Posts Tagged best of 2015

STEELE PICKS: Best Films of 2015

I’m not a film critic although when I worked at Harvard Business School I was the film critic for The Harbus and it was great fun going to screenings and interviewing actors such as Claire Danes, Rose Byrne, Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell and David Cronenberg.

I’m a music critic and a book critic. That’s my focus. I can’t do everything. Yes, I cover the occasional television program.

I love film. I love indie film. I try to see a new film in the theater each week and my Netflix account [both streaming and DVD] remains quite active. I saw about 200 films this year. I don’t always pick the award winners but I pick what truly moved me. 5/20 of these films directed by women. 9/20 written or co-written by women. Many strong, intriguing female protagonists in these films.

Far from the Madding Crowd
directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
screenplay by: David Nicholls
starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen

carey-mulligan-matt-far-from-the-madding-crowd

Brooklyn
directed by: John Crowley
screenplay by: Nick Hornby
starring: Saorsie Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Brooklyn_3

Carol
directed by: Todd Haynes
screenplay by: Phyllis Nagy
starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler

Carol

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
directed by: Marielle Heller
screenplay by: Marielle Heller
starring: Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgaard

The Diary of a Teenage Girl_Key Still-0-2000-0-1125-crop

Spotlight
directed by: Tom McCarthy
screenplay by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
starring: Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton

spotlight

Tangerine
directed by: Sean Baker
screenplay by: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian

Tangerine

Suffragette
directed by: Sarah Gavron
screenplay by: Abi Morgan
starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep

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Room
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
written by: Emma Donoghue
starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers

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While We’re Young
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Noah Baumbach
starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver

While-We’re-Young

Love and Mercy
directed by: Bill Pohlad
screenplay by: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner
starring: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks

love and mercy

Grandma
directed by: Paul Weitz
screenplay by: Paul Weitz
starring: Lily Tomlin, Sam Shepard, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden

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Sicario
directed by: Denis Villeneuve
screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan
starring: Emily Blunt, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Brolin

sicario film

Mistress America
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke

mistress-america-2015

Steve Jobs
directed by: Danny Boyle
screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin
starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen

steve jobs film

Infinitely Polar Bear
directed by: Maya Forbes
written by: Maya Forbes
starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky

infinitely-polar-bear-sundance

McFarland, USA
directed by: Niki Caro
screenplay by: Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, Grant Thompson
starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts , Johnny Ortiz

McFarland-USA

The Age of Adaline
directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
screenplay by: J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz
starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford

the-age-of-adaline

Advantageous
directed by: Jennifer Phang
screenplay by: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang
starring: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams

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Digging for Fire
directed by: Joe Swanberg
written by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
starring: Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Orlando Bloom

DIGGING-FOR-FIRE-e1440810361520

I Smile Back
directed by: Adam Salky
written by: Paige Dylan
starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles

sarah-silverman-i-smile-back-broadgreen

Chi-Raq
directed by: Spike Lee
written by: Spike Lee
starring: Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack

chi-raq-movie-teyonah-parris

notable performances: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo; Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road; Will Smith in Concussion; Amy Schumer in Trainwreck

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STEELE PICKS: BEST DOCUMENTARY FILMS of 2015

Amy
directed by: Asif Kapadia
starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson

asif-kapadia-amy-cannes-2015-980x551-6130

He Named Me Malala
directed by: David Guggenheim
starring: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai

He-Named-Me-Malala-56242_11995

Cobain: Montage of Heck
directed by: Brett Morgen
starring: Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Don Cobain, Courtney Love

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Hot Girls Wanted
directed by: Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
written by: Brittany Huckabee
starring: Farrah Abraham, John Anthony, Rachel Bernard

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The Wolfpack
directed by: Crystal Moselle
starring: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo

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What Happened, Miss Simone?
directed by: Liz Garbus
starring: James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Lisa Simone Kelly

miss simone

The True Cost
directed by: Andrew Morgan
written by: Andrew Morgan
starring: Vandana Shiva, Rick Ridgeway, Safia Minney

o-the-true-cost

The Hunting Ground
directed by: Kirby Dick
written by: Kirby Dick
starring: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Amy Herdy

