While some may view the early months of the year as a cinematic wasteland, we’ll greatly refute that this month. For the first time in years, we’ve extended our limit of the usual ten films to fifteen in order to recognize some features that are well worth your time — this also goes without including a must-watch restoration: the seminal documentary Grey Gardens, which will hit limited theaters on March 6th. Check out our top fifteen below and let us know what your most looking forward to see.

Matinees to See: Merchants of Doubt (3/6), These Final Hours (3/6), Cinderella (3/13), Cymbeline (3/13), The Wrecking Crew (3/13), The Gunman (3/20), and The Riot Club (3/27)

15. La Sapienza (Eugène Green; March 20th)


Synopsis: A brilliant architect seeks spiritual and artistic renewal during a life-changing voyage in Italy to study the work of the great 17th-century architect Francesco Borromini.


Why You Should See It: After stopping by the major film festivals at Locarno, Toronto, New York, London, Torino, and more, La Sapienza will finally see a U.S. release later this month from Kino Lorber. Starring Dardennes regular Fabrizio Rongione (last seen in Two Days, One Night), Christelle Prot Landmann, Ludovico Succio, and Arianna Nastro, it marks Eugène Green’s first film in five years. We said in our review, “Following a handful of establishing shots, conversations take place in an immaculate shot-reverse-shot fashion, each line originating from the on-screen figure without exception, who looks directly into the camera. As tension mounts or the conversation grows more intimate, the close-ups will cut a little bit quicker, as if ceding the reverberations of the last few syllables that follow the end of a sentence, and the camera gets a little closer, leaving less and less headroom. As a viewer, the effect is hypnotizing, all but forcing one to search for motives and other character intricacies: it appears that these people are looking you directly in the eyes, and breaking eye contact is difficult, although a flustered or uncertain character will occasionally grant you mercy by turning away for just a moment. It’s a brilliant way to bring these characters to life.”

14. Seymour: An Introduction (Ethan Hawke; March 13th)


Synopsis: Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.


Why You Should See It:  One of the hardest-working talents in Hollywood, Ethan Hawke‘s first feature in nearly a decade takes on a documentary form, tracking the life and career of pianist Seymour Bernstein. We said in our review, “More crucial to An Introduction than Bernstein’s personality, endearing as it is, is the music he plays. One need not listen to Bernstein and others waxing metaphysical about the spiritual powers of music to appreciate Brahms, Chopin, Beethoven, and Schubert as we hear them, all beautifully timed and synced courtesy of editor Anna Gustavi and mixers Timothy Cleary & Guillermo Pena-Tapia. It’s easy (and not entirely unfair) to contrast the anti-commercialist message of Bernstein and Hawke with the crowd-pleasing style and straightforward structure of the film, but those looking for an aesthetic and intellectual challenge have come to the wrong film. Those who simply wish to be uplifted and moved, much like the admiring faces of the attendees at the film’s end (count Mark Ruffalo among them), however, will be delighted.”

13. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach; March 27th)


Synopsis: A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.


Why You Should See ItNoah Baumbach is shaping up for quite a year. Following up his acclaimed Frances Ha, the director’s While We’re Young will arrive next month followed by one our favorite films of Sundance Film FestivalMistress AmericaWe were also big fans of the former, saying in our review that it’s “wise, funny, fiercely intelligent and always involving. It’s not just the director’s most complete film — it’s also his best, an even stronger, more ambitious creation than his last Toronto International Film Festival entry, Frances Ha. Here, aided by his most impressive cast to date — Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, and Adam “Ad Rock” Horowitz (!) — Baumbach has pulled off something truly impressive. He has made a heartfelt comedy that is as humorous as it is emotionally relatable.”

12. Buzzard (Joel Potrykus; March 6th)


Synopsis: Paranoia forces small-time scam artist Marty to flee his hometown and hide out in a dangerous Detroit. With nothing but a pocket full of bogus checks, his Power Glove, and a bad temper, the horror metal slacker lashes out.


