Greetings and salutations, welcome to another exciting, overlong year in review of the cinema which stood out to me. For the first time ever, I've decided to release this list before the year is officially over, so keep in mind there are quite a few films that I have yet to see. I made a conscious effort to shroten the list this year, listing my top 25 films, as well as some honorable mentions and films that stood out as either surprises or disappointments. I don't believe in separating Non-fiction from fiction filmmaking, as in my eyes both are made subjectively with the great ones still striving for some form of thematic impact. As always, I'll write a little about each film below, but I encourage you to read my full review of any of these titles which peak your interest (use the search function located in the top right of your screen) .
Disclaimer: I despise the need in our culture to rank art and list cinema in an easily disposable fashion. That being said, the order of these films, for the most part, is inconsequential, just understand that they are all strong examples of filmmaking I truly appreciated in 2016
Feel free to comment below and tell me how wrong (or right) I am.
Per usual, worst case scenario, ignore by blabbering and enjoy the pretty pictures.
My Favorite Films Of The Year
Crosscurrent - Yang Chao
Yang Chao's Crosscurrent is cinema in it's purest form, an absolutely stunning achievement that is soulful, meditative, and transcendent. A film which places little weight on narrative plot points, Crosscurrent is a film brooding with atmophere, spirituality, and universal truth about the human condition, relying heavily on it's visual acumen to tell a story that is both profoundly intimate yet universally expansive. What Yang Chao has crafted with Crosscurrent is truly remarkable, a film of such visual lyricism that beautifully captures the human condition itself, detailing our relationship not only with nature but faith, love, pain, suffering, and hope.
Behemoth - Zhao Liang
Visual poetry in motion, Behemoth is a transcendant, haunting portrait of modern day China, one where unbridled consumption reigns supreme. Deconstructing the toll humanities penchant for consumerism has on nature and the less fortunate, who work in poor conditions to support our unbridled desire for more, Behemoth is contemplative, transfixing, and beauituflly rendered, a rare documentary that embraces visual storytelling completely.
Dead Slow Ahead (2016) - Mauro Herce
Prompting fond memories of the sensory experience that was Lucien Sastaing-Tyalor & Verena Paravel's Leviathan, Mauro Herce's Dead Slow Ahead is a startling, impressionistic documentary thats observant eye tells a dark story of isolation on board an ocean freighter that goes by the name the Fair Lady. With very little dialogue, Dead Slow Ahead transports the viewer completely into this cold, isolated, machinery infested environment, documenting the setting at all times with an impressionistic lens.
Kate Plays Christine (2016) - Robert Greene
Robert Greene's Kate Plays Christine is a stunning accomplishment, a documentary that is part psychological thriller, part sociological study, delivering a one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking that cements Robert Greene as one of the most essentially contemporary filmmakers working today. Centered around Actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to portray the role of Christine Chubbuck, a real-life news reporter who killed herself on national television in 1974, Robert Greene's Kate Play Christine offers a detailed study into the creative process, one that divulges into psychological thriller due to Kate Lyn Sheil's dedication to her craft. Kate Plays Christine is a piece of filmmaking that feels continually evolving, starting off as a intricate examination of an actresses creative process, one that finds Kate diving into the gruesome details of this woman's suicide as she attempts to understand and relate to this character. The deeper and deeper Kate Lyn Sheil digs into the details of the life of Christine, the more she becomes protective of this woman, intent on making sure that the integrity of this woman's life is not stomped upon due to the toxic details of her death. As the film progresses, Greene beautifully juxtaposes the details of Christine Chubbuck's life, namely her depression and perspective of the world, with that of Kate Lyn Sheil's own insecurities, drawing parallels between these two individuals, each of which has their own moments of anxiety, depression, and pain. While the psychological study of Kate Lyn Sheil is the driving force between the narrative of this fascinating documentary, Robert Greene's Kate Plays Christine elevates itself well beyond merely an in-depth look at the creative process of an actress, exposing what Christine Chubbuck's life and death says about society itself, one in which humanities penchant for saliciousness and violence comes first, with empathy placing a distant second.
The Demons - Philippe Lesage
A quietly haunting portrait of childhood, Philippe Lesage's The Demons is a bold and startling vision of the fragility and vulnerability of a child's psyche, focusing on how youthful exuberance often overshadows or hides the underlying fear and internalized insecurities of youth. Oscillating between tenderness, exuberance, horror, and brooding pathos, Philippe Lesage's The Demons is bold, brave filmmaking, delivering a superbly well-crafted study of childhood psychology, and the deep, piercing effect insecurity can have on one's overall nature.
Fire At Sea - Gianfranco Rosi
Fire At The Sea is a poignant and profound portrait of Lampedusa, a small island located 150 miles south of Sicily. In the heart of the Mediterranean, Lampedusa has become ground zero of the European migrant crisis, witnessing hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees flooding their waters in hopes of making a better life in Europe. Portraying the culture, history, and day-to-day life of Lampedusa, Fire At The Sea offers an intricate examination of the islanders of this town, juxtaposing their lives with those of the migrants who struggle and risk life and death to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Stunningly photographed and poetically crafted, Rosi's film meshes beauty with misery, routinely juxtaposing the beautiful island setting with the human tragedy of the migrants. Fire At The Sea is not a political film in the slightest, but a humanistic study of a region that is forever changed. Observing doctors, Italian coast guard, various migrants, and Samuele, a 12-year-old Islander boy, Rosi has created a truly breathtaking examination of humankind and the every changing landscape known as life.
Under Electric Clouds - Aleksey German
Aleksey German's Under Electric Clouds is a challenging portrait of humanity, a film that is utterly ambitious in its indictment of the current state of Russia, which manages to be as elusively oblique as it's transfixing. Told through a series of interconnected vignettes, Under Electric Clouds is a philosophically bleak examination of humanity, a film that is far from streamlined but utterly fascinating due to its powerful ideas and stunning visual design. Perhaps best described as an existential story of humanity, Under Electric Clouds almost professes that we are all just animals trying to do the best we can, deconstructing how the human condition is one that is full of continuous attempts at success, no matter the amount of times we fail.
The Wailing - Hong-jin Na
Taking place in a small village located deep in the South Korean mountains, Hong-jin Na's The Wailing sees the filmmaker try his hand at the supernatural horror genre, delivering a memorable, atmospheric experience that sees the filmmakers penchant for engrossing and complex crime thrillers translate beautifully in this supernatural tale of Good vs. Evil. Tense, intelligent, unpredictable, and atmospheric, Hong-jin Na's The Wailing is motivated, in part, by man's fear of being unable to logically define their environment, tapping into the horror of the unknown.
Bleak Street - Arturo Ripstein
Arturo Ripstein's Bleak Street is certainly a film that lives up to its name, a stark exploration of the harsher aspects of life, the suffering which exists all over the world, focusing on characters who have been hardened by the unforgiving environment around them. Many viewers will have a hard time showing empathy towards any of the characters of Bleak Street, but the film gains traction in this regard the longer we are forced to watch, making a convincing argument that these characters are merely products of their harsh environment. Bleak Street encapsulates how such grating conditions breed animosity and anger, with these characters developing an underlying brutality, with once again the film arguing that this is, at least in part, a bi-product of the conditions in which they live.
Chronic - Michel Franco
Michel Franco's Chronic is a stunning, minimalist study of death, suffering, and depression, a film in which its exquisite craft is matched by its deeply personal examination of the profound impact which death has on all of us. Chronic may be one of the most honest and insightful examinations of depression every committed to celluloid, detailing a man in David who is stuck in a perpetual state of despair. His quiet silence merely hides the great sense of hopelessness he feels inside of him, with his exterior presence being one of great human empathy towards the patients he cares for. Without going into details, the ending of Chronic is almost guaranteed to leave the viewer breathless, a potent and powerful conclusion to a film that attempts to peer into the soul of an individual who has long been suffering due to loss, providing the perfect conclusion to a film which touches on such heavy concepts with complete honesty.
The Other Side - Roberto Minervini
Roberto Minervini's Lousiana (The Other Side) attempts to exhibit the fringes of society, on the border of illegality and angst, documenting a group of men and woman who have fully embraced the decay of society. While a sight to behold, the setting and circumstances of what Minervini is documenting is quite ugly, but the filmmakers never show any judgement, focused solely on documenting these individuals, many of which feel abandoned by modern society and a government they don't support. While I wouldn't call Minervini's film sympathetic, Louisiana does show an appreciation for this wounded community, with cinematography that subtly captures the beauty in this desolate, ugly setting, using beautiful compositions and the overhanging sun, which shines a bright light on this desolate community of outsiders. Minervini's film never shys away from the ugliness, instead it attempts to find the underlying beauty in this repugnant setting.
Cemetery of Splendor - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendor is a quietly intoxicating examination of humanities' relationship with nature, life, and death, being another enigmatic film from the celebrated Thai director that challenges the viewer to see the world in a truly singular way. An enigmatic exploration of existential issues that is hypnotic, transfixing, and touching, Cemetery of Splendor is a film that quietly forces the viewer to accept the fantastical aspects of everyday life, with Weerasethakul evoking a sense of true appreciation for how large the world is around us, expressing how truly amazing the gift of life in this world truly is, and how much we as human beings can take it for granted.
Paths of the Soul - Yang Zhang
Yang Zhang's Paths of The Soul is a stunning documentary chronicling the journey of a group of Tibetans as they pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. Documenting them night and day, Paths of The Soul is a fantastic observational study, as the communal nature of this community begins to stand out, at least for someone like me who comes from the western world whose ideology stand for more individualist independence. Their journey is full of beauty in the birth of a child, and despair in the death of a senior member, with Paths of Glory effectively capturing the full array of human emotion as these characters work together to complete their pilgrimage. The clash between the modern and the ancient world is also captured, with a significant part of the Tibetans journey being along a road way, where they are routinely passed by large Chinese trucks and other vehicles, reminders of the modern age. A powerful study of the human condition that is beautifully photographed, Paths of the Soul is a film that touches on every emotion in the human lexicon, being a powerful study of humanity and faith.
O Futebol - Sergio Oksman
A deeply personal documentary, Sergio Oksman's O Futebol documents the filmmaker's experiences as he tries to reconnect with his father, a man which he hasn't seen for over 20 years. Futebol is an observant study of familiar bonds, documenting one man as he struggles to reconnect with his father over a game which they both love. Maintaining a high level of objectivity in documenting the attempted rekindling of an old relationship, O Futebol delivers what could only be described as a palpable level of unease early on- exhibiting the awkward silences, the varied small talk, and how conversations about football provide a reprieve when necessary. Aesthetically speaking, O Futebol is subtlety brilliant, a film that maintains its overall subjectivity while capturing the inner emotions of its characters through visual storytelling. Early on in the film, O Futebol is shot in a way that sees both father and son almost never directly facing each other, their visual attention positioned elsewhere. Whether it be in a car, or at the bar watching one of the latest matches, father and son are visually documented with their attention towards something else, wiith the film visually expressing the void in their relationship, the subtle detachment which exists even when they share the same space. Without going into details, O Futebol is an intimate examination of father and son, a poetic and tragic film that through observant detail provides a beautiful, objective documentary filmmaking about one man in Sergio who uses his art to come to terms with his relationship with his father.
Death in Sarajevo - Danis Tanovic
Danis Tanovic's Death in Sarajevo is a politically-charged experience, an angry and introspective film which uses its ensemble-fueled narrative as a profound examination on the current state of Europe. Danis Tanovic's film is not one that pretends to have the all the answers to this complex situation , being mature in it's deconstruction of the current state of the European Union, recognizing the need for more independence and freedom from bureaucracy and neoliberalism, while still recognizing the dangers associated with celebrating nationalism, something which more often then not leads to fascism. Tanovic's film recognises the importance of accountability on both ends of this complicated mess, recognizing that there is no easy solution while simultaneously being angry about the current model of the European Union on that restricts both economic and personal freedom, while simultaneously pretending that unique cultures that make Europe so special and unique don't matter. Extremely well crafted and meticulous in its deconstruction of the current state of Europe, Danis Tanovic's Death In Sarajevo is a chilling, mature, and thought-provoking allegorical tale which is angry yet fearful of what may come if nothing changes.
