And the most-liked films are...

critic's choice

And the most-liked films are...

Like a lot of critics, I chafe against the arbitrariness of lists even as I recognise their utility. The slots with more than one title aren’t ties, but double features, paired movies that complement, contend with or amplify each other’s best qualities.

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)

Sissako is both an indispensable political filmmaker and one of the great poets of contemporary cinema. His portrait of life under jihadi rule in northern Mali is brutal and shocking, but also gentle, generous and surprisingly funny. Sissako does not humanise violent extremists so much as demonstrate that they already belong to the species and reflect part of our common, tragic nature. But his movie also insists that the only effective and ethically serious way to oppose fanaticism is with humanism. Which is to say with irony, with decency and, perhaps above all, with art.

Taxi (Jafar Panahi)

The Iranian dissident filmmaker, posing as a (barely competent) Tehran cabdriver, stages a sly, pseudo-documentary inquiry into the paradoxes of cinema and the contradictions of everyday life under authoritarian rule.

Inside Out (Pete Docter)

This journey into the mind and feelings of an 11-year-old-girl may be Pixar’s wildest adventure yet. It’s a very funny workplace sitcom (with exuberant, touching performances from Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling and others), an ingenious allegory of psychological development, and an almost unbearably moving and honest defence of the role of sadness in our lives.

Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)
The Big Short (Adam McKay)

Two terrifically entertaining, ensemble-driven, fact-based procedurals about appalling crimes and the institutions — the Roman Catholic Church and Wall Street banks — that allowed corruption to fester. In addition to mustering righteous anger, McCarthy and McKay, in very different ways, managed to infuse the routines of modern work (answering phones, typing on keyboards, scrutinising spreadsheets) with suspense, emotion and moral gravity.

Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson)

A meditation on love, loss and the meaning of life. Dog people and Lou Reed fans will be especially susceptible (I plead guilty on both counts), but anyone who ever had a heart is likely to succumb to Anderson’s ethereal wisdom and her fierce formal wit.

Out 1 : Noli Me Tangere
(Jacques Rivette)

It took almost 45 years for this 13-hour shaggy-dog experiment to reach American screens, but the timing turned out to be perfect. Rivette’s mischievous ramble through Paris, French literature and a handful of perennial philosophical puzzles (What is the nature of reality? How do we know what we know? What is the relation of effect to cause?) is both a charming, newly rediscovered artefact of its hectic time and a bulletin from the cinematic future. Everything has already been done, and everything is still possible.

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)

A master class in old-school, super-linear action filmmaking, full of nasty, punk-rock, dystopian Australian humour. Also the best recent eco-feminist-socialist allegory that isn’t a novel by Margaret Atwood.

Carol (Todd Haynes)
Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson)

The finest romance and the most acute anti-romance of the year, from some of the most rigorous intellects in American movies. The relationship between them is perhaps best summed up in the poem by William Blake, called ‘The Clod and the Pebble’.

Creed (Ryan Coogler)

If any movie can bridge the deep racial, generational and class divides in American life — at least for a couple of hours — it would have to be this revival of the ancient Rocky franchise. Sylvester Stallone, shuffling into the wise old trainer role, gives perhaps the loosest, warmest performance of his career. Michael B Jordan, as Adonis Johnson, Rocky’s protégé (and the illegitimate son of his one-time rival and long-lost friend, Apollo Creed), continues his emergence as one of the vital movie stars of our moment. As for Coogler, with his second feature as a director, he proves himself to be a true contender.

Results (Andrew Bujalski)
Welcome to Me (Shira Piven)

A pair of post-mumblecore comedies about self-realisation and its limits. Bujalski’s is a flawless screwball triangle (with Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan as the sides) masquerading as an easygoing hangout with the oddballs of Austin, Texas.
Piven surveys the darker territory of mental illness and daytime television. Thanks to Kristen Wiig’s astounding performance (as a lottery winner named Alice Klieg), Welcome to Me is a portrait of an American dreamer that is unsettling and inspiring in equal measure.

Worthy watch
 The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
 What Happened, Miss Simone?
 The Kindergarten Teacher
 The Diary of a Teenage Girl
 The End of the Tour

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