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[2015 Critics' Picks]

Best of 2015: Film

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      Mistress America.

      JOSH BELL

      1. Mistress America Director/co-writer Noah Baumbach and star/co-writer Greta Gerwig deliver an emotionally rich story about thwarted expectations and learning to live with disappointment that’s also a scathingly written farce with some of the funniest dialogue of the year. On home video.

      2. Far From the Madding Crowd Carey Mulligan is fiery and vulnerable as the heroine of Thomas Hardy’s classic 1874 novel, adapted by director Thomas Vinterberg into a sweeping and romantic movie about an indomitable woman finding her place in the world. On home video.

      Far From the Madding Crowd.

      3. Carol This lesbian romance (starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in equally luminous performances) is both hopeful and bittersweet, elegantly depicting the way the characters are constrained by their society but never caged by it. Opens in Las Vegas in January.

      4. While We’re Young Noah Baumbach (him again) returns to the more caustic tone of his early films with this incisive comedy about the codependent friendship between two artistically inclined couples of different ages, and how they feed off each other in invigorating but ultimately destructive ways. On home video.

      5. It Follows The sense of impending dread never lets up in David Robert Mitchell’s haunting, nerve-racking horror movie about a curse passed through sexual intercourse, turning romance and intimacy into deadly, destructive acts. On home video.

      6. Unfriended What could have been another throwaway teen horror movie turns into possibly the best film ever made about the way people live online, with a familiar slasher story told via a stunning mix of video chats, social-media posts and web searches, depicted entirely on a single character’s computer screen. On home video.

      It Follows.

      7. Ex Machina Screenwriter Alex Garland makes an auspicious directorial debut with this twisty, cerebral sci-fi movie about an eccentric inventor (a phenomenal Oscar Isaac), his naïve employee (Domhnall Gleeson) and the female android (Alicia Vikander) who’s more advanced than both of them. On home video.

      8. The Diary of a Teenage Girl Director Marielle Heller turns Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel into a powerful and raw movie about a young woman’s sexual awakening, with a star-making performance from Bel Powley as the title character, a 1970s San Francisco teenager who brazenly embraces her burgeoning sexuality. On home video January 19.

      9. Mustang This Turkish coming-of-age drama about five close-knit sisters dealing with an oppressively patriarchal culture manages to convey the adversity the characters face without becoming an exercise in miserablism; instead, it’s a gorgeous and heartfelt story of the unbreakable bond among sisters. Opens in Las Vegas January 15.

      10. Spotlight The process of researching and reporting a newspaper story becomes a riveting thriller in Tom McCarthy’s account of The Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic Church molestation scandal and the journalists who brought it to light. In theaters.

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      The Duke of Burgundy.

      MIKE D'ANGELO

      1. The Duke of Burgundy What appears to be just a clever riff on European softcore movies of the 1970s, focusing on the S&M antics of two women, gradually reveals itself as a brilliant metaphorical study of ordinary relationships. On home video.

      2. Sicario Emily Blunt excels in a drug-war thriller that works equally well as nerve-racking entertainment and as a disquieting portrait of one FBI agent’s doomed efforts to take on entrenched institutional corruption. In theaters now; on home video January 5.

      3. Mad Max: Fury Road Miraculously, George Miller’s belated return to the franchise that launched his career more than 30 years ago turns out to be his best film ever: a nearly nonstop cavalcade of virtuosic vehicular mayhem. On home video.

      The Forbidden Room.

      4. The Forbidden Room Winnipeg’s mad genius, Guy Maddin, serves up two hours of hilariously absurdist stories-within-stories, all of them inspired by descriptions (or even just titles) of lost movies from the silent and early sound eras. Streaming on Fandor; on home video March 8.

      5. Carol Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara quietly burn up the screen in Todd Haynes’ rapturous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, which dared to dream of a non-doomed lesbian romance. Opens in Las Vegas in January.

      6. It Follows The year’s most inventive horror film imagines a sexually transmitted curse in which the victim (Maika Monroe) is stalked by a slow-moving, shape-shifting ghoul that never, ever, ever stops coming for her. On home video.

      The Martian.

      7. Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman’s melancholy yet hilarious tale of a customer-service guru (voiced by David Thewlis) who meets a very unusual woman (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) takes stop-motion animation to decidedly unexpected places. Opens in Las Vegas January 22.

      8. The Martian Depressed about the state of so-called civilization? Be inspired by watching the world’s best and brightest attempt to save Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut after he’s accidentally left behind on Mars. In theaters.

      9. Breathe French actress Mélanie Laurent (best known as Inglourious Basterds’ vengeful Shosanna) steps behind the camera, masterfully directing this harrowing story of a toxic friendship between two high school girls. On VOD now; on home video February 2.

      10. Tu Dors Nicole The title of this French-Canadian gem translates as You’re Sleeping, Nicole, and it’s a real sleeper itself; shot in lustrous black-and-white, it views a post-grad’s lazy summer with the hazy focus of a waking dream. On home video.

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