The Best of 2015 (According to us)


As the year comes to a close we take a look at our favourite films of 2015. As always this has brought a fair amount of debate to the office and not every film we liked or loved could make it. What are your films of the year? 

In no particular order:

Whiplash 

Few films earn a 3-week run at GFT, and fewer still manage to increase their audience here week-on-week. But at the start of the year, Whiplash did just that. The reason? Amazing word-of-mouth for a film that displays a ferocious energy in its direction, its editing and especially in the menacing performance of J.K. Simmons. However, often overlooked in its praise is Miles Teller’s performance as Andrew – in his own quieter way, he is just as determined and ruthless as his bullying instructor. The film ultimately succeeds only because he is up to the challenge. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do rectify this quickly and don’t be put off by the jazz and 5-minute drum solos (two of my least favourite things, as it happens). For me, it’s the best film I’ve seen in the last five years. 

David Gattens
Financial/Commercial Director

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Selma

It was released right at the start of the year, but it's the one I keep coming back to in my mind, and the one that I most want to revisit. Yes, partly for the brilliant performance of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, but mostly for the way director Ava DuVernay so successfully dramatised this one episode in his life - and got under the skin of what it means, and what it costs, to peacefully protest. And the themes of this film - racism, oppression and the value of a non-violent alternative to aggression - have only become more relevant as the year has gone on. I think it is a vital film, from a vital filmmaker.

Paul Gallagher 
Marketing Manager

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Wild Tales

The six stories in Damián Szifrón’s skin-scorchingly brilliant portmanteau film are all about violence and revenge, and people pushed (or pushing themselves) to extremes: the road-rage drivers locked in a bloody battle to the death, the passengers trapped on a plane with a vengeful pilot, the diner cook doling out Old Testament-style punishment to a customer.  So far, so Fargo…but Wild Tales is much more than a gory, beautifully-done revenge-fest. It’s one of those films that reminds you of the power of cinema to elicit very visceral reactions. The laughter was almost forced out of my throat, because the comedy comes from watching people completely transcend the limits of normal human behaviour - at times it’s so thrillingly real that you almost want to stop watching. By the delirious conclusion to the final story, of a bride deliberately, desperately wrecking her own wedding when she discovers her groom’s infidelity, I felt as dazed and exhilarated as if I’d been one of the guests. That’s good movie-makin’.

Kirstin Innes
Press Manager

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Victoria

A near-perfect 40 minute film about a Spanish woman alone in Berlin, who leaves a club late one night only to be swept up by a drunken but charming penniless young man and his three shambolic pals. After impressing them with her beer-stealing skills, she follows them to a rooftop where they drink and smoke and talk rubbish whilst waiting for the dawn. What makes this beguiling snapshot of youth so special is that the whole film consists of one woozy continuous shot, charting a burgeoning romance in authentic real time. This entirely unremarkable encounter, directed by Sebastian Schipper, shot masterfully by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, scored sensitively by Nils Fram and played with gusto by Laia Costa and Frederick Lau (resembling On The Waterfront era Brando), has a dreamy, gritty beauty that still makes me well up weeks later. Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to hire an editor, and so the film is followed by a bizarre 100 minute outtake featuring a ludicrous plot about a botched bank robbery.

Matt Lloyd 
GSFF Director

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Inside Out

A film that tells both children and adults that joy and sadness can live in harmony is, for me, one of the greatest cinematic storytelling achievements of 2015. Pixar’s Inside Out, co-directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc and Up) features the signature wit, intelligence and emotion of the animation powerhouse, voiced from within the consciousness of 11-year-old Riley. With Joy (Amy Poehler) taking the lead, aided by Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and part dolphin, part pink elephant Bing Bong (Richard Kind) - who could have stepped straight out a Dr. Seuss novel - Pixar once again tug at the heartstrings with their ingenious, colourful tale. Throw in a couple of Hitchcock references (“I Am Falling For A Very Long Time Into A Pit”) and I reckon you’ve got an instant classic.

