The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.
— William Faulkner
Those who have made the mistake of getting to know me may already be aware that I am virulently opposed to the idea of best-of lists. The notion that two movies, with differing intents and methods, can be directly compared and hierarchically ranked is absurd to my mind. And yet there’s a certain undeniable value to the New Year’s ritual: reflect on the year that has passed, consider it in relation to what you’d planned or hoped for, and use that reflection to build a plan for the upcoming year. This sort of intentional stock-taking can be overdone, of course, and as anyone who lapses on their workout plans come February knows, giving yourself a pat on the back for having a goal rather than for having achieved a goal has its own dangers. But nevertheless, in moderation and taken with a grain of salt, this past-present-future thinking is worthwhile. And so I have capitulated, as best I can, to the surprisingly frequent requests I’ve received.1 What follows is not quite a list of the best movies of 2015, nor is it hierarchical in any way. From what I can tell, the order of these entries is entirely random. What this list is is 26 movies from 2015 that I think you should see, and each of these movies is paired with a past movie which is in some way similar. This pairing might be based on similarity or contrast of theme or approach, actors, directors, tone, etc. Ideally, watching each will give you a better understanding of the other, and vice versa. Enjoy.
“Surprisingly frequent” in this case being “any more than none,” but still: I was flattered.↩