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Jan: Best Films of 2015

FirstPersonFF22015's Top Picks from FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

BEST ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILMS

Steve Carell1.) The Big Short

Riveting story about the the “Subprime Mortgage Crisis” of 2008. The Big Short is told as a high octane comedy by filmmakers who trust their audience to understand that it's actually a tragedy, with aftershocks that continue to this day. Closely based on the non-fiction best-seller published by Michael Lewis in 2010, The Big Short is an instant classic and the Best Film of 2015

Q: Does The Big Short pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? No! And in this case, that's part of the point. When men push women out of the frame, the world quickly becomes a very perilous place!

2.) Suffragette

Women from London's East End risk their lives so that English women will finally have voting rights. Superb historical recreation of early 20th Century London with chilling resonance for today.

Q: Does Suffragette pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Yes!

3.) Truth

Cate Blanchett gives one of her greatest performances as embattled CBS 60 Minutes Producer Mary Mapes in Truth.

Q: Does Truth pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Only kinda sorta...

THE BIG SHORT

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS

1.) A Borrowed Identity (from Israel/Palestine)

Palestinian prodigy receives a scholarship to attend a prestigious high school in Jerusalem. Consequences are highly specific but also universal.

Q: Does A Borrowed Identity pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Not really...

2.) The Great Man (from France)

Two young men from very different parts of the world meet and bond in the French Foreign Legion. When they are ambushed in Afghanistan, one makes great sacrifices to save the other, but once separated, their paths diverge.

Q: Does The Great Man pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? No! 3.) The Lesson (from Bulgaria)

The Lesson is a brilliant character study of a woman of considerable talents and accomplishments who thinks she has it all... until she learns otherwise.  An insightful picture of daily life in modern Bulgaria, The Lesson is also a morality tale about the objectification of women who live in countries whose laws were written by men.

Q: Does The Lesson pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Yes.

A BORROWED IDENTITY

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILMS

1.) The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Taught for decades that The Black Panther Party was a group of testosterone fueled militants, we finally learn the truth.  The goal of the Black Panther Party was JUSTICE. In retrospect--in the year of #BlackLivesMatter--that finally becomes clear.

Q: Does The Black Panthers pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Yes!

2.) Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Seventy years after the Liberation of Auschwitz, it's time to "Dance on Hitler's Grave" by celebrating the life of Peggy Guggenheim--one of WWII's greatest unsung victors.

Q: Does Peggy Guggenheim pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Yes!

3.) Prophet's Prey

Compelling expose of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints) was like watching my worst nightmare come true.

Q: Does Prophet's Prey pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? Yes!

IfOnly

Photos from Top: The Big Short, A Borrowed Identity, and The Black Panthers. Follow links above for full credits.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FILMMAKERS, ACTORS, AND DOC SUBJECTS WHO HELPED MAKE 2015 SUCH A GREAT YEAR AT THE MOVIES! NOW ONWARD TO 2016 🙂

FirstPersonFF2

My transition from Chicago to Brooklyn began in 2012 and took the better part of a year. (Really? Yes! It took time to close down, stage, and sell the Chicago townhouse, as well as wind down all my personal and professional Chicago commitments. And it also took time to move into a Brooklyn rental, then buy it, remodel it, and furnish it after we sold the Chicago townhouse. Meanwhile, I had to find us new doctors--the PCP, the dentist, the ophthalmologist, etc--while building personal and professional commitments in NYC which, in my case (including reconnecting with local relatives and friends from my childhood across the river in New Jersey.)

And yet, one of the promises I made to myself when the move began was that I would cover every film opening in NYC that was either written and/or directed by a woman filmmaker. This while continuing to cover films with Jewish content for my ongoing monthly posts for JUF Online and also covering the annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema for the October issue of the JUF News (in print).

At first I tried to to it all by myself. But once I realized how many films by women filmmakers were released in NYC every week--one week there were 8!--I started looking for help. First Brigid Presecky from Bradley University in Illinois came aboard, then Jessica Perry from Barnard College in NYC. Now they are training new contributors, also all young, also primarily young women.

What a joy for me! I get to learn from these wonderful young women even as I help mentor them! So on to 2016 with a vibrant set of voices committed to expanding audience choices at the movies!