I have no idea what was the best movie of 2015, but these were the ones I saw and loved, sometimes just because the timing was right.
It is a small story, the story of an Irish girl leaving home to come to America. And it is the story of anyone who has ever felt the push/pull of having left a place you loved, of seeing possibilities in more than one place, in more than one life, and having to choose.
It's also an adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel, the last book I gave my mother, and I believe the last book she read. It kills me now that I hadn't read it when she wanted to discuss it, but this much I remember---she wanted Eilis to choose differently and I loved Eilis' choice, so it would've been a lively discussion.
They filmed it in the same small town the author grew up in and based it (Enniscorthy, which is near Waterford). I loved the cinematography, the lighting, sets and the clothing. Plus Mrs. Weasley is wonderful as the rooming house woman, and Domhnall Gleeson is always a delight.
It probably won't suit everyone's taste---it takes its time, and most of the conflict is inward. Still, I hope a lot of people will you see it. How many films are made about an ordinary young woman? Without superhero powers or perfect archery? Eilis is already a young woman when the story begins, but this is still one of few female bildungsroman movies I've seen. I've been slightly obsessed with the female bildungsroman ever since I realized that even To Kill A Mockingbird is really the story of Jem's growing up more so than Scout's.
I wish Nick Hornby had won the Oscar for best adaptation. I've read the book now, and it is masterful but truth be told, I love every change Hornby made. Is it blasphemy to say I liked the movie better?
2. About Time
This was the right movie at the right time. I'm more than a little obsessed with time, and when we saw it, I was out of sorts. I had just returned to work, during the busiest time of the academic year, and I felt like every day for the rest of my life was going to be the same mix of working and hurrying and cooking and cleaning up and then getting up to do it again.
It looked like a stupid rom-com, and it was definitely marketed that way. There are aspects that you don't want to look at too closely (issues of deception and authenticity) but...because it is cast so well, and Domhnall personifies good intentions, I didn't find those complications too distracting.
It's actually a love story between a father and son, in my opinion. I thought it brilliant and it woke me up when I most needed it. Aidan just watched Groundhog Day with me a week ago, one of my all-time favorites, and the two have much in common.
3. Inside Out
Wendy called it "The Schindler's List" of animation---I was a wreck watching it. We have tweens and teens, and we had just recently moved to a new state, and it was all so close to home.
I didn't love the animation---I found the colors harsh and the drawings a bit over the top, whereas The Good Dinosaur was so lovely that I thought they must have used live-action for some of the scenery. But the story of Inside Out---the role of memory in personality, the essential role of sadness in overcoming grief, and this image of emotions at the wheel of our mind, wow. Thank you, Pixar.
Lots of other good movies. "Spotlight" is a must see, devastating in its portrait of corruption in the church and highlighting our need for investigative journalism. "Still Alice" was out in 2014 but I only saw it in 2015 and loved it. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was so fun in our looking forward to it, going as a family on opening night, and discussing---still discussing now, months later. "Song of the Sea" was a favorite Friday Night Movie Night, as was "Ferris Bueller," the night before our trip to Chicago. I showed the boys "West Side Story" while Brian was on a wildfire---sneaking in musicals whenever I can. I loved "Trainwreck" as well as "The Revenant" (though that may have been 2016). "Peanuts" was much better than I anticipated, especially after the despicable "Minions."
Two random movies that you may have missed, "Learning to Drive" & "I'll See You in My Dreams," were both good.
At home on our big screen, we said goodbye to Jon Stewart. It was time, but I still miss that nightly ritual. Brian and I watched "Togetherness" --nice, occasionally sharp; "The Grinder" for harmless escape; and "Mr. Robot" until I had to abandon Brian when it got too dark. I miss Louie C.K. and Parenthood and having a weekly show to look forward to, but it's all good. I like the new curated way to watch TV---the best clips of SNL or Jimmy Fallon without having to watch the crappy parts too.
Brian won our Oscar Prediction contest this year (with 12 correct picks...I had 11), so he won the movie tickets. He says it is poor sportsmanship to keep them when we were the hosts. Maybe, but I say, let's go the show!