Co-President, Sony Pictures Classics
“Umberto Eco says, ‘The list is the origin of the culture.’ And culture wants ‘to make infinity comprehensible’ and ‘to create order…We like lists because we don’t want to die.'”
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“Astonish me. rattle me. Change the way I see.”
The New York Times’ Ben Brantley on what he says when he enters a theater
“If you can’t come up with a 10 best list in 2015, you haven’t seen enough.”
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
2015 has been rough. Shattering events abroad and at home, smarmy political debates, transition in the motion picture business, all marks of troubled times.
But something strange just happened. After making this top 10 list, I find myself sincerely optimistic about the future. There are so many movies, plays, and television shows that didn’t make it here that would have easily had a spot in previous years. Per usual Sony Pictures Classics movies are exempt.
1 – “The Assassin”
A stunning work of art.
Popular on IndieWire
2 – “Inside Out”
If you know someone who doesn’t like this movie, don’t trust them. Has great emotional intelligence including a profound meditation on sadness.
3 – “Kriemhild’s Revenge”/”The Revenant”
One made in 1924 the other in 2015, two of the finest revenge movies and action movies ever. The restored version of Fritz Lang’s movie played to an exhilarated crowd at the Telluride Film Festival — massive battle scenes with no special effects (I wonder how many real deaths occurred in the making) and the kickass, take-no-prisoners heroines. Then three months later, Alejandro Iñarritu provided another jaw-dropper with even more realism, only this time with seamless special effects (bear fights, a horse going over an ice cliff falling on a tree!), glorious widescreen natural lighting (the focus-puller deserves 10 Oscars), and perfect performances from Leo, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and for my money the best performance of the year, Tom Hardy.
4 – “Hamilton”
It’s as good or better than what you’ve heard. Restores your faith in the American musical. Makes you live with the fact that our great multi-cultural country was started by a bunch of greedy white guys.
5 – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Terrific. “Star Wars” finally enters our everyday world as well as our imagination.
6 – “Brooklyn”
Solid on all counts. A positive immigration story, so necessary.
7 – “The Tribe”
Words fail here. Like no other movie. You may not speak to me again but guaranteed to blow your mind.
8 – “Heaven Can Wait”/”La Otra”
One restored masterpiece and one lost Mexican treasure. Ernst Lubitsch’s “Heaven Can Wait” (1943) proved just timeless at the New York Film Festival and the discovery of Robert Gavaldon’s “La Otra” (1946) was a revelation at Thierry Fremaux’s Lumiere Festival in Lyon.
9 – “Cinderella”
It’s time to give Ken Branagh his due. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have seen him give us a major “Macbeth,” a staggering performance in the final episode of “Wallander” (it foreshadows the great Lear to come), recently in London in “A Winter’s Tale” with the best Leontes I’ve ever seen, in repertory with a precisely directed and performed hilarious farce “Harlequinade,” AND “Cinderella.” This is a beautifully directed movie offering surprise after surprise,
like the genius of casting Cate Blanchett as a sympathetic wicked stepmother.
Ms. Blanchett reminds us what an amazing year it has been for so many actors. This year, she gave us three of her finest performances to date. Ditto Mark Ruffalo. Ditto Tom Hardy. Then you have Alicia Vikander, who gave excellent performances in eight (!!!!) movies this year. How crazy is that?
10 – “Justified” (6 seasons)
My favorite binge-watch of the year. Let us remember Elmore Leonard for the worlds he created and how they thrilled us time and time again. Only he could have created nut jobs like Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and anti-heroes like Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Sixty-five hours of entertainment in 2015. Think about that.
2015 was another year of loss. Losing a friend like Richard Corliss is impossible for me. He was a film critic I adored. He loved so many movies, plays, and books. He extolled me in his quiet way when he thought I was doing something right, made me whither when he occasionally chastised me (always in the guise of barbed humor). No one could speak as long he could without taking a breath. He is the only film critic who argued with me in song and poetry. He is appreciated by filmmakers and personalities from ever corner of the world, but especially Asian and Iranian filmmakers because he was there first for them. Sometimes he was way off-base (he once told me he hoped I would become a future Jeffrey Katzenberg). To watch Richard and Mary banter in the flesh was better than any romance on screen. They remain as formidable a team as any couple I’ve ever encountered. I loved the guy.
Which brings me to my wish for 2016. I really like film critics, even when they make my blood boil. I would not be asked to write this if film critics had not influenced my life before or during my career. To David Thomson (you must read his fine new book, “How to Watch a Movie”), Joe Morgenstern, Ken Turan, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott, Stephen Holden, Amy Taubin, Eric Kohn, Armond White, Chris Vogner, Leonard Maltin, Michael Phillips, Jim Hoberman, Amy Nicholson, Alessandra Stanley and so many others too numerous to mention here: Please keep fighting the good fight and long may you survive. That is my wish. I want 2016 to give you greater distinction and stability. A continuing film culture of quality cannot survive without you.
Director of Programming, Seattle International Film Festival
No Particular Order:
Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog”
Letting you live in her world for a bit is an extraordinary gift.
“The Look of Silence”
I thought following up “The Act of Killing” would be impossible…
Pixar does it again… emotions.
From the first frame to the last, nothing else quite like it.
The whole ensemble takes what could be overblown and keeps it understated, human, and powerful.
The luminous Nina Hoss makes magic with Christian Petzold again.
Trey Shults’ debut feature marks him a director to watch.
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s performances in “Room” were stunning.
“Bloodline”: Full blown noir in the Keys, and Ben Mendelsohn walks that fine line of creepy like a pro.
“The Fencer”: elegant and beautifully-shot period piece from Klaus Härö.
2. Resolutions: I will continue to seek that balance of known and unknown.
3. Looking forward: In 2016, I can’t wait to be surprised by something new!
Film Society of Lincoln Center, SeriesFest, Deadline contributor (and former Managing Editor of Indiewire)
1. “Carol” by Todd Haynes
Great acting and directing; glad I didn’t live then.
2. “Spotlight” by Tom McCarthy
Tense and riveting all the way through.
3. “Cartel Land” by Matthew Heineman
Amazing it was a documentary. It is the “ignored” war.
4. “Brooklyn” by John Crowley
Great performance by Saoirse Ronan and nicely executed.
5. “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” by Brett Morgen
I was one of those crazed fans, so was predisposed — was powerful, can’t believe it wasn’t shortlisted.
6. “Son of Saul” by László Nemes
Difficult to say I “enjoyed” it, but was unforgettable.
