2015: The Year that Was


2015: The Year that Was


2015: The Year that Was


TIER TWO: FRINGE & THE WORLD


2015 wasn’t 2014.

But viewers still had a lot to choose from in the world of movies, and that’s what matters. We saw a lot more disappointments than in the year before last. We did, however, manage to bring out some of the best of the best; which is why the three-part, 30-movie recommendation list is even a thing right now.

Leading up to the Awards, we went ahead with a lot of movies, the first tier of which consisted of (what we thought of as) the best of the best in mainstream and fringe cinema. Tier Two focusses on all the fringe and world movies that still deserved the hell out of a recommendation, but couldn’t make it to Tier One for various reasons. Not that they had flaws, but there were more than enough films to fit into a top-10 list. But let’s get back to this tier, there’s a whole lot to pick from. From a stop-motion animation on depression to the ego of a stage actor, 2015 has traveled many, many places and discovered many more identities; sexual, ancestral or otherwise. And trust me when I say there’s a lot to choose from: the showman of theatre in India and the dreamer of a gym startup are just fractions of many fascinating universes which one must attempt to discover if one hasn’t.

Let’s get some honorable recommendations that couldn’t make this list out of the way first:

  • Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, an incredibly well-made protagonist’s account;
  • Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, an emotionally relevant drama on abuse and the post-traumatic stress that affects its survivors;
  • Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, a thrilling, deliciously shot take on a relatively simple thriller concept; and
  • Yorgos Lanthimos’ weird and wild The Lobster, a pitch-perfect dark comedy that’s as societally relevant as it is disturbingly funny (in a rather non-intrusive way)

10. SONG ONE

Song One Review ThumbI vividly remember the first time I watched Kate Barker-Froyland’s Song One. I had zero expectations to begin with, primarily because of the largely mixed-to-negative feedback the critics had to give the director’s debut. As it progressed, though, I found a lot to appreciate genuinely—Barker-Froyland’s focus, the underplayed characteristics of its protagonists, and, among all, just how simple it was. The film stands on an incredible visual technique: jump cuts. Moving quickly in ellipses, everything about it, including the sound design, makes viewers feel like the makers only wanted to document the lives of its characters (down to its impressive lack of a background score for ninety percent of it)—albeit with the polish of a modestly-budgeted fiction feature. Sure, neither is its story critic-friendly, nor its presentation audience-friendly. Watch it sans expectations, though, and you might just be surprised.

9. RESULTS

Results Review ThumbResults has a progressively frustrating pace. Stick around, though, and you get the respite you’d never have expected, in the context of the very patience its makers demand from its viewers. The protagonists aren’t entirely likable: you have an emotionally shut-in owner of a gym franchise, but the woman he’s extremely fond of but cannot express his feelings to isn’t too perfect either. They’re both incredibly passionate (to the dangerous level of obsessiveness) with their careers, and about each other. All they want to do, however, is to play the game of one-upmanship with each other on who stands uninhibited first. And while that’s frustrating to many, all the movie asks you to do is to stick around just a little more. because as it reaches its end, you’ll find that director Andrew Bujalski was just waiting for the right time to play his cards.

8. OMOIDE NO MÂNÎ

Omoide no Mani Review ThumbNon-existence, as an emotion, is almost perfectly captured with the opening line of the film, in which Anna calmly claims, through narration, of life’s possession of a magic circle, with an inside and an outside. “And I’m outside,” her knowing, almost distant voice solidifies the tone of the rest of the film. Painted with vivid brushstrokes of loneliness and depression, Ghibli comes out a winner once again, paying magnificent homage to author Joan G. Robinson’s source material. Anna and Marnie are unyielding characters, breaking many a stereotype and bringing forth many interesting questions. While not as flawless as Ghibli’s previous Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari (English: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), Omoide no Mânî (English: When Marnie Was There) still stands on its own as a spectacularly low-key drama. An immense number of viewers will be able to empathize with the protagonist as she goes on her (slightly surreal) journey.

