I’m going to be getting around to my official end of year post, but before that let’s discuss all the movies I watched this year that wowed me and didn’t happen to be in a cinema (because I don’t have a theatre that plays such things in Jamaica).
Let’s get this thing going…
20. Wolf Children (2012) (dir. Mamoru Hosoda)
I’ve never been averse to anime. I used to love it, but now I’m a lot more selective of what I see. However, this film goes leaps and bounds over what I expected in today’s world of animation. We follow a normal woman who ends up falling in love with a werewolf of sorts and ends up having his children. After the father’s death she must raise them on her own and it is gorgeous to watch. With everyone discussing the amazingness of watching a child grow into a man with Boyhood I’m saddened nobody has brought up this gem of a film. Check out some further analysis on the film by Tony Zhou.
19. Shut Up And Play The Hits (2012) (dir. Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern)
I love LCD Soundsystem. I discovered this band a few years ago only to discover it had already dissolved. I find it interesting how more and more as it relates to the medium of TV in the world where binge watching has become a very acceptable mode of consumption people are starting to be more and more happy with a finite beginning and end point in a show; but I know I’m not like that for music. Maybe it’s because music, like movies, are all about the artist who makes it and I always want to wish for artists I like to keep producing more and more things for me to enjoy. This music concert/documentary of the final concert by James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem was bitter sweet for me. As someone who doesn’t get to go to these kind of events it was grand and beautiful to watch it unfold in front of me and at the same time sad to be reminded that I’ll never (or at least so we’re led to believe) hear a new song made by LCD Soundsystem.
Every once in a while I go to YouTube and watch the finale of the film. that being “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” a song I liked but didn’t love until I saw this film.
18. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) (dir. Cristian Mungiu)
I knew I was in for a rough patch with this film. It’s a movie that I had been ‘scared’ to watch for a while. Being about abortion in Romania in the 80’s it seemed like everything I didn’t want to sit through. I was so right but it’s so good. Watching the world that makes it impossible for women to make that choice and making that choice even more dangerous disturbed me, but more to the point seeing such a heavily policed world as 80’s Romania just threw me for a loop.
If The Immigrant had the most gorgeous ending shot of 2014 for me; This film had the most frightening ending shot that I saw in 2014, and it’s all because of what came before.
17. The Player (1992) (dir. Robert Altman)
Note to self, I need to watch more films by Altman. In a year that I saw this and M.A.S.H. for the first time I felt that he needed to be represented on a remembrance of what I saw in 2014. Something about Robbins’ performance and the cyclical effect of the story which is telegraphed by the long take that literally takes us around the studio lot in a circle all comes together to make for an interesting strange experience that I’d never take away.
16. Three Colours: White (1994) (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski)
If I were a cheater I would put the trio of films in this spot. However, let’s be real; White is the best of the trilogy. Nothing is better than watching this oddly romantic revenge film of an emasculated man who is take through the ringer by his wife in France to return to Poland, his home town, and become some sort of mob man kind of. All for her. This film is amazing.
15. The 39 Steps (1935) (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
This is actually a film I kicked off 2014 with if I remember correctly. I had received this as a gift and couldn’t wait to dive into this 30’s Hitchcock thriller. Hitchcock loves stories with start with a case of mistaken identity. He sits there in his director’s chair laughing at this patsy that’s thrown into the middle of a world of espionage that he fights against due to the danger and runs into head first for the lady all at the same time. It helps that Robert Donat is brilliant as that charismatic lead that you can’t stop loving as he’s thrown from the British countryside to the city running from the police and the other agents trying to kill him.
14. Hard Eight (1996) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Do you know how to get a warm bed and hot meal with nothing but a chip in a casino in Reno? Well Sydney does. We watch on as we see the late nights of gambling that almost no longer is gambling the way Sydney does it as he takes John, a young out of luck man, under his wing in his ways of calculated risks in a world of supposed high risks.
It also helps a lot that PTA on his fit hit out happens to have so many great ancillary characters. Who’s ever going to forget this tiny cameo by Phillip Seymour Hoffman?
13. To Be or Not To Be (1983) (dir. Alan Johnson)
I feel like I saw the wrong version of this. This year gone by I saw a lot of the writers I read all talk about the original Lubitsch version of this film and I almost feel guilty for wanting to sing the praises of this Mel Brooks starring version. However, it’s still amazing. In a year that found me revisiting so many films by Brooks this being the one he didn’t direct and starring opposite Anne Bancroft shocking me into loving it so much surprised me.
I love Mel Brooks.
12. Paris, Texas (1984) (dir. Wim Wenders)
I just came from Paris…. Texas. It’s funny.
We all love Harry Dean Stanton. He seems a mixture of that Grandfather we’ve all seen that wants nothing more than to be enlightening to you and stay completely still while doing it and that weird Uncle that may drink a bit but never stops being funny in ways you didn’t conceive. Here he plays a displaced father who after years out in the world with no contact returns to his son and must reconnect with him. It’s touching and never stops being engaging.
11. Pushing Hands (1992) (dir. Ang Lee)
If I had to pick a slow burn of a movie that I still think back to that I saw this year it would be this one. It has all the elements of Lee’s films from the 90s and it does them so well. He watches on as Chinese culture comes to terms with the world of America; something that I’m certain he encountered himself so many times. You want to be true to yourself and your culture, while at the same time being open for the sake of the being close to his new family and being open to his daughter-in-law and passing his culture on to his grandson.