7. “Straight Outta Compton” by F. Gary Gray
The title song and refrain was stuck in my head for over a day.
8. “Trainwreck” by Judd Apatow
My friends’ arguments about sex positivity aside, I had a great time with it. And who knew that was Tilda right off the bat?
9. “Tangerine” by Sean Baker
Aside from the novelty of being shot on iPhones, it’s a great ride.
10. “Amy” by Asif Kapadia
Sad to watch, but so well done.
“Best of Enemies” by Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville
“Mommy” by Xavier Dolan
“Clouds of Sils Maria” by Olivier Assayas
“Ex Machina” by Alex Garland
“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” by Alex Gibney
Resolutions: My resolution is to see more movies (there are a few that may have changed the Top 10 had I been able to see them). Also excited to build on the success of Season One of our “episodic content” festival SeriesFest (Season Two taking place this June 22 – 26) and to continue with my next phase at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Looking Forward: Cannes (if I get to go); Sundance, SXSW, True/False Film Festival (hopefully).
Director, Ambulante California Documentary Film Festival
Programming Associate, Sundance Film Festival
Programmer, Curacao International Film Festival Rotterdam
Programming Specialist, U.S. Latino, LA Film Festival
“Embrace of the Serpent” by Ciro Guerra (Colombia)
I can talk about this movie all day. It works on such a macro level interlacing humanity, cosmic proportions and two fierce individual characters challenging each other. It is transportive. Total masterpiece. Words defy me in describing the themes and cinematic expression of those themes in part because its so rich, but also because this work opens my eyes to the limits of Western ideas when it comes to the indignity.
I binged on this UK comedy series on Netflix because, you guessed it, the catchy title. Has a whole lot more sensitivity, charm and rare masculine emotion than one would expect from a story about a dude looking up the women he slept with to let them know to get checked. Think “High Fidelity” with STD’s.
“Creed” by Ryan Cooler
I just knew it was going to be awesome. Honest. The storyline continuing the Apollo Creed character is organic, fresh, yet classic in all the right ways. Absolutely exhilarating to hear the bell sounding off the iconic “Rocky” theme with Michael B. Jordan arriving at the gym looking up to see good Ol’ Rocky from the block. What I love is that it’s not reinventing or retrofitting — say making a character black/brown/Asian for the sake of reaching that audience, but it truly is a new beat reawakening the story and franchise. Props to Ryan Coogler for nailing his sophomore and first studio film.
“Perspective” by Rose Troche
My most disturbing and thought provoking experience at New Frontier Sundance 2015. Synopsis: “A young woman attends a college party with the intention of shedding her shy girl HS persona. At the same party a young man is after a similar reinvention. They meet. Add booze. Misinterpreted signals and do things that cannot be undone.” The virtual reality narrative allows for a viewer to step into the shoes of someone to see it from their perspective and circumstance. The result is terrifyingly as it questions and complicates culpability.
“Promise Me Anarchy” by Julio Hernandez Cordon (Mexico/Guatemala)
Are we promising “Anarchy” or are we asking for “Anarchy” to promise us? Such is the punk skating bromance set in the underbelly of Mexico City. Mad real and stylish.
“The Wolfpack” by Crystal Moselle
I remember last year around this time watching this and feeling guilty for my skepticism: How can this be real, and what insanely perfect timing for a documentary to capture? (Think “Catfish.”) Documentaries have so much to do with the filmmaker’s persona and seizing opportunity. Can’t wait to see what else Crystal does in the future.
After my own heart. Noir, meta, junkie lead with a heart of pain. Rami “Big Eyes” Malek makes this show.
“Cartel Land” by Matthew Heineman
In previous years, “The Act of Killing” and “Look of Silence” have dominated conversations on documentary filmmaker ethics and their safety on the field. This year, on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, “Cartel Land” was this film. Yes, it’s an unprecedented vault of access, which only an outsider could mine and in this case it was completely immerse. I hope that the remarkable filmmaking doesn’t outshine the disturbing content, which requires context to comprehend on a deeper level.
“3rd Street Blackout” by Negin Farsad
Move over Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer and make way for Negin Farsad. Her humor is super smart and hilarious. An outstanding female-directed and starring comedy that world premiered at LA Film Festival.
“Sin Alas” (“Without Wings”) by Ben Chace
Super romantico, poetic and hypnotic tale shot on film in Cuba that speaks to generations.
2) Resolutions: Think of myself and every job I do as social enterprise. That means changing the definition of Return of Investment.
Answer emails within 24 hours even if I don’t have an answer. Write more on my blog.
3) Looking Forward: The digital episodic space. Disrupting the old half hour and one hour storytelling format and breaking a story’s beats in 5, 10, 15 minute intervals, whatever creative dictates is exciting. Formats may change, but character-driven storytelling will remain key.
Co-Creator and Executive Producer, Field of Vision
1) Top Ten List
1. “Standby for Tape Back-up” by Ross Sutherland
A wonderfully unique film that takes even the most familiar popular culture and gives it a new, and powerful, story. Ross Sutherland’s use of performance and writing takes this film to another level and it’s one that I hope many people get to see.
2. “The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer
The embodiment of the power of documentary. And so beautifully made. Joshua Oppenheimer is a master of the craft.
3. “The Nightmare” by Rodney Ascher
I love when people utilize genre filmmaking in non-fiction and Rodney Ascher really plays with the power of horror in reality with “The Nightmare.” It’s a film that really freaks me out, but is so well-made that I can re-watch it. I’ll always check out anything Rodney makes.
4. “Above and Below” by Nicolas Steiner
That “Above and Below” is a graduation film means I’ll pay close attention to Nicolas Steiner’s future work, considering how magical this film is.
5. “Tangerine” by Sean Baker
I loved every frame. It was captivating, the performances excellent and I loved the soundtrack.
6. “Mad Max: Fury Road” by George Miller
I loved everything about “Mad Max” from the visuals, the scope and ambition, the characters and their progression. It was everything I could want from big scale fiction like that.
7. “Exotica, Erotica, etc” by Evangelia Kranioti
“Exotica, Erotica, etc” is a stunning film. I love Evangelia Kranioti’s filmmaking, especially the use of fiction and documentary, and the incredible visuals.
8. “99 Homes” by Ramin Bahrani
I have been wanting to re-watch “99 Homes” since I first saw it. The performances are excellent, it’s smart and tough to watch. I’d love to see more films like this.