7. SPRING

Spring Review ThumbIf Before Sunrise were a creature-feature, Spring would (close to) be it. Possibly the wildest discovery of the year, this little movie starts off real quiet but goes into some weirdly unpredictable directions. Nadia Hilker (who’s touted to be next seen in The Divergent Series: Allegiant) is fantastic—every scene she’s in has an incredible melange of confidence and fear of the inevitable. Viewers expecting a ton of jump-scares or a more conventional structure wouldn’t dig the movie, but the more open-minded will love to dig right in. Having directed some of the most surprising additions to horror prior, Spring—with duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s trademark marriage of two or more genres—continues to walk the mostly untrodden path of breaking genre conventions to create a rather deliciously enjoyable product far beyond its typical genre restrictions. Recommended.

6. THEEB

Theeb Review ThumbThe Academy didn’t just nominate Theeb for this year’s Best Foreign-Language film without a reason. This Arabic language movie is in no hurry to further its storyline and instead focuses completely on its atmosphere. Director Naji Abu Nowar successfully whips up a parallel film that’s both an engaging mainstream adventure and a fascinating foreign-language period piece for the world to admire. Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat’s performance as the eponymous protagonist stands to be an insane force of nature for the movie’s runtime, but that’s not the only fantastic thing about it. In the small world of Arabic-language films that have either been too dark or too mainstream, Theeb is an excellent example of the type of film that achieves wonder, excitement, and awe. It allows viewers to invest themselves consistently in a movie that passes a more subtle assemblage of sociopolitical messages than would be laid out in an expository fashion.

5. CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Clouds of Sils Maria Review ThumbHere’s a film that’s both a tough one to make and even harder to watch, primarily because the subject matter and its characters demand nothing but unswerving patience from its viewers. Quiet, extremely wordy, and supported by a rather random character graph, Oliver Assayas’ film might, at first sight, not feel like a film worthy enough of examination. People will, in fact, have a higher chance of misunderstanding the film than not. However, should viewers be patient, they’ll find it rewarded bountifully—and I mean it. Juliette Binoche is a force of nature and brings out a protagonist that’s filled with equal amounts of vulnerability, jealousy, and an almost maddening ego-fueled passive aggression like no other. Clouds of Sils Maria might not be an instantly—or even remotely—likable film. What this is, however, is an engrossing character study that deserves a watch, at the very least.

4. TAMASHA

Tamasha Review ThumbBorrowing elements from the rulebook of French New Wave cinema once again after Rockstar in 2011, Indian Hindi-language movie director Imtiaz Ali subverts the genre rules of the usual mainstream “Bollywood” romance drama in favor of what the layman would call a colossal mess. Only the thing is, it isn’t. Essentially, Tamasha is two things: a man’s journey to redemption, and romance that’s the only way to set things right. And mostly, these things sound very simple. What, however, turns the wheel is the constant attention to detail Ali puts in the graphs of his screenplay and characters. Viewers will see the protagonists evolve, devolve and redeem themselves, but in a uniquely flawed system that will remind viewers of life itself. Because isn’t life this messy? Aren’t people nothing but broken, imperfect souls? The simple cycle of common life traps people with privilege and without, and all they want is freedom, after all.

3. TANGERINE

Tangerine Review ThumbTangerine is explosive, and I’m not mincing words. Aside from the fact that the movie was decisively shot on no more than three iPhone 5s smartphones (oh yeah), there’s nothing else that for even a moment feels like a compromise on filmmaking in general. Sean Baker understands the importance of visual movement and pace in a film that just does not stop till the last five minutes of its runtime (and justifiably so). But the fact that this movie even exists shouldn’t be surprising at all—with Duplass Brothers Productions behind the wheel of having pushed this movie through, viewers would expect to be presented something completely out of the blue. Aside from the strong representation and facet-exploration, however, the movie is pretty classic in itself. Its comedy understands timing, and—while simultaneously breaking conventions—works fantastically under the rigid three-act structure. This one needs to be watched once, at the very least.

