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Best of 2014

Oscar Predictions

Last year it seemed so easy: 12 Years a Slave was the pre-ordained Best Picture winner, Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett had acting awards locked up, and nobody was going to deny Frozen in the animation category.

Well, the 87th annual Oscar race has been a little more fun. Even though certain movies have been winning regularly with groups such as the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice (I’m a voting member in the latter), I do think there’s actual suspense about the big prizes this year. It could turn into something because of the way the votes might split. Boyhood stands as the odds-on favorite, and critics’ awards seem to favor it. But Birdman has won some key prizes, including the nod from the Directors Guild.

‘Boyhood’

More complications: The late-arriving American Sniper is the only one of the Best Picture nominees to qualify as a real box-office smash. That does count for something with Academy voters. And then there’s the Selma kerfuffle. Oscar commentators and political pundits took umbrage at the film being shut out of most categories, especially Best Director, even though it was nominated for Best Picture. Could there be a strong response to the perceived snub (as there was when Argo didn’t have director Ben Affleck nominated, but the movie won Best Picture after all)?

Continue reading at The Herald

Wait, wait! First the Golden Globes, THEN the Oscar nominations.

I know, I know: old and slow. My only possible defense is that we have either been guests or had guests since December 23rd, a sojourn involving passports, dear distant family, dear semi-distant friends and a last emotional good-bye at the airport yesterday. The cats barely know what lap to turn to, while I’m summoning up all my reserves to turn up in two matching shoes.

To get to those Globes: they were just Sunday and I know I’m behind on the newspapers, but where’s the outrage? Or even the irony over the results of the Globes TV Movies or Mini-series category? I’m talking about the sublime Olive Kitteridge, anchored by the unsparing eloquence of Frances McDormand, being beaten by the TV show Fargo. Let’s be honest, the initial good will of  Fargo-the-miniseries would never have existed without our collective infatuation with McDormand’s singular character in, ummm, Fargo-the-film. (Just the memory of the actress’s back, squared in rectitude as she marched up to get her Fargo Oscar in 1997 is enough to kick off a smile.)

Continue reading at Critic Quality Feed

Moments Out of Time 2014

[Originally published in Keyframe, January 14, 2015]

We perpetrated the first “Moments Out of Time” in ecstasy over the cinematic splendors of 1971—The Conformist, The Last Picture Show, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry, et al. It ran in our Seattle Film Society journal Movietone News (“The trees creaking in the wind: the murder in The Conformist…“), where it became a much-anticipated annual feature ’til the journal wrapped in 1981. We’ve missed memorializing a few years since, but have enjoyed at various times the hospitality of Film Comment, American Film, Steadycam, Movies/MSN, and Cinephiled. A comprehensive “Moments” library is maintained at Parallax-View.com.

