Here are my personal choices for best films of 2015. Stick this list on your refrigerator, and for each movie you see on it, cross that title off and treat yourself to a nice ice cream or rich carrot cake or whatever the hell you have inside the refrigerator. It's a fun way to mix movies with food!
2015'S VERY BEST
1. The Revenant: Leonardo DiCaprio should be getting his first Oscar this year. This is the second year in a row I'm giving top honors to a film by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who made last year's Birdman. His film about a frontier man (DiCaprio) getting his ass kicked by a bear and seeking revenge on a villainous trapper (Tom Hardy as the year's nastiest bad guy) is a note-for-note perfect film.
2. Anomalisa: This is the year's most visually innovative film and, because it was written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York, Being John Malkovich), easily it's most bizarre. It's a stop-motion animation movie that will blow your mind. It's nothing like anything you have ever seen, and you will probably never see anything like it again.
3. Steve Jobs: Michael Fassbender had a great year with Slow West, Macbeth, and this one from director Danny Boyle (127 Hours). It's an unflattering look at the guy who, with his iTunes and phone doodads, killed that thing called patience for a large percentage of humanity.
4. The Hateful Eight: After the slight step backwards that was Django Unchained (good, but not great), Quentin Tarantino gets back on track with this crazy, beautiful looking western that is an acting showcase for everybody involved. A lot has been said about the 70mm cut for its visuals, but not enough has been said about Samuel L. Jackson doing career best work as a Civil War soldier turned bounty hunter who crosses paths with a surly, hairy Kurt Russell. It's time to give Jennifer Jason Leigh an Oscar. She's so good it hurts in this movie.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: J.J. Abrams has achieved geek bliss. Daisy Ridley gets my vote for an Oscar nomination as Rey. Star Wars is back in a big way. I've seen it twice. I loved it the first time. I went crazy for it the second time. That's the mark of a great Star Wars movie.
6. Inside Out: Pixar gave us two films in 2015 and this would be the better of the two. This would be the MUCH better of the two. It has inventive characters, an engaging plot, and a terrific voice cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader. The other one has dinosaurs harvesting corn. Did you hear me? Dinosaurs harvesting corn!
7. The End of the Tour: Some of the year's best dialogue occurs between Jesse Eisenberg's reporter and Jason Segel's David Foster Wallace in this road trip movie about the book tour for Infinite Jest. Segel makes another nice foray into the dramatic, while Eisenberg gets in another good performance before putting himself under the microscope as Lex Luthor for next year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That's going to make or break his career.
8. Spotlight: Michael Keaton continues his return from the dead as a newspaper editor investigating some bad priests in Boston. You'll find one of 2015's best ensemble casts in this one (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Leiv Schreiber).
9. Beasts of No Nation: Abraham Attah and Idris Elba are astoundingly good as an African boy and his terrible commander/father figure fighting a bloody civil war. Produced by Netflix.
10. Brooklyn A young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) has to choose between Ireland and Brooklyn, N.Y. in the 1950s. The only problem I have with this movie is that there are too many damn Yankee fans in it.
I don't have much space to discuss, so I will just give you the titles of the ten worst films of 2015. You need to avoid these. Seriously, please avoid.
A Walk in the Woods
(A Chris Hemsworth Tie) In the Heart of the Sea/Blackhat
The Good Dinosaur (Dinosaurs harvesting corn!)
The Green Inferno
(An Adam Sandler Trio) Pixels/The Cobbler/The Ridiculous Six
Fifty Shades of Grey