Writer-director Ramin Bahrani's "99 Homes" takes as its topic the 2008 home foreclosures. It begins boldly in the aftermath of a tragedy set in a middle-class Orlando home, an introduction that reveals the catastrophic stakes. Bahrani then particularizes the innumerable tragedies by focusing on Richard Carver who evicts one family after another, many played by non-actors who endured that fate.
An acknowledged innovator throughout his career, Paul Taylor has choreographed dance performances since the mid-1950s. Now 85, he shows no inclination and expresses no desire to slow down as shown in the entertaining and informative documentary "Paul Taylor: Creative Domain." Director, producer and editor Kate Geis quietly observes Taylor working, letting his pace guide this appreciative study of his process.
The French excel at films focused on relationships: the intricacies of emotional and physical connections. Director François Ozon's "The New Girlfriend" resides wholly in that arena with its focused consideration of best friends Claire and David who becomes Virginia. Gradually and sensitively, the film examines sexual desire and gender identity with an unhurried, thought-provoking inquiry.
In 2007, as was his habit, Shannon Whisnant bid on and bought at auction, sight unseen, an abandoned storage locker. What he discovers therein propels a bizarre odyssey of his and, soon, his family's lives. For in a smoker grill, Shannon finds an amputated leg. Few, however, would jump to his next decision.
Drawing on a wealth of extraordinary archival footage merged with contemporary interviews, the documentary "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" looks back and acknowledges the complexity of that group's founding and evolution. Director Stanley Nelson chronologically organizes this informative, rich historical film beginning in 1966 and proceeding through the Panthers' external as well as internal conflicts.
"Black Mass" dramatizes a story too incredible and too appalling to invent. Told from the viewpoint of FBI agent John Connolly, it traces the rise to dominance of the brutal, South Boston criminal kingpin Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger from the late '70s to the early 80s. Secondary attention goes to Massachusetts State Senator Billy Bulger, Whitey's politically powerful brother.
Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer again focuses on Indonesia with "The Look of Silence." In his 2012 documentary "The Act of Killing" Oppenheimer interrogates murderers of thousands. Without remorse they reenact the grotesque brutality they perpetrated in 1965 when Suharto overthrew President Sukarno. "The Look of Silence" pursues one of those murders, representative of the scores of innocent civilians butchered.
In voiceover narration in the opening scene of "A Brilliant Young Mind," Nathan offers insight into his autism. He says, "Because I don't talk much, people think I don't have anything to say or that I'm stupid . . . that's not true. I have lots of things to say. I'm just afraid to say them."
The first thing established as "Meru" begins in grey mist on this 21,000-foot mountain in Northern India is that no one has yet summitted it. Despite decades of attempts, the expertise required has defeated elite climbers. Jon Krakauer explains that it takes a unique combination of great technical rock and ice climbing, plus high altitude tolerance.
The artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken has crafted a fascinating and most unusual film in "Station to Station." Comprised of 62 one-minute films, it interrogates creativity through musicians and a diverse range of "artistic happenings," as Aitken labels them. Opening titles announce that a train traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific, 4,000 miles, over 24 days, staging ten happenings.