‘Cold in July’
  • Under the Skin: disembodied face lies in a lap, gazing upward, its eyes blinking…
  • SQÜRL’s banshee screech, “Funnel of Love,” over the first ravishing images—including turntable as flat circle of time—of Only Lovers Left Alive
  • “I was once considered a great beauty,” confides Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge extraordinaire, The Grand Budapest Hotel….
  • A dollhouse town and the relentless cheer of a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep), on the edge of the crazy-making emptiness of the American frontier, The Homesman
  • What to say, politely, to an Iraqi woman after your team has burst into her Fallujah home? “Hello….” Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, American Sniper
  • Birdman: After Mike (Edward Norton) blows up the performance, Riggan (Michael Keaton) storms offstage snarling, “Get him out of here!” Annie the P.A. (Merritt Wever) softly asks, “How do you want me to do that?”….
  • Threesome rocking out to “Gloria” on car radio: a rare communal moment of joy in Two Days, One Night
  • The Better Angels: Abraham Lincoln’s second mother (Diane Kruger) balances on one foot, wavering over a fallen tree trunk, the sun blazing a bright halo around her head….
  • In Exodus: Gods and Kings, a tiny white stallion, rearing beneath a heavens-high curve of tsunami….
FOXCATCHER
‘Foxcatcher’
  • Foxcatcher: To celebrate her dying, John du Pont (Steve Carell) drives his mother’s stable of prized horses out into the cold….
  • Roads in mist, Blue Ruin
  • As Force majeure’s vacationers trek down an alpine highway, their long walk imperceptibly morphs out of the everyday into a Bergmanesque pilgrims’ progress….
  • Mocking fellow painter John Constable’s fussing over a tiny brushstroke of red in a packed canvas,Mr. Turner (Timothy Spall) casually rubs a smear of scarlet into the merest suggestion of a buoy in one of his impressionistic seascapes….
  • On some other planet, what looks like a towering cliff becomes a frame-filling wall of water bearing down on Interstellar’s astronauts….
  • J.K. Simmons’s hotwired muscularity in Whiplash
  • The abiding, ever-so-slightly pixilated serenity of Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), Jersey Boys
  • Under the Skin: the first time the shiny black floor turns liquid, and the guy’s calm descent…
  • “America for Me,” Alex Ebert’s perfect bluesy coda to A Most Violent Year
  • Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) soft-voiced crooning of “The Hanging Tree”—the closestMockingjay, Part I gets to something like genuine feeling, even if the performance is “propaganda”…
  • Longtime lovers and newlyweds John Lithgow and Alfred Molina serenade each other—“You’ve Got What It Takes”—in Love Is Strange….
  • Only Lovers Left Alive: Giving Eve (Tilda Swinton) a tour of Detroit, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) points out Jack White’s home. She: “Little Jack White … nice.”…
  • Hilarious chest-baring, acrobatic hoofing all over a picturesque waterfall, by a pair of princely twits (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) warbling about the “Agony” of love, Into the Woods
SKELETON TWINS
‘The Skeleton Twins’
  • The Skeleton Twins: the decisive moment when Maggie’s—and by all means Kristen Wiig‘s—lips begin to twitch, and she gives herself up to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” as joyously lipsynched and boogied to by brother Milo (Bill Hader)…
  • In Inherent Vice, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) watching “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) work a Fudgecicle…
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: Zero (Tony Revolori) penciling on his lounge lizard mustache….
  • At the grand party in Magic in the Moonlight, Sophie (Emma Stone) “makes a rather surprising entrance” in Twenties headband….
  • “She just quit by accident.” Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) accounting for Dena’s (Dakota Fanning) exit fromNight Moves
  • Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) contemplating a curl of cream in a cup of coffee, The Theory of Everything
  • Guy Pearce bringing it as The Rover: Is he gonna shoot that old woman in the face? … No, he wouldn’t … wouldn’t shoot that old woman in the face … Oh good, he’s putting the gun away … Oh. Just changing hands…
THE ROVER
‘The Rover’
  • Conferring elbow to elbow with Monsieur Jean; Jude Law and Jason Schwartzman early in The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • An old seadog (Michael Parks) spins a wicked-strange story about an intimate encounter with a walrus, in Tusk….
  • The visceral horror of Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) rape-castration: stumps where wings once grew…
  • Headboard as gravemarker for eleven-year-old girlchild, tilting over in the middle of nowhere, The Homesman
  • Under the Skin: in a backcountry Scottish town, a girl (Scarlett Johansson) in maroon shirt walking down grey road made perpendicular by perspective…
  • Into the Woods: “I’m in the wrong story!” protests baker’s wife Emily Blunt, finding herself hotly wooed by Cinderella’s Prince Charming…
  • Penny Dreadful: Sudden sundering of Dr. Frankenstein’s gentlest creature (Alex Price as Proteus)
  • In Get On Up, James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) and his backup singers costumed in red-and-white Christmas sweaters, with snowflakes: “I’m in honkie hell now!”…
  • Winking Groot-sprout, happy survivor of Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Eminem in The Interview: “I pretty much just been leaving a breadcrumb trail of gayness.”…
  • “I can hear your pants growing.” Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon) over the phone to Doc, Inherent Vice….
