Jack Giroux’s Top 10 Movies of 2015

Ex Machina

5. Ex Machina

“What does it really mean to be human?” is often a question posed in science-fiction. Novelist-turned-screenwriter-turned-director Alex Garland has asked that question in the past (Sunshine, The Beach), but he does it best in Ex Machina, exploring the selfishness and hubris of humanity. What makes Ava (Alicia Vikander) “human” is exactly what makes Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Nathan (Oscar Isaac) human: she’s driven purely by her own desires. What would really happen if some alcoholic super genius bro created A.I.? It wouldn’t be a pretty picture, and that’s certainly the case in Garland’s cynical (or honest) sci-fi thriller. The artificial intelligence, most likely, would be an extension of us, and Ava is very much her father’s daughter.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

4. The Hateful Eight

Here’s a Quentin Tarantino film that’ll grow richer with time. At first, I knew The Hateful Eight was great fun, but it took a few more viewings to realize it’s a genuinely great movie. Once you know the film’s second half, details before the intermission take on new meaning. The first 90 minutes feature some of Tarantino’s most dramatic and suspenseful writing to date, while the last half is a bloody, vicious standoff. Despite being set mostly in one location, The Hateful Eight is a true epic. All the characters are so richly drawn, with tantalizing backstories. Some of the stories hinted at, like Major Marquis Warren’s (Samuel L. Jackson) chilling and funny recollection of General Sandy Smither’s (Bruce Dern) son, are told by somewhat unreliable protagonists — but whether they’re true or not, they’re still stories you’d kill to see told on the big screen. A whole world gets painted in Minnie’s cozy haberdashery.

Emily Blunt in Sicario

3. Sicario

Director Denis Villeneuve is one of the most exciting directors working today. With Prisoners and Enemy, he made a commercial thriller and an art house horror picture, respectively — two wildly different but equally unnerving dramas. With Sicario, the director crafts his most efficient, heart-pounding experience yet. The sparse exposition, the moral ambiguity, and the three excellent performances make for an unforgettable experience. Sicario is almost more of a horror movie than it is a thriller. Even a shot of a wristband sends a chill down your spine.

Mad Max Fury Road - Max and Furiosa

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

If Red Bull didn’t taste like utter garbage, I’d say George Miller‘s Mad Max sequel is Red Bull put on celluloid. Mad Max: Fury Road feels like a movie that’s been bottling up in Miller for years — which it had been — and then burst out of him. Some have said this sequel is youthful in its high-octane energy, but it takes a wise master to make an action movie of this caliber — one that doesn’t lose sight of story and character amidst the muscular, practical action. Its clean, bold plot points breeze by almost unnoticed, thanks to minimal dialogue, while the visceral momentum of its nonstop chase propels the audience towards a cathartic conclusion.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl trailer

1. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

This directorial debut left me in tears at the Sundance Film Festival. The immensely talented Marielle Heller has made an honest and vibrant coming-of-age tale. Between the beautiful hand-drawn animation, the enlightening and clever narration, and Bel Powley’s versatile performance, this is an incredibly intimate subjective picture. We experience the world as Minnie does. What’s exciting for Minnie is portrayed as exciting, no matter how devious her acts are, and the same goes for any moments of pain and confusion she encounters. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is uncompromising and touching, never judging its troubled and deeply funny characters. Heller’s adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner‘s graphic novel contains a level of empathy and sensitivity we don’t see often enough.

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