Mid-Point: Favorites of 2015 (Jason’s List)

I’m playing a little loose with the release dates for some of the films here, mainly the foreign ones, but that’s not my fault, it’s the fault of distribution companies who won’t release only the stuff I want. About five of the following films have and continue to be ammunition to make fun of me.

1. 0.5mm (Momoko Ando) – This film is truly a masterpiece, one of the best modern Japanese films with a scope and structure similar to Gogol’s Dead Souls. And as always, Sakura Ando stands out, thankfully here she is the lead.

2. Tomorrowland (Brad Bird) – A film that’s received a lot of opinion pieces about what people deem to be the film’s “false optimism” whether it’s the kind from Britt Robertson’s character Casey Newton, the bittered Clooney character, or even the villain character (seriously, how common is it for a film to align it’s values with that of the villain?). Also if you pay attention, our heroes don’t quite save the world by the end of it. Sure the film ends on a hopeful note but the clock is still ticking. This is note that Interstellar didn’t have the courage to end on which is why Tomorrowland is the better call to not take the easy road of defeatism regardless of how tiny the chance is to do something great.

3. My Ordinary Love Story (Lee Kwon) – We’ve come to expect South Korean films to utilize multiple genres but this one does it exceptionally as it’s done in service to what the film has to say about the inherent give and take of relationships.

4. Inside Out (Pete Docter) – That moment when Joy skates alongside the projection of Riley skating on the ice…

5. Predestination (Spierig Bros.) – As soon as I saw this I bought Jessabelle just to see what other genre films Sarah Snook elevates from her presence.

6. The Voices (Marjane Satrapi) – Satrapi works from a script she didn’t write for the first time but she brings out the full potential by casting a warped Ryan Reynolds and allowing every aspect of the film to be focalized through the perception of his character, even down to the film’s music. Also, watch it for the ending sequence.

7. Unfriended (Leo Gabriadze) – I wrote about this in Vol. 3 of Cinema Adrift but to sum up why I like this film: it handles its complicated mise-en-scene (all in real time) in interesting ways communicating not only small character information but also using this open focal space for suspense. It’s almost as if Tati wanted to express his distrust of modernization through a horror film. Speaking of Tati, it’s an extremely cynical film that has a loathing for youth culture, and if you think about it, its premise is a lot more believable than The Den despite what the haters might say. And for a mainstream horror film there’s a lot of text that needs to be sorted through.

8. Greatful Dead (Eiji Uchida) – You can see a theme of this list is films that achievement high entertainment and take on interesting ideas. Uchida’s film also incorporates how the youth interact with the aging population of Japan like in 0.5mm. It has shades of AuditionLove Exposure, and Looney Tunes. Pluto‘s Kim Kkobbi has a brief role here as well.

9. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz) – Told only through POV shots, the Elkabetz use a structural gimmick to much better effect than a certain other film that had one and took place in one setting. The more successful visual gimmick is due to the many, yet specific, ways to interpret the visuals that goes along with the theme of the film: where an Israeli woman (co-director Ronit Elkabetz) tries to get a divorce from her husband, a process that takes a few years because of his reluctance and the way the Israeli courts’ handle these cases.

10. The World of Kanako (Tetsuya Nakashima) – This film world is beautiful in its absence of hope. A great companion piece to Confessions.

11. Spring (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead) – I really liked their previous film Resolution but was not expecting how fun and understated this monster-tinged romance would be. Shout out to honorable mention Amirah and Sam, another unique take on the rom-com genre also released by Drafthouse Films.

12. Faults (Riley Stearns) – This film is truly a breath of fresh air amidst the recent surge in popularity the subject of cults has received (Martha Marcy May MarleneSound of My VoiceThe SacramentUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, etc.). It’s not only Stearns’s debut, but I believe it’s Leland Orser’s only starring role and he plays a great scumbag here. The opening scene in which he tries to claim a free lunch voucher twice, ending in him eating ketchup so he won’t be kicked out, is the perfect encapsulation of the humor and sadness that runs through Orser’s performance and the film as whole.

13. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs) – This film is basically a classic Hollywood musical; it’s carefree, not much plot, and a lot of fun. Tatum’s final performance in the film is extremely evocative of this, reminding me of a certain iconic sequence in Swing Time.

Honorable Mentions: Furious 7An Honest LiarWinning: The Racing Life of Paul NewmanLost RiverThe NightmareBodyDeathgasmSome Kind of Hate, Suburban Gothic.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.