Honourable mentions: Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak, Nina Hoss in Pheonix,Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, John Lithgow in Love is Strange,Alexander Saarsgard in Diary of a Teenage Girl, Rachel Weisz in Youth, Kirstin Wiig in Diary of a Teenage Girl
I didn't love it as much as the majority of fans (of which I am firmly one) and audiences, but I am still very grateful that JJ Abrams created a solid seventh film that was vastly superior to the prequels and celebrated the charm of the original trilogy. It's just a shame the narrative felt too safe and stuck too close to A New Hope. (I could also have included this film for a variety of its moments including BB8's thumbs up, Rey's dream(?) sequence, C3PO interrupting a romantic moment between Leia and Han, and Adam Driver's performance).
2. Women in film
Is it me or does it feel like a particularly exciting year for women in film? Firstly female-led films were incredibly prominent in blockbusters (The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road), indie hits (Still Alice, Carol, Room, Brooklyn, Suffragette, Girlhood, Diary of a Teenage Girl) and comedies (Spy, Trainwreck) - all of which were not driven by romantic narratives involving men. Of course there needs to be more women behind the scenes in creative roles, but this has been a solid year. Here's hoping this continues to improve over the next few years.
3. Ireland on film
Whether it has been stories focused on Irish stories (Glassland, Song of the Sea, Brooklyn), filmed in Ireland (The Lobster, The Force Awakens) or Irish filmmakers (Room), this has been a very strong year for Ireland's presence in cinema. Throw into that Viva, shortlisted for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, and Irish movie stars doing well in a range of films (Domhnall Gleeson, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Fassbender) and it seems like Ireland has had a very strong film presence indeed in 2015.
4. Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak
Although just missing my list of top 2015 performances, I am in complete lust over Chastain's work in Guillermo del Toro's flawed yet charming film. She creates a character who manages to make you enjoy and fear equally her camp yet terrifying behaviour. Perhaps to the detriment to the film as I wanted her to succeed (as much as I like Mia Wasowski who's perfected the odd girl lost persona displayed opposite so many of my favourite actors - Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close).
5. Julianne Moore winning an Oscar
What more do I have to say? She has deserved industry recognition for years and has been an important personality in supporting some of cinema's greatest filmmakers.
6. Romance isn't dead
After the live-action reboot/reimagining/whatever of Maleficent, I dreaded all similar endeavours by Disney. The decision, in my mind anyway, to create something that gave Sleeping Beauty more grit and resonance for a contemporary audience robbed the adaptation of the original's charm. Thankfully their next attempt was much more faithful to the naive and simple tale of the original, Cinderella deserves its place in lists of the best 2015 films (like my own in a few days). Let's hope that their future adaptations continue down this road and forego any gritty (and dare I say unnecessary) additions.
7. Spy proving that spies don't have to be misogynistic
I have many problems with Spectre but the main one is its treatment of women. In short, I think it's unforgivable that the series continues to create female characters for ornamentation even when they're initially introduced otherwise. To everyone involved: watch Spy and sort this out. Spy not only puts a woman front and centre of its story, it's also much more entertaining, gripping and rewarding than Spectre. Paul Feig to direct the next Bond, anyone?
8. The Brazil sequence in Jupiter Ascending
Despite popular opinion to the contrary, I am a fan of Andy and Lana Wachowski and didn't think Jupiter Ascending was as bad as everyone made out. It wasn't great but it had some very great moments, including this one inspired by (and featuring!) Terry Gilliam. A blissfully odd and entertaining 10 minutes.
9. Girls being girls
The group of four girls having a night away in a hotel room with stolen dresses and Rihanna in Girlhood. Magical.
10. Love at first sight
There have been many terrific moments representing and celebrating that moment when you meet someone who captures your imagination and excitement. My personal favourite would be Emory Cohen's in Brooklyn but throw in The Force Awakens, Sunset Song, Carol, Youth, Cinderella, The Theory of Everything, Into the Woods and The Testament of Youth.
The Man In the Women's Shoes (Loco and Reckless Theatre Productions Ltd.)
Temple (Donmar Warehouse)
Honourable mentions: Brainstorm (Islington Community Company), High Society (Old Vic Theatre), Jane Eyre(National Theatre), The Motherfucker with the Hat (National Theatre), Tipping the Velvet (Lyric Hammersmith)
1. Nicole Kidman returning to the stage
No explanation required I'm sure. Here's hoping she continues to work on stage and with new material that would otherwise may not find their way to a mainstream audience.
2. Live stream of The Iliad
There have been few theatre events that have captured my excitement quite like the Almeida Theatre's live stream featuring over 60 actors reading The Iliad. It was glorious and undoubtedly will lead to future inspirational uses of digital by arts organisations. Bravo...
3. Programming of the Almeida Theatre
...and that goes for the whole programming at the Almeida Theatre which continues to be the most exciting theatre in London. Under the directorship of Rupert Gould, the theatre creates work that is (mostly) sublime in its combination of ambition, resonance and theatricality. Of course there are some duds (hello Bakkhai!), but that doesn't diminish its highs.
4. Imelda Staunton as Mama Rose
I have been lucky enough to see many exceptional stage performances but nothing compares to this one. Incredible.
5. The set change in Hangman
What a moment. To say more would be to spoil it for those lucky enough to have a ticket for its West End transfer.
6. Caryl Churchill's return
Although it divided audiences, Here We Go is an enticing (and I believe, a terrific) piece by this British playwright who will have a lengthier piece at the Royal Court early next year.
7. Diana Nneka Atuona
Liberian Girl was her first play and that alone highlights Diana as one of the UK's most promising new writers.
8. Dance sequence in High Society
Staging this revival in the round at The Old Vic resulted in one of the most immersive experiences for an audience assigned to a seat. A glorious feeling that brought this slight musical to a full, rich life.
There are many arts institutions that need to review their attitudes towards diversity, and the world took note when Ireland's Abbey Theatre announced a key season of programming that did not reflect the society and subject it claims to represent.
10. Kids doing it for themselves...mostly
The National Theatre has had a solid year but it excelled when it brought Brainstorm to its Temporary Theatre, celebrating the work of young people who created something very special indeed. Theatre practitioners of all ages should watch and take note.