Best Movies of 2015: Best Theatrical Experiences

Be warned: I love lists, so I’m making plenty of them in December, both for movies and comics/graphic novels. Most of this month’s posts will no doubt include some type of Best of 2015 list, so if you’re into lists like I am, kick back and enjoy.

I’m starting off my Best Movies of 2015 (which will have several categories in the coming days and weeks) with the Best Theatrical Experiences I had this year. I qualify this by saying that (1) I go to very few movies in theaters, for which I have no excuse, since (2) I could walk to the nearest movie theater. Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing movies in theaters on big screens, but I prefer to do so with other people who love movies as much as I do, not with people who are going to talk, text, and who knows what else during the film. So, here we go…


My first best experience occurred in March at the Annapolis Film Festival. I attended the festival in its first year, missed the second, and attended again during its third year. The best film I saw was during the second day of the festival, a 2014 film called Runoff directed by Kimberly Levin.

As you can read from my original review, Runoff is far more than a “save the farm” movie. It contains none of the sappiness, sentimentality or preachiness that you might expect from such a picture, but rather excellent performances and a fresh vision from a talented director. Quoting Matt Zoller Seitz’s review, “Again, I can’t stress enough that this isn’t a perfect movie… But I can say without hesitation that if you want to be able to say you were there when a great American filmmaker’s career kicked off, you need to see Runoff.”

I heartily agree.


Although I live in the Baltimore/DC area, home to many wonderful theaters, my favorite local theater is in Silver Spring, Maryland, the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center. When I saw that the AFI Silver was presenting an Orson Welles Centennial celebration, I thought, “How many opportunities will I ever get to watch Citizen Kane on the big screen?” So I went. Afterward, I wrote my thoughts on Citizen Kane and modern audiences, which you can read here.

Gary Lockwood And Keir Dullea In '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Gary Lockwood talks to Keir Dullea in a scene from the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, 1968. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Before this year, I had only a few “Holy Grail” theatrical movie experiences that I could reasonably hope to fulfill. One of them came true last month: seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on the big screen. To make the event even more meaningful, Keir Dullea was in attendance (seated just a couple of rows behind me). This was literally a jaw-dropping experience which I attempted to describe here.


Although I was only able to attend two days’ worth of the Noir City DC festival, I saw some great films. The two films I’ve reflected on the most are the newly restored Woman on the Run (1950) and hauntingly beautiful Technicolor noir Leave Her to Heaven (1945). Eddie Muller discussed the hoops he had to jump through to find a print of Woman on the Run, how it was almost lost forever, then finally restored.


Several days later, Foster Hirsch introduced Leave Her to Heaven, calling it his favorite noir of the festival. After seeing it, it’s hard to argue with him. Click on the titles to read more of my thoughts on each experience.

I’d love to hear about your best theatrical experience in 2015. Please share.

(Photos: IndiewireDefeating BoredomMartha’s Vineyard Film SocietyRoger EbertFilm Forum)

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