Why You Should See It: Finding acclaim during its festival run the past year, we said in our review, “one of the most exciting pictures in contemporary American cinema. Starting with an oft-kiltered shot of its main character’s hand breaking a Nintendo Power Glove, Buzzard is a truly uncomfortable sit featuring an asshole who pushes everyone’s boundaries. But unlike the similarly designed The Comedy, Potrykus’s film explores essential class issues at the heart of this film. While set in a social milieu of Grand Rapids in an unspecified time around the late ’80s or early ’90s, Buzzard is a film obsessed with the post-recession, post-NSA era.”

11. Man From Reno (Dave Boyle; March 27th)


Synopsis: A Japanese author and small town sheriff team up to solve a murder mystery in San Francisco.


Why You Should See It: A difficult genre to effectively nail in today’s age, the neo-noir proves to be alive and well with Dave Boyle‘s Man From Reno. Full of perfectly cast characters (including Steven Seagal‘s daughter Ayako Fujitani in the lead role), the low-budget drama feels greatly authentic in its tone and execution. While comparisons to films from the Coens and even Chinatown are warranted, Boyle’s take is fresh enough to create an original, gripping mystery.

10. Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner; March 18th)


Synopsis: Young poet Heinrich wishes to conquer the inevitability of death through love, yet is unable to convince his skeptical cousin Marie to join him in a suicide pact.


Why You Should See It: Our favorite film from last year’s Cannes Film Festival will be arriving this month. We said in our review, “The Austrian director’s sixth film is ecstatically original: a work of film-history-philosophy with a digital-cinema palette of acutely crafted compositions. Amour Fou seamlessly blends together the paintings of Vermeer, the acting of Bresson, and the psychological undercurrents of a Dostoevsky novel. It is an intensely thrilling work that manages to combine a passionately dispassionate love story of the highest order with a larger socio-historical examination of a new era of freedom, and the tragedy beset by those trapped in its enclosed world.”

9. Run All Night (Jaume Collet-Serra; March 13th)


Synopsis: An aging hitman is forced to take on his brutal former boss to protect his estranged son and his family.


Why You Should See It: On the action-thriller front, there have been few more accomplished collaborations than those between Liam Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra. Using the action star’s skills to the best of his abilities, Collet-Serra’s films often get disregarded as yet another Taken rip-off, but with expert direction in the B-movie field that outpaces any of Neeson’s recent crop of films, this is easily our most-anticipated (or even perhaps the only worthwhile) wide release of the month.

8. Faults (Riley Stearns; March 6th)


Synopsis: Claire is under the grip of a mysterious new cult called Faults. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire’s parents recruit one of the world’s foremost experts on mind control.


Why You Should See It: Led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of last year’s biggest hits at SXSW was Faults and for good reason. We said in our review, “Don’t expect much bombast or thrilling sequences, as Stearns crafts a slow-forming film, establishing atmosphere and tension. Despite happening in nearly one location, the production feels like it never constrains itself unnecessarily. In many ways, the hotel room becomes a character itself and is smartly explored throughout. There’s a fine line the film has to walk between showing its hand too early, but also keeping you in the loop. Despite a few tonal missteps, Faults manages to find success in giving us a thoroughly chilling examination on the dangers of cults.”

7. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso; March 20th)


Synopsis: A father and daughter travel from Denmark to a desert.


Why You Should See It:  One of the 40 best films we’ve already seen this yearLisandro Alonso‘s Jauja provides yet another enticing leading role for Viggo Mortensen. We said in our Cannes review, that it’s a “strange, beguiling, and excitedly didactic new film,” one that is “pure Alonso, even as it shows him transforming into something else.” I can back up the claim having seen it this week, proving to be one of the most beautiful and perplexing films I’ve seen in some time.

6. Spring (Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead; March 20th)


Synopsis: A young man in a personal tailspin flees the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret.


