Some Favorites: 2014

Sara Freeman

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In no particular order:

  • Dumb and Dumber To (Farrelly Brothers)
  • Step Up All In (Trish Sie)
  • Gone Girl (David Fincher)
  • Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
  • The Immigrant (James Gray)
  •  Jersey Boys (Clint Eastwood)
  • John Wick (Chad Stahelski/David Leitch)
  • Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
  • Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  • Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam)
  • The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)
  • Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  • The Lego Movie (Phil Lord/Christopher Miller)
  • Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (Hark Tsui)
  • Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)

+ Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears divisional game on 12/29/13. I know, I know, but it was only 3 days before the end of the year and it was epic.

+ South Park 17.10, The Hobbit and 18.3, The Cissy

+ Bob’s Burgers 4.12, The Frond Files

I watched Gone Girl on the weekend of my 10th anniversary with my husband. I think it’s the first Fincher movie I really love. Before I saw Grand Budapest Hotel, I hung out with a person who changed my life forever. That was the first and only time I’ll ever hang out with that person, but I’m sure I’ll keep that movie in my pocket forever. I went to Paris in September with Christopher Small and we watched Goodbye to Language twice while we were there. The viewings were squeezed in between screenings of McTiernan, Minnelli, McCarey and Linder. After the first time, I walked on the fountains in front of the Sorbonne while he made arrangements to hang out with a film friend later in the evening. I watched Ida multiple times this year because I wrote an essay for the Music Box Films DVD/BR booklet, but my favorite viewing happened on a train ride from Brno to Sofia, Bulgaria. I think I watched the majority of the movie while passing through Hungary. It felt pretty incredible to be drifting through the countryside while Ida and her aunt were doing the same thing.

Every movie on this list brings up a special and specific memory for me. That’s partially the reason I love cinema so damn much – movies are memories, scrapbooks and family albums all rolled into one. This year just seems to have more entries than any other year. Each flick is on this list for a different reason. Some are legitimately great movies, some are terrific genre jams, some are just a ton of fun. They just all meant something to me.

 

John Lehtonen

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  1. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
  2. Dumb and Dumber To (Bobby & Peter Farrelly)
  3. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)
  4. Jersey Boys (Clint Eastwood)
  5. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
  6. Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  7. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
  8. Seventh Code (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  9. Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara)
  10. Jealousy (Philippe Garrel)

+ Step Up All In (Trish Sie), The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones), Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang), Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg), Black Coal, Thin Ice (Diao Yi’nan), John Wick (Chad Stahelski & David Leitch), Djinn (Tobe Hooper)

There’s a great deal of uncertainty here, or rather ambiguity. It’s invariably a mistake to “frame” a year in art, in cinema. Frames erode within context of one year, two years, a millennia. New frames appear as discoveries from prior years materialize. But, boots on the ground, the cinema of 2014 is, from my perspective, uncertain.

2014 was a year of heinous violence and injustice. I’ll eschew observation, suffice to say wounds grew only deeper and institutionally-supported murder is law. A corrosive period to deposit within the notion of “2014 cinema’. Does the form respond to the times, is it informed? Production dates, release dates, the vagaries of cinema’s commercial end turn many convenient “yes’s” into concrete “no’s”. But this is hardly the truth. The most absorbent medium cant help but engorge itself on the times, production displacement be damned. How moving then that 2014 sees Horse Money; Pedro Costa’s digital gains only more nuance and beauty, while the film’s howl of pain, a history of pain, pain so deep that all memory itself is tainted, becomes a locus of essential expression. Violence meted out by the government, the name of racism, in the name of social control, in the name of the rich; violence in both directions, Costa’s fury and despair sounds sharp and clear.