2. MOMMY

Mommy Review ThumbLet’s be honest: Mommy is incredibly difficult to watch—it demands more patience than most movies ask from viewers in ordinary movie-watching routines. Presented (mostly) in the odd 1:1 aspect ratio, Xavier Dolan’s latest plays around with his presentation to create a fantastic metaphor for freedom without boundaries and emotional claustrophobia the movie’s protagonist experiences throughout. Her son opens up her world while simultaneously closing her in too. Technical mastery aside, Mommy is also an engrossing character study, with more hints than exposition. At an early point in the film’s runtime, we’re introduced to Diane’s neighbor Kyla, who—and this is not explicitly told ever—finds herself facing her reflection with Diane’s son Steve. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire film shines with the very ideology of pushing the envelope on relationships, boundaries, and emotions, creating an inherently disturbing–and yet incredibly fascinating–universe.

1. ANOMALISA

Anomalisa Review ThumbIf Disney’s Inside Out only scratched the surface on depression with a few subtle hints, Anomalisa goes a whole step further in making viewers understand how humans deal with a loss of interest. One of the biggest tools in Kaufman’s narrative is the mere use of a singular, monotonous male voice—a part of every single supporting character in the movie. Effectively depicting the long-term loss of interest in hobbies and life, the makers build a brilliant world around their protagonist, and what leads him to the one anomaly in his life. Sparklingly surreal, and yet painfully authentic in emotion, the film also boasts of gorgeous stop-motion animation, supported by beautiful cinematography in every shot, and every frame. Anomalisa is a breathtaking experience that will move you—it will make you empathize, make you fall in love, and make you feel pain like no other animation movie ever has. Outstanding.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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TIER TWO: FRINGE & THE WORLD


2015 wasn’t 2014.

But viewers still had a lot to choose from in the world of movies, and that’s what matters. We saw a lot more disappointments than in the year before last. We did, however, manage to bring out some of the best of the best; which is why the three-part, 30-movie recommendation list is even a thing right now.

Leading up to the Awards, we went ahead with a lot of movies, the first tier of which consisted of (what we thought of as) the best of the best in mainstream and fringe cinema. Tier Two focusses on all the fringe and world movies that still deserved the hell out of a recommendation, but couldn’t make it to Tier One for various reasons. Not that they had flaws, but there were more than enough films to fit into a top-10 list. But let’s get back to this tier, there’s a whole lot to pick from. From a stop-motion animation on depression to the ego of a stage actor, 2015 has traveled many, many places and discovered many more identities; sexual, ancestral or otherwise. And trust me when I say there’s a lot to choose from: the showman of theatre in India and the dreamer of a gym startup are just fractions of many fascinating universes which one must attempt to discover if one hasn’t.

Let’s get some honorable recommendations that couldn’t make this list out of the way first:

  • Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, an incredibly well-made protagonist’s account;
  • Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, an emotionally relevant drama on abuse and the post-traumatic stress that affects its survivors;
  • Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, a thrilling, deliciously shot take on a relatively simple thriller concept; and
  • Yorgos Lanthimos’ weird and wild The Lobster, a pitch-perfect dark comedy that’s as societally relevant as it is disturbingly funny (in a rather non-intrusive way)

10. SONG ONE

Song One Review ThumbI vividly remember the first time I watched Kate Barker-Froyland’s Song One. I had zero expectations to begin with, primarily because of the largely mixed-to-negative feedback the critics had to give the director’s debut. As it progressed, though, I found a lot to appreciate genuinely—Barker-Froyland’s focus, the underplayed characteristics of its protagonists, and, among all, just how simple it was. The film stands on an incredible visual technique: jump cuts. Moving quickly in ellipses, everything about it, including the sound design, makes viewers feel like the makers only wanted to document the lives of its characters (down to its impressive lack of a background score for ninety percent of it)—albeit with the polish of a modestly-budgeted fiction feature. Sure, neither is its story critic-friendly, nor its presentation audience-friendly. Watch it sans expectations, though, and you might just be surprised.

