Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 in Films: Part 3, The Reaction - Hells Yes

Well, I am clapping myself on the back for even finishing this monster. If you managed to read Parts 1-2 please consider this your reward - films that I actually liked and even loved watching in 2014.

Actively Recommend*:
*These films are good, you should watch them and report back.
  • Searching for Sugar Man - Everyone has already recommended this. I'm a sucker for the BBC4 music doc and this satisfies those impulses. The music is beautiful.
  • Veep S1-2 - I liked Series 1, I liked Series 2 a lot. Armando Iannucci is the greatest. Not as funny as The Thick of It, I would argue, but softer and v enjoyable once you stop making comparisons.
  • Dreamgirls - I had never seen this! I don't know how I missed it. I think maybe at the time I ignored it as silly or boring or I was frustrated at Bey trying to be an actress? I don't know because it is clearly great and Bey is a fun pseudo-Diana Ross and Jennifer Hudson is amazing and the songs are great and the styling is great and what is not to like?
  • Emma (2009) - I love Romola Garai. I know there are people who hate her and I don't get it, she's lovely and she's plays interesting roles. I love Emma, it is my favourite Austen and one of my most favourite books, and I think this is a solid four hour BBC adaptation. Also, Jonny Lee Miller is a babe as Knightley.
  • Girls S1-3 - I'm not going to list all the problems with Girls. They exist and they have been discussed to the point of exhaustion. I will admit that I found Season 3 disappointing. Acknowledging that though, I really enjoyed Seasons 1-2. I gorged on Girls - I watched all three seasons in maybe two weeks. I stand by the show and Lena Dunham's talent.
  • In a World - Lake Bell writes/directs/stars/everythings in this film about a woman trying to make it in the movie voice over micro-industry. It's smart, it's fun, it's reasonable. It won't change your life but easy-watching, not-stupid, not-depressing, lady-centric films are hard to find and deserve a shout out. 
  • Safety Not Guaranteed - It is physically difficult for me to resist a film starring Jake Johnson and Aubrey Plaza. Their glorious respective network comedy performances have wormed their way into my heart and I am defenseless. I could not resist this film despite being both low key and pretty weird. I mean, those can be great qualities in a film but they can also be risky. I'm not sure everyone/anyone would agree with me but I enjoyed this odd nugget.

The British film cover for SNG is rubbish so here is the American cover
  • The Decoy Bride - This is not an exceptional film but, GOD LORD, there is a scandalous dearth of chick flicks available in this day and age. Come back chick flick, I miss you! And don't give me any of that Cecelia Ahern drivel, I want the full Meg Ryan. WHERE ARE THE MEG RYANS of the aughts and teens?? All I want is some snappy dialogue, a heroine I don't want to murder and a happy ending - is that too much to ask? Yes, there are some cute indie films with a splash of rom and a hint of com and they can be sweet and lovely but that is not what I want from a chick flick. I want silliness and some glossy unreality - I want (plausible) escapism and unlikely events. But there are only so many times you can re-watch Sleepless in Seattle and somehow The Decoy Bride passed me by at the time of release (2011). Perhaps I ignored it because I thought more and better chick flicks were around the corner. How wrong I was. The Decoy Bride might not have passed muster in the Golden Age of chick flicks but it does satisfy in a drought where even such minor treats are few and far between. The plot is besides the point but I like both David Tennant and Kelly McDonald and it is set on a Scottish island and whatever.
  • Rushmore - I am a Wes Anderson fan, whatever that might imply, but before seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel at the cinema I had to correct the gaps in my  knowledge of his early work. In 2014 I completed his directorial filmography and it was actually a really interesting experience. If your only experience of Anderson is Zissou (which I will happily admit that I loathed) or the fetishization of The Royal Tenenbaums on Tumblr then you may sneer but I enjoy a distinctive voice and I love his eye for detail. He is an aesthete and he got a bit carried away with The GBH (okay, a lot carried away) but it is great to see his style develop across films. Bottle Rocket and The GBH are very different but once you've watched everything in between you can see the connections and the progress very clearly. I don't think I have 'completed' any other directors - maybe I should? Rushmore is really and it is odd and stylized without being insane. I imagine it is the #1 for 'true Anderson-ites'. I enjoyed it a lot but it wouldn't be my top choice. For your delectation: #8 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, #7 The Darjeeling Limited, #6 The Grand Budapest Hotel, #5 Bottle Rocket #4 Moonrise Kingdom, #3 The Royal Tenenbaums, #2 Rushmore, #1 Fantastic Mr Fox. Duh.
  • Mulan - I LOVE MULAN. Obviously this was a re-watch, obviously I can do all the songs. Beef, pork, chicken! Girls win wars, cross dressing and confused sexuality! All of my favourite things. Do I think, like Twelfth Night, that the ending is a bit of a let down? Yes. But, like Twelfth Night, I can ignore that in favour of all the fun you have in the middle.
  • Her - Everyone has already recommended this. But my personal stamp of approval makes all of the difference! Beautiful acting, beautiful soundtrack, beautiful colour palette, set design and costuming. The story, of a man falling in love with his iOS, is to close to reality to be called a dystopia but it also isn't really offered for judgement. It just happens and we understand it. I remember not loving the final third of the film but that doesn't stop it being great.

