"Boy Meets Girl": A forthright young transgender woman's friendship with both her childhood male pal and a newer acquaintance, a pretty local debutante, gets a thorough, quite beautiful workout in writer-director Eric Schaeffer's wryly funny, profoundly sensitive dramedy.
"Like Sunday, Like Rain": Writer-director Frank Whaley's touching, evocative look at the unlikely bond between a 12-year-old Manhattan cello prodigy and his new nanny, a young woman with her own musical inclinations, is capped by terrific performances by leads Julian Shatkin and Leighton Meester.
"5 Flights Up": Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman are outstanding as a couple moving out of the Brooklyn apartment they've shared through 40 years of marriage in this charming, captivating film. Cynthia Nixon is also spot-on as a gung-ho real estate agent. Richard Loncraine directed from a script by Charlie Peters, based on a novel by Jill Ciment.
"Glass Chin": A gifted cast including Corey Stoll, Marin Ireland, Yul Vazquez and especially Billy Crudup anchors this superb, neo-noirish crime drama set against the world of boxing. Writer-director Noah Buschel's sharp, punchy script was one of the year's best.
"Guidance": For sheer laugh-out-loud silliness and one of the year's great hand-in-glove lead comic performances, look no further than this wacky, subversive comedy. Canadian funnyman Pat Mills wrote, directed and stars as an alcoholic, sexually confused man-child who wangles his way into a job as a high school guidance counselor.
More, please: Intelligent, character-driven movies about vital older people that provide strong lead roles for some of our most treasured actors. Last year saw such fine films as "I'll See You in My Dreams" (with Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott), the aforementioned "5 Flights Up," "Grandma" (starring Lily Tomlin), "The Intern" (Robert De Niro), the underrated "Ricki and the Flash" (Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline) and "45 Years" (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay).
No más: Generic, forgettable one-word titles on generic, forgettable, B-grade action movies. Examples of these duds, often released concurrently in theaters and on VOD: "Outcast," "Survivor," "Momentum," "Extraction," "Heist," "Vice" and "Absolution." The word for these flicks' slumming stars, including Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, John Cusack and even De Niro, is clearly "paycheck."