Parnella Picks! 2015 Favorite Films!

Another season is winding up with the awards ceremonies to commence, which means we’re all seeing best of the year lists around this time.  My Parnella Picks are up and as always, I’m really excited to share them!  2015 won’t stand out in particular for me when I look back.  However, there are a few films that I won’t be able to forget.  For starters, some films that I couldn’t make the cut but are worthy enough for an honorable mention: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Trumbo, Love & Mercy, Ant-Man, What Happened Miss Simone?, Room, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and most importantly ’71 (pictured above)For this year is in line with the recent trends of history, my cinematic history.  Four years now, my number one movie has revealed itself at the beginning of the new season, the dead season, the period of time RIGHT after the big year end celebration (The Oscars) when no one is thinking about movies.  In an effort to keep theater attendance up, which has been a recent struggle in today’s economy, studios and exhibitors, are eager keep us hungry for more movies.  For example, this upcoming season, at the beginning and during the dead months, my most anticipated movie of the DECADE will release.  So, I’m quite intrigued at this pattern as each year now, my mind simply becomes made up and nothing tops the movie that simply blew me away.  This year was no different, and I say all of that to say, that though 2015 may not overall be a memorable one, nonetheless, it was a great one!

I went into every film with high hopes and an open heart.  Here’s what I came up with:

10. Dope

The 2nd knockout of the year!  Director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood, Brown Sugar, Talk to Me) knocks one out of the ballpark with a well done black comedy with substance.  I was very impressed with the handful of quality black films that released this year and Dope was one that friends and I all didn’t see coming but were so happy to have experienced!  We follow 3 friends in the midst of a drug scramble in high school, forcing them to stick together in a true test of friendship … all before prom!

At the end of WWII, Nelly Lenz, a holocaust survivor, returns to Berlin after having received facial reconstructive surgery from a bullet wound in the chaos.  The liberation of the conclusions of concentration camps forces Nelly to return to Germany to see a plastic surgeon in an effort to look the same as she did before.  Unable to do so, the doctor leaves Nelly with a new face.  In addition to having lost her family in the war, Nelly meets her husband, Johnny, who works at a local nightclub called “Phoenix” and he completely doesn’t recognize her.  But her initial interest causes Johnny to notice her and her “uncanny resemblance” to his wife and realize she could be the answer to receiving her inheritance, thinking she’s dead.  With the heir of suspicion looming over Nelly thinking Johnny could be the reason she was outed to the Nazi’s in the first place, Nelly pretends to be “Esther” with her own mission in an effort to discover the truth.  Nelly & Johnny become more acquainted as friends; to Nelly it’s like dating all over again!  But who knows what the truth really is … and when it will decide to reveal itself!

8. Inside Out

Pixar has done it again!  They never cease to amaze me with their heck of a job as storytellers.  As a writer, I always become eager, like the kid within the movie theater who this is most likely geared for, whenever I hear of a new film of theirs on the horizon.  The work put into the story alone, a typical couple of years on just that aspect simply skyrockets my respect and appreciation for the work put into their films.  I definitely was in tears at the end of this one, not as much as other Pixar films, but completely within the realm of where I needed to be at the end of this particular journey.  A couple of the characters reminded me of a few family members and friends, I could relate and understand what was going on, but most importantly, I had a great time at the movies!

7. Steve Jobs

Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball, The Social Network, A Few Good Men) you son of a gun!  You’ve done it again!  Again, as a writer, my ears piqued when I discovered he wrote this one.  Add that onto the brilliance of Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, and the maniacal Danny Boyle and you’ve got a recipe for a savoring yet spicy tale of momentum building greatness.  Sorkin’s dialogue and story development that leads to interesting confrontation that I wanted to be a part of and felt sad when that confrontation was over, was simply well done.  These are all signs of good writing and with Boyle’s direction and spin in his own crazy way, with Fassbender at the helm of the acting and the even more vetted Kate Winslet supporting him; you’ve got yourself one incredible experience! 

6. Creed

WOW!! … Simply … WOW!!  I couldn’t believe just how much I fell in love with this film.  On the surface, with its story issues and commercial tariffs, it shouldn’t be anywhere near a “best of” list, let alone near the top of one.  But boy oh boy does it deliver a one-two punch that knocks you out and delivers by the final round!  It’s a Rocky film and as such, it plays on your emotions and they pick you up and carry you to the finish line or the final round, over any minor story issues or commercialism that might turn one off to it come announcing the year’s best.  It’s a new breed of Rocky, revealing such breed and nature through the medium of black films.  Which I was so happy to discover!  Black films don’t get the justice they deserve and 2015 strapped on the gloves and fought for that justice, one punch at a time!

