Best films of 2015

I saw more than a hundred new movies in 2015, fifty-seven of which I reviewed. Access to a cornucopia of screeners and screenings thanks to my new membership in the Florida Film Critics Circle helped. Spending December dealing with music-related retrospectives soured me on ranked lists; for a while I considered saying the hell with any list. But should this blog pop up in a Google search and point a kid towards Horse Money and the others I’ll get that warm feeling in my toes.

This list doesn’t aspire to completeness – how can it? A friend suggested I wait till March when I’ve put away the rose-tinted glasses I used to study the previous year.

Here are the first four, in no order, including hyperlinks to original reviews:

* Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, dir. Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz.

The title character wants a divorce. Her husband won’t give it. Both exhaust the patience of the Israeli court system. “By the time the proceedings crawl into their fifth year, the case starts to look like Bleak House‘s Jarndyce vs Jarndyce,” I wrote at the time.

* Horse Money, dir. Pedro Costa.

An exploration of the mystery of a performer called Ventura, shaking with a neurological condition, wracked by memories of a full life. Leaping across space and time, Pedro Costa’s film is often inscrutable in places but never less than compelling; it’s one of the most fruitful director-actor collaborations in recent film.

* Listen to Me Marlon, dir. Stevan Riley.

A compilation of interviews and home movies rather than a linear documentary, Listen to Me Marlon adduces the actor’s self-regard and lucidity. For Marlon Brando, intelligence is inseparable from contempt. He couldn’t shake the idea that acting was, if not for sissies, beneath him. What’s clear in Listen to Me Marlon is the degree to which the contempt drove him to be the most influential actor of the late twentieth century, as if he had something to prove, to himself mostly.

* Maps to the Stars, dir. David Cronenberg.

Recent movies about the film industry are redundancies – what satire can measure up to the release of a terrible Marvel adaptation? Starring Julianne Moore and John Cusack, this Bruce Wagner-written picture about Hollywood freaks piles on the grotesqueries with verve. When California finally tumbles into the sea, as Walter Becker and Donald Fagen predict, maybe Maps to the Stars will look like the cuneiform detailing the death throes of a doomed civilization.

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