"She's Lost Control": A vastly underrated film by Anja Marquardt, featuring knockout performances by Brooke Bloom and Marc Menchaca. This tale of a sex surrogate is a slick, engrossing tale of postmodern intimacy and urban alienation that harkens to classics of the '70s. Smart, sexy and scary.
"Mustang": This bold and assured first feature from Deniz Gamze Ergüven captures the wild and defiant spirits of five Turkish sisters. Ergüven's camera becomes one of the sisters to capture the story of free spirits that refuse to be tamed.
"Félix and Meira": Canada's foreign language Oscar submission turns its lens on the community of orthodox Jews in Montreal and one wife, Meira, who strains against the repressive cultural norms. Director Maxime Giroux brings an ethnographic attention to detail to the world as well as a deep empathy for each character's journey.
"Breathe": French star Mélanie Laurent stuns in her second directorial feature film, about the intoxicating highs and treacherous pitfalls of friendship with the coolest girl in school. Laurent combines a languid sensuality with a rigorous formalism and pitch-perfect sound design to create a tense mean-girl thriller that will leave you breathless.
"Dreamcatcher": Veteran documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto turns an unobtrustive, observational eye on the unique personal activism of sex worker advocate Brenda Myers-Powell. A stark and stunning documentary that should have received more awards attention.
More, please: I'm a fan of bold, feminine filmmaking that's smart and nuanced with deeply complicated characters situated in a richly rendered world. I'd like to see more of that, which means producers and studios supporting diverse visionary creators with complex voices.
No más: While there were a few high-profile Hollywood films with strong leading roles for women ("The Force Awakens," "Mad Max: Fury Road"), far too many mainstream releases had only one or maybe two speaking roles for female characters. And the characters who do speak are all too often relegated to being supportive love interests, supportive friends or supportive moms standing by their men. This is not only offensive to half the world's population and movie-going audience, but also boring, lazy writing.