My Glib List of the Best Movies that I saw in 2014
As usual, the last few years, the sheer volume of DVDs that I watched has fallen off. This year may be my steepest decline since I started U of M film studies in 1984. The up side of this is that almost all the movies I saw this year were at least pretty good, worth a watch. I don’t recall turning anything off part way in, but maybe that happened.
I definitely fell asleep in a few viewings, including two films on many folks best of lists. There were a few very disappointing films, some so ridiculously bad, that they are in my own personal “so bad its good” category.
Also, as is my wont with these lists, the categories are my own vague loose categories, and I include links to my own earlier in the year reviews, where there are also trailers for each flick. My current opinion of the films may be warmer or colder, depending on whether I have re-watched them, or just thought, discussed and worked out a better or worse, or just different opinion. Most of them I haven’t rewatched, so have no idea if I would like them as much on further viewings, which for me is the real test of a piece of art, can you go back to it.
(*Links are to my original reviews)
(*Links are to my original reviews)
Big Hollywood Blockbuster Tentpoles, that were actually as good as the hype. (No, really.)
The second Captain America movie from the current Marvel slate is a big step up from the good first film, Captain America: the First Avenger. I have yet to re-watch it, but I really enjoyed how it tied into and radically improved the so-so Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tv show. Something that could work, could have failed, the small bit of plot crossover, or fallout from the Universe of the film, energized the TV Show. It deserves kudos for being innovative in melding the media that mostly rip each other off more than co-operate to tell bigger better stories.
Definitely worth a rental or two. Your worry that Robert Redford would be wasted in a ‘comic book’ movie is unfounded. He takes it seriously, and makes a great corporate villain. (oops spoiler) and the film introduces or reintroduces the character of the Winter Soldier in a far less convoluted and effective way than he was ‘returned from the dead’ in the comics.
To say that GOTG is this year’s Iron Man, or Avengers is an apt comparison, more so maybe Iron Man, as this film has a tongue or two firmly in squirmy alien cheeks. It is also grounded enough in the comics lore to give the ever critical fans lots of easter eggs, in the form of cool cameos (When is Thanos going to get out of that damned chair? the New Cosmic Laz-y Boy is just that comfortable) from Stan Lee Howard the Duck, among others. Lots of great dialogue and inexplicable chemistry between cgi characters. A fun quick witted, evenly paced script and direction give this movie a gravitas that the silly cosmic plot doesn’t really have on screen. Best “boss battle” of any Superhero movie yet.
The “Tom Cruise Groundhog Day” does indeed inherit the mantle of very good example of how to do a movie about someone caught in a seemingly endless time loop kind of movie. It takes itself just seriously enough to let you suspend your disbelief, and go with the how can we kill Tom Cruise this time plot. Aside from one cliche too many at the end of the picture, I felt like this is a textbook example of how to do a sci fi movie with big fx, a convoluted plot and the always important Tom Cruise driving a motorcycle scenes. Seriously enjoyable flick.
Best Movie that I wanted to hate going in, but loved instead.
When I saw the trailers for this, I kind of thought, maybe Wes Anderson is starting to eat himself with all the artifice in his films. I was both right and wrong. The set pieces are gnawed on by an insanely huge cast, with so many cameos that you might watch it twice, just to do a count.
The movie mostly charms it’s way around it’s ridiculously Technicolor sets and characters. Somehow this evokes Arsenic & Old lace, Dinner at Eight, Grand Hotel, and maybe, We’re No Angels (original obviously) in it’s joyful slightly updated with more irony, take on 30’s screwball comedy. Lubitsch on Angel Dust, but in a good way? Aside from the inexplicable and gratuitous animal cruelty of a throw away scene, the film is joyful, and gorgeous. The ensemble is too huge for anyone to outshine anyone else for long. watch and watch again.
Best Comeback by one of my Favourite Directors and one of my Favourite actors
Directed by David Gordon Green, “Joe” follows perennial recidivist small town angry man Nic Cage as he tries really hard to resist his urges to just beat the crap out of everyone. Cage is at his best in maybe a decade or more as this bottled rage of a human being. The cast, many of whom are non-actors give stellar performances all round, and the film is a tight coil of what the fuck is going to happen next.... Green is back on his ‘indie form’ of his first five or so movies. Stoner comedies are nice and all but I missed the edge in movies like this, or “All the Real girls”, and my favourite of his “George Washington.” A pleasant surprise.
Best Movies Most Cineastes had in their top picks last year, that I never saw until 2014
Won all the awards last winter. I missed it until it came out on disc, and then kicked myself for not seeing it on the big screen. A swirling confidant masterpiece with lovely nods, homage to not only Fellini, but also Bertolucci. I saw it last april, and still think of it often.
Another film I kind of wanted to hate before seeing it for some reason, maybe how much everyone was raving about it. It couldn’t be that good? It is/was that good. One of the best scripts from a Hollywood movie in ages. Perfectly cast and poignant, to a fault maybe, if that’s a fault. I want to watch it again, just talking about it.
James Gandolfini’s last big role if I recall correctly, and it’s a doozie. another very good script that plays with your expectations of plot, and character development. Julia Louis Dreyfus has dramatic chops that bear equal weight. a very grown up ‘rom-com’ so called.
