ARRIETTY (Madman)*. As with every Studio Ghibli offering, this new version of The Borrowers is an exquisite synthesis of the real and imaginary. Only animation of this pedigree is capable of rendering the fantastical – specifically, the microscopic world of tiny people – in shades of pathos and peril.
COMMUNITY: SEASONS ONE & TWO (Sony). Against the canned laughter of a dozen slavish sitcoms, Community is the most adventurous and auteurist of TV comedies. Its butter zone – meta-humour through the lives of low-functioning, community college-attending adults – is a thing of side-splitting genius.
ENLIGHTENED: SEASON ONE (HBO/Warner). Never mind the year’s most talked about TV show, Homeland; HBO’s underexposed comedy of self-destructive behaviour really deserves your attention. Co-creator Laura Dern, as a pathetic, rage-filled New Age sap, pulls off the impossible by making us root for her by the end of every episode.
LE QUATTRO VOLTE (Madman). Michelangelo Frommartino’s wordless quasi-documentary about a shepherd, a goat and a tree in rural Italy has to be seen to be believed. It’s a miraculous feat of minimalism open to the possibility of life becoming art – and a sheepdog receiving an Oscar nod.
MARGARET: EXTENDED CUT (Universal). The flawed ambition of Kenneth Lonergan’s swirling Manhattan melodrama provides one of the headiest film experiences in recent memory. Lurching from one emotion to the next, it thrives on the performance of our own Anna Paquin, here giving a full-blown portrait of teenage hysteria that’s utterly singular.
MYSTERIES OF LISBON (Rialto/Vendetta). This labyrinthine costume drama blows Downton Abbey out of the drawing room. A splendid tapestry of high pageantry and beautiful faces with an enthralling narrative woven through side streets and back alleys, it is a fitting monument to Raúl Ruiz’s reputation as the most Proustian of all film-makers.
NEW YORK: A DOCUMENTARY FILM (Madman). As with Ken Burns’s Baseball, brother Ric caresses the United States’ rich social history through one of its major icons. Introducing New York as “the supreme laboratory of the American experiment”, his magnificent PBS series goes on to affirm the ideal of public broadcasting – and remind us what we’re missing out on closer to home.
PINA (Hopscotch)*. Wim Wenders’s passionate homage to fellow German trailblazer Pina Bausch is proof that 3D can have artistic merit. An irresistible celebration of radical dance invention sprung from arresting locations, bracing performances and cinema’s power to transform space and movement.
THE SUNSET LIMITED (HBO/Warner). The latest Cormac McCarthy adaptation is – surprise, surprise – despairing and apocalyptic, but also electrifyingly performed. Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones wage a war of words at opposite ends of a moral, theological and philosophical discourse for the ages. Includes a rare audio commentary by the reticent author.
THE TRIP: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Madman). Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have a lot to answer for: namely, the return of bad dinner party celebrity impressions. Their gastro-tour across Northern England is no Come Dine with Me, however, but rather a frequently hilarious self-portrait of showbiz insecurity and rivalry.