From Inside Out to Bajrangi Bhaijaan, here’s the list of movies that utterly charmed us in 2015!
45 Years – The history of film contains many great ruminations on marriage, and yet every new year seems to bring another must-see on the topic. Haigh, whose terrific gay romance Weekend led to the equally great TV series Looking, turns his eye to a love story nearing its end in 45 Years, following a couple in the week leading up to their 45th anniversary party. Shortly before the celebration, the body of the husband’s long-lost girlfriend is found, perfectly preserved, in a mountain crevasse, and all of the little cracks and fissures in the marriage begin to open up. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are tremendous in the lead roles, with Rampling, in particular, conveying oceans of feeling in a mere glance.
Carol – Carol is a love story between two women in which the word “lesbian” is never once spoken. Both halves of that equation are important. Yes, it’s about two women who dare to fall in love in 1950s New York, and then dare to live out that love. But it’s also about how hard it can be to discuss these things when you don’t possess the words you might need to describe what you’re feeling. Long sections of this movie focus more on the powers of self-definition than anything else, as a young woman named Therese (Rooney Mara), who’s newly enraptured by the older Carol (Cate Blanchett) comes to realize just who she is. There’s something magical about that.
Clouds of Sils Maria – Here’s the movie Birdman thought it was — a thoughtful consideration of aging, Hollywood, and what it means to see a younger generation nipping at your heels, ready to replace you before you’re ready to go. Set mostly in a remote mountain home, Clouds of Sils Maria follows an aging actress (Juliette Binoche) and her harried assistant (Kristen Stewart) as they prepare for the actress to play the older woman in a revival of the play that made her famous as a young woman (when she played the younger role). This is a rich movie, about a great many things, but most of all, it’s about realizing you’re not invincible, that you, too, will someday become older but not quite wiser.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl – The best thing about The Diary of a Teenage Girl is how emotionally complicated it is. On the one hand, it’s the story of a young woman who is exploited and taken advantage of by her mother’s boyfriend. On the other hand, it’s a story about how she figured things out about herself because of the experience. The movie doesn’t make excuses for her statutory rapist, but it does attempt to understand his state of mind. And above all else, it digs deeply into the point of view of a girl in the full throes of adolescence, charting her every mood, emotion, and thought.
The Duke of Burgundy – Movies often shy away from sex, but they especially shy away from non-vanilla sex, usually depicting it as, at best, part of some weirdo underground fetish community that may or may not be into murdering people as well. The Duke of Burgundy, about two women in a dom/sub relationship who love to engage in power games for sexual pleasure, breaks that unfortunate tendency and sets about exploring the limits of the aging human body, the boundaries of love, and a whole bunch of other things. As the two women, Sidse Babett Knudsen (whom some will know from the lead role of the terrific Danish TV series Borgen) and Chiara D’Anna just might be the couple of the year.
Inside Out – If any movie on this list seems destined to inspire like-minded smiles and nods of agreement, it’s Pixar’s latest confection, a wonderful journey inside the brain of an 11-year-old girl that manages to juggle three protagonists (on two planes of existence, no less), while telling completely involving emotional stories about all of them. By now you’re surely familiar with the film’s central motif of the five major emotions that run a console inside the girl’s brain. However, if you haven’t seen it, you might be surprised by how much deeper its premise goes, both in terms of fun visual gags — the dream studio is the best — and in terms of understanding of more complex, adult feelings.
Mad Max: Fury Road – It still seems crazy that one of the biggest critical sensations of the year essentially boils down to one gigantic car chase. Fury Road is a massive undertaking, one that director Miller seemingly assembled entirely from a humongous plan he was keeping in his head, but it’s also a riveting character drama, focused on the taciturn Max (Tom Hardy) and the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the warrior woman he happens upon who’s trying to help several young concubines escape their imprisonment. Riveting, incendiary, and so much fun, this is the only movie of the year to feature an electric guitar that belches flame.
Tangerine – Nothing is as moving to us as simple acts of kindness, and some of 2015’s most touching onscreen moments appeared in this slice-of-life dramedy about two trans woman prostitutes who spend one Christmas Eve trying to track down the cisgender woman whom one of their boyfriends slept with. Along the way, Baker also wraps in the story of a cab driver and several other characters, until this tiny little movie feels like it features nearly all of its Los Angeles in its ensemble cast. Shot entirely on an iPhone, Tangerine could have easily become a message-driven but is, instead, about how hard it can be to just live life when everything else gets in the way.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha – A girl with weight issues. A ‘boy’ taking surly steps towards manhood. Director Sharat Katariya nails it. And both Ayushmann Khurrana as the reluctant groom, and Bhumi Pednekar as the ‘fat’ girl’, make this thing sing.
Drishyam – In times when Hindi cinema is embracing realism like never before, Nishikant Kamat’s version looks staged, reeks of unwarranted manipulation.On paper it belongs to Ajay but on screen it is Tabu who walks away with it.
Margarita With A Sraw – That people with disabilities are also people—with needs and wants—just like the rest of us, is a fact that stays shamefully unacknowledged. Under Shonali Bose’s astute baton, Kalki Koechlin does a great job of her wheel-chair bound protagonist who wants everything—bed bits and all– and leaves us smiling.
Bahubali – SS Rajamouli is a director who thinks not just big, but humungous. ‘Bahubali’ is an epic adventure, of the sort of scale and ambition Indian cinema has never witnessed. Can’t wait for part 2!
Masaan – Banaras is a pulsating character in Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut feature, which touches upon such weighty matters as life and death, society and repression, caste and class, grieving and healing. Deftly directed, from a sharp, mapping-the-terrain script by Varun Grover. And Vicky Kaushal is a great find.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan – Kabir Khan cobbles together an adorable little girl, Salman Khan as Being Hanuman, Nawazuddin as a bumbling TV reporter across the border, and rousing Indo-Pak bhaichara, and the subversive frisson created by a Muslim superstar playing a Ram bhakt in our time of ‘intolerance’. Mainstream cinema with definite smarts.
Piku – Shoojit Sircar presents a completely new situation in Hindi cinema—an irascible old man, played by Amitabh Bachchan, with twin obsessions: his bowel movements, and his unmarried daughter. Time for ‘filmi romance’ (between the lissome Deepika Padukone and Irrfan) to turn unconventional. And feel right!
Tell us about your favorite movie of 2015 in the comments section below!