My Top 10 Picks from Twin Cities Film Fest


Well, it’s been almost two weeks since the 2015 Twin Cities Film Fest wrapped. I knew the tough part would be selecting the top 10 and so I took my time posting this. I use the same criteria when selecting my top 10 films from a given year. So when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible.

So with that in mind, I present you my top 10 picks:

[Click on the title to read my full review]

10. Touched with Fire

I really didn’t know what to expect from this, but the subject matter intrigued me. A directorial debut from Paul Dalio, the film seems to have been crafted as a love letter to bipolar artists and creative people. I was quite impressed by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby who played poets who are manic depressive. It’s a heartfelt and sensitive tale of an unconventional love story.

9. Too Late


This is one of those unique films in which the risky experimentative film-making style paid off in the end. It’s another feature film debut from Dennis Hauck, and it contains only five 20-minute uninterrupted takes, amounting to 100 minutes of non-linear narrative. It’d be a shame if the style was only a gimmick, but thankfully the story is intriguing and actually quite emotional in the end. Plus it’s got an amazing performance from the criminally underrated thespian John Hawkes. His 2015 Northstar Award of Excellence from TCFF is so well-deserved!

8. Remember


As I mentioned in my review, there have been so many Nazi vengeance tales been made on screen before and yet this one manages to inject something new and different into the sub-genre. That alone is a feat in and of itself. Director Atom Egoyan made this with not much frills but the film is brimming with mystery and suspense. Boasted by an astute and heartfelt performance by Christopher Plummer, I was engrossed in the story despite not much action in the film. That finale packs quite an emotional punch, and it’ll make you forgive the generic and boring title, as it actually fits the plot VERY well.

7. It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong


Films that contain mostly of dialog between two people is tricky because a lot is required of the chemistry two actors AND of course, the script. Well, director Emily Ting in her directorial debut certainly managed to create a compelling film thanks to those two ingredients. Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung (who I found out was a real-life couple after I saw the movie) have an effortless chemistry together. Everything flows nicely and in a natural way, the actors seem comfortable and fit the roles perfectly. But the strength of the film is in the dialog (also written by Ting), which comes to life as the night wears on.

6. A New High


A homeless shelter in Seattle took a novel approach in helping their residents overcome their addictions, and that is to give them an epic goal to summit one of the most dangerous mountains in the country, the 14,400 ft Mt. Rainier. The film shows the residents train for that mission and the drama that happens in the group, led by former Army Ranger Mike Johnson, who spearheaded this unorthodox rehabilitation project. The film asked the question, ‘will their personal mountains be too steep to overcome?’ and it certainly made me ponder about that in my own life. It’s quite riveting to see each recovering addict face their demons head on, plus the vast splendor of the mountain is absolutely stunning to watch. Directors Samuel Miron & Stephen Scott Scarpulla also had to train for mount climbing as well in order to make this film. Their dedication and their labor of love definitely paid off on screen.

5. The Last Great Circus Flyer


There are a ton of great documentaries playing at TCFF every year and so it’s no surprise they made up nearly half of my top 10 list. This one certainly has one of the most intriguing subject matter. In 1982, Miguel Vazguez performed ‘the greatest feat in all of circus history’, that is the quadruple somersault, during a Ringling performance. He certainly had a fascinating life journey to tell and director Philip Weyland certainly did his story justice. It’s one of the most entertaining and moving documentary that showcase not only a series of amazing–you could say impossible–physical feat, but also a portrait of a truly extraordinary and inspiring individual. Even if you’re not a fan of circus or trapeze act, I highly recommend this one.

4. Thank You For Playing


Critics have called this film one of the most important film about video game ever made and it certainly lived up to that. It’s a tear-jerker of a film but one that’s also incredibly uplifting. The story chronicled the Green family, as Ryan and Amy deal with their son Joel who’s diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Ryan is a video game designer and he embarked on creating a most unusual and poetic video game to honor Joel’s life. Most video games deal with a lot of deaths, that is people getting shot or chopped to pieces violently. But never has a game dealt with death the way That Dragon Cancer game does it, tackling the issue of death head on in such a personal, affecting and encouraging way. This well-crafted film should encourage everyone going through a tough time in their lives, and also inspire people to channel their emotion, whether it’s grief or joy, into something truly creative.

3. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made


When I saw this on the TCFF schedule, I knew this would be one I had to see with my husband. We’re both such huge fans of Indiana Jones and we LOVE Raiders of the Lost Ark! The film has a huge dose of exhilarating fun that matches Spielberg’s adventure masterpiece, as it’s truly the greatest homage to a film fueled 100% by genuine passion and creativity. You can’t help but root for the three guys who remade the film shot for shot when they were 11 years old and reunited 30 years later to finish it. It’s also interesting to see how their families share this unusual journey over the span of three decades. Watch for some extra special surprises that would definitely make you want to get up and cheer. A must-see for Indy fans, but really, anyone who loves a good story would be entertained by this.