Margaret Smith
Festival Marketing Assistant

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Force Majeure

Representing the defendant: “M’lud, I would like to submit that my client is freed from his obligations due to a, em, Force Majeure. An act of God M’lud”

Judge: “Yes I am aware of the phrase councillor”

Representing the defendant: “Pardon M’lud. The defence sites an avalanche, witnessed by numerous bystanders, that endangered his bodily person and as such, as we can surely all reasonably concede, one must protect oneself before protecting others, and to that end his actions were completely justifiable.”

Representing the prosecution: “Objection. The contract entered by the defendant states “Till death do us part”. The defendant is clearly not dead and therefore must carry out his duties as a husband until such time as he is deceased. Protecting his wife and children from danger would fall under such responsibilities”

Gavin Crosby 
Design and Digital Marketing Coordinator

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Eden

Rarely do you find a film so enamoured by the world it depicts. Mia Hansen-Love’s bittersweet love letter to the Parisian House music scene of the 90s and 00s replicates the warmth and sadness found in the scene with devastating effect, following a young DJ struggling to make sense of love and life. Emotion through nightlife has always been an area film has struggled to depict; Eden allows that world to shine.

Iain Canning
GFF Programme Coordinator

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Wild Tales

My GFF15 highlight also turned out to be my film of the year.  With an ensemble cast of Argentinian actors, including The Secret in Their Eyes’ Ricardo Darin, Wild Tales is made up of 6 short films. Each story begins with an everyday situation (a car ride, a flight, a wedding) and takes the audience on a journey which becomes steadily more outrageous. It is a hilarious dark comedy which was robbed (in my opinion) of the Oscar for Foreign Language film. I can’t wait to see more Argentinian films in our Roads to the South strand at GFF16!

Sarah Emery
Guest Coordinator

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Iris

Fantastic 4 aside, Iris is one of 2015’s best films. This documentary follows the everyday life of designer Iris Apfel, an unlikely but world-renowned fashion guru, and her husband and business partner Carl. Since starting her own interior design and textile business in 1950, Iris became a style icon, layering up with an endless amount of jewellery, berserk patterns and her trademark bug-eye glasses.

Her inimitable style aside, Iris is a hugely compelling character: self-aware, honest and a true exhibitionist, she exudes a sense of warmth and fun that her imitators wish they possessed. What is so endearing is seeing Iris and Carl go about their day-to-day so adorably, having enjoyed nearly 70 years of marriage, giving the audience all the feels. Iris is a touching and off-beat tribute to one of fashion’s most under-rated yet enduring icons. 

Jonny Stone
Press Assistant

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Inside Out

‘Do you ever look at someone and wonder: “What is going on inside their head?”’ Well someone at Pixar did and the result is the fabulous Inside Out.

Unparalleled in children’s cinema, the film introduces even the youngest audiences to emotional complexity in an engaging, funny, and delightfully imaginative way. Basically, we all have little voices inside our head that affect our behaviour; we can’t hear each other’s voices, which means that we are eternally likely to misunderstand one another - who knew? The retro style animation is beautiful and the running gags about those misunderstandings are a total joy. 

Annie McCourt
Children and Young People Coordinator

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The Wolfpack 

This bizarre documentary is about a group of brothers confined in their Manhattan apartment by their parents, sometimes leaving the house just once a year. They learn about the outside world through the movies they watch and recreate their favourites like Pulp Fiction with ingenious home-made props and costumes. A disturbing portrait of an unconventional family, it raises questions about the role of a parent and where the line between protection and abuse lies. The unbroken spirits of the boys, their creativity and enthusiasm was absorbing; I was left rooting for them to become the directors of their own film, their own life.

Katie Duncan
Press Admin Assistant

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Inherent Vice

Joanna Newsom’s narration as the mysterious Sortilège was genius casting by Paul Thomas Anderson.  It made me wish I lived in Los Angeles in its hippy heyday, one of the funniest films I’ve seen and you can’t beat Joaquin Phoenix. In anything.  