5. The Martian

Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) takes us to Mars this time in an effort to rescue stranded astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who learns to utilize his surroundings to stay alive.  However, in a non-typical, artsy, Oscar typical dramatic way, we voyage this journey through the eyes of Watney, NASA, and all the people in between such as Watney’s crew helmed by one of my girls, Jessica Chastain, in a dramatic experience but with light hearted comedy heavily sprinkled throughout.  So this Oscar caliber, on the surface looking drama, is an upbeat and comedic narrative.  A humorous story is already difficult to pull off, some film experts say the most difficult, yet Ridley Scott takes us through this journey to Mars and back all without overdosing on the drama meds and gives the look and feeling of a story that doesn’t wear its seriousness on its sleeve.  BRILLIANTLY ACHIEVED!! 

Hungary’s officially selection this year and “that one foreign film” that everyone knows about on the Oscar ballot as that’s the one we all know is going to win or simply the one we only know because we Americans are too busy focused on the big films we made ourselves that year.  Yet, I’m so happy that black films and now foreign films really stepped up to the plate this season!  What a great year in that aspect!  Son of Saul takes us through the inventive and ingenious cinematography to relive the Holocaust through Saul, a Jewish worker at an Auschwitz concentration camp who tries to find a rabbi amongst the existing or incoming Jews to give a child he discovers a proper burial.  Cloaked through the eyes of trickery, deceit, and camouflage in a stealth manner, I was on the edge the entire time!  I wish more innovative and creative films exposed themselves more frequently like this.  I couldn’t believe how impressed I was! 

This year’s Oscar hopeful!  It's clear from all of the film’s press and screening buzz that this is the film to beat this year.  After rearranging plans to screen it early myself, I too knew I was witnessing the crowned king, pre-crowning.  Following a news team, a selective bunch for the Boston Globe, called the “Spotlight” team, who choose their stories wisely and then go all out to divulge the information within to inform us all as the closest we can to experiencing such events, we uncover a large conspiracy within the Catholic Church.  Point by point, scene by scene, everything perfectly lines up.  As a pundit/teacher/film person extraordinaire, my figurative red pen didn’t have much to do as I witnessed the points of the story unfold perfectly before me.  Everything was done by the book and “correctly” in improper filmmaking terms.  The kind of film that deserves the coveted prized possession we all seek for an honorable suitor.  On paper, this is the one that deserves the win.  In person, you reaffirm that oh so marvelously!

Being one of those days where I had my favorites list pretty much set in stone and just following up with a few last screenings to be sure, I couldn’t believe just how blown away I was with this film and how thankful I was to have to re-chisel my stone tablets.  In Humphrey Bogart’s famous words regarding The Maltese Falcon, this is “thee uh … stuff that dreams are made of”.  Following 5 Turkish girls in their native area, growing up in today’s pop culture can be difficult for a traditional culture.  Fighting the pressures of wanting to be free to do whatever you please yet to still have your family’s support who believes in their way of life, the girls uncover the themes of individuality, feminism, and loyalty to one’s heart as they one by one prepare for their arranged marriages.  Quietly, this film made its presence known as arguably my best film of the year.  During a time, the tail end of the season, when I thought I was done selecting favorites.

There can only be one, I could’ve easily tied this year’s number one spot, but that’s no fun to me.  Ultimately, what it boiled down to was the fact that I had more time to experience and fall in love with the sci-fi masterpiece from Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, The Beach).  Each scene gives the presence of suspense in an eerie like manner that makes me want to know more of what’s going to happen next.  I don’t know whether I’m going to be frightened, slightly thrilled in a scary way, or altogether mind boggled with something I never saw coming.  Garland’s dialogue makes me think of the character’s true intentions.  What do they really mean?   What was really said?  A true master of the mind to get one thinking and not in the cliché arthouse protocol of “who cares what it means, the point is I got you talking about it”.  I loved how this film introduced most of us to actress Alicia Vikander (pictured) who has had a great year and whose career is on the rise.  She along with the other major players here are the reason why this film was so effective and why it is my best film of 2015! 


11. Straight Outta Compton
12. The Big Short
13. The Hateful Eight
14. The Revenant
15. Amy
16. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
17. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
18. Beasts of No Nation
19. What We Do In The Shadows

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow morning bright and early at 5:30am PST for the Oscar nominations!

As always, thank you to all of my followers for reading. 

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