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Methods Unsound’s 22 favourite movies of 2015

22 December, 2015 — by The Methods Unsound staff0

best-movies-2015

Here are the Methods Unsound staff’s very favourite movies of 2015.

It’s been an interesting process putting this list list together. It’s purposefully not a ‘ranked in order of best’ list as I just wanted every writer to submit only the films they genuinely enjoyed, rather than ones that they felt ‘ought’ to be mentioned in a best films of the year list. So there are notable absences – The Look of Silence, Hard to Be a God, 45 Years – and this is also why there are 22 films rather than a neater amount.

There is some democratic selection at work here though. Three writers asked for Jurassic World, but three-quarters of the editorial team thought it was a mouldy old pile of dinosaur excrement so it was vetoed. Similarly, one of my personal favourites, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, was met with nothing but shrugs from the rest of the team so I dutifully left it out. Also some of our favourite films – High Rise, The Assassin, The Witch, Bone Tomahawk – were seen on the festival circuit and aren’t officially out till next year, so it felt like cheating to include them.

Best films of 2015

Here are our favourite films of the year, many you will have seen already, but hopefully there’ll also be something not yet on your radar that we can persuade you to check out.

Amy

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I am not an Amy Winehouse fan, I don’t dislike her or her music at all, I just wouldn’t class her as one of my favourite artists, so I came to Amy with fresh eyes and a clean slate. I was not disappointed. Of course I was aware at the time of all of the media attention, worrying headlines and dirty paparazzi snaps of Amy Winehouse doing the rounds on a daily basis, but watching this documentary you come to realise and appreciate just how talented she was, how young she was when fame struck, how fragile she was, and how even the people closest to her seemed to ignore the many, many warning signs of a young girl in need of help. Quite a shocking documentary in places, which hits a nerve in our media-frenzy-led world and the consequences of it. [Toni Farrow]

Ant-Man

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A superhero whose power is to shrink down to the size of an ant – everyone on board? Okay, well how about if I told you the film suffered from numerous production problems including the exit of director Edgar Wright and the film being rewritten by Anchorman director Adam McKay and Hollywood goofball Paul Rudd? Yeah okay, it doesn’t look good. But against all odds, my favourite movie of the year was this humdinger. Marvel started getting too serious and all the fun that was prominent in its Phase One movies was starting to disappear but Ant-Man drags it kicking and screaming back to the fore with some great characters, a smart story and some truly incredible action scenes. Paul Rudd is a great leading man, equally captivating and comedic with some great support from Michael Douglas and a brilliant comic turn from Michael Pena who verges on stealing every scene he’s in. A tiny hero but big on laughs and action, for me this is one of the best Marvel movies to date. [Rich Watkin]

Brooklyn

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This year was a particularly fine one for people who like Mad Men, cry when they run out of Brylcreem and think cigarettes are the best cure for a chesty cough. The 50s and 60s were neatly packaged in 2015 primarily for their consumption, in films such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Bridge of Spies and Legend, but just when the rest of us made a vow not to see another film that had people smoking indoors, along came Brooklyn. While the other films clearly revelled in presenting a stylistic, kitsch idea of the period – which usually meant more typewriters than plot – Brooklyn by comparison was radical because it focused on the characters rather than the period they inhabited. Saoirse Ronan’s Ellis is a bright and motivated woman who leaves the comfort of the Irish coast for the urban jungle of 1950s New York, gets an education, falls in love and discovers that leaving isn’t as simple as getting on a boat. The film beautifully explores what it is to love a place but know you must leave it and the familial ties that will always bring you back, whether you like it or not. With layered performances from its cast, a script from Nick Hornby and directed by Intermission’s John Crowley, Brooklyn is one of the highlights of the year. [Benjamin Rabinovich]

Carol

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Carol is a love story that doesn’t act as a love story until halfway through the film – mainly because its protagonists themselves don’t realise it until then. Carol and Therese could not be more different. The eponymous protagonist, played by Cate Blanchett, is an affluent, assured middle-aged mother and wife in the midst of a cold war of a divorce. Therese (Rooney Mara) is a temp shop girl in the toy section of a department store. Throughout the film you’re meant to ask whether their relationship was fate, chance or choice, and director Todd Haynes is careful to allow the viewer to consider the characters’ motivations for themselves. By the end, however, you don’t really care what brought Carol and Therese together, you’re just sure as hell glad it happened. [Ben Rabinovich]