This is a beautiful cover. Spike Jonze's eye is inarguable.
  • Dallas Buyers Club - Everyone has already recommended this. I think lots of people are already over the McConaughaissance? I might be. But if you missed this first time round then it is more than worth watching. There are some representational issues but, generally speaking, I think we should make and watch all of the AIDS films. Warning: crying.
  • The Way Way Back - This was a rewatch and well deserved. I am very fond of this film. An impressively awkward teenage boy is forced to spend a summer in the Hamptons at his mother's awful new boyfriend's holiday home. He finds escape working at a poorly regulated waterpark. That's about it but it is kind and funny and everyone in it is charming. Except Steve Carrell, he's a grade A a-hole here and creepily good at it. Screw Foxcatcher - n.b. haven't seen it but whatever - you saw Carrell as a villain here first. Other great people in this film: Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Toni Collette. Alison Janney is AMAZING. It is just a lovely summery film that you can watch with anyone.
  • Bored to Death S1-2 - Buzzwords I do not generally enjoy: hipster; Brooklyn; writerly angst; man-child; whiny white boy. Still, perhaps BTD is the exception that proves the rule. It is very aware of its clich├ęs and has fun poking at them. It's ridiculous and comic and often surreal and I enjoyed watching it. I am not very good at 'prestige TV' because I lack both stamina and the willingness to absorb 'serious drama' through the medium of television. I will read serious books, essays and the news - I reserve TV for mindless pleasure. BTD was fairly satisfying. I also retain a lot of residual fondness for Jonathan Ames, the writer, in the wake of his excellent dog observation.
  • Hercules - I LOVE HERCULES. Obviously this was a re-watch, obviously I can do all the songs. Who puts the glad in gladiator? Also, I love me some classical mythology. True talk, I took Latin at school and my favourite teacher let us watch Hercules twice a term, every term, for three years. Those were lessons well spent... Also, drowsing off to the sound of Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter read in Latin. Strange times.

  • Inside Llewyn Davis - Everyone has already recommended this. But my personal stamp of approval makes all of the difference! I think what is worth noting here is that I saw and admired ILD at the cinema but when we got the DVD it sat unwatched for a while because I wasn't sure if I felt up to it. In my head I had transmuted it into a dour, sad film and, yes, it is dour and sad in places but it's also funny and well paced and the music is amazing. Oscar Isaac is a dream and the film industry don't deserve him.
  • 20 Feet from Stardom - Everyone has already recommended this. A great documentary about backing singers. The music is, unsurprisingly, amazing and gave me goosebumps. They're babes, the lot of them.
  • We Are the Best! - Buzzwords I do generally enjoy: girls; adolescence; rage; Scandinavia; punk. WATB! totally delivers. Two angry 13 yr old Swedish school girls start a punk band, befriend a well behaved Christian girl and make a horrible, horrible noise. That's it. But what could be better?? This made me smile a lot.
  • The Lego Movie - You've probably seen it, you know it is great. Would I say that it is up there with the best of Pixar? I don't know, that's a big claim, but it is certainly an excellent piece of child/adult cinema. It is funny and imaginative and the attention to detail is insane. It definitely stood up to a re-watch. Also, if you did not enjoy The Dark Knight et al you will v much enjoy Lego Batman. Long may the Year(s) of Chris Pratt continue.
  • Chef - What an end of year delight. I put Chef on our list because it had a surprising cast for a little film and the posters were of a food truck. There was always going to be something for me to enjoy in a film with a food truck. But it was also sweet and funny and generally charming. There was tons of food porn but also American road trip porn. Father, son and sous chef drive around America making Cuban sandwiches and bonding. I have no particular fondness for Jon Favreau as an actor but he was fine and I enjoyed the supporting parts, of various sizes, for Sofia Vegara, Scarlett Johannson, Oliver Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. Also, the best/least grating integration of social media that I can remember. Just a v nice film that I should probably buy for myself because it will cheer me up when I'm sad.

Doesn't that look fun??

It is over. Now I can have a nap.

1 comment:

  1. I could watch The Lego Movie over and over and over again. It's so clever (and yes to Chris Pratt)