Top picks from 2015
Better late than never!
Of course, Flicks is a short film festival, but we don’t mind watching a feature-length Hollywood blockbuster or intimate arthouse picture from time to time. We simply cannot stay behind and would like to introduce the films from 2015 that impressed us the most. Because it’s too difficult to rank six people’s favorite films, the films are listed in no particular order. We all got to pick two films that were released in the Netherlands in 2015. Check out the twelve picks below!
PS: Yes, a new Star Wars film was released. Yes, it was pretty awesome. But we’re assuming everyone has seen that film by now.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release: October 2
Short summary: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Why I liked it: Sicario was one of my favorite movies of last year for numerous reasons. This action-thriller had a well thought-out storyline and amazing acting. Besides this, the whole scenery, stillness and atmosphere of the movie perfectly described the hopelessness and hostility that comes with Mexico’s cartel war. This film somewhat reminded me of True Detective, which made me like it even more. It had little dialogue, great and brutal action scenes and a major focus on its cinematography.
Inside Out (Claudia)
Director: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Release: June 19
Short summary: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school
Why I liked it: This colorful, beautifully animated film about the adventures that happen inside a child’s mind really brought me to tears last year (in a good way). It dealt with topics that one deals with when growing up, such as the loss of creativity and playfulness. Besides making me cry it had an original storyline and was generally really exciting. I also found it amazing how they made a story out of a complex topic such as cognition accessible for kids. Definitely worthwhile watching for adults and children!
Mad Max: Fury Road (Eelco)
Director: George Miller
Release: May 14
Short summary: An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order.
Why I liked it: As a kid, I really liked the classic Mad Max movies with Mel Gibson in the starring role. Envisioning another actor playing the iconic part was strange. But Tom Hardy’s energetic, yet controlled portrayal allows Max the Road Warrior to remain the mysterious, unwilling hero of old. Fury Road does everything the old Mad Max trilogy did well, but even better: the action is practically non-stop, the stunts and effects are wildly insane without becoming ridiculous, and the post-apocalyptic world that is recreated (through excellent cinematography, set design and montage) is recognizable to fans of the old movies as well as enticing to moviegoers who are new to the Mad Max-universe. The movie is unapologetic in its approach: like the characters living in this dystopian wasteland, the movie doesn’t reminisce about the past and feels no need to pay hommage like other franchise reboots. It simply does what an action movie should do: excite, thrill and amaze. So, as far as reboots go, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Ex Machina (Eelco)
Director: Alex Garland
Release: April 30
Short summary: Caleb, a 26 year old coder at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. He has to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.
Why I liked it: Ex Machina is a brilliant exhibition of pacing – the movie is pure science fiction that starts off like a philosophical mystery and ends up as a claustrophobic thriller. The complex relationships between Caleb and Nathan on one side, between Caleb and Ava on the other – and the interplay between the two relationships – are phenomenally orchestrated to the point where protagonist and antagonist become meaningless terms. The film’s content allows you to speculate on existentialist subjects like freedom and self-awareness, consciousness and conscience and the morality of creation, but that never leads to the danger of boredom. On the contrary, the plot keeps you on your toes until the very end, as Caleb, like the unsuspecting audience, becomes the plaything of seemingly greater powers. Wonderful science fiction – great thriller.
Big Hero Six (Koert)
Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Release: February 11
Short summary: The films depicts the special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
Why I liked it: This is one of three animated films released by Disney in the Netherlands last year. While I enjoyed Inside Out, I did not like The Good Dinosaur that much. In my opinion, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ own Big Hero Six topped both these Pixar productions. The film is set in a ridiculous combo of two of the ‘coolest’ cities in the world: San Francisco and Tokyo. The high-tech and futuristic ‘San Fransokyo’ looks stunning. It is the perfect stage for an action-packed story centered around robotics and other nerdy stuff. Robot Baymax is one of the cutest characters in recent animation history. Big Hero Six is funny and succeeds to have emotional impact without being overly dramatic about it.