Clouds Of Sils Maria

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I’ve tried to write an in depth review of Clouds Of Sils Maria several times now but it’s really hard. Essentially, it’s like a less warped Inland Empire, all play-within-a-film-within-a-play kinda tripiness, except Clouds isn’t as obstinately weird. It’s fucking brilliant, with excellent turns from Juliette Binoche and Chloe Moretz Grace among others, but it really is a vehicle for K-Stew and her constantly upward moving star. Effortlessly cool, sullen and mesmerising, it kinda builds on her character in Still Alice but giving her centre stage where she belongs. I’m an Oliver Assayas fan too, and it sits comfortably next to Clean for all you easy reference fans out there. Basically, go and see it, then be prepared to fall in love with K-Stew if you aren’t already. [Zachary Kilburn]

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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This film is based on a graphic novel, and its cartoon animations interspersed throughout really ram home the intoxicating feeling of a bildungsroman. We are never patronised through judgment of Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), the 30+ year old lover of both Charlotte (Kristen Wiig) and her 15 year old daughter Minnie (Bel Powley). Like every great coming-of-age story, we’re both excited and scared for Minnie, but ’70s San Francisco (shot beautifully throughout Minnie’s one escapist jaunt of self-reflection) provides a friendly and soft setting, however hollow some of the drugged-up familiarity may be. The script is sharp but believable, with Minnie’s creativity the prefigurement of a blossoming strong personality that, throughout all the drama, rings beautifully clear. In part a frank, teenage perspective on sex, the film includes a scene of pseudo-prostitution where Minnie and a friend entice older but goofy boys into the toilets of a bar. This scene perfectly encapsulates the script’s bold assertion that, when you’re growing up and trying to understand the world, there is no absolute. Mistakes should be exciting and painful in turns. [Ben Davis]

The Duke of Burgundy

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Like many critics, I tuned into Peter Strickland’s ultra-weirdy follow-up to Berberian Sound Studio in the hope of lashings of stylised lesbianism, and I wasn’t disappointed. But I wasn’t titillated either. A dark, odd little film that manages to avoid passing judgement on its subjects as they request and deliver various fantasies, it’s a film (as opposed to a movie) that bases its sexual mores on mutual respect, both for viewer and participant. A fine study of sexuality and the nature of power within relationships. And properly dirty with it too. [Matt Owen]

Ex Machina

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Ex Machina is a low-key chamber piece, set in just a few rooms and played out by three characters from vastly different backgrounds and ethical viewpoints. The most sympathetic of whom is Ava (Alicia Vikander) a disturbingly alluring robot gifted with just an embryonic knowledge of the world, whose creator Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has invited lowly programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to be the human element in a Turing test, the purpose of which is to distinguish whether the ‘machine’ has the ability to exhibit genuine intelligent behaviour. It’s a quietly devastating film, tightly directed, beautifully performed and deals with themes that not only affect the individual but also the very future of humanity itself. Yet for all its cerebral power and disquieting creepiness, Ex Machina also manages to be the most gripping and powerfully unsettling sci-fi thrillers ever made. It has insidiously worked its way to becoming my favourite film of the year. [Christopher Ratcliff]

Furious 7

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I LOVE Fast And The Furious. None of this ‘lol’ love. Not ‘It’s so stupid I love it’ love. I just straight up LOVE the films. F7 was fucking amazing!!! From the opening sequence where Stath is swearing vengeance on his brother (Owen Shaw in FF6), and as he walks out, the hospital is littered with beaten-up security people, I was ON BOARD! It’s approximately 15 milliseconds before the first fight breaks out, and as it’s Stath Vs The Rock realness, it’s an EPIC one. I don’t wanna spoil any of it too much, so I’ll just highlight some of my favourite bits and then you can run out and buy it immediately and it can become your second favourite film of the year (c’mon, nothing was gonna top Jurassic World): Letty out acting EVERYBODY from the git go (she made me cry about 5 minutes into the film); Kurt Fucking Russell (that’s his official name); RONDA ROUSEY VS MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ!?!!??!?!?!?!?!?!?; Tony Jaa Vs. Paul Walker!!!; you’ve seen it in the trailer but nothing preps you for the car jump sequence; Michelle Rodriguez saving Paul Walker with her car; Michelle Rodriguez giving Iggy Azealea a well deserved look of ‘who-the-fuck-are-you-and-why-are-you-talking-to-me’; “Woman, I AM the cavalry!”; “I don’t have friends, I got family” being possibly one of the best lines of the year, to the point where I’m still considering getting a tattoo of it (Vin Diesel gets the queer family); Michelle Rodriguez OUT ACTING EVERYONE AGAIN AT A PIVOTAL POINT AT THE END THAT I CANNOT DIVULGE. Finally, everyone knows the tragedy that befell Paul Walker before filming was finished, and I have to say, the ending is one of the most well thought out, poignant farewells ever done. You really do feel like everyone on this film is family, and they really do care for each other more than anything else, and occasionally they all drive cars out of the back of planes. I can’t wait for number 8. [Zachary Kilburn]

