Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy.” Image from official trailer

By Megan Bianco

In this modern world of digital entertainment from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to Vine, YouTube and Instagram, the cinematic art form still shines on and delivers. Throughout 2015, while show business continued to learn how to conform to the new era of technology, Hollywood and independent film gave us both variety and quality movies for our viewing pleasure.

With the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, here in advance is the list of my top-ten favorite films from the past 12 months.

Starting at number ten, Disney’s live-action version “Cinderella was a pleasant surprise after the disappointing “Maleficent two years ago. With Ken Branagh directing and Cate Blanchett and Lily James on the screen, the movie is charming eye candy and movie magic for fairy tale fans. Since Netflix can arguably be seen as a virtual TV station and movie studio, my number nine pick is Sofia Coppola’s “A Very Murray Christmas starring Bill Murray as a scripted version of himself singing Christmas songs along with Chris Rock, Jenny Lewis, Maya Rudolph and more. The holiday musical is funny and lighthearted for any day in December.

Number eight is the most successful movie of 2015, and it’s only been out for four weeks: “Star Wars: Episode VII— The Force Awakens.” The first Star Wars flick in ten years, and it’s just as entertaining and fun as it should be. With a new trio to lead the way, along with Luke, Leia and Han, the outer galaxy is cool again. Cate Blanchett returns to my list at number seven in Todd Haynes’ romantic period piece, “Carol, with Rooney Mara. Shot in beautiful 16mm film with an equally beautiful score from Carter Burwell, the lesbian love story is the right amount of subtlety and intimacy. It’s leading the Golden Globe nominations.

Alex Garland’s AI-themed “Ex Machina is indie sci-fi at its best: thought-provoking, chilling and a little out there. For those who found 2013’s “Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson too bizarre, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson show a little more accessible cautionary tale. The most talked-about action blockbuster from 2015, “Mad Max: Fury Road, is the franchise revival many weren’t expecting, but received in a big way. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron lead George Miller’s fourth Max feature for a wild and awesome desert ride.

Another surprise at number four is Aussie character actor Joel Edgerton’s film-making debut with “The Gift.” A sleeper hit made up as a creepy thriller co-starring Edgerton, Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman has some of the most genuine jump scares and a perfectly unsettling tone. Steven Spielberg showed us that a cold-war setting could be intriguing in his fourth collaboration with Tom Hanks, “Bridge of Spies.” With three stories linked together, Spielberg’s period pic has some stellar editing and direction.

Also being carried by great editing, alongside some great acting, are my top two picks for 2015: Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy” and Adam McKay’s “The Big Short.” The former is a biopic about Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson that’s a love letter to his music, with a standout performance by Paul Dano. McKay’s film is another non-fiction feature that chose to show the lead-up to the ’08 market crash in a comedic light. History and pop culture flow together between brilliant acting from Christian Bale and Steve Carell.

Though awards season had a rocky start back in October, the overview of the whole year in film shows that quality movies are still being made regularly for fans everywhere.


Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.

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