clouds

Mid-year, I teased my working lists of The best films of 2015 … so far. It’s finalized. Four films had their premieres at either Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival or its mid-season Gems event. I had the chance to catch up with one of these films (Flowers) thanks to the Coral Gables Art Cinema booking it even without a distributor. It later became Spain’s entry to the Oscars and was picked up by Music Box Films. Another movie had its premiere at the Miami Jewish Film Festival. But I’m spoiling the suspense already…

Now, in reverse order and capped off with 10 honorable mentions with links to reviews where appropriate, are the 10 best movies I saw in 2015. Where available, all titles link to the item description page on Amazon. If you purchase via the link provided, you will be financially supporting this blog.

10. The Forbidden Room

forbidden room poster

The only film in my top 10 I did not review. Suffice to say that The Forbidden Room is an incredible experience of dreams and primal desires infused with that indelible Guy Maddin sense of humor.

9. Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice poster

Read my review

8. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

gett_ver2

Read my review

7. Heart of a Dog

heart-of-a-dog

Read my review

6. Flowers (Loreak)

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Read my review in The Miami New Times

5. Theeb

THEEB

Read my review

4. My Golden Days

Trois_souvenirs_de_ma_jeunesse_poster

Read my capsule review in The Miami New Times (longer review to come)

3. Love & Mercy

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Read my review

2. The Assassin

4tHR6e4IZi2eAX-B_-Q6FEDp1eyb1mngFQpkqsUH4wA

Read my review

1. Clouds of Sils Maria

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Read my review

My honorable mentions (or bottom 10 – 20) are as follows (titles either link to reviews or Amazon): Mr. Turner, The End of the Tour, The Look of Silence (review), Voice Over (review), Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol, Spotlight, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (review), Brooklyn.

Next, Ana Morgenstern weighs in with her top 20.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

mad-max-fury-road-hardy-theronThe Florida Film Critics Circle, a critics group we have representation in, has announced the winners of this year’s contest for the best of 2015, and it’s a wild list. Mad Max: Fury Road, a film we loved (Overturning Patriarchy in the Post-apocalyptic World: Mad Max: Fury Road – A Film Review), took the several of the top prizes including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Effects. Carol, another excellent movie we were rooting for (Love in times of heterosexism — Carol, a film review) had led the nominations with eight to Max‘s seven, but it ended up winning only one category, that of art direction/production design. Though it’s sad to see Carol come up short in so many categories, it did get runner up for esteemed categories like director, adapted screenplay, cinematography and score.

Speaking of score, I was delighted to see Love & Mercy win for that category. It was also a winner in Best Actor for Paul Dano. The Brian Wilson biopic really came out of nowhere to win this writer over this year, as I initially approached it with skepticism. I watched it twice in theaters before reviewing it (Love & Mercy harnesses the music & madness of Brian Wilson), and had a chance to talk with the film’s director (Director of Beach Boys pic Love & Mercy talks about externalizing Brian Wilson’s musical madness and how to deal with the character of Mike Love). As the months went on, it stuck with me, and I don’t think I played Pet Sounds, Smile and “Surf’s Up” in my life much as I ever had these past few months. I really gained a new appreciation for The Beach Boys due to this movie and its performances. So kudos for that.

Dano’s win was the tip of the iceberg for the acting categories. The winners were amazing in how much they went against predicted/marketed contenders. First of all, we went against the Hollywood Foreign Press’s decision to consider his role a supporting role. Plus, there was no sign at all, during the nomination phase, of the Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence vehicles, and though it was close, the sentimentality of Sly Stallone did not deter critics from voting for Oscar Isaac for Best Supporting Actor not for his high profile appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits nearly all the right notes with breezy, rich flair — a film review) but for his performance in Ex Machina (Ex Machina looks past AI to examine artificial sexuality — a film review). Then there was Kristen Stewart who won Best Supporting Actress for her work in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria (Clouds of Sils Maria examines the layers of celebrity identity with powerful performances — a film review), a movie most have undeservedly forgotten — but not us.

