2015 Best Film List – Brendan Rose

I am happy to report that 2015 was another vibrant, inspiring year for cinema. While the year’s film landscape may be dominated by the fairly stellar return of the galactic juggernaut better known as the Star Wars franchise, the idiosyncratic, singular visions of a score of filmmakers would better represent the year’s achievements. From Mali to Mexico City to the South Side of Chicago, important films were made outside the Hollywood system and at a remove from genre conventions.

As we approach Oscar night, it should be noted that the nominees for the Academy Awards once again highlight how lacking in true diversity the industry remains. Whether it relates to which artists receive award nominations or, perhaps more important, which artists are supported in creating work, Hollywood remains a (straight) white boys’ club, one desperately in need of a greater variety of voices and perspectives.

As with any year, there were promising films I simply have not gotten to yet. To name a few: Brooklyn, Creed, In Jackson Heights, Son of Saul, and Taxi, are 2015 movies I still look forward to viewing.

Without further ado, here is the 2015 film list:

TOP TEN (in order):

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako): Sissako’s masterpiece looks at this famed multicultural city of learning and trade as it suffers during an occupation by fundamentalist invaders. The movie’s patchwork of incisive stories and its quietly poetic style demand a world of tolerance, humility, and forceful humanism.

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien): Hou’s plot may at times confound, but this wuxia-inspired martial-arts flick set in medieval China brims with cinematic lyricism via textured, potent visuals and expert, tone-setting sound design. A consistently powerful lead performance by Shu Qi paces this elliptical, mesmerizing, dream of a film.

Carol (Todd Haynes): Haynes’s astounds with this flawless, finely orchestrated love story of two women in a world (1950s New York City) not ready to accept who they are. The grainy, expressive Super 16mm cinematography of DP Edward Lachman reminds us that celluloid is far from dead.

The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu): This is no perfect film — the third act feels too much like a Liam Neeson revenge vehicle — but it is undoubtedly a work of art, an epic-scale canvas detailing early 19th Century fur trappers and foreign armies overtaking the west, thereby destroying the cultures of indigenous America Indians and despoiling the natural environment.

Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven): A well-crafted debut feature that serves up a classic tale of societal and generational conflict in provincial Turkey. Ergüven sustains the sort of originality of perspective and freshness of voice often lacking in such early-career films.

Tangerine (Sean S. Baker): Baker’s exuberant, zany comedy about transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles functions as American independent films more often could — with non-traditional casting, crafty filmmaking, a nitty-gritty sense of its world, and, deep down, a big, generous heart.

Ex Machina (Alex Garland): An expertly performed, dexterously executed sci-fi thriller set in the hermetically sealed, middle-of-nowhere palace/laboratory of a billionaire software CEO/mad scientist. Hitchcock meets Philip K Dick.

Chi-Raq (Spike Lee): Lee’s re-imaging of Lysistrata to violence-plagued Chicago is at times overly campy and caricatured, but the film is likewise bold and humorous, inventive and necessary. Where are the other filmmakers confronting the scourge of gun violence?

The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt): Jason Segel impresses as late writer David Foster Wallace, and Ponsoldt’s movie resurrects the art of conversation, embracing the power of its tête-à-tête, writer-on-writer bull sessions.

Güeros (Alonso Ruiz Palacios): The spirit of Godard is repurposed in Ruiz Palacios’s rollicking, clever coming-of-age picture set during a student protest in Mexico City, 1999. So many scenes stand out and remain with you, months later.

HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order): The Big Short (Adam McKay); The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller); Love & Mercy (Bill Pohlad); Sand Dollars (Laura Amelia Guzmán & Israel Cárdenas); Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)

BEST GENRE FLICKS (not mentioned above):
Creepy Thriller: Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala)
Horror: It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
Historical Drama: Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg)
Sci-Fi: The Martian (Ridley Scott)
Action-Adventure: Everest (Baltasar Kormákur)
Action-Crime: Black Mass (Scott Cooper)
Action-Geo-Political: Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)

Article written by Brendan Rose

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

The Coin, directed by Fabien Martorell

The Coin, Short film – Directed by Fabien Martorell – Starring Christopher Lloyd, Kathryn Morris
Based on the short story “Soul Murder” by David Mamet
Trailer Edited by Scott Butzer
Watch the trailer for The Coin HERE