Being 17 - André Téchiné
André Téchiné's Being 17 is a complex, mature portrait of the human experience, an honest story about the importance of one being self-assured in their convictions, while having the confidence to be comfortable in one's own skin. Calling Being 17 merely an LGBT film massively discredits what André Téchiné has accomplished, being a film that touches on universal truths of life and adolescence, while simultaneously reflecting on the unique challenges which plague the homosexual community when it comes to sexual discovery. Being 17 is a film that unfolds naturally, never rushing towards its themes or ideals, instead letting its young characters' discover themselves as the narrative unfolds, exhibiting the curiosity, angst, and overall confusion that is a part of adolescence, which in time ultimately leads to self-discovery. A complex, heartfelt story that works on nearly every level, from direction, to acting, to story, André Téchiné's Being 17 may in fact be the filmmaker's most impressive film to-date, offering up a mature study of adolescence in which calling it a "coming of age story" or "LGBT story" feels too restrictive given the films' universal merits.
Under The Sun - Vitaliy Manskiy
While there have been quite a few documentaries made from inside North Korea, none of them come close to the access and artistry provided by Vitaliy Manskiy's Under The Sun, a truly harrowing portrait the hermit kingdom. Over the course of a full year, the film documents the life of an ordinary Pyongyang family, one whose daughter is just now joining the children's union, and has been chosen to take part in one of the famous "Spartakiads" dance troops. The film was completely overseen by the North Korean government, who viewed this film as a great propaganda tool to demonstrate the success of their way of life, which only makes the film's ability to capture the starkness of this oppressive regime all the more impressive. Under The Sun is truly a masterclass in visual storytelling, a film that is forced to rely so heavily on its visual artistry due to the government overseeing every detail. Every scene of this film is scripted, staged, and overseen by the North Korean government and yet, the chilling reality of this oppressive, communist regime is felt in nearly every frame. Everything in this film feels cold, desolate, detached, and manufactured, with the foggy, grey skies perfectly evoking the detachment and coldness this oppressive regime has created, one in which many citizens feel like they are sleepwalking through life. The states oppressive regime feels tangible throughout Under The Sun, a film that says one thing but shows another, being a truly powerful and important portrait of the hermit kingdom and its truly draconic way of life.
Manchester By The Sea - Kenneth Lonergan
Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea is a deeply moving portrait of grief, loss, and the deteriorating effect on the psyche such emotional trauma can cause, a film which is genuine about how difficult it truly is to heal from tragedy, detailing the life of a man in Lee Chandler who struggles to deal with his tumultuous past. Dealing with such complex drama, Manchester By The Sea masterfully navigates the waters of sentimentality, never feeling emotionally manipulative or overwrought in the slightest, with the filmmaker's intentions only being to deliver an honest and genuinely felt portrait of grief and depression. Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea isn't a film which positions itself for the happy ending, it instead simply focuses on being honest about its character's and their pain, delivering a profound portrait of depression and grief, fully recognizing the destructive power and long-reaching effects which tragedy can have on the human psyche.
Dream Land - Steve Chen
Perhaps the biggest discovery of the year fo rme was Steve Chen's Dream Land, a simple, yet effective film about one woman's internal prison of doubt and uncertainty, a graceful and mature story that is impressive for a first time filmmaker, which touches on the pain, insecurities, and utter-isolation which a deteriorating relationship can have on the psyche. Featuring a truly impressive visual design, Steven Chen's Dream Land is a beautifully composed film about time, space, memory, and regret, a film that slowly, and methodically reveals how Lida's relationship with Sokun was a dream, a desire of what she wants from love, with her memories and insecurities serving as the ultimate facade that hides the truth.
Nocturama - Bertrand Bonello
Bertrand Bonello's Nocturama is a profound piece of filmmaking, a deconstruction of radicalization that is both pointed yet beguiling, detailing a group of young Parisians, tired of the society they're living in, as they carry out a intricate terrorist attack on Paris. Oscillating between the intricate execution and the detailed planning of their act of terrorism, Bertrand Bonello's Nocturama is bristling with tension and intrigue, offering only subtle glimpses into the motives of these characters, who seemingly have grown tired of a system in which they feel their liberties and sense of personal freedom has been restricted. Nearly every aspect of Nocturama is up for interpretation, but in a sense the film seems to suggest that bloodshed itself will always result in more bloodshed, with the film being a rather powerful portrait of the current state of Europe, one in which blood flows while change itself doesn't feel any less closer to reality.
Certain Women - Kelly Reichardt
Set in the barren landscapes across Montana, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women details the lives of a few women living across the state, having no knowledge of each other, but having a shared experience due to the environment which they inhabit. All three stories are females in male driven cultures, with the quiet desolate setting of Montana serving as the perfect atmosphere, the barren landscapes symbolizing the internal struggle of these characters, each who is missing something in their lives. Nuanced, extremely well-acted, and directed, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Woman is another quietly devastating film from one of the best contemporary American filmmakers working today.
Homo Sapiens - Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Homo Sapiens is a film about fraility and control, an art installation of sorts about human existence, the structures we've built, the spaces we occupy, and the fragility and finite nature of life as we know it. Exhibiting the lack of value material possession has in the scope of nature and time, Homo Sapiens encapsulates the preciousness of life, detailing not only the deteroriation time has over all things, but also how little control humanity has over the external forces of nature, tapping into how truly insignificant our socially-constructed society is when it comes to the scope of time itself. A film that features absolutely no dialogue, or human-beings for the matter, Homo Sapiens provides beautiful compositions of the places which humanity once inhabited, a place where structural decadence often meets decay. From barren deserts to lush forests, Homo Sapiens encapsulates the far-reaching influence of humanity, juxtaposing the vast influence our cities, structures, and societal constructs have had all over the globe. From playgrounds to prisons, office complexes to shopping centers, Homo Sapiens touches on nearly every aspect of society as we know it today, exhibiting the resiliency of nature and its all consuming ability to provide rebirth.
The Age of Shadows (2016) - Jee-woon Kim
Set in the late 1920s, during the height of the Japanese occupation of Korea, Jee-woon Kim's The Age of Shadows is a beautifully photographed, inter-tangled web of deceit, uncertainty, and alliances, detailing the complex cat-and-mouse game which unfolds between resistance fighters attempting to bring explosives in from Shanghai to destroy Japanese strongholds, and the Japanese special police force, hellbent on crushing the threat before they can carry out their mission. Taut, suspenseful, unpredictable, and impeccably well-made in every way, Jee-woon Kim's The Act of Shadows is a harrowing look into the fight for an independent Korea, a film that never romanticizes the struggle and violence while still managing to offer a poignant portrait of the courage and selflessness of the few who fought for the rights of the populace.
Suntan (2016) - Argyris Papadimitropoulos
Argyris Papadimitropoulos' Suntan is a powerful and daring examination of how much of an effect emotional distress can have on the psyche of an individual, providing one of the most troublesome studies of loneliness, solitude, and pain I've seen in quite awhile.
Sweet Bean (2016) - Naomi Kawase
Naomi Kawase's Sweet Bean is a simple story that feels slight at first, but as the film unfolds under the skilled direction of Naomi Kawase, Sweet Bean reveals itself as a beautifully understated study of hope, perseverance, and the importance of making the most out of the time one has in life. Sweet Bean isn't flashy or particularly stylistic, and could have easily been overly sentimental hogwash, but what Naomi Kawase has crafted is a borderline existential drama that truly captures the importance of optimism and never settling in life. Naomi Kawase's Sweet Bean is an elegant story of the tender relationship between two unlikely people, being a powerful portrait of the importance of optimism, hope, and companionship.
Honorable Mentions: Rams, Cameraperson, The Virgin Psychics, Embrace of the Serpent, Fly Away Solo, Aquarius, From Afar, Il Solengo, Neon Bull, Les Cowboys, Sunset Song, The Love Witch, Sworn Virgin, Everybody Wants Some, Creepy, Weiner, Sandstorm, The Alcheimist Playbook, The Witness, Hunt For The Wilderness People, The Fits, Actor Martinez, Love & Friendship, Take Me To The River, Fragment 53, Liberian Notes, Sweaty Beatty, Green Room, Dark Night, My King, Ixcanul, Tower, Kaili Blues, Disorder, Still Life, Train to Busan, Always Shine, The Salesman, Christine, Things To Come, Old Stone, The Untamed, Moonlight, and La La Land (I know)
Indignation - James Schamus
James Schamus' Indignation is a well-crafted piece of filmmaking which manages to cleverly navigate through the traditional structure for these types of stories, being a film that manages to deliver a powerful testament about the restrictive, anti-freedom based principles of social conservatism, while simultaneously delivering a unique, and mature coming-of-age story about a young man attempting to understand himself, struggling with issues related to love, sex, and independence. Without question, James Schamus' Indignation is a film which is heavily critical of 1950s conservatism, specifically related to the religious right, revealing how morality is not a practice that is only confined to those who are religious, being a film that not only touches on sexual and cultural repression, but also the disgraceful treatment of mental illness which took place during the time.
Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson
Hacksaw Ridge is a film about how courage, bravery, and toughness are defined, deconstructing how physical aesthetic is merely a facade of such traits, with Desmond T. Doss's convictions for what he believes in being what makes him stronger, more courageous, and braver than many of the men he served with during the Battle of Okinawa. Beneath this story of courage, bravery, and the horrors of war, Mel Gibson taps into the fundamental nature of America's most important attribute, individual rights above that of the collective or the majority, detailing a man in Desmond T. Doss who is harassed and abused by his own fellow soldiers early on for being different, with his individual freedom's and convictions in what he believes not being shared by nearly anyone around him. Many war films are borderline juvenile in their anti-war message, but Mel Gibson's Heartbreak Ridge is honest about war itself, understanding the true horror of it while simultaneously recognizing that, at least during World War II, it was fundamentally necessary for the sake of maintaining the individual freedoms that America and Western culture itself were founded on.
The Neon Demon - Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon is another subversive, stylistic nightmare by the Danish filmmaker, a film that uses the fashion industry as a way to look at the darker aspects of physical beauty, focusing on societies obsession with a trait that isn't earned, rather given through genetics. While brooding and expressionistic, it is important to remember that The Neon Demon intentionally maintains a hyper-exaggerated sense of reality, one that effectively skewers the vapid culture of Los Angeles, exposing the nastiness which exists just under the veil of politeness. The film can be too "on the nose" at times, laughing at the absurdity of the situation its characters find themselves in, but I'd argue its playful absurdity is part of its charm, with Refn balancing the horror elements with absurdist comedy in a way that perfectly captures the craziness of this beauty culture. I'll take it a step further, I'd even argue that The Neon Demon's greatest attribute is how it exposes the true demon in cultural collectivism, and how that in itself eviscerates identity/gender politics. By the end of this film, both women and men have succumbed to this collective perspective of beauty, both feeding into the societies' ideal, becoming competitive to either get a piece of it (men) or become it (women). Hyper-exaggerated, stylish, and atmospheric, Nicholas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon is another fascinating nightmare which juxtaposes beauty with violence to startling and thought-provoking effect.
Operation Avalanche - Matt Johnson
Much like his previous film The Dirties, Operation Avalanche is another such film that beautifully lulls the viewer to sleep with its charismatic charm, characters, and creativity, only to reveal a much darker, thought-provoking experience in the end. With its narrative centered around the conspiracy theory that the US government staged the moon landing, Operation Avalanche is material perfect for Matt Johnson's strengths, being a filmmaker whose love and passion for cinema is felt throughout every frame. Much of Operation Avalanche pulsates with energy and optimism, mirroring the spirited ambition of Matt who simply wants to prove himself to his superiors, tapping into the creative mindset of filmmaking to stage this elaborate hoax. Towards the end of the film, Operation Avalanche is almost unrecognizable from its earlier tone, descending into a tenser experience, one that reflects the true seriousness of the situation in which these characters find themselves, one in which Matt himself is a liability to the great lie the government must now protect and conceal at all costs. Matt Johnson's Operation Avalanche is a film that touches on a wide array of emotions throughout its running time, being a film that defies traditional genre classification while delivering its tale about the perils of ambition.
