Cinemaps' BEST OF 2014: That Movie Going Experience

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The Look of Silence
Even though there was a dip in frequency and quality of film experience for me this past year (compared to the previous year), I'm thankful I'm still able to be wowed at the theatre. I did cry buckets at The Look of Silence, go on a space trip at Interstellar, have a perma-smile whooshing through The Grand Budapest Hotel, get taken aback by the ASL language barrier for a non-deaf audience member like me while watching The Tribe, and wonder incredulously at just how far along the absurdity scale the car chase in Wild Tales would go. In the rush to get this post in before the Oscars ceremony, and having missed some films I'd wanted to see at TIFF (and not having them played at reasonable times/places afterwards), I'm sure this list will be modified once I see the Uncharted. Until then, I'm moderately confident that most of these spots are pretty solid. Ha, what endorsement! But, for serious, here's the top 10, and other stuff.

Force Majeure
01. The Look of Silence (Oppenheimer) ****1/2
Joshua Oppenheimmer returned to the crime scene in Indonesia to give us a necessary companion film to his previous documentary extraordinaire, The Act of Killing (Cinemaps' champ of 2013). This time, in place of shockingly content and dissociated perpetrators, we followed the grieving process of a mild-mannered optometrist whose older brother was one of these murderers' victims. Adi, our protagonist, agreed to confront his brother's killers in some of the most uncomfortable, heart-breaking, rage-provoking civil conversations I've ever borne witness to. There was so much pain, and yet so little cathartic opportunities for the audience on film that I ended up with an overwhelming ball of anger in my ribcage by the time the credits rolled. The making of these films in itself was the definition of courage, both from the people who made it and the people whose stories were told. I learned through the Q & A at TIFF (Adi & Oppenheimer were there - they were given the longest standing ovation I've witnessed) that in return for this injustice to be brought to light, so that perhaps the many people whose lives forever scarred by this senseless atrocity could have some closure, Adi paid the price of political refugees: his own family fled from the area, his parents were placed elsewhere hidden by friends. While Killing allowed for shock and awe as human's darkness took center stage, Silence gave space for exorcism, with light, love, clarity, and an enduring, unbreakable desire to live.

02. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson) ****
Nobody else could have made this but Wes Anderson. In the hand of a less talented but equally precious director, this would have been too cutesy to work as an adult picture. But, here I was, watching with giddy delight at the nostalgically retold fairytale of a bygone era for the riches. Everything felt as light and scrumptious as the pastries they made in the film. Most impressive was the framing of every picture: nary an element was out of place. It even retained the kinetic energy of films from early cinematic time. And just how good did Ralph Fiennes look?! In the so-far-duds-free Anderson oeuvre, I'd rank this somewhere between Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I think that means I loves it.

03. Plemya (The tribe; Slaboshpitsky) ****
I got majorly educated watching this intense and unique thriller (that's right) about a deaf teenager's induction into a 'tribe' at a special boarding school for deaf students in Ukraine. I learned, from this experience, how frustrating it was to watch something in a completely different language that I had no translation at hands (pun intended) for. How do deaf people see films? I'd imagine they'd read subtitles, which, as a warning, you'd not get with this film. I also learned that I got used to guessing after a while, based on my basic understanding of people in general (and teenagers in particular). Except for the very big sensory difference (which came into play as instrumental to the characters' lives in unexpected ways), the basic needs to belong and to be loved were the same for all the world over. And these forces can really pull you in places you never thought possible. I'm so glad Slaboshpitsky steered clear of sentiments and made a gritty film about people struggling with challenges, and not necessarily the one I may assume they'd have.

04. Turist (Force Majeure; Östlund) ****
The film followed a Swedish family on their five-days ski vacation, with threats of disintegration bubbling ever so carefully underneath their seemingly perfect exterior. You know that expression, "shooting fish in a barrel?"  This was like fishing starving fishes in a barrel, poking at them, releasing them, then throwing a hand grenade in there for good measures. It was cruelly relentless, and so on point. The laughs came easily - Östlund took the situation just far enough that it was still within the realm of possibility for us to recognize the relatable elements, but it was absurd enough that we could laugh at it. Well, some of us anyway (I had a brief conversation with someone who found it so brutal that it was not possible to laugh about it). Beautifully shot, well acted, and a great conversation fodder: what was the Academy problem not nominating it for best foreign picture?

05. Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales, Szifrón) ****
Six short stories, each vying to be the wilder tale in the bunch, were expertly strung together to form a tapestry of modern relationships. And it could not be a more fun yarn spinning time. My favourite was not the wedding story that built to an exclamation mark at the end; it was the road-rage story to end all road-rage stories somewhere in the middle. Almodóvar would be so pleased.

06. Interstellar (Nolan) ****
Thank goodness for Nolan's insistence on EPICNESS. Go big, or go home, eh? His movies generally aren't terribly profound, but they make up for it in their ability to transport viewers to their reality. And transported, I was. Interstellar was no 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it was no one-trick technical Gravity either. Here, as with his other films, Nolan started with a concept, an idea of "what if?" and built a groundswell of technicality around it. But unlike his other central-concept films, he opted to iron out a few story knots and adopted a rare thing for his films: sentiment. Perhaps people reacted more strongly to this unexpected development for a Nolan film, but it was perhaps an effort to secure a wide audience for the more impressive technical achievements of the film. Going through with this film, I felt like I time traveled and went to space, experientially. Just what were people complaining about? Who cares? I went to space! Space, people! Could you not feel it? The visceral experience was incredible, I did not want to leave. What a trip.

