Thursday, December 31, 2015

Films that l appreciated in 2015

A lot of movies were seen in the past twelve months and included a number I would recommend for those who love good movies or who have specific movie interests.  There are a lot of good movies, but few have the time or inclination to watch them all.  My hope is that some of you will find
something worth your while.  Please feel free to suggest your favourites.  There are too many worthy movies for a lot of details, but in some cases you can link to more detailed descriptions.

English speaking favourites  

"Boyhood"   filmed over a 12 year period.  Richard Linklater took a big chance that all the actors would be available over a 12 year period, however the risk paid dividends.   Award winner.  One feature was some awkward moments covered accurately

Also finished trilogy with Ethan Hawke, Judy Delpy and directed by Richard Linklater

 "The Theory of Everything" with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones was thought provoking and inspiring.

"A Good Lie" directed by Canadian Phlippe Falardeau and starring Reese Witherspoon gave refugees some spotlight  Later in year watched Reese in "Wild", a quite different story that illustrates her versatility.

"The Imitation Game"  with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly and  Matthew Goode from The Good Wife.

"The Martian "with Matt Damon was a homage to man's ingenuity. Saw in 3-D

"Gone Girl"--study in sociopathy--critics said plot was implausible.  I would agree it would seem highly unlikely, but we go to movies to watch highly unlikely events.  Most would get a kick out of this.

"Mandela A Long Walk to Freedom" starring Idris Elba.  Mandela is one of the most admired men in history.  He saw those around  him as humans who didn't know any better.  Later watched Idris in a few episodes of Luther

"The Best Offer" written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, was a big surprise.  If you haven't seen the trailer, it is misleading, but I feel is justified for the twists along the way.  It helps if you like the world of art, but even if you don't, you would appreciate the twists.  Re-kindled interest in Giueseppe Tornatore and Ennio Morricone.  Read more

"Frequency," an unusual suspense movie.  A what would have happened--illustrates to me that a lot of things had to happen for today's circumstances and if any of them had been changed today's circumstances would be quite different.  We all can think of how things might have been different for
just one slight change

"To Kill a Mockingbird", a classic.  Gregory Peck reminding us of courage required confronting racism.

James Cagney was a childhood favorite.   Saw a number of old favourites and a few new ones. Learned his background and like him more.

Roger Ebert left a big imprint on society which was brought home to me with viewing "Life Itself"  I had read the book he wrote, but in some ways the film, done after his death had more impact.  They showed a clip of him explaining that movies give insight to ourselves and others.  The film was more graphic in showing how his body had deteriorated, but he kept on plugging away.  Although I had read many of his reviews, I really became attracted to him when he developed a website when he in the midst of his health problems.  I wrote a bit about him, but this movie hit home harder.   The director said Roger did not want a tribute, but a true story, meaning the unhappy parts.  Read about the book this movie based on:

"The Prosecution of an American President"  was not popular, but irrefutable.  Vincent Bugliosi, a famous prosecutor presents a strong case against President George W. Bush.

Saw a few horse related movies.  "This Way of Life" a documentary from New Zealand about a man who makes his living training horses and living as naturally as possible.  The film deals with some personal conflict and I was struck with how introspective and tolerant he was.  Horse lovers will be struck with some of the horsemanship displayed by his young children.  "Buck" recommended by a sales contact. "Riding Back to Life" was a short film and demonstrating how horses can be effective therapeutically.   "The Turin Horse" was not something horse lovers would enjoy as the horse in some way is used symbolically.

The last film of the year (number 343) I saw was an oldie, "Hoosiers" about my favorite game, basketball and was done very well and although seemed to have some cliches was also realistic.  Good writing, directing, acting, cinematography and music.

South Korea

I watched several South Korean movies with those three listed below among the best for me.  "Spring, summer, fall, winter...and spring"  suggested by Mary Ito.  Last year I felt the best movie I watched was another Korean movie--this is quite different, but really hit home--beautiful cinematography taking advantage of lush scenery, one bit of music as the end left a strong impression--story seemed very simple, but very basic to human nature--gave an insight into Buddhism

A second Korean film "Miss Granny"  a hit on Netflix where a 74 year old women who reminds me of my dear Nanny, my wife's grandmother Lucy.  The protagonist was  transformed into someone 50 years younger.  Opens up a lot of interesting plots--some enjoyable music.

A third Korean movie "Glove" was a notch above a typical baseball movie.   Other Korean flicks that left a favorable impression were "The Admiral",   "The Attorney" and  "The Thieves"- which could be compared to "Ocean 11," but more complicated, with females doing wire action.  Another memorable one was "My Way," depicting D Day with two Koreans mixed in with the Germans


For me, I thought the Bollywood movies I was able to see contained the best value for my time.  The most entertaining suspenseful was "Drishyam" with a different perspective on deception.  An excellent cat and mouse game.