This is probably the year where the most films and people I voted for to win actually won. Below you will find the nominees our group voted on. The winner is noted “WINNER” and my choices have an asterisk* by them. And below that you will find my ballot and nominees, which may hint at some of my favorite films of the year, but, as usual take it with a grain of salt. This is a political thing after all, and when participating in these things one should nominate and lobby for films that have a chance for recognition. My choices at least define a certain aesthetic that I feel no shame in celebrating.

Check out this link to see all the winners. In previous years that I have been a member (2012 and 2013) we ranked three choices in each category. Last year we tried something different. There are two rounds of voting. Each of the 30 voting members offers three choices in each category without ranking. Once all ballots were turned in, our chairman and vice chair tabulate the results return a new ballot of five choices (up from three last year) in each category. Everyone would pick one name or film in each category, and then the ones with the majority votes were declared winners. But if it was tight race, we would have a run off, and we had four this year. Plus we had five choices on the original ballot for each category because there were so many tight races to begin with.

OK, congrats to all the winners and here is the list:

BEST PICTURE

Carol*
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
Spotlight
T
he Big Short
The Martian

BEST ACTOR

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
WINNER: Paul Dano – Love and Mercy*
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett – Carol*
WINNER: Brie Larson – Room
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

WINNER: Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina*
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
WINNER: Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria*
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

BEST DIRECTOR

Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
WINNER: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight*
Ridley Scott – The Martian

BEST ENSEMBLE

The Big Short
Mistress America
WINNER: Spotlight*
Straight Outta Compton
Tangerine

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Mistress America
WINNER: Spotlight*

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

WINNER: The Big Short
Brooklyn*
Carol
Room
Steve Jobs

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol*
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario
Youth

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Ex Machina
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*
The Walk

BEST ART DIRECTION/ PRODUCTION DESIGN

Brooklyn
WINNER: Carol
Crimson Peak
Love & Mercy*
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SCORE

Carol
The Hateful Eight
WINNER: Love & Mercy*
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST DOCUMENTARY

WINNER: Amy
Best of Enemies
Cartel Land
Heart of a Dog*
The Look of Silence

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

WINNER: The Assassin*
Mommy
Mustang
Phoenix
Son of Saul

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Anomalisa
WINNER: Inside Out*
The Good Dinosaur
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

FFCC BREAKOUT AWARD

Bel Powley – Diary of a Teenage Girl*
WINNER: Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez – Tangerine
Jacob Tremblay – Room
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina and The Danish Girl

My initial ballot of nominees is below. We had to nominate three were unranked choices. The ones that got the most mentions out of the group became a list of five choices that we had to pick from. All my choices are listed in no particular order and the picture corresponds with the film that got the most nominations:

Paul Dano in Love & Mercy

BEST PICTURE

  • Spotlight
  • Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Love & Mercy

BEST ACTOR

  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Jason Segel – End of the Tour
  • Peter Sarsgaard – Experimenter

BEST ACTRESS

  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • Stanley Tucci – Spotlight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Deanna Dunagan – The Visit
  • Kristen Wiig – Diary of a Teenage Girl

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Mad Max Fury Road

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Bill Pohlad – Love & Mercy

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner – Love & Mercy
  • Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Phyllis Nagy – Carol
  • Marielle Heller – Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Nick Hornby – Brooklyn

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max Fury Road
  • It Follows

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Ex-Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Carol
  • Love & Mercy
  • Brooklyn

BEST SCORE

  • Atticus Ross – Love & Mercy
  • Cat’s Eyes – The Duke of Burgundy
  • Laurie Anderson – Heart of a Dog

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Heart of a Dog
  • The Look of Silence
  • Tales of the Grim Sleeper

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

  • Theeb
  • The Assassin
  • Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Inside Out
  • Shaun of the Sheep
  • Anomalisa

BREAKOUT AWARD

  • Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Lola Kirke – Mistress America
  • Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

4tHR6e4IZi2eAX-B_-Q6FEDp1eyb1mngFQpkqsUH4wAEight years after his first film outside of either Taiwan or China (the Paris-set The Flight of the Red Balloon), Hou Hsiao-hsien could not have returned with a more Chinese film: a wuxia movie. The Assassin takes place in ninth century China, during the waning years of the Tang Dynasty. The legendary Taiwanese filmmaker, known for a meticulous style, worked with four other writers to get the details of the later years of the Tang Dynasty just right. The result is a remarkably subtle piece of storytelling that is as enthralling as it is discreet.