The Coin is an absorbing short film based on the (very) short story entitled “Soul Murder” written by David Mamet, published in Granta Magazine. The entire story is about two pages long and observes a boy being berated by his stern mother; a man watching fantasizes about approaching the boy while his mother has stepped away and telling the boy he is his guardian angel and giving him a coin that is symbolic of the boy’s goodness. Mamet, a masterful writer, is able to paint a portrait of a troubled family dynamic in two short pages with deft brush strokes of dialogue and description. Since the man’s thoughts are purely internal, it would be near impossible to depict them as written in film unless one relied on voice-over. Instead, filmmaker Fabien Martorell and co-writer Golan Ramras opt for taking the mother and son inside a grocery store where the man actually interacts with the boy, handing him a coin and impressing upon him the belief that he is, in fact, good not bad. That the man is played by Christopher Lloyd lends an immediate likability to the character who otherwise might be suspect as he is apparently homeless. Mamet’s version conveys a deep sadness for the child who seems to be (rightfully so) depressed and disturbed. In the film, the child appears to have more internal strength and while the mother castigates him, he seems determined to remain his own person. In the end, in the film, we think the child will be ok; not so in the written story. As a result, the film captures a certain magic in the man handing the boy the coin (a magic further suggested by the film’s end suggesting the man may have been an actual angel after all) while presenting a recognizable dynamic in this angry, frustrated mother and her young son who may or may not have done something worthy of her wrath. A remarkable short film inspired by a remarkable very short story. Mike Fishman

6 AWARDS – 5 NOMINATIONS – 24 FESTIVALS (including 4 Academy-qualifying festivals, and 6 festivals voted Top 50 by MovieMaker Magazine)
WINNER 2013 & 2014: “Best Short Film” Sunscreen Film Festival West, “Best Short Film” San Pedro Int’l Film Festival, “Best US Short Film-Audience Award” Champs-Elysees Film Festival, “Best Director” Festival Int’l du Film de Court Metrage d’Avignon, “Best Short Film-Jury Award” Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Festival, “Best Concept” The Brightside Tavern Shorts Fest
NOMINATIONS 2014 & 2015: “Best International/World Cinema” Portobello Film Festival London, “Best Short Film-Drama”, “Best Director-Drama”, “Best Cinematography”, “Best Concept” The Brightside Tavern
OFFICIAL SELECTIONS 2013, 2014 & 2015: Palm Springs Int’l ShortFest, LA Shorts Fest, Newport Beach, Cleveland, HollyShorts, San Antonio, deadCENTER, Big Bear Lake, Avignon (France), Champs-Elysees (France), Scarborough (Canada), Portobello London (UK), SNOB, San Pedro, Sunscreen West, Saint-Cloud, Gold Coast Int’l Film Festival, Enfoque (Puerto Rico), Short. Sweet. Film Fest, Speechless, Philadelphia, Hyart, The Brightside Tavern
WORLD PREMIERE June 2013: Palm Springs Int’l ShortFest

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Strawberry Barbara, written and directed by Lucas Diercouff

Strawberry Barbara is a story about a recently widowed father who struggles to tell his daughter that he is dating again.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Painter’s Brush, written and directed by and starring Jake Douglas


Painter’s Brush

A short film by Jake Douglas

Synopsis: The exploration of light and colour in the context of a painter’s love for his art.

See the film here (password: cinemagic): http://www.vimeo.com/jakedouglas/paintersbrush

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Cinema Bid Adieu, directed by Aneek Chaudhuri

SYNOPSIS: Cinema Bid Adieu connects three time periods i.e. Past, Present and Future which are actually three short silent tales with the common theme, CONFLICT. Moreover, the scenario of WAR has been equated to the struggle and sequence of combats that led to the invention of Cinema and the inception of ‘Arrival of a Train’ by Lumiere Brothers. This is treated to solve the warship scenario that prevails still today, and it is indeed taking a microscopic route that is the combat for sustenance on earth. This is the revolving sequence of Cinema in its original content, however the context is concentrating on the combat to bring up the birth of first cinematic piece i.e. Arrival of a Train.

Stage of Development: The film is ready to be screened however, no current screenings have been planned yet.

Personal Bio: Aneek Chaudhuri, the director of Cinema Bid Adieu has had his films screened at prestigious festivals at Cannes, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and Warsaw. He is a film theorist and has more than a dozen papers published in reputed international journals. He also holds the authorship of four books, out of which two are on Film Studies. He has pursued his Graduation in Films and English in Delhi, India.

Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/Cinema-Bid-Adieu-737354259727884/?notif_t=page_user_activity

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

303, directed by Tomasz Magierski

303 from Tomasz Magierski on Vimeo.

Title: 303

Synopsis: The film tells the story of the most successful squadron of the Battle of Britain – the Polish 303 Kosciuszko Squadron – through the eyes of two veteran pilots of the Squadron: Franciszek Kornicki and Stanislaw Socha, as well as through the children of three spectacular aces of 303 Squadron: John Kent, the Canadian Flight commander, Witold Urbanowicz, the legendary Polish commander of 303, Miroslaw Feric, also a chronicler of the squadron.