Francesca Scott
Marketing Engagement Assistant

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Iris

The penultimate film by the late Albert Maysles, Iris is a charming portrait of cult New York fashion figure Iris Apfel, a well-respected textile designer who became a ‘geriatric starlet’ following the Rara Avisexhibition at The Met. The documentary follows Iris in her new found celebrity, as she becomes the focus of magazine spreads, swarming fans and special events. Aged 93, she is asked at one such event: which came first, the personality or the clothes? She answers honestly that it’s so far back that she can’t remember, but through Maysles’ lens it becomes clear to us that with Iris, what is interesting is not this germination, but her constant creativity and evolution. A valuable reminder in an increasingly homogenised world that dressing, and indeed life, are nothing but an experiment.

Clare Gunn
Festival Communications & Venue Marketing Assistant

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It Follows

As an avid horror fan, one of the films that most stuck out for me last year was It Follows, a kind of supernatural sex education film if you will (better descriptions have been made). Slasher tradition dictates that sex almost always equals death for foolhardy teenage characters, and this film takes the concept to a whole new terrifying level, with sexual encounters replacing the casting of the runes in Night of the Demon-styley (i.e. pass it on, or suffer the consequences). Only this time, it 'ain't some daft-looking monster appearing out of the trees to claim your soul, it's that innocuous passer by that seems to be making a (often painfully slow) beeline in your direction, or a family member, or worse... Set in a retro futuristic world where some things are familiar and some not, with a great Carpenter-esque soundtrack by Disasterpeace, it's time you made a date with this movie if you haven't already. But remember – you can run, but It Follows!

Morvern Cunningham
GSFF Events Manager

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For Ailsa

Fundamental Feminist Politics
Ordinary Style
Remarkable Woman 

Articulate beliefs
Innovative and integral thinking for our time
Longing for equal measures
Seismic consequnces that we all need to understand
A loss for us all.

Jodie Wilkinson
Public Engagement Coordinator

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I found Kristen Wiig a surprise in her more serious role as Minnie’s mother Charlotte, prone to hankering after her own lost youth and totally unaware of what is happening around her. Alexander Skarsgård, despite playing a much older man that should know better, was likeable if not a bit dimwitted as Monroe. This is a refreshing change from the creepy predator you might expect. However, it's Bel Powley, utterly convincing as 15-year-old Minnie, that really steals the show. At times she is infuriating and her behaviour is often inexcusable, but there is an innocence to her that made makes you care for her character despite her antics. This was definitely an uncomfortable watch that left a lingering impression.

Caroline Rice
Office Manager

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45 Years

After seeing Andrew Haigh's 2011 film Weekend, I was very excited to see what he would do next. 45 Years did not disappoint. This study of a relationship is so nuanced in its execution - it resists clear-cut resolution - that it manages to express how complex, and how fragile a relationship can be. The film explores how much we can really know another person, or to what extent we retain our 'interior lives' whilst in a relationship. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling brilliantly convey the couple's dislocation; the misunderstandings, the things said or not said, and the chasm which widens with their ambivalence is heartbreaking.

Jane Hartshorn
Marketing and Press Coordinator

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Tangerine

Tangerine is absolutely true to its tagline, “the transgender revenge comedy of the year."

On Christmas eve trans sex-worker Sin-Dee Rella is released from a 28-day prison sentence, only to find out her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her, with a cisgender woman. She immediately storms off through the streets of Hollywood to find both of them, and get revenge. The film's two lead actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, are what makes it. Both trans women of colour, many of the scenes are based on their own experiences, giving the film a realness absent from other recent films featuring cisgender actors in trans roles.

Filmed entirely on iPhone, the innovative camera work alongside an amazing trap soundtrack make this film beautifully trashy as well as incredibly relevant. It's both hilariously funny and deeply sad in some moments, showing the diverse and complex lives of trans women of colour trying to make ends meet in LA. With films Iike The Danish Girl overshadowing smaller, trans-lead productions like this, Tangerine is a necessary watch.

Clo Meehan
GSFF Assistant

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Honourable mentions go to AmyLove & MercyMad Max: Fury RoadBest of EnemiesWhite God,TangerineSuffragette, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Girlhood, Carol and Slow West. There were also a host of re-issued classics that we loved watching again: The Third ManBlade Runner and Dr Zhivago to name a few.


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