The-Hunting-Ground-poster-xl

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STEELE PICKS: BEST NONFICTION OF 2015

Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple [Harper]
–from my review: Feminist and activist Molly Crabapple details her journey from burlesque dancer to artist who sketches conflicts and society’s woes with fervent energy in this compelling memoir. The memoir maintains a perfect tone. Molly assumes nothing. She’s not arrogant or condescending but genuine and earnest. She describes events just enough to remind us of what happened and provides us with insight from her perspective. Just what a memoirist should do. These pages burst with stunning moments, pure honesty, inspiration, scrappiness, art and politics. Just read it already! It’s truly perfect and riveting. purchase at Amazon: Drawing Blood

drawing blood

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso [Graywolf Press]
–started reading this one morning and couldn’t stop until I finished. It’s a thin but potent meditation on journaling and why we keep records of what we do. what’s important then and now. fascinating. purchase at Amazon: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

ongoingness

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein [Riverhead Books]
–One of the best music memoirs ever. Engrossing. Honest. Raw. Strong feminist voice. purchase at Amazon: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir

hunger makes me

Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, MD [Penguin Press]
–Every woman should read this. Important info about meds, sleep, sex and overall health. appreciate the mind-body connection and alternative treatments discussed. some new, some older information all tied together quite nicely and in an open, honest, conversational manner. purchase at Amazon: Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, The Sleep You’re Missing, The Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy

moody bitches

Project Animal Farm by Sonia Faruqui[Pegasus Books]
–from my review: Even when you know that there’s mistreatment among dairy and animal farms, as I do, this remains a shocking and detailed expose into the disheartening and mostly cruel world of food production. purchase at Amazon: Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food

project animal farm

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [Spiegel & Grau]
–outstanding. honest. gorgeous writing. purchase at Amazon: Between the World and Me

between the worldl and me

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Anchor]
–everyone needs feminism. everyone needs this book. it’s perfect. purchase at Amazon: We Should All Be Feminists

we should all be feminists

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon [Dey Street Books]
–from my review: Gordon writes rather quite a free-form drifting from subject to subject and playing around with chronology. A reader can easily skip around and not be confused. The sections with vivid descriptions of New York in the 1980s and 1980s stand-out for authenticity and color. There’s plenty of awesomeness in this memoir. Insecurity combined with risk taking. Deconstructing one’s experiences.Throughout this memoir, the feminist, artist and musician provides readers coolness, the detachment and strong opinions. Gordon removes herself from personal situations and provides a detached observer’s perspective. At other times she’s a bit warmer. While rambling and occasionally disjointed, it works. purchase at Amazon: Girl in a Band: A Memoir

girl in a band

Missoula by Jon Krakauer [Doubleday]
–rape culture at The University of Montana. It’s enraging, complex and incredible. An important read. purchase at Amazon: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

missoula

Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas [Random House Trade Paperbacks]
–Accomplished and determined pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu seeks to prove a connection between concussions and behavioral changes. The NFL fights him the entire way. An engrossing true life medical mystery. Dr. Omalu has depression and that makes his interest in the brain even more fascinating. It’s also interesting how he balances living with depression with his career. purchase at Amazon: Concussion

concussion

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker [Scribner]
–clever this memoir in letters. Bits and pieces of a life. Amusing, touching, maddening, endearing moments. Mary-Louise Parker reveals herself in novel, random, intimate and raw ways. purchase at Amazon: Dear Mr. You

dr mr you

Troublemaker by Leah Remini [Ballantine Books]
–listened to the audio which I highly recommend. Leah has an upbeat, brash and fiery personality that comes through in telling her story. She gives details about the celebrity culture of Scientology as well as its strange requirements. She talks about Tom Cruise, his wedding to Katie Holmes, children Connor and Isabella and their non-relationship with Nicole Kidman [“she’s an SP,” Bella tells Leah in disgust]. I’ve read Going Clear and watched the documentary so am somewhat familiar with the Scientology process. Leah truly opens up about the money she paid, the classes she took and the time she spent on this religion— hours every day and millions of dollars. Leah questions many aspects of Scientology and the higher-ups try to punish her and silence her and she finally decided to leave the church. Leah also speaks about King of Queens and her brief time on The Talk. It’s sometimes shocking and always unapologetic. purchase at Amazon: Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

troublemaker

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STEELE PICKS: Best Albums of 2015