A German film that I watched because friends and co-workers had it on their best of lists last year. Almost a one-hander, it is touching poignant and gorgeously shot every step of the way. so much is said with the camera, the actions rather than the dialogue. The silly sci-fi conceit of the picture becomes deeper and more complex as the story unfolds. One of my favourite movies of the decade so far!
The Two best Xavier Dolan movies from 2014 are also the two best Quebecois movies that I saw last year.
I haven’t yet seen that “1987” everyone is on about, but Xavier Dolan’s two projects
“Tom At the Farm” & “Mommy,” are also two of my favourite films maybe of the last few years. “Tom...” was from 2013 I believe, but didn’t hit video in Vancouver until recently, “Mommy” is the only film on this list, I think, not on disc yet. Both films are likely not everyone’s cup of tea. Tom at the Farm got a lot of “Hitchcockian” praise, but I think think you might look more to French Directors such as Chabrol, or Techine as well as a very large nod to Truffaut’s darker stuff like The Bride Wore Black. the most obvious recent refernce is the belgian “Calvaire.” Whether in PQ or La France, travellers should be wary of hanging out and getting to nosy in the countryside. bad things happen, and the dancing is tres creeepy.
Mommy is a different animal all together more of a slightly in the future Ken Loach filtered through 80’s-90’s PQ culture. A family drama that takes huge risks and pays off every time. I was pretty shaken up when the film ended, as was everyone in the theatre. So many tears, heart wrenching. Bring les tissues.
Best Creepy Jake Gyllenhaal Performance That I Saw.
I haven’t seen “Nightcrawler” and everyone is raving about old Jake in that one. If you saw that and liked it though, I ask you to watch “Enemy”, directed by another PQ director, Denis Villeneuve, who also gave us Polytechnique, Prisoners, and Incendies. So light happy go lucky stuff? not so much. Though there is some nice humour in this, and a lot of things that creep you out and confuse you at first. the atmosphere of paranoia and confusion in this film simmers to a boil with an ending that you may love or hate, but it will freak you the fuck out either way.
Best Independent Sci Fi Low Budget Ensemble Film Of The Year
Recommended by one of my former co-workers, I likely would have passed this by, not having heard any buzz about it. Coherence is a master class on getting together your actor friends and workshopping the heck out of your twisty, sci-fi script at your house, and filming it. The biggest names in this piece are Xander from Buffy, and Amanda from Highlander (Raven). But damn if they and the others "whose names are not as familiar as their faces" ensemble pull out all the stops. The sci fi aspect sounds more confusing explained in the review. Just watch it. masterful exposition as action. maybe my favourite non Xavier Dolan picture this year.
Movies that only a few people cared about that have the word Zero in their titles, that I loved
People seem to really hate the newer Terry Gilliam movies. I am kind of baffled by this. Even Brothers Grimm had some fun parts. I am usually pleasantly surprised when I catch up on his post 12 Monkeys output. This film is like Brazil done on a budget of 28 Euros or so.(yet has arguably better SFX) Christoph waltz is crazy good in this film, chewing dialogue and scenery like a champ. There are lots of terrible conceits in this movie, and a lot of the CGI is creepy, and I think a lot of folks wish that Brazil could have had more of this look than it did. I love Brazil, and this movie is no Brazil, but what is? I personally think it is worth taking a chance on. If you hated Tideland, you may hate this. I loved Tideland. Team Gilliam.
Zero Charisma is the other little Indie movie that completely took me by surprise with it’s gentle handling of a certain kind of nerd, The DM or Dungeon master, who runs the table top RPG games in his mom’s house, with fellow nerds. In this movie, a hipster joins the gaming group, and all hell breaks loose. a great case study of arrested adolescence and the tools some of us use and overuse to deal with it.
Possibly the most down to earth, and definitely the smartest movie about these kinds of gamers, of which I count myself. The characters start out as nerdy cliches but turn out to have all the usual drama everyone else does, without maybe all the tools at their disposal to deal. Such a smart little ensemble piece that is more ambitious than it seems at first glance.
Best Horror Comedy Sequel of the Year
For some reason I never saw the first “Dead Snow” movie (probably because I hardly watch any horror, comedy or otherwise) until just before watching the sequel, at a friend’s house just last week. The first one is pretty hilarious, but Dead Snow 2 has a bit more of a budget and a bigger greenlight, thus they go full Evil Dead 2 in it. Not retelling the story like Evil Dead 2 but amping up the Horror cliches, and tongue in cheek gruesomeness. Funniest movie I saw all year, maybe.
Finding Vivian Maier is a film that had its beginnings as an internet meme, almost. A photographer who had/has an auction/hoarding problem of his own, finds thousands of undeveloped photos taken by said Ms. Maier, and made a website, investigaing, trying to find out who she was. The photos are really good, fred Herzog good. Stunning candid street photography for the most part. The film has a great pace as it reveal who she was and as much as the folks involved can guess, who she was. The reveals of her good and bad sides is done better than in most fictional narratives. Very much worth checking out.
Jodorowsky’s Dune is another great revelatory picture. His version of Dune may never really have had a chance of being made, but there is so much amazing material created and saved from the pre production, that that in itself becomes a narrative. Jodo did more pre-production than most pictures get from start to finish. So detailed, and best of all those involved are great storytellers of each others stories, how they were involved and what they did. A better film, than Dune ever would have been, this doc about almost making it.