2. Room


I’m thrilled that there have been a lot more female filmmakers as well as talents represented this year, one of the reasons I love TCFF! So it’s especially gratifying that two of the main gala screenings feature a strong female performer in the lead. I actually saw Room at a press screening before TCFF started, but I’m still going to include it here as this was TCFF’s opening gala.

Room is one of the most well-acted films I saw the entire year, emotionally heartbreaking but not a dour, depressing film. Featuring one of the strongest lead performances this year, Brie Larson shines as a doting mother who’s kept in captivity in a single room for years. The believable relationship between Ma and her young son Jack is crucial to the film and both Larson and Jacob Tremblay nailed it. It’s a deeply immersive film that really get you into the emotional psyche of the characters, thanks to a shrewd direction by Lenny Abrahamson.

1. Brooklyn


It’s always wonderful when a film lives up to your already lofty expectations and then some. Saoirse Ronan is the perfect leading lady to tell the story of Eilis, a young Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn and becomes torn between the new city and her homeland. The story is deceptively simple, but I was swept away by the rich, engrossing human drama that’s brought to life by the nuanced performances of the cast.

This is such a gem of a movie and watching Ronan is her understated yet layered portrayal of Eilis is nothing short of mesmerizing. She’s able to convey internal battle within her with just her eyes or a subtle smile, as there’s a great deal of economy of dialog in this film but everything has a purpose. I’m also impressed by Emory Cohen, and actor I’ve never seen before but I certainly want to see more of. He has a James Dean-esque vibe here, charming but vulnerable, certainly a worthy suitor to the film’s protagonist.

No doubt this is Ronan‘s best work among her already illustrious career and I’d love to see her get major acting nominations come award season. Kudos to director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby for crafting a beautiful story that’s engaging and full of heart. I mentioned this in my review already but it bears repeating: lest Hollywood forget, well-written story is the greatest special effects of all.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in random order):

Just because these didn’t quite make my top 10, I still think these films are excellent and definitely well worth your time. In fact, I’m pretty sure Anomalisa would make a lot of critics’ top 10 of the year. I love how film festivals always offer *a cure for the common flicks* so to speak, a breath of fresh air from what you see in mainstream Cineplex today.

THANKS AGAIN Twin Cities Film Fest for the awesome lineup!

The TCFF Insider Series kicks off in December, so be a member so you don’t miss out on film screenings/events all year long!

If you miss my TCFF coverage, click on the Twin Cities Film Fest tab at the top of the page.

What are your thoughts on my Top 10?
Which one(s) of these films have you seen or look forward to?

28 thoughts on “My Top 10 Picks from Twin Cities Film Fest

  1. Brittani

    I haven’t heard of a few of these so I’m glad you talked about them. I completely forgot about The Adderall Diaries for some reason, so I’m happy for that reminder too. lol

    1. Hi Brittani! Hope you see these when they’re out on VOD or in a theater near you. The Adderall Diaries is definitely worth a look and the filmmaker is from Minnesota too, which makes it extra cool! Hope one day you could make it to TCFF 😀

    1. Hi Cindy! Pretty much all of these are great but yeah, I have such a soft spot for Brooklyn and I knew that would be my #1 after I saw it, it’s tough to beat really from this year.

  2. Having been in attendance for the first six days of the festival (and having met Ruth) I can’t make a comment on films I hadn’t seen. But of those I saw ( I watched a dozen films in six days) – I am in full agreement with making Brooklyn and Room the top two. I would have made A New High, and Finding Noah, my three and four.

    I fully agree that Youth, a highly touted film shouldn’t have made anyone’s top 10. I am sorry I didn’t get to see Remember. Finally, I would place Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong as my fifth best selection.

    1. Hello Mike! That’s cool that you managed to see a dozen films in the 6 days you’re in MN, very cool! Remember is a good one, I hope that gets a decent theatrical release in your area but for sure check it out when it’s on VOD.

  3. Thanks for sharing your top 10 from the festival! My most antcipated of those is Anomalisa in your honorable mentions, the trailer looks interesting and I love Charlie Kaufman’s imagination. Apparently Youth is divisive, it was booed at Cannes yet I’ve also read positive reviews.

    1. Hi Chris! If you like Kaufman’s style, I have a feeling you’d love Anomalisa way more than I did. Youth is more style over substance, though there are some intriguing moments throughout that make it seem like it’s a deep film. The acting is top notch though.