"PK"  was perhaps my second favorite of the year.  Another film with a religious theme.  Very clever and deep for a movie.   Aamir Khan is very selective in what he does and goes into a great deal of preparation. Anushka Sharma also played a lead role in this and went onto produce and star in NH10 and later Dil Dhadakne Do illustrating her versatility.  See
"Haider," a version of Hamlet was one of the very best "Talvar" based on a real trial of a double murder as complicated as one could imagine.  Tabu made her third appearance in classy movies I have seen during the year.   She made the strongest impression on me of all actors seen during the year.

"Hamari Adhuri Kahaani" with Emraam Hashmi and Vidya Balan provided layered sad romantic story inspired by a producer.  I liked the music and bought two songs on iTunes.

"Staying Alive" was about two men meeting in a cardiac ward under heavy care.  Their wives relate to one another, but the story is more complicated than apparent at first.  I was surprised to learn that one of the main characters was also the director, Amanth Narayan Mahadevan

Ayushman Khuranna played a role in a non typical romance  not involving glamourous types, "Dum Lago Ke Haisha"    Read more:

"The Best Goodbye Ever" (Dasvidaniya) starring Vinay Pathak in a bucket list type of movie from the perspective of a shy man.  Makes you think what your priorities could and should be.

I discovered a director to admire who put out a movie this year called "Margarita with a Straw."  Shonali Bose films are usually about a significant event or cause.  An earlier movie,"Amu" was about the riots that occurred against Sikhs (after two Sikhs had assassinated Indira Gandhi).  Special features gave some insight to funding problems.  She has overcome lots of problems to put out movies and you can read about them at

"Bajrangi Baijaan"  starring Salman Khan broke down one of my barriers about him.  He is smooth, too smooth, but in this movie he fits in with a delightful plot where an Indian finds himself helping a young Pakistani girl who is mute.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui played a supporting role and made me realized he has been an unsung hero for many years while contributing to many good movies.  He got to play the hero in  "Manjhi"  You can read more about him at

Other Subtitled movies

"The Vanishing", unlike most films was difficult to watch, particularly the ending.  If you like movies of this description the 1988 version in Dutch and Flemish is a masterpiece with an American version 5 years later apparently not so good although had the same director.  Most movie viewers would probably not enjoy this movie.

A German/Norwegian production, "Two Lives" takes us back to the consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Julianne Kohler, a prominent German actress plays the daughter of an East German and Norwegian with lots of secrets.

I watched a number of French movies.  Daniel Auteuil captured some of my attention over a series of movies.

Costa-Gavras was a study for me of political films.  More here:

Among French movies I enjoyed "3 Hearts" mainly because I always enjoy Charlotte Gainsbourg.  I also watched "Gainsbourg" a movie about her father.

I explored Swedish movies including the popular film fest favourite "Force Majeure" which gives a really simple theme of masculinity.  This helped open the door to a long history of significant movies. Read more:

I checked out some movies from Israel including "Walk on Water' (enjoyed Lior Ashkenazi) "The Gatekeepers" and  "Ajami" amongst others.  Read more at

From the Japanese cinema I most enjoyed  "Like Father like Son" which was an intriguing story, but also a study in contrasts of fatherhood.  Very well done and thought provoking.  "Hula Girls" was about a mining town laying off workers and looking for an alternative.   For more Japanese films I have seen read;

My most popular blog of the year has been one on Hispanic movies.  You can read more at; Some of the ones I enjoyed this year included "The Education of Fairies"  and "Wild Tales, both with favourite actor Ricardo Darin.  After writing my blog I found another source of his films--the Burlington Library and enjoyed "Chinese Take-out"

The Liberator" is from Venezuela, but with a lot of international content.  Spanish, French and English dialogues with star Edgar Ramirez, fluently handling them all.   a natural beauty captured by the cinematography.  A biography of one of the most unsung heroes--rode over 70,000 miles to liberate several South American countries from Spain--international cast and producers--Venezuela composer, Gustavo Dudamel  (who works between Sweden, US and Venezuela)

Last year I discovered a movie from Paraguay, that was quite noteworthy and this year I found a movie set in Laos that surprised me with its quality, though directed and written and financed by Australians.  "The Rocket "  Australian director/writer Kim Mordaunt  first filmed a documentery about bombs in Laos.  The fictional sequel won 3 awards at debut festival--Berlin Film Festival.

I watched a DVD of "Ilo Ilo" from Singapore that been shown at the Hamilton International Film Festival.  Dialogue in Mandarin and Tagalog (from the Philippines) plus English as the main language between the main protagonists.  Interesting casting story  The director had to fly to Philippines to pick out a key character--after a long search picking a lead character she got pregnant.  Instead of going after a replacement the director/writer decided to re-write the script to include a pregnant mother.  Won an award at Cannes.

There were lots of others I enjoyed or appreciated, but this already too long.  In the effort I also saw a few duds with little redeeming value.  Which movies would you recommend?

Movie reviews from last year:

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