The 2015 Academy Awards have nominated some of the weakest films in recent history. Composing a top 10 of my personal favorite films of the year was partially a struggle with the lack of exceptional movies coupled with a vast majority of mediocre films. One of the most widely positively and negatively talked about films of the year, and the potential Oscar favorite to win, is Boyhood. While I reviewed the film as the most overrated movie of the year, it represents the year as a whole…good, but not great. The Academy appears to be resting on some of the safest films that can be considered important and groundbreaking cinema, but fall on the cusp of mediocrity. There were a lot of great films that got ignored this year that may or may not have made my list like Inherent Vice or Guardians of the Galaxy, but are some great movies that shouldn’t be overlooked by viewers.
This is my third year composing a top ten list, and while I’m satisfied with these 10 films, I’m disappointed in the year as a whole. These are what I consider my personal favorites (not a top 10 of what I consider to be the best in well-rounded cinema). Here’s hoping 2015 has more to offer with greater competition and greater risks in the filmmaking industry.
“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
“It’s been months since I left Boyhood feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with nearly a three-hour viewing, and while I’ve let the film digest, I still don’t get the over-hyped appeal.
With a nearly perfect 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (only five critics out of 258 dared to negatively review) and a 100% ranking at Metacritic (ranks as the highest scored new release for at least this century at Metacritic), New York Times film critic A.O. Scott hails Boyhood as “one of the most extraordinary movies of the 21st century.” And I’m left here wondering…why?
The film was recently awarded best picture at the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globes, and it’s the frontrunner for best picture at the Oscars. Director Richard Linklater explains “I wanted the whole film to feel like a memory–how you might feel if you looked back on your life.” But, the memory isn’t compelling. A straight, white boy grows up in a middle-class family to become an arts student. Groundbreaking, no?
“How can you’ve live for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living.”
If any genre of as been over-explored in our culture, it’s the blood-sucking, vampire genre. But indie director Jim Jarmusch offers a melancholy, hipster-driven film that pushes the boundaries of love for centuries between two outsiders living in the shadows.
The lovers are underground rockstar Adam (played perfectly by a cooly morose Tom Hiddleston) who lives in Detroit and Eve (played by Tilda Swinton, worldly and knowledgeable) who lives in Tangier. The couple lives apart, but remain deeply in love after being married for centuries; their love remains timeless as the world around them constantly changes. After reuniting in Detroit, their lowkey lifestyle is transformed to chaos with the visit of Eve’s wild-child sister Eva (a careless freespirit played by Mia Wasikowska). Her senselessness and greed is a reckless endangerment to the family, and to the crimson supply of “good stuff” Adam and Eve survive off of.
“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
The Theory of Everything is part biographical part love story based on the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking dealing with her relationship with her ex-husband, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and his success in physics.
The Theory of Everything has received praise for its acting (particularly for Redmayne and Jones), James Marsh’s direction, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s musical score and its overall production. Catherine Shoard of The Guardian praised the film and particularly Redmayne, writing, “Redmayne towers: this is an astonishing, genuinely visceral performance which bears comparison with Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot.
The film balances both beauty and fact with an elegance seldom seen in theaters. If I were to have it my way, both leads would be taking home golden statues for their challenging portrayals executed so effortlessly on screen.
“I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything Movie. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me. Seeing the film has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Although I’m severely disabled, I have been successsful in my scientific work. I travel widely and have been to Antarctica and Eastr Island, down in a submarine and up on a zero gravity flight. One day I hope to go into space. I’ve been priviledged to gain some understanding of the way the universes oprates through my work. But it would be an empty univere indeed without the people that I love.” Stephen Hawking via Facebook
What appears to be one of the most challenging stories to execute has produced some of the most picturesque scenes in film this year. Here are a few scenes that I consider to be some of the film’s most beautiful shots.
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”
Jazz drumming at an elite conservatory didn’t puncture my curiosity initially, but Whiplash has more to offer than a tremendous jazz score. The film shares a dynamic duo whose relationship heavily blurs the line between right and wrong. Miles Teller rips through this film with an elevated level of dedicated ferocity that I haven’t seen from a young actor recently, while J.K. Simmons is both electrifying and terrifying to glimpse on screen. Whiplash is knocking on Oscar’s door, and I think the Academy may listen to what Whiplash has to offer.
A lot of people seem to be shrugging off Whiplash as a “music movie” or a movie about a kid who’s got a real knack for playing the drums, but Whiplash is one of the best-reviewed films of 2014 for a reason. It has the strength to get under your skin and challenge you–should you settle at mediocrity or strive to be the best? A question both relative to the film as it is relative to our present day culture who perpetually settles at the margin. The film pushes the envelope with this question combining the driving force of Black Swan dedication under the severe command-style of Full Metal Jacket. This tour de force is not one to miss and certainly one to learn from this year.
Evolving over time from a fairly pretentious Beatles inspired pop rock act to a theatrical mixed genre masterpiece, Of Montreal is one of the most prolific musical acts of the past twenty years. Since 1997 frontman Kevin Barnes and his menagerie of collaborators have produced an impressive discography of twelve studio albums as diverse as they are elaborate as well as a handful of EPs and compilations. Directed by Jason Miller, The Past is a Grotesque Animal – a Film About Of Montreal was well overdue but, like anything Of Montreal, perfectly timed. Their last few albums have been what many have come to know them by, and still you would be lucky to come across a song of theirs on your car radio. This is a wonderful opportunity to look into the mind of the enigmatic genius who wrote, produced and often played every instrument.
Who doesn’t love a good Halloween Horror Marathon? One of my favorite activities in the fall is perching on the edge of the couch and finding new horror movies to watch. There is always some old exploitation film, and something that changes the rules of classic monsters, and every once in a while I want to know about the evolution of the genre. In the history of film, no genre has changed so dramatically and so constantly as horror. This season I will suggest three interesting films you may be missing on Netflix.
“I hope someone goes to see this movie.” David Fincher while filming
Before director David Fincher became a household name with Se7en, Zodiac and The Social Network, his questionable directorial debut with Alien 3 has been dismissed by critics and audiences alike, but more greatly misunderstood as the third installment of the Alien franchise.
As a fan of this franchise, I too can attest that Alien 3 is an absolute mess of a film. From it’s famously documented turbulent shooting with an unfinished script to an even more complicated post-production process, Alien 3 was fighting a losing battle in one of the greatest franchises of it’s era.
“Boy, why are you crying?”
“I don’t know. A tear for every happy thought.”
Wendy and Peter in Hook