Best Films of 2014: 15-11

This list began in two installments 25-21 and 20-16. It will conclude in one more part.

15. Oculus

Oculus (2013, Relativity Media)

I have often mentioned how merely starting a dialogue after having viewed a film is a boon in and of itself. Aside from that it is also my belief that horror cannot be safe, and in that vein this film is one that does tweak with things inasmuch as its not interested in motivating the malevolent entity at the center of the film. Furthermore, it is a film that plays in two time periods and features four tremendous performances (Brenton Thwaites, Karen Gillan, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan). It also offers its protagonists no safety whatsoever. You may not like it as much as I do, but it is most definitely looking out for.

14. The Drop

The Drop (2014, Fox Searchlight)

Even if you only know Dennis Lehane (Mystic River and Shutter Island specifically to this example) from the filmic adaptations of his written work you know there’s usually a huge reversal or fortune or what you thought you knew was true in the third act. In many prior instances this fact has lead to a downgrade of the overall quality of the film to varying degrees. Here quite the opposite happens and The Drop grows tremendously. Also, this film features an excellent turn by Noomi Rapace, one two absolutely stellar performances by Tom hardy this past year that earned him a BAM Award nomination, and one of the last films for James Gandolfini.

13. Joe

Joe (2013, Roadside Attractions)

“That dog is a asshole!” Perhaps one of the dividing lines between people who need black-and-white characterizations and those who can embrace grays are films like Joe. Joe (Nicolas Cage) likes dogs just fine, he loves his dog, but seeks to deal with one he dislikes with fatal finality. Similarly, he may not be what is commonly thought of as a good man but when he sees wrong he has to rectify it and he has to deal with it in his way whether society or people like it or not. His chance encounter with, employment of, and befriending of Gary (Tye Sheridan) brings another set of challenges to his life. There are bad things that happen in Joe, there is some redemption to be found, and closure too. It’s about some decent people in hard situations and how they respond. Joe is a tense film that is buoyed by accomplished direction and wonderful performances by Cage and Sheridan.

12. The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie (2014, Warner Bros.)

“Everything is awesome!” Or so Emmet and other people in the world of this story like to believe. In seeking out more is where the adventure begins and the commentary sets in. The Lego Movie is insanely meta, creative and funny. It also gets touching with its reveal. The song will get stuck in your head, the score will have you tapping your toes and those who ever felt confined by sets will find their liberation here. It was the first revisited film in 2014 and it will likely earn many other revisits by other people.

11. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013, Strand Releasing)

This is a film I didn’t re-watch yet but has lived off-and-on in my mind since I saw it. The initial ambivalence about it overall are fading away. Yes, I was floored by the sound mix, edit, the visuals and oneiric flow, but I think now that I’ve chewed on it enough that it’s the giallo elevation I wished Amer was, and whether or not I get it intellectually is almost secondary to its overall gut-punch impact. It’s a film you should allow to ravish you. I cannot guarantee that it will be as rewarding for the uninitiated as it is for someone who knows Giallo, well but if you stick with it and start to reconstruct the jigsaw you may well find you like it as well.

This list will conclude shortly.

Rewind Review- Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Those who don’t like superlatives should stop reading this right now. Those of you who are still reading please believe that it is not for simplistic reasons alone that I am all but ready to anoint Where the Wild Things Are as the best film of the year. It is unquestionably a complete cinematic experience that, for the most part, paralyzed my pencil from note-taking and here are some reasons why.

It lives up to the old manic depressive statement of “I laughed, I cried” but goes so far beyond that. The beginning of the film sets up Max’s home life and imagination in simple, beautiful terms with nary a word wasted, which goes for the whole film. The dialogue was carefully chosen and all lines were simply set traps which if sprung would take you into the deeper meaning of the film.

This is the kind of film that does require multiple viewings for the inquiring mind, and it is the best kind of film because it works on multiple levels without any of those levels interfering with the other. Some argue that some parts of the film are too frightening for children. That is a parent’s decision, not a critic’s, and frankly the book has scared many children while others read it and remain unaffected. It has always been that kind of tale. So to think that Spike Jonze was cavalier or somehow remiss in his filmmaking is ridiculous. Two words of wisdom to keep in mind are first Maurice Sendak the writer of the tale wanted the film “not to condescend to children” as he stated in a featurette released about a month ago. Films have been known to scare kids but kids will watch them anyway. The first film I remember seeing at the theater was a re-release of Bambi and almost off the bat Bambi is orphaned. Is it terrible? Yes. Did everyone keep watching? Yes. Yet people haven’t shouted about Bambi’s inappropriateness as loudly as about this film. The other quote would be Sondheim’s as related by David Poland on his blog “Children will listen…”

Ultimately, that will be what they do – listen and watch as they see a boy be angry with his mother, run off find new friends, but ultimately find that home is the better place. He returns home and is welcomed back, again almost without words. Histrionics are not needed at that point either for dramatic or moralistic purposes. The lesson is learned by all, you have no reason to run from home and you can always go back there and be accepted. A little hard to misconstrue that, and perhaps you need to boil it down for them, but one angry incident or a little yelling and growling shouldn’t deprive a child of this experience. It’s PG for a reason…be a parent and guide your child through the film. Don’t expect it to do all the work for you.

Back to the aesthetics – while CG needed to be implemented on the Wild Things’ faces, you’d be hard pressed to tell. And amen to the practical suits which just add that much more realism. Also, adding tremendously to the mood and overall effect is the score/soundtrack, written by Karen O. and Carter Burwell, which always sets the tone with absolute precision. There is never any doubt as to the intention and correctness of the score and it is almost as wondrous as the film.

The refracted tale, of course, is that of a child trying to cope with the divorce of his parents. Pull the dialogue from some of those scenes and just read them and you heard homely and very parental type battles. In the Wild Things you see various interpretations of those relationships. Again the separation of these layers of the film must be stressed. It is not the kind of tale in which missing on such details would ruin it but perceiving it will only enhance it.

For as large or small as the part was, the cast both voice and actual couldn’t have been better-chosen. Whether it be Katherine Keener in her limited screen time as Max’s very endearing mother, Mark Ruffalo as the cause of Max’s ire, Max himself played by newcomer Max Records, a surprisingly sensitive and complex James Gandolfini as Carol, or Catherine O’Hara as Judith.

This film is proof that you don’t need a lot of pomp and circumstance to elicit emotion. With the imagination everything can expand like the lecture of a teacher. It is a tale sure to delight the child within us all and also profoundly move adults. A “must see,” and likely the best film of the year.

10/10