9. RESULTS

Results Review ThumbResults has a progressively frustrating pace. Stick around, though, and you get the respite you’d never have expected, in the context of the very patience its makers demand from its viewers. The protagonists aren’t entirely likable: you have an emotionally shut-in owner of a gym franchise, but the woman he’s extremely fond of but cannot express his feelings to isn’t too perfect either. They’re both incredibly passionate (to the dangerous level of obsessiveness) with their careers, and about each other. All they want to do, however, is to play the game of one-upmanship with each other on who stands uninhibited first. And while that’s frustrating to many, all the movie asks you to do is to stick around just a little more. because as it reaches its end, you’ll find that director Andrew Bujalski was just waiting for the right time to play his cards.

8. OMOIDE NO MÂNÎ

Omoide no Mani Review ThumbNon-existence, as an emotion, is almost perfectly captured with the opening line of the film, in which Anna calmly claims, through narration, of life’s possession of a magic circle, with an inside and an outside. “And I’m outside,” her knowing, almost distant voice solidifies the tone of the rest of the film. Painted with vivid brushstrokes of loneliness and depression, Ghibli comes out a winner once again, paying magnificent homage to author Joan G. Robinson’s source material. Anna and Marnie are unyielding characters, breaking many a stereotype and bringing forth many interesting questions. While not as flawless as Ghibli’s previous Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari (English: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), Omoide no Mânî (English: When Marnie Was There) still stands on its own as a spectacularly low-key drama. An immense number of viewers will be able to empathize with the protagonist as she goes on her (slightly surreal) journey.

7. SPRING

Spring Review ThumbIf Before Sunrise were a creature-feature, Spring would (close to) be it. Possibly the wildest discovery of the year, this little movie starts off real quiet but goes into some weirdly unpredictable directions. Nadia Hilker (who’s touted to be next seen in The Divergent Series: Allegiant) is fantastic—every scene she’s in has an incredible melange of confidence and fear of the inevitable. Viewers expecting a ton of jump-scares or a more conventional structure wouldn’t dig the movie, but the more open-minded will love to dig right in. Having directed some of the most surprising additions to horror prior, Spring—with duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s trademark marriage of two or more genres—continues to walk the mostly untrodden path of breaking genre conventions to create a rather deliciously enjoyable product far beyond its typical genre restrictions. Recommended.

6. THEEB

Theeb Review ThumbThe Academy didn’t just nominate Theeb for this year’s Best Foreign-Language film without a reason. This Arabic language movie is in no hurry to further its storyline and instead focuses completely on its atmosphere. Director Naji Abu Nowar successfully whips up a parallel film that’s both an engaging mainstream adventure and a fascinating foreign-language period piece for the world to admire. Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat’s performance as the eponymous protagonist stands to be an insane force of nature for the movie’s runtime, but that’s not the only fantastic thing about it. In the small world of Arabic-language films that have either been too dark or too mainstream, Theeb is an excellent example of the type of film that achieves wonder, excitement, and awe. It allows viewers to invest themselves consistently in a movie that passes a more subtle assemblage of sociopolitical messages than would be laid out in an expository fashion.

5. CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Clouds of Sils Maria Review ThumbHere’s a film that’s both a tough one to make and even harder to watch, primarily because the subject matter and its characters demand nothing but unswerving patience from its viewers. Quiet, extremely wordy, and supported by a rather random character graph, Oliver Assayas’ film might, at first sight, not feel like a film worthy enough of examination. People will, in fact, have a higher chance of misunderstanding the film than not. However, should viewers be patient, they’ll find it rewarded bountifully—and I mean it. Juliette Binoche is a force of nature and brings out a protagonist that’s filled with equal amounts of vulnerability, jealousy, and an almost maddening ego-fueled passive aggression like no other. Clouds of Sils Maria might not be an instantly—or even remotely—likable film. What this is, however, is an engrossing character study that deserves a watch, at the very least.

