My Favorite Films of 2015

As we’re coming to the end of 2015, I thought I would share my list of favorite films of 2015.  They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan is the story of two people each at their own crossroads.  Ryan (played by Ben Barnes) is a vagabond musician who rides the rails and stops to make some money playing music.  Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a newly single mom who is trying to rebuild her life after a divorce.  The two meet and each help the other to find the direction that each needs to take.  It wasn’t a well known movie but I really enjoyed it. (Technically this film debuted in Venice in 2014 but wasn’t released in the US until 2015 so it counts as a 2015 movie)

I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird

Probably the best documentary of 2015, I Am Big Bird tells the story about the life of Caroll Spinney.  He is best know for his role as Big Bird (as well as Oscar the Grouch) on Sesame Street.  With classic footage, some pretty cool animation as well as interviews from people who know Caroll best (as well as from the man himself), it is a great film and one that any fan of Big Bird and Sesame Street.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) as a widow who in her former life was a musician and songstress.  She is kind of stuck in a rut until she encounters and befriends a young man who fixes pools as well as an older gentlemen (played by Sam Elliott) whom she falls in love with.  Those two relationships help her to see that there’s still more to life and to enjoy the people she is with including her daughter and her close best friends.  I love a good story and this film tells a good story.

Love and Mercy

Love And Mercy

Love and Mercy is the biopic of the co-founder of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.  The film tells his story in two parts switching back between young Brian Wilson in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) while he was with the band and the success that he had and older Brian Wilson in the 1980s (played by John Cusack) while he was in the midst of dealing at his lowest point with his mental health and how he helped to overcome that.  Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also have strong roles in the film.  I’m a fan of a good biopic and this was a really good one.  (This was also a 2014 film with premiere in Toronto International Film Festival but didn’t get released until 2015)

When Marnie Was There

Marnie

When Marnie Was There holds the distinction (for the moment) of being the last Studio Ghibli film to be released (now granted Only Yesterday will finally get a English dubbing & theatrical release in a few months but this so far is the last new feature).  It is adapted from a book by the same name and tells the story of Anna, a 12 year old girl who goes to live with some relatives in the summer to help deal with her asthma.  While she’s there she meets Marnie, a young girl who helps Anna to learn more about herself and that she is truly loved by her family.  I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I really enjoyed this film. (Yes I know this is a 2014 film released in Japan but the English dub of the film released this year so it counts)

Inside Out

Inside Out

One could say now we’re getting to the “big time” films.  Inside Out was the first Pixar film of 2015 and in my opinion was the better film.  It tells the story of a young girl named Riley and the “emotions” that are inside her head.  These emotions (Happy, Sad, Fear, Anger, Disgust) interact and help shape Riley as she grows up.  When a move from Minnesota to San Francisco changes things for Riley and her family, there a lot of changes.  These changes also include the emotions learning to change and grow as well.  It is like many Pixar films in that they work on multiple levels.  I loved it and it’s in my top 5 of favorite Pixar films of all time.

Furious 7

Furious 7

I love the Fast and the Furious series of films all the way back to the first one.  So I was excited to see this film as well and it didn’t disappoint me.  This film, like it’s predecessors, is your blockbuster action type movie.  It was a finale of sorts because of the death of Paul Walker which meant his character’s story arc was ending and they did a good job of finishing that story (without killing the character off).  I know there will be a few more films in this series and hopefully they will do as good a job of sticking to what they’re good at with the series.

Ant-Man

Ant Man

Out of the two Marvel films and all the superhero films that released in 2015, Ant-Man was my favorite.  I loved the story of Scott Lang and how an unlikely guy like him became a superhero.  Paul Rudd did a great job as Scott and was a big fan of his in the film (and like me, Paul is a huge Kansas City Royals fan so it was a very good year for him).  The rest of the cast was great too with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll and others.  It had a great mix of comedy and drama and I think sets itself up well for what’s going to happen in Phase 3 of the MCU.

