Last year, I watched about forty English-language films that were released during the five year period of 2012-16. The following list (in alphabetic order) is of my favorites out of those.
- 'The Duke of Burgundy' by Peter Strickland was a revelation. Using the traditional structure of a passionate but doomed love affair, it offers everything new. It plays with your mind and pleases your senses in every way. Yes, it is art-house and proudly so. Modern English-language films rarely get the kind of treatment this rare British gem has.
- 'Ex Machina' by Alex Garland was just the right kind of sci-fi movie. Psychologically intense and thrilling, it was an extremely well-craft and suspenseful film with some really good performance. And yes, those VFX!
- 'Hell or High Water' by David Mackenzie might just be my favorite of this entire list. Perhaps it is my weakness for the Westerns, or my compulsive need to back the underdog. But I also know that as a screenwriter I will study its screenplay as many times as I can. Brilliant in every department, this crime drama is actually a moving story about love and duty.
- 'I, Daniel Blake' by Ken Loach has to feature in this list. It is a drama about a man's struggles with the system and we have seen so many great movies like this. But it still works, and works so well. It has tremendous emotional value and a deceptively simple design. Pure genius.
- 'The Jungle Book' by Jon Favreau was a wonderful trip to the childhood memories of Mowgli. But it was also the best use of CGI I have seen on big screen. I can watch this movie again and again, not for its story or characters, but for the rich beauty of the jungle that it brings for us. May be in a hundred years, India will make a film visually as magnificent as this.
- 'La La Land' by Damien Chazelle is the film everyone is talking about. I am so glad we got to watch it on big screen in India much before the Oscar nominations are out. Easily a film that improves with every re-watch, I wonder what more this film-maker has to offer. He is younger than me and look what he has achieved. Thanks for humbling and inspiring me, Damien.
- 'The Revenant' by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, honestly, did not work for me too well. But then, perhaps I should blame it to the enormous hype that surrounded its release. I also believe that it will improve with the knowledge of its boundaries in my next watch. But yes, this too, like many in this list was a memorable visual treat.
- 'Room' by Lenny Abrahamson now sounds old. Everyone has been talking about this movie since Toronto 2015, although I saw it very late. We can be confident that this drama-thriller will feature in every list of greatest modern movies. And it will be studied by every film-maker who wants to shoot a film in a cramped space. It will also be known as the film that brought the brilliant Brie Larson the fame and the glory she deserved.
- 'Swiss Army Man' by the Daniels is audacious and adventurous and colorful and meaningful and utterly unforgettable. Films like these keep reminding us of the great medium we worship and give us the hope of new discoveries cinema will make. It is a fable that should reach more and more audience.
- 'Zootopia' by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, perhaps the most accessible film in this list, has all the tropes of a studio animation movie. It also has the imagination of perhaps the most genius order and the detailing of the most painstaking type. And it also has a really funny tribute to Don Corleone!
Special Mention: 'Arrival' for its brilliant mood, 'It Follows' for such originality in horror, 'Spotlight' for being one truly complete film and 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' for successfully and honorably reviving a legacy.