It Follows (Koert)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Release: April 23
Short summary: A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter.
Why I liked it: Among the many horror films released in 2015, It Follows came as a positive surprise. No violent psycho killers or paranormal manifestations in this picture! The story is centered around a curse that is basically a very disturbing sexually transmitted disease. Luckily, this story principle is not handled as banal as would be expected in a film full of teenagers. It rather adds to the mystery of the film. The motif of ‘being followed’ makes for an oppressive atmosphere throughout the picture. Great cinematography and a great soundtrack only add to this.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez IIñárritu
Release: January 22
Short summary: The story follows Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a faded Hollywood actor best known for playing the superhero “Birdman”, as he struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver.
Why I liked it: This film is one of my favorite films of all time. The main thing that appealed to me was the way it was filmed. Alejandro Gonzalez IIñárritu aimed to make the film seem like it was taken in one shot, which is a technically a very challenging thing to do. This made the whole film seem as if the camera is ‘floating’’ through the story, capturing a scene in one room, leaving it again and floating to the other room where another scene starts. Also the acting is brilliant, especially Edward Norton who plays the role of Mike, a famous broadway stage actor who is obsessed with always providing the perfect scene when on stage.
Director: Asif Kapadia
Release: July 3
Short summary: The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks.
Why I liked it: This documentary really touches the soul. Not only because you get to see footage of how good she was as a musician but also because of who she was as a person. During the film you start to really feel drawn to her, because of her purity, uniqueness and vulnerability. Having seen this documentary I know for sure that she was and is one of the realest and greatest jazz-soul artists of the century.
Desert Dancer (Laura)
Director: Richard Raymond
Release: June 21
Short summary: Afshin Ghaffarian risks everything to start a dance company amidst his home country of Iran’s politically volatile climate and the nation’s ban on dancing.
Why I liked it: I was fortunate enough to see this film screened at the 69th edition of the Edinburgh Film Festival. It tells the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, an Iranian dancer in pursuit of his passion in a country where dancing is in not permitted. One may think of it as just a film about dancing, but this is ultimately a story about freedom of expression. It is beautifully shot and there is wonderful on-screen chemistry between the two main actors. The dance sequences had me completely enthralled. The film touched me a lot more than I initially expected. I left the cinema with a tear in my eye and a newfound appreciation for dancing as an art. The film won second place for the Audience Award at the festival and it has become one of my favorites. Absolutely recommend it!
The Theory of Everything (Laura)
Director: James Marsh
Release: January 15
Short summary: A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
Why I liked it: This is the very first film I saw in 2015. I was quite literally waiting for it to hit theaters ever since the trailer came out. It wasn’t just the appeal of Cambridge and bicycles, the story looked no less than inspiring. I particularly liked how the film gave equal weight on the lives of both Hawking and his wife. There was a good balance between romance and science. I think the film was particularly clever at this, all the while being attentive to the little details like the essence of student life at university or the awkwardness of a young love. An attentiveness that, I find, was kept as the film progressed and we see both the beauty and the trials of a marriage. I also liked the contrast presented on the themes of science and religion. Moreover, the cinematography was absolutely beautiful, the performances truly heartfelt. I could go on why I enjoyed this film so, but as I am to sum it up I’ll say: a beautiful film.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Release: February 19
Short summary: Selma is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.
Why I liked it: I will forever be inspired by people who dare to believe in something so much that they make it their mission to make life better for the people around them and future generations. The first assignment I ever made for school as a kid was on Martin Luther King Jr. This movie made me feel just as inspired as I was when I first heard about him, his story, and his mission.
Director: John Crowley
Release: March 17
Short summary: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
Why I liked it: One of my favourite actors is the star of this movie: Saoirse Cohen. I admire her acting quite a lot, as she tries to get to the true essence of the characters she plays. I enjoyed the plot of the movie, you see a young girl who moves to another country with a culture completely different from her own. I thought it was quite relatable as well, not only the international aspect, but also the growing up she goes through while living abroad.