Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015 in Review: My Top 10 Movies of the Year

Six foreign-language films, one stop-motion animation, two Sundance premieres, one short film (animated): Those are the movies that comprised my Top 10 films of 2015. And here they are...
1. The Tribe     
2. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem   
3. Anomalisa    
4. Experimenter     
5. World of Tomorrow  
6. The End of the Tour  
7. Phoenix  
8. Eden    
9. Son of Saul  
10. Hard to Be a God

I went into detail over at The New Republic, although I should point out that, because Will and I have a hard-and-fast rule about not including short films in our Top 10s, I left off Don Hertzfeldt's terrific World of Tomorrow, slotting another Sundance premiere, James White, in at No. 10 instead. (And if you'd like to see my more extensive Village Voice ballot, which includes votes for different acting categories, you can check that out here.)

Rather than talking about the 2015 film world in general, I'd rather focus on the fond personal memories I have about the year gone by. Tops on the list would have to be my SAG Foundation conversation with Yana Novikova, the deaf star of The Tribe. Our Q&A required two interpreters but could not have been more engaging and insightful. Watching this young woman interact with deaf audience members after the screening was an absolute treat.

I also remember leading another SAG Foundation talk this past year, this one the night before I left for Sundance, with Boyhood director Richard Linklater and star Ellar Coltrane. It had been almost exactly a year since they had debuted the film at Sundance 2014, and now they were in the midst of a major Oscar campaign. Some of us actually believed it was going to win Best Picture, and when I said goodbye to Linklater that night I wished him good luck. (After all, Boyhood was my favorite film of that year.) He gave me a warm smile, but he was too modest for more than that. Maybe he could already sense that Birdman's momentum was going to overwhelm his little film. Or maybe he simply didn't care about awards, which is the better attitude anyway.

After a year off to write a book about Public Enemy, I returned to Cannes this past summer. I consider myself lucky to have seen two movies with the exact perfect person for each. Jordan Hoffman loves Woody Allen as much as I do, and so to see one of his films at Cannes was a dream come true. Hey, Irrational Man isn't great, but to share it with him was a blast. And Justin Chang was an ideal seatmate for Inside Out. He thought he was the only one crying; I just happened to be a little more composed than he was. Even if the overall festival wasn't exemplary, hey, there were plenty of gems. (And I look forward to seeing The Lobster and Cemetery of Splendour again.)

My PE book was probably the piece of writing I'm most proud of from 2015, but I'm also quite pleased with another book of mine that came out this past year: Martin Scorsese in Ten Scenes. My thanks to Mark Graham for inviting me to promote the book by writing a defense of Shutter Island for Decider. I feel like I finally got out of my system the myriad reasons why I feel that movie is a masterpiece.

I wrote many, many pieces this year, and because I did the writing, I am simply too close to them to know which ones were the best. But I really enjoyed collaborating with Alissa Wilkinson on a piece for Movie Mezzanine about World of Tomorrow and Hertzfeldt's work in general. (It's currently unavailable as the site prepares for its relaunch, but I hope you'll get to read our back-and-forth correspondence soon.)

Likewise, getting to do a Dissolve Forum with Noel Murray on White Men Can't Jump was plain ol' fun. The loss of The Dissolve was one of 2015's most painful developments: I am gladdened to see its writers and editors kicking ass across the web since their labor of love was shuttered.

Other highlights: Getting to spend some time with Charlie Day. Talking hip-hop with Randall Park. Hanging out with Caitriona Balfe on the rooftop terrace of an L.A. hotel. Asking Queen Latifah about what she learned from the failure of her talk shows. Talking to Ellen Page about life as an out actress. But the tops of the tops was my sitdown with Will Smith, who was as energizing and inspiring as I could have hoped. I really love doing these Backstage cover stories, which have given me an even greater appreciation for actors and acting.

What else? I'm sure I'm forgetting dozens of great moments. But I did really love getting to cover the Academy's annual Sci-Tech Awards. Margot Robbie and Miles Teller should host more things together. Also, apparently I look good in a tux.

One of the year's more surreal and gratifying moments was the great Neko Case writing this piece about that whole Playboy kerfuffle from 2014. I am grateful to her for her apology, and hope she knows that it was completely unnecessary. To this day, I'm sick about how someone on Playboy's social media team handled that original tweet and angry at all the people online who gave Case grief because of her very funny response. I already considered Case to be one of our greatest musicians; her handling of this whole silly internet exchange only made me admire her thoughtfulness and artistry more.

Over at Rolling Stone, I covered Stephen Colbert's first night on the new show. (Fingers crossed his Late Show finds it way in 2016.) I also really enjoyed writing about Obama's last appearance on David Letterman's show. And I got to see my byline in the print edition, which would have completely freaked out the 15-year-old version of me: It was a profile of W/ Bob & David.

After four years, Will and I pulled up stakes from Deadspin to start writing for The New Republic. We love our new digs, but we do miss working with Rob Harvilla and the rest of the great team over at Deadspin. (And Will and I continue to love doing our ranked lists for Vulture.)

In May of 2015, I was appointed Senior U.S. Critic over at Screen International, where I've been writing since 2005. I'm honored by the new title and thrilled to be working with a great team, which includes my reviews editor and friend Fionnuala Halligan.

But the most profound moment of the year gone by, oddly, was my wife and I purchasing our first home. Deciding not to have kids, she and I won't ever experience what childbirth and parenthood are like, but the simple process of putting down a large chunk of money and becoming homeowners taught me things about myself that I could never have imagined. If you know me in real life, feel free to ask: I'm very happy to bore you about it at length.

Here's to a fruitful 2016. I still have no idea who I'm going to vote for. But I'm fairly certain which candidates I'm never, ever going to vote for.