Here’s part one of a cinematic round up from Mbirder Josh Encinias. Part two to be published at the end of December.

I have a confession to make: I see a lot of movies. Mostly older films in New York City’s repertory theaters, but I see my share of new ones. MoviePass makes it possible to feed my growing habit. But it wasn’t always this way. In the mid-2000’s, I quit watching films because I decided an enlightened spirituality shouldn’t be involved with contrivances like film. I wanted the reel deal; life unfiltered.

The veneer of a life unfiltered is purity, or at least objectivity, and my unsustainable experiment in cultural asceticism resulted in the dam bursting forth into my current obsession. But this isn’t an argument in favor of Plato’s cave. It is an argument that “cinema is truth twenty-four times per second” and “sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form,” both from Jean-Luc Godard.

It’s why we see Jurassic World and Citizen Cane. Aspects of each give form to our stories, and give us jumping-off points to conceptualize our lives. And we need that help wherever we can get it: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

A lot of great films have already come and gone from theaters this year, and here’s what I think is the best of 2015 so far.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A dense comedy-drama by Roy Andersson, it’s the third film in a trilogy about living. The title references the painting “The Hunters in the Snow” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, where birds watch people and wonder what they are doing. Andersson suggests the film asks ‘what are we actually doing’ in life.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Not only a brilliant expose of Scientology and its abuses, but an expertly crafted story. The filmmakers re-created an interrogation held by Scientology leader David Miscavige and it’s shocking and beautiful cinema.

The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack is exciting as it is disturbing. Director Crystal Moselle uncovers the Angulo family’s Hare Krishna background, and that they’re rarely allowed to leave their Lower East Side apartment for religious reasons. The family is allowed to watch movies and they purport to own 5,000 films. The sons are especially enchanted by contemporary nihilistic films (The Dark Knight, No Country For Old Men) and as they emerge into society the documentary leaves you wondering how they will fare as grown men.


The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission. Eden tells the story of a French DJ credited with creating French House music and the major sacrifices he made, often to his detriment.

Clouds of Sils Maria

About an actress who returns to a stage play that brought her fame 20 years earlier. It’s a beautifully layered character drama about the actress (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant (Kristen Stewart). Real insecurities about age and paparazzi skirmishes from the actor’s personal lives are woven into their characters to create a rich tapestry and makes for the best on-screen duo this year.

Pather Panchali/Aparajito/The World of Apu

The Apu Trilogy are some of the best-loved Indian films in the West. Director Satyajit Ray made the film after helping Jean Renoir scout locations for his film The River, which was filmed in Calcutta. Ray’s love of film and novice approach to the first film, Panther Panchali, won admiration from the international film community. The World of Apu boasts one of the greatest female performances of all time by Sharmila Tagore. This new 4k restoration is by the Academy Film Archive and the Criterion Collection and should be available to buy this fall.


Güeros is loosely based on director Alonso Ruiz Palacios and his reaction, or lack thereof, to the Mexican Student Protests of 1999. When Sombra announces “We’re on strike from the strike” the film becomes 2015’s cinematic version of “Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot — and Güeros should be studied along To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

The best reading of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a story about phileo (friendship) being as fulfilling as eros (romantic love). Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon never positions his actors to hint at a romantic relationship between Greg and Rachel, thus thwarting hopes of A Fault in Our Stars love story, but creating a more satisfying film. The closing sequence is the greatest piece of cinema I’ve seen this year.

Love & Mercy

All you need is love (and mercy) and DZ’s review.


In Mommy, the mother, son, and neighbor meet at their place of woundedness where they fight, celebrate, but ultimately fail each other. It’s a brutal, beautiful film, recorded in 1:1 aspect ratio, a la Instagram videos.