  4. Brooklyn and Room are on my list. Now that I’m not working 7 days a week I’m trying to go the theater. I think this year I didn’t see a movie at the theater until I went to see The Martian and Steve Jobs. Both excellent. Now I’m looking forward to seeing Brooklyn, Room, Spotlight, Carol, The Hunger Games: Mockingbird Pt. 2, The Big Short and maybe… maybe Star Wars if the reviews are good.

    Anomalisa looks very interesting. No one really writes like Charlie Kaufman.

    1. Hi Dave! I hope you check out most of them here on the big screen if you can, but esp the last two considering it’s still rare to see a female-driven film these days. I’m not as entused about the final Hunger Games but I suppose I’ll see it since I don’t have to pay for it.

      Kaufman is an acquired taste and I can’t say I’m a huge fan. I do think Anomalisa is a very unique film, as you can see in my review I appreciate its artistry.

    1. Hi there Shane! Glad to hear you loved Brooklyn too. That’s one I don’t even mind seeing again. Room is excellent though it’s tough to watch at times.

  5. I want to see Room so bad!! Looks like I’ll have to wait for a DVD release. At least I got to see Brooklyn 😀 And Thank you For Playing sounds really intriguing. Touched with Fire sounds good too, though I’m probably just saying that because it involves bi-polar haha

    1. Hey Jordan! It’s ok to see Room on dvd, just so long as you see it. Glad you saw Brooklyn and loved it!! I was impressed by Touched with Fire because it covers a tricky subject matter, but it was well-written and well-acted all around.

  6. Heard that Greenberg and Chung already got married. If it’s true, then that’s a happy news! Brooklyn and Room sounds interesting. Have been loving Brie Larson from couple of movies before

    1. Hi Andina! Yes Bryan and Jamie did get married the weekend TCFF wrapped, what an interesting coincidence isn’t it? If you like Brie Larson then you must watch ROOM, but Brooklyn is absolutely lovely, too, can’t recommend that enough.

  7. I really want to see Brooklyn! I missed it at the New Orleans film festival a month back. Is this movie guy-friendly? I’m trying to convince my bf to see this one with me unless you say otherwise 🙂

    1. Hi Courtney! Brooklyn is just such a wonderful drama, it’s old-fashioned filmmaking that focuses on the story and character. Oh I think it would appeal to both women AND men, I saw it with my hubby and he loved it. I’ve talked to many male bloggers who love it also. But then again, if your bf is strictly into action films then it might not be his cup of tea. But his patience for this film will certainly be rewarded 🙂

    1. Thanks Ted! I do think Remember is great also, it’s a slow-burn film but if you like WWII stuff it should be intriguing to watch. But yeah, I think you’d enjoy Raiders!!

    1. Hi Mark! I wish Raiders would get a decent release, it’s such an entertaining doc, esp if you love Indiana Jones. Yes, both ROOM and BROOKLYN lived up to the hype Mark, I had heard a ton of great reviews before I saw them and definitely was not disappointed.

    1. I recommend all of these when they’re available in your area or VOD. Room is excellent and Brooklyn will likely end up in my top 10 of the year as well.

  8. Tom

    *itches neck uncontrollably*

    must get to a film festival
    must get to a film festival
    must get to a film festival
    must get to a film festival

    😉 I love this post. I’m getting actually quite excited to see Brooklyn. It’s probably the best-reviewed movie of 2015. Also extremely keen to see ‘Room,’ and that John Hawkes flick sounds wonderful but in all likelihood that’ll fizzle out into the ether before I even get a chance to make a move. I hope it comes to Netflix sometime down the road. Or, who knows, maybe it’ll pop up in a small theater here locally. (though I do find it strange that here in Northern New Jersey, 45 mins away from the Big Apple, we are still yet to see ‘Brooklyn,’ so I’m not so sure . . . )

    1. Hey Tom! Perhaps next year you could make a trip to MN and cover TCFF? We have a blogger from Florida came this past month and he said he really enjoyed it 😉

      That’s a bummer that these smaller indies have such a hard time getting decent theatrical releases. That’s nuts that Brooklyn isn’t showing in NJ, I mean come on!! I’d think the interest for that film is high in the East Coast. Plus it’s just such a good film! The John Hawkes movie is definitely one to watch, it’s astounding how they managed to pull off doing just 5 long takes!

  9. Your top 3 picks seem spot-on, Ruth, especially since I finally saw (and LOVED) Brooklyn. Really looking forward to Room and Raiders as well.

  10. Pingback: 2015 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year |

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