The year-end lists continues for film and hip hop culture. We saw the merging for the two art forms take center stage this year, as the film industry continues to coalesce with the Hip Hop lifestyle. Indie and blockbuster films also opened the sociopolitical dialogue, a well-received pattern which is also taking shape in mainstream Hip Hop.
We covered the intersection between music and film in our TIFF coverage in Toronto, but for now, we’re continuing our domestic list, part 2, of the must see films of 2015– we rounded up our favorite indie sleeper hits, summer blockbusters and Oscar bait dramas of the year.
There’s a reason Sylvester Stallone snagged that Golden Globe nomination: His subtle, lived-in performance rips your heart out in the film’s second half. Helmed by the director of the award-winning Fruitvale Station and the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther, Ryan Coogler reunites with masterful actor Michael B. Jordan resuscitate the “Rocky” franchise with an endearing tale of a street-fighter and boxing legacy (Apolo Creed’s son) who aspires to be the greatest lightweight champion of the world is inspiring as it is triumphant. Bonus points” Hollywood “It” girl Tessa Thompson does a fantastico rendition of a hard-of-hearing rising star with progressive deafness that will pull on your heartstrings.
Released in 2014, for whatever reason Ana Lily Amirpour’s ultra-cool feminist B&W neo-noir vampire western horror film set in the dustland nightmares of the Iranian ghost town, Bad City, has made many a critics lists in 2015. For the sake of not arguing with timeline, we listed it too.
Chi-Raq / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Spike Lee; co-written by Kevin Willmott)
Enthusiastically uneven, Spike Lee’s sprawling, hyperkinetic satirical musical drama Chi-raq is a tour de force state-of-the-reunion-address for the #BlackLivesMatter generation and the backlash is warranted: the film insults black women by diminishing them to sexual objects, disseminates the myth of the sex strike, the narrative is exploitative of black pain and pauperism, it wrecks of respectability politics and the plot isn’t unique to the ultra-violence in Chicago. It has also brought up a cataclysmic generational gap issues among black bodies. That out of the way, this gritty modernization of the Aristophanes’ 411 B.C. anti-war sex comedy “Lysistrata” by way of South Side Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood is an unnerving amalgam of black-on-black crime, gang violence, chauvinist misogyny and revolver reverence, governed by shatterproof sequences of poverty and oppression. Over the years, many plays and films have tried to tackle these issues, but never as boldly or as passionately as this scathing, jive-talkin’ 21st-century oratorio.
Selma / U.S.A. (Director: Ava DuVernay; Screenwriter: Paul Webb)
Released in theaters on December 25, 2014, naturally, Ava DuVernay’s Selma missed many year-end lists so it’s appearing everywhere this year. Anchored by the viral reports of shooting deaths and criminally disreputable police brutality cases, the historical drama—which follows on the heels of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, John Lewis and Nobel Prize winning civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.—is a godsend. Perhaps it was kismet that the film came out when it did: Not only did it prove its racial inequality themes were significant, it also verified that the #BlackLivesMatter movement mattered more that ever.
Homeschooled and confined to their 16th story four-bedroom apartment within Manhattan’s Lower East Side Seward Park Extension housing project for 14 years by their helicopter parents, six posh and dapper brothers—Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagavan, Krisna (Glenn) and Jagadesh (Eddie)—and their sister Visnu learn about the world via the world of cinema.
Nasty Baby / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sebastián Silva)
Freddy (Silva), a Brooklynite performance artist and his boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), want to conceive a baby with their best friend, Polly (Kristen Wiig)… only, she is not getting pregnant. Tensions rise with the impending launch of a new art installation, hostility and unexpected harassment from a mentally ill neighborhood man dubbed “The Bishop” as well as an increase in passive aggression. All hell gets unleashed.