Old masters continued to confound. Clint Eastwood (perhaps America’s most “misunderstood” filmmaker, to put it as charitably as I can) gave us Jersey Boys, again sending American film critics into a furious tizzy of lazy misinterpretations, refusals to engage, and general style-driven, director-ghetto think. This “boring” ,”Oscar-bait” director’s musical-only-by-reputation was instead yet another of Eastwood’s multi-tonal reflection pieces. An unresolvable cinema, and as such an impossible film for the critical consensus to swallow. Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii opened the year (roughly) with a sonorous note of love, but Jersey Boys feels closer to the year’s core: for every happiness is a legacy of loss and pain. The style is, characteristically, unobtrusive, but hardly easy; the formal freedom is the film’s closest thing to unfettered joy. The approach is confounding, dropping the usual elements of a coherent picture in favor of mood and a shifting landscape of memory. Late in the game, the Farrelly brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To followed this line: a underestimated film from within Hollywood that plays entirely by its own rules. The Farrellys at last are unmoored, the film their freest yet. Compositionally pingponging between the lackadaisical and the precise, it serves to remind that the American mainstream cinema has as much potential for freedom and expression as any other cinema.

As for this year in genre, action cinema took a step back after several promising years. John Wick was heralded as a return to linearity in American action cinema, but even the slightest examination of that claim crumbles the entire base. When held up to their contemporary Isaac Florentine, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch fall dramatically short, but the discoveries born of the division are of intense value. John Wick’s pleasures are multifarious: the action sequences are frequently exhilarating (and on one occasion outrightly brilliant), the colors and supporting cast allow for a richer world, and Keanu Reeve’s physical performance is likely the termite-pleasure of 2014 cinema. But where’s the linearity, where’s the “back to basics”? It isn’t there, the linear form is abandoned. What we find, even in this “stripped-down” genre film, is excess. Song cues, montages that sacrifice momentum, pauses in mise en scène that read as PAUSES. The realization is this: Hollywood is, at least for now, done adding anything of value to action cinema. In fact, with the (re)growing taste for spacial comprehensibility, one could argue that the flow of ideas between Hollywood and direct to video genre has been reversed; the “old-school” work of Isaac Florentine, John Hyams, Jesse V. Johnson, and Roel Reiné has run a gamut, emerging as “pioneers”, influence re-directed. Vogues change and John Wick is particularly reflective of this.

Not to denigrate contemporary cinema, but as always the most supreme cinematic joys of the year came from my retrospective discoveries, so without further ado, here is my top ten first-time, non-2014 2014 viewings:

  1. The Terrorizers (Edward Yang)
  2. A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang)
  3. Northwest Passage (King Vidor)
  4. They Died With Their Boots On (Raoul Walsh)
  5. A Countess from Hong Kong (Charlie Chaplin)
  6. Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  7. The Flowers of St. Francis (Roberto Rossellini)
  8. Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin)
  9. Othon (Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub)
  10. Hercules and the Captive Women (Vittorio Cottafavi)

Alone-in-Love-2

Best Television:

Alone in Love (Han Ji-seung, 2006)

City Hunter (Jin Hyuk, 2011)

Gilmore Girls, Season 1 (Amy Sherman-Palladino, 2000-2001)

Mad Men, Season 7, Pt. 1 (Matthew Weiner, 2014)

Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Mike Lazzo, 1994-2008)

 

CJ Roy

Best things from a visual medium in 2014

 

A squirrel nabbed my GoPro and carried it up a tree (and then dropped it) – (YouTube user name: Viva Frei)

camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen–MUST WATCH END!! – (YouTube user name: Mia Munselle)

Falcons hunting crows POV – (YouTube user name: Project Alpha)

G1 Climax 24

Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo)

Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson)

Space Dandy (Shinichirō Watanabe)

Sportsfriends (A compendium of local multiplayer video game) (Super Pole Riders and Flop by Bennett Foddy, Hokra by Ramiro Corbetta, Johann Sebastian Joust by Douglas Wilson, BariBaraBall by Noah Sasso, Get on Top by Bennett Foddy and Douglas Wilson)

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki)

 

2014 is the year I became fairly burnt out on trying to keep up to date with most mediums, especially cinema. That said, my interest in visual form was reinvigorated in two surprising places. One of which was one of my first loves when I was younger. Wrestling came back into my life with force and another TVC alumni (Willow) and I even formed a wrestling blog if you are so interested. Particularly, the company NJPW (The main organization in Japanese wrestling) which does so much to highlight the best qualities of the art.