Inside Out

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It must have been a hard pitch for Pete Docter: “I’m thinking of writing a movie where most of the action takes place inside a little girl’s head.” Eyebrows must have raised slightly higher than normal in the Pixar boardroom that day. However, this is the man who brought us the likes of Monsters Inc and Up, so Inside Out was probably one of the least ridiculous premises proposed that day. Pixar has a direct line to all the buttons that control my feels, and with Inside Out they had control of the whole damn console. It’s truly the mark of a great film where you leave the cinema with a warm and fuzzy feeling that can only be explained as wonderment – a true admiration of what you have just seen – it’s the mark of an amazing film that you go back again and have the same experience despite knowing what’s coming. It was the world of Inside Out that so enthralled me. Watching Joy and Sadness race around Riley’s brain I began to question my own headspace and wanted so badly that up in my frontal lobe I had tiny versions of them sat helping my navigate me through the day. I would love to have Amy Poehler there when I am at my happiest, Lewis Black there to ensure that my anger was righteous and witty and Bill Hader there to freak out with me when something went bump in the night. Yes there are jokes, yes it’s a family film with pretty colours and easily digestible themes, but Inside Out has so much more to show us about psychology than all the tomes Freud penned in his time. The terrifying thing is, this is supposed to be a film for children. [Ted Wilkes]

Iris

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I have a new girl-crush: her name is Iris, she has short cropped hair, big, dark-rimmed glasses, a shit-ton of bracelets and she is 94 years old. I had never heard of Iris Apfel before I stumbled across this documentary so for those of you who don’t know, Iris is a lady who has been wearing and collecting fabulous fashion items for most of her life, but it is the eclectic way she styles them together that makes her so unique. She is a genuine fashion icon and she’s still going strong. This documentary follows Iris around her day-to-day life (her 93rd year) and between photo shoots, book launches, interviews and art installations Iris recounts the story of her amazingly well-traveled life and marvels at how she has now come to be so revered by fashion society. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Iris is sassy, witty, funny and doesn’t miss a beat. And she still wears awesome outfits every single day. She is the coolest old lady I have ever seen and I know that if I live to be even half her age and be a tenth as cool, then that will have been a life well lived. [Toni Farrow]

It Follows

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It Follows features the tale of Maika Monroe’s inscrutable college student Jay, who after contracting a Sexually Transmitted Babadook, spends her days constantly being stalked by a succession of deadly figures, until she can pass the haunted chlamydia on to the next unsuspecting sexual plaything. It’s like an M.R. James ghost story rewritten by Tinto Brass, but with a similar deadpan teen realism as Dazed and Confused. It’s taught, frightening stuff with a brilliantly original conceit. And thanks to its excellent score and gorgeous cinematography it’s one of the best looking and sounding horror films ever made. [Christopher Ratcliff]

John Wick

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Usually Keanu Reeves is the mark of shit quality when it comes to modern films. I will actively avoid anything with his ‘more wooden than Pinocchio’ performance in it. How I shocked was to find this gem of cinema violence on an airplane’s normally innocuous entertainment system!? John Wick is like a ballet of gunplay and martial arts magic. Don’t look for any deep meaning or twisting plot devices, instead revel in this cinematic hurt spectacle. I should also add that it contains added Lovejoy. What more could you want? [John Hayward]

Kingsman

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Lots of people hate this, but once you accept that it’s essentially ‘Junior Kickass’, there’s a ton of fun to be had. Full of outrageous characters and ridiculous plotting, it could have fallen flat, but the simple, beautiful action sequences raise it above the crowd and turn it into a high octane (and thoroughly British) kids movie, with some genuinely charming performances and importantly, an ability to laugh at itself that’s sadly lacking in much of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s work. And where else are you going to see Mr Darcy stab a hillbilly in the head with a chair leg? {Matt Owen]

Mad Max: Fury Road

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The major feeling you’ll take away from Fury Road is one of exhilaration. It’s not just the cars, the speed, the noise, the violence, or the action. It’s the achievement. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is a character of extraordinarily badass fortitude but with complex layers of compassion and vulnerability, the stunt-work is some of the most courageous I’ve ever seen, the physical effects are bewildering and the production design is mind-boggling in its detail. However, for a film that dwells so much in violence and fluids both bodily and automobile, this is truly a beautiful film, that exists in a physical, tangible space made with care and old-fashioned craftsmanship. [Christopher Ratcliff]