Because Hou has such a wonderful feel for location, it makes sense to describe the setting before the plot of The Assassin. He chose to shoot the film in the forests of Mongolia, standing in for ancient China. The wind creating waves over the tops of trees has as much presence as the landscape. Hou never bothers with grand exteriors of palaces where the human drama drives the story. Any appearance of a palace is obscured by trees. Even some of the fight scenes unfold behind lush branches (here’s a clip) and between tree trunks (here’s a different clip). The power of nature is also in the conflicted story of the titular assassin, Yinniang, played bracingly and with scant lines of dialogue by Hou regular Shu Qi. As often as characters talk about the past or discuss political maneuverings, nothing really matters as much as Yinniang’s quiet, conflicted feelings for her trade as a frighteningly skilled assassin.

The_Assassin2

Yinniang was abducted as a child by a former princess turned militant nun (Sheu Fang-yi) who trained her to become a killer for China’s central government. However, Yinniang has an Achilles heel: her heart. As the nun tells her, “Your skills are masterful, buy your mind is weakened by human sentiment.” After Yinniang fails one of her tasks by showing mercy, the nun sends her on a mission to kill the governor of her birthplace in Weibo Province. Lord Tian J’ian (Chang Chen) also happens to be Yinniang’s cousin. To complicate their connection, Yinniang was once betrothed to him.

Tensions run deep in this film, as many subplots course through this central arc. There’s instability in Tian’s house from politics to a strained marriage. A pregnant concubine (Nikki Hsieh Hsin-ying) becomes the target of Tian’s wife (Zhou Yun) via a deadly wizard. CdPsVfpL66Ef0w9m5mxIBDqvgwyDW8gE8b02QYnND3EMeanwhile, when Yinniang is not stalking Tian in the shadows or fighting off his guards, she finds refuge with a Japanese workman (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a mirror polisher in the countryside who she grows casually and sweetly attached to. Then there are the politics of the provinces, which seem to make the film leaden with story. However, The Assassin has a music and poetry that makes plot feel secondary. It’s reflective of Yinniang’s true path: to severe her ties with the past and begin anew.

The story may be complex, but it’s not hard to get beyond its complexity via Hou’s gorgeous cinema, a fluid pace of beautifully detailed mise-en-scène where the repetition of a famous Chinese poem about a blue bird and its relationship with a mirror reveals more about Yinniang than what she could ever say in dialogue. The Assassin is a cathartic thing to watch, and you will feel it deep in your soul as opposed to being told it with exposition. This is a cinema that harnesses the power of the medium by a master. Visuals, editing and sounds tell us more than words can.

Between the lavish set design, breathtaking landscapes, intricate makeup and costumes is Mark Lee’s delicate camera Shu Qi Assassinwork capturing shadow and flickering light to rapturous effect. From his shots of the expressively wild forests of Mongolia to the flowing silk walls during dramatic interior scenes, as the titular character lurks in the shadows, The Assassin never shortchanges the audience of impressive imagery.

Hou is known for holding unedited shots for long periods of time. His cinema is sometimes unfairly called “languorous.” To be honest, Hou’s scenes never outwear the receptive and open-minded viewer’s interest because of their rich staging. There are also moments of long monologues, and the information can feel impenetrable. It’s ironic that the film’s heroine hardly has dialogue, yet her actions and Shu’s performance speak volumes. For those hoping for lots of wuxia action, it should be noted that the film’s fight scenes are lightly sprinkled in between the drama, which eventually reveals a love story that transcends romance. Hou never takes killing lightly. You won’t see gore, guts and blood, yet he never short changes the thrills of combat. The Assassin, however, transcends its violence to reveal great compassion for humanity and life via movie-making that harnesses the power of the intrinsic medium.

Hans Morgenstern

The Assassin runs 107 minutes, is in Mandarin with English subtitles and is not rated (it has some violence). It opens for its premiere Miami theatrical run at the Miami Beach Cinematheque this Thursday, Oct. 29. It continues its run theatrically in Miami the following day at Tower Theater and up north in Broward County at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood. It continues to expand across the U.S. and Canada through December. For dates in other cities, visit this link. The film had its Florida premiere this past Sunday, Oct. 25, during Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival’s weekend-long premieres event, GEMS. The GEMS festival hosted a preview screening for the purpose of this review, which first appeared in the Miami New Times as a shorter capsule review.

