Captain Phillips (Greengrass, 2013, 7.5)
Expertly made and relentlessly tense even after several screenings, Greengrass’s film is one of the crowning achievements of Hollywood action filmmaking in recent years. Tom Hanks his career best performance.
I’m Not Angry (Dormishian, 2015, 6.0)
All the good work done in the build-up to the film’s finale is undone by ten minutes of frankly ludicrous miscalculation in tone and two unnecessary plot twists. Navid Mohammadzadeh’s performance is absolutely remarkable, in a film that deal with the heartbreaking plight of unemployed Iranian youth with compassion and humor. A real shame that the ending is unforgivably bad, cinematically and politically.
Tangerine (Baker, 2015, 7.7)
The iPhone aesthetic has become the talking point for the film in the press, but it’s not just a gimmick; the film’s character and exuberance is in large part indebted to this stylistic—and financial—decision. Energetic, uproariously funny and written and directed with unparalleled verve, Baker’s film is an essential entry in the canon of films about the trans community.
Chappie (Blomkamp, 2015, 5.1)
A total clusterfuck on every level but for the visual effects; yet, strangely endearing. There is no depth whatsoever, but at least it’s never boring.
Buzzard (Potrykus, 2015, 6.9)
The more distant the memory of Buzzard becomes, the better it gets as a film. This is an incredibly tough sit with a protagonist(?) of unparalleled repulsiveness, and several days of contemplation have not yet convinced me that the film’s unobtrusive observations actually add up to much substance. Still, this is a film that demands repeat screenings and looks at the troubled, young, White male psyche in ways few films have done.
A Survivor from Magadan (Mohammadi, 2012, N/A)
Mohammadi’s approach to the story isn’t particularly adventurous, but the attraction is the remarkable story itself. Tracing the history of communism in Iran and prison camps in the Soviet Union both through the prism of one man’s tale of persecution and survival, Mohammadi’s film is immensely moving and effortlessly warm, despite itself.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015, 8.8)
The type of filmmaking that all other filmmakers should aspire to.
The Look of Silence (Oppenheimer, 2015, 9.3) (link to review)
“For Adi, the only source of serenity is the continued search for justice, but his grief remains ever-present. Oppenheimer’s subdued but polished style effectively conveys this sense of inescapability in a country where politics has seeped into every pore. The weight of history is crushing, and its haunting shadow is cast over every frame.”
My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, 1986, 7.9) (video of my lecture on the film in Persian)
The Suicide Theory (Brown, 2015, 5.0) (link to review)
“Although The Suicide Theory is rarely dull, it lacks the emotional precision required to elevate it above merely an amusing concept.”
Amy (Kapadia, 2015, 7.9)
What a voice! What a woman! What a story! Another masterwork by Kapadia, woven together from archival footage with heartbreaking honesty and superb precision. Amy is a sensational film, but Kapadia’s true genius is in elevating Amy Winehouse’s sublime music to the level of transcendence.
The Grifters (Frears, 1990, 6.4)
The Grifters is the type of film I wish to see a lot more of, even though it isn’t an entirely successful effort on its own. Bening and Huston deliver outstanding performances, making this somewhat mannered and uneven film worthwhile on their own.
The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, 2012, 7.0)
That the antagonists can so nonchalantly recreate their past monstrosities and remain more or less unaffected by the experience is so shocking, so inhumane, it would have been nearly impossible to stomach the film had it not been presented as “re-creation.” A unique experiment, if not quite as emotionally effective as the experience beckons.
Dangerous Liaisons (Frears, 1988, 6.9)
It’s no secret to long time readers of this blog that costume dramas are my least favourite genre. Bearing that in mind, Dangerous Liaisons is one the less underwhelming canonical titles in the genre for me. An energetic, slyly funny and irreverent in the aforementioned context film with three sensational central performances. How did Malkovich end up being the one left out of the Oscar party?