by / December 15th, 2015 /

Lists: State’s Films of 2015

As a film fan, it’s important to live in the now. It’s become ever more increasingly difficult to do though. Studio schedules stretch into the next decade, chockfull of connections to our cinema-going past. But the now is still relevant, the now can be great. The now is the best blockbuster of this century, that’s refreshingly progressive while still a high-octane ride. The now are films that reach out and speak to our inner-child without trying to appease them. The now is the study of relationships, be they teacher/pupil, dominant/submissive or doppelgängers. Sometimes the now is just a revitalising jolt to a moribund genre.

So here is the collective now of all here at State. Let us know your’s below.

20. Carol

From Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train to Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, we’re not short of auteurist adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s intense psychological dramas. Yet Todd Haynes may have presented us with the most achingly personal of them all with his beautiful Christmas Carol.  The film is a sensitively-observed ballad of a relationship, out of place and out of time for its confidence and precedence over all else that’s threatening to tear it asunder, made unbearably real by the powerful central performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Like all great seductions, it builds languorously to an ultimately dizzying ending, leaving us dreamily hopeful about the shape of things to come. (Stacy Grouden)

Read Patrick Townsend’s four-star review

19. Birdman

Sure, getting the former Batman to play a semi-washed up former superhero movie star to play a warped version of himself was ingenious. Sure, the supporting cast of Watts, Stone, Galifanakis, Norton, Ryan and Risebourough helped make every single scene an acting masterclass. Sure, the gargantuan single-take cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and the teeth-rattling drum score by Antonio Sánchez was an orgy for the senses. Sure, the direction and script by Alejandro González Iñárritu made Hollywood sit up and take notice in a way that 21 Grams or Babel never quite managed (hence the upcoming superstar filled The Revenant). But really, getting right down to it, this was a heartfelt, powerful movie about a good man, gone to rot a little, and looking for nothing more than to be given a proper second chance. It’s a universal want – that desire to be taken seriously – and instead of delivering something trite and sentimental, Innarritu gave us a scalpel sharp comedy with an EQ higher than almost anything else we’ve seen this year. (Rory Cashin)

Read Rory’s four-star review

18. Macbeth

Having rewatched Prometheus recently (I know, I know…), it’s clear that the misuse of Michael Fassbender’s duplicitous android is the film’s most glaring error. It all starts going downhill once Ridley Scott takes us away from the isolation and intrigue of his first few minutes, a collection of scenes in which Fassbender’s David simply does menial tasks in humdrum fashion. Fassbender makes these moments sing, for he has an innate ability to take the skin of dark characters and stretch it over his own. In truth, once David becomes just another cog in an increasingly clumsy script, Prometheus crashes long before its titular vessel bites the dust. There’s no such issue with Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, as the Australian helmer of the gruelling Snowtown honours and tightens Shakespeare’s finest play to tremendous effect.

At the heart of his bloody (though not as violent as you may have heard) swathe, Fassbender, disappearing into the doomed and ultimately dreadful Macbeth with worrying ease. He’s ably assisted by a magnificent turn from Marion Cotillard who imbues Lady Macbeth with more sympathy than is usually afforded to her just-as-culpable character. Throw in strong support from steady hands like Paddy Considine, David Thewlis and Sean Harris (who borders on terrifying as Macbeth’s most feral foil) alongside one of the most genuinely stunning visual conclusions to a film in 2015 and you have a tale full of sound and fury, signifying just about all you could wish for from such iconic source material. (Dave Hanratty)

Read Dave’s five-star review

17. The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing is more understated, but no less powerful than his best-known work: The Look of Silence is another challenging, profound and revealing documentary on the evil that men do. Once again, he deals with the deep wounds left by the Indonesian Genocide of the 1960s, and it follows a humble optician as he talks to some perpetrators of a slaughter that left millions dead (including his close relatives). While the cavalier confessions of violence are astounding, the film shows glimmers of hope and humanity in the aftermath too: A rich, bracing experience.

(Joe Griffin)

16. Song of the Sea

If I were to judge the film of the year based purely on the beauty of its presentation alone, Song of the Sea, Tomm Moore’s second feature for the Kilkenny based animation studio Cartoon Saloon, would win hands down. With an animation style that is a cross between the swirling textures of ancient Celtic art and folklore and the gentile richness of Studio Ghibli, Song of the Sea is quite simply a gorgeous film to look at. What makes the film so rewarding is that its beauty is not just surface; it is its story, its characters that gives the film its true beauty. While it maybe based around Irish folktales involving Selkies, giants, and Faeries, it is really about the relationship between a brother and sister, their journey back to their home by the sea, and the loss of their mother, all of with are portrayed in manner that completely charming and incredibly moving. Song of the Sea is a proper family film; people of all ages can get caught up in its visual splendour, while also weep buckets of tears during its stunning, emotional climax. I know I did. (Patrick Townsend)

