I’ve noticed creating lists around the year’s halfway point has become a really hip thing to do, so I’m gonna join the frenzy and offer my two cents in regards to what have been my favorite movies of the year so far. I suppose a distinction should be made between the words best and favorite. I recognize, of course, that many of my favorites in any medium are often not what might objectively be declared the best. For example, my favorite Tarantino film is Kill Bill (let’s just collectively refer to it as Kill Bill and not dick around about which volume is better, because really, what a drag it’d be), but I recognize a discussion about what his best movie is would probably gravitate towards Pulp Fiction or, perhaps, Inglourious Basterds. So, as it were, whenever I take it upon myself to make lists like this, they’ll always be lists of personal favorites. These are films I’m recommending because I enjoyed them as stories, not as works of art (well, mostly).
Written and directed by John M. Maclean
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 91%; Audience Score: 75%
Slow West is exactly what the title suggests: it’s an extremely slow paced western. I recognize that most people aren’t going to love this as much as I did. In fact, I showed it to my friend Andrew just yesterday and while he didn’t hate it, you’re never going to see Slow West on his list of favorite movies for 2015. And that’s fine, I can respect that. Slow West is bound to be a subject for disagreement. Some will view its initial two acts as sloggish; I was too enamored by Michael Fassbender’s performance and the gorgeous scenery to feel bored. Its third act is beautiful and brutal, and solidified it as one of my favorites of the year.
Basic plot: At the end of the nineteenth century, a boy named Jay travels from Scotland to America in pursuit of his great love, Rose. He is soon escorted by an aloof bounty hunter, and the pair make their way across the west in search of Rose.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 98%; Audience Score: 88%
I don’t even know where to begin with this behemoth of an action movie. Did you watch the trailer? Watch the trailer. I don’t think I even need to say anything. This movie was fucking outrageous in all the right ways. Go see it as soon as you can.
Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 89%; Audience Score: 86%
Dope was a pleasant surprise. It’s funny, it’s innocent, it’s smart, and it’s provocative. I laughed throughout the film, and when I left the theater, I was thinking about the ending’s jab at society and racial expectations. It’s a moral gut punch that feels earned. The action, comedy, and zany antics of our three black teenage protagonists are all entertaining, but they also all build up a cohesive argument about race in America.
Basic plot: Malcom, a black geek in Englewood, contends with bullies, schoolwork, and a Harvard application. In the midst of this teenage angst, Malcolm is shackled with a bag of drugs that he must figure out how to sell in order to save his own skin.
Written and directed by Alex Garland
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 92%; Audience Score: 86%
By now, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of Ex Machina. It’s a brilliant sci-fi movie, and it also functions as a severely tense thriller. I was very on edge when I saw it for the first time in theaters, completely unsure of where the movie was headed. The motivations of the three characters are hard to determine, until all is finally revealed in a harrowing finale.
Basic plot: A reclusive billionaire invites a lucky winner to his secret research facility for a week. He wants his new guest to see and test his latest invention: AI, in the form a beautiful mechanical woman.