Angie Han’s Top 10 Movies of 2015


10. Cinderella

Kenneth Branagh‘s Cinderella doesn’t try to reinvent its source material. Instead, it makes the centuries-old fairy tale feel vital again by going back to all the reasons it’s stuck around so long in the first place. Branagh emphasizes its timeless moral — “have courage and be kind” — by framing Cinderella’s goodness as a choice, not an innate quality, and doubles down on the fantasy by serving up sumptuous textures, vivid colors, and a genuinely lovable prince (played by the former King in the North, Richard Madden). Cinderella feels simultaneously old and new, which is to say, timeless.

The Martian review

9. The Martian

After some recent stumbles, Ridley Scott returned to form with this surprisingly upbeat survival drama. (Not comedy, no matter what the HFPA says or how many disco tunes are on the soundtrack.) The Martian is as terrifying as it needs to be, but it’s really more interested in boosting your spirits than depressing them. The story of a single astronaut (Matt Damon at his most endearingly Matt Damon-y) stranded hundreds of miles from home becomes a paean to the resilience of the human spirit, and a pep rally for the importance of science.

Jessica Chastain Crimson Peak

8. Crimson Peak

Okay, so Crimson Peak wasn’t exactly the haunted house horror movie we were promised. You know what it was, though? Guillermo del Toro‘s take on a Brontë-style Gothic romance, complete with a crumbling mansion, a dwindling fortune, a mysterious suitor, a scandalous family secret, and the best portrait of monstrous femininity this side of Gone Girl‘s Amy Dunne. The chameleonic Jessica Chastain disappears into her most extravagant role yet, methodically breaking down Lucille’s brittle exterior to unearth the demons within.


7. Anomalisa

In contrast to the grand scale and meandering trajectory of his last film, Synecdoche, New YorkAnomalisa is straightforward and small — literally small, even, since Charlie Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson have opted to use puppets. But it’s unmistakably a Kaufman film. It literalizes what we have trouble articulating, and metaphorizes what we’ve stopped noticing. Anomalisa isn’t a cheery movie by any means, but its bleak outlook paradoxically make this cold world feel a little bit warmer. After all, it means you’re not the only one hurting.

Slow West

6. Slow West

Some movies romanticize the Wild West as a mythical land of possibility, where heroes duke it out with villains. Others zero in on the unrelenting brutality of the environment, and the steeliness of the people who live there. Slow West unfolds at the crossroads, following a young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) whose idealized visions — of love, of courage, of the New World — are continually punctured by unwelcome truths. It’d be bleak if it weren’t so funny, and goofy if it weren’t so insistently grounded.

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