Monday 28 December 2015

Top 20 of 2015: 10 to 6

10) Mistress America by Noah Baumbach


 9) Listen Up Philip by Alex Ross Perry 

The former was a great discovery for me, and its director has already shown that he was no one hit wonder, with the incredible and very different Queen of Earth (bound to be on my top 20 of 2016!). The latter was a wonderful effort from a director who has been somehow inconsistent, with his cynicism not always translating as great cinema. Both show that yet again American independent cinema is where it's all about, with a richness of writing, an inspired direction (who knew screwball comedy could be so effortlessly and winningly integrated in a modern film) and some fantastic performances all around. Interestingly, both feature some moderately to completely unlikeable characters (a recurring trope in US indie cinema, mirroring a generation of self-absorbed millennials perhaps?), yet still manage to make them interesting and compelling.

8) Faults by Riley Stearns

I might as well have included this in my paragraph above as, in the risk of repeating myself, this is yet again a fine example of American independent cinema. I've included it because of a tiny VOD release but it is a shame it didn't have more of an impact as it deserved. The story of a expert on cult enrolled by concerned parents whose daughter is under the grip of a nefarious cult, Faults is at times darkly funny, mesmerising, terrifying and always surprising. I saw this in FrightFest last year and described it as Inside Llewyn Davis meets Computer Chess, the former because of echoes of the Coen brothers work (especially their recurring theme of cosmic bad luck), and the latter because of the increasingly strange hotel-based shenanigans. Faults is a gem that deserves a wider exposure.

7) Mommy by Xavier Dolan

One of my most intense screening at the Cannes Film Festival 2014 (in which many had predicted it would go on and win the Palme d'Or), and a fantastic commercial and critical success, Mommy was release with little fanfare in the UK and had little impact, sadly. Yet this is Xavier Dolan's best, a harrowing and exhilarating tale of motherly love with some towering performance from its trio of actors.

6) The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos

So many promising European directors have fallen after switching to the English language, and master of surreal, dark humour Yorgos Lanthimos didn't make it easy for himself, with a whimsy premise and an international cast that smacked of a europudding. How wrong I was. The Lobster is one of the most original and brilliant films of the year, hilarious, moving and surreal but in a completely assured way. It is also a great metaphor for the world of modern dating, its awkwardness and forced rituals.

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