Best Films of 2014: 20-16

This is a continuation of my series on the Best Films of 2014. It began yesterday here and will continue with a post on 15-11.

20. Misunderstood

Misunderstood (2014, Orange Films)

Making its North American debut at the New York Film Festival Misunderstood is an independent seriocomic coming of age story that should hopefully land US distribution but so far as I know has yet to. Here were my closing thoughts on the film upon having first viewed it:

Misunderstood is refreshing inasmuch as its a coming-of-age tale that does not focus solely on one rite. It’s a slice of life for Aria’s character with many of the usual concerns: schools, friends, first crushes and the like, as well as some other concerns conveyed in somewhat more unorthodox circumstances such as her relationship with her siblings with the spiritual world and more. It’s a film that wants you to laugh along with it as it’s trying to strike that universal chord that rings true to all regardless of circumstances. Misunderstood is aptly named very ably portraying not only its protagonist’s being misunderstood but also understanding her at a deep, fundamental level and conveying her story clearly.

19. The Boxtrolls

Boxtrolls (2014, Laika)

For those who enjoy animation for all audiences and a bit of diversification in technique and producers for the animated medium there is not a better place to turn at current than Laika. Their latest stop-motion venture is idiosyncratic, and is a marvelous example of world-building as well as the ever-increasing virtuosity of their departmental prowess. As the BAM Awards exemplify The Boxtrolls is a film that excels in various facets of production and tells an entertaining and charming story. It’s proof that animation is not just for kids stories and that there are many great players in the animation game at the moment.

18. 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg

20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg (2013, Waterland Film)

A film that handles some complicated ground with excellent acting, heart and humor it made an impression early in the year that stuck through the year as a whole:

20 Lies, 4 Parents and One Little Egg doesn’t tread easy ground. When you’re dealing with a family-based comedy-drama that concerns two sets of same-sex couples the dangers become either insensitivity or faux-edginess. What this film opts for instead is heart and humanity and a brief toe-dip into the complexity of human emotions, and that’s the right path and it’s well-navigated here.

17. The Jewish Cardinal

The Jewish Cardinal (2012, Film Movement)

As was touched upon in an earlier op-ed, and will be again with the BAM Award prizes, dealing with religious matters in film can be a complicated matter when the virtues of entertainment and faith aren’t always synchronized. The biggest hurdle to overcome is perhaps creating effective drama and not giving in to the lowest common denominator:

To preserve the surprise of it, I will avoid describing the detail the peace that Jean-Marie comes to and the conclusion he reaches regarding his identity at is really only discussed at the most pivotal points of the film. However, it is an intriguing way to look at it.
Clearly, as described above, this is a film that’s not afraid to discuss matter of faith, but also take those discussions into some difficult, challenging places. It’s a story wherein it could be tempting dumb it down and mollycoddle but it does not, quite the opposite it respectfully challenges those watching it to think – proving that faith-based films needn’t be neither propaganda or mindless.

16. Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Warner Bros.)

Typically some semblance of intelligence is not necessary to make an effective action film. However, when a bit of thought is there and exhibits itself it can elevate simple action or sci-fi conceptions to bigger heights. This is a film that revels in the cleverness of its narrative constructs and edits, but has more to offer than just meta intrigue. While the ending does not serve it as well as it could it is still one of the most complete viewing experiences of the past year that is another testament to Tom Cruise’s stardom and testament to multi-talented Emily Blunt.

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Review: 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg

As time moves on the lines between visual media will continue to inevitably blur. Surely, each discipline needs to maintain its fine line for there to be a reason to continue separation of them. However, I raise the point because ever since the made-for-TV movie was created due to a perceived need by American networks, there has been a growing similitude growing between the two forms such that when one watches a TV film without commercial break there is scarcely a notable difference depending on the production, and what attempts were made to give it a filmic quality.

While the TV movie may have originated here it has, by now, migrated the world over. Which brings me, after that roundabout introduction, to the film at hand 20 Lies, 4 Parents, and a Little Egg. This is a dramedy that premiered on Dutch television last year. It tells the tale of how, after a freak accident, Dylan (Nils Verkooijen) gets to know his biological father, Sjors (Marcel Musters), after having been raised for most of his 15 year by his mother (Anneke Blok) and partner Ilse (Marieke Heebink). Dylan’s re-emergence into Sjors’ life disrupts his relationship with Bert (Mark Ram) and also threatens the secrets that each of them have harbored over the years – hence the title.

With a synopsis as I encapsulated above it would be easy for a film such as this to wander into melodrama. It manages to avoid doing that not only by staying quite humorous, based on the way all the characters interact with one another, but also being dramatically real. The film is ultimately driven by the character and how they react to one another. Dylan is a rather realistically rendered pest who has an “impossible” facade that is slowly taken down, which is a credit to the writing and the performance by Verkooijen. Yet even with that the film never loses its core conflict for facile resolution.

In the end the decisions are made quietly, mostly visually that sins of omission made to keep up appearances need to be addressed and moved past, and ends the story in satisfying fashion.

With all this talk of character clearly this puts and emphasis on performance and the quintet of central figures in this film all do a marvelous job. There is a naturalness and ease of interaction between all the characters that creates a shorthand that allows the film to move as briskly as it does. This keeps the pace up and the tale moving without getting bogged down in unnecessary bouts of exposition and the like.

20 Lies, 4 Parents and One Little Egg
doesn’t tread easy ground. When you’re dealing with a family-based comedy-drama that concerns two sets of same-sex couples the dangers become either insensitivity or faux-edginess. What this film opts for instead is heart and humanity and a brief toe-dip into the complexity of human emotions, and that’s the right path and it’s well-navigated here.

8/10