I also had an opportunity to interview Hou Hsiao-hsien, which resulted in a two-part interview below:

Hou Hsiao-hsien on his intuitive filmmaking and The Assassin; more in Miami New Times

All images courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

the-assassin-cannes-film-festival-3

Before we get to the titles, let’s get some confusion out of the way:  Last year, Miami-Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, gave South Florida a weekend-long taste of what the festival does half-way to its full-blown festival. They called it “MIFFecito,” a play on the festival’s acronym and the Cuban word for its native version of Espresso, cafecito. The festival unfolded exclusively in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood at the area’s MDC-operated Tower Theater. It was supposed to be a one-off affair, but earlier this year, the fest decided to bring it back, this time calling it “Gems,” for the quality of world cinema it sought to premiere in the area but couldn’t bring to its regular festival, mostly due to scheduling. (The MIFFecito brand has since been re-purposed by fest organizers for the name of an animated short film festival for children coming very soon to the Freedom Tower, check out the line-up here: MIFFecito at DWNTWN Art Days).

Last year saw some fine, little known movies as well as some not so impressive entries premiere in our area of Miami. I covered it for the Miami New Times with a colleague of the paper and the Florida Film Critics Circle, Juan Barquin. It was a mixed affair (MIFFECITO: SOME FILMS GRAB, OTHERS STUMBLE). One of the films I saw there, Lake Los Angeles, however, made into my top 20 of 2014 (The best movies of 2014, according to Hans Morgenstern — Part 1). So, indeed, there were gems in the rough.

This year’s edition, however, includes some highly anticipated movies that created big buzz at C the annes, Berlin and Sundance film festivals. The stand-outs include Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin. Over the years Hou has grown into the darling Chinese filmmaker of film critics. Wong-Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, former critics darlings, have also had their chances at the Wuxia genre to various levels of success. Like Wai’s Ashes of Time, word around The Assassin, is that Hou’s film hews incredibly close to his contemplative, rich, mise-en-scène-driven cinema.

Then there is YouthPaolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (Film Review: ‘The Great Beauty’ earns it’s title by looking beyond the superficial). Sorrentino has had a hit and miss career, so it will be interesting to see how he has followed up his first real masterpiece. It could be dreadful or amazing. Here’s the recently released U.S. trailer:

It looks to deal with big existentialist questions in the grand style of The Great Beauty, so it could be totally up this writer’s alley. I just hope the star-power does not detract from its ideas.

Speaking of films that exude doubt, I have some reservations about the Hollywood version of the mining tragedy that trapped 33 Chilean miners for 69 days before a days-long rescue operation. Simply titled The 33, it stars a mixed cast of actors that include Rodrigo Santoro, Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Gabriel Byrne and Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s very Hollywood-centric for a movie about a moment where Chile made national headlines. Directed by Patricia Riggen, whose previous Hollywood movie was this, I reserve most of my suspicion for this one, a production from Warner Bros. that closes out the festival. Riggen does have a history with MIFF, however. She was the only woman director to ever open the fest with Under the Same Moon in 2008.

But there are more films to look forward to than to cock a doubtful eye at, including John Crowley’s Brooklyn, with a script written by Nick Hornby and Trash, a film co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Christian Duurvoort. Though some would say their best films are now behind them, their talents are worth interest.

UPDATE: It was announced that another film was added to the line-up on Sept. 22. The line-up now also includes the Argentine film The Clan, which happens to be Argentina’s entry to the Oscar competition. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to sold out audiences, according to MIFF’s executive director Jaie Laplante.  Here’s the trailer:

There’s still more to look forward to, as a total of 14 films (correction: 15 now) will premiere of the course of three days, Oct. 22 – 25, featuring more big names from the world cinema stage. Below you will find the press release that came out today with a complete listing of the program, events and guests:

Hans Morgenstern

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival Announces GEMS 2015 Film Lineup

GEMS, Miami International Film Festival’s fall event returns October 22 – 25, 2015

Film slate includes Berlin and Cannes Festival Award Winners, Oscar Hopefuls, and International Box Office Hits

