BEST IN FILM 2015
We are not limiting ourselves to a Top Ten. Rather we have put together a list of narrative and documentary films of merit that you can use to queue on NetFlix or clip and post on your fridge door so when the film pops up on NetFlix, in a local theater or on Video On Demand you can see them. We prefer you see movies on big screens in dark spaces with human beings interacting with the content on the screen. I have seen all of these films … and I hope you can too.
So Let’s Go The Movies
1. TANGERINE: Filmed on an iPhone, the perfect camera to capture the vitality and drama on the street where these tranny hookers live and captures a survival community. A serious comedy. Top place because of the technological innovation that will transform storytelling.
2. THE REVENANT: A Greek drama (father and son) played out in the US wilderness when French Canadians and US hunters vied for pelts and were slaughtering the native population who tomahawked back. Shot in natural light; it of all the films this year verges closest to a masterpiece…time will be the final judge.
3. SON OF SAUL: A Hungarian director explores the world of Jewish Capos in concentration camps. How the desire to live as long as possible when confronting the reality of death. The lead actor nuances the complexity of his situation with great skill. A compelling horror story that will leave you thinking long after you have left the theater.
4. SPOTLIGHT: Rather than TMZing the sexual molestation scandal that began unraveling when a Boston Globe investigation news unit discovered a pattern to the Roman Catholic Hierarchy coverup, Spotlight explores how critical investigative and long form journalism is so necessary in getting to the truth. A perfect ensemble cast—some stars—all of whom disappear into their characters.
5. THE BIG SHORT: Does for narrative films what Charles Ferguson’s documentary Inside Job did to Wall Street. Mind challenging and mind blowing…and most shockingly in 2015 nothing has essentially changed and no major person culpable has been found guilty. Essential viewing!
6. JOY: David O. Russell once again celebrates the “little guy/gal” as he spins a capitalist fantasy that if you work hard enough and don’t give up or refuse to take “no” for an answer, you too can wind up a billionaire. Jennifer Lawrence once again demonstrates why she is the best actress of her generation and seems incapable on screen of having an inauthentic moment. A feminist parable on 4 generations of women in one family.
7. CAROL: Director Todd Haynes and Cinematographer Ed Lackman frame a forbidden sapphic love story set in the conservative ‘50s with care to detail and authenticity. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play the two women, one who falls in lust and one who falls in love. A coming of age film as well as an insightful exposition of how class privilege does not protect a woman when the rules are broken.
8. BRIDGE OF SPIES: Steven Spielberg takes his master gift of storytelling and looks to a cold war hostage drama to ask a very essential question. As relevant today as it was in the ‘50s. What makes a good American? Mark Rylance as a Russian spy, and Tom Hanks a Wall Street lawyer assigned to take the spy case pro bono, tango and mirror each other in a profoundly provocative way.
9. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD: George Miller has taken the bad boy road runner and reformulated it as a feminist action film at its cinematic, mythic peak. From first frame to last, it straps you into your seat and takes you on a wild wild ride with Charlize Theron as the woman in charge. And when “old dykes on bikes” come to her rescue, it provides an epiphany of gender reversal triumph.
10. LOVE AND MERCY: What a surprise: a movie music bio that actually works. Beach Boy Brian Wilson, with all his brilliant song crafting skills and mental health issues on display, is rescued from a master/slave relation with a rogue therapist by the love and good intentions of a female car salesperson with whom he falls in love. Paul Dano (younger) and John Cusack (older Brian) soar.