10. Whisper of the Heart (1995) (dir. Yoshifumi Kondo)
Every year we sit in our theatre and watch a good amount films that center on high school romance. Here is a romance that just worked. Centered on the connection through books after this young lady discovers that all the books she checks out from the library has been previously been checked out by this unknown boy. They connect through stories and a wonderful Japanese rendition of the John Denver classic, ‘Country Roads’.
9. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
“This song… is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere at any time,” I’m still amazed by it in the same way that I’m amazed at Almost Famous for giving me a great coming of age tale. From the wonderous overlayed scenes of Man and Wife walking through the fields as the walk through the streets of the city careless of their surroundings while looking lovingly at one another, to seeing the double-exposed film with the mistress holding the man to their plot the night before the big day; the film is a beauty to look at. People love to use superlatives in discussing the cinematography of films as time goes by, I almost want to refuse to allow them as it relates to this film. Just as we forget to use those superlatives as we talk about Kubrick‘s filmmaking I want to forget them with this movie.
8. A Brief History of Time (1991) (dir. Errol Morris)
As I keep going down this rabbit hole of storytelling I find myself more and more falling in love with documentaries. Let me not be silly. I know that documentaries are laden with stories that can be even more engaging that traditional narrative based films, but even when I look back year to year documentaries are the films I revisit the least. With the exception of Man on Wire and Close-Up I can’t remember the last documentary I watched repeatedly.
More to the point this film reminds me why I love not just interesting characters but intelligent characters who know how to put forward a point. Whether you’re explaining your theory on black holes of just talking about the development of this man’s life I will be entranced if you make me know I’m discovering new things in an interesting fashion. Between Morris’ editing and Hawking’s work this film surpassed many others in just how it can entrance you into those stories and thoughts.
7. Serpico (1973) (dir. Sidney Lumet)
We all love Pacino. We all love 70’s Pacino the most. Right?
Seeing the beard and the clothes I had no idea what was going on other than he was a cop. The film follows Serpico as someone who wants to do good and in the most optimistic of ways. We follow as his optimism is broken down bit by bit and while we’ll watch films like Chinatown and constantly talk about that dark relaistic ending where we are supposed to shrug our shoulders and say “What can ya’ do?” this movie is the movie that says screw that and blows the whole thing wide open.
6. Silent Movie (1976) (dir. Mel Brooks)
In an age when every week we’re talking about the death of cinema why not talk about a movie that talks about making a the first silent movie in 40 years to bring back a studio from the brink. We watch on as Brooks and his crew go from place to place, star to star convincing everyone to be a part of his film. From Paul Newman to Anne Bancroft we’re treated to gems of moments like a swaying trailer with James Caan all in this great silent film about wanting to make a silent film.
PS. I love Mel Brooks.
5. Waking Life (2001) (dir. Richard Linklater)
The key film in his filmography isn’t Dazed and Confused or Boyhood; it’s this. In 1991 Linklater’s student film Slacker was shown to the world and we were all lost. His career began. He then brought us many films which centered around the idea of just hanging out and enjoying each other while talking about existentialism and such. There are films that did this well and made it a side note to a relationship (Before Sunset) and others that did it poorly and sat it next to growing (Boyhood); but this is the film that I feel is most what Linklater wanted to say to us all. He wanted us to think of these thoughts not as weird philosophical ideas that can be disconnected and connected at will but rather all together they are our consciousness. It’s not just our memories, opinions or even fantasies; but rather all of them together at once that makes up us. As a person. What it says about the afterlife is all about Linklater’s consciousness.
4. The Great Dictator (1940) (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
When Chaplin puts together some of the more remarkable moments in this film: the opening sequence of the tramp vs. the dud shell, the barber shaving a customer to music and Hynkel dancing with the world;they all feel like silent film gags and for the most part and ended with a talking one liner to close it off, almost as if someone at the studio (which he ran) had to remind him at the last moment that he was making a talking film. While most of the time the comedy works regardless it still felt off and I wonder how much better it would’ve been tonally if this was done entirely as a silent film from end to end or someone else took Chaplin’s ideas and made a more current styled talking comedy, whether it be fast paced like Bringing Up Baby or something that you would imagine as a 2000 comedy where people are just making gags regardless of the story.
Don’t pay attention to the offset paragraph above; I still love this movie.
3. Cradle Will Rock (1999) (dir. Tim Robbins)
If the Player talked about storytelling in movies, Cradle Will Rock discusses all storytelling. It centers on a musical stage production during the economic crash of the 30’s and it revels in it’s medium so much that I can’t stop loving it. The film isn’t a full blown musical but it nudges close enough that I’d almost want to call it an honourary musical.
What threw me over the edge of love was the final scene when we break all previous fallacy and makes for something special. It’s a film worth further examination and discussion.
2. Harold and Maude (1971) (dir. Hal Ashby)
What would happen if you put together a young gentleman obsessed with death and an old lady obsessed with living together? Apparently one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time and another entry in the best soundtrack ever.
The comedy of this film is so brilliant that it’s hard to dislike it. I find it most amusing how British the film felt to discover that it’s an American production.
1. Breaking the Waves (1996) (dir. Lars Von Trier)
If there had to be a #1 (because art has to have a winner and loser) it has to go to this film that I saw a full year ago. Lars Von Trier’s biting criticism of the curators of our religions is so dark and striking that I can’t stop thinking about it. I find myself considering how the chapterizations and chapter segways fit into this little jigsaw puzzle.
If you find this film (which is actually now available on MUBI as of today) strap yourself in for a rough ride that will definitely have a few things drop off the side and have you questioning what you like or enjoy watching until the very end.
What did you love this year gone by?