Why You Should See It: If you’re looking for a genre mix like none other this month, this is our highest recommendation. We said in our review, “A horror romance from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, its Italy-set journey of an American lost and alone proves equally suspenseful, grotesque, funny, and beautiful. The best part, however, is it’s smart and sensitive way of allowing the dark fantasy to enhance its love story rather than overshadow. Because at the end of the day, what’s onscreen isn’t necessarily out to scare us—although it will. Instead it shows love’s power to literally reinvent ourselves into that which we didn’t even realize we wanted to be.”

5. Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara; March 27th)


Synopsis: Mr. Devereaux is a powerful man. A man who handles billions of dollars every day. A man who controls the economic fate of nations. A man driven by a frenzied and unbridled sexual hunger. A man who dreamed of saving the world and who cannot save himself. A terrified man. A lost man.


Why You Should See ItAbel Ferrara‘s Welcome to New York, one of our top 50 films of the half-decade thus far, will finally be arriving to the United States this month, but unfortunately not in the best of shape. The loose retelling of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair clocked in at 125 minutes when we reviewed it at Cannes Film Festival, but now 17 minutes of it has been excised and retooled to get to a version that’s 108 minutes. While the director is “totally disgusted” with IFC Films when it comes to the change, perhaps they’ll smarten up within the next few weeks and if they do, this would be closer to the top of the list.

4. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (David Zellner; March 18th)


Synopsis: A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.


Why You Should See It: One of the better directed films I’ve seen in some time, David Zellner‘s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a tightly controlled, beautifully-shot oddity of a drama. The Brothers Bloom and Pacific Rim star Rinko Kikuchi gives a deeply felt performance in this ultimately tragic story. Premiering at Sundance Film Festival well over a year ago, it’ll finally hit theaters this month. #TeamBunzo, indeed.

3. The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado; March 27th)


Synopsis: A globe-spanning look at the career of photographer Sebastião Salgado.


Why You Should See It: Currently in his fifth decade of making films, Wim Wenders remains incredible prolific. His latest feature follows Sebastião Salgado, the famous Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist who travels the globe to capture stark, stunning portraits of life. Co-directed by the subject’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, we said in our review, “The Salt of the Earth is a thoughtful, reverential examination of one artist by another, both equally deserving of such admiration. While some may find its pacing too slow, or its imagery too bleak, this film is a must for fans of either Salgado or Wenders.”

2. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell; March 13th)


Synopsis: After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, a teenager finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, something, is following her.


Why You Should See It: After premiering to much acclaim at Cannes, It Follows stopped by Toronto and Sundance, and now it’ll finally hit U.S. theaters this month. Coming from writer-director David Robert Mitchell, who came on our radar after The Myth of the American Sleepover, it’s sure to be one of the top break-out films this year. We said in our review, “A teenage girl, captured through a static wide shot, runs through a quaint Detroit suburb, her body dwarfed by its trees and middle-class homes. The sense that something is not as it seems becomes realized quite quickly. This prologue, while one of the most formally well-executed sequences in the film, sets up a certain expectation, and luckily It Follows isn’t so much interested in that now-tired the-evil-that-lurks-under-the-surface-of-small-towns brand, but rather its invasion onto the iconography of it.”

1. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt; March 31st)


Synopsis: A little girl is taken on a mind-bending tour of her distant future.


Why You Should See It: Out of the many films we saw at Sundance Film Festival this year, perhaps the best was the latest short work from Don Hertzfeldt. Running under 17 minutes, Don Hertzfeldt‘s animation World of Tomorrow is an exceedingly brilliant odyssey into the outer reaches of a future universe that channels our inner anxieties of loneliness. Bursting with creativity and hilarity, it’s a profoundly affecting piece of work that demands to be seen when it arrives on demand later this month. Yes, placing a short film at the top of this list might be a cheat, but this Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is a must-see.

What are you seeing this month?

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