As an inveterate moviegoer, for years, I’ve noted my favorite films of the year, sharing those opinions with any friends who cared to listen.
Starting with Creative Loafing in 2009, I’ve had the honor of writing virtually every day about the events of the day. Now — right before I take off for the holidays to my California roots — I wrote a compendium of “Top Tens” of 2015, not only of favorite movies but music and books as well.
Unless you’re a professional critic, however, it may be somewhat foolhardy to publish a top-10 list in mid-December, particularly when some of the biggest releases of the season have yet to drop.
So, as a caveat, I reserve the right to add and subtract films I’ve seen that are considered 2015 releases (even those that don’t come to the Tampa Bay area until February).
For example, my favorite movie of last year was something that wasn’t released in Tampa until mid-January: A Most Violent Year, directed by J.C. Chandor, starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Interesting (to me anyway) was that Chandor directed my favorite from 2013, the Robert Redford pic All is Lost, in which the film consisted of just the iconic Hollywood actor, his boat, and the sea.
Anyway, enough procrastinating.
Here’s the top 10 movie list:
1 — Sicario — The most exciting film of the year. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, whose 2013 thriller “Prisoners” was the best in its genre since “Mystic River,” and the director of the very trip “Enemy,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Watching Sicario was a riveting experience. Emily Blunt was magical, and Josh Brolin was intriguing, but Benicio Del Toro’s performance was dynamic.
2 — Room — Maybe it was just the material, but this film still sticks in my head two weeks after viewing it. The young child, Jacob Tremblay, is apparently being seriously considered for an Oscar nomination. Brie Larson already has one playing the mother.
3 — Far from the Madding Crowd — Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel comes to life in this release starring Carey Mulligan, who has never been better. I’m not usually one for English period pieces, but I dug this.
4 — The Gift — I’m going to guess that you won’t see this film in any other top 10 lists. So you can thank me after you watch the film on home video/VOD. Who knew that actor Joel Egerton was so talented? This Australian actor is sort of a big deal, I guess. He’s in a lot of movies (and was particularly good in Black Mass). He’s a triple threat, though — as good if not better a writer and director as an actor in this very Hitchcockian thriller, starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall.
5 — Spotlight — You’ve heard the comparisons to it being the best movie about journalism since 1976’s All The President’s Men. It is a fantastic film.
6 — Mistress America — Director/writer Noah Baumbach is becoming more Woody Allen-like as he gets older. He released two big mainstream comedies in 2015 (the other was While We’re Young). This is a very whimsical film, and one of the funniest of the year.
7 — Brooklyn — OK, get the handkerchief ready, because good luck holding back the tears toward the end of this very solid picture, set in the 1950s in Ireland and Brooklyn.
8 — I’ll See You in My Dreams — Underrated picture of the year, which I only saw recently. The trailer made it look a bit clichéd, but what happens toward the end of this film made it rather special.
9 — Steve Jobs — Psychologically complex. Yeah, nobody saw it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any good. It was.
10 — Creed — The complete surprise of the year. Then again, it was directed by Ryan Coogler, director of the great Fruitvale Station from 2013, which also starred Michael B. Jordan. Trades on Rocky nostalgia, with a nod to the 1976 classic that started the series.
Music (live and recorded):
1 — Tame Impala, Currents — my favorite band just got bigger with this release loaded with hit singles. As has been noted by everyone, band leader Kevin Parker eschewed the pure psychedelic guitar work for a funkier sound — at times like a little Michael Jackson, a little Prince, a little Daft Punk.
2 — Deerhunter, Fading Frontier
3 — Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars/Cherry Depression — The Baltimore-based dream-pop band had not one, but two major releases within a few months this year.
4 — Best Coast, California Nights.
5 — The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face” — this single wore me down.
6 — Courtney Barnett, “Dead Fox.”
7 — Dreamers, Big Guava Fest, May 9.
8 — St. Vincent live, Governors Ball, June 4, NYC — As far as I’m concerned, Annie Clark is one premier talents in all of rock today. For me, this show will always be memorable as she took the stage with her band right at 8 p.m. on the Friday night of the three-day music festival located in between Manhattan and Brooklyn on Randall’s Island.
9 — Passion Pit, Big Guava Fest, May 9.
10 — War on Drugs, Governors Ball, June 6.
1 — One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad.
2 — City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (halfway through this 900-page novel, and it’s pretty darned great).
3 — Ghettoside by Jill Leovy.
4 — The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daughtery.
5 — Spring Chicken: Stay Young Together (or Die Trying) by Bill Gifford.
6 — Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson.
7 — Believer: My 40 Years in Politics by David Axelrod.
8 — Purity by Jonathan Franzen.
9 — How Tom Wolfe Became Tom Wolfe, November Vanity Fair.
10 — Five Hostages by Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, July 13.