What films were under-appreciated in 2015?

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Paul Dano appears as Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

Paul Dano appears as Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

In a year packed with memorable films and performances, which stories stood out? Mike Sargent, film critic for Pacifica Radio, and Ann Hornaday, film critic for The Washington Post, joined the NewsHour’s chief arts and culture correspondent Jeffrey Brown to talk about this year’s best moments in filmmaking.

Most under-appreciated of 2015

Blake Lively stars in "Age of Adaline." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Publicity

Blake Lively stars in “Age of Adaline.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Publicity


“Age of Adaline”
Sargent said this film, starring Blake Lively in the role of a woman who accidentally gains the ability to never age, was his favorite lesser-known film from 2015. In a story that could have “easily fallen apart,” it kept a strong narrative, he said.

“Love & Mercy”
This film portrays two chapters in the life of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, beginning in the 1960s. Paul Dano plays an early-career Wilson as he produces the “Pet Sounds”-style hits that form the bedrock of The Beach Boys’ early sound. John Cusack portrays Wilson in the 1980s as he seeks mental health treatment and meets his wife Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks in a “stunning” performance, Hornaday said. The movie is a beautiful exploration of the creative process, she said.

Best movie of 2015

“Spotlight”
Written and directed by Tom McCarthy, the film is a gripping account of the Boston Globe investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in 2001 and 2002. Hornaday called the film an “exquisite piece of filmmaking.” The film’s strong ensemble, including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, carries the plot forward in a story that uses “fundamental values of narrative filmmaking,” she said.

“Ex-Machina”
The film, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, explores the question of what it means to be human through the story of an inventor that creates artificial intelligence in the form of a female robot. “It’s one of the more thoughtful pieces I’ve seen this year,” Sargent said.

Best performance of 2015

Emory Cohen as "Tony" and Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emory Cohen, left, and Saoirse Ronan, right, appear in “Brooklyn,” a romance set in 1950s Brooklyn, New york. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Ronan plays an Irish woman falling for an Italian man in 1950s Brooklyn in a “transcendent” breakout performance, Hornaday said. “The way she holds the camera and holds the audience’s attention, as this young woman that’s transforming before our eyes from this young country girl to a woman of the city and an American, and a woman of the future — it’s all there in her face,” she said. “It’s an extraordinary physical performance.”

Tom Hardy, “Legend”
In “Legend,” Hardy gives a “mesmerizing” performance as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two twins that orchestrated some of the most infamous organized crime in British history, Sargent said. “He really creates two separate characters. You completely believe that they’re just two people in the room,” he said. 2015 was a big year for Hardy, who also appeared in “The Revenant” and “Mad Max” and is “coming into his own,” Sargent said.

Watch the NewsHour tonight to hear more of Hornaday and Sargent’s thoughts on this year in movies.

Editor’s Note: Film critic Mike Sargent was mistakenly referred to as Mark Sargent in an earlier version of this post.

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