The year is almost over. Christmas is done and dusted and the bells are about to ring on a brand new year. It only feels right, then, to take a look back over the last twelve months, specifically in relation to cinema. It’s been a bumper year, with everything from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Birdman hitting the screen, so much so that there’s still no Academy Award frontrunner.
So, to provide you with an idea of what I’ve liked best from this year’s offerings, here’s a list of my top five (narrowed down from twenty, and then from ten). Bear in mind that these are my choices and my choices alone. If yours differ in any way, then better for it, as it builds more of a case for what a stand-out year it’s been.
1. Carol came late in the year, November to be precise. I’d heard from various screenings elsewhere that it was something special, but I didn’t quite believe the hype until I saw it for myself. It’s beautiful, anchored by two outstanding performances by co-leads Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The story may be simple, but the emotion, power and passion in the way it’s told ensure it leaves a big impression.
2. 45 Years is a film that I was lucky enough to see at the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in June. I’d missed the two public screenings, but thankfully managed to catch it on the final day of the festival. I wasn’t disappointed. Andrew Haigh, who made a mark with Weekend a few years back, delivers yet another powerhouse slice of British cinema.
3. Sci-fi isn’t normally my thing, so it was a shock to me that I was so captivated by Ex Machina. Part of that had to do with the fact that the sci-fi played second fiddle to a dark, psychological and thrilling chamber piece between three characters, played superbly by the trio of Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and – with extra emphasis – Alicia Vikander.
4. Tangerine is a mini marvel, and not just because it was shot with no money on a series of modified iPhone’s. The film is alive from the very start, brimming with such fizz and spark that any limitations are quickly forgotten about. In fact, it’s so light on its feet that it doesn’t dawn on you how insightful and eye-opening a film it really is.
5. Pixar took a few years off after the release of Monsters University, only to come back all guns blazing with Inside Out, one of their sharpest and most adult efforts yet. Set inside the mind of an 11 year old during a difficult transitionary period, this animated gem scores big laughs, while broadcasting some pretty substantial life messages at the same time.
If you’re interested, then other films I loved this year include: Whiplash, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, The Tribe, Mommy, Sicario, Love & Mercy and Mad Max: Fury Road.