Sunday, December 28, 2014

What I Saw in 2014

With one or two exceptions I saw just about every speculative fiction film I wanted to see this year. I didn’t get a lot of the ‘would-be-nice-to-see’ items on my list, but that’s what January’s for. I thought this was a fantastic year for movies, one of my favorite in several years. It was honestly somewhat difficult to choose just five movies that made this year special, but here is my rough attempt.

#5) Snowpiercer: Directed/defended from malicious editing by Boon Joon-ho. Ah yes. I was told repeatedly to watch this film and being mildly allergic to hype stayed away for a few months through sheer perversity. Once I actually saw it, I was, needless to say, very impressed. This is the kind of dystopia I can really get behind - self-aware and loopy, just flashy enough to shoulder aside all of the refrigerator moment plot holes and to lay on the social criticism. If you can watch this film and not feel slightly uncomfortable then you weren’t paying attention.

#4) Blue Ruin: A film of subdued mayhem. Unlike fiasco noir films of recent years, the bleak humor of this film is not underlined or obvious. Basically my pitch to get people to see this film went like this - imagine a revenge film centering around a person with no business running around seeking vengeance. Now imagine that film played as a tragedy. I’m not sure I really saw another movie get closer to what makes this country so fascinated and repelled by violence.

#3) Interstellar: The great Science Fiction epic of this year. Yes, I know, Guardians was a lot more fun and Snowpiercer probably a bit more interesting, but Interstellar kept swinging for the fences. Nolan set out to resurrect as a big movie enterprise the idea of a hopeful, non-franchise science fiction film and nearly succeeded. In terms of sheer cinematic beauty this film will only grow in stature in years to come and if the story doesn’t always hang together or weather repeated watchings, it is nevertheless one of Nolan’s more emotionally honest works. If you can watch the scene of Cooper watching the years of messages from his now adult children and not feel emotionally wracked then I’m not sure movies are your thing.

#2) The Grand Budapest hotel: Another year, another Wes Anderson film. This movie continues Andersons flirtation with being something more than a quirky, beloved art house director. Although all sorts of precious story-within-a-story game-playing went on here, even that can’t distract from one of his most heartfelt and sincere stories. This isn’t really a story about a hotel as much as what the hotel represents. At its core, The Grand Budapest Hotel is about how civilization is built up by love - love for others, love for inanimate objects, love for one old hotel well past its sell-by, still capable of old-world charm.

#1) Boyhood: What more can I saw about this film than already has been said. It was simply the best movie of the year and certainly one of a handful of films destined to find life beyond this decade. More than simply a gimmick, this movie communicates something vital about life itself, how all those moments that we forget, that we minimize, are in fact the material of life itself. The tiny, unnoticed struggles that annoy or horrify, in the end change a boy into a man worth knowing.

Honorable mentions: guardians, captain america, the Lego movie, gone girl, box troll, the edge of tomorrow.

This was also for me the year of True Detective. I might say more about this in my last year-end post, but for the moment I’ll say I haven’t really watched a show the so effortlessly summed up everything I want out of a television show. A true milestone.
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