It is a story of personal courage against great odds when the fate of WW2 was at stake. It shows heroic men and their perseverance in living up to the Kosciuszko motto of fighting “for our freedom and yours”. I believe that this story of men of the greatest generation conveys a universal message which viewers can identify with. The film also explores an American connection, as the Kosciuszko Squadron was established in 1919 in Poland by American volunteer pilots, including Merian Cooper, and it’s insignia was designed by another American pilot, Elliott Chess.

Website: http://tomaszmagierski.com/303/

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Cerebral, directed by Ashleigh Coffelt

Cerebral (Miss Ash Productions) Directors Cut from Ashleigh Coffelt on Vimeo.

Synopsis: After turning herself in for a string of murders, a young women turns the tables on her interrogators.
Starring Courtney Birk, James Bressi and Esther Jones
Directed, edited, cinematography and concept by Ashleigh Coffelt
Made for the 48 Hour Film Project 2015: http://www.48hourfilm.com/home

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

FUCKKKYOUUU, directed by Eddie Alcazar

FUCKKKYOUUU – An Exist Films production
(Director: Eddie Alcazar http://www.eddiealcazar.com, Music: Flying Lotus)

SYNOPSIS: With the ability to travel in time, a lonely girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self. Eventually faced with rejection she struggles with her identity and gender, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain.
Producers: Eddie Alcazar, Javier Lovato | Executive Producer / Legal: Anthony De Toro | Cast: Jesse Sullivan, Charles Baker.Experimental Short / Music Video.

“The opening sequence of FUCKKKYOUUU is something akin to the shadow of [F.W. Murnau’s 1922 vampire classic] Nosferatu come to life.” – okayplayer

Press Articles below
TRAILER – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfF5LJZ8jkI
Fantastic Fest – http://fantasticfest.com/films/fuckkkyouuu
Twitchfilm – http://alturl.com/5vkbb
Consequence of Sound – http://goo.gl/DUZ9oJ

Film Contact:
Javier Lovato
existfilms@gmail.com

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Capital I – An Existential Psychodrama, Written, Directed and Cinematography Amartya Bhattacharyya

Capital I, a film by Indian director Amartya Bhattacharyya, is a surreal journey of awakening and contradiction. We follow Piyali, a young Indian woman who is studying psychology and is dealing with her inner issues. She is curious as others are in her town about a mysterious death in a house. Her persistent thirst for knowledge and information creates a sort of instability for her and her relationship with others. Her quest is displayed with music, sounds, colors and dreamlike sequences. When she is not discussing philosophy and existentialism with her professor, she is working out her issues with an imaginary female character in her mind. This character seems to represent her free and wild side she struggles to keep hidden. There is a dilemma, especially in a culture like hers, as a woman to keep a veil over her true desires and strength. Truth can only be hidden for so long before it is inevitably revealed and there is no way to avoid or control it. It is in the hiding that distortions and aberrations may arise and do harm.

The film takes a circuitous path, jumping here and there. It seems to say that in life we can do or believe or be what we choose, the destination is the same in the end. Our lives and the concept of time are an illusion, as is the need to always be in control not seeing the grand picture. Humans have a deep need for order, connection and meaning. Questions are what make this film interesting, posing questions and also causing the viewer to question as well. It does not say: here are the answers; it says keep experiencing and questioning. I also enjoyed the focus on the female energy as life, creation, birth and renewal extended to everything in our world and beyond, the theme repeated throughout the film.

Bhattacharyya also uses horoscopic symbolism and the color red, to represent various feelings and states of being. There are drawings accompanied by spoken poetry woven into the story to add more weight to the film. As the film progresses it feels more and more layered and substantial to the point that you are in it and not just a viewer. Occasionally the film’s stylistic leanings caused me to fall out of the story but such moments were few and brief. On the other hand, some moments have the power to fully envelop the viewer. I could see hints of Luis Buñuel’s filmmaking, where discomfort in watching a scene does not detract from its intriguing quality. Whichever moments these may turn out to be for you are personal, of course, dependent upon your own feelings going in and openness as a viewer.

A few minutes into watching this film, I have to confess I could have stopped watching as I was not prepared for its surreal structure, but I am so glad I didn’t. The gift of Capital I is the space it leaves for the audience to think for themselves. Relax and go for the ride.

Review written by Shirley Rodriguez

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Better Than Crazy, written and directed by Mike Restaino

Synopsis: Five cousins gather for the first time in years at a drunken family reunion. They find themselves busy singing country songs about fatty snack foods, dealing with paranormal threats from a dead aunt with dubious fashion sense, and cracking more fat jokes per minute of film than any movie in history.
Starring Amy Bruni, Aaron Daley, Nick Leonti, Deborah O’Brien, Shawn Romias, and Katherine Fullenlove.
Written and Directed By Mike Restaino

Film Site: http://betterthancrazy.com

On Demand Page: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/betterthancrazy
Social Media Links:
https://twitter.com/betterthancrazy
https://www.facebook.com/betterthancrazymovie

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

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