Of the films released up to this date (that I have seen), I really do consider today's Best of the Bunch picks to be among the Top Ten...
I'm No Longer Here
dir/scr: Fernando Frias
pr: Rob Allyn / Fernando Frias / Gerardo Gatica / Gerry Kim / Alejandro Mares / Alberto Muffelmann / Regina Valdés
cin: Damián García
In which we learn what led Mexican teen Ulisses to NYC - and of his love for cumbia rebajada. Spellbinding performance from newcomer Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño as Ulisses, part of a community of outsiders in one city, completely alien in the other, music and dance his true home in either. As intelligent as this movie is - the relationship between Ulisses and a very American Asian-American teen girl is particularly rich in its subtle observations on assimilation, exchange vs. exoticism - I don't know that it would hit the same without Treviño at the center. Impressively shot. A Netflix Original.
The Stand at Paxton County
dir: Brett Hedlund
pr: Ali Afshar / Ava Rettke
scr: David Michael O'Neill
cin: Reuben Steinberg
In which an army medic returns to her hometown to find a wide-ranging conspiracy to defraud ranchers of their property. Full transparency: a friend of mine has a fairly significant supporting role in this film. He should be happy with the work he did here. I quite liked this fact-based thriller of a kind of corruption I've never really considered. Compelling stuff!
Come to Daddy
dir: Ant Timpson
pr: Daniel Bekerman / Toby Harvard / Kate Holly / Mette-Marie Kongsved / Emma Slade / Laura Tunstall
scr: Toby Harvard, from an idea by Ant Timpson
cin: Daniel Katz
In which an LA glommer visits his long-estranged, isolated father - and mayhem ensues. A film as odd and snickering as its title. Bloody good time. I say nothing more; I went in knowing nothing except Elijah wood's involvement, and you, too, deserve to see it completely unfettered. I recommend it!
dir: Andrew Ahn
pr: Nicolaas Bertelsen / Joe Pirro / Celine Rattray / James Schamus
scr: Hannah Bos / Paul Thureen
cin: Ki Jin Kim
In which a boy bonds with an elderly neighbor when he and his mother take care of his late aunt's house. On Twitter, I called it "a humble miracle of a movie," and I stand by that. Driveways speaks calmly, quietly, and straightforward, choosing its words and moments carefully. It understands hurt and, importantly, gradual healing, perfectly capturing the beginning of a kid's maturity without yanking him so completely out of innocence. I also tweeted about how it was the movie I needed to see after my dad's passing earlier this year, not because it's about that, but because it's about small kindnesses and holding on to the connections you've made and the tenuousness of that. I love this movie.
dir: Liz Garbus
pr: Anne Carey / Kevin McCormick
scr: Michael Werwie
cin: Igor Martinovic
In which a woman uncovers a string of sex worker murders as she searches for her daughter. Oh, I felt so bad watching this movie. I like these actors, I want to support independent filmmakers, it's a vital story that needs to be told...but not like this. Superficial, un-involving, poorly lit, it's the definition of DULL. A Netflix Original.
Best of the Bunch: Driveways, I'm No Longer Here