Angie Han’s Top 10 Movies of 2015

Ex Machina

5. Ex Machina

After writing scripts for Danny Boyle and Mark Romanek, Alex Garland finally made the transition to directing, and knocked it out of the park in his first try. Ex Machina is as sharp and slippery as its three central subjects, who are played to perfection by the biggest rising stars of 2015: Star Wars: The Force AwakensOscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson and The Danish Girl‘s Alicia Vikander. It starts out as a fairy tale for the digital age, evolves into a cautionary tale for the artificial intelligence age, and then finally reveals itself as an origin myth for the future.

What We Do in the Shadows

4. What We Do in the Shadows

The specific details might vary from era to era, but what vampires basically all have in common are a dark allure. They’re creatures of the night, cloaked in shadows and fueled by fear and desire. But what’s left when you take away that mystique? What happens when you get up close and personal — really up close and personal, not just sexytimes up close and personal — with these bloodsuckers? Well, for starters, you might wind up in an airborne hiss-off over whose turn it is to wash the blood off the dishes. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement do for vampires what This Is Spinal Tap or Clement’s own Flight of the Conchords did for rock stars, puncturing their aura of glamour to get to the hilariously mundane “reality” underneath.

spotlight

3. Spotlight

There are heroes in Spotlight and there are villains, but the vast majority of the people in this movie aren’t quite either, and that’s the best thing about it. Spotlight digs past the shock of the Catholic child abuse scandal to break down how it happened. Director Tom McCarthy paints a picture of the bystanders who, unwilling or unable to notice the unpleasantness within their community, allow a vile disease to fester — and the bystanders who were finally forced, kicking and screaming in some cases, to wake up and do something about it. Spotlight may be a movie about the Church, but it’s not a story about God. It’s a story about human nature, in all its imperfection.

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

2. Brooklyn

Brooklyn snuck up on me this year. Like its protagonist, it’s deceptively simple and unassuming; also like its protagonist, it turns out to have a warmth and an intelligence that are hard to shake. Eilis’ immigrant tale feels all the more universal for being so specific, all the more significant for being so ordinary, and all the more romantic for being so steadfastly clear-eyed. The lead role makes better use of Saorise Ronan‘s innate grit and sly wit than perhaps anything else we’ve seen her in — and she’s had some pretty great roles, including AtonementHanna, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. But the bigger surprise might be Emory Cohen as Tony, a Marlon Brando type who disarms Eilis, and us, with his puppy-dog vulnerability.

Mad Max Fury Road - Coma the Doof Warrior

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m almost tired of talking about how dazzled I was by Mad Max: Fury Road, but here goes: In a year that delivered genetically enhanced dinosaurs, an A-list star dangling off a moving airplane, and our first trip to a galaxy far, far away in a decade, Mad Max: Fury Road was still the most thrilling experience at the movies this year. Nothing about this movie played it safe. Nothing about this movie should have worked. But George Miller used every cinematic tool at his disposal to deliver an experience that no other medium could, in a way no other artist could. The death-defying action, pulse-pounding score, and larger-than-life performances combine into a shot of pure adrenaline. But its visceral charms are just the beginning. Mad Max: Fury Road kept me in its thrall long after the buzz had worn off, thanks to its richly developed world and characters and sharp social commentary.

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