Best Films of 2015

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Clockwise from Top Left: Inside Out; Spotlight; Ex Machina; The Big Short (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots)

Box office records kept falling in 2015, and some of the biggest blockbusters were actually among the best films of the year! This is appropriate enough, as bigness was the name of the day in 2015, with Big Emotions and Big Ideas all over this list. Whether it was through muckraking journalism and statesmanship, the birth of new heroes, or the burning desire to make personal connections, the makers of the best films of 2015 made sure audiences heard what they had to say.

This top 10 list was originally posted on Starpulse in December 2015.

1. The Big Short – Spoiler alert: as the wild ride of Adam McKay’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ bestselling nonfiction thriller about the players who anticipated the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble settles into its conclusion, the epilogue reveals that every Wall Street fraudster was imprisoned and new stringent legal regulations have been implemented to prevent another crisis. Except, of course, that didn’t happen. This is an esoteric topic, but the audience for “The Big Short” knows it has been screwed. The level at which this swindling occurred is astounding and ridiculous, and the filmmaking that captures it is just as absurdly gut-wrenching.

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This Is a Movie Review: Steve Jobs

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The most quixotic quest in Steve Jobs does not come courtesy of the title character, but of his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who shows up at each of the three product launches that this film covers over 14 years to request acknowledgement for the team that worked on the Apple II computer, whose contributions Jobs keep insisting are irrelevant to the direction of the future. It is highly unlikely that the real Woz actually kept this up, or that all the other same set of people in his life kept showing up 5 minutes before Jobs was about to take the stage. That improbability is part and parcel of the artfulness that visionary creators like Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle always strive to convey. In the case of Steve Jobs, that structure is not just style, which is especially evident in the Seth Rogen-portrayed version of Woz’s Sisyphean streak.

The question of whether or not Jobs will express gratitude to accomplishments that are (supposedly) irrelevant to his promises is at the heart of whether or not great figures with personal shortcomings are necessarily wired that way. Michael Fassbender’s performance lends itself to either interpretation: perhaps Jobs would not have been the influencer he was if he had made more interpersonal compromises, or maybe he would have accomplished even more. What is undoubtedly true is that he saw the world like no else did, and it will take someone with a similarly unprecedented mind to solve the brilliant/decent binary-or-not conundrum.