Best movies of 2015

by Helene Wong / 26 November, 2015
The Listener’s film critics pick their top flicks of the year.
99 Homes
99 Homes.


99 HOMES

The defining film of the post-financial crash age. Florida’s housing crisis is shown as a microcosm of a broader collapse. Michael Shannon is exceptional as always and Andrew Garfield finally reveals his natural talent. (James Robins)

BORN TO DANCE

Manurewa’s Parris Goebel’s exuberant hip-hop choreography turns a formula dance movie into something special. Showcases fearsome local talent and treats social diversity not as token but as a given. (Helene Wong)

DIOR AND I

Fashion documentary that uses cinema artfully to go behind the glitz and reveal the creative process and emotional tensions in the making of a new artistic director’s debut collection. (HW)

EVEREST

Not your usual climbing film. Highlighting motivation, character and psycho­logy of the participants renders this portrayal of the 1996 Rob Hall tragedy complex, moving and thoughtful. (HW)

Everest
Everest.


GIRLHOOD

Céline Sciamma stands head-and-shoulders above a wealth of female film-makers producing exceptional work this year. Newcomer Karidja Touré is remarkable in this tale of black girl gangs in Paris’ banlieues. (JR)

GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF

Using extensive resources of archive and interviews with the disaffected, Alex Gibney’s surgical dissection of the evolution and influence of the church is ­measured, persuasive and stunningly good. (HW)

THE GROUND WE WON

Monochrome-beautiful, this tightly focused study of the Reporoa Rugby Club is about more than just male culture and country footy. A provocative, non-judgmental look at who we are and where we’ve come from. (HW)

INSIDE OUT

Young Riley’s developing emotional universe, as seen from the inside by way of Disney/Pixar’s Day-Glo animation, is a silly, sophisticated, moving delight. (Mark Broatch)

LAST CAB TO DARWIN

Powered by under­stated central per­­formances from Michael Caton and Ningali Lawford, it fearlessly tackles such divisive subjects as euthanasia and indigenous poverty. (JR)

THE LOOK OF SILENCE

Documentary-maker Joshua Oppenheimer returns to Indo­nesia’s mass graves in a companion to 2012’s The Act of Killing. Beautiful and meticulous photography plays against the unresolved horror of its subject. (JR)

Macbeth Film
Macbeth.


MACBETH

Shakespeare’s story of tyranny and bloodlust is given a visual language as provocative as its spoken poetry. Ambitious and masterful, Justin Kurzel’s direction is like the second coming of Akira Kurosawa. (JR)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Year’s best balls-out stunts, OTT production design and off-the-wall characters. The plot’s thin but it’s driven by a powerful motive and lashings of testosterone and oestrogen. (HW)

THE MARTIAN

Ridley Scott restores his repu­tation as a builder of worlds. By far the most entertaining blockbuster of the year, and Matt Damon’s surprising comic turn as a man marooned on Mars makes the most of an ­intelligent script. (JR)

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Derided by some for its syrupy self-reverence, this film is more subtly powerful than most other coming-of-age tales. And it has homages to classic cinema to boot. (JR)

OUR LITTLE SISTER

Sheer delight. Koreeda Hirokazu’s female-centred family drama gently unwraps characters and relationships while honouring the style of Ozu Yasujiro with a tender, humorous portrait of reconciliation and contemporary domestic life. (HW)

SHERPA

The dilemmas and commercialism in “summiting” that played a part in those deaths on Everest still apply 18 years later, and are vividly explored here from the ­Sherpas’ ­perspective with clarity and sensitivity. (HW)

STILL LIFE

A moving depiction of the life and death of ordinary people, it is proof that small films can be beautiful when the writing, acting, images and sound all work in concert. (HW)

UMRIKA

Prashant Nair’s first major feature balances a heartfelt portrait of a rural Indian family against wider political themes. It’s a film that’s far more complex and subtle than its marketing let on. Shot on Super 16mm, it’s also one of the best-looking films of the year. (JR)

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