With my favorite films of 2015 well-documented in the dustiest corner of the internet, I figured it would be helpful to detail why I skipped out on including a few films that are notable for one reason or another. The five films included in this post simply weren’t among my very favorites of the year even though I liked some of them, although others missed because I didn’t think they were anything special. Paring down a list that got more unwieldy than I expected was kind of tough, so elaborating a bit more seems like a necessary plan of action.
I liked the delightfully optimistic Brooklyn quite a bit, and it was one of the closest calls I had to make when assembling my year-end list. Nick Hornby contributes an affecting screenplay that allows newcomer Saoirse Ronan to shine throughout as a young Irish woman making her way to the titular city. The movie allows us to feel her homesickness, her new-found love, her heartbreak, and ultimately her hope for the future. This is a straightforward period piece with a keen eye for character, and as such I enjoyed it for its duration. This is a case where 10 other films simply grabbed me more tightly, swaddling me in their celluloid arms with tender care. Otherwise, the plucky and emotive Brooklyn would have been right in the thick of things. Thankfully, the film’s creators and stars have all those Oscar nominations to ease the pain of being passed over for a Descenty, the least prestigious award any piece of art could ever hope to garner.
For those unaware, Creed is the 93rd movie in the Rocky franchise, though Sly Stallone’s character is pushed back to supporting duty in favor of the magnetic Michael B. Jordan taking over as the lost son of Apollo Creed. While Jordan refuses to dunk a basketball at any point during Creed (I’m deeply sorry, but I couldn’t resist such low-hanging fruit), he does make a fine Sports Movie Hero. Stallone is also solid as his reluctant trainer, although the Oscar he’s about to win seems like overkill given the field. Creed is a decent sports drama, doing about as much with the material as one could hope. Ultimately, such a predictable narrative just can’t compete with the likes of more ambitious fare, and that weirdo ATV-music-video scene didn’t do Creed any favors in my eyes.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Let me just say that I have a weird soft spot for the original George Miller wasteland yarn of the same-ish name, and that my nonplussed response to Fury Road is in no way related. This is a better movie than the original, but Adult Brian couldn’t do much more than shrug his shoulders after these two hours passed. Charlize Theron is fucking great as a bald, robo-armed badass, and some of the visual indulgences are super fun, but this is a longer car chase than I ever want to endure. Fury Road succeeds wildly as a balls-out action movie, but it got a bit tedious for me. I understand this is as close to a consensus critical success as anything gets any more, but I really don’t understand it. The look of a movie can only go so far for me, and that left Fury Road out in the cold and a comfortable distance from my top 10.
Matt Damon probably gives his finest performance in the extremely solid The Martian, a film that emphasizes the ‘science’ part of science fiction even if it’s a bit ludicrous. Damon is an astronaut forced to survive on Mars after being presumed dead by his crew, and this is the detailed story of what he must do to live and what his crew and country must do to get him back. Popular on the awards circuit for a number of reasons, The Martian is the epitome of a movie that I liked but didn’t love. It is generous in its light humor and occasionally captivating in its high-stakes tension, but it ultimately felt like an extremely well-crafted genre exercise to me. That isn’t at all a bad thing, but it means one of Ridley Scott’s effective efforts just misses my top 10.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Oh, Star Wars. If one were to take to the internet to read opinions on the latest installment of the world’s most popular film franchise, one would find all sorts of bold statements. Is The Force Awakens the best goddamn movie in history, or is it a worthless sack of river garbage undeserving of any man’s time? The answer is neither, but that shouldn’t be surprising given the true value of most entries in the series. I grew up on Star Wars VHS tapes my dad frequented, and my problems with The Force Awakens have nothing to do with nostalgia or source material. This is a fun, sci-fi and fantasy hybrid that hews dangerously close to A New Hope. That means it’s a good movie, but it also means we’ve all basically seen it before. I’ll add that the acting and effects are as high quality as the franchise has ever featured, but once the initial high of simply seeing a new Star Wars film goes away, it’s merely another above-average blockbuster.