Above and Below - Nicholas Steiner
Nicholas Steiner's Above and Below is a quasi-documentary that is both intimate and grandiose, documenting a series of individuals who are living on the fringes of society, desolate and alone in their own solitude. From a homeless couple who lives in the food channels under Sin City, to a single man who lives in an abandoned military bunker in the middle of the bare, California desert, Above and Below uses these, for lack of a better word, forsaken characters to create one of the most humanizing films I've seen in awhile, showing no judgement at all as the film truly captures the very essence of what it means to be human. Above and Below is truly a singular existential vision, a film that manages to be deeply human while simultaneously feel grandiose and outer-worldly, a transfixing film that shouldn't be missed by those more adventurous viewers.
High Rise - Ben Wheatley
HIgh Rise is the British filmmakers most ambitious and manic film-to-date, the type of film I admire more than actually like. A film that starts strong yet grows more and more tedious as it progresses, High Rise offers very little emotional resonance to grab onto, relying far too heavily on its not-so-subtle allegory about Thatcher's England, Capitalism, and class warfare, a theme that is simplistic and poorly executed. Ben Wheatley's High-Rise is intellectually ambitious but I'd argue its ideals about capitalism and class struggle lack nuance and subtlety, and while the film may shock it never exhilarates, making it a film that is intellectually vapid, though it parades itself as something profound.
Nocturnal Animals - Tom Ford
Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals is the type of pretentious dribble I feared, a tonally tone-deaf film which features a lavish aesthetic but extremely simplistic characterizations. Nocturnal Animals is a film which features very little in terms of introspection, yet it seems to think it is delivering something profound or thought-provoking, leaving it somewhere in-between, and at times a tedious exercise in overwrought drama. Good actors typically, Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams are atrocious in this film, both delivering performances that are so overwrought that I couldn't help but find the situations they find themselves in more funny than dramatic, which is quite a problem considering the extreme nature of the story in which these characters find themselves. Perhaps half the reason the film is such a glorious tonal failure is the disdain Tom Ford shows for his characters, as the narrative shows absolutely little empathy for its main protagonist, played by Amy Adams, almost gleeful in the end about her despair. Nocturnal Animals could have easily been a fun, pulpy thriller but it unfortunately attempts to be something more, instead delivering a rather laughably simplistic commentary on materialism which is one-dimensional and simply uninteresting.
The Eyes of My Mother - Nicolas Pesce
Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother is a minimalist descent into horror, a film which relies heavily on its transgressive horror qualities to create its chills and shocking circumstances, unfortunately struggling to elevate itself into something more, settling for a diaboloical yarn of subversive horror. A subversive tale of loneliness, The Eyes of My Mother tries to make its main character empathetic to the audience, a tough task given the acts this character commits throughout the film. The Eyes of My Mother wishes to show she iis a victim of her environment, a young woman who has grown to associate violence and death with pleasure and companionship, with her absolute isolation only stroking the flames of her seering loneliness. Her total lack of understanding when it comes to human empathy and the construct of morality lead her to take part in some truly heinous acts of bloodshed, fueled by her desire to have someone else to share her life with, whether it be a companion or a young child she can look after. The Eyes of My Mother simply doesn't quite earn the twisted psychological state it is going for, with the main charaacters' heinous acts and intentions feeling inorganic, simply there to provide further shock value and squemish moments for the audience.
Swiss Army Man - Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's Swiss Army Man is a singular experience, a film that uses the stranded on a desert Island motif to create a lively, expressionistic examination of loneliness, depression, alienation, and the need for empathy in humanity. While a fascinating and creative film, Swiss Army Man does struggle with pacing, often relying too much on its absurdist subject matter to engage the audience for stretches, something that becomes a bit too tiresome and didactic mainly in the middle of the film. It also can be quite uneven at times, with Swiss Army Man feeling at odds with itself between its absurdist devices and it's humanistic qualities. Far too uneven and poorly paced at times to be trascendant, Swiss Army Man remains an empathetic celebration of life, a film that touches on the wide array of emotions that make us human, using this tale of a man's friendship with a corpse to comment on the importance of self worth.
White Girl - Elizabeth Wood
Elizabeth Wood's White Girl is perhaps best described as a subversive love story; a fairy tale of depravity about the unlikely romance between Leah, a college girl from the midwest, and Blue, a low-end drug dealer whose primary corner is located across the street from Leah's Queens apartment in New Yew City. White Girl relies heavily on shock value, at times teetering on the edge of comedy due to its cartoonist descent into depravity, with nothing in White Girl feeling particularly subtle. One of my biggest complaints is simply how didactic the film can be at times, delivering its vague commentary on racial inequality and privilege, almost as if they had to name the film "White Girl" to make it more obvious. While Elizabeth Wood's White Girl does consistently maintain a level of uncertainty throughout its running time, the film remains best enjoyed as a twisted little romance, a film which delivers a rather stunning, cartoonish cautionary tale but unfortunately misses the mark when it comes to social commentary.
First-Time Viewings - Cinematic Discoveries in 2016
Private Property (1960) - Leslie Stevens
Maborosi (1995) - Hirokazu Koreeda
Ten Canoes (2006) - Rolf de Heer & Peter Djigirr
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993) - Alanis Obomsawin
Farewell to the Summer Light (1968) - Yoshishige Yoshida
America As Seen by a Frenchman (1960) - François Reichenbach & Chris Marker
The Death of Maria Malibran (1972) - Werner Schroeter
To Live (1994) - Yimou Zhang
The Bed-Sitting Room (1969) - Richard Lester
Reign of Terror (1949) - Anthony Mann
Sands of the Kalahari (1965) - Cy Endfield
Streetwise (1984) - Martin Bell
In Celebration (1975) - Lindsay Anderson
The Poem Of The Sea (1958) - Yuliya Solntseva & Alexandr Dovzhenko
Class Relations (1984) - Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub
Well, another year is in the books, and per usual I'm here to deliver my year in review of the wonderful world of cinema. Also, per usual, I went waaay overboard and continue to suck at narrowing things down. One major difference between my list and most I've seen is that I personally don't believe in separating Non-fiction from Fiction filmmaking, as in my eyes both are made subjectively with the great ones still striving for some form of thematic impact. As always, I'll write a little about each film below, but I encourage you to read my full review of any of these titles which peak your interest (use the search function located in the top right of your screen) .
And NO, Star Wars won't be on this list... sorry. (I liked it, settle down)
Disclaimer: I despise the need in our culture to rank art and list cinema in an easily disposable fashion. That being said, the order of these films, for the most part, is inconsequential, just understand that they are all strong examples of filmmaking I truly appreciated in 2015.
Feel free to comment below and tell me how wrong (or right) I am.
Favorite Films of 2015
La Sapienza - Eugène Green
Profoundly capturing humanity and life on both a grand and intimate scale, Eugene Green's La Sapienza confronts the viewer with existential questions, encapturing the constant flux of life, where humanity has always attempted to understand and compromise ourselves and our existence whether through religion, psychology or science
Field Niggas - Khalik Allah
Ever so often a documentary comes along that shatters me with the brilliance of its simplicity. Khalik Allah's Field Niggas is a provocative portrait of East Harlem which transcends politics and pandering, offering a truly singular and profound vision of humanity, poverty, and circumstance
Girlhood - Céline Sciamma
While Water Lilies & Tomboy were both impressive efforts, Celine Sciamma has outdone herself with Girlhood, an artistically impressive and emotionally resonant film that beautifully captures a young woman trying to find herself, searching for acceptance in a hard, male-dominated world where woman are secondary and double-standards run rampant.
Corn Island - George Ovashvili
Exploring the relationship between humanity and nature, George Ovashvili's Corn Island is a film that feels like a battle of intrigue at first, slowly progressing to become a beautifully realized allegory for the sands of time, minimalistically revealing the cycle of life, with nature being a force that both creates and destroys.
The Kindergarten Teacher - Nadav Lapid
Nadav Lapid is a minimalist filmmaker in terms of drama who forces the audience to pay attention to every intricate detail. His oblique storytelling serves The Kindergarten Teacher well, being a dark, complex character study that also serves as a powerful parable for the death of art in the modern age.
The Mend - John Magary
A unique and transfixing descent into deep-seeded emotional trauma, John Magary's The Mend explores how two brothers deal with their inner turmoil in very different ways. The film's meadering qualities may be a little off-putting to some viewers at first, but The Mend offers a complex vision of the importance of empathy, exploring the human condition in a singular way.
No Home Movie - Chantal Akerman
Without question the most devastating cinematic experience of the year for me. With Chantal Akerman taking her own life earlier this year, No Home Movie feels like a film that is hard to be critical of in anyway. That being said, No Home Movie is complex, introspective, and deeply personal, making Chantal Akerman's final film a poignant portrait of love, loneliness, and even depression . It's a phenomenal companion piece with Akerman's earlier work, News From Home. Rest in Peace.
Stinking Heaven & Uncertain Terms - Nathan Silver
Nathan Silver is perhaps my favorite contemporary American filmmaker that doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves. Seeing two of his films in 2015, he continues to remind me why he is one of the most important new voices in American Cinema which no one talks about. With Stinking Heaven & Uncertain Terms, Silver continues to shatter conventional genre classifications while offering raw, unflinching, and truthful portraits of genuine human emotion.
Victoria - Sebastian Schipper
Given the impressive technical accomplishments of Victoria, a 140 minute film that is shot with a single take, I was a little concerned that Victoria was going to be a film that used its impressive technical prowess to mask a story that is subpar. While the praise of this film continues to be about its technical accomplishments (they are impressive but I personally need more than just that), what impressed me about Victoria is the emotion, tension, and startling lead-performance which combine to make Victoria a visceral experience that provides a strong emotional experience centered around a young woman who is seeking some form of human connection.
Heaven Knows What - Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie
There have been many films made about drug addiction and the lifestyle of a junkie, but very few I've seen are quite capable of delivering the same feeling of authenticity as Ben & Joshua Safdie's Heaven Knows What. Heaven Knows What really captures the drifting lifestyle of junkies, being a film that doesn't really feel like it is following a narrative structure. The craft of the film really stands out too, from its claustrophobic compositions, to fantastic sound design, Heaven Knows What almost takes on the atmosphere of a horror film at times, never feeling forced but always gripping. The cinematography uses the space of the frame so well, closing off these characters much like the addiction has done to their personal lives. I'm not great at explaining sound design, but it felt sporadic and unfocused, which is absolutely a compliment given the nature of this film. Simply put, a startling descent into addiction.
Song From The Forest - Michael Obert
Michael Obert's Song From The Forest is a profound, poetic, and layered examination of humanity, juxtaposing the big city lifestyle with the tranquil and simple lifestyle of the tribal people. The film effectively captures how similar all humans are, regardless of our extreme cultural differences, but what makes Song From The Forest such a great documentary is it never gets wrapped up in being a seething commentary on our financially driven society. It's not judgmental at all actually, instead being an ode to the pursuit of happiness, urging everyone to not be afraid to do what makes them happy
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence - Roy Andersson
Roy Andersson's A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence is the final film in the director's self described "being a human being" trilogy, a dreamlike exploration of the various traits, good and bad, which make up humanity. It provides a kaleidoscope of human emotions, but what really resonated with me is the film's ability to tackle both intimate and grandiose aspects of the human condition, showing the quiet longing and inherent selfishness that exists in humanity while simultaneously commenting on some of the more horrific aspects of human history- doing so in an absurdest fashion. Sure to confound some viewers, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence's meticulous staging and cinematography make it a film that is hard to turn away from, as Andersson comments on the pettiness, selfishness, grandeur, humor and tragedy that makes up life as we know it.
Taxi - Jafar Panahi
Sharp, charming, and observant, Jafar Panahi's Taxi feels like a great example of the purest form of objective cinema that documentary filmmaking can provide, beautifully capturing a city, country, culture, and way of life through the use of a few simple stationary cameras mounted throughout the filmmaker's Taxi. Featuring a final sequence that viscerally captures the world which filmmaker Jafar Panahi occupies, perhaps Taxi's greatest attribute is simply the reflective nature of this powerful piece of documentary filmmaking, one that reminds the viewer that the audience itself is Jafar's salvation, as viewers of his films make his voice relevant in a regime that tries so desperately to suppress it.