4. TAMASHA

Tamasha Review ThumbBorrowing elements from the rulebook of French New Wave cinema once again after Rockstar in 2011, Indian Hindi-language movie director Imtiaz Ali subverts the genre rules of the usual mainstream “Bollywood” romance drama in favor of what the layman would call a colossal mess. Only the thing is, it isn’t. Essentially, Tamasha is two things: a man’s journey to redemption, and romance that’s the only way to set things right. And mostly, these things sound very simple. What, however, turns the wheel is the constant attention to detail Ali puts in the graphs of his screenplay and characters. Viewers will see the protagonists evolve, devolve and redeem themselves, but in a uniquely flawed system that will remind viewers of life itself. Because isn’t life this messy? Aren’t people nothing but broken, imperfect souls? The simple cycle of common life traps people with privilege and without, and all they want is freedom, after all.

3. TANGERINE

Tangerine Review ThumbTangerine is explosive, and I’m not mincing words. Aside from the fact that the movie was decisively shot on no more than three iPhone 5s smartphones (oh yeah), there’s nothing else that for even a moment feels like a compromise on filmmaking in general. Sean Baker understands the importance of visual movement and pace in a film that just does not stop till the last five minutes of its runtime (and justifiably so). But the fact that this movie even exists shouldn’t be surprising at all—with Duplass Brothers Productions behind the wheel of having pushed this movie through, viewers would expect to be presented something completely out of the blue. Aside from the strong representation and facet-exploration, however, the movie is pretty classic in itself. Its comedy understands timing, and—while simultaneously breaking conventions—works fantastically under the rigid three-act structure. This one needs to be watched once, at the very least.

2. MOMMY

Mommy Review ThumbLet’s be honest: Mommy is incredibly difficult to watch—it demands more patience than most movies ask from viewers in ordinary movie-watching routines. Presented (mostly) in the odd 1:1 aspect ratio, Xavier Dolan’s latest plays around with his presentation to create a fantastic metaphor for freedom without boundaries and emotional claustrophobia the movie’s protagonist experiences throughout. Her son opens up her world while simultaneously closing her in too. Technical mastery aside, Mommy is also an engrossing character study, with more hints than exposition. At an early point in the film’s runtime, we’re introduced to Diane’s neighbor Kyla, who—and this is not explicitly told ever—finds herself facing her reflection with Diane’s son Steve. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire film shines with the very ideology of pushing the envelope on relationships, boundaries, and emotions, creating an inherently disturbing–and yet incredibly fascinating–universe.

1. ANOMALISA

Anomalisa Review ThumbIf Disney’s Inside Out only scratched the surface on depression with a few subtle hints, Anomalisa goes a whole step further in making viewers understand how humans deal with a loss of interest. One of the biggest tools in Kaufman’s narrative is the mere use of a singular, monotonous male voice—a part of every single supporting character in the movie. Effectively depicting the long-term loss of interest in hobbies and life, the makers build a brilliant world around their protagonist, and what leads him to the one anomaly in his life. Sparklingly surreal, and yet painfully authentic in emotion, the film also boasts of gorgeous stop-motion animation, supported by beautiful cinematography in every shot, and every frame. Anomalisa is a breathtaking experience that will move you—it will make you empathize, make you fall in love, and make you feel pain like no other animation movie ever has. Outstanding.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

TIER TWO:
FRINGE & THE WORLD


2015 wasn’t 2014.

But viewers still had a lot to choose from in the world of movies, and that’s what matters. We saw a lot more disappointments than in the year before last. We did, however, manage to bring out some of the best of the best; which is why the three-part, 30-movie recommendation list is even a thing right now.

Leading up to the Awards, we went ahead with a lot of movies, the first tier of which consisted of (what we thought of as) the best of the best in mainstream and fringe cinema. Tier Two focusses on all the fringe and world movies that still deserved the hell out of a recommendation, but couldn’t make it to Tier One for various reasons. Not that they had flaws, but there were more than enough films to fit into a top-10 list. But let’s get back to this tier, there’s a whole lot to pick from. From a stop-motion animation on depression to the ego of a stage actor, 2015 has traveled many, many places and discovered many more identities; sexual, ancestral or otherwise. And trust me when I say there’s a lot to choose from: the showman of theatre in India and the dreamer of a gym startup are just fractions of many fascinating universes which one must attempt to discover if one hasn’t.

