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The landscape of movie-going has changed radically in the last few years with the rise of VOD and streaming services.
The landscape of movie-going has changed radically in the last few years with the rise of VOD and streaming services tempting people to stay home for all but the biggest blockbusters. In fact, my top release of 2015 never even had the chance to draw an audience but if you have an Apple TV, you can watch it right now. And you should.
1. The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby (D: Ned Benson)
Bensons remarkable debut, a powerhouse character study starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy as a New York City couple driven apart by a shared tragedy, wowed audiences at TIFF 2013… and disappeared. Domestic distributor Entertainment One finally dumped it onto DVD earlier this spring in a truncated version that sliced over an hour of footage and totally abandons Bensons ingenious interlocked structure. The festival cut presented as two features, Him and Her survives on the U.S. Blu-ray, and can be found in Canada tucked away in the movies iTunes Extras. Yup. Thats where you can find the best American drama of the decade.
2. The Look Of Silence (D: Joshua Oppenheimer)
Oppenheimers latest explores the same subject matter as his harrowing 2012 documentary, The Act Of Killing, but comes at the Indonesian genocide from a different angle. The previous film focused on the perpetrators of the 1965 coup that led to the slaughter of a million people, encouraging them to re-enact their war crimes. This one follows one of the survivors, an optometrist named Adi who travels the country treating patients and asking them, almost casually, about their actions half a century earlier. The cumulative -effect is devastating.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (D: George Miller)
Thirty years after his last Mad Max movie and almost two decades since his last live-action feature, Miller returned to the post-apocalyptic desert without losing a step. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron deploy minimal dialogue to maximum effect, John Seale creates stunning digitally graded images, and Junkie XLs driving score keeps the pace breathless. Its a delirious demolition derby that also happens to be a master class in -visual storytelling. I dont think Ill ever tire of watching it.
4. The Mend (D: John Magary)
Shoved into a single room at the Carlton at the end of September, Magarys audacious debut feature barely even made a dent on a film scene still recovering from TIFF. But those of us who did see it havent stopped talking about this whirligig drama about two brothers (Josh Lucas, Stephen Plunkett) who bring out the worst in one another when they end up sharing an apartment in Harlem. Mashing up aspects of Martin Scorsese, Arnaud Desplechin and even David Cronenberg, Magary and his actors take an old story and turn it into something weird and new and positively throbbing with life. (You can find it on iTunes.)
5. Amy (D: Asif Kapadia)
Id seen Kapadias previous bio-doc Senna, so I knew his documentary about the short life and tragic death of Amy Winehouse would be respectful. Once again, he tells his subjects story with archival footage and present-day audio interviews with friends and family. But he also finds the real person inside the tabloid caricature, and thats where Amy becomes a work of profound empathy. It brings Winehouse back to life, and forces us to lose her all over again.
6. Timbuktu (D: Abderrahmane Sissako)
Mauritanian filmmaker Sissako (Waiting For Happiness, Bamako) broke out internationally with this disarmingly gentle drama about Islamic militants imposing sharia law on a community that doesnt particularly want it. The locals try to get on with their lives, mounting tension with their new lawgivers leads to a climax thats as ugly as it is inevitable. But this isnt a movie about a village overrun by monsters. Its about the awful things people do when they believe theyre in the right.
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (D: Ana Lily Amirpour)
In a really strong year for horror It Follows, The Babadook, Unfriended and Crimson Peak Amirpours black-and-white chiller stands out. The minimalist tale of a very old girl (Sheila Vand) who preys upon wicked men in present-day Iran, it lightens the oppressive early David Lynchian -disquiet with a playful postmodern streak. But it doesnt shy away from the bloody stuff either.
8. The Assassin (D: Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Taiwanese filmmaker Hou is known for delicate contemporary dramas, not period epics where people jump around on rooftops with swords. But his first venture into the wuxia genre feels totally of a piece with his filmo-graphy, focusing on the inner struggle of a lethal young woman (Shu Qi) whos sent to murder her powerful cousin, only to wind up watching over him and his household for reasons she cant quite explain. Also, its swooningly gorgeous to look at.
9. The Big Short (D: Adam McKay)
Director/co-writer McKays first movie that isnt a Will Ferrell vehicle is a fanged all-star comedy about the sub-prime mortgage meltdown of 2007-8, starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt as a coterie of hedge fund managers and financial analysts who saw the crisis coming and bet on disaster. Its expertly calibrated entertainment, giving the actors room to play and reframing industry jargon as simple, elegant metaphors delivered by the likes of Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain. And McKay orchestrates it all so deftly that you might not even notice how angry he is at least not right away.
10. Paddington (D: Paul King)
In a banner year for family entertainment, one little bear stood head and shoulders above the rest. Pixars Inside Out was more inventive, and Aardmans Shaun The Sheep Movie was funnier, but Kings wry, resourceful update of Michael Bonds beloved character felt genuinely magical for its merging of innocent fun and remarkable emotional resonance.
Thats my top 10, but I could have easily kept going or swapped some of them out for Anomalisa Carol, Crimson Peak The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, Experimenter The Forbidden Room It Follows In Jackson Heights Inside Out Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Listen To Me Marlon The Martian My Internship In Canada The Nightmare Phoenix Seymour: An Introduction Shaun The Sheep Movie Sleeping Giant Slow West Spotlight Spring Star Wars: The Force Awakens or The Voices. Its been a pretty good year.
Miss out on any of these films? Find out where you can watch them in our Holiday Movie Survival Guide, or click on each title to see where you can still catch each one.