What we consider to be the best of this year represents a combination of the movies that had the greatest emotional impact on us, matched with movies that felt innovative or groundbreaking. Here are the films Morgan considers to be this year’s best:
10. Finders Keepers
In 2007, Shannon Whisnant got a lot more than he bargained for when he bid on a used grill from a repossessed storage unit at a local flea market–he got a severed human foot, belonging to one John Wood. As bizarre as it sounds, this is a true story, and it all happens within the first act of the documentary Finders Keepers, truly one of the strangest and funniest films of the year. Directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel have really found a needle in a haystack with the subject of this film. While the whole thing’s flat-out funny, they don’t shy away from hitting poignant, emotional notes that ground the film and give it substance.
9. It Follows
Now, I’m not usually one to walk away from a horror film talking about how ingenious it was, but leave it to David Robert Mitchell‘s breakout festival hit It Follows to not only bombard my mind with realistically terrifying thoughts that night but for many nights after. Rising star Maika Monroe plays 19-year-old Jay, who, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions. She can’t shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her. A fantastic film for the modern day horror-fan that gets just about everything right.
8. The End of the Tour
The End of the Tour is based on real-life journalist David Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir, “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” which chronicles the highs and lows of his 1996 five day journey with the acclaimed post-modern author. Meditative and thought provoking, The End of the Tour captures the complexity of one man’s life through a delicate lens. A neatly wrapped package with stand-out performances, this is an example of what finely-crafted filmmaking looks–and, more importantly–feels, like.
This micro-indie surges energy and pulses with electricity at every turn and around every corner of its L.A. backdrop. It also happens to be shot entirely on the iPhone 5s. Like its off-beat shooting style, the flick of the summer Tangerine, is all attitude, all brash, and all defiant in its film-making. It takes just one moment to learn this after meeting our main characters in the film’s opening scene: two Trans prostitutes, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a colorful cast of characters in this seedy, yellow and green colored L.A. circus world. (–Ryan Rojas)
It’s been about 4 years since her untimely death at the age of 27, but with each passing year, Amy Winehouse’s musical legacy only continues to grow stronger. Director Asif Kapadia’s Amy is a heartbreaking documentary, that shows, with an incredible amount of never before seen footage, the brilliant artist she was, her troubled personal relationships, and addictions that led her down a dark path of self-destruction that she was unable to escape from. However, for as heavy-handed as this film comes across, we are left remembering a brilliant artist.
As a 93-year-old fashion icon known world-wide, Iris Apfel exudes a naturalness that makes you feel as if you know her. Her body is fragile, her clothes are flamboyant, and her soul is, above all else, happy. Director Albert Maysles, whose previous films include Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, takes audiences into Apfel’s life behind the scenes in the documentary Iris. From her private apartment in New York that she shares with her 100-year-old husband Carl, to her storage warehouse that doubles as a closet, we embark on an 80-minute journey that finds inspiration, as well as words of wisdom from Iris herself, at every turn.
4. The Tribe
A standout at last year’s Cannes Film Festival is the Ukrainian crime drama The Tribe, about a deaf teenager struggling to fit in at his new boarding school and told entirely through non-verbal acting and sign language with no voice overs or subtitles. If that doesn’t sound interesting enough, note the fact that the cast is made up of entirely non-professional actors. It is a modern day silent movie with a vibrancy that will leave a lasting impression on those who are willing to experience this unique art film. The Tribe was made for an audience waiting for an authentically beautiful and powerful piece of cinematic art.
3. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is one of the most aesthetically beautiful and stylish films to come out this year. Writer/Director Alex Garland’s “Sci-Fi meets Mystery” film tells the story of a young programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who is selected to participate in the opportunity to test an artificially intelligent robot, Ava, (Alicia Vikander) created by the tech-wiz recluse and quirk-capitalist Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Caleb is tasked to test which qualities make Ava exactly human enough, through a series of interviews that lead to more and more uncertainties. Suspenseful and intelligent, Ex Machina also stars some of the year’s hottest actors–Vikander also stars in this year’s The Danish Girl and both Isaac (and Gleeson) can be seen in one of the year’s biggest films, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Brie Larson delivers one of the strongest performances of her career as Ma, a victim of a kidnapping who has been forced to create a home out of the petty 10″x 10″ woodshed where she and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are held captive. One night, Ma hatches a risky plan that could either result in living happily ever after in the real world, or risk never seeing each other again. Touting Oscar buzz (and rightfully so), Room is one of those special films that gets everything right: from phenomenal performances, to ingenious storytelling and visceral camerawork, this isn’t just a movie–it truly is a full body experience. And although it can be uncomfortable at times, it pushes the audience to tap into emotions in a way that has rarely been done before.
He is the mind behind some of cinema’s most creative and original films, such as 1999’s Being John Malkovich, 2002’s Adaptation, and 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now, screenwriter-turned-director Charlie Kaufman is back with his second directed feature film, Anomalisa. In similar Kaufman fashion, the protagonist is a middle-aged cynic crippled by the mundanity of modern life, only to come to life when a stranger opens his eyes and ears to the beauty of human connection, if only for a moment. Anomalisa is a transfixing, thoughtful, and touching film that goes deep into the viewer’s psyche and stirs up emotions of introspective thought. Critics are highly praising the film’s ability to transcend reality, as Anomalisa has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, leaving no doubt that Kaufman’s latest masterpiece stands out as one of the year’s best.