  • They treat wrestling as a sport, not as “sports entertainment”. No awful melodrama or obvious good guy vs bad guy dynamics here. Very refreshing.
  • They don’t stifle the athletes, they let them perform which shows in the work. It is typically more technically competent, with many stylistic differences and a real love shines out.
  • NJPW has really fantastic editing and photography. They should primarily in great wides (like most competent sports photography) and experiment with things like dissolves and editing intelligently on simple actions (like grabbing a limb) or motion. WWE tends to cut around rapidly to guide your eye and make sure you don’t miss anything. This isn’t necessarily bad, but much of the time it becomes sloppy, abrasive, useless or harmful to the product.
  • I really love watching “pure” arts. By that I mean those that don’t require much to be performed like wrestling, music, theater, dance (etc.). It doesn’t make one better then another, but there is something about what can come from simple origins that is endlessly fascinating.
  • They reward fans for paying attention and using logic! History matters! Wrestlers intelligently gauge strengths and weaknesses! They build simple narratives in match by using fan knowledge of previous matches!

The G1 Climax in particular was an amazing experience for me. One of the great tournament designs (other sports should look at it, it’s so seamless and exciting) that fosters so many exciting narratives and is a really great spot to dip your toes into wrestling if you are curious because of so many great matches. It’s incredibly rejuvenating to just challenge your ideas and take on something new you know so little about, no matter how daunting. It doesn’t have to be an art really, but I’d highly you all try something that interests you. If it is NJPW, please tweet at me because I am lonely and not enough people talk about wrestling with me.

YouTube videos really won me over this year. I guess because I became more intrigued by the potentials of simpler cinema. I know it sounds a bit purposefully contrarian, but the sheer joy of Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen, the honest to god terror of Falcons hunting crow POV and the wonderful movement of a squirrel stealing someones GoPro are things I have felt very few times in any other medium.

City Hunter – Jin Hyuk

I usually find end of year lists to be pretty boring and repetitive but I do love retrospective lists. I.L.’s from 2013 is a great example of what a list should do, foster curiosity in the reader, show you some new things, have some fun juxtapositions and not just canonize aimlessly.

I like seeing lists that are a lot more free flowing and can turn you onto stuff you’d never think of. That’s why I made this a “visual medium” list. Film, TV, Comics, Video Games and anything else in that wide spectrum could fit in here. I wish I had more exposure to the more classical visual forms (painting, sculpture, etc.) but I think that is possibly more helpful in revealing the peculiarities and limitations of my list to a reader.

Retrospective first times of 2014 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Isao Moro and Aya Kyogoku, 2013)

City Hunter (Jin Hyuk, 2011)

Challenge of the Masters (Lau Kar-leung, 1976)

Enchanted Island (Allan Dwan, 1958)

Escape from L.A. (John Carpenter, 1996)

It Was the War of the Trenches (Jacques Tardi, 1993)

Pac Man Battle Royale (Kunito Komori, 2011)

The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli, 1948)

Road Rash II (Dan Geisler, 1993)

Violent Saturday (Richard Fleischer, 1955)

It Was the War of the Trenches – Jacqus Tardi

 

Otie Wheeler

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young

It’s not possible to love and be just, except by knowing the empire of force and how not to respect it.- Simone Weil

In a year defined by one word—Ferguson—movies could only seem inadequate. Dear White People came along at the right time but the fact that its awkward combination of topical message movie and Bring It On-style teen comedy found any audience at all just demonstrated how desperately a nation wanted to heal. The movies, with their two to five year development periods and majority control over means of production, had nothing to say about the thing that mattered most; for that, I kept listening to Yeezus (I’ll never stop listening to Yeezus), I listened to Run the Jewels 2 and I turned to Killer Mike, whose “you motherfuckers got me today” speech the night the grand jury failed to indict was more moving than any film. But cinema touched me too, like it always does and hopefully always will.