Held exclusively at Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater Miami

Special GEMS Preview Night to be held on October 5, 2015 featuring Stephen Daldry’s first foreign-language film, Trash

Miami, FL — Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university, today unveiled the lineup for GEMS 2015, its permanent fall event created to whet Festivalgoers’ appetites for next year’s 33rd edition running March 4-13, 2016.  Taking place over four days (October 22 – 25, 2015), GEMS will premiere highly-touted films from Cannes, Berlin & Sundance Film Festivals; Oscar hopefuls; and international box office sensations from the US, Spain, Chile, Italy, France, Colombia, and many others. MDC’s Tower Theater Miami will serve as the exclusive venue for all screenings and seminars.

GEMS will open with director John Crowley’s Brooklyn, a film adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan. The festival will close with Warner Bros’ highly-anticipated The 33 starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Mario Casas and Lou Diamond Phillips.

The Festival’s Executive Director & Director of Programming Jaie Laplante states, “Film festivals are dazzling times, when the shiniest lights of the current cinema are collected in one place for a concentrated moment. So it is with this year’s GEMS selection, and I invite film lovers of all types to experience las joyas de la corona of the season.”

The GEMS film slate includes:

brooklyn

Brooklyn (USA / Ireland), directed by John Crowley *OPENING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY OPENING NIGHT PARTY.

Adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel, this 1950s story follows the life of a young Irish woman caught between tradition and passion, between two countries and two futures. Starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan, the cast also includes Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleason.

The 33 (USA / Chile), directed by Patricia Riggen *CLOSING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY CLOSING NIGHT PARTY.

An international rescue effort to save 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 foot underground for 69 days in the Copiapó mine riveted over a billion people in 2010, and now a superb international film adaptation recreates the details of that unprecedented event. The epic list of cast names includes Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Rodrigo Santoro.

The Assassin (Taiwan), directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien *WINNER OF BEST DIRECTOR AT CANNES 2015

In 9th century China, 10-year-old Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who transforms her into an impressive warrior. One day, she is sent back to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man whom she was promised, and Nie Yinniang must choose: assassinate the man she loves or break forever from the sacred honor of her training.

the club

The Club (El club) (Chile), directed by Pablo Larraín

Director Pablo Larraín’s follow-up to his global success and Oscar-nominated No, (starring Gael García Bernal), is a tough, scathing and psychologically sobering indictment on the Catholic Church’s handling of moral failings within the institution.

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) (Colombia), directed by Ciro Guerra *WINNER OF TOP DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

Guerra’s previous film, The Wind Journeys (2009), was an international hit and one of the 2010 Festival’s most popular films in Miami. For his new film, Guerra travels deep into the wilds of the Amazon jungle, and into the dangerous territory of the historical past. This is an epic and thrilling journey, capped with velvety, rich black & white cinematography, confirming Guerra’s status as one of Latin America’s most confident talents.

Havana Motor Club (USA / Cuba), directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt

One of the most fascinating events of Miami International Film Festival in 2014 was filmmaker Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s special presentation on his creative process in constructing his portrait of Cuba’s top underground drag racers of classic American cars. A year later, the film is now complete, and GEMS is delighted to bring Perlmutt back to Miami to share the finished work.

Ahora o nunca

It’s Now or Never (Ahora o nunca) (Spain), directed by Maria Ripoll

This summer’s biggest homegrown box office hit in Spain, It’s Now or Never pairs Spain’s newest film star, Dani Rovira, whose charms help propel Spanish Affair (Ocho apellidos vascos) to become Spain’s all-time box office champion, with the luminous Goya winner María Valverde, who gets a rare opportunity to demonstrate her comedic gifts. The result is a frothy, frisky comedy of first-class creative power, expertly timed and filled with joyous performances, from the leads to the delightful character actors found in even the smallest roles. Clara Lago and Alicia Rubio co-star in this comedy that once again proves no one does inspired silliness quite like the Spanish.

Krisha (USA), directed by Trey Edward Shults

Winner of both the Grand Jury Price and the Audience Award at SXSW earlier this year, Trey Edward Shults’ highly personal and compelling hypnotic drama was also selected at this year’s Critics Week in Cannes.  Shults has already drawn comparisons to the work of legendary American independent director John Cassavetes for their use of family members in the cast and also their maverick avant-garde style of shooting favoring characters and scenes that envelop the viewer in both observation and emotion.

