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The Top Twenty Movies of 2015 — Part One!

Overall, I think that 2015 has been a pretty terrific year for movies. Perhaps not as spectacular as originally predicted, though.  In the months leading up to 2015, there were a flurry of articles about how 2015 was going to be insanely, unprecedentedly over-stuffed with exciting new movies.  That didn’t quite happen the way I’d expected.  Some films I’d been highly anticipating proved to be disappointments (SPECTRE, Tomorrowland, Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Kingsman: The Secret Service).  Also, so many interesting films were crammed into release at the very end of the year that several of my anticipated 2015 films won’t be open around where I live until some time in 2016 (films like The Revenant or Legend or Carol or Anomalisa or Listen to Me Marlon).  This glut of end-of-the-year films also meant that while I have been able to see a ton of new movies in the past few weeks, there were several that I didn’t get to (films like Joy, Brooklyn, Trumbo, The Danish Girl, and Sisters).  Still, as I assembled my Best Movies of 2015 list, I found that it was incredibly easy to do.  There were so many movies that I loved in 2015.  I’d expanded my list to twenty films last year, and I could have easily listed thirty films this year!  But twenty feels like plenty, I think.

These are twenty films that I loved deeply, films that spoke to me and that I look forward to revisiting in the years ahead.  There are many other films that I saw and enjoyed in 2015, films such as Tig, I Am Chris Farley, Misery Loves Comedy, Sicario, The Night Before, Spy, Slow West, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Man Up, and many others.  (As usual, I spent a lot of time in the final weeks of 2015 trying to catch up on as many 2015 films as I could that I’d wanted to see but missed.  In the coming weeks I’ll have a lot of “Catching up on 2015” reviews of those films.)  As many films as I saw in 2015, and I saw a lot, there was still, as always, a humongous list of films that I’d wanted to see but missed.  Films such as Beasts of No Nation, Call Me Lucky, Room, Love & Mercy, 99 Rooms, Irrational Man, She’s Funny That Way, True Story, 7 Days in Hell, Do I Sound Gay?, De Palma, Adult Beginners, Irrational Man, and more.  So if you’re wondering why any of those films aren’t on this list, well now you know.

OK, onward!

Honorable Mentions: Selma[continued]

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Josh Reviews Master of None: Season One!

I discovered Aziz Ansari on Parks and Rec, and was immediately a big fan.  (Moment of somber reflection for Parks and Rec, a wonderful show that I miss terribly!)  Parks and Rec led me to his stand-up, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  And so I was excited and intrigued when I learned that Mr. Ansari would be creating a new show for Netflix.  Master of None captures Mr. Ansari’s comedic voice in a very specific, very enjoyable way.  Mr. Ansari created the show with Alan Yang and stars as Dev Shah, a 30 year-old struggling actor living in New York City.

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I’m hugely impressed by the growth Mr. Ansari has displayed, moving from a supporting character on a network TV show to co-creator of his own unique cable show.  Master of None feels like as specific, unique an expression of Mr. Ansari’s comedy and personality as Louie is of Louis C.K., and I’m not sure what higher complement I can give to Mr. Ansari and his show.

Master of None is phenomenal, a wonderful creation that feels like a very personal work for Mr. Ansari.  The show is clearly based on many of his experiences and topics to which he has given a lot of thought, from romance and dating in this modern era to the American experience of immigrants and their assimilated children.  The show has a very specific, unique rhythm, and I love how Mr. Ansari and his team have balanced the comedy (the show is very funny) with an interesting, well-fleshed-out dramatic story for Dev.  I love also how Mr. Ansari and his team have created a show that has a distinct arc, a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end that stretches over the ten episodes, while also allowing each individual episode to live and breathe as a distinct episode all on its own.  I’m a huge fan of serialization, and it’s been interesting to see how many cable shows over the past few years have leaned more heavily into serialization, with stories carrying over from episode-to-episode.  I love that in many respects, but it’s also started to lead to individual episodes losing any sort of distinct identity.  Alan Sepinwall at Hitfix recently wrote a great piece about this phenomenon.  I just finished Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and I’ll be writing more about that show here soon.  The show was phenomenal, but it was an extreme example of this sort of serialization.  I can’t imagine ever just randomly watching a middle episode from Jessica Jones.  If I want to experience the story again, I’ll watch the whole season start-to-finish.  By contrast, I was extremely impressed to see how Mr. Ansari and his team took a … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Spectacular Now

I am a sucker for a good coming of age story, and this season has seen a couple of excellent ones.  I was over the moon about The Way Way Back (click here for my review) and I was equally smitten by James Ponsoldt’s new film The Spectacular Now.  It’s a beautiful, powerful story about two young people finding themselves in the closing days of their high school years.

In the film, Miles Teller plays Sutter.  He’s a good looking, fast-talking, confident high school senior.  Sutter is the king of his high school hill.  He’s a popular guy with a pretty girlfriend.  He loves to party and to have a good time, and he’s never really thought about aspiring to anything beyond that.  But when his girlfriend breaks up with him, Sutter finds it harder than he’d expected for his nothing-can-bother-me, it’s-all-good attitude to keep out the pain.  Suddenly his hardy-partying ways seem less like the antics of a fun-loving high school kid and more like a crutch.  It’s after one-such night of drinking that Sutter finds himself passed out on the lawn of his classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley).  Aimee is sweet and kind and smart, and as something of a bookworm she is not at all in Sutter’s social circle.  The two begin an unexpected friendship, and soon — to surprise of both of their sets of friends — they begin dating.

From that point, I was expecting the film to go in one of two directions.  Either we’d get the story of the special girl who makes the boy into a better man, or the story of the innocent girl who is seduced by the appeal of the bad egg, almost allowing him to ruin her life before she sees the error of her ways.  But The Spectacular Now, luckily, is a much more nuanced film than that. The film doesn’t go down such expected directions, and though there are aspects of both of those ideas I just mentioned in the film’s story, the heart of the film lies in the many, often unexpected ways in which Sutter and Aimee affect one another.  Some of those changes are positive, while others are more up for debate, and the film is surprisingly deft at not drawing judgments and allowing the audience to make their own evaluations.  (I am thinking specifically of the way Aimee starts drinking once she begins seeing Sutter.  I was all ready for that to lead her down a dark road, and while there is not question that there are some ways in which she is negatively affected by her new taste for alcohol, the film has a more nuanced perspective on her new … [continued]