Whether 2015 was a good year for film or not depends largely on one's personal taste in movies. Hollywood had more than its usual share of big-budget flops in 2015 (did anyone see Tomorrowland or Jupiter Ascending?), but delivered when it really mattered: season-dominating franchise movies Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens offered enough genuine thrills to pull viewers away from web-based filmed entertainment.
Audiences who remained open to the varied pleasures of foreign, independent and documentary films were rewarded this year with a steady flow of imaginative and engaging works screened at local theaters (see my top 10 list below). That trend is likely to reach new heights early in 2016 as the four-screen Broad Theater opens in Mid-City and a two-screen Indywood Cinema opens in its new location on St. Claude Avenue. Both theaters plan to emphasize non-mainstream fare and should help make 2016 a banner year for film in New Orleans.
Following is an alphabetical list of personal favorites that debuted in New Orleans during 2015.
A Most Violent Year Writer/director J.C. Chandor's not-quite-crime-drama brings 1981 New York City back to life as co-stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain demonstrate the elusive power of onscreen chemistry.
Leviathan Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev delivers a scathing critique of his homeland under President Vladimir Putin in one of the year's most insightful and well-written narrative films.
Mr. Turner Shooting digitally for the first time, director Mike Leigh captures the visual majesty of J.M.W. Turner's paintings while crafting an intimate and original biopic.
Phoenix Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo provides the inspiration for German director Christian Petzold's mesmerizing tale of a Holocaust survivor trying to re-engage with her past life in Berlin after the war.
Red Army No interest in sports is required to appreciate the unique artistry of the Soviet Union's national hockey team of the 1980s, especially as depicted in Gabe Polsky's fascinating documentary — which also manages to lay bare the ravaged soul of an entire people.
Spotlight The untold, behind-the-scenes story of how The Boston Globe exposed a global scandal involving pedophile priests in the Catholic Church may have been the finest work to come out of Hollywood this year.
Tangerine In a bittersweet, often hilarious Christmas story like no other, transgender prostitutes navigate the mean streets of West Hollywood in an indie film Sean Baker shot entirely with a smartphone.
Timbuktu African filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako's apolitical drama captures the absurdity of life under jihadist rule and speaks volumes about the global need for a return to secular humanism.
White God What may be the year's most original film comes from Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and uses almost 300 dogs to drive a vivid cautionary fable.
The Wrecking Crew The documentary tells the amazing story of a group of anonymous studio musicians who shaped popular music in the 1960s and celebrates the glories of selfless creativity.