2015 was a great year for movies. It was a year where creative filmmakers continued to thrive and challenge the status quo. It was also a landmark year for documentaries and animated cinema. And of course, the quality of television continues to increase, with Netflix continuing to ramp up their production of original material – dominating the cultural discussion with a diverse range of original programming that continues to captivate audiences all over the world. Amazon Prime, while slower to adapt than Netflix, also has its fair share of impressive original material, which will continue to expand into 2016, as Hulu starts to get in on the game as well.
The less said about Yahoo’s botched offerings, the better.
As the availability of technology increases, independent cinema is becoming more and more ambitious, which in turn pushes more mainstream cinema to take risks. 2015 was the year of the 140 minute action thriller, all in one continuous shot. The year that an independent director shot a beautiful looking film with an iPhone and a handful of cheap apps. The year that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu reached peak levels of insanity and somehow got a film greenlit that was shot all in natural light, made in a place where there is incredibly limited natural light (and that was barely habitable for humans, like a modern day Apocalypse Now).
2015 was also the year that Marvel had a weaker year on their film side, at least critically (they still made close to $2 billion), but had an incredible run on the television side, creating some of the best new shows of the year. Universal Studios had one of the best years on records, with the runaway successes of Furious 7 (RIP Paul Walker, thanks for the huge payout), and Jurassic World, which was only eclipsed by a certain little known space epic in December.
Quentin Tarantino released another new movie set in the past, displaying a fierce love of the ‘n’ word, and a fetish for beating on women – in a time as culturally sensitive and explosive (there were unparalleled amounts of moral outrage last year) as we’re in, The Hateful Eight has proven…divisive, even within my own brain. Is it his worst or best film yet? You’ll find plenty of arguments for both.
It was also the year of the return of the western, with several impressive revisionist westerns being created last year – not just Tarantino’s latest effort. If revisionist westerns aren’t your thing there was also comedy westerns, feminist westerns, and even horror westerns. Westerns are showing no sign of slowing down in 2016 either (and even making their way to television with HBO’s remake Westworld, and AMC’s Preacher), so yes, it does seem like the genre may actually be here to stay for a little while.
Oh, and of course, there was this little thing called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may have heard of it? It was kind of a big deal. It also turned out to be pretty good! It also obliterated the combination, to the surprise of absolutely no-one. It was the perfect cap to a year that seemed heavily focused on nostalgia, with the highly praised end sequence of Furious 7, Jurassic World, and even Creed, which arguably is the first film to truly perfect the delicate hybrid formula for a successful remake/reboot/sequel.
And so continues my extensive rundown of the high points of 2015 in film, across independent, Hollywood, and international cinema. Previously, we covered the best cameo appearances of 2015, best deaths, the best new characters, and the best documentaries of 2015. It’s been a wide ride. And hopefully, some of you have enjoyed reading it. Without further ado, let me present to you the best male performances in film from 2015:
Currently, there’s a huge controversy around the latest batch of Oscar nominations, namely the whole #Oscarssowhite campaign, which has caused all manner of confusion and general disarray among the Academy members. Some prominent black members have threatened to boycott the event, while also putting pressure on host Chris Rock to step down. Some gay members are taking the opportunity to point out that no openly gay actor has won an Oscar, which is especially suspect when there have been plenty of examples of straight actors winning Oscars for playing gay roles.
Then of course, the old guard have come out and said varying amounts of “what’s the big deal?” with Michael Caine coming out as looking the most sensitive of the bunch. Caine asked actors who felt marginalised to “be patient”, which isn’t as offensive or wrong as some have claimed. After all, Caine has had an enormous, and highly celebrated career, yet it took him decades to win an Oscar. Furthermore, it’s not like members of the black community have never won Oscars before, it’s only the last 2 years that none have been nominated (which speaks more to a lack of diversity in mainstream prestige pictures than an actual racist Academy). Caine also said that the Oscars should go to who gave the best performance of the year, and was surprised to hear that Idris Elba had not been nominated for Beasts Of No Nation. Herein lies the rub: what Caine says in that regard is 100% right, but the Oscars have always been more political campaign than award show for the best and brightest. Over time, it has become even more so, with certain producers dominating the award shows – there’s literally a handful of men and women that hold the keys to winning one of those statues every single year. And they aren’t casting minorities in substantial roles – whether they’re black, hispanic, or gay.
As a result, the Academy have recently announced some rapid rule changes to membership that have proven to be controversial. The hope is that it will shake up diversity within the Academy (which is predominantly old, white men), and thus influence those gatekeepers to cast their nets more widely, or tell stories that reflect a more modern, and diverse America. Quick, someone cast Mel Gibson in something! You know, just to maintain the quota of racism in the Academy membership.
Anyway, because of this political emphasis the best performances never really get nominated at the Oscars, so here’s my vain attempt to restore the balance and give the true best performances of the year some overdue praise. So without further ado, here are the best performances of 2015, with a few special awards thrown in for good measure.