Blog: Mid-Year Top 5 (2015)


by Ken B.

As we cross the first six months of the year, it’s in the tradition of the site to look back and highlight the five best movies I’ve reviewed so far in 2015…

HONORABLE MENTION: BIRDMAN (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2014, reviewed February 9)

5. DEAR ZACHARY (Kurt Kuenne, 2008, reviewed May 11)

While the production quality of this documentary is wavering, there’s a searing emotional core here, daring to be fully involved, ask questions, and weep with the tragedy within the story. A monstrously apparent call to action, the film mostly achieved its goals, in the hopes that the horrors that struck its core should never be felt by anyone else.

4. SELMA (Ava DuVernay, 2014/15, reviewed January 12)

Dynamic and fluid, Selma is a historical document that is also a contemporary statement on the infinite reaches of an iconic part of American history. Expertly directed by Ava DuVernay and featuring a spellbinding performance from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., here is a tightly made and impactful example of historical drama with far reverberations.

3. THE WAY HE LOOKS (Daniel Ribeiro, 2014, reviewed March 19)

Light without being simplistic, adorable without being cheesy, Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks manages the rare feat of being a feature adaptation of a short film that doesn’t just feel like an overblown extension of its source material – there’s actually a measured and reasonable extension of the story to be seen. It’s also solidly acted with a great soundtrack, and did I mention it’s adorable?

2. IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012, reviewed June 30)

Its visuals are unique, the humor is sardonic, and the message is slow building and affirming. Simply put, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a brilliant achievement on multiple levels. Don Hertzfeldt’s style is remarkable in the life and emotion he is able to seamlessly apply to stick figure creations, and their relatable life crises.

1. COME AND SEE (Elem Klimov, 1985, reviewed January 22)

Come and See delivers a massive shock. Unforgettable, powerful, and universal in its ability, it’s one of the most effective anti-war films ever made, showing horror in unblinking-yet-surreal ways. No matter what happens, you can’t stop watching or look away, because Klimov keeps total control over the viewer, continuing for 142 minutes in a wondrously masterful way.

Since there’s no Bottom 5 list, I may as well throw something else here to fill space. If we’re just talking about five of my favorite items of pop culture in general that occurred between January 1 and June 30, 2015, here are some of the things that come to mind, presuming I am able to do so in a no-rules situation, with the complete ability to cannibalize pre-existing parts of a whole, specifying specific sections, passages, or even images. This is a non-ranked list:

  • Sense8, Season One (this came first, possibly because I just finished it last night)
  • House of Cards, “Chapter 32” (more specifically, the last ten minutes of it)
  • John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden.
  • Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover by Annie Leibovitz – remarkable in its mundaneness, how it’s done like any other celebrity photograph on the cover of a magazine.
  • Karina Longworth’s outstanding ongoing second season of her podcast You Must Remember This, a fascinating chronicle of 20th century Hollywood that is currently focusing on an outward-moving spiderweb of the impact of Charles Manson and the Manson family in the late 1960s.

Of course, there are many more things that impressed me, both on film and otherwise, but I suppose the time comes to limit this post to a reasonable length.