Read Graham White’s five-star review

15. Amy

For the last few years of her tragically short life, the ups and downs of Amy Winehouse was a constant figure among the tabloids and gossip mags. We were given information on every aspect of her life, from her love affairs, particularly with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, to her battle with her addictions to alcohol and hard drugs. Her ever-presence in the media made it seem perfectly acceptable for comedians to crack jokes at her expense, and for us to laugh at them in return. When she died, everyone agreed that it was sad, but no one could say that they were surprised. One of the most eye opening aspects of Asif Kapadia’s latest documentary Amy is that despite all this media attention, the endless parade of photographs, the endless column inches detailing her personal problems, we never knew the real person behind all this, her talents, and her deep love for the music that she was making. By only showing us archival footage, Kapadia’s film allows us to see the person behind the storm and in doing so not only shows us the life a young woman whose self-destruction overshadowed her talent, and Kapadia does an excellent job at reminding us just how talented she was, but also gives us a portrait of poisonous nature of modern celebrity culture and the media that follows it. Amy is a film that is quietly angry and utterly heart breaking at the same time. (Patrick Townsend)

Read Jennifer Gannon’s four-star review

14. Dope

Dope is a film with a short attention span – and that’s meant in the best way possible. Drawing on everything from Odd Future to the Silk Road, writer/director Rick Famuyiwa sketches a Day-Glo collage of Nineties nostalgia and modern day Los Angeles that is every bit as intoxicating as its title suggests. A star-making turn from Shameik Moore and a soundtrack filled with Golden Age classics are the icing on the cake. (Robert Higgins)

Read Robert’s four-star review

13. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

The debut feature-length film by Ana Lily Amirpour, it is safe to say that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is unlike anything else to come out this year. An Iranian vampire flick, influenced by Sergio Leone, Michelangelo Antonioni, David Lynch, and the French New Wave, this stylish noir horror is the pinnacle of cool before we even bear witness to the undead female protagonist skateboarding down an empty street, her hijab flared to imitate Dracula.

Set in a place known only as Bad City, a desolate and godless area, destroyed by drugs and small-time criminals, we follow a young man named Arash as he hopes to escape his broken impoverished home and amount to something better than the lot he has received in life. His opportunity comes as The Girl, a blood-sucking night stalker, wins his heart to the tune of White Lies, and the pair fight to obtain a one-way ticket out of this plain, which people accidentally decided to inhabit.

Argued by some to be style over substance, the film is quite the contrary, as it leads us to understand that in a patriarchal society, particularly one such as Iran, the sole beacon of hope is to follow the female who refuses to comply with the restrictive laws of a place that demands her submissiveness. (Michael Lanigan)

12. Mistress America

Following up ‘While We’re Young’, director Noah Baumbach returned to screens with ‘Mistress America’, his first collaboration with Greta Gerwig since ‘Frances Ha’. The duo penning a script laden with hilarity, its transfer from page to film heightened their quick-wit by using a Godarddian style of editing to drive the story along at a sprinters pace. This choice, at once rendered the film an unending thrill of non-stop dialogue, while also capturing perfectly the rush of being guided through Manhattan for the first time by a person one would assume made the city their own.

However, as the plot progresses, and the confident facade of the seemingly perfect Brooke, a.k.a Mistress America, falls to pieces, the subsequent insecurities revealed in each central character is the point at which the film excels. A daft, but human take on idealism, ‘Mistress America’ is a jazzy female remoulding of the buddy genre, which ought to be seen by any aspiring writer, or person tormented by feelings of inadequacy, as it reminds us of the collective bluff that drives success. (Michael Lanigan)

Read Dave Higgins’ five-star review

11. It Follows

It’s easy to shine a red-hot magnifying glass upon the structural defect that haunts It Follows; namely the problematic, occasionally contradictory nature of the eponymous terror. Sure, you can point out that for a seemingly unstoppable fatal threat, it’s quite easy to outwit and makes some weird choices that hardly help its cause. You could dig into these admittedly genuine issues, but why bother? To do so would be to needlessly undermine one of the most richly enjoyable horror films in years, an entry into a genre that frankly needs more restrained, thoughtful execution as witnessed here. It Follows shares similar 80s-indebted DNA to that of last year’s superb The Guest, and it’s not just the presence of leading lady Maika Monroe (excellent as the tortured Jay) and a killer, synth-soaked soundtrack.

This is a film that proudly wears its love of John Carpenter on its sleeve – I’m still not entirely convinced director David Robert Mitchell didn’t spirit cast and crew to the very same time and streets that peppered Halloween – and that’s just fine. Horror isn’t the most original of genres, and a well-constructed love letter is always welcome. That said, It Follows does carve out its own unique corners; how refreshing is it to have likeable youngsters in peril believably band together as friends and don’t get picked off one by one in predictable, rhythmic fashion? Also key is how Mitchell employs subtlety during intimate moments, allowing his camera to circle and linger just long enough to instil a sense of dread, resisting loud jump scares in favour of mounting paranoia. Go on, walk down the street afterwards with Disasterpeace’s score in your ears and see if you don’t blink twice at random strangers milling about their business.
(Dave Hanratty)

Read Rory Cashin’s four-star review

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