Monday, January 26, 2015

Best Movies 2014

These lists get harder to do each year because I find I have a difficult time make a definitive list; and all too often I'll enjoy a film but then find flaws that keep it from being truly great and making a 'top ten' of the year.

I found 2014 to be a good year but not an exceptional year; even though there certainly were exceptional moments in many films.

Here, then, is a list of films I enjoyed last year.

Tier 1 [meaning I enjoyed these films without many reservations]
Blue Ruin
The Dance of Reality
The Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Lunchbox

Tier 2 [meaning I enjoyed these films with some reservations]
Begin Again

Cycling with Moliere
The One I Love
Under the Skin
Le Weekend
Wild Tales

Tier 3 [meaning I enjoyed these films despite reservations].
Goodbye to Language
A Most Violent Year
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
The Congress
Two Days, One Night

Friday, January 16, 2015

Older Film Discoveries 2014

Every year I stumble upon movies I'd previously not heard of or was only vaguely familiar with. Here are some of the better discoveries I made in 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy [Carol Reed, 1965] - Charlton Heston as Michelangelo! Even if it is just another one of his many epics it is also a Carol Reed film and worth a look. And, yes, Michelangelo does see 'The Creation of Adam' in the clouds one evening! Perfect schmaltz.

Chair de Poule [Julian Duvivier, 1963]  - A nice slice of French noir by Duvivier that no one has seen.

Club de Femme [Jacques Deval, 1936] - A mixed group of lonely women in a women-only Parisian boarding house try to come to grips with their [mainly sexual] frustrations.

Corridor of Mirrors [Terence Young, 1948] - The influence that Cocteau had on British filmmakers is evident in this rarely seen [not on DVD] film about a woman who falls for a mannequin wax figure from the past.

Il Cristo Proibito [Curzio Malaparte, 1951] - An Italian neo-realist film about a disillusioned man who comes back from WWII to his small Italian village to avenge the death of his brother who was ratted out to the Germans by one of the locals. Excellent film - rarely seen.

The Most Wonderful Evening of My Life [Ettore Scola, 1972]
Wonderfully dark Italian comedy about a man whose car breaks down following a beautiful woman biker who then ends up the dinner guest of a bunch of old judges who, for fun, put him on trial for his life.

London Belongs to Me [Sidney Gilliat, 1948] - My appreciation for Gilliat films continued with this tale of a young man (Richard Attenborough) who commits a crime to get money to impress his girlfriend.

Madeleine [David Lean, 1950] - Based on a famous 1857 trial of a woman who was accused of killing her husband. Is she guilty, not guilty or is it not proven!? Beautiful black and white cinematography.

Murder He Says [George Marshall, 1945] - A crazy, fun comedy about hicks in the sticks and a government census worker (Fred McMurray) who stumbles into their world and can't get out.

Films I finally caught up with:

Big Trouble in Little China  [John Carpenter, 1986] - Classic 80's!

Le Deuxieme Souffle [Jean Pierre Melville, 1966] - The only bad thing about this is that I only have one more Melville film to see before I've seen them all. Darn! I love his films.

Eden and After [Alain Robbe Grillet, 1971] - A sexy, psychedelic, French, acid trip movie by Robbe Grille. This really fits the bill as a"they don't make like this anymore" film.

From Here to Eternity [Fred Zinneman, 1953] - You know that scene on the beach with the lovers kissing as the wave overtake them? Yeah, they fight after they kiss. No one tells you that. Great film.

Phantom of the Paradise [Brian DePalma, 1974] - DePalma knows well how to make a movie that is both a mess and terrifically entertaining. When the phantom takes revenge the film soars into blissful madness.

White Dog [Sam Fuller 1982] - Is racism treatable or incurable? Would this film be made today?

Wild River [Elia Kazan, 1960] - Great script, story, acting... how come it's one of Kazan's least seen?