and the demons hiding behind all of the vexed humor.

Where to watch: Netflix

22.) Mommy – The up and coming filmmaker prodigy Xavier Dolan (just age 27) released two movies this year, this and the inferior but Hitchcockian Tom at the Farm. With Mommy though, Dolan delivers a technically adroit film whose style and creative choices always add to the greater service of the story. At times slow, others difficult, the movie counteracts the negatives of its committed style by managing to be up front and subversive all in the same breath. Mommy may not be perfect, but it explores and relishes in the flaws of living like few others films can or ever do.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

21.) Creed – No, this isn’t the new Rocky movie. Creed is always entirely itself, sometimes withdrawn and at others emphatically blending together the insights of possessed youth and learned maturity. The movie serves as a calling card for star Michael B. Jordan, and presents us to the most empathetic version of the battered Balboa to date. It inspires dogged tenacity and along the way celebrates a minority culture that rarely ever gets to dominate the screen. Creed stands victorious in its corner as more than just another boxing movie. It’s everything our society needs to exemplify.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

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