Instead of listing the best films of 2015 so far, which is what everyone is doing, I’m breaking it down as half-time Oscar nominations. The Best Picture category is a full boat (ten noms) but the other categories are threadbare, catch-as-catch-can. If I consider commercial releases only, the first six months have been somewhat thin. So let’s include new films I’ve seen this year in all formats and situations — mostly theatrical and film festival but also cable and VOD. This is just a first draft, of course. Suggestions, reminders and disputes are solicited.
Keep in mind that things always look a bit fallow in late June, and that at least 21 heavy hitters have yet to be seen (A Bigger Splash, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, By The Sea, Concussion, The Danish Girl, Demolition, Everybody Wants Some, Hail Caesar!, Joy, Money Monster, Our Brand Is Crisis, The Program, The Revenant, Silence [‘2015 or ’16?], Snowden, Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Suffragette, Trumbo).
Top Five 2015 Best Picture nominees (in order of excellence/preference): 1. Love & Mercy (d: Bill Pohlad), 2. Son of Saul (Cannes, d: Laszlo Nemes), 3. Carol (Cannes, d: Todd Haynes), 4. Mad Max: Fury Road (d: George Miller), 5. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (HBO, d: Alex Gibney),
Best Picture nominees, second grouping: 6. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (Sundance, d: Douglas Tirola); 7. About Elly (d: Asghar Farhadi); 8. Inside Out (d: Pete Docter — I didn’t care for the experience of watching this film but I have to give the animated devil his due — this is a smart, clever, thematically engaging go-getter “ride” movie); 9. Far From The Madding Crowd (d: Thomas Vinterberg). SPECIAL ADD-ON: 10. Brooklyn (missed it at Sundance but everybody did cartwheels so I’m going on faith here — d: John Crowley, screenplay: Nick Hornby).
2015 Honorable Mentions (in order of preference): 1. Mistress America (Sundance — d: Noah Baumbach, co-creator: Greta Gerwig), 2. Me & Earl & The Dying Girl (d: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, screenplay: Jesse Andrews); 3. Ex Machina (d: Alex Garland); 4. Mississippi Grind (Sundance ’15, d: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden); 5. The Overnight (Sundance, d: Patrick Brice); 6. It Follows (d: David Robert Mitchell); 7. The D Train (d: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel); 8. All Or Nothing At All (d: Alex Gibney); (10) McFarland USA (d: Niki Caro).
Best Director nominees: Bill Pohlad, Love & Mercy; Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul; Todd Haynes, Carol; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road.
Best Actor nominees: Paul Dano and John Cusack, Love & Mercy; Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul.
Best Actress nominees: Rooney Mara, Carol (primary); Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road; Carey Mulligan, Far From The Madding Crowd; Cate Blanchett, Carol.
Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Michael Sheen, Far From The Madding Crowd; Paul Giamatti, Love & Mercy.
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominee: Phyllis Nagy, Carol.
Best Cinematography: John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road; Ed Lachman, Carol.
Biggest Hates: Furious 7, Jurassic World.
Way Overpraised: Dope.