Queen of Earth - Alex Ross Perry
Queen of Earth is grade A filmmaking, essentially taking a very simple break-up story and turning it into an impressive psychological horror film that feels more like a mood piece at times than a narrative (yes, that's a good thing). Alex Ross Perry's latest film is a beautifully acted, impressively directed, fever dream of selfishness and despair, capturing humanities built-in selfishness in a profound and interesting way, being simply the latest reminder of why Alex Ross Perry is one of the most fascinating and unique contemporary American filmmakers working today.
Felix & Meira - Maxime Giroux
Maxime Giroux's Félix and Meira is an incredibly mature and elegant romantic story about two individuals who couldn't be more different. A film that expresses how human connection is instrumental in self discovery, Felix and Meira is a touching romance centered around two individuals discovering themselves through each other.
Titli - Kanu Behl
Impressively blending the tangled narrative of a Neo-Noir with a poignant melodrama reminiscent of the films of Italian Neorealism, Kanu Behl's Titli is an impressive debut feature that's unapologetic and never seeks sympathy for its complicated characters. Honest and raw, Titli paints a complex, intimate portrait of not only two young people trying to find peace and happiness but also of the overwhelming soceital issues facing the city of Delhi, India.
In The Basement - Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl's In The Basement is the latest documentary from the divisive filmmaker that turns his attention to a place where insecurities are quickly erased away in the comfort of its familiar glow, the basement. Offering a portrait of people and their basements, Seidl has created another hypnotic, transfixing experience that touches on the obsessions, wants, desires, and comforts of a host of individuals, each being more fascinating than the last. With Seidl's beautiful symmetrical compositions that effectively create a hypnotic feel, In the Bedroom is a documentary that defies conventional description, being a transfixing exploration of people and their wants and desires that is equally comedic and tragic all at once.
Almost There - Dan Rybicky & Aaron Wickenden
Dan Rybicky & Aaron Wickenden Almost There is the type of documentary that astonishes with just how much intellectual and emotional depth it's capable of touching on in its 93 minute running time. It is important to understand that Almost There is not a particularly easy film to watch at times, but it's a singular story and detailed character study that embodies a lot of universal truths about dependency, loneliness, obsession, mental illness, and goodwill.
The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster is another startling, singular vision from the iconoclast filmmaker, a biting satire of our couple-fixated society where love has become distorted out of fear of loneliness and the desire to assimilate into societies broad definition of love and companionship. Through absurdest means, Lanthimos captures how individuals sell themselves short in order to feel some semblance of companionship, capturing the competitive nature of courtship, as well as the individuals deteriorating individuality out of fear of loneliness.
Stray Dog - Debra Granik
Being that her last directorial effort was Winter's Bone, I was very curious to see what Debra Granik's Stray Dog was all about, and what becomes apparent very fast after watching the film is Granik's ability to find an incredible subject for a film that is both intimate character study and larger examination of America's treatment of veterans. The best 'character study' of the year, Stray Dog peels back stereotypes, revealing a man of true character who offers guidance and warmth to everyone around him, not letting the fact that he has been through so much interfere with helping others.
Five Star - Keith Miller
Just like his previous effort, the remarkable Welcome to Pine Hill, Keith Miller's latest film, Five Star, blends elements of reality and fiction to tell a powerful story of inner city struggle. Five Star touches on a lot of the same issues we've seen before in similar films, such as the romanticism of gangs and violence by youth, but not many touch on the more personal aspects of family and paternity in such a nuanced way. While Five Star doesn't have the same overall weight as Welcome to Pine Hill due to its more familiar subject matter, the film is still a vivid portrait of inner city struggle, told in a very authentic way.
Timbuktu - Abderrahmane Sissako
Timely and essential, Timbuktu meticulously exposes the outright stupidity and hypocrisy of Jihad, doing so in haunting and sometimes comical ways, almost laughing at the pure absurdity of how these men use religion to justify almost anything they desire. Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu masterfully balances its mix of tones, being part satire, tragedy and melodrama, delivering a powerful portrait of life for individuals forced to live under a tyrannical regime.
Heart of A Dog - Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson's Heart of A Dog is an impressionistic meditation on death, life, and humanity, which is deeply personal but also universally compelling. While Anderson's film deals with serious, weighty issues, the tone of the film is surprisingly light-hearted, all things considered, with Anderson injecting a nice undercurrent of comedy throughout the film's running time, showing a sense of humor even when discussing such serious topics as love, death, and grief.
Chi-raq - Spike Lee
Spike Lee's Chi-Raq is one of the most energized films I've seen in awhile, a film that dances between moments of emotional poignancy and absurdest-fueled satire that borders on farce. It's a film that tonially feels like it shouldn't work, but it does, being an angry examination of the violence and poverty facing not only Chicago but urban American as a whole. Outrageous, singular, clumsy, but endlessly passionate, Spike Lee's Chi-raq isn't just an immersive political protest but a pleading examination of humanity remembering the importance and power of love over hate.
(T)ERROR - Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe
Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe's (T)ERROR is an in-depth documentary which takes the viewer directly into the world of an active FBI counter-terrorism investigation. (T)ERROR is a stark and compelling, examining the current state of America counterterroism, raising fascinating questions about the relationship between public safety, liberty, and privacy.
Finders Keepers - Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel
Living up to the old idiom, truth is stranger than fiction, Bryan Carberry & J. Clay Tweel's Finders Keepers is a stunning documentary that is funny, engaging, and heartfelt, as the filmmakers show such impressive empathy for their subjects as they document the outlandish events which took place in a small town in North Carolina. Finders Keepers is a impressively designed documentary that lulls the viewer into this strange story with a playful tone, revealing its colorful characters and absurd story-line in a very comedic way only to eventually rip the carpet out from under the viewer as it reveals its true poignancy, being a haunting and intricate examination of two flawed, hurt men.
Carol - Todd Haynes
Todd Haynes has delivered another gem with Carol, a film that beautifully understands its characters and their underlying emotions, something Haynes is capable of expressing through this visual medium in a way that is poignant and nuanced. Carol is far from a political film, and really doesn't seem interested in discussing the merits of homosexuality or the oppression of it, rather it simply presents the world these characters lived in at the time, focusing much of its energy on crafting an emotionally resonant story of love and connection, capturing how love transcends gender, which I think is the filmmakers whole point. A compelling and passionate examination of love, Todd Haynes Carol features nuanced and artistic direction accompanied by two exceptional performances, making it one of the best studio releases of the year.
James White - Josh Mond
I always struggle to put into words why a film like this is so effective, but I think James White works so well simply because it captures in essence the tragedy and fear associated with losing deeply-important loved ones. Featuring a fantastic central performance by Christopher Abbott, who captures James deep-rooted loneliness and grief with nuance, Josh Mond's James White is a powerful character study about loss. Perhaps James White's greatest attribute is its ability to take a character who isn't very likable from initial impressions and slowly expose the audience to his world, creating a great deal of empathy for a character who has been driven down a dark path by unyielding tragedy
Chevalier - Athina Rachel Tsangari
Much more accessible than her previous effort, Attenburg, Chevalier features lively performances from all involved, being a delightful film that comments on the pettiness of competition, exploring themes of vanity, the pursuit of perfection, and friendship. Chevalier is the type of film that thrives on capturing the absurdity of everyday friendly competition, questioning the merits of "being the best" and asking simply what that even means.
45 Years - Andrew Haigh
A mature, observation of love and companionship, which challenges the fallacies of fairy tale love- this ideal that there is only one person out there for each and everyone of us. The film shatters this fallacy and in doing so creates a beautiful examination of what love truly is, speaking to the hard work that intimacy can create, where an individuals emotions can significantly strain even the strongest of relationships. Mature, potent, and honest, 45 Years is a potent study of relationships, regrets, emotional fragility, and companionship, being a film that captures a pure, truthful examination of what love truly is.
We Come As Friends (2015) - Hubert Sauper
Hubert Sauper's We Come As Friends is an absorbing documentary about the human phenomenon known as Colonization,which has ravaged the continent of Africa for centuries. Full of fascinating observations about race, greed, religious oppression, and man's overall desire to own everything it can, Hubert Sauper's We Come As Friends is a film that understands there are no easy answers to this complex and troubling practices of colonialism, offering up far more questions than answers in this observant and detailed examination.
Phoenix - Christian Petzold
Christain Petzold's Phoenix uses a pulpy premise to deliver a powerful film about the way people and nations warp their perspectives in order to move forward and keep surviving. Having the tone of a psychological horror film for stretches, Phoenix is a powerful examination of post war trauma which features another stellar performance from Nina Hoss.
Court - Chaitanya Tamhane
Chaitanya Tamhane's Court is an intricate examination of the court proceedings of Narayan, an aging folk singer whose live performances draw the ire of the Indian government due to their activist nature. The film paints a portrait of a country still steeped in ancient, outdated policies, specifically pertaining to censorship and activism. Intricate in detail and full of insight, Court captures how these ancient policies of censorship simply don't belong in the post-colonialist society,
Something Better To Come - Hanna Polak
Hanna Polak's Something Better To Come is a stark and powerful documentary which uses the incredible story of Yula, a beautiful 10-year-old girl who lives in Svalka, to examine the oppressive conditions in modern day Russia. A story of despair, oppression, corruption, and ultimately hope, Hanna Polak's Something Better To Come is a powerful human rights story that pulls back the curtain on a country that has left so many of its lower-class citizens struggling to survive.
The Look of Silence - Joshua Oppenheimer
Given the film's running time of 100 minutes and lack of surrealist sensibilities, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence is a more accessible film than its counterpart, The Act of Killing, doing enough to differentiate itself from its predecessor by focusing on one family, who are victims of the mass killings of Indonesia. The Look of Silence provides a rare, documented story of survivors of genocide confronting their relatives' murderers, being a harrowing journey full of fascinating observations about man, politics, humanity, and our propensity for violence.
Hard To Be A God - Aleksei German
Aleksei German's Hard To Be A God is a bleak and engrossing epic that's sure to be a challenging experience for most viewers due to its brutal depiction of darker ages and its ideas centered around humanity. It's difficult but singular, being a film which attempts to explore the harshness that so frequently goes hand-and-foot with mankind's further enlightment.
The Forbidden Room - Guy Maddin
While The Forbidden Room is dense, confusing, and unquestionably difficult to follow from a narrative perspective, it hardly matters, as Guy Maddin has created a visual feast, a celebration of the art-form of cinema, most-notably pre-code and the silent era. That being said, The Forbidden Room can and should be appreciated as more than just a visual feast, as the film does offer moments of powerful emotional resonance, buried in its complex, opaque stories. Visually one of the most impressive and fascinating films of the year, The Forbidden Room is guaranteed to be pretty much like nothing you've ever seen before, unless you've seen his other films, delivering another singular vision from Guy Maddin that is campy for sure at times, but also impressively assured in its execution.
The Assassin - Hsiao-hsien Hou
Featuring a tepid pacing that is sure to frustrate most viewers, Hsiao-hsien Hou's The Assassin is a idiosyncratic vision of the martial arts genre that juxtaposes the quiet, stillness of a carefully crafted human drama with kinetic action sequences that are full of thrills when they do present themselves.
Tangerine - Sean Baker
Sean Baker is another one of the best contemporary American filmmakers working today, and with Tangerine he has created a love-letter to Los Angeles that finds the beauty in things that many people view as ugly, beautifully balancing the line between emotional poignancy and comedy.
Approaching The Elephant - Amanda Wilder
Going into Amanda Wilder's Approaching The Elephant, I was expecting a film focused on tearing down the traditional educational system, but fortunately this couldn't be further from reality, as the film shows much more interest in providing an observant study of behavior among young and impressionable minds, offering a subtle commentary in the process. Approaching The Elephant's intent is simply about starting a conversation about education, with the film revealing tons of intricate details of how different all children are as it pertains to education and learning. Endlessly fascinating and deeply observant, Approaching the Elephant is an important documentary that raises interesting questions about education and how we as individuals learn.
Little Feet - Alexandre Rockwell
Shot in monochrome black-and-white cinematography, Rockwell's film is a deeply personal, touching love letter to childhood, telling a poetic story of life and death through the eyes of a child.
Love - Gaspar Noe
Using a non-linear narrative, Love captures the host of emotions which exist in any intensely passionate relationship- the jealousy, deceit, and possessive aspects which love can bring, particularly after the so-called "honeymoon" stage has ends. Raw, passionate, and emotionally charged, Gaspar Noe's Love is a sexually explicit journey into the turbulent relationship of two young characters, delivering a one-of-a-kind experience about love, sex, and relationships that perfectly demonstrates the messy nature of love.