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

I am a huge Peanuts fan.  I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic strips.  My first dog I ever had was a beagle named Snoopy.  So I was super excited for this film to release.  Probably out of any film not named Star Wars, I had the most expectations on this film.  And it didn’t disappoint at all.  I loved this film.  It told a story that is very Charlie Brownesque.  It was a Peanuts movie through and through.  It was a classic story told with 21st century technology (CGI animation).  They got it right with the tone and story and it is an example of what people who are telling new stories of classic franchises should do.

Creed

Rocky and Adonis

Speaking of films that get it right of telling a new story with a classic franchise, Creed is another great example.  It is a spiritual successor/sequel to the Rocky franchise.  It tells the story of Adonis Johnson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his journey to become a boxer.  It’s also the story of how he accepts being the son of Apollo Creed, combatant & friend of Rocky Balboa.  Rocky himself is really the only connection to the previous films (there are a few references and mentions and Apollo’s wife is in the film but a different actress [Phylicia Rashad] plays her in this film) and Stallone does a great job of being the Mickey to Adonis’ Rocky in this film.   It mirrors the first Rocky film but also tells its own story.  To me I feel this film deserves at least a Best Director nomination and at best a Best Picture nomination.  It was the best film not named Star Wars to me in 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This was the most anticipated film for me for 2015.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and been one since I could remember.  This was the first film of the franchise that I walked into the theater and had no idea what was going to happen (because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back released and I was 4 when I saw Return of the Jedi and by the time I saw the Special Editions when I was a teenager I had seen the films numerous times and the prequels I had some kind of idea given that they were prequels).  I loved this film.  Like Creed, this film was it’s own story but yet is connected to the films that came before it.  It had great characters (both new and old) and had a great story.  I am interested in seeing what is in store and hope that Disney and Lucasfilm continue to build on a great start to the next trilogy of the Star Wars saga.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2015.  What is your list?  Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list?  I’d love to hear what your films are.  I’m looking forward to seeing what good films there will be in 2016

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When Inside Out Was There: Thoughts on When Marnie Was There and Inside Out

The last two films that I have seen in the theater have a lot of similarities.  But they also have some distinctive qualities that make them unique as well.  Those films?  They are When Marnie Was There and Inside Out

MarnieInside Out

Both are animated features.  Both feature young females in prominent roles.  Both have great voice casts.  And both are done by the best in animation (Studio Ghibli and Pixar).  They both tell compelling stories and are both worth the price of admission.

The differences speak to the art of animation, it’s past as well as it’s future.  When Marnie Was There, being a Studio Ghibli film, is more in the traditional ink and paint animation style.  Studio Ghibli has done some computer animation, they are most known for their traditional animation style (as well as telling great stories).  Pixar, on the other hand, has been known for it’s cutting edge CGI animation and Inside Out shows that off.

The stories the two films tell are also different in the sense of source material.  Inside Out is an original IP (intellectual property), which was a staple of Pixar films in the beginning (though you can’t fault them for sequels like Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3).  When Marnie Was There is based on a book written by Joan G. Robinson.

Probably the one thing that stood out to me, now having watched both films was this.  When Marnie Was There is the end of an era.  It has the distinction of being (as of right now) the last feature film released by Studio Ghibli.  With the retirement of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, news was released that the studio was taking a “hiatus” from feature films.  If this does end up being the last Studio Ghibli film, then they went out on a high note.  Inside Out, on the other hand, is the first Pixar feature film to be released in theaters in two years.  Anticipation was high prior to it’s release, and it has met (and some cases exceeded expectations).  Depending on how good The Good Dinosaur does come Thanksgiving, Pixar could have another resurgence.

Having seen both films, I can say two things.  1) I enjoyed both of them and the stories that they told.  2) If I had to choose which one I enjoyed more, I would have to say When Marnie Was There.  Granted I saw When Marnie Was There at the historic Belcourt Theater in Nashville and I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan, but for me that story resonated more with me.  I’ll say it was a very bittersweet feeling I had watching that film know that it could be the last Studio Ghibli film I see in a theater.  Those films never got the wide release in the States that other animated films get (though there were a few exceptions).

Given the box office that Inside Out had its opening weekend, I’m sure you have seen it (or are planning on seeing it).  But I would hope that if there is a theater in your area that’s showing When Marnie Was There that you check it out as well.  Both are great films (animated or not).