9 and 10. The Shonda Rhimes and Duplass Brothers’ collective empires.
Let these people do whatever they want. It’s for our own good.
Notable Mentions: “Spotlight” is definitely one of the best films of the year for me, but was co-financed by our colleagues at First Look Media. So in the interests of impartiality only, it was not in my top 10.
Other favorites include: “Hot Sugar’s Cold World,” “Magic Mike XXL,” “Deep Web,” “Listen to Me Marlon,” “Mend and Make Do,” “Western” and “Those Who Feel The Fire Burning.”
Always continue to try and find more ways to help filmmakers to get their work made, or out into the world.
On a personal level: Write more, and produce more.
3) Looking Forward:
I’m really excited to see what we can build Field of Vision into, and the films we’ll be able to put out into the world.
And really I always most look forward to the unexpected films that blow me away.
Senior Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival
“The Big Short”
“Dior and I”
Resolutions: Watch more TV. During submissions season, I never get to keep up with television and end up playing catch-up all summer. Recommendations welcome!
Looking Forward: The new “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Watching the original as a kid was the first place I ever saw old movies.
Deputy Director & Head of Programming, IFP
1. “Magic Mike XXL”
A Ginuwine guilty pleasure, best reserved for repeated viewings crunching small packages of pretzels in the middle seat on Delta.
I should be watching season 2 right now instead of writing this.
3. Final Episodes of “Mad Men,” “Person to Person”
I will buy Don Draper a Coke anytime and will carry Peggy’s box eternally.
4. “The Jinx”
5. “Shugs & Fats”
2015 IFP Gotham Award Winner and comedy gold. Give these ladies a put pilot deal please!
6. “Inside Out”
My current “Islands of Personality” are bacon, small children, gold lame shoes and Vimeo screening links.
7. “The Fits”
Anna Rose Helmer is a quadruple threat: director/producer/cinematographer and badass lady. Don’t miss this one at Sundance 2016…
8. “Uncle Kent 2”
Anything Todd Rohal touches turns to rainbows, smells of talcum powder and tastes like beef jerky. I have no idea what that means, but its how I feel about Todd and his amazing toolbox of crazy.
9. “Broad City,” Season 2, “Kirk Steele”
Paul W. Downs. Party people, rejoice.
10. Special Mention (otherworldly and unquantifiable division)
·Missy Elliott’s WTF video
·Frederik Duerinck and Marcel Brakel’s Famous Deaths installation
·Dina Martina’s Holiday Special Live!
Looking Forward: “Pee Wee’s Big Holiday” (Netflix, March 2016)
When I moved to New York City for graduate school, I interned at Curious Pictures in the late nineties. When I entered their offices, a giant, mangy green model of Chairy still hung over the reception desk. I’m still convinced the caftan-draped receptionist was actually Jambi the Genie too, trapped in a faux wood cage purgatory answering calls and catering to peoples’ whims for eternity.
3) Resolutions: To round out 2015, I want to spend the first day of my holiday break watching the 1988 classic “Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” seeing my old pals Annette Funicello, k.d. lang, Grace Jones, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Little Richard AND Cher AND Oprah AND Charo all party down under one tinsel covered roof.
SVP Acquisitions and Production, Alchemy
The usual disclaimers: I’m excluding films that I was involved with, and there are a number of films I haven’t seen yet which could have made their way onto this list. Two movies in particular blew me away, but it was a strong enough year that I extended my list to 25…
1. “Inside Out”
2. “The Look of Silence”
The rest in alphabetical order:
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Magic Mike XXL”
“The Night Before”
“Son of Saul”
“Time Out of Mind”
“When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism”
Deutchman Company/Columbia University
The following are my original Twitter reviews (on movietweeviews.com) for my top 11 films of the year with the caveat that there are certainly worthy films that I haven’t caught up with yet. As an Academy member, I am not supposed to reveal my votes, so in order to keep to that code of conduct my list is in alphabetical order.
#99Homes is a devastating look at the human impact of the housing collapse. One of the most moving films of the year & a must see.
Impeccably acted & directed, Spielberg’s entertaining & illuminating #BridgeofSpies is both cold war throwback & relevant moral fable.
Using the iconography of the original film to press every emotional button, #Creed may be the most clever franchise reboot ever.
A moving refutation of the myth of the tortured artist #TheEndoftheTour is the best conversation film since Dinner w/ Andre.
Hilarious, insightful & mind-bendingly clever, #InsideOut is Pixar’s greatest achievement. Kids won’t get it, but you’ll be blown away.
Brilliantly structured and acted, #LoveandMercy is heartbreaking, triumphant and one of the best biopics ever made.
Riveting from the 1st frame, #Room is extraordinarily acted, intense, extremely moving & easily the best film I’ve seen at #tiff15.
Taut, intense & with stunning ensemble performances, #SpotlightMovie is a moving tribute to the power of responsible journalism.
Not a fan of rap music but #StraightOuttaCompton is a powerful story of the rage underneath the music in a time/place all too resonant.
Stories are everywhere & cannot be suppressed is the message of #Taxi, a warm, funny, brilliant screw u to Iranian authorities. See it!
I was completely smitten by #Trainwreck, a smartly written & acted, hilarious, poignant & hopeful look at dysfunctional personalities.
Romantic without being overly sentimental, #BrooklynMovie is a lovely & beautifully rendered coming-of-age story from a simpler era.
Funny & frightening, #ExMachina is a stripped down sci-fi thriller that hints at a future that may not be that far away. See it.
Intense, gorgeous to look at & extremely entertaining, #TheMartian is also a great lesson for kids to study their science & math.
Told entirely in hand-held close-up, Nazi death camp drama #SonofSaul is astonishingly intense and devastatingly immersive.
#TheWolfpack: Bizarre, completely fascinating doc that once again proves how life is an endless supply of amazing stories.
I want to also acknowledge the long-form series that had me hooked this year:
“Game of Thrones”
“The Good Wife”
My hope for the new year is that we finally define moving image content by form rather than by distribution mechanism or delivery device. My favorite serial/long-form storytelling has more in common with moviemaking than with traditional television. I believe we’ll soon be seeing HBO-style programming in theaters and audiences will be binging on “Berlin Alexanderplatz” in their homes. Convergence indeed.
