Best and Worst of 2014
Boyhood – Richard Linklater’s masterful 10-year production tells the story of one boy’s coming of age. It is most likely the best of his films that will walk a thin line between real life and reel life. The director understands that it is the moments between the more traditionally dramatic events that really shape a life.
Birdman – Melodramatic, operatic, and over the top in style and substance, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s fantasy is a fever dream of broken and struggling egos where no one is spared.
Calvary – Anchored by Brendan Gleason’s solid performance this beautiful but extremely dark comedy directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of Martin) illustrates Beckett’s tragicomic lines to perfection: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” It’s sad, hysterical, thoughtful and mesmerizing.
Force Majeure – I loved every shot of this quiet comedy that means to épater la bourgeoisie and does so methodical impetuousness after a landslide turns a family’s carefree vacation in a wrenching, soul-searching weekend.
Ida – A throwback to great art films where everything is clean and deliberate, the dialogue is minimal and you are swept up by the film’s power and its exploration of unanswerable questions on faith and existence.
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy’s wonderful script has a Cheshire Cat performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom “a member of that self-destructive breed: hard to forgive, difficult to understand, but definitely one of us.”
Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh’s story of J.M.W. Turner’s later years is masterful blend of lush dialogue, jaw-dropping cinematography, and a great Timothy Spall performance that both attracts and repels. And it proffers some well-researched history to boot.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film is slow and patient; his “dry wit and elegant formal presentation” imagines contemporary vampires as hipsters and it’s a perfect fit. It seems autobiographical to whatever extent that might be possible given the plot.
Two Days, One Night – The Dardenne Brothers’ customary minimalism is made brilliant use of by the gifted Marion Cotillard, who plays Sandra, a mother suffering from depression. The character needs to convince 14 of her 16 colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her position at the factory. Inspired by that simple premise the film examines the underbelly of modern capitalism, communal responsibility, and personal responsibility.
Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer’s audacious experiment in fantasy puts an emotionless Scarlett Johansson into a blend of real and enacted drama that “draws us deeper into a heightened way of seeing.” The drama accumulates slowly and the film’s imagery is unforgettable.
The Documentary List:
1. Keep On Keepin’ On
2. Citizen One
3. Jodorowsky’s Dune
4. Life Itself
5. Alive Inside
6. Art and Craft
7. The Overnighters
8. The Case Against 8
9. Tim’s Vermeer