The Life And Mind Of Mark Defriest- Gabriel London
The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest is a seering portrait of the correctional system, exposing how a mentally disabled individual was abused due to negligence on recognizing his potential psychosis. Exposing the failures of the correction system and parole commission, The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest is a constant reminder that we still have a long way to go in this country when it comes to mental illness.
Amour Fou (2014) - Jessica Hausner
Featuring lots of philosophical banter about the jarring realizations of life which death can bring, as well as an examination of the oppressive nature of desire, Jessica Hausner's Amour Four is an impressively rendered exploration of choice, fate, and oppression, that offers up a lot for the viewer to chew on long after the credits roll.
Tigers - Danis Tanovic
With Tigers, Danis Tanovic has created an impressive film on both a social and artistic level, with a truly unique narrative that blends fiction and non-fiction in a unique way. Powerful, infuriating, and truly groundbreaking from a storytelling perspective, Tigers is yet another truly impressive film from this great contemporary filmmaker.
Amy (2014) - Asif Kapadia
Asif Kapadia's Amy is a intricate and powerful documentary about Amy Winehouse which effectively shatters the public perception of this extremely talented artist, pulling back the curtain of her fame and public image, revealing a deeply troubled individual who was unable to find the help and support she so desperately needed. Through telling this tragic story of a great talent that was gone too soon, Asif Kapadia' Amy captures the darker side of fame and celebrity, displaying how our self-righteous and self absorbed culture indirectly pushed a fragile soul in Amy Winehouse over a cliff.
Cartel Land - Matthew Heineman
Using an intricate, on-the-ground approach, Mattew Heineman's Cartel Land provides one of the most in-depth looks at terror, despair, and bloodshed brought by the Mexican Cartels and how little the respective governments in the United States and Mexico can do to stop it. Constantly evolving as the story unfolds, Cartel Land offers a harrowing portrait of the entangled mess the drug war has bred. Corruption, greed, and violence have systematically created a world where good and evil almost become completely blurred in this case.
The Sun Against My Eyes - Flora Dias & Juruna Mallon
Flora Dias & Juruna Mallon's The Sung Against My Eyes is an evocation of love, life, and death, that is as challenging as it is spiritual rewarding for those patient enough to immerse themselves in the experience. Using cinematography that is almost exclusively made up of static compositions, as well as an eery amount of silence, Flora Dias & Juruna Mallon have created a film in The Sun Against My Eyes that is both deeply personal and universal, using this character who is suffering from a quiet emotional breakdown to comment on the sense of longing and isolation that is a part of life
The Summer of Sangaile - Alanté Kavaïté
Calling this film a story about "coming out" would be doing it a disservice, as Sangaile's journey to discover her burdening sexuality is just one piece of the film's ability to capture a young woman becoming comfortable with herself. At its core, the film is about the importance of individuality, as The Summer of Sangaile offers a unique and stunning vision that stands out among the "coming of age" stories this year.
Farewell to Hollywood - Henry Corra & Regina Nicholson
While the film's intentions may be written off as exploitative by some, Farewell To Hollywood is a provocative portrait of love, life, and art, delivering beautifully realized portrait of the fragility of life, the importance of doing what you love, and the difficulties of coping with the loss of a loved one. Perhaps the most emotionally effecting documentary I saw in 2015.
Inside Out (2015) - Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen
Funny, cute, and insightful, Inside Out certainly has enough to appeal to the children, but the film's determination to explore existential crises makes it a film more for adults, which surprisingly manages to capture how humanity is at its best with the right emotional composition. Complex and surprisingly mature, Inside Out captures the reflexive quality of emotion, how they are almost never mutually exclusive, and most importantly how sadness and joy are part of the important equilibrium of life.
Favorite Short Films
The World of Tomorrow - Don Hertzfeldt
Simply put, I'm not sure I've ever seen a film in my life that manages to capture the relationship and contrast between optimism and pessimism, between life and death.
Serenity - Jack Dunphy
So many films lament about regret, love, and sex, but not many have the same brutal honesty as Jack Dunphy's Serenity, which cuts to the core, providing a deeply personal and creatively made ode to the confusion many have over their 'first time"
Take What You Can Carry - Matthew Porterfield
Matthew Porterfield’s Take What You Can Carry is a simplistic character study with profound truths. Running only 30 minutes in length, not much happens on the surface of Take What You Can Carry’s story, though under the surface the film is a meditative examination of creativity, personal space, loss, and communication.
Debut Directors I'll Be Watching
Necktie Youth Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer's Necktie Youth isn't a film without its share of problems, but I hardly cared while watching this passionate film, as it delivers a brooding, cynical portrait of disenchanted youth and humanity.
I Believe In Unicorns - Leah Meyerhoff
I Believe In Unicorns feels like a deeply personal film, an enchanting and somewhat uneasy experience that presents how a naive young woman, desperate to be desired and appreciated, can fall victim to her own fantasies of romance.
Mustang - Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Capturing the secondary status and lack of individuality of females in Turkish culture, Mustang is an impressive first time feature which shines a light on the double standards and oppression against woman which runs rampant in this culture.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl - Marielle Heller
At its best, The Diary of a Teenager Girl works so well because of its nonjudgmental approach, offering a provocative portrait of a young woman's coming of age that reminds the viewer loving oneself and finding happiness from within oneself, not others, is the key to success both personally and in relationships.
Fort Tilden - Charles Rogers & Sara-Violet Bliss
Featuring two star-making turns by Clare McNulty and Bridey Elliot as Allie and Harper, as well as a sharp and clever script, Fort Tilden is a very enjoyable comedy about the pitfalls of extended adolescence which offers some valuable insights into friendship. While Fort Tilden works as a very funny comedy alone, what makes the film truly impressive is the well developed characterizations of its two main characters, enabling the film to deliver some poignant insights into the mid-20s, post-collage era of life.
Son of Saul (2015) - László Nemes
Laszlo Nemes' Son of Saul is an intimate portrait of two days in the life of Saul Auslander, a Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando, at the Auschwitz Crematorium. The cinematography and sound design in Son of Saul are without question the film's strongest aspect, creating a claustrophobic and chaotic experience that makes the film very immersive and an impressive first feature. One cannot deny that aspects of Son of Saul are emotionally resonant, but I'd argue not much is earned beyond the intrinsic despair of any film having to do with the darkest time in world history. That being said, the technical prowess of Nemes work makes me very intrigued to see what the filmmaker does next.
Catch Me Daddy - Daniel Wolfe
Daniel Wolfe's Catch Me Daddy is a stylish descent into the world of organized crime that uses a rather unique narrative to offer insights into the relation dynamics which exist in this cruel world. Featuring brooding atmosphere and impressive cinematography, Catch Me Daddy is a visceral experience, and while some of the thematic aspects could have been a bit more developed, the film is a well-crafted thriller full of strong performances and tension-filled energy.
Ma - Celia Rowlson-Hall
Rowlson-Hall's Ma is is a rather unique film, which relies almost entirely on symbolism, surrealism, and striking imagery to tell its tale. A modern day silent film, Ma has absolutely no dialogue throughout its running time, relying on image and performance to create its unique experience. Almost guaranteed to frustrate the average viewer with its lack of dialogue and opaque surrealism, Ma is a film that is bound to only be appreciated by cinephiles, as well as lovers of surrealistic art.
Below Dreams - Garrett Bradley
Garrett Bradley's Below Dreams could be described as a tone poem to millennials, being an observant study of feeling and shattered dreams, a film far more interested in emotion than structure.
A Few Films I Thought Didn't Get The Respect They Deserved
Magic Mike XXL - Gregory Jacobs
Featuring a much more loose, boisterous tone than its predecessor, Gregory Jacobs' Magic Mike XXL may be somewhat slight by comparison, but it's hard not to enjoy this funny road trip film about a host of characters who in many cases are still trying to find their own semblance of happiness as they come to terms with the fact that it's time to retire the thong. Simply put, I had more fun at this film than almost anything else this year.
The Search - Michel Hazanavicius
While the film does fall into manipulative practices at times, I was a bit surprised how much venom was thrown towards The Search. This isn't just another Anti-war film complacent in stating the obvious, that war is bad, The Search instead attempts to understand conflict on a higher level, being a pensive study of the darker side of humanity and the need for hope.
Hungry Hearts - Saverio Costanzo
Saverio Costanzo's Hungry Hearts is a startling psychological drama that works better as a schlocky b-movie than a profound exploration of maternity and mental illness. Part horror movie, part cautionary tale, Hungry Hearts is a haunting evocation on the darker aspects of maternal instinct, showcasing how unconditional love could lead to dangerous consequences.
Experimenter - Michael Almereyda
Michael Almereyda's Experimenter is a unique vision of what a biopic can and should be, being a film that is just as interested as understanding Milgram's obsession with authority and obedience as it is about the fascinating experiments that led him to fame. Perhaps the film's greatest accomplishment is the fact that it made me want to invest more time in social psychology, with Almereyda delivering a unique, thought-provoking biopic that challenges the viewer to question themselves and humanity as a whole.
Blackhat - Michael Mann
Blackhat is certainly a silly film but Mann's film is full of interesting thematic discussions centered around surveillance and technology, with the filmmaker always managing to keep the film compelling from a visual and audio perspective in a way that makes it hard to not enjoy the ride.
Beasts of No Nation - Cary Fukunaga
Beasts of No Nation is a film I would describe as all bark but no bite, relying far too heavily on the audience's built in empathy for children forced into battle, unable to ask the tough questions or create its own sense of emotion outside of what is already built in given the subject matter. The film dances around the political and financial aspects of the wars in Africa, as well as the dangers of faith-driven violence, but Beasts of No Nation never attempts to understand them in the slightest, perfectly complacent in simply presenting the brutality of Africans on one and other, in an unnamed country, without even attempting to deconstruct the root of the problem.
The Wolfpack - Crystal Moselle
The Wolfpack is a fascinating documentary that overstays its welcome, meandering around the more complicated issues of overprotective parents, fear, and the need for independence. Almost like a real-life version of Dogtooth, The Wolfpack features a high-powered concept, but it never goes far enough exploring this family unit to be anything truly special.
The Keeping Room - Daniel Barber
Overly-praised by many as a Feminist Western, The Keeping Room uses the story of these three woman to capture the cruelty of humanity, with the film's best attribute being it's ability to showcase the downstream effect hate, aggression, and cruelty bring. Given the subject matter, The Keeping Room is surprisingly bland and uninspiring though, with perhaps its most troubling aspect being its embarrassing take on race which is quite frankly appalling
Trainwreck - Judd Apatow
My biggest problem with Trainwreck is it's being praised for something that it's not, masquerading as a romantic comedy that subverts gender roles and provides a unique perspective. Unfortunately it doesn't actually do much differently, falling into the same traps, being an old-fashioned romantic comedy that just puts Schumer in the archetypal male role. The character archs are very much by-the-book and how Amy inevitably turns her life around feels overly simplistic given the true nature of her problems. I get that its a comedy, and it has its moments, but its by-the-numbers approach is disappointing, given the talent involved
Mountains May Depart - Zhangke Jia
Mountains May Depart has a lot to like, commenting on the dissolution of culture, perils of capitalism, and the need for freedom, but unfortunately it never reaches the levels of Zhangke Jia's best films, being far more manipulative and showing a lack of nuance which was very surprising given the filmmaker's track record
The Big Short - Adam McKay
Going into The Big Short I'd be lying if I didn't say I had low expectations. A film about the financial crisis directed by the guy who made Anchorman? Yea, ok. The Big Short is a film that rubs your belly and whispers sweet nothings in your ear as it slowly reveals the monstrosities committed by the big banks, decisions which would leave millions homeless, jobless, and penny-less. The tone McKay creates is electric, managing to entertain with biting satire and strong performances, while simultaneously never losing the gravity of the situation in the story it portrays.