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  1. Boyhood
              Richard Linklater
  2. The Immigrant
              James Gray
  3. Goodbye to Language
              Jean-Luc Godard
  4. Dumb and Dumber To
              Bobby & Peter Farrelly
  5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
              Wes Anderson
  6. Gone Girl
              David Fincher
  7. Starred Up
              David Mackenzie
  8. Breakfast with Curtis
              Laura Colella
  9. Jealousy
              Philippe Garrel
  10. Person to Person
              Dustin Guy Defa

 

 

Willow Maclay

  1. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
  2. The Immigrant (James Grey)
  3. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
  4. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)
  5. Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  6. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)
  7. Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard)
  8. It Felt Like Love (Eliza Hittman
  9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  10. Lucy (Luc Besson)
  11. Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg)
  12. Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
  13. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
  14. Godzilla (Gareth Edwards)
  15. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
  • Nicki Minaj “Anaconda
  • Wrestlemania 30
  • The G1 Climax: Shinsuke Nakamaura vs. Kazuchika Okada
  • Adventure Time “Jake the Brick” and “Lemonhope

Cinema is most important to me when it wells up inside and unleashes itself like a torrent in my bones. Getting inside of a film’s very d.n.a. and living alongside those characters step by step is essentially why I love this medium so much, and that was most present in the films sitting at numbers one and two on my list: Under the Skin and The Immigrant. I haven’t made it any sort of secret in my writing here (Village of the Damned) and on my own blog Curtsies and Hand Grenades that I struggled to get where I am today, and while my life has been strengthened significantly by moving to Canada to live with my boyfriend of three years whom I love I still relate to narratives of strife. The Immigrant is perhaps the most flawlessly constructed of these pictures as it more resembles a classic novel that never was rather than a film from 2014, but it was with Under the Skin that I truly felt the cinematic highs and lows that come with the very best of this medium. As Scarlett Johansson’s character found her humanity and more specifically her womanhood I was finding my own. This film that seemingly had nothing to do with Transgender lifestyles actually connected with me in ways that mirrored my own blossoming into femininity. The sorrowful ending of that picture echoes the situations of many women who navigate the world in my category of trans, and knowing this happens makes the picture all the more harrowing and affecting, and as much as I love to feel joy within cinema I need that dual experience of sadness to create a whole sometimes, and Under the Skin delivers on every aspect of that spectrum. The other films on my list carry some level of significance or appreciation; Gone Girl with it’s neo-femme fatale trappings, Godzilla’s painterly shot construction, Pompeii brought with it PWSA’s strongest moments as a human filmmaker as he found the souls of those buried in ash and humanized their existence as the death count rose. Lucy gave us a female superhero god, and Listen Up Philip eviscerated the tortured male author in one of the finest satire pictures in years. In new to me viewings I found a deeper love for John Carpenter and Jean Luc Godard and the likes of Elaine May, Ida Lupino and new all time favourite Chantal Akerman never disappointed me. All in all it was a hell of a year cinematically and personally. My only real regrets are that I didn’t get to see Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 and Girlhood.

New Viewings

  1. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
  2. Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara, 1981)
  3. They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)
  4. Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974)
  5. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To, 2011)
  6. Starman (John Carpenter, 1984)
  7. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
  8. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
  9. Hotel Monterey (Chantal Akerman, 1972)
  10. Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun, 2001)

  1 comment for “Some Favorites: 2014

  1. tyson
    January 28, 2015 at 3:11 am

    This is all great! Love you all.

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