(Not) a Best-of 2015 List

by / Jan. 13, 2016 12am EST

With nothing opening theatrically this week but a buddy cop sequel, an animated kids’ movie, and a Michael Bay propaganda movie that I have no desire to publicize, it’s a good week for you regular filmgoers to catch up on any of the big holiday releases you may have missed. Of course that leaves me with space here to fill, so I guess I’m going to have to do a year-end list.

Usually I try to avoid these things, if only because very few writers can claim to have seen every movie deserving of consideration for any kind of a “best of” list. My percentage for 2015 was better than previous years, but I never got a chance to see Spotlight or Trumbo. (I will at some point, but I can’t say the same for Room, which is appearing on many lists.)

Mostly I just shy from the pontificating behind making a list of the “Best” of anything. By any standards of objective criticism, Todd Haynes’s Carol is a better film than anything I’ve picked, but I have no desire to see it a second time. Instead, I came up with a list of the 10 films I most enjoyed watching, from those that had commercial releases in local theaters in 2015. (No self-aggrandizing inclusions of obscure film festival movies that you readers won’t have seen.)

In alphabetical order:

Amy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary about singer Amy Winehouse.

Brooklyn, John Crowley’s gentle drama about an Irish girl emigrating to the US in 1951.

I’ll See You In My Dreams, Blythe Danner in her first ever starring role as a 70-something widow trying to make changes in her life.

Infinitely Polar Bear, Mark Ruffalo giving maybe the best performance of his career as writer-director Maya Forbes’s manic depressive father in her autobiographical film.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn’s comic book adaptation that combines special effects and James Bond parody for sometimes tasteless but mostly gleefully over-the-top results.

Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson as a newly divorced woman and Ben Kingsley as her Sikh driving instructor.

Paddington and Shaun the Sheep, both of which made me wish for a law requiring that only British studios be allowed to make children’s movies.

Pawn Sacrifice, Tobey Maguire as chess star Bobby Fischer in Edward Zwick’s tense drama that I found reasons to complain about after I saw it but enjoyed enormously while I was viewing it.

Saint Laurent, Bertrand Bonello’s impressionistic biography of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders’s documentary about Brazilian-born photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, who has spent his career photographing many of the worst human catastrophes of the last few decades.

Runners-up: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Freeheld, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, The Gift, It Follows, Love and Mercy, Macbeth, Manglehorn, The Martian, Spy, The Walk, What We Do in the Shadows, Wild Tales.