Kiery Culkin - Gabriel
Nina Hoss - Phoenix
Elizabeth Moss - Queen of the Earth
Rooney Mara - Carol
Emory Cohen - Brooklyn
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez - Tangerine
Christopher Abbot - James White
Cynthia Nixon - James White
Arielle Holmes - Heaven Knows What
Josh Lucas - The Mend
Gerard Depardieu - Welcome To New York
Sarah Snook - Predestination
Laia Costa - Victoria
Ben Mendelsohn - Mississippi Grind
Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Alba Rohrwacher - Hungry Hearts
I went a litle crazy this year and created a top 40. I also wanted to call out the Horror genre specifically with a seperate list, being a very strong year for the genre. As always, don't pay too much attention to order, as this is more a list of all the films I saw this year that truly stood out.
Top 40 Films of 2014
Leave It For Tomorrow, For Night Has Fallen - Jet Lyco
One of the few cinematic experiences this year that left me speechless. Leave It For Tomorrow is a one-of-kind experience that blends memories and past experiences to create an evocative portrait of a dark time in Filipino history. This is a transfixing examination of an oppressive regime, dissecting how imagination and creativity can be a byproduct of censorship.
Stockholm - Rodrigo Sorogoven
There have been a few films this year that play with gender dynamics but nothing quite like Stockholm. This is a film that deconstructs the differences in emotion centered around the notion of love, providing a fascinating psychological study of a man and a female who each share an attraction. Best enjoyed knowing very little, Stockholm showcases the destructive power of love with a focus on gender dynamics.
Under The Skin - Jonathan Glazer
The closest thing to an avant garde film in the body of a narrative, delivering a truly exceptional dissection of humanity, capturing the emotion, fragility, ugliness, and kindness that defines us
Luton - Michalis Konstantatos
I'm a sucker for much of contemporary Greek Cinema with Luton being the latest, a thought-provoking, unflinching, and unquestionably obtuse film that leaves the viewer cold and searching for answers.
The Immigrant - James Gray
James Gray's The Immigrant is a beautifully crafted narrative that captures a dark time-period in American history with a great sense of naturalism. Not an easy film to experience, The Immigrant unfolds its beautiful narrative slowly revealing the power of forgiveness and hope.
Atlas - Antoine d'Agata
Atlas is without question one of the most visually stunning films I've seen in years, with every shot being beautifully realized, evoking a sense of despair, loneliness and addiction that plagues the subjects of d'Agata's documentary. This is not a film for everyone given how hard it can be to watch, but it's a complex depiction of the darker side of humanity that will provoke and repel.
Tokyo Tribe - Sion Sono
In a time where too many films are called unique, Sono's Tokyo Tribe is truly one of the most unique and unforgettable films of the year, a hip hop fueled musical that draws inpiration from a wide array of films including West Side Story, Clockwork, Orange, and Escape from LA, among others
Winter Sleep - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
An impressive character study of a man whose own ego and intellectualism has led him down a destructive path. While the running time is sure to alienate some viewers from seeking out the film, Winter Sleep is a stellar piece of filmmaking that is both grand and intimate in its examinations of humanity.
It Felt Like Love - Eliza Hittman
These days I find most "coming of age" stories by-and-large uninteresting due to the abundance of them in indie filmmaking but what Hittman achieves with It Felt Like Love is a highly compelling coming of age story that speaks to the inherent problems of societies' objectification of woman.
Night Moves - Kelly Reichardt
Impressively crafted film that manages to create unbelievable tension from start to finish, Night Moves is a meditation on the consequences of our actions, examining whether our convictions are good enough to demand illegal or harmful actions
Two Days, One Night - Jean-Pierre & Luce Dardenne
Yet another minimalist gem from the Dardenne Brothers, Two Days One Night delivers a pensive character study full of fascinating themes about humanity and the human struggle in contemporary society.
The Tribe - Miro Slaboshpitsky
I was concerned The Tribe was going to live off of its gimmick, being shot completely without subtitles and any dialogue. Fortunately this was not the case, with The Tribe personifying why film is a visual medium, using staging and composition to tell an unflinching portrait of a dark world where no one escapes clean. .
Abuse of Weakness (2014) - Catherine Breillat
Inspired by Catherine Breillat's own personal experiences, Abuse of Weakness is a harrowing examination of control, power, and fragility, exploring the power struggle of any relationship, capturing how one's inner-weakness can leave them helpless.
Nothing Bad Can Happen - Katrin Gebbe
A film that was unfairly classified as nothing more than a "Horror Film', Nothing Bad Can Happen delivers an unconventional story about the power of faith and through Tore's decisions, self-sacrifice. For a first time director, this film is impressive and self-assured, stylishly and effectively transporting the viewer into the psyche of Tore.
Miss Violence - Alexandros Avranas
Another film to come out of the remarkable wave of contemporary Greek Cinema dealing with iconoclasm, Miss Violence could easily be written off as a horror film. Underneath the film's vile surface is what makes Miss Violence impressive, being a rally cry in the crusade of violence against woman and female oppression.
The Duke of Burgundy - Peter Strickland
With elements reminiscent of Bergman's Persona and Early DePalma, Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy is an intoxicating journey into the power struggle of relationships, capturing the ebb & flow of love and partnerships, showing how in flux these roles can truly be in a constantly changing landscape of emotion and companionship
Felt - Jason Banker
Felt is a seething portrait of an individual who has lost all faith in humanity, living a life of cynicism and doubt that affords her very few moments of happiness. This is a woman attempting to live in a male-dominated world, with Felt delivering one of the most impressive and devastating conclusions of the year, putting a definitive stamp on this emotional tale of a woman trying to seize back control of her life.
Tangerines - Zaza Urushadze
An extremely powerful evocation of war, Tangerines captures the stupidity and collateral damage that violence brings with such a simple, poignant story. Tangerines argues that men on both sides of most conflicts are no different than any other, both simply good men doing what they believe is the right thing. A very simple story that profoundly captures the short-sighted nature of most military conflict.
Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson
Part noir, Part psychedelic frolic, Inherent Vice deconstructs the noir/detective story in a highly entertaining way. The comparisons to The Big Lebowski certainly have merit but Inherent Vice is a much deeper film, capturing a time and place where the psychedelic 70s began to conflict with the stern, conservative arm of the law.
Listen Up Philip - Alex Perry Ross
Incredibly funny, narcissistic, and profound, Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip is a fascinating look into the selfishness that exists in every creative individual, capturing the impact it has on any and everyone around them.
Foxcatcher - Bennett Miller
Foxcatcher is a film many would call depressing but it's an extremely well-crafted psychological drama about two men obsessed with greatness, attempting desperately to step out of the shadow of their more acclaimed family members and live up to America's decree of being the best.
Force Majeure - Ruben Ostlund
Very funny and emotionally affecting, Force Majeure is an observant psychodrama that captures the delicate nature of relationships in a society where preconceived roles are already defined
Nightcrawler - Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler is a film made from the point-of-view of an antagonist, delivering a seething commentary on not only mass media but the darker side of 'the american dream"
Leviathan - Andrei Zvyagintsev
A somber experience, Leviathan manages to unravel in a way that is both intimate and grandoise, capturing the disintegration of a family unit while commenting on how power can corrupt all men, no matter their class, religion, etc
Concrete Night - Pirjo Honkasalo
Using crisp, digital black and white cinematography, Concrete Night delivers a dream-like journey into the psyche of a fragile mind, using beautiful imagery to evoke an emotionally response from the viewer. It slowly and methodically consumes the viewer, encapsulating them in this bleak journey of its young protagonist.
Blind - Eskil Vogt
Blind is a brilliantly creative narrative that encapsulates its protagonist's psyche, exploring the mental trauma associated with the feeling of helplessness, in this case being the main protagonists recent loss of vision.
The Overnighters - Jesse Moss
Ever so often a documentary comes along that blows me away, shattering my expectations while delivering an impressively layered narrative that says profound things about humanity. The Overnighters is a film capturing humanity in a beauituflly poetic way, showing we are all human beings with flaws
Maidan - Sergei Loznitsa
With an impressive observational eye, Sergie Loznitsa's Maidian is a powerful and infuriating portrait capturing a countries people awakening, rediscovering their identity as a nation.
Point and Shoot - Marshall Curry
Extremely well-layered, Point and Shoot raises a lot of distinct questions about humanity in its examination of Matthew's epic journey, displaying how the desire to be perceived masculine and tough is not a society problem but a primal desire, questioning the very fabric of what it means to "be a man"
Citizenfour - Laura Poitras
Citizenfour plays more like a thriller than a documentary, capturing the paranoia, anxiety, and tension revolving around a man in Snowden who has essentially given up his way of life for the perceived betterment of others. Citizenfour paints an intoxicating portrait of the current state of privacy, beautifully capturing a behind the scenes look of Ed Snowden, showing us the man behind the facade.
Boyhood - Richard Linklater
The film hasn't stayed with me as much as I expected but Boyhood is still a deeply poignant, inspiring film about the human condition that is most likely the pinnacle of Linklater's career.
Jauja - Lisandro Alonso
Existential and incredibly challenging, Jauja uses the story of a fathers journey to find his daughter as a way to ponder complex questions about life, time, and existence. Simply calling this film a Revisionist western is selling it short, with reality and fantasy, fact and fiction, all blurring together in a film that puzzles but enriches. For me, Jauja is a film that attempts to comment on just how small our existence is in the scope of time and space, but there are many interpretations to be made, which is what makes Jauja a challenging but rewarding experience.
A Most Violent Year - J.C. Chandor
Without question one of the best character films of the year. Oscars Issacs delivers another great perfromance in a film that is about a lot more than American greed. J.C. Chandor's best film to-date, A Most Violent Year is a slow burning, tension-filled gangster film set in the business world.
The Wonders - Alice Rohrwacher
The Wonders is a film that purposely leaves the viewer in the dark, unwilling to explain the character's backstories, which in the end makes it an endlessly more fascinating and complex study of family and the outside factors that influence it.
Selma - Ava DuVernay
Selma is certainly one of the best biopics in years. Impeccably made, Selma is a important reminder how powerful non-violent protests can truly be, reminding all of us that the people run this country, not the politicians. Well that's the hope at least, but what makes Selma great is the honesty it shows in delivering a powerful portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Absent - Nicholas Pereda
Sure to turn off a lot of viewers for its minimalist style and tepid approach, The Absent is powerful examination of loss, memory and the importance of the place we call home.
To Kill A Man - Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
To Kill A Man is in essence a Chiliean version of Charles Bronson's Death Wish, though it's meticulously photographed, understated, and much slower-paced. Illustrating the slow-moving hand of bureacracy, To Kill A Man is an angry film about the legal systems inability to be timely when it comes to protecting innocent people. Beautifully composed and understated, To Kill A Man is not likely to be enjoyed by those looking for an action-packed revenge flick, with the film far more interested in capturing the psyche of a tranquil man who's pushed to make a decision so outside of himself.
Ida - Pawel Pawlikowski
An intimate drama that functions both as a beautifully realized coming of age story as well as a testament to haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of post-war communism, never losing focus of the importance of both attributes while delivering an incredibly affecting and powerful piece of filmmaking.
The Distance - Sergio Caballero
Endlessly creative and intentionally obtuse, The Distance is a film that is sure to infuriate as many viewers as it entertains, but for those willing to give in to its oddball charms, The Distance is the absurdist treat of the year.
The Retrieval - Chris Eska
The Retrieval is a powerful character study that captures a time and place while delivering a touching coming-of-age tale. The film constantly reminds the viewer of the war and violence all around these characters but it never consumes the narrative, being used more as a thematic device to drive the story. Suspenseful, tense, and poignant, Chris Eska's The Retrieval is low-budget film that is a great reminder of the power of impressive storytelling.