11. LEARNING TO DRIVE
12. TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
13. THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
14. DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
15. 45 YEARS
17. THE SUMMER OF SANGAILE
19. END OF TOUR
Also Of Merit
ANOMALISA, BEAST OF NO NATION,
CHI-RAQ!, EDEN, EX-MACHINA,
GRANDMA, JASON & SHIRLEY, PHOENIX, SICARIO, STEVE JOBS
9350 documentaries were released in 2015. I saw Approximately 500. Here are my recommendations:
1. PEACE OFFICER: A look at police brutality and culpability told through the eyes of a Democrat non-Mormon elected to Sheriff in the largest county of all-White Utah. In the 70’s he brought a 3 person SWAT team to assist. 30 years later he saw how the SWAT team had grown and in fact had killed his son-in-law. Spending 3 years investigating, he uncovered the truth of how police can lie to protect each other. He has very strong views on what can be done to correct the system and restore police to the role of peacekeeper—not killer cop. He points out that it is not only skin color but also class that marks a person
2. IN Jackson Heights: Frederick Wiseman shows gentrification, not in theory but how it actually happens in Queens NYC. The little guy is tossed out like a rag that has no further use by greedy owners ruining the diversity of a community.
3. WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE?: At 15 Simone was training to be the first black woman to play classical piano at Carnegie Hall when she did not get accepted at her music school of choice because her race seemed not to meet their criteria. How she became a blues singer, fell in love with the wrong kind of men, got into Black Power ‘60s politics and actually told Martin Luther King “I’m with Malcolm X” is just some of what is revealed. Liz Garbus leaves no stone unturned and at least to me raises the question: Can oppression drive one crazy regardless of talent or fame?
4. AN OPEN SECRET: The film that most of Hollywood industry honchos and SAG/AFTRA would if they could have, burned. Because it peels back the scab covering the open wound of pedophilia and child molestation in the movie industry. Shocking is the only word I have for the work that Berg has done.
5. WELCOME TO LEITH: Leith is a town in North Dakota pop. 24 including a perfectly integrated interracial couple. When a Christian Right Wing leader comes to town and starts waving big bucks around wanting to buy up the land and property a stage is set. You might be surprised by what happened. I was!
6. THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION: Stanley Nelson has been on a journey to not only educate young black people to the struggle against slavery and racism in the US but all of us. Here he takes on the Black Panther Party and does what few others have done. He makes them humans and shows what their real goals were in servicing the black community and how this was more a threat to J. Edgar Hoover than black leather jackets, berets and guns.
7. NO HOME MOVIE: The New York Film Festival was abuzz after the press screening of Chantal Ackerman’s new film and her arrival was much anticipated. But the day before the first public screening it was announced she had committed suicide. She was believed to have been distraught since the loss of her mother.
8. BEST OF ENEMIES: Delicious is the best word to describe the verbal and political sparring between two expert debaters on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Literary giant Gore Vidal with all his Hollywood sheen and Mr. Republican, Connecticut old money William F. Buckley. They clearly do not like each other but are civil and polite most of the time. If only the current batch of GOP candidates had sat and listened and studied the skills of these two master debaters.
9. DREAMCATCHER: A Sundance hit about a black sex worker who got out of jail and decided to change her life after 20 years on the street. She does this, and then makes her life goal to help other women trapped in the same lifestyle, providing a safety net when they want out. The subject, if given her own TV show, would give Oprah a run for her money.
10. THE HUNTING GROUND: Kirby Dick, fresh from the success of The Invisible War, presents his exposé of college administrators’ refusal to take real action in an effort to motivate change on campus. Bitter truth telling enhances this documentary and the fight for a solution.
11. STEVE JOBS: MAN IN THE MACHINE
12. HEART OF A DOG
13. GOING CLEAR: THE HISTORY OF SCIENTOLOGY
14. LISTEN TO ME MARLON
16. 3/1/2 MINUTES, 10 BULLETS
19. TAXI TEHRAN
20. THE ARMOUR OF LIGHT
Also Of Merit
DON’T BLINK: ROBERT FRANK
JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE
TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL
AS I AM: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DJ AM WHERE TO INVADE NEXT
BIKERS VS CARS
INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS
SOAKED IN BLEACH
Note: Space limits our comments in print. Check Westviewnews.org/jimfouratt for commentary, trailers and a few video interviews.
(cc) jim fouratt nyc Dec 25 2015