The Crimson Arts Board evaluates the top 10 films of 2015, as decided by our annual survey.
James Bond returns in cheery formulaic glory, ready to save the world from yet another nefarious organization. This time, though, director Sam Mendes strikes a new and successful balance between tonal registers: “Spectre” retains the sophistication of the most recent Bond movies while evoking the campy fun of the earlier classics. For every scene of angst, Mendes produces a pithy one-liner, a shot-down helicopter, or a conveniently-placed couch, and the result is a nicely pitched piece of entertainment. The acting remains good, too, which is to say that Daniel Craig still has piercing eyes and a perfectly chiseled jaw. —Charlotte L.R. Anrig
Remakes often feel unoriginal in their execution or too dismissive of their original source material, but Disney avoids such pitfalls with its live-action adaptation of “Cinderella.” Director Kenneth Branagh fills every frame with stunning visuals, and he is sincere in his exploration of the story’s deeper themes such as perseverance and growth. Strong performances from the cast, particularly Cate Blanchett in her role as stepmother Lady Tremaine, and a colorfully striking costume and set design only enhance the film. “Cinderella” might be a modern remake of a classic tale, but it manages to maintain the romantic charm and sentimental magic that made its predecessors so beloved. —Ha D.H. Le
The latest, and by critical consensus greatest, work to date by director Felix Gary Gray, "Straight Outta Compton" dramatizes rap band N.W.A.’s rise to success in the mid 1980s and 1990s. Gray depicts collaborating founders Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) as quiet, raging heroes who battle not only for recognition as artists, but also against the injustice of the American police system—a timely topic. For such a contemporary subject—N.W.A. revolutionized modern music through their work in rap and hip-hop—the meditative camerawork imparts an unexpected sense of classical monumentality . “Straight Outta Compton” has fine actor performances all around, despite a conventional script. Beyond that, its dynamic, demanding, Byronic soundtrack is the real pièce de résistance. —Victoria Zhuang
Permeated by an omnipresent atmosphere of teenage malaise and supernatural dread, David Robert Mitchell’s modern-day masterpiece “It Follows” has already earned a rightful position alongside other canonical horror films such as “The Shining” and “The Exorcist.” Mitchell’s script simultaneously taps into and subverts classic tropes of adolescence: Protagonist Jay (Maika Monroe) struggles to define and reclaim her sexual agency throughout the movie while battling a relentless monster that haunts her as the result of a sex curse. A booming electronic score by Disasterpeace aptly complements Mitchell’s throwback ’80s visuals, and questions of spectrophilia are not the only ones left to the audience by film’s end. —Alan R. Xie
Director Alex Garland tackles man’s omnipresent fear of entities more intelligent than himself head-on with “Ex Machina”: the smart, chilling sci-fi answer to 2013’s more heartwarming and comedic “Her.” With rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander in the lead as the humanoid robot Ava, the film calls into question the same issues of sentience and autonomy for which Alan Turing laid the foundation with his famous eponymous test of artificial intelligence in 1950—a test that protagonist Caleb is dispatched to perform on Ava. “Ex Machina” is a Promethean tale for the modern generation. At its core a story of a man who dared to play both with fire and with God, it’s vague in all the right ways, never black or white in its morality but every shade of ambiguous grey in between. —Victoria Lin
Half a century after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches, “Selma,” directed by Ava DuVernay, retells the story of this crucial moment during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the civil rights movement. David Oyelowo leads the cast with a powerful and convincing performance as King, and DuVernay brings to the screen both a sense of the march as a mass movement and compelling glimpses of the private struggles of its key protagonists. The film also offers a meaningful reflection on its medium and the power of images on screen—such as the televised footage of civil rights protestors facing violence from Alabama police—to appeal to the national conscience and promote social change. —Elizabeth C. Keto
From Cannes: "Saul Fia" StartlesIn this review in our continuing Cannes coverage, Alan Xie examines another surprising first-time filmmaker's work, also in contention for the Palme d'Or. "Saul Fia" is a beautifully crafted, emotionally charged look at the Nazi extermination camps directed by László Nemes.
From Cannes: Woody Allen's "Irrational Man" Finest YetIn our continuing coverage of Cannes, Alan Xie reviews Woody Allen's "Irrational Man," which is the director's finest film in some years and perhaps his finest ever.
From Cannes: "O Piseu" ("Office") Thrills, HorrifiesIn our continuing coverage of Cannes, Alan Xie reviews "O Piseu" (English "Office"), a horrifying South Korean crime drama and the debut film of director Hong Won-chan.
From Cannes: "Hitchcock/Truffaut" IlluminatesIn our continuing Cannes coverage, Tianxing Lan discusses Ken Jones's documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut," which examines the historic interview in which the two great directors met.
Artist Spotlight: Chang ChenTianxing V. Lan interviews Taiwanese star Chang Chen about a life spent in acting and about his new film, "The Assassin," which premiered at Cannes this May.