Deputy Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Top Ten Film List
1. “Carol” (Todd Haynes)
2. “Son of Saul” (László Nemes)
3. “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” (Brett Morgen)
4. “Junjun” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. “45 Years” (Andrew Haigh)
6. “Dreamcatcher” (Kim Longinotto)
7. “Saint Laurent” (Bertrand Bonello)
8. “Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg)
9. “Creed” (Ryan Coogler)
Honorable mentions for three incredible experiences that didn’t debut on a big screen but that are worth singling out among the very best of 2015:
Broadway musical with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton
2. “A Little Life”
A novel by Hanya Yanagihara
3. “Got 2B Trill: The Untold Story”
YouTube video by Patti LaHelle
2) Resolutions: Last year in this space, I reflected on the importance of diversity, literacy and education. At the Film Society, our CineKids Education program has done amazing work with young students in New York City schools. We’ll deepen the initiative in the coming year and I hope build a bridge to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Academy programs supporting emerging film critics, artists and members of the industry. Stay tuned for more on this and please reach out to me directly if any of this piques your interest. Finally, we need to continue the vital conversation about diversifying film culture. I hope you’ll listen to our recent panel discussion on the topic and engage with us to address these issues.
3) Looking Forward: We are thrilled that Thomas Beard has joined us as a Programmer at Large at the Film Society. His first program, the one that I am most looking forward to in the new year, is the most comprehensive survey ever assembled of queer cinema before Stonewall. Stay tuned and I hope you’ll join us!
Former Film Curator of Film and Cinema, The Museum of Modern of Art
Below are 10 films that opened in New York and with which I was most engaged. There are other films I enjoyed in 2015 but these ten seemed to me quite extraordinary, and perhaps even “essential.”
1 “Court” (Chaitanya Tamhane, India).
Really, one of the most astonishing first features ever and I am completely befuddled why it is not on many more “best of” lists. I can only surmise critics did not see this film. If I am correct about this, then what does this say about the reception of independent Indian cinema in the U.S.?
2 “Tangerine” (Sean Baker, USA) Horizontal cinema at its most kinetic. A perfect L.A. film.
3 “Heart of a Dog” (Laurie Anderson, USA)
4 “Taxi” (Jafar Pahani, Tehran)
5 “It Follows” (David Robert Mitchell, USA)
Terrific original premise; very very spooky.
6 “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller, Australia/USA)
7 “Timbuktu” (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania/France)
8 “Iris” (Albert Maysles, USA)
9 “45 Years” (Andrew Haigh, Great Britain)
Charlotte Rampling, repeat and repeat again.
10 “Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg, USA)
Five films that have not yet any theatrical engagement in the U.S., which I highly recommend for when they appear on art house screens (and I hope they do). In alphabetical order:
“Secteur X1B” (Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, France/Senegal)
Artist video about museums, colonialism, ethnography, and misplaced cultural assumptions.
“The Strange Eyes of Dr. Meyes” (Nancy Andrews, USA)
Artisan filmmaking making at its most delirious and wacky best.
“Three Obsessions” (Bauddhayan “Buddy” Mukherji, India)
Three short narratives from Bengal covering 100 years and flavored with Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock.
“The Violin Player” (Buddy Mukherji, India)
Mukherji again. Lean, suspenseful narrative about a Bollywood session violinist who is suddenly given an unexpected chance to really practice his art.
“Why Hast thou Forsaken Me?” (Hadar Morag, Israel/France) Hard-hitting, disturbing melo about a young Arab, somewhere between boyhood and young man, coping in a very brutal city, Tel Aviv at its most unglamorous.
Two virtually complete works-in-progress that I anticipate, or rather, hope, will be must-sees after their official premieres:
Milton Moses Ginsberg’s “illuminating” film essay about the influence German-Jewish film directors who fled Hitler on the invention of American “film noir.”
“The ‘I’ Pad”
Written and directed by Amit Rai. Made in Bhopal (!) a wild but apparently true story of an amateur inventor who with his devoted sidekick is determined, against ALL odds and reason, to develop
sanitary pads for the 98% of Indian women who use ash, rags, leaves and old newspapers.
Resolutions: Only one, but it is a “really big one.” Complete the first draft of the biography I am writing, “Shirley Clarke: The Life and Times of the Original Chelsea Girl.”
What I most looking forward to this year is what I always most look forward to since seeing “Abbott and Costello Go to Mars” in 1953 — the chronic excitement of going to a movie house anywhere and in the seconds in which the houselights dim anticipating that when the curtains part my fellow congregants and I will be transported into another time and space.
Independent Film Programmer/Producer of Special Film Programs, Comeback Company
Here are the films that made a mark for me (in no particular order):
1. “Chevalier,” “The Assassin,” “Mediterranea” (best debut), “The Treasure,” “Anomalisa,” “Sunday Ball,” “The Wolfpack” and “Toto and His Sisters” for their moving stories, and the last two as the most devastating experience I had in the cinema: “The Look of Silence,” “The Other Side.”
2. We can’t let films like Pietro Marcello’s “Lost and Beautiful” get lost. Letting “Right Now, Wrong Then” go without a U.S. distributor at this stage is mind-boggling. I guess the resolution would be (for me and the industry) make sure there is a thriving platform for foreign language cinema on this continent.
3. The premiere of Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” at Sundance.
Artistic Director, Philadelphia Film Society
Out of the theatrical releases this year, I really loved:
4. “White God”
5. “The Big Short”
9. “Steve Jobs”
10. “Son of Saul”
I also really liked: “The Look of Silence” (by far the best documentary of the year), “Mommy,” “Timbuktu,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Girlhood,” “Ex
Machina,” “R100,” “The Duke of Burgundy,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Wild Tales,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Love & Mercy,” “Inside Out,” “The End of the Tour,” “Goodnight Mommy,” “Sicario,” “99 Homes,” “Finders Keepers,” “Victoria,” “Creed,” “The Revenant,” “Spotlight,” “45 Years”
Executive Vice President, Marketing & Distribution, Adopt Films
Full Disclosure: I still have yet to see “Joy,” “Where to Invade Next,” “Anomalisa”)
Already completely forgotten and still the year’s best film.
Todd’s best film yet, featuring the richest cinematography of the year. If this film doesn’t move you to the heights you have no pulse.
The apotheosis in the evolution of digital filmmaking. But forget the photography, see it for one of the five best leading women’s performances of the year.
4) “The End of the Tour”
It’s not about writing, it’s about everything else. Segel gave the year’s best male performance.
5) “Steve Jobs”
With apologies to The Police, “every little thing Sorkin does is magic.” And this was alchemy of the highest order. Angry, brilliant poetry.
