Thursday, December 31, 2015

TrustMovies' best (and most overlooked) movies of 2015 -- independent, foreign language and documentary films

What do you know? One of the first movies I covered in 2015 turns out to remain the best of the year. That would be Still Life (my original review of which appears here), a wonder of beauty with a subject that movies almost never get near. The result is, as a good friend of mine observed, "Haunting. It has stayed with me ever since I watched."

The remaining 51 films are listed in the order in which they opened -- or at least in which I finally viewed them. (You can click on each one to go to my original review.)  I am not including any big-budget, mainstream movies this year. There were plenty of good ones, but this blog is devoted to the less-seen and under-marketed films, so let's honor that intention.
Here we go....

Still Life (see above), the great Eddie Marsan in what may be his greatest role, in the most beautiful (theme, cinematography and total execution) movie of the year. Unforgettable.

Timbuktu: A look at the Muslim world like little you'll have seen. It probably should have won Best Foreign Film last year. In any case, it's a keeper.

Girlhood: Céline Sciamma's look at French youth in the banlieues of Paris turns out to be ever better than I initially thought. And that was already damned good.

The Voices: Another film that, having viewed it twice, grows in stature. Alternately ugly and funny, it's a movie I wager you won't have seen anything quite like.

Matt Shepherd Is a Friend of Mine: This warts-and-all doc turns the late poster-boy-for-gay-hate-crimes into a full-bodied, sad and memorable person.

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem: How to get a divorce (a "gett") in Israel. A quiet shocker of major proportions.

What We Do in the Shadows: Vampires and comedy do not have a storied history. This movie changes all that. A riotous, non-stop delight.

Queen and Country: Shockingly bypassed by too many critics and most audiences, this is one of John Boorman's best films.

The Best Offer: I'm late in catching up with this riveting, much-overlooked psychological drama from one of my favorite directors, Giuseppe Tornatore. It's a "must."

Predestination: and Spring: Exceptional and very different kinds of sci-fi/fantasy films, both executed supremely well, and in the case of the latter, very strangely.

A Wolf at the Door: This Brazilian film is every bit as dark and believable as any you'll have seen. A quiet, unsettling shocker that deserves a much wider audience.

Ned Rifle: the final piece of Hal Hartley's Henry Fool trilogy. A "must" for his fans, and at least a "maybe" for all others.

5 to 7: The year's best love story juxtaposes French and American culture with a fine eye, while offering juicy performances and an ending that is just about perfection.

Chic! This barely-seen French comedy about fashion, creativity and romance is a delicious, subversive surprise. Seek it out if you can find it. Good luck.

About Elly: Finally being released here in the USA, this one is the best of all from that much-lauded Iranian filmmaker. Asghar Farhadi.

Like Sunday Like Rain: Another overlooked gem about an odd relationship that somehow works quite beautifully. Pitch perfect, quirky, funny and finally extraordinarily moving.

GÜEROS -- From darkest Mexico come an exhilarating movie that is -- can you believe it?! -- not about kidnapping.

Gemma Bovery: An unusual "take" on Flaubert's famous tale that proves a comic delight.

Sunset Edge: Kids spend a day in an abandoned trailer park. One of the least-seen but best filmmaking debuts of the year.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence: Another Roy Andersson amazement. 'Nuff said.

10.000 KM: A long-distance relationship via laptop makes for a smart, surprising relationship movie.

Phoenix: A post-Holocaust mystery that explores guilt, shame, denial -- and hope -- in intriguing ways.

Listen to Me Marlon: Marlon Brando as you've never seen (nor heard) him in a fascinating documentary based on the actor's private recordings.

The Kindergarten Teacher: Israeli drama exploring art, creativity and hypocrisy -- among other things -- in that country today.

Counting: Terrific cinematography and allusive meaning highlight this provocative and beautiful-to-behold documentary about time and place and... what?

A Little Chaos: Alan Rickman's splendid look at Louis XIV and his court and garden. Perhaps the most overlooked and under-rated of all the year's films.

Rosenwald: How the Academy overlooked this fine and important documentary about one of America's great businessmen/philanthropists is a mystery indeed. Don't you do the same.

Guidance: The year's most glorious comedy -- oh, so wonderfully politically incorrect!

The Second Mother and I Touched All Your Stuff: Two underseen Brazilian films -- the first a narrative, the second (a still from which is shown above) a documentary -- both of which deserved a much wider audience.

Blind: An original exploration into the mind of the non-sighted, this is one hell of a trip.

Home from Home: An amazing movie from one of Germany's least-known (but ought not to be) filmmakers.

Closer to the Moon: a terrific little based-on-fact tale filled with nonstop fun and irony (and Vera Farmiga and Mark Strong).

The Fool: The darkest, bleakest, black comedic look at today's Russia that you can imagine. Beats out even last year's Leviathan

The Farewell Party: The end-of-life movie to end all of 'em, this Israeli comedy/drama is spectacularly well-done.

Movement + Location: Brilliant, low-key sci-fi that's about a whole lot of things -- especially the immigrant experience.

The Creeping Garden: It is almost unimaginable how interesting, enjoyable, educational and fun this documentary about slime mold turns out to be.

Taxi: The Iranian provocateur Jafar Panahi takes us into his life as a taxi driver in this hybrid of documentary and narrative.

Walter: This little-seen Canadian film is a winner in all respects -- especially in the way it confounds our ideas about religion, ghosts and god.

Tab Hunter Confidential: The story of one of Hollywood's most popular 1950s stars is laid bare in this excellent documentary.

Why I'm Not on Facebook: This must-see doc tackles everything from that social network behemoth to narcissism and the way we live today.

Suffragette: The struggle for women's right to vote in England becomes a major work of sacrifice and upheaval.

Mustang: France's BFLF submission is a fine tale of Turkish sisters struggling for their freedom from fundamentalist Islam.

Brooklyn: One of the year's best, with a fabulous lead performance from its star, Saoirse Ronan.

Stink!  A fine activist doc about safety, corporate power and greed that needs to be seen.

Hitchcock/Truffaut: The film-buff doc of the year, a treasure-trove of info about (nearly) everyone's favorite director.

My Friend Victoria: From France, and the movie of the year so far as race, class and the building of character are concerned.

Chi-Raq: Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott's updating of Lysistrata to present-day Chicago proves Lee's best movie in a long, long while: funny, smart, and sporting a crack cast. music, dance and rap poetry.

45 Years: A love story, the likes of which we rarely see, in which a long-time marriage threatens to unravel before our -- and its participant's -- eyes.

Youth: Paolo Sorrentino does it again in this, the most visually arresting film of the year. Gorgeous.

(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies. Sure, lying is only human, but this fine doc shows us why and how to keep this particular characteristic in check.

Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram story -- done with enough wit, style and passion to create a memorable minor classic.

Faults: Cults and deprogramming get a look-see like nothing you will have thus far encountered. This one's a humdinger!

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