Manos Sucias - Joseph Kubota Wladyka
Buzzard - Joel Potrykus
The Rover - David Michod
Cold in July - Jim Mickle
Bird People - Pascale Ferran
Tales of the Grim Sleeper - Nick Bloomfield
Cannibal - Manuel Martin Cuenca
Only Lovers Left Alive - Jim Jarmusch
71 - Yann Demange
The Dance of Reality - Alejandro Jodorowsky
Space Station 76 - Jack Plotnick
Catherine Keener - War Story
Tom Hardy - Locke & The Drop
Julianne Moore - A Map To The Stars & Still Alice
Michelle Monaghan - Fort Bliss
Mark Pellegrino - Bad Turn Worse
David Olelowo - Selma
Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher
Jake Gyllenhaal - Nightcrawler & Enemy
J.K. Simmons - Whiplash
Rosemund Pike - Gone Girl
Jack O'Connell - Starred Up & '71
Elisabeth Moss - Listen Up Phillip
Essie Davis - The Babadook
Brendan Gleeson - Calvary
Isabelle Huppert - Abuse of Weakness
2013 Titles I Missed Last Year That Deserve Recognition
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker - Danis Tanovic
Heli - Amat Escalante
The Golden Dream (2013) - Diego Quemada-Diez
Why Don't You Play in Hell (2013) - Shion Sono
In Bloom - Nana Ekvtimishvili & Simon Grob
Bethlehem (2013) - Yuval Adler
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (2013) - Ben Rivers & Ben Russell
Tim's Vermeer - Teller
The Selfish Giant (2013) - Clio Barnard
Like Father, Like Son - Hirokazu Koreeda
Top Horror Films
While I admit it's cheap to create a separate list for Horror Films, 2014 was an impressive year for Horror. I truly wanted to highlight how many strong films there were in the genre, making space for them on the list. Many of these films would be deserving on an end of the year list, with many of them transcending the genre in different and interesting ways.
The Babadook - Jennifer Kent
Witching & Bitching - Alex de la Iglesia
The Guest - Adam Wingard
Honeymoon - Leigh Janiak
Housebound - Gerard Johnstone
The Sacrament - Ti West
Oculus - Mike Flanagan
Starry Eyes - Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer
The Canal - Ivan Kavanagh
It Follows - David Robert Mitchell
When I learned the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman I was shocked and quite frankly speechless. I personally never knew of his struggles with addiction but what the film community lost with his passing cannot be understated. Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor by every stretch of the word. In an age where most actors are simply pretty faces in the endless cog of the studio marketing machines Hoffman was an artist. I remember first seeing Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight and being captivated by his small but incredible performance. Everything from roles in studio blockbusters like Twister or Mission Impossible III to more artistic endeavors like Owning Mahoney or Happiness, Philip Seymour Hoffman made every film he was in better. His range was undeniable, reminding us that acting is an art form, something that almost feels lost today. Rarely the leading man, Philip Seymour Hoffman should certainly be mentioned as one of the best actors of his generation, delivering enrapturing performance after enrapturing performance. His importance and legacy as one of the few artists in American cinema cannot be understated, and I personally feel disheartened and unbelievable sorrow knowing that his untimely death only robs us from more of his brilliance. I wish I could say more about the importance of this incredible actor but I still struggle to find the words to truly express my sorrow.
Top 30 Films of 2013
It's that time again, me and everyone else creating their "Best of" Lists. This year has been an impressive year for cinema, specifically from America, where many more "mainstream" films impressed. I typically try not to include documenataries on my list but this year I found myself compelled too, given three documentaries I couldn't resist adding. Keep in mind the line between 2012 & 2013 can be a little hard to pin down, notably with foreign and independent films, with this list being my favorite films I saw this year in theaters and/or at film festivals. Per usual, the list is probably longer than it should be but there were just a few films I felt compelled to mention. Note: I provide a small dialogue about each film but feel free to use the search function on the welcome page to get a little more in-depth analysis of why I felt so strongly about these films.
Stranger By The Lake - Alain Guiraudie
An unforgettable experience for me, Alain Guiraudie's A Stranger By The Lake is an intoxicating study of the power of lust and passion, capturing how more often than not it can supersede our better judgement.
The Bastards - Claire Denis
There have been many films this year commenting on the faults of capitalism and the greed which it breeds but none were better than Claire Denis's film. Bastards touches on many fascinating ideas but its searing portrait of dysfunction and greed make it an unforgettable experience that makes it not only one of Denis' darkest films but one of her best.
Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche
An epic love story that cares little about sexual orientation as it pertains to love and companionship, Blue is the Warmest Color is a empathetic and engrossing epic love story that is a astonishingly well-acted character study, truly capturing part of the human condition in a way few films ever have.
Her - Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze's most mature and impressive film yet, Her is an incredibly poignant look at modern love and humanities increasing reliance on technology.
Twelve Years A Slave - Steve McQueen
A film of such power and grace, Twelve Years A Slave is the quintessential Slavery movie that captures this dark time in American history in a way that never relies on cheap theatrics or forced sentimentality.
A Touch of Sin - Zhang Ke Jia
Another film that offers a rather scathing commentary on the faults of capitalism, A Touch of Sin is a complex and insightful look at modern China, capturing the dehumanizing effect that unbridled capitalism has had.
Only God Forgives - Nicholas Winding Refn
A visceral, almost spiritual experience, Only God Forgives is a haunting exploration of death, violence, and environment, which ultimately becomes a tale of redemption in a way only Refn could deliver.
To The Wonder - Terrence Malick
Undoubtedly receiving unnecessary scorn because of The Tree of Life's divisive nature, To The Wonder is a much better piece of filmmaking, being far more streamlined. This is a film that examines the ideal of love in all of its carnations with every frame being a work of art.
The Attack - Ziad Doueiri
The best film about terrorism since Julia Loktev's Day Night, Day Night, The Attack is a film that wisely never picks sides but presents a much more profound truth which illustrates how both sides firmly believe in their convictions and will never be swayed from what they believe is morally just.
The Act of Killing - Joshua Oppenheimer
One of the few documentaries to make this list, The Act of Killing is one of the most emotionally devastating films I've seen in recent memory. It's best to go into this film relatively blind but it's powerful, surreal, terrifying and unforgettable.
Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine
Could end up being one of the most mportant films from 2013, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is an assaulting barrage of style and theatrics which perfectly captures how vapid and empty Youth culture has become.
Drug War - Johnnie To
Johnnie To is one of the busiest filmmakers on the planet and because of that his films can sometimes suffer in quality from time to time. Fortunately for us, Johnnie To's Drug War is one of his better efforts in recent years being a fast-paced and engaging crime story that highlights why Johnnie To is considered a master of the genre.
Before Midnight - Richard Linklater
The last film in Linklater's trilogy, Before Midnight is the most mature entry, encapsulating what love is, while exploring all sorts of interesting themes and dynamics. Before Midnight's most important statement lies in its dissection of love being not something magical like a fairytale but something that must continuously be worked on (something that many people in our current society don't seem to grasp).
Sarah Prefers to Run (2013) - Chloe Robinchaud
A film that hit me on a personal level, Sarah Prefers to Run is a fascinating exploration of a character’s intense passion, capturing how such drive can sometimes leave other important aspects of life by the way side.
Pretty Butterflies - Salvatore Mereu
Pretty Butterflies captures the youth perspective of a young woman living in run-down Sardinian neighborhood with such sincerity, the audience feels they are more of a confidant than an observer
Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley
The other documentary to grace this list, Stories We Tell is an emotionally poignant study of how we remember the stories of our past, capturing how memory and perception play a major role in how we create our own truth.
Paradise Hope - Ulrich Seidl
By far Ulrich Seidl's most empathetic film I've seen, Paradise Hope is a poignant tale of adolescence that still maintains the unsettling quality of Seidl's other features.
Circles - Srdan Golubovic
One of the best narrative films of the year, Srdan Golubovic's Circles is an emotionally affecting ensemble drama about cause and effect, capturing how a single act can influence the lives of many.
The Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorsese
An explosion of energy and style, Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is the most fun I've had at the movies all year while also delivering a poignant commentary on the thin line between the American dream and greed.
Nebraska - Alexander Payne
Much like life, Nebraska is both a fun comedy and poignant drama, featuring extremely strong performances by everyone involved.
Kid-Thing - David Zellner
Certainly up to interpretation and reminiscent of early Harmony Korine, Kid-Thing is one of the most unique films I saw all year, delivering a minimalist look into a neglected child's growing psychosis.
The Wall - Julian Pölsler
A visually stunning examination of humanities place with nature, Polsler's The Wall is like a more cerebral Robinson Crusoe tale, touching on a lot of fascinating ideas about the relationship between man and his surroundings.
Blue Ruin - Jeremy Saulnier
An atypical revenge thriller which begins with the actual act of vengeance. This is a film about the circular motion of violence and revenge but how it gets there is the real treat
Leviathan (2012) - Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel
Too many documentaries these days are lazily put together with little style or artistic intent. Leviathan certainly doesn't have this problem, being a nightmarish experience that throws the viewer into the world of these fisherman, capturing the clash between nature, man and machine while simultaneously showing the collaboration between these forces which are forced to co-exist.
Exhibition (2013) - Joanna Hogg
Exhibition is a film that had to sit with me for several weeks before I truly appreciated it. Joanna Hogg's Exhibition is a very slow paced intricate study of the artistic process, capturing the power and comfort one can feel in a place where they call home. The main protagonist is an individual who has a lot of trouble expressing herself to others and Hogg captures this lack of expression and how it translates to her artwork with incredible precision.
Short Term 12 - Destin Cretton
Short Term 12 is a deeply personal film, giving a poignant and honest portrait of the foster care system from the underprivileged children to the people who are so desperately trying to make their lives better.
Juvenile Offender (2013) - Yi-kwan Kang
Yi-kwan Kang's Juvenile Offender is a deeply affecting drama that sets its eye on the juvenile justice system. A very sensible film, Juvenile Offender makes its message clear but it never lets it over-shadow the characters.
Breathe In - Drake Doremus
Drake Doremus' Breathe In is a complex and riveting Lolita-esque story that is a fascinating examination of forbidden love. It explores the idea of being free to do what you want and what that truly means and entails in a life where you can't just live for yourself
Aftermath - Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Probably the most intense film I've seen this year, Aftermath is a dark gothic tale that burns to the core of the audiences emotions, taking a deep look at the relationship between morality and selfishness/greed
Prisoners - Denis Villeneuve
Making his American debut, Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners is an unsettling crime drama exploring the moral and ethical complications that arise in tragedy and desperation
Blue Caprice - Alexandre Moors
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears - Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani
The Dirties - Matt Johnson
A Long and Happy Life - Boris Khlebnikov
Gimme The Loot - Adam Leon
Jin - Reha Erdem
Prince Avalanche - David Gordon Green
My Dog Killer - Mira Forney
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel & Ethan Coen
Faro - Fredrik Edfeldt
The Fake - Yeon Sang-ho
Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen
Great Performances of 2013
Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color
James Franco - Spring Breakers
Stephen Dorff - The Motel Life
Paulina García - Gloria
Dennis Quaid - At Any Price
Joaquin Phoenix - Her
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Juliette Binoche - Camille Claudel 1915
Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station
Keith Stanfield - Short Term 12
Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years A Slave
Isaiah Washington - Blue Caprice
Bill Sage - We Are What We Are
John Goodman - Inside Llewyn Davis
Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl - Rush
Andrea Riseborough - Shadow Dancer
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
Biggest Disappointments of 2013
Not necessarily bad films by any means but films that didn't live up to my expectations considering the talent involved or praise they have received.
A Place Beyond The Pines - Derek Cianfrance
The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola
The East - Zal Batmanglij
Broken Circle Breakdown - Felix Van Groeningen
Kings of Summer - Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Pacific Rim - Guillermo Del Toro
The Woman And The Passenger - Valentina Mac-Pherson & Patricia Correa
Big Bad Wolves - Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Underrated Films of 2013
Like most films, these selections do have flaws but many of these films never got the exposure or respect they deserved. Some have received far too harsh criticism, some simply didn't get the marketing or recognition they deserved.
Byzantium - Neil Jordan
Kiss of the Damned - Xen Cassavetes
Son of Cain - Jesus Monllao
Lords of Salem - Rob Zombie
Pain & Gain - Michael Bay
Shadow Dancer - James Marsh
Out of the Furnace - Scott Cooper
The Grandmaster - Wong Kar Wai
Top 25 Films of 2012
Another year is in the books, meaning it's time for me and everyone else to create their 'Best of" Lists. This year I've decided to exclude documentaries entirely from my list. It has been a great year for docs and I strongly encourage everyone to seek out other lists which are more documentary focused. While browsing through my selections keep in mind that I tried to stick solely to films which were produced in 2012.
Post Tenebras Lux - Carlos Reygadas
Simply put, Reygadas' latest film isn't something you watch but experience. Certainly a film that will rub some people the wrong way, I was transfixed on this film from start to finish. Post Tenebras Lux explores the primal conflicts of human nature with the best direction and cinematography of the year.
