Jacob Hall’s Top 10 Movies of 2015

2015 top 10 carol

7. Carol

Evocative and nuanced, Carol is the kind of movie that politely ask you to meet you halfway. Its characters, a young clerk and the older woman she falls for in 1950s New York City, must hold their affections and desires close to their chest. One misspoken word, one wrong glance, and their worlds will come crumbling down. This means Carol is a romance built around two women whose longing for one another is told through subtle looks and dialogue with double meaning. To carefully watch these two carefully fall in love with one another is to fall in love with them as well. Director Todd Haynes wields melodrama like precision weapon – there is just enough of his Douglas Sirk fetish on display to heighten the drama, but not so much that the film ever loses touch with its complex emotional core. Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman frame their low-key but deeply moving tale of forbidden love in painterly compositions, where colors often tell us everything we need to know. Carter Burwell‘s score fills in all of the blanks the characters leave in every spoken sentence. Costume designer Sandy Powell ensures that both leads are impeccably dressed. Most importantly, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give career-best performances, breathing life into characters who could have easily felt cold and distant. This is a beautiful film in every way.

2015 top 10 it follows

6. It Follows

The best horror stories feel like they’ve always existed. The genius of David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows is that it feels like an adaptation of an urban legend that’s always been around. You can see this yarn being cooked up around a campfire or in the wee hours of a sleepover: a malevolent force (a ghost? a demon?) that pursues its victim at a slow and steady pace, never moving faster than a brisk stroll but also never stopping. And the only way to get rid of it is to “pass it on” by having sex, cursing your partner with a new walking nightmare. Mitchell, a master of capturing suburban malaise and unrelenting terror, has crafted a instant a horror classic. It Follows isn’t just nerve-wracking – it’s smart and funny and filled with actors who transform this list of victims into people worth caring about (Maika Monroe is especially good). While it may be easy to dismiss this film as a “haunted STD” story, the horror at the center of It Follows is more personal than that. There’s a reason this story takes place in a Peanuts-style world of no adults and there’s a reason these kids are so painfully on their own at all times. It Follows is less about a killer ghost/demon/It and more about raw terror that accompanies the bumpy passage into adulthood. The best horror is about something and It Follows is about that key summer where you learn that life is short, your childhood is over, and that you are going to die someday. And it does all of this while being really, really fun.

2015 top 10 the hateful eight

5. The Hateful Eight

With The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino has provided a vicious retort for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. While his previous two films were about giving the victims of historical wrongs a chance to fight back and find bloody, fanatical satisfaction on the movie screen, the latest effort from modern Hollywood’s most consistent provocateur rubs your nose in the sins of the past, giggling the whole time. Shot with antique CinemaScope lenses on 65mm film, The Hateful Eight looks like a high-pedigree epic but feels like Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia‘s equally sleazy cousin (who just finished reading some Agatha Christie). For the its first 90 minutes, the members of Tarantino’s all-star ensemble feel each other out, speaking in riddles, half-truths and outright lies. In its second 90 minutes, the guns come out and the truth starts to gush alongside the blood and the gore and the brains. The Hateful Eight is a murder mystery where everyone is guilty, where each character is emblematic of the rot festering in post-Civil War America and, by natural extension, America in the year 2015. Despite their varied backgrounds, everyone in this sordid tale is a foul, loathsome villain, a symptom of the darkness no one wants to talk about. This is a mean movie, a bucket of icy water in the face after the catharsis of Django. The Hateful Eight takes its time, and indulges in its own tangents. It doesn’t like you and it doesn’t care if you like it. That’s aggressive and brave and suicidal and ridiculous and, well, that’s Tarantino.


4. What We Do in the Shadows

Someday, and it could be tomorrow or it could be ten years from now, What We Do in the Shadows will be widely recognized as one of the best horror-comedies ever made. If you’ll allow some anecdotal evidence, it’s certainly weathered the past year awfully well as I’ve watched it more than any other movie released in 2015. It just keeps getting funnier and more satisfying every single time. Directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have created something that could have been unbearable: a faux documentary following a house full of vampires struggling to get by in Wellington, New Zealand. The film works because on three levels. First, its legitimately hilarious, full of quotable lines and layered gags that pay off like clockwork. Second, its characters weather these jokes without becoming jokes themselves and you end up legitimately caring for eccentric cast of misfits. Most importantly, Clement and Waititi actually showcase a respect for the horror genre and monsters in general. This silly comedy does more with vampire mythology than most “real” horror movies, crafting a world that is respectful to ancient legends and past cinematic incarnations, mining comedy from transplanting these concepts to modern day. The result is a movie that deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Shaun of the Dead, a movie that’s as sweet as it is funny as it is bloody. You may not know it yet, but this is your new favorite movie.

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