Jacob Hall’s Top 10 Movies of 2015

2015 top 10 the look of silence

3. The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Look of Silence is unlike any movie you’ve ever seen and you spend every second of its running time wishing it didn’t have to exist. But this is the world we live in, so it must exist. And it may be one of the most valuable and sobering documentaries ever made. Although it’s a companion piece to Oppenheimer’s equally astonishing The Act of KillingThe Look of Silence stands alone. You literally cannot believe what you are seeing. With The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer asked the death squad leaders responsible for massacring hundreds of thousands of men, women and children during the “anti-Communist purge” of 1965 to recreate their crimes on film. For his follow-up, he films a middle-aged optometrist as he seeks out and confronts those responsible for murdering his brother and traumatizing his family decades earlier. Their conversations go about as well as you’d expect, offering a powerful, and compelling, glimpse into the abyss. What happens when you stare into pure evil and see a human face staring back? Is there room for forgiveness? Is there capacity for understanding? How do you even begin to heal wounds like this? Watching these men stumble over themselves to justify themselves to a man whose family was torn apart by their actions does lasting, fundamental damage to the soul. Unlike the stylized The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer rightfully chooses to tone down any and all theatrics. The Look of Silence is dispassionate, clinical, and observational. It lets this material speak for itself. It is brave, necessary filmmaking.

2015 top 10 mad max fury road

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Director George Miller vanished into the desert for a decade and returned with one of the best action movies ever made. Mad Max: Fury Road is a near-perfect movie, utilizing the raw language of cinema to tell a simple story almost entirely through visual beats, both massive and minuscule. When characters don’t need to speak, they don’t speak – Miller trusts Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron to communicate drastic shifts in motivation through gestures and quick glances. They deliver. These dynamic between these two characters, the weary Max and the righteous Furiosa, is the heart and backbone of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is essentially one long car chase that tests the will and spirit of everyone involved. Despite the sheer amount of action, Miller never runs out of surprises. Hardy struggles through one dangerous encounter after another with the skin-of-his-teeth luck of a silent movie star. Theron crafts a powerful, but wholly feminine, heroine who may very well become the most recognizable pop culture icon to emerge from 2015. Surrounding them both is a perfectly executed mixture of practical stunts and invisible CGI. The post-apocalypse of the Mad Max series has never been this detailed, colorful or alive. The movie movies with such haste that you never want to slow down, but you could. There is so much detail on display and so much to take in. The fact that you absorb the necessary facts at 70mph while engines roar and chainsaws whir and tornadoes tear convoys asunder is a miracle. That Max and Furiosa change and their relationship subtlety evolves through the carnage is a testament to Miller’s skills as a storyteller. You know the old adage: “Show, don’t tell.” Mad Max: Fury Road kicks tell to the curb and drives show all the way to Valhalla, shiny and chrome.

top 10 movies of 2015

1. Anomalisa

The moment it clicks why Anomalisa has to be stop-motion animated may be the most powerful and unique cinematic moment of 2015. Set almost entirely in and around a nice (but not too nice) hotel, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson‘s heartbreaking and brutally honest film is quietly, mesmerizingly, stylized. These stop-motion puppets, each of them animated with so much detail that they become performances worthy of study, reinforce the worldview of David Thewlis‘ thoroughly broken Michael Stone: every single man, woman, and child looks the same, blending together into one Tom Noonan-voiced blur. Except for Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The brief relationship between Michael and Lisa, whose chance encounter with one another and ensuing series of conversations forms the backbone of Anomalisa, is moving and devastating. These two people, both desperately unhappy, look to one another as a miracle cure of sorts, that new element that will fix a broken life. Kaufman and Johnson guide us through the highs and lows of a relationship in record time: the elation upon meeting someone who stands out from the crowd, those intimate moments where you establish a powerful connection… and then the self-sabotage, where your the rotten bits of you, the broken elements, surface and poison everything. Michael Stone, a miserable father and lackluster husband who seeks profound solace from a woman he just met in a Cleveland hotel, is so specific that it hurts to watch him. Call this a tale of a mid-life crisis. Call it the story of a mental breakdown. Whatever it is, Anomalisa cuts to the darkest, most despairing truths of human existence: for some people, happiness is fleeting, loneliness is a way of life, and all you can do is desperately hold onto those little moments that shake you out of complacency. Anomalisa, which brings these complex people to life with wicked black comedy and uncomfortable nuance, is almost too real. Not bad for an animated movie.

big short

Honorable Mentions:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Crimson Peak

The Duke of Burgundy

Magic Mike XXL

The Martian

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation



Steve Jobs

The Tribe

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