In no particular order, here are the top 15 moments, events and personalities that we’ll remember about 2015 at the movies, as selected by W‘s editor at large Lynn Hirschberg, who profiled many of these subjects, like Cate Blanchett, over the course of the last year.
The Big Short at AFI Fest The movie is innovative, hilarious, haunting and this screening, before an elite Hollywood audience, left people stunned. This cast, under the direction of Adam McKay, is stellar, especially Christian Bale as a one-eyed eccentric who foresaw the crash of 2008. Bale may be the best actor in the world right now.
Kristen Wiig She is a true artist – whether she a permissive ’70s mother in Diary of a Teenage Girl or a deluded lottery winner in Welcome to Me. But perhaps her most stunning performance in 2015 was uncredited: she danced to Chandelier by Sia at the Grammys and was profoundly moving.
Fictional Documentaries Several films were inspired by true stories (Our Brand in Crisis, Truth, Spotlight) but Experimenter, based on the life of social scientist Stanley Milgram, was the most original. Starring Peter Sarsgaard as the man who researched the willingness of people to follow orders and inflict physical pain on one another, Experimenter was fascinating.
And one more: Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn at the New York Film Festival Ronan, in her first truly “adult” role, was stunning as an Irish immigrant settling in New York in the early ’50s. A cinematic reminder of why America should be a welcoming home.
Carol at the Cannes Film Festival The movie, starring the brilliant Cate Blanchett, was heralded with a 20-minute standing ovation and Rooney Mara won the prize for Best Actress. It was a wonderful start to the movie’s journey – hopefully, all the way to the Academy Awards.
And related to Carol: The genius of the costume designer Sandy Powell: her thrilling but subtle work on Cinderella and Carol, two Blanchett vehicles, showed her range in 2015: she can do the spectacular and the personal. In each case, the clothes looked authentic and original.
The Year of Amy Schumer She is outspoken, brave, hilarious, innovative and proudly herself. Schumer is good for the planet.
Also good for the planet: The resurgence of veteran actresses like Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Lily Tomlin (Grandma) and, especially, the great Jane Fonda, who plays a diva in Youth and nearly steals the film with just one scene.
Tangerine winning the Gotham Award The film was shot on an iPhone 5 and presented the most close-up, vivid experience of transgender life in 2015. It was unforgettable.
Quentin Tarantino’s women Counterintuitively, in every one of his often very male films, a woman is the center of the Tarantino universe. In Hateful Eight, Jennifer Jason Leigh is the evil heart of the film. She is a fascinating, captivating time bomb waiting to explode.
Mad Max: Fury Road For pure originality, George Miller’s film kicked Star Wars’ ass. Charlize Theron was brutal and inspiring as his one-armed heroine.
TCM’s Summer of Noir Every Friday in July and August, TCM played both well-known and little-seen noirs. It was very hard for me to leave the house when dark criminals and bad, bad girls in Out of the Past and Gun Crazy were on around the clock.
Bridge of Spies Grand, old-fashioned filmmaking at its best and a vivid reminder of why Steven Spielberg is a master director.
Bonus Not from a Movie: Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton at the CMA Awards While representing the sensibilities of the past, Stapleton, who went on to win three major awards that night, became the voice of the future.
Photos: The Top Movie Moments of 2015
Cate Blanchett. Photography by Tim Walker, styled by Jacob K; W magazine December 2015.
Christian Bale. Photographed by Andreas Laszlo Konrath.
Alicia Vikander. Photography by Willy Vanderperre, styled by Edward Enninful; W magazine April 2015.
Prada beaded black cotton tulle top. Fred Leighton cuff by Madame Belperron.
Saoirse Ronan. Photography by Marton Perlaki, styled by Tracey Nicholson; W Magazine May 2011.
Jane Fonda, “See Jane Run.” Photography by Steven Meisel, styled by Edward Enninful; W magazine June 2015.
Mya Taylor in Tangerine
Amy Schumer. Photo courtesy Calvin Klein.
Jennifer Jason Leigh
W’s Best Performances issue is online January 5th.