Jack Giroux’s Top 10 Movies of 2015

The Big Short trailer

10. The Big Short

There is a real anger and sadness to The Big Short, and as uproarious as co-writer director Adam McKay‘s dramedy is, the humor never makes light of or sugarcoats the 2008 financial crisis. The comedy, if anything, heightens the drama. 90% of this movie, maybe even more than that, is exposition, and exposition is hardly ever this exciting to watch. You may not always fully comprehend every bit of information, but that doesn’t matter, because you always understand what it all means to the characters — a cast of loners and oddballs that, for the most part, hate how right they are.

Slow West

9. Slow West

This would make for a terrific double feature with Jim Jarmusch‘s Dead Man. Like Jarmusch’s unconventional western, writer-director John Maclean‘s directorial debut is wacky and melancholic. The last 20 minutes of this perfectly paced 85-minute movie hit you like a ton of bricks. The humor and brutality complement each other exceedingly well, as do Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender‘s performances. The two characters couldn’t be more different, but they both go on an unexpected, funny and heartbreaking journey together. Also, it must be said, Fassbender’s loner is introduced with one succinct, telling line of dialogue – “Just because she wears a dress don’t make her a lady” – which expresses his humorous and weary worldview, which is amplified by Smit-McPhee’s dreamer.

Greta Gerwig directing

8. Mistress America

Noah Baumbach‘s delightful comedy is almost exhausting. On first viewing, by the end, I was left drained by the speed of the Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s dialogue (a tip: don’t see an extremely fast-paced comedy after a long day of movies at Sundance). After a few more viewings, that dialogue just gets sweeter and sweeter to listen to. The rapidity makes you want to lean in and hear every word, afraid to miss a single line of dialogue. Mistress America is a movie that leaves a smile on your face both throughout its runtime and once the credit rolls. The lovably naive characters, Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham‘s joyful score, and the expertly timed banter — it’s a total blast of energy. Baumbach often highlights the unpleasantness of life, but in Mistress America, he shows the joys.

Bridge of Spies poster

7. Bridge of Spies

Why do we no longer treat Steven Spielberg movies as events? Perhaps it’s because, at this point in his career, we simply expect great movies from him, and when we get another, we’re not as appreciative as we should be. Bridge of Spies is an excellent drama — one that shows the best and, in some cases, the worst in people. James Donovan (Tom Hanks) represents the best, a good man who just wants to do the right thing, and sometimes that comes at a price. Hanks — who, for my money, is one of the massive stars that can naturally play an everyman (even though Donavon is rather extraordinary) — is charming and confident as “the standing man,” and the way Spielberg has that speech echo throughout the movie, in his framing and Hanks’ performance, is simple but entirely effective.

Steve Jobs - Michael Fassbender (2)

6. Steve Jobs

Biopics are rarely ever this exciting. They’re often a series of CliffsNotes with little substance, which hardly makes for a satisfying narrative. A biopic that zeroes in on one event or a handful of moments in time is always refreshing, and that’s exactly what Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs does. Written by Aaron Sorkin, this breathlessly paced drama tells an audience everything they need to know about Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) through three pivotal presentations in his career, not his childhood or his last days. Admittedly, sometimes the narrative is a little too convenient — which Sorkin pokes some fun at in the third act — but it’s hardly a problem. Steve Jobs is an invigorating portrait of ambition, fatherhood, and missing the big picture.

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