Mia Madre (Italy), directed by Nanni Moretti

Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre is possibly his most personal film, and a master class on autobiographical cinema. It displays without question why Moretti is considered one of the most skilled living filmmakers to create powerful universal drama out of our smallest little big tragedies. John Turturro co-stars.

My Golden Days

My Golden Days (France), directed by Arnaud Desplechin *WINNER OF DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

After years working abroad, anthropologist Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric) returns to France to find an explosive emotional time bomb awaits him.  This epic coming of age tale portrays first love as a candid, sensual and unique experience that his alter-ego discovers could leave a mark that will last as long as life itself.

A Perfect Day (Spain), directed by Fernando León de Aranoa.

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa makes his first English language film with this Cannes-debuting tale of 24 hours in the lives of two veteran humanitarian aid workers in the waning days of the 1995 Balkan War. Veteran Hollywood stars Benicio del Toro and Tim Robbins are in fine form as the leads, who hold on to their boyish charms even as they age with graceful wisdom.

Trash (U.K. / Brazil), directed by Stephen Daldry. *SPECIAL GEMS PREVIEW NIGHT ON OCTOBER 5, 2015.

Three-time Best Director Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader) delivers the soaring triumphs of his earlier successes, while shining a spotlight on the sobering challenges facing one of the world’s most closely-watched cities, Rio de Janeiro. The high-powered cast includes Brazilian superstars Wagner Moura (Elite Squad) and Selton Mello (Jean Charles, The Clown), as well as Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara.

yona

Yona (Israel), directed by Nir Bergman

Like a “living thunderbolt”, the bold and nonconformist Yona Wallach stormed through Tel-Aviv’s male-dominated political and poetry circles in the 1960s. Yona’s work eventually became recognized in the most prominent literary books and magazines of her time, and she was honored with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 1978. Director Nir Bergman’s biopic vividly captures Yona’s highs, lows and her brave rebellion against a chauvinistic society with her unique voice.

Youth (Italy), directed by Paolo Sorrentino

The space (and communion) between the generations is the subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s newest Fellini-tinged masterpiece. Coming off his 2014 Oscar win for Best Foreign-Language Film for The Great Beauty, the Italian auteur is on a roll, orchestrating grand themes around life’s wisdom with a phenomenal cast of actors including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Jane Fonda.

In addition to GEMS slate of premieres, the festival will be hosting a heartfelt special Master Class Tribute to the late James Horner. Known as Hollywood’s ultimate movie composer, he passed away in an aircraft accident this past June, not long after completing what would turn out to be one of his final great scores – the music for Patricia Riggen’s The 33, our GEMS closing night film this year.  Horner’s work in The 33 is a large part of the movie’s incredible accomplishments. His music is never obtrusive, yet works expertly to stir emotions and grip the audience deeper into the characters’ drama. Hearing it is a reminder of what a great loss the world has suffered when the double-Oscar winner for Titanic passed away at the age of 61.

On the eve of the premiere of The 33, Miami-based feature film composer Carlos Rafael Rivera (A Walk Among The Tombstones, 2014) takes an in-depth look at Horner’s work and career, using cues to demonstrate the powerful, yet often subtle, creative influence Horner brought to specific scenes and entire films. Beginning with one of Horner’s breakthrough accomplishments, on the widely revered Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and continuing on through multiple films (including the acclaimed 1989 Glory) and Oscar nominations, Rivera provides a compelling insight into the creative contributions of the film composer, and the special connection between composer and director.

Tickets will go on sale to Miami Film Society members exclusively on Friday, September 25, 2015 and to the general public on Thursday, October 1, 2015.  Tickets: 1-844-565-6433(MIFF) or http://www.miamifilmfestival.com/GEMS. Opening Night Film + Cocktail Reception $50 for general // $40 for Miami Film Society members. Closing Night Film + Gala Party $85 for general // $50 for Miami Film Society members. All other screenings $13 adults, $12 seniors, $10 members, $10 students, Masterclass Seminars $9 (MDC students FREE with student ID). Group rates are available. For membership opportunities or more information, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456). Miami International Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university.

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