07. Under the skin (Glazer) ***1/2
Forget that Scarlett Johansson was full on nude in this hypnotic film. She stripped down further than that - under the skin, indeed - and gave us an incredibly nuanced, unrecognizable performance as an alien performing 'human' to lure victims for their, um, innards? This was almost Birth-level performance (Glazer's previous film starring Nicole Kidman in one of her best roles). I can't tell you if you'd find "eroticism" in this; you'd definitely find "strange," and sometimes, shockingly, even "beautiful."

08. En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence; Andersson) ***1/2
That title, I don't know. But this was straight bananas, all impeccably framed.

09. Hanja (Snowpiercer; Bong) ***1/2
So much more fun and off-kilter than Chris Evans' presence would ever suggest (he, of such Serious variety), and deserving praise for execution in tight quarters. The post-apocalyptic sci-fi film would best be taken in figurative, symbolic sense as it tackled class-ism and politics; under realistic scrutiny, it may fall apart. I was happy to see it on screen finally, as I'd heard about its production from the director way back when I mingled with him (the perks of being a part of an international film festival, le sigh).

10. Ida (Pawlikowski) ***1/2
If I had to put into words what Ida's journey was about, I'd say it mirrored the film itself: a precisely aware form that gently inquired about the holocaust, and then went on its way. C'est la vie.

Godzilla
Grin and Pulse
The most fun I had watching a movie this past year
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Interstellar
Wild Tales
Godzilla
The Lego Movie

Director
Confident storytelling, with a touch of "wow"
Joshua Oppenheimer, The Look of Silence
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, Plemya (The Tribe)
Ruben Östlund, Turist (Force Majeure)
Christopher Nolan, Interstellar


Performance
I feel you
Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
Yana Novikova, The Tribe
Antoine Olivier Pilon, Mommy
J. K. Simmons, Whiplash
Erica Rivas, Wild Tales

Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Most Wanted Man
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Writing
Create interesting, layered, cohesive universe; would make for a great read on its own
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ruben Östlund, Turist (Force Majeure)
Damien Szifrón, Wild Tales
Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, Plemya (The Tribe)
Roy Andersson, A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence

Interstellar
Editing
Interesting, effective cuts and stitches that support and move the story visually
The Grand Budapest Hotel
 Interstellar
Under the Skin
Wild Tales
A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence

Cinematography
Takes my breath away
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Interstellar
A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence
Godzilla
Ida

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Art Direction / Production Design
Transportive, impactful set design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Snowpiercer
Interstellar
A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence
Birdman

Effects
Movie Magic
Interstellar
Godzilla
Edge of Tomorrow
Snowpiercer
Under the skin


Sound
Amplify the visuals and enrich my sensory experience
Godzilla
Whiplash
Edge of Tomorrow
American Sniper
Birdman

Score
Was it memorable?
Interstellar
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Under the skin
Only lovers left alive

Uncharted  
Films I've yet to see that could make a dent on the list above
Winter sleep
Tale of the princess kaguya
Babadook
A girl walks home alone at night
Clouds of Sils Maria
Maps to the Stars 

Charted

****1/2
The Look of Silence (Oppenheimer)

****
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson)
Plemya (The tribe; Slaboshpitsky)
Turist (Force Majeure; Östlund)
Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales, Szifrón)
Interstellar (Nolan)

***1/2
Under the skin (Glazer)
En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence; Andersson)
Hanja (Snowpiercer; Bong)
Ida (Pawlikowski )
Whiplash (Chazelle)
Foxcatcher (Miller)
Gone Girl (Fincher)
Leviafan (Leviathan; Zvyagintsev)
Mommy (Dolan)
Boyhood (Linklater)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn)

***
A most wanted man (Corbijn)
Deux jours, une nuit (Two days, one night; Dardenne & Dardenne)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo & Russo)
The Lego Movie (Miller & Lord)
Edge of Tomorrow (Liman)
Godzilla (Edwards)
Song of the sea (Moore)
Virunga (von Einsiedel)
Nightcrawler (Gilroy)
Birdman (Iñárritu)
X-men: Days of the Future Past (Singer)

**1/2
Obvious Child (Robespierre)
The Imitation Game (Tyldum)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Reeves)
American Sniper (Eastwood)
Inherent Vice (Anderson)
The Interview (Rogen & Goldberg)
Locke (Knight)

**
The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies (Jackson)
The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Pt. 1 (Lawrence)
Only lovers left alive (Jarmusch)
The Raid 2: Berandal (Evans)
Lucy (Besson)

*
Adieu au langage (Goodbye to lanuage: 3D; Godard) 



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2 Response to Cinemaps' BEST OF 2014: That Movie Going Experience

Anonymous
February 23, 2015 at 7:06 AM

I feel a little proud that some of the films in the top ten are ones I recommended you to see at TIFF. So I'm just gonna pretend that they're there all thanks to me, and pat myself on the back. :D

February 23, 2015 at 8:47 AM

There there. *pats* lol

 

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