His Best Films of 2014

In no particular order.

Ida

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida is an intensely personal film made up of austere images and profound depth. Returning to his homeland, Pawlikowsky explores themes of guilt and identity, intrinsic to modern Poland, through Ida, a novitiate nun preparing to take her vows who finds out she is Jewish.

Composing his images with the actors in the lower-third of the frame, he uses the space above as weight on the characters. There wasn’t a scene that I didn’t find affecting, none more so than an entrance-way shot into a basement jazz club, with Ida finding herself through love and jazz to the sounds of John Coltrane’s Naima.

Agata Trzebuchowska’s performance as the title character is one of few I can recall that mostly involves listening. It’s a strong mediation on history and identification and is my favourite film of 2014.

ida

Nightcrawler

Has such a great edge to it. Well-written with expert visual-focus from Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler strikes at the heart of unfettered capitalism and one of America’s prominent identities. It’s also a comedy.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is near career-best (I’m struggling to think of what could be better), and Rene Russo finds the right touches in her performance, navigating a difficult role and directing the character to her logical conclusion.

Simply, this is great filmmaking and great entertainment.

nightcrawler

Under The Skin

The imagery Jonathan Glazer presents in Under the Skin is extremely powerful and overwhelming. The vision is so imaginative and the surrealism of its execution makes this an unforgettable film. When a director can take such striking imagery from the imagination and effectively convey that on the screen, it’s a great moment to celebrate.

For example, Scarlett Johannson’s alien character, credited as The Female, drives around Glasgow picking up men and takes them back to her house (to feed on? to learn from? harvest?). Oh yeah, her house is an abandoned building and when they enter, they enter a world of black. As they start to strip their clothes the men sink, aroused, into a pool of black liquid.

To say more would give too much away and would be an injustice to what Glazer presents on screen.

under-the-skin

The Immigrant

I had never seen Marion Cotillard in a dramatic role until The Immigrant and I was enrapt with her depth and control. Her performance in The Immigrant is near indescribable, comparable to Brando in embodying the fear and seeded anger needed to fully capture the raw feriousness of her character.

Mind you, this is nearly matched by Joaquin Phoenix, as he builds out his performance little by little, until we see him for what he really is.

James Gray shows great control in his shots and colours and the final shot is devastating.

the-immigrant

Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is an inventive and sincere ode to cultural literacy. He captures all that is romantic about the relationship between vampires and mortality, and fuses it with a wonderfully punk spirit.

The dance scene between Adam and Eve is one of my favourites of 2014, a great fusion of character-writing and pop culture.

only-lovers-left-alive

Chef

Seemingly minor, it’s a strong and honest film from Jon Favreau, about a man disenchanted working as a chef at a major restaurant (Iron Man) and gets back to doing what he loves by opening a food truck (Chef).

I thought it hit all the right notes, Favreau found the right tone for the film and kept it going until the end. It’s hard to dismiss a film when the filmmaker never steps a foot wrong.

When the movie was over, I felt elated. Sometimes it’s nice to see a film about nice people enjoying each other’s company who end up coming out on top.

chef

Not a film but close to the best thing I watched

The Knick

the-knick

Honourable

The Act of Killing
Magic in the Moonlight
Charlie’s Country
Listen Up Philip
Life Itself
Edge of Tomorrow
Snowpiercer
Particle Fever
Whiplash
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yet to see

Goodbye To Language
Selma
Gone Girl
Manakamana
Mr. Turner
Inherent Vice
Citizenfour
Birdman
Force Majeure
Leviathan