Although I’ve ostensibly been a music critic for several decades I’m not on the press lists I used to be so I rely on spotify to find much of my new music. So there are some favorite artists and bands here as well as new discoveries. Music that appeals to me must speak to my heart, soul, mind. The melodies are mostly dark, swirling, moody with unusual arrangements and instrumentation. Sometimes it’s folk or electro-pop. Mostly dark alternative. I favor female vocalists with varied range, strength and style.

chelsea wolfe abyss

Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss [Sargent House]
–I love Chelsea Wolfe. always and forever. dark, swirling, atmospheric and emotive.

beach house_depression cherry

Beach House, Depression Cherry [Sub Pop]
–a rich, beautiful album that I can [and do] play again and again.

chvrches_every open eye

Chvrches, Every Open Eye [Glassnote]
–electropop. energetic and powerful. one of my favorite bands.

lana del rey_honeymoon

Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon [Interscope]
–moody gorgeousness

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Sasha Siem, Most of the Boys
–a bit of Bjork, a bit of Florence and the Machine. quite beautiful, swirling and beguiling.

The_Decemberists_-_What_A_Terrible_World,_What_A_Beautiful_World

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World [Capitol]
–another favorite band that I find both comforting and subversive. extremely talented and inherently beautiful songwriting.

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Lauren Peacock, Euphonia
–what I said in my August review: “combines piano with lush arrangements for memorable, moving melodies. The vocals shimmy and simmer.”

torres-sprinter-

Torres, Sprinter [PTKF]
–Singer/songwriter Mackenzie Scott possesses maturity and presence beyond her years. beautiful, raw, haunting. echos of PJ Harvey and Amanda Palmer.

science and the beat

Science and the Beat, Future Blue
–skilled duo of multi-instrumentalists Tasha Katrine and Rob Zilla that create the cool sounds and eclectic arrangements. moody, strong, electro-pop. read the review.

sleater-kinney-no-cities-to-love

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
–powerful, outspoken and rocking

waxahatchee-ivy-tripp

Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp [Merge Records]

Bjork-Vulnicura

Bjork, Vulnicura [One Little Indian Us]
–orchestral arrangements with Bjork’s cool weirdness. a bit slower than other albums and it’s fantastic.

wolf alice_my love is cool

Wolf Alice, My Love is Cool [RCA]
–heard the single on a British radio station and was hooked.

grimes_art angels

Grimes, Art Angels [4AD]
–unusually arranged songs about being weird, being an outcast. angelic vocals. what’s not to appreciate?

ellie goulding_delirium

Ellie Goulding, Delirium [Interscope]
–beautiful pop songs

courtney-barnett

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit [MOM & POP MUSIC]
–past, present and future infused with her witty lyrics and alt-pop melodies.

sufjan stevens_ carrie & lowell

Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell [Asthmatic Kitty]
–cool soothing folk. open and lovely.

furniture girls

Furniture Girls, Chaos
–kick ass garage rock. review here.

A History of Now - Album Cover HIGH RES

Callaghan, A History of Now
–happy, optimistic Americana/ folk/ alt-country mix. when it came out I wrote: “A History of Now will definitely make you feel 10% happier after listening to it.”

julie holter_ have you in my wilderness

Julia Holter, Have You in my Wilderness
–combines retro with current arrangements. gorgeous vocals.

wind burial

Wind Burial, We Used to Be Hunters
–immediately caught my attention as it manages to convey intensity, danger and beauty. review.

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