This year’s New York Film Festival was full of surprises. While you can always count on big names, great directors (old and new), splendid writing, and some of the most stunning cinematography, there were quite a few films that truly stood out from the pack. Here are the Top 10 films that we saw this year.
Coming soon… RND’s Top 10 Honorable Mentions and an update on Release Dates of each of the fest’s selections thus far!
In Alphabetical Order:
Miguel Gomes, 2015, DCP, 131 minutes
U.S. Premiere, Entrant for Academy Award for Best Foreign Film
Unfolding in a more melancholic register, the second part of Miguel Gomes’s monumental yet light-footed magnum opus shifts tones and genres at will (deadpan neo-Western, Brechtian courtroom farce, tear-jerking melodrama), all the while treating its fantasy dimension as a path to a more meaningful truth.
While this is the 2nd film in a series of three, this installment blew the others out of the water. Presented in s storytelling fashion to keep a murderous king at bay, Arabian Nights 2 gives us three distinct tales. After Volume 1, I was prepared for the structure of the trilogy: Political satire meets serious political situations that occurred in Portugal from 20121-2013. Shaharazad narrates the tales intertwined with real footage and interviews of actual effected countrymen and women. The tales are downright absurd, very loosely based upon those appearing in the original Arabian Nights stories. While at times completely nonsensical, the dialogue is quippy and unapologetic in it’s farcical nature and use of profanity. These films are certainly dynamic and completely uncategorical when it comes to a genre label. In fact, Volume 2 is being entered into the Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Oscar race. The tale that I, by far, enjoyed the most is title “Tears of a Judge.” I want this dialogue for my very own performing purposes at some point. It is that far out there a filled with ridiculous levity.
Jacob Bernstein, 2015, DCP, 89 minutes
This extremely entertaining film is a tribute to director Jacob Bernstein’s mother, the sparkling but caustically witty Nora Ephron: Hollywood-raised daughter of screenwriters who grew up to be an ace reporter turned piercingly funny essayist turned novelist/screenwriter/playwright/director.
Let me start by saying, I want to be Nora Ephron when I grow up. Jacob’s intimate portrait of his late mother, a woman we all came to love, adore, and respect is one of my favorites of the entire film festival this year. Admittedly, I am the exact target audience for this doc. 35, pregnant, writer, brash, unapologetic, ambitious. What I learned from all the footage of Nora’s life and sit down interviews with family, friends and colleagues was an insight into how I want to live my own life. While Nora was an open book through her essays and interviews in the public, she was still very much private when it came to her illness in the end, keeping it from her own children for longer than many may have deemed necessary. With beloved films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia, and incredible books like I Feel Bad About My Neck, Ephron was a tore de force as a human and an artist. She made me feel good about my own eclectic life choices thus far. She made me feel like it was alright (in fact brilliant) to be the only girl in “boy’s club”. She proved that a mixture of boldness, outspokenness, humility, love, kindness, and admitting your faults to yourself and world is the only way to live. Everyone adored her. She was one of a kind. Everything Is Copy captures her essence perfectly.
Stig Björkman, 2015, DCP, 114 minutes
Now Available on demand
This lovingly crafted film is composed from Ingrid Bergman’s letters and diaries, the memories of her children and a few close friends and colleagues, photographs, and moments from thousands of feet of Super-8 and 16mm footage shot by Bergman herself.
Liz was delighted by this doc as well. Having not known very much about Ingrid’s life prior to the screen, she found this film to be charming and effective. Read her review here!
Thomas Bidegain, 2015, DCP, 104 minutes
In this unpredictable update of John Ford’s The Searchers, a father embarks on an obsessive quest to bring back his daughter, who has disappeared with her Muslim boyfriend. As the years pass and his life falls apart, the father passes the mission on to his son and the action assumes near-epic proportions as it shifts to post-9/11 Afghanistan.
This timely look into race and religion is a two fold story of sorts. While Alain and his son, George, search for his estranged daughter, we are privy an intertwining of their search and the ramping up of Muslim extremism based around actual terror attacks. From before 9/11 to the 2005 London underground bombings, we follow the two as they navigate rival faiths and the yearning to find a loved one. The film is incredibly poignant in so many ways. The script takes some unexpected turns.Oftentimes, frustrating but always touching and meaningful. Les Cowboys is rich in culture relations and I enjoyed this film on more levels than I ever expected.
Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015, DCP, 118 minutes
Releases March 2016
In the future, single people are rounded up and sent to a seaside compound, given a finite number of days to find a match, and turned into animals if they fail. Welcome to the latest dark, dark comedy from absurdist Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Winner of a Cannes Jury Prize.