6) “45 Years”
This year’s best Ingmar Bergman film; Rampling here joins Costa, Blanchett, Dorval, and Mara as the best. They are this year’s five.
7) “The Big Short”
Best of Bale and Carrell to date. Daring, funny, sad.
The first time I saw it was on a plane, it’s that good.
9) Saved for one of the films — noted above — coming out this week and next.
10) “Mad Women”
No apologies for this, simply humility and pride. It should be seen at least twice.
1) Top Ten List of the Best Film and TV
I’m WAY behind in my movie-watching, so I’ve seen practically no Golden Globe nominees or Oscar contenders yet. The list below is just a list of films and TV shows I happened to see and like this year, in alphabetical order:
“Beasts of No Nation”
“Fresh Off the Boat” (ABC)
“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”
“Master of None,” Episode 4, “Indians on TV” (Netflix)
“What We Do in the Shadows”
2) Resolutions: I hope to encourage more producers and mentors to develop and nurture women-directed projects at an early stage. There is a lot of criticism lobbed at financiers, film festivals, press, and awards, for not considering/accepting enough women-directed films. Some of that criticism is justified, of course, but it’s becoming more and more clear that there is also a pipeline issue that starts very early in the script development stage. For example, 21% of narrative features at Sundance 2016 are directed by women. That might seem low, but apparently, only 10% of their total narrative feature submissions were directed by women. That number should concern all of us, and we should work to make sure that more women directors are supported at the very beginning of the development-to-distribution cycle, so that representation grows along the entire pipeline.
3) Looking Forward:
Professionally, I’m looking forward to premiering So Yong Kim’s “Lovesong” at Sundance 2016, Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation” in theaters on March 25, and Sarah Adina Smith’s “Buster’s Mal Heart” sometime next year. Personally, I’m looking forward to binge-watching the next season of “Silicon Valley.”
I don’t want to include the films I represent and in a weak year, I will focus on one extraordinary achievement: “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Resolution: to help to make movies that improve the world we live in.
Chief Creative Officer, Amplify Releasing
My favorite films of the year, in no order (and it’s been a really good year for film):
“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”/”The Assassin”
I’m breaking my long-standing rule of demurring when it comes to films that I worked on, because I do believe these are two of the finest films of the year. Both are anchored by stunning lead performances, sublime cinematography, and an amazing use of structure in story, sound and imagery. One a distorted VHS tape, one a fading tapestry. Both are masterpieces in my opinion (and both are apparently guilty of the cardinal sin of having been released before November 1st, ahem).
I advise you get there early, sit in the sweet spot dead center and 1/3rd back, and hope the projectionist is liberal with the volume knob, because these are both films that truly do wash over you if you allow them to.
Great performances, one of the best scores of the year, and #TeamDeakins for life. I was lucky enough to catch this on a huge screen in Dolby Atmos, and I regret not going back again that same week.
Harvey is 100% right when he says we are all shooting ourselves in the foot rushing ten great movies a week out in Nov/Dec. This one came and went, and it’s deserves better- it’s one of the most incredible debuts I’ve seen in years. There’s a mastery of tone on display here that demands a big screen viewing, and it’s topical as all hell to boot. It’s a disservice to you if you have to see it for the first time on your television, but you’re still going to want to catch up with this one.
I overuse the phrase “blast of energy” sometimes, but that’s exactly what this film is. Kiki is a force of nature, and Mya broke my heart. This is a film I’m going to be forcing people to watch during the holidays for years to come. Don’t understand why people keep bringing up the iPhone thing, though- Tangerine needs no gimmick to hold your attention.
“Master of None”/”Jessica Jones”
I think the promise of the streaming services is finally being fulfilled by the episodic content. These shows- both amazing- aren’t suited for one a week, same time same channel. No, they’re designed to make people excited to rip through 2, 3, 4 at a time, and in different ways- “Jessica Jones” so you can see what’s going to happen next, “Master of None” so you can see what Aziz is going to say next.
Some TV shows are TV shows, but now that people are figuring out that some TV shows are not, the possibilities are endless. Don’t have 13 episodes? No problem, make 7. Want to make 40 15 minute episodes? Go forth. This opens up so many possibilities that are only just beginning to be explored- it’s going to be a great few years to be an active viewer. And for the feature film-minded folks, don’t panic- history as well as the present shows there’s plenty of room for both.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said already, but I salute George Miller for running off to the desert with $150 million of someone else’s money and no adult supervision. If you’d told me last year I’d be calling this the best film of the year, I’d have called you insane. We’ll be yelling at the friend that missed this one like we do the friend who missed THE WIRE for years to come.
This is what I mean when I say this is a great year for films- even the “modestly budgeted/fingers crossed for awards love studio drama for adults who don’t love subtitles” film is excellent.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”/“Creed”
I understand “Star Wars isn’t for everyone, I understand this is definitely not a perfect film, I understand they are selling BB-8 oranges and that’s irritating, and I understand that as I’m writing this it’s just about time for the backlash to start. You do you on that, but here’s the thing- the entire country is excitedly talking about a movie, and that’s good news for all of us. Everyone I’ve seen in the last five days, industry vet or distant relative, wants to talk about Star Wars. Sure, it’s inescapable, but do you remember when people gathered in restaurants and bars and living rooms after screenings of JURASSIC WORLD to debate their theories and thoughts on the story beats? Me neither.
“Creed,” like “Star Wars,” did something very smart with structure- they used the basic beats of the first film in a series to revisit a universe. Both films included the old characters we loved but- and this is critical- they made the new characters so interesting on their own. CREED is not a remake, and it’s not a reboot- as far as I’m concerned, it’s the cinema version of sampling, and Coogler, Jordan, Thompson and Stallone pulled it off. Theirs is a world I want to revisit. I also think it’s noteworthy that CREED had more people cheering at the 4pm Sunday show I saw than STAR WARS did on opening night at the IMAX.
These two are blockbusters done right. Marvel’s fine, but when it comes to existing IP, let’s have more of this please.
Getting spat out of a screening of this into a gloomy, drizzly Toronto afternoon maybe didn’t help matters, but this one absolutely wrecked me for a few hours. Apologies to the meetings I took right after, you know who you are.
I also loved:
“Straight Outta Compton,” “I Believe In Unicorns,” “Son of Saul,” “Queen of Earth,” “Forbidden Room,” “Mustang,” “It Follows,” “Phoenix,” “Midnight Swim,” “The Look of Silence,” “Where to Invade Next,” “Room,” “Taxi,” “Heaven Knows What,” and “Chi-Raq.” I haven’t seen “Carol,” “Revenant,” or “Hateful Eight” yet.
It’s been a tricky year in independent film on a number of fronts, and I worry a bit that the coming year is going to be a traumatic for some. The models have shifted, and the industry has a tendency to do this thing where it tries to bend things back into whatever shape will allow the person doing the bending to keep their job.
This has never, ever worked, and so my resolution is to stop contributing to or participating in that. Because once things shake out (and they always do), there are so many great opportunities we’ve never had before sitting there waiting for us. The opportunity to get amazing films in the hands of their audience- whatever form that takes, and whatever size that audience is. The opportunity to get amazing filmmakers their own opportunity to make another one, and a decent sized paycheck to go with it. It’ll be out of our comfort zone, and parts will be painful at first. But it’s the tide- it’s going out whether you like it or not, better get your ass to the boat.
The thing I’m looking forward to the most is, delightfully, something I’ve been able to take part in for the last two years. Every day at Amplify, I have the pleasure of coming into the office and finding a young, energetic team of people doing amazing work. I learn from them on every film, and while I don’t want to generalize, if the 25 year olds out there are anything like the 25 year olds in my office, we’re all in for a treat. So what I’m looking forward to the most in 2016 is continuing to watch them excel, develop and deliver.
Plus, a good portion of us are going to be working for them shortly, so it’s probably best to curry a bit of favor now.
Director, Worldwide Acquisitions, Screen Media Ventures
A few disclaimers:
No Screen Media titles were included, even though we had a really strong slate this year and were able to work with some really talented people.
These are films that had premieres, one way or another, this year.
1) “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Just an utter thrill-ride of a movie. A film that literally makes you catch your breath from time to time.
A showcase of some of today’s absolute best acting talents guided by a terrific script and horrifyingly true story.
3) “The Lobster”
Another terrific script – incredibly innovative, hysterical, personal and engaging. Absurd in all the right ways.
4) “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
So. Much. Fun. How can’t you love a movie that ruins 50 books-worth of extended universe with one name drop?
5) “Ex Machina”
A near-perfectly executed movie. So innovative, so well-acted, so engaging.
6) “Green Room”
Brutal, violent and absolutely fascinating. Just like “Blue Ruin,” but with no cross-over repetition.
Tough to make a stop-motion film feel so real and human, but thus is the power of Charlie Kaufman.
8) “Son of Saul”
Unnervingly personal and hauntingly blunt. A tough but incredibly important watch.
Along with “It Follows” last year, one of the best pure-genre movies in a long while that focuses on aesthetics – a true nod to previous decades’ glory days.
An emotion-filled character study highlighted by two terrific lead performances. A movie that makes you feel feelings.
Resolutions: I really want to meet more of my contemporaries – especially those based in NYC. I also want to take better advantage of the cities I get to travel to.
Looking Forward: Another year of great films and fun festivals.
CEO & President, JMP Verdant Communications
In no particular order really…and I’ve been professionally involved in most of these films — the new ones, at least — but took them on precisely because I think they are great.
“Counting” by Jem Cohen because Jem’s art is always elevated to the most universal and personal level at the same time, in a way that’s almost indescribable. His work feels like a memory, or a series of moments, pulled out of your mind and replayed for you to discover again. I cherished every moment of this great and vulnerable work of art.
“A Girl in the River” by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy because Sharmeen and the subject of her film are risking everything to stand up for the rights of women in a part of the world where human rights for women don’t exist. Respect and gratitude for their courage and relentless vision for a better world free of senseless cruelty.
“Racing Extinction” by Louie Psihoyos because while this film is about protecting the climate and species, it’s really about love. It taps in to our love for animals and for our shared planet, and in doing so inspires us to be kinder, and to be more thoughtful people about how our actions affect others.
“Body Team 12” by David Darg because this film shows the power of human bravery and compassion amidst the most terrifying kind of crisis one could imagine, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. This film is historically important because it is a first hand document of life on the front lines of an epidemic that, thankfully, was contained due in no small part to the unwavering service of the subjects of the film.
“Homeland,” because I am addicted to it!
“Mani sulla Città by Francesco Rosi,” which I saw for the first time this year right before he passed. This was a gateway film to my now-solid love affair with Hulu Plus.
“Mamma Roma” by Pier Paolo Pasolini, which I never really saw in a quiet, concentrated way. I saw this in a rowdy and noisy film class at college in Rome, but seeing it again this year, in a pristine way, was a gift.
“Spotlight” by Tom McCarthy, which opened the Key West Film Festival, because thank god journalists are out there every day fighting to tell stories that put a bright light on truth.
“Blue” by Krzysztof Kieslowski because it’s rapturously beautiful, sad and affirming of the resiliency of women and people who could easily collapse under the circumstance of life. Also, I should say here that I’m committed to going back in time and seeing films that I missed, but shouldn’t have, when they first came out. It’s never too late to enjoy the great ones.
“Inside Out” by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, because this was an incredibly good kids film that put beautiful life lessons and wisdom out there with totally psychedelic humor!
2) Personal resolution number one is to refrain from attempting the humanly impossible in terms of number of hours per day/week/month worked.
Something for the whole indie universe to consider is a classic phrase that took on new perspective this year: “Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.” In our new environment, in which everyone on a film often participates in virtually every aspect of launching it, it’s important to remember the value of professional specialization and dividing and conquering the honorable mission of releasing a movie to achieve maximum results. The combined unique contributions of each member of a team create a campaign and release that truly shine.
3) Looking Forward: Right now, I’m most looking forward to the HBO broadcast of the documentary “Body Team 12” produced by our fantastic friends at Vulcan Productions and seeing that heroic act of filmmaking reach the world — and to returning to the Key West Film Festival in November to ramp up the critics’ focus program there even more.
Executive Director, Sundance Institute
“Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“Best of Enemies”
“Mad Max Fury Road”
“Game of Thrones”
“Last Week Tonight“
Jeff Hobbs’ “Short Tragic Life of Robert Peace” was my non-fiction favorite this year.
To advocate for a film and television landscape that is more reflective of the full population.
To support entrepreneurial thinking about distribution to get more great work seen.
The new crop of talent launching at Sundance in January…and the new season of “Game of Thrones.”
My Ten Favorites of 2015
in no particular order…
“World of Tomorrow” (Don Hertzfeldt)
“Tired Moonlight” (Britni West)
“Rectify,” Season 3
“Gravity Falls,” a cartoon on the Disney Channel
The short films of Jennifer Reeder
The “Mad Men” finale, second only to “The Sopranos” for the best TV show ending ever.
“Hannibal” Season 3
“L for Leisure” (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
The second-to-last-episode of “Bojack Horseman” Season 2
“The Grief of Others” (Patrick Wang)
1. Try to figure out how to build a consistent audience and viable distribution path for really good American indies with no name cast.
2. Help talented filmmakers make short form work to stay creative in between bigger projects.
3. Help as many movies as possible get made (sorry, Salon).
I’m excited to see a ton of stuff at Sundance, especially new features by Chad Hartigan, Anna Rose Holmer, Kelly Reichardt, Tim Sutton, Robert Greene, Whit Stillman, and Kenneth Longergan.
But if I’m being real, most of the year I’m just going to spend counting the days until Twin Peaks returns in 2017.
As per tradition, my list reflects the top films, TV and events associated with my former compadres at THINKFilm. They continue to do such great work and I’m humbled to have worked alongside them and continue to do so in many ways.
10. Champs – Dylan Marchetti, Amplify
Under the radar doc about Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield’s rivalry that should be in the same class of cinematic boxing history as “When We Were Kings” for its deft insight into what drives each champion.
9. “Felix and Meira” – Dan Berger and Andrew Carlin, Oscilloscope Laboratories
The foreign language films that O’Scope puts out have filled the void left by the disappearance of New Yorker Films. This was another great example. And for those who have seen it, be sure to check out Shulem Dean’s book “Those Who Go Do Not Return” for further context on an ultra-Hassidic community.
8. “The Russian Woodpecker” – Steve Farneth, Cinetic
Former intern and future powerbroker Steve Farneth delivered again. This film was one of the most provocative docs of the year, not just in subject matter, not just in challenges to the documentary form itself, but also in the level of cajones it took for a young father to take on Vladimir Putin.
7. “Mississippi Grind” – David Fenkel and Daniel Katz, A24
Though I still think of Ryan Reynolds as Van Wilder, he showed his chops in another under the radar film this year, which also gets bonus ThinkFilm cred by being from the directors of “Half Nelson.”
6. “Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution” – Erin Owens and Emily Rothschild, Longshot (for PBS)
Not only THE most timely documentary of the year, but Erin and Emily went above and beyond in lining up guests speakers for many of the screenings to help provide necessary context to what audiences just saw.
5. “7 Chinese Brothers” – Alex Klenert, Prodigy PR
Prodigy handled the PR for this Screen Media release, which makes the list for having THE greatest scene-stealer of any film this year. Alex Ross Perry’s three minutes of screen time about 3/4 of the way through the film are worth the price of admission/download/stream/Redbox alone. Not to be missed.
4. “The Leftovers” – Nicole Kassell
OK, so this one is a stretch, but I had to find a way to recognize the series. While at THINKFilm, we did make a bid on “The Woodsman,” directed by Nicole Kassell, who also directed the “No Room at the Inn” episode of the series this season, WHICH happened to be my favorite episode of the season. This recalled the two wonderful single character episodes from Season 1, and makes me cross my fingers even harder that a Season 3 will happen and that Nicky will direct another.
3. What We Do in the Shadows – Mark Urman and Amanda Sherwin, Paladin
Name me a funnier film you saw all year. Go ahead, do it. What’s that, you can’t? That’s right, you can’t. Thanks for trying. Now go do the bloody dishes, the kitchen is a mess. And watch your mouth when you talk back to me. We are werewolves, not swearwolves.
2. “Showgirls” – David Laub, A24
Another stretch, but while at THINK, David and I discussed this film incessantly for how underappreicated it is. As director of the Key West Film Festival, I arranged for a 20th Anniversary screening of the film featuring a conversation with Paul Verhoven and film critic Adam Nayman, author of “It Doesn’t Suck,” a defense of the film. It was hands down the greatest Q&A I have ever seen, and the fact that Paul and Adam were two of the most genuine and modest folks I’ve ever met only made it better. The interview should be streaming soon on www.kwfilmfest.com.
1. “In Jackson Heights” – Sara Keiner, Film Presence
Sara and her team at Fim Presence did a phenomenal job of connecting affinity groups from myriad backgrounds to come out and make this one of the biggest hits at the Film Forum all year. Arguably Frederick Wiseman’s finest film of the last six years (yes, all of which mTuckman media worked on with Zipporah Films). Just a sublime experience and appreciation of what a community can be. It’s just a shame those folks who give out gold statuettes each year didn’t feel the same, as Fred continued his nearly 50 year slump of no recognition. Yes, 50 years.
Resolution: With my son now 14 months old, walking, and soon to be talking back to me and giving me orders, I resolve to continue my quest to find the right work/family balance, elusive as it ever is. In three years time, at least he’ll be able to help me screen films and lighten some of the load!
Looking Forward: That’s EASY. I cannot wait to see Paul Verhoeven’s new film, “Elle.”
Laura van Halsema
Coordinator of Special Programs, IDFA
1 “Carol” by Todd Haynes
“Carol” is a film made by artists on top of their game: the script, direction, cinematography, acting, costumes and score are all sublime and refined. A beautiful love story.
2 “The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer
After the audiences got punched in the face by “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer gave a final blow with this much more subtle and serene film which is not only an incredible cinematic experience by itself, but a master company piece to its prequel.
3 “Of Men and War” by Laurent Bécue-Renard
A film that not just shows the deep wounds of a group of Iraq veterans in a therapeutic community, but at the same time engages the audience by ultimately showing what human fear is about in a universal way. A deeply moving experience that deserves much more recognition than it has received so far.
4 “Don’t Blink: Robert Frank” by Laura Israel
An inspirational and loving documentary about one of the most intriguing photographers still alive. The film not just stylistically resembles his own work for esthetic or referential reasons, but by doing so manages to get to the heart of a man that despite his age is still as vital and curious in his fellow human beings as ever before.
5 “Those Who Feel the Fire Burning” by Morgan Knibbe
An experimental documentary about the people who live on the borders of Europe. The perspective is that of a ghost which not only is a visually daring point of view but a political poignant one as well.
6 “A Syrian Love Story” by Sean McAllister
An intimate portrait of a Syrian family filmed over a period of over five years shows how the war in Syria tore a loving family apart.
7 “Checks and Balances” by Malek Bensmaïl
The best documentary made so far about the dynamics in the newsroom of a newspaper, this time the French Algerian newspaper El Watan. Instead of a film about business models and the decline in readership, it goes to the heart of democracy by showing up close and personal the discussions of journalists trying to stick to their journalistic principles in a country that is deeply divided and in a political crisis.
8 “The Chinese Mayor” by Hao Zhou
Chinese cinema verite about the mayor of a city who is torn between the Party, the citizens of his city and his wife while trying to make his impoverished city into a tourist attraction. Tragic and humorous at the same time.
9 “Turist” by Ruben Ostlund
A family film like a rohrschach test in which different perspectives of the audience tell you a different film. Subtle and funny.
10 “Shaun the Sheep Movie” by Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
A wonderfully-made and fun film that refreshingly does not impose any of the grownup morals that are so common in films primarily made for children.
Resolution: I want to see more films (in the cinema) and broaden my cinematic horizons in the coming year.
Looking Forward: To developing and making new programs for IDFA and exploring the world of cinema by doing so.
1) Top Ten Films/TV (Note: I haven’t yet seen many of the films generally considered to be among the year’s best):
“Armor of the Light”
“Harry and the Snowman”
“We the People: The Market Basket Effect”
2) Resolution: Same one I make every year — get better at separating the important from the merely demanding.
3) Looking Forward To: Being surprised — by festivals (veterans reinventing themselves, newer ones finding their unique value) — and, most of all, by films that open up worlds I didn’t know or hardly imagined.
I left off all the great films I worked on and made a list of other films that were equally great.
One of the great viewing pleasures I had this year involved watching The Apu Trilogy restoration back to back.
In No Particular Order…
“Heaven Knows What” (Josh & Benny Safdie)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller)
“Phoenix” (Cristian Petzold)
“Tangerine” (Sean Baker)
“Carol” (Todd Haynes)
“Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg)
“The Wonders” (Alice Rohrwacher)
“Saint Laurent” (Bertrand Bonello)
“Horse Money” (Pedro Costa)
“Inside Out” (Pete Docter)
“Brooklyn” (John Crowley)
“The Mend” (John Magary)
“The Grief of Others” (Patrick Wang)
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” (Kent Jones)
“Results” (Andrew Bujalski)
“Mistress America” & While We’re Young” (Noah Baumbach)
“Ex Machina” (Alex Garland)
“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” (Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz)
“La Sapienza” (Eugene Green)
“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
“Ballet 422” (Jody Lee Lipes)
“Christmas Again” (Charles Poekel)
“Dope” (Rick Fumuyiwa)
“Jauja” (Lisandro Alonso)
“Magic Mike XXL” (Gregory Jacobs)
“’71” (Yann Demage)
“It Follows” (David Robert Mitchell)
Programmer, Sundance Film Festival/Stanley Film Festival/LAFF/AFI Fest
1) Top Ten:
There are still several films and TV shows I’ve yet to catch up with, including: “Chi-raq,” “Joy,” “Beasts Of No Nation,” “Truth,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Spectre,” “The Knick,” “The Americans,” “The Leftovers,” “Game Of Thrones,” “Making A Murderer,” “Fargo” S2.
Films I put on last year’s list that came out this year include: “What We Do In The Shadows,” “A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence” and “The Tribe.”
I really enjoyed and admired so much this year like “Mustang,” “Spotlight,” “The Witch,” “Green Room,” “The Lobster,” “Entertainment,” “The End Of The Tour,” “Embrace Of the Serpent,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Creed,” “Better Call Saul,” “Mad Men,” “Show Me A Hero,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Bojack Horseman,” “Veep.”
But in making my top ten this year, these films/shows/plays/experiences absolutely floored me on an emotional level. In alphabetical order:
The best movie of the year.
“Door Into The Dark”
A 45-minute immersive documentary journey at the Tribeca Film Festival storyscapes, it’s one of the most daring, fully sensory examples of interactive storytelling yet executed. Listening to audio of exploration while blindfolded in a large space moving along a length of rope, this project makes use of so many genius tricks of disorientation to lure you into feelings of loss, faith, trust, fear and joy and sets a high bar for future examples of this kind of storytelling.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning play performed Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater took me completely by surprise. It’s just so grounded, intimate and thoughtfully staged with structurally daring uses of awkward pauses enhance the relationships. That this is also about film probably helped it hit home in retrospect.
I was already crying before the first scene ended.
This comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was so impressively curated and installed, I went back four times to take it all in again. A marvel of programming designed as a single continuous environment, the use of lighting, timing and staging of each piece in comparison to another gave work made years apart an entirely refreshing context. Very hard to execute when individual artworks are using film, water, live bees, humans, dogs, insects, and scents.
“Son Of Saul”
The best movie of the year.
The best movie of the year.
Watched it all in one sitting. Everyone is doing astounding work and it’s paced perfectly within each individual episode and as a whole season.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp”
I can’t believe this show worked. It’s so impressive that it didn’t fail, that it managed to keep to the spirit of the original film and that it still brought new tropes to the table. And it’s hilarious.
“World Of Tomorrow”
A short film masterpiece from a man making movies like no one else. Don Hertzfeldt even has three other masterpieces and the rest of his shorts are merely exceptional.
2) Resolutions: I’d like to focus on implementing many, many more interactive installations, immersive events, and alternative media content into any area of programming I can, especially large-scale and site-specific experiences.
3) Looking Forward: The Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!”
Program Director, New Orleans Film Festival
2) Resolutions: I’m looking forward to supporting more films by and about marginalized communities and helping them reach larger audiences.
3) Looking Forward: As a huge fan and consumer of short films, I’m anticipating Dan Schoenbrun’s omnibus “collective: unconscious.”
Released in 2015, in alphabetical order:
2) Resolutions: In 2016, I’d like to continue to carve out some time to see as many films as possible on the big screen. I cherish the communal cinematic experiences I’ve shared with friends and thousands of strangers alike this year and look forward to many more in the new year.
My Top Ten List
2. “The Look of Silence”
3. “Son of Saul”
4. “Steve Jobs”
5. “The Tribe”
8. “Goodnight Mommy”
10. “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”
Looking Forward: I look forward to announcing the name of our new distribution company in 2016. Tom Quinn, Jason Janego and myself have been secretly plotting for months now and we look forward to announcing and getting to work building something great. I am also looking forward to the release of my two favorite festival films of 2015, A24’s “The Witch” and Alchemy’s “The Lobster.”