What a year! Some supposed blockbusters fell flat and others broke records.  Lots of indie films got the audiences they were hoping for, while others still need our help.  One particularly great thing happened this year: a conversation in and around Hollywood and its press began about women in film, as directors, actors, and film critics in 2015.  Let’s hope it not only continues in 2016, but concrete changes start happening.  After all, in a world where FURY ROAD’s Imperator Furiosa, MOCKINGJAY’s Katness Everdeen, and SICARIO’s Kate Macer can carry a film, all doubts should disappear about the power of women in front of the camera, behind it, or writing about it.  Happy new year to all you movie lovers and supportive Cinema Siren fans!  Here is one female film critic’s opinion about the top ten movies of 2015:



This film came out early in the year, but as an indie, didn’t get the press or attention it deserved.  This coming of age story about a teenage cinephile and his complicated friendships is very funny, sweet, cynical, and heartbreaking.  Mark my words, it will ultimately benefit from movie fans finding it, spreading the word about it, and turning it into a cult classic.  FULL REVIEW



Trapped on a desolate planet, Matt Damon needs saving.  It was director Ridley Scott’s movie to screw up, but he found his inner sci-fi auteur again and captured the full attention and compassion of audiences, not least aided by Damon’s thespian skills, as well as those of a strong co-starring cast.  Who imagined watching a man plant potatoes in poop would be so compelling? FULL REVIEW



Surprisingly, bestselling writer Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay of this lovely, nostalgic story about an Irish immigrant from Ireland who attempts to start a new life in 1950s Brooklyn.  Not only does actress Saoirse Ronan show enormous grace and authenticity of character as lead Eilis, but everything about the film surrounds the viewer with warmth and truth. 



Hungarian director and co-writer Laszlo Nemes partnered with mesmerizing lead actor Geza Rohrig to tell the story of a member of the sonderkommando in Auschwitz who attempts a proper burial for the boy he takes as his son at the gas chambers.  Framed around the historic occasion of the October 7th revolt inside the concentration camp, this is one man’s hyper-focused, subjective experience, and is a unique, entirely engrossing experience that will stay with you. REVIEW AND INTERVIEW



What a gorgeous movie.  As my vote for best actress at the Oscars would have to go to Cate Blanchett for her portrayal of the title character, obviously the movie would have to be in my top ten!  Todd Haynes creates another spot-on portrayal of 50s emotional claustrophobia, aided by gorgeous production design and costumes: the love story between two women before that was anything but accepted.  FULL REVIEW



Love the movie or hate it, there is unquestionably heart-and-soul commitment on the part of all players, and it shows in every frame. Danny Boyle has always known how to get the best from his actors, and Steve Jobs is no different.  Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, and Michael Stuhlbarg give their all to a classic, rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin script.  If you loved West Wing, it’s highly unlikely you won’t love Steve Jobs, even if the man was equal parts genius and tool. FULL REVIEW



Just barely making it under the wire to be considered for this year’s Oscars, the buzz is all about Leonardo DiCaprio, who is fast becoming the Roger Deakins of actors.  He speaks few words in this Inarritu-directed frontiersman adventure, yet he carries the film as arguably no other actor could. His work and the work of the entire cast and crew, given the oft-mentioned fact that the movie was filmed in remote locations using only natural light puts the end result, when experienced onscreen, into the realm of genius.  Crazy genius, but the sort that must be seen.



Who saw the depth of this flick coming? Giving new meaning to the concept of multilayered scripting, Inside Out deserves the Oscar for best original screenplay, and the unqualified praise of movie lovers regardless of age.  It’s not a great animated movie, it’s a great movie. Punta Finale. FULL REVIEW



It’s unfortunate that the gorgeous work of 12 time Oscar nominated cinematographer great Roger Deakins will be eclipsed by the never-before-seen spectacle of The Revenant, but that doesn’t take away from the nuanced work both in the day and with night filming for Sicario.  Look for a visual palette that perfectly articulates the burnt, acidic emotional landscape of director Denis Villeneuve’s latest film.  That Emily Blunt once again proves she deserves first pick of any script floating around Hollywood and beyond in an Oscar worthy, gut wrenching performance, and you’ve got a movie worth seeing, regardless of its pervasive hopelessness.  FULL REVIEW



The fact that by now the surprise and perhaps even some of the shine has worn off of the critical acclaim for George Miller’s box office colossus shouldn’t dampen the joy fans will have with repeated viewing.  And there will be repeated viewing.  The seamless blend of practical and digital effects, the costumes, and production design, coupled with one of the best, and certainly one of the most fascinating female characters to ever be presented in the action film genre make Mad Max: Fury Road my favorite film of the year. FULL REVIEW

Seymour Bernstein

MUST-SEE MENTION:  Seymour: An Introduction

Directed by Ethan Hawke, this documentary has not played around the world, but deserves to be.  There’s a simplicity to the film that allows documentary devices to fall away and allow us to meet and experience the charm and wisdom of Seymour Bernstein, who left his career as a concert pianist at the top of his fame to teach.  Hearing Seymour talk about his philosophy, and hearing his students speak about his influence are both exactly the sort of inspiration to carry into the new year.  INTERVIEW