Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 top 10

1. Blackhat (Mann)
2. Pasolini (Ferrara)
3. Bridge of Spies (Spielberg)
4. Mountains May Depart (Zhangke)
5. Bitter Lake (Curtis)
6. Magic Mike XXL (Jacobs)
7. Creed (Coogler)
8. Joy (Russell)
9. The Visit (Shyamalan)
10. Unfriended (Gabriadze)
10. Jupiter Ascending (the Wachowskis)

also loved: La France est Notre Patrie, The Taking of Tiger Mountain, Mad Max: Fury Road, Rogue Nation, Spectre, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.


I'm posting this here for posterity and as a time capsule of my tastes and preoccupations in 2015. Just as important to taste are those films that were still unseen at the time of this list's composition. I've included here only the key films that I am most excited to watch, which is another layer of my investments of 2015:

88:88, Chi-Raq, Eden, Field Niggas, Francophonia, Heart of a Dog, Knight of Cups, Murmur of the Hearts, L'Ombre des femmes, Office, Shift and a few holdovers from 2013 & 2014: Hard To Be A God, Horse Money, and Phoenix.

Horse Money deserves special mention as a film I've longed to see since its festival debut. It's now on Netflix, lucky me.


In terms of reflections on the year I have only a couple of personal notes to provide.

a. 2015 was a year that I struggled with whatever notion of cinephilia I had come to identify myself with. I found that I was painfully consumed by practices of list-making and seeing as many films as possible only to check them off on Letterboxd and move on to the next. In the final months of the year I took a step back. I began to lay the foundations for a more grounded practice on film consumption. However hokey or new age this may sound, I wish to cultivate a mindful practice of film watching and to release that which does not serve me, namely the Ahab quest to see as many films as possible. One of my intentions toward the end of 2015 that I will carry through to 2016 is to allow myself to dwell in fewer films. To give them time. To rewatch them. To come to know a small group of films well and not fret about the infinite expanses of unseen cinema.

Just Another Film Buff wrote eloquently on a similar experience that I strongly relate to, you can find that post here. I highly recommend their post.

b. My year in visual culture was dominated by two extreme poles. The endless grainy, pixelated videos of police officers murdering Black people and the sleek, carefully correlated advertisements for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. It may seem odd to mention these both in the same sentence, but this was a disorienting visual, moral, and political experience for the entirety of 2015. I won't attempt to interpret some deeper meaning from this, only that the social landscape of the United States has been reaching a boiling point for decades and the cellphone videos that are proof of the unimaginable systemic oppression of this country is almost ubiquitous. What a strange time to be alive when the horrific murder of Black children is a constant stream of content for those, like me, not immediately touched by these systemic incidents. And of course STAR WARS. I don't buy into the hysterical polemics against the franchise, but the product licensing and carefully mediated ad campaign has given the most complete experience of a mono-culture that I've ever had. The sleek exploitation of nostalgia through affect remains a key defining element of 2015.

c. And then there's the eleven films I loved. Each playful, sincere, experimental, expressionistic. Breaking whatever categories or expectations are pressed upon films in this age. But I don't love them simply because they are different. Each of these films made me feel alive, either in the darkness of the theater or the strange intimacy of my laptop. These films made me feel that anything is possible in cinema, which will always be a feeling that I cherish.

Happy New Year.