Let’s get some honorable recommendations that couldn’t make this list out of the way first:

  • Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, an incredibly well-made protagonist’s account;
  • Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, an emotionally relevant drama on abuse and the post-traumatic stress that affects its survivors;
  • Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, a thrilling, deliciously shot take on a relatively simple thriller concept; and
  • Yorgos Lanthimos’ weird and wild The Lobster, a pitch-perfect dark comedy that’s as societally relevant as it is disturbingly funny (in a rather non-intrusive way)

10. SONG ONE

I vividly remember the first time I watched Kate Barker-Froyland’s Song One. I had zero expectations to begin with, primarily because of the largely mixed-to-negative feedback the critics had to give the director’s debut. As it progressed, though, I found a lot to appreciate genuinely—Barker-Froyland’s focus, the underplayed characteristics of its protagonists, and, among all, just how simple it was. The film stands on an incredible visual technique: jump cuts. Moving quickly in ellipses, everything about it, including the sound design, makes viewers feel like the makers only wanted to document the lives of its characters (down to its impressive lack of a background score for ninety percent of it)—albeit with the polish of a modestly-budgeted fiction feature. Sure, neither is its story critic-friendly, nor its presentation audience-friendly. Watch it sans expectations, though, and you might just be surprised.

9. RESULTS

Results has a progressively frustrating pace. Stick around, though, and you get the respite you’d never have expected, in the context of the very patience its makers demand from its viewers. The protagonists aren’t entirely likable: you have an emotionally shut-in owner of a gym franchise, but the woman he’s extremely fond of but cannot express his feelings to isn’t too perfect either. They’re both incredibly passionate (to the dangerous level of obsessiveness) with their careers, and about each other. All they want to do, however, is to play the game of one-upmanship with each other on who stands uninhibited first. And while that’s frustrating to many, all the movie asks you to do is to stick around just a little more. because as it reaches its end, you’ll find that director Andrew Bujalski was just waiting for the right time to play his cards.

8. OMOIDE NO MÂNÎ

Non-existence, as an emotion, is almost perfectly captured with the opening line of the film, in which Anna calmly claims, through narration, of life’s possession of a magic circle, with an inside and an outside. “And I’m outside,” her knowing, almost distant voice solidifies the tone of the rest of the film. Painted with vivid brushstrokes of loneliness and depression, Ghibli comes out a winner once again, paying magnificent homage to author Joan G. Robinson’s source material. Anna and Marnie are unyielding characters, breaking many a stereotype and bringing forth many interesting questions. While not as flawless as Ghibli’s previous Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari (English: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), Omoide no Mânî (English: When Marnie Was There) still stands on its own as a spectacularly low-key drama. An immense number of viewers will be able to empathize with the protagonist as she goes on her (slightly surreal) journey.

7. SPRING

If Before Sunrise were a creature-feature, Spring would (close to) be it. Possibly the wildest discovery of the year, this little movie starts off real quiet but goes into some weirdly unpredictable directions. Nadia Hilker (who’s touted to be next seen in The Divergent Series: Allegiant) is fantastic—every scene she’s in has an incredible melange of confidence and fear of the inevitable. Viewers expecting a ton of jump-scares or a more conventional structure wouldn’t dig the movie, but the more open-minded will love to dig right in. Having directed some of the most surprising additions to horror prior, Spring—with duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s trademark marriage of two or more genres—continues to walk the mostly untrodden path of breaking genre conventions to create a rather deliciously enjoyable product far beyond its typical genre restrictions. Recommended.

6. THEEB

The Academy didn’t just nominate Theeb for this year’s Best Foreign-Language film without a reason. This Arabic language movie is in no hurry to further its storyline and instead focuses completely on its atmosphere. Director Naji Abu Nowar successfully whips up a parallel film that’s both an engaging mainstream adventure and a fascinating foreign-language period piece for the world to admire. Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat’s performance as the eponymous protagonist stands to be an insane force of nature for the movie’s runtime, but that’s not the only fantastic thing about it. In the small world of Arabic-language films that have either been too dark or too mainstream, Theeb is an excellent example of the type of film that achieves wonder, excitement, and awe. It allows viewers to invest themselves consistently in a movie that passes a more subtle assemblage of sociopolitical messages than would be laid out in an expository fashion.

5. CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Here’s a film that’s both a tough one to make and even harder to watch, primarily because the subject matter and its characters demand nothing but unswerving patience from its viewers. Quiet, extremely wordy, and supported by a rather random character graph, Oliver Assayas’ film might, at first sight, not feel like a film worthy enough of examination. People will, in fact, have a higher chance of misunderstanding the film than not. However, should viewers be patient, they’ll find it rewarded bountifully—and I mean it. Juliette Binoche is a force of nature and brings out a protagonist that’s filled with equal amounts of vulnerability, jealousy, and an almost maddening ego-fueled passive aggression like no other. Clouds of Sils Maria might not be an instantly—or even remotely—likable film. What this is, however, is an engrossing character study that deserves a watch, at the very least.

4. TAMASHA

Borrowing elements from the rulebook of French New Wave cinema once again after Rockstar in 2011, Indian Hindi-language movie director Imtiaz Ali subverts the genre rules of the usual mainstream “Bollywood” romance drama in favor of what the layman would call a colossal mess. Only the thing is, it isn’t. Essentially, Tamasha is two things: a man’s journey to redemption, and romance that’s the only way to set things right. And mostly, these things sound very simple. What, however, turns the wheel is the constant attention to detail Ali puts in the graphs of his screenplay and characters. Viewers will see the protagonists evolve, devolve and redeem themselves, but in a uniquely flawed system that will remind viewers of life itself. Because isn’t life this messy? Aren’t people nothing but broken, imperfect souls? The simple cycle of common life traps people with privilege and without, and all they want is freedom, after all.

3. TANGERINE

Tangerine is explosive, and I’m not mincing words. Aside from the fact that the movie was decisively shot on no more than three iPhone 5s smartphones (oh yeah), there’s nothing else that for even a moment feels like a compromise on filmmaking in general. Sean Baker understands the importance of visual movement and pace in a film that just does not stop till the last five minutes of its runtime (and justifiably so). But the fact that this movie even exists shouldn’t be surprising at all—with Duplass Brothers Productions behind the wheel of having pushed this movie through, viewers would expect to be presented something completely out of the blue. Aside from the strong representation and facet-exploration, however, the movie is pretty classic in itself. Its comedy understands timing, and—while simultaneously breaking conventions—works fantastically under the rigid three-act structure. This one needs to be watched once, at the very least.

2. MOMMY

Let’s be honest: Mommy is incredibly difficult to watch—it demands more patience than most movies ask from viewers in ordinary movie-watching routines. Presented (mostly) in the odd 1:1 aspect ratio, Xavier Dolan’s latest plays around with his presentation to create a fantastic metaphor for freedom without boundaries and emotional claustrophobia the movie’s protagonist experiences throughout. Her son opens up her world while simultaneously closing her in too. Technical mastery aside, Mommy is also an engrossing character study, with more hints than exposition. At an early point in the film’s runtime, we’re introduced to Diane’s neighbor Kyla, who—and this is not explicitly told ever—finds herself facing her reflection with Diane’s son Steve. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire film shines with the very ideology of pushing the envelope on relationships, boundaries, and emotions, creating an inherently disturbing–and yet incredibly fascinating–universe.

1. ANOMALISA

If Disney’s Inside Out only scratched the surface on depression with a few subtle hints, Anomalisa goes a whole step further in making viewers understand how humans deal with a loss of interest. One of the biggest tools in Kaufman’s narrative is the mere use of a singular, monotonous male voice—a part of every single supporting character in the movie. Effectively depicting the long-term loss of interest in hobbies and life, the makers build a brilliant world around their protagonist, and what leads him to the one anomaly in his life. Sparklingly surreal, and yet painfully authentic in emotion, the film also boasts of gorgeous stop-motion animation, supported by beautiful cinematography in every shot, and every frame. Anomalisa is a breathtaking experience that will move you—it will make you empathize, make you fall in love, and make you feel pain like no other animation movie ever has. Outstanding.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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