The plot is enough to lift your eyebrows and peak your interest. In, The Lobster, originality is not dead and lives on in this absurdly funny drama. While Colin Farrell is rather flat, it makes you focus on everything around him. Would you consider this the future or an alternate reality? There’s no limit to the conversations you’ll have every time it’s mentioned.
Nanni Moretti, 2015, DCP, 106 minutes
A filmmaker (Margherita Buy) tries to cope simultaneously with a mercurial American movie star (John Turturro) and the impending death of her mother (Giulia Lazzarini) in Nanni Moretti’s moving, hilarious, and subtly disquieting new film.
Liz loved it! Find out more and read her review!
Michel Gondry, 2015, DCP, 103 minutes
Michel Gondry’s fresh, lyrical, handmade-SFX comedy is a story of two teenage misfits who build a house on wheels and take to the road, sputtering, pushing, and coasting their way across France.
Liz was a huge fan of this new Gondry classic. Check out her thoughts here!
László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 35mm, 107m
Hungarian and German with English subtitles
A film that looks into the abyss, this shattering portrait of the horror of Auschwitz follows Saul (Géza Röhrig), a Sonderkommando tasked with delivering his fellow Jews to the gas chamber. Determined to give a young boy a proper Jewish burial, Saul descends through the death camp’s circles of Hell, while a rebellion brews among the prisoners. A bombshell debut from director and co-writer László Nemes, Son of Saul is an utterly harrowing, ultra-immersive experience, and not for the fainthearted. With undeniably virtuoso plan-séquence camerawork in the mode of Nemes’s teacher Béla Tarr, this startling film represents a new benchmark in the historic cinematic depictions of the Holocaust. A deeply troubling work, sure to be one of the year’s most controversial films. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
There is so much to say about this film. Centered specifically around one man’s story, Son Of Saul, is one of the most emotionally powerful films about the concentration camps realities. Ripe with extended takes and 100’s of extras, this film is one of a kind in it’s technicality. Some of the most impactful moments are created with the sound editing. Yelps and murmured conversations set the tone of the mind. What could be happening just out of focus and out of frame. Son Of Saul is a tribute to all those lost in the Holocaust. Géza Röhrig‘s performance must not be overlooked. His presence grabs you from the first moment on screen and his sincerity to tell a story of man trying to survive while making right with God is one that simply cannot be missed.
Danny Boyle, 2015, DCP
Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin joined forces to create this dynamically character-driven portrait of the brilliant man at the epicenter of the digital revolution, working from Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography and starring Michael Fassbender in the title role, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, and Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan.
I expected to abhor this film, simply based upon Alex Gibney‘s new doc Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (You can hear a Girls On Film Podcast all about his feature here!) I assumed that it would be a glorifying picture of a worldwide idol. Little did I realized that Walter Isaacson‘s book, one I own and have not yet cracked the spine on, would be anything but a fanboy’s essay. Find out how wrong I truly was in my review.
Michael Moore, 2015, DCP, 110 minutes
In his new film, Michael Moore ponders the current state of the nation from a fresh perspective—that is, from the outside looking in—and gives us a film that is as provocative, funny, and impassioned as the rest of his work.
With very current viral footage of the mess we find ourselves in currently as a country, from police brutality, Ferguson, wrongful imprisonment, and abortion rights, one might assume that this is yet another typical, angry, leftist doc cobbled together to specifically speak to a base I happen to be a part of politically. Well, think again. This has got to be Michael Moore‘s most upbeat film to date. Presented in a structure of having Michael himself, “invade” countries around the world, Moore travels to discuss the best ideas from each nation. Visiting Finland, Germany, Portugal, and Iceland, just to name a few, Michael chats with citizens and government officials to find out what makes them healthier and happier than Americans in many ways. Delving to issues such as women’s homework, health clinics, banning drug arrests, paid vacation, free university, sex ed, school lunches, female run government agencies, and prison rehabilitation. The funny part about this film, besides Michael’s own levity and calm demeanor, is that all of these ideals are straight out of what Michael called “America’s Playbook.” In the press conference following the screening, Moore explained that every one of the countries came out to say that these ideas cam from The United States, originally.
“The American dream seemed to be alive and well… everywhere except America.” – Michael Moore
He goes on to say that we should not be mistaken, that he would not want to live in any other country other than the US. He admits that each of these countries certainly has their own problems, as well. The point in making this particular documentary was to show that we can make America even better, if we sit down and have civil conversations, one at a time. Where To Invade Next will be a winner on both sides of the aisle and around the world.