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’
  • After the last slippery coming and going of “Dr. Faust” (Tom Hiddleston’s Adam) at the hospital blood bank, Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) opines, “Cat gotta be from Cleveland.”—Only Lovers Left Alive
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Galadriel’s (Cate Blanchett) chilling transformation, in closeup, from ethereal elf into berserker-demon…
  • Leviathan: Outside the window that has landmarked so much of the film, beyond a kitchen table still cluttered with homely dishware, the bucket of a steam shovel rises into view, swings with the languor of a grazing cow, and demolishes a home, the last vestige of shattered family, and any relic of what passed for social order….
  • Heartstopping materialization of a giant arachnid in Enemy‘s toxic-yellow world…
  • The Homesman: Mary Bee Cuddy (Hillary Swank), bending to slip naked into George Briggs’s sleeping bag: “Don’t make me lose any more of my dignity.”…
  • Coitus interruptus, in Under the Skin, when a not-entirely-human (Scarlett Johansson) leaps to aim a flashlight between her legs, shocked to discover a way something might get inside her…
  • The startling apparition of an avenging angel (Sam Shepard), filling the driver’s-side car window, inCold in July
  • A couple of war-weary soldiers (Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman) breakfast with two German women, the moment of fragile community soon shattered by a tribe of savages, in Fury….
  • Two Days, One Night: Despairing, Sandra (Marianne Cotillard) leans way too far out her car window, until the buzz of a seatbelt alarm pulls her back….
  • A woman falls out of a window, into the common grave that is Ida….
  • Midway through Birdman, the rapport of two fallen angels (Emma Stone, Edward Norton), perched on a roof-edge above Broadway and lit from below by marquee light, quietly trading hard truths about themselves…
  • A Most Wanted Man: Annabel (Rachel McAdams) has given up smoking. “Good luck with that”—Philip Seymour Hoffman….
A MOST WANTED MAN
‘A Most Wanted Man’
  • Hercules: soothsayer Ian McShane’s insouciant shrug when it’s clear his death, which he’s predicted at every turn, just isn’t happening…
  • Mr. Turner: Without looking, the seated J.M.W. (Timothy Spall) places his hand flat on his hovering housekeeper’s (Dorothy Atkinson) breast, as though settling a horse….
  • 3 Days to Kill: Needing to get into nightclub, Dad (Kevin Costner) reaches behind him and shoots bouncer in foot….
  • After an old-school hitman (Willem Dafoe) engineers his own bloody demise to avoid prolonged torture, his erstwhile tormentor (Michael Nyqvist) applauds, “Well played, old friend”—John Wick….
  • Nightcrawler: Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) enters the murder house minutes after the crime, and finds himself right at home….
  • Study in beige: Scarf drawn across lower half of her face, Eve (Tilda Swinton) walks down a Tangier street, owning the night—Only Lovers Left Alive…
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: A prison guard looking for concealed contraband cannot bring himself to ruin an exquisite Mendl confection….
  • Selling sunshine (The Homesman), mining the dark (Into the Woods)—Meryl Streep casts her spells….
  • Eva Green in excelsis, as Vanessa Ives in mortal combat with Lucifer, Penny Dreadful
  • Empty Fifties roads under robin’s-egg-blue sky, Big Eyes
  • Cold in July: blood spatter on the beyond-bland painting that hangs over Michael C. Hall’s couch…
  • Amid snowfall reducing the known world to white-on-white, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) achieves perfect chaos—Fargo….
  • The bullet across the curve, Snowpiercer
  • Night Moves: From their rowboat on the lake, the would-be dambusters watch as headlights enter the parking lot where their car sits alone….
  • Aural climate throughout Under the Skin; what bone-deep Otherness sounds like…
  • Pacing paving stones slicked by rain, Ramses (Joel Edgerton) worries he won’t have time to get his tomb built. Behind him, curtains billow in a wet breeze, portending worse weather to come inExodus: Gods and Kings….
  • “The sun is God.” Amen, Mr. Turner….
  • In American Sniper, sudden red flag as Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) breaks bread with a friendly Iraqi family: the host’s scraped-raw elbow, marking him as a fellow sniper…
  • Out on the American frontier, a little girl walks in the woods, a book on her head—The Better Angels….
  • That precocious little Lorelei Linklater vamping and singing “Oops, I did it again!” at her disgusted younger brother (Ellar Coltrane), in Boyhood
  • The power of doggie love, fueling The Rover, John Wick, The Drop
JOHN WICK
‘John Wick’
  • Mockingjay, Part I: During the mutual jamming of video signals, Peta’s and Katniss’s signals crackle over each other and the separated lovers both call out, as if each felt the other passing….
  • Swapping funiculars, The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • “Exterminate! Exterminate!”: Hawkings goes Dalek, The Theory of Everything….
  • The start of Fury: lone German officer riding a white horse through gray, cratered wasteland…
  • Mad hornet motorcyclist buzzing tinily over the Highlands, Under the Skin…
  • Something corpsey-white sliding under thinnish ice, soon to be the death of Thorin Oakenshield inThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies…
  • The Guest’s (Dan Stevens) amused appreciation of the impact his super-buff torso is having on the teenaged daughter of the unsuspecting family he’s moved in on…
  • Enemy: the shadow of the doppelgänger under the hotel room door…
  • Jax (Charlie Hunnam) fires a bullet into the back of his mother’s head, as Gemma (Katey Sagