Sunday, July 10, 2016

Top Films (June 2016)
Top Documentaries:
De Palma (2015, Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow) Recently released in theaters.
Life, Animated (2016, Roger Ross Williams) Completely amazing. I had no idea what this movie was about before I saw it, just that it was from an Academy Award winning director. It was incredibly moving and highly recommended.
The Century of the Self (2002, Adam Curtis)
Vapor Trail (Clark) (2010, John Gianvito)
Miss Sharon Jones! (BarbaraKopple) I saw a sneak preview, but it'll be showing in Los Angeles in early August.      
Dreamcatcher (2015, Kim Longinotto) I discovered an amazing list of films directed by women on Netflix that helped me find this movie.

 Conjuring 2  (James Wan) Pretty scary, but pretty weird that it was released in the middle of summer.

I, Dalio (2015, Mark Rappaport) available on Fandor

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Top Films (March - May 2016)

Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse/My Golden Days (2015, Arnaud Desplechin) Really a beautiful movie.
Valley of Love (2015, Guillaume Nicloux)
Marguerite (2015, Xavier Giannoli)       
Love Serenade (1996, Shirley Barrett)   The director's original voice helped propel Miranda Otto's career. Definitely a joy to watch.
The Watermelon Woman (1996, Cheryl Dunye) Cheryl Dunye really has an original voice that shines through in this film. I'm eager to check out her other films.
Le Voyage de Fanny/Fanny's Journey (2016, Lola Doillon) Daughter of Jacques Doillon takes on two difficulties: working with children and the task of creating a great WWII film. She does both really well and stands out as a great director in her own right.
Au nom de ma fille/Kalinka (2016, Vincent Garenq) It's difficult to do a film that takes place over several decades, but this one succeeded. Great acting & storyline.
La Vache/One Man and His Cow (2016, Mohamed Hamidi) Extremely funny.   
La Symphonie pastorale (1946, Jean Delannoy) Michèle Morgan is splendid.
Hrútar/Rams (2015, Grímur Hákonarson)
Bølgen/The Wave (2015, Roar Uthaug) Wonderfully paced Norwegian catastrophe film.
I don't usually separate documentaries from narrative features, however there were too many good documentaries that deserve their own spotlight.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst    (2015, Andrew Jarecki) One of the most amazing documentaries ever.
Presenting Princess Shaw (2015, Ido Haar) A YouTube artist rises from obscurity after an artist in another country takes her work and sets music to it. Totally incredible. If you want anyone to succeed, it's Princess Shaw.
Anita (2013, Freida Lee Mock) Totally incredible.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011, Mark Cousins) A great love letter on the history of film.
Demain/Tomorrow (2015, Cyril Dion, Mélanie Laurent) An extremely important documentary (which won the César Award for Best Documentary), it offers solutions and ways of dealing with global warming and other things that threaten humanity's survival.
India's Daughter (2014, Leslee Udwin) The director's storytelling and approach is incredible. Despite her success, she wants to hold off on making other documentaries until she can institute a curriculum in schools all over the world that will teach children about respect.
Fed Up (2014, Stephanie Soechtig) Really important documentary about sugar and the recent, harmful effects it's been having on Americans.
It Felt Like a Kiss (2009, Adam Curtis) Really great documentary on alternative takes of history.  Video Link
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011, Martin Scorsese)
Place de la République (1974, Louis Malle) This could have been a simplistic or misguided attempt. However, Louis Malle asking random passerbys questions in the Place de la République area in Paris turned out to be very charming.  Nowadays, we are inundated with technology. Everyone has a camera on their phone. But in this instance and time period, people didn't realize they were being recorded and oftentimes didn't see the point. These days, a filmmaker could get sued for something like this. I am not under the impression that Louis Malle acquired release forms. While not a masterpiece, this documentary still has the charm that only a true master could cultivate.  [same text posted on Letterboxd]
Shout Gladi Gladi (2015, Adam Friedman, Iain Kennedy)  Really underrated documentary.
City of Gold (2015, Laura Gabbert) Great tips on where to eat in L.A. from Jonathan Gold.
Hobo (1992, John T. Davis)

La jeune fille et les nuages (2001, Georges Schwizgebel) Video Link
Dernière porte au sud/Last Door South (2015, Sacha Feiner)        
Papa, Alexandre, Maxime & Edouardo (2015, Simon Masnay)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top Films (December 2015 - February 2016)

Top Features
Mes petites amoureuses  (1974, Jean Eustache) I had seen a bunch of Eustache's other film, but this was a very affecting story of childhood much like Truffaut's The 400 Blows or Maurice Pialat's L'Enfance Nue/Naked Childhood (Pialat was also an actor in this film).
Scent of a Woman (1992, Martin Brest) Normally I avoid remakes like the plague, but Al Pacino's performance really was amazing and inspiring.
Come Back, Little Sheba  (1952, Daniel Mann) Great portrait of a man who suffers from alcoholism (Academy Award nominated).
Advantageous (2015, Jennifer Phang) This was the top new film I viewed for the Spirit Awards. I was underwhelmed by a lot of the other nominees. However, this one had great characters and did a lot with a low budget.
Agantuk   (1991, Satyajit Ray)  Great characters and story.
La madriguera/Honeycomb (1969, Carlos Saura) One of the most strangest and daring films, even for Carlos Saura.
Déjà Vu    (1997, Henry Jaglom) Incredible writing fused with an unbelievable story.
Nothing Personal (2009, Urszula Antoniak) This is such a quiet film with great cinematography.
Passion Fish  (1992, John Sayles) This was the third film I've seen by John Sayles recently. Lianna and Baby's It's You also had great performances, but Mary McDonnell was especially wonderful and received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this film. Angela Bassett was also great; she definitely made the film interesting to watch.
The Intern (2015, Nancy Meyers) I'm such a sucker for Nancy Meyers' films, plus the acting was so great.     
Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013, Morgan Neville) Great history on background singers who did not receive their due.
Honorable Mention
The Automatic Hate (2015, Justin Lerner) So many films these days do not have the depth that this one had. The writing was excellent and cognizant, and the story was off-beat but charming.
The Big Kahuna (1999, John Swanbeck) Great dialogue and acting. The title and DVD cover are a bit misleading.
El viaje a ninguna parte/Voyage to Nowhere (1986, Fernando Fernán Gómez) Almost like Underground (but about an actor instead of a politician), this film covers the amazing life of an actor weaving in and out around truth, fantasy, and reality.
¡Cuba Sí! (1961, Chris Marker) I never realized this film inspired Agnes Varda's Salut les Cubains, a short film I've been championing for years.
Kon-Tiki (1950, Thor Heyerdahl)
Run for Cover  (1955, Nicholas Ray)
Gods and Monsters (1998, Bill Condon) A really great look into director James Whale's life.
Joy (2015, David O. Russell) This movie definitely was hit or miss for crowds over the holiday season. I personally found it inspiring with great performances.

Picturing Barbara Kruger (2015, Pippa Bianco)   
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness    (2015, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) Won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Very important film on honor killings.
A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008, Nick Park) Finally saw this short. It was really well-done and spot on.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 25 Films of 2015

Here are my top 25 films of the year, including two ties. Scroll down to see the top short films. There were a lot of good documentaries this year. They deserve to be included in the main list.

1.     Where to Invade Next (Michael Moore)
2.     Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville)
3.     Brooklyn (John Crowley)
4.     Listen to Me Marlon (Stevan Riley)
5.     3 coeurs/Three Hearts (Benoît Jacquot)
6.     Marie Heurtin/Marie's Story (Jean-Pierre Améris)
7.     L'Homme qu'on aimait trop/In the Name of My Daughter (André Téchiné)
8.     He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim)
9.     Une Nouvelle amie/The New Girlfriend (François Ozon)
10.     Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
11.      Le Tout nouveau testament /The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael)
12.     Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief  (Alex Gibney)
13.     Iris (Albert Maysles)
14.     Irrational Man (Woody Allen)
15.     The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Stanley Nelson)
16.     Miekkailija/The Fencer (Klaus Härö)
17.     What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus) & Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amy J. Berg) [tie]
18.     Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg)
19.     Sisters (Jason Moore) & Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams) [tie]
20.     Freeheld (Peter Sollett)
21.     Meru (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
22.     The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle)
23.     Amy (Asif Kapadia)
24.     The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt)
25. The Walk (Robert Zemeckis)

Top Short Films of the Year:
Picturing Barbara Kruger (Pippa Bianco) Vimeo link
The List (Michael Brueggemeyer)
World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt)
I Remember Nothing (Zia Anger)
Timeless (Arnold Aldridge, Ricky Rhodes)
Ghost Stories (Sean Keller)
My Lunch (Rommel Andaya)
Bro Night (Lane Smith Jr.)