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On Film: Ten at the Top of 2015

The best films of (most of) the year



The Martian

 

It wouldn’t be a new year without a Top 10 list from a film critic, and far be it from me to trample on time-honored tradition. Before reading this subjective take on 2015 at the movies, however, bear in mind the caveat that as of this writing, your humble reviewer (that’s me) has not seen a handful of widely anticipated films, including Joy, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight and some obscure revival of a defunct sci-fi franchise.

 

 Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi earned international acclaim in 2011 for his Oscar-winning A Separation, but his cinematic genius was evident in About Elly, which predates that picture but only last year received a proper worldwide release. In detailing a group of vacationing friends from Tehran, Farhadi finds an ideal canvas for examining the complexities of relationships.


If this adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestseller doesn’t inspire a generation of kids to become scientists, then nothing will. Director Ridley Scott knows his way around outer space (Alien, Prometheus), but here he keeps the science rooted in reality. Matt Damon plays a resourceful astronaut stranded on the Red Planet, but The Martian’s true star is its intelligent and exciting storytelling.


2015 boasted an abundance of fascinating documentaries about everything from Amy Winehouse to the uprising in the Ukraine, but perhaps none were as wry, sly or flat-out entertaining as this chronicling of the televised debates between conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. and leftist novelist Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential conventions.


A high school girl is kidnapped by a psycho and held captive in a garden shed for seven years, during which time she is raped and gives birth to a child. That horrific (and sadly plausible) scenario might not sound like the stuff of human uplift, but the ambitious and absorbing Room rejects easy categorization. Brie Larson is excellent as the young mother, while Jacob Tremblay is a revelation as her 5-year-old son.


Film critic Roger Ebert was an early and enthusiastic champion of indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, so it is fittingly touching that Bahrani dedicates 99 Homes, his finest work to date, to the late reviewer. Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield are extraordinary in this Faustian tale of greed and seduction amidst the 2007-2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Ebert would be proud.


It’s been a long time since I felt legitimately surprised by a movie, but rookie writer-director Marielle Heller did it for me in this unflinching adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel. Newcomer Bel Powley, astonishing as 15-year-old heroine Minnie Goetz, is by turns selfish, volatile, vulnerable, funny and angst-ridden. In other words, she is as real and rewarding as The Diary of a Teenage Girl itself.


Few movies about musicians nail the creative process, which makes Love & Mercy all the more remarkable. In chronicling the story of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson (played by Paul Dano and John Cusack in various periods of life), who persevered despite mental illness and the clutches of a charlatan therapist, the biopic captures the dizzying exuberance of the recording sessions that resulted in the seminal Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds.”


Steven Spielberg’s best film in nearly 20 years looks back to the Cold War for subject matter, but its themes – patriotism and adhering to ideals despite fear and hatred – pulsate with modern-day urgency. Tom Hanks is solid as James B. Donovan, the real-life lawyer who represented Russian spy Rudolf Abel and brokered the freedom of American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, but Mark Rylance, who portrays the Ruski spook, manages to steal his every scene.


Todd Haynes’ tale of a forbidden love affair set in the repressed but oh-so-stylish 1950s, Carol is awash in the meticulous period detail that characterized the director’s Far From Heaven in 2002. Cate Blanchett is entrancing as the title character, but Rooney Mara is every bit her equal as a department store clerk who falls hard for the middle-aged woman. Sumptuous, romantic and bittersweet, Carol lingers on the mind.


Much like the four-person investigative journalism team depicted in the film, Spotlight is no-frills, straightforward and devastatingly effective. Director-writer Tom McCarthy’s ink-stained newspaper thriller is reminiscent of 1976’s All the President’s Men, only this time the culprit isn’t merely a presidency, but instead a Catholic Church hierarchy in Boston that covered up the crimes of pedophile priests. An ensemble cast that includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams does justice to McCarthy and Josh Singer’s lean, riveting script.

 

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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

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Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Telephone: 405.475.4185
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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

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Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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