The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is probably his most divisive to date, The Master is a unique portrait of post-WWII America featuring the best performance of the year in Joaquin Phoenix. It's a film that explores how free-will and religion commingle in unique and fascinating ways.
Kotoko - Shinya Tsukamoto
While Shinya Tsukamoto is known more for his frantic style of filmmaking, with Kotoko, he proves his ability to tell a searing portrait of mental illness in both a raw, yet deeply respectful and genuine way.
Sister Ursula Meier
Urusla Meier's Sister is a complex character study that features a perfectly layered narrative structure revolving around a brother and sister who live day to day, struggling to get by. Sister is a powerful piece of filmmaking because it never villianizes its characters, instead showing their faults, desires, and problems like any real human being.
Bliss - Doris Dorrie
Doris Dorrie's Bliss is a unique love story set against tragedy. Revolving around two characters who are damaged goods, Bliss paints a beautiful portrait of the power of love and compassion.
Little Bird - Boudewijn Koole
Of all the films I saw this year dealing with Adolescence, Little Bird (Kauwboy) stood above the rest in its searing portrait of a young child who is simply trying to make sense of the world around him.
Rust and Bone - Jacques Audiard
Audiard's latest film, Rust and Bone, is another exceptional love story about two characters who find solace in each other. The characters in Rust and Bone are unique in that they are incredibly stubborn and even selfish to their needs, eventually learning the true power of companionship.
Tabu - Miguel Gomes
A pseudo-homage to F.W. Murnau's Tabu: A Tale of Two Seas, Miguel Gomes' Tabu explores eroticism, love, and longing with poetic nuances, effectively capturing life itself (I know how generic that sounds).
Holy Motors - Leos Carax
A chaotic, imaginative experience, Leos Carax's Holy Motors is probably like nothing you have ever seen before. It's a film that celebrates performance, art and cinema ultimately asking the question, If there is no audience do these things even matter?
Simon Killer - Antonio Campos
Antonio Campos' follow-up to his criminally underrated film Afterschool, Simon Killer is an intricate, subtle character study of a man with emotional instability and mental issues.
Klip - Maja Milos
Another film that has proven to be very divisive among audiences, Maja Milos' debut Klip, is an unfiltered look into teenage sexuality. Some have quite tragically written this film off as merely pornography, seemingly missing the tragic nature which can exist when teenagers begin to explore their sexuality.
Amour - Michael Haneke
What else is there to really say about Michael Haneke's Amour. It's a piercing portrait of death that forces viewers to come face to face with their own mortality.
War Witch - Kim Nguyen
There have been many films made about child soldiers in Africa but where Kim Nguyen's War Witch stands out is its ability to be incredibly intimate in showing the harsh reality of its 13-year-old protagonist.
Take This Waltz - Sarah Polley
Maybe the most underrated film of the year, Take This Waltz explores the concept of love and monogamy with piercing realism. A film the explores the temptations of a married woman, ultimately showing how love isn't easy, but hard work. The void which Margo, our main protagonist, feels is not because of her husband but about her inability to understand
Killer Joe (2012) - William Friedkin
If you like dark, twisted humor Killer Joe is for you. This is a film that is bound to make some people disgusted but with William Friedkin at the helm, Killer Joe is a fun, dark, twisted and beautiful experience.
Citadel - Ciaran Foy
Ciaran Foy's Citadel is an incredibly tense, atmospheric piece of horror filmmaking that grabs a hold of the viewer and never lets go. My favorite horror film of the year, Citadel provides a thrilling, atmospheric experience but its message of not letting fear dictate ones life is what elevates the material beyond mere fright.
Keep the Lights On - Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs' Keep the Lights On is another fascinating character drama which provides a pensive look into a troubled relationship that ultimately suggests the idea that love isn't the only necessity in a relationship.
Barbara - Christian Petzold
Set during the Cold War, Barbara is a film that beautifully manages romance, drama and thriller elements, ultimately leading to a searing portrait of one woman's struggle in Western Germany and her ultimate sacrifice.
Hemel - Sacha Polak
An in-depth look into the psyche of a young woman who fails to understand the difference between sex and love, Hemel is a film which ultimately argues this is not based off of free will, but a merely a bi-product of the environment in which she was raised.
Dark Horse - Todd Solondz
Todd Solondz' Dark Horse is his most sensitive and optimistic film to-date about a somewhat unlikeable character whose hard exterior simply masked his fear of growing up.
AntiViral - Brandon Cronenberg
Brandon Croneberg's AntiViral is a moody and stylistic experience which is as much a critique of corporate greed as it is about our growing obsession with celebrity. With AntiViral, Brandon Cronenberg proves he is someone to look out for, clearly sharing similar sensibilities with his father. In case you're wondering, I did enjoy David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis but I found it too cerebral and tepid to make my end of the year list.
The Grey - Joe Carnahan
Joe Carnahan's The Grey was a necessary film for Carnahan, reminding us what he is capable of when exploring darker themes. The Grey is certainty a thrilling experience but what elevates it above most studio fare is how nihilistic and meditative it becomes when exploring its characters, a group of roughnecks who live on the edge of the world.
Your Sister's Sister - Lynn Shelton
Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister brings nothing all that new to the table in terms of story, but it's Shelton's understanding of character and relationships which makes Your Sister's Sister a more genuine and interesting dissection of relationships and feelings than most other indies in recent memory.
Kon-Tiki - Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg
Kon-Tiki is an epic adventure about a man whose adventurous nature leads him on many challenges of both the physical and emotional variety. Kon-Tiki is a rush, but what elevates it among other similar films is its ability to balance the adventure aspects and character aspects in a way that makes the film both an engaging and intelligent.
21 Jump Street - Phil Lord & Chris Miller
My favorite comedy of the year, 21 Jump Street not only impressed in its ability to bring constant and uproarious laughter but also in its genuine and on point satire of High School which few films seem to equal
Honorable Mentions: Looper, Starlet, Middle of Nowhere, Smashed, Killing Them Softly, End of Watch, John Dies At The End, In Another Country, Bernie, Sleepwalk With Me, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Great Performances of 2012
Various Performances which stood out in 2012.
Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Smashed
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Alba Rohrwacher - Bliss
Daniel Day Lewis - Lincoln
Lea Seydoux - Sister
Nicole Kidman - The Paperboy
Alan Cumming - Any Day Now
Mads Mikkelsen - The Hunt
Matthias Schoenaerts - Rust and Bone
Underrated Films of 2012
Made up primarily of films which I felt didn't get the respect and awareness among audiences and/or critics deserved.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning - John Hyams
While Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning seems to be showing up in some cinephile circles, John Hyams' film is one of the best action films in recent memory. Sure the film has a few issues, but its stripped down action sequences and atmospheric tension make it a must see for fans of the genre
Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
I'm honestly shocked that this film hasn't received more Oscar buzz. Perks of Being A Wallflower is certainly a film with Oscar sensibilities and I was surprised by how well the film delivered on transporting the viewer back to high school for a bit of nostalgia.
Crazy Eyes - Adam Sherman
The main protagonist of Crazy Eyes is not a likeable character in the slightest. Wealthy beyond comprehension, he wastes his life drowning his mind in booze. It's a harsh film that many will be turned off by but I found it to be a fun, dark critique of the superficial culture of Los Angeles.
John Carter - Andrew Stanton
The best example in recent memory of how a film's economic success, or in this case lack of, poisons peoples perceptions of the film's quality. John Carter is not a groundbreaking film, but it is pure escapism delivering what it promised in ways that the Star Wars prequels could only dream of.
Prometheus - Ridley Scott
A film that got a bad wrap because it didn't deliver what people were expecting. Prometheus is Ridley Scott's most interesting film in the better part of a decade, playing more like a fun b-movie. All the plot-hole critiques are way out of hand too, as poor character decisions don't equal plot holes.
The Divide - Xavier Gens
Being a post-apocalyptic horror film, The Divide doesn't have anything particularly profound to say but it does bring an incredibly, dark and cynical viewpoint to the sub-genre which most films are too afraid to tackle.
Overrated Films of 2012
A list of films which I personally found to be overpraised. Note that I don't think these films are bad, they just didn't stand out as much for me as for others.
A good film, but a film that I believe is praised more for its concept and intentions than its actual execution.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Benh Zeitlin
Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh
I had high expectations for this film and I personally can't comprehend how so many people liked this film beyond the simple aesthetic appeal. The characters, outside of Matthew McConaughey, are boring, and the relationships feel so unnatural and manufactured that I found myself laughing towards the end of the film at the stupidity of the narrative.
The Silver Linings Playbook - David O' Russell
Another film which I certainly liked quite a bit but I can't fathom the wide spread praise. For me. The Silver Linings Playbook is a fun, romantic comedy about two broken souls but the third act felt more like a failed pitch for High School Musical 4 than a worthy conclusion
V/H/S - Various
Just not very good, V/H/S had a great concept but ultimately was a letdown with many of the segments relying far too heavily on cheap jump-scare tactics. As far as compilations go, skip this film and see The ABCs of Death.
Celeste and Jesse Forever - Lee Toland Krieger
Underrated may even be too kind for this film. Personally, Celeste and Jesse Forever simply lacks the emotional core to grab the viewer, with a cookie cutter story that ultimately disappoints given a promising concept.
Compliance - Craig Zobel
While there is no denying the simple yet effective tension which Compliance is able to create, the filmmakers never manage to say anything interesting or even come up with any type of take away from this fascinating and horrific ordeal.
Films from 2011
Films I missed during 2011 that deserve recognition from me in 2012. I won't go through and talk about each of these, but every film listed is certainty worth your time.
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
House of Tolerance - Bertrand Bonello
Oslo, August 31st - Joachim Trier
Bleak Night - Sung-Hyun Yoon
Alps - Giorgos Lanthimos
The Loneliest Planet - Julia Loktev
Miss Bala - Gerardo Naranjo
Wuthering Heights - Andrea Arnold
Outside Satan - Bruno Dumont
The Deep Blue Sea - Terrence Davies
Night #1 - Anne E'mond
Blood of My Blood - Joao Canijo
Policeman - Nadav Lapid
Goodbye First Love - Mia Hansen-Love
Combat Girls - David Whendt
Turn Me On Dammit! - Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
A Burning Hot Summer - Philippe Garrel
Beyond the Black Rainbow - Panos Cosmatos
The Color Wheel - Alex Ross Perry
Note: Films such as The Turin Horse, The Kid With The Bike, Snowtown, Elena, and Attenberg were a part of my 2011 list.
I have personally never been a huge fan of lists, as I believe much is predicated on mood and feeling at that given point in time. I believe ones taste in cinema is constantly evolving as one dives deeper and deeper into the medium, making it hard to create a definitive favorite film list. That being said, with the latest list craze, including Sound and Sight's recent greatest films discussion, I have decided to submit my Top 25 Favorite Films List as it would stand today. Note that order hardly matters after the top 5. Limit one film per director.
UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN (Maurice Pialat, 1987)
THE AFFAIR (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1967)
ANGST (Gerald Kargl, 1983)
HANGOVER SQUARE (John Brahm, 1945)
THE BEEKEEPER (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1986)
MOONRISE (Frank Borzage, 1948)
DEATH BY HANGING (Nagisa Ôshima, 1968)
SATAN'S BREW (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1976)
THE END OF CIVILIZATION (Piotr Szulkin, 1981)
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (William Dieterle, 1948)
SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS (Sergei Parajonov, 1965)
ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
LE LIT DE LA VIEGE (Philippe Garrel, 1969)
HOUSE OF BAMBOO (Samuel Fuller, 1955)
THE CRANES ARE FLYING (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)
THROWAWAY YOUR BOOKS, RALLY IN THE STREETS (Shuji Terayama, 1971)
VIOLENT VIRGIN (Koji Wakamatsu, 1969)
BLIND BEAST (Yasuzo Masumura, 1969)
MENILMONTANT (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926)
LOVE STREAMS (John Cassavetes, 1984)
SCARLET STREET (Fritz Lang, 1945)
L'ANGE (Patrick Bokanowski, 1983)
ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (Luchino Visconti, 1960)
COLORADO TERRITORY (Raoul Walsh, 1949)
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (John Carpenter, 1986)