The Martian

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Over the years, The USA has spent approximately £87bn retrieving Matt Damon from dangerous places. This time however they’ve take their sweet time about it, which gives us viewers the chance to watch him actually think about a problem. It’s a rarity in a blockbuster market that usually just fires a Howitzer at issues. There’s some lovely Martian vistas, but the effects never take away from the very human struggle to stay alive, and you’ll find yourself believing it’s an actual docu-drama at several points, rooting for (and often laughing with) Damon’s Mark Watney. [Matt Owen]

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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I cried at the end of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Not little tears either, big wailing buckets of the buggers. This was only made worse by the fact that at the time I was 40 thousand feet up in the air surrounded by sleeping holidaygoers who awoke to find a six foot man next to them sobbing his heart out, unable to explain anything other than pointing at the screen and mouthing, “It’s so sad.” They called a steward. I was given more whiskey and I went to sleep with everyone trying their hardest to forget what they’d just seen happen. It took me a while to really understand why Me and Earl and The Dying Girl got to me so much. It is obviously supposed to be a tearjerker, it has a lot to say about the awkward stage of growing up and it’s a beautiful story of a friendship that should never have been. But then a lot of films have all of that. The thing that got to me the most is that it’s simply a brilliant film. It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s clever and it’ll steal your heart (then it will crush it, but that’s life I suppose). Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has created the type of film that I should utterly despise out of the sort of young-adult novel that I should utterly detest, but what he has created is my film of 2015. I know that I’ll be giving it a second viewing. Pass the tissues. [Ted Wilkes]

Slow West

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It seems some of the best films this year are about young people leaving the UK for the expansive lands of America. Kodi Smit-McPhee is a young Scottish man who ends up in the American West in the 1800s looking for a girl he’s in love with, one who happens to have a $2,000 bounty on her head. The price tag attracts the attention of Michael Fassbender’s bounty hunter, whose range develops from grumpy and dangerous to caring and fatherly. Slow West is a wonderful maelstrom of themes and genres. It oscillates, sometimes violently, from a romantic coming of age comedy to an out-and-out Western. The unpredictable beats, great dialogue, dark humour and powerful ending make this little film one of this year’s standouts. [Ben Rabinovich]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Now I have the benefit of watching it twice, I can definitely confirm that The Force Awakens kicks ass. We at long last have another Star Wars movie to stand alongside the original trilogy, and we also have something that works as a standalone film too, that newcomers to the franchise can get on board with. Gone are the days of the super contrived pseudo-political nonsense, whiney characters and Jar Jar Binks, they’ve been replaced by a perfect harmony of old and new by those who established Star Wars and those who will make it great once again. [Rich Watkin]

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Who knew that the ‘A’ in NWA stands for ‘accountants’? Like all good music biopics, the story of the most controversial and influential gangster rap group ever is filled with disputes between band members, excellent recreations of live shows and, er, financial wrangles. The first hour of Straight Outta Compton is a lot of fun, charting the formation of the group in the infamous Los Angeles neighbourhood in the 1980s. As you’d expect, there are scenes of gang bangers, violence, drugs and racist cops, cut with scene of the young Dre, Cube, MC Ren and Eazy E channelling their anger and developing their sound. The reenactment of the music is fantastic – these are some of the strongest moments of the film – and the demise of Eazy E is genuinely moving. I just feel that the most important part of the story shouldn’t be their financial battles with accountants. If Ice Cube is right and “life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money”, they forgot to film much about the bitches. [Joachim Farncombe]

Unfriended

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Unfriended is a high-concept horror film where all the action you see on screen takes place on the main character Blaire’s laptop. You only see what she sees or who she interacts with online. Yes this may be the latest in a long-line of Blumhouse commercial horrors full of good-looking teens despatched one-by-one, but it’s with no hyperbole to say that Unfriended is the first film to truly ‘get’ the internet and how we behave on it. Therefore it should be applauded… from safely hidden behind the sofa. [Christopher Ratcliff]

The Voices

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I saw the trailer for The Voices long before it was released and was instantly intrigued. It is so splendidly weird and features the best Ryan Reynolds performance till Deadpool is released next year. I loved everything about it, from Reynolds’ ridiculous sickly sweet, deluded personality to the brilliant way that ‘reality’ is revealed towards the end. It was also surprisingly brutal at times and quite vulgar. Watch it now and have a look at what being mental is really like. [John Hayward]

For more in-depth and slightly wayward film analysis, check out our movie features section including our ranking of the entire MCU.

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Methods Unsound's 22 favourite movies of 2015
Title:
Methods Unsound's 22 favourite movies of 2015
Description:
Here are our favourite films of the year, many you will have seen already, but hopefully there’ll also be something not yet on your radar that we can persuade you to check out.
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