When you review well over a thousand films a year and actually watch even more than that you run across a lot of great films. I tend to see so many noteworthy films that I can not widdle it down to ten or twenty. I see enough that I could program a festival (or two) with the films that really knocked my socks off.
As I have done the last few years I've split the best of the year list into two. These are a bunch of great films and tomorrow are greater films. Regardless of which list they are on all are the best films I've seen this year.
First off I need to mention three filmmakers that I noticed who need to be noted as up and comers:
PRAYERS OF A SAINT was directed by Santho Goonewardene and while I didn't love the film there was something about the direction that makes me think Ms Goonewardene is the real deal and ready to rock the pillars of heaven. Give her a feature.
LADIES MUST DEJECT was written by young Conner Wharton. In a time when the director of Burning Cane is getting noticed for a making a film that looks good at a young age despite it not having the ring of truth, Ms Wharton, who is younger, wrote and starred in a film that has the painful feeling of having been lived in. Its a stunning achievement regardless of age. Tell more stories.
TATTOOIST is a crazy ass short that needs to get director Michael Wong a feature. Yea its really short but at the same time it shows such mad skills I want to see what he does for two hours.
I need to note that I loved the characters in OH MERCY, a great off kilter police drama. More than most other films this year the wonderfully defined people on screen delighted me just by being.
CHASING PORTRAITS- super look at the director tying to track down where all her grandfather's paintings went after the Second World War.
MEMPHIS 69- Portrait of a concert in Memphis that may not be the most technically accomplished film but has some of the best music in any film all year. It also beautifully captures a time and a place long gone.
WOLF HOUSE- one of the greatest animated films you'll see, period. A deep dark true life portrait of a colony of people where abuse ran rampant. It will rattle you to your core with it's tale while making your jaw drop with the technical achievement.
HIDDEN CITY- Visually overwhelming experience of what lays beneath Madrid.
ONCE WERE BROTHERS- Portrait of Robbie Robertson and the Band. It is a snap shot of a time when all the planets aligned and magic was made and we ended up wit music to live our lives by.
BREAKING BREAD- Portrait of a food festival in Israel that sought to connect everyone regardless of their background. Don't see it on an empty stomach
CAUSE OF DEATH- A man discovers how his brother died was not what the official story said and the fallout from his looking to get to the truth. It will make you question everything you are ever told.
LYDIA LUNCH-THE WAR IS NEVER OVER- Glorious portrait of a glorious woman- This should be require viewing for ever little girl because she will show them not to take any shit from anyone.
MORTICIAN OF MANILA- portrait of a Mortician at ground zero of the Philippine war on "drugs". Deeply troubling in so many different ways.
I AM NOT ALONE- magnificent portrait of of one man took down a corrupt government
YOURS TRULY AI WEIWEI-portrait of WeiWei's art show highlighting the struggles of various political prisoners scores points on so many levels including showing us what the spotlight shown on their work means to the prisoners.
DUNYA'S DAY- screamingly funny short about a high maintenance woman who throws a party...and it all goes wrong.
THE GIFT-JOHNNY CASH- magnificent portrait of the music legend.
45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER- a look at how changing how a prisoner sees the world can change them for the better.
ON PRESIDENTS ORDERS- scary look at the madness in the Philippines. Its a dire warning that it can happen here
EVERYBODY FLIES-chilling look at how airplane travel will make you sick.
ALWAYS IN SEASON- heartbreaking look at racism in America
CHANGIN TIMES OF IKE WHITE- unexpected look at singer Ike White who made music with the likes of Stevie Wonder before he simply vanished. Not Searching for Sugarman but something different and more challenging
NARROWSBURG- small town hopes to become the Sundance of the east-only to have it all go banana shaped.
PROMISE AT DAWN-cinematic adaption of Romain Gary's novel is a masterpiece that has one of Charlotte Gainsborough's greatest performances.
LIFE SUPPORT- two women meet by accident in a park and they, and you, will never be the same.
ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY- dark horror film that goes in unexpected was.
MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY-portrait of comic culture that reveals it to be alive and well
RINGMASTER- what we think is a portrait of a man who makes killer onion rings morphs into something else and unexpected
YESTERDAY- What if the Beatles never existed? What if you wanted to grin from ear to ear?
BELLINGCAT: TRUTH IN A POST TRUTH WORLD- Portrait of the Bellingcat collective that uses the internet to break stories and tell truths about what is really going on in the world.
LEAVE THE BUS THROUGH THE BROKEN WINDOW- unable to cover an art show as planned the director turns the camera on himself and makes magic
MR SAM- Wonderful off kilter short about a one of a kind man in love with a corpse that needs to be turned into a feature.
REWIND- shocking yet hopeful look at a family suffering generations of abuse
HELLBOY- Mike Mignola's character returns to the big screen in a fun film that just entertains on its own terms.
RUSSIAN FIVE- Spy film disguised as a sports film is just one hell of a ride.(and its all true)
PALACE- life in a small town laid bare. A stunning small gem that will rock your world
NOTHING STAYS THE SAME- Portrait of the Salon Pub in Austin that is struggling to stay alive. In an age when big business and big real estate threaten the things that makes our town's great NOTHING... acts as warning of what may happen is it's not stopped.
MARKIE FROM MILWAUKEE- Glorious portrait of one man who tries to follow his heart and finds it colliding with his church. Something special.
17 BLOCKS- portrait of one family over time that shows us life in ways we've never seen on screen. A momentous achievement
I"M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME- portrait of one man who followed his heart and ended up making the world a better place simply by touching the lives around him.
JESUS SHOWS YOU THE HIGHWAY- one of a kind science fiction film that is simply magnificent in execution and vision
COME TO DADDY- wonderful thriller about a young man who goes home and who is confused by what he finds there-and to say more would be telling
THE DEEPER YOU DIG- family made horror film/morality tale is just amazing
PLACE OF NO WORDS- the relationship of a father and son in real life and in a story which is as glorious a film about life as you will see all year.
THE FOX AND THE BIRD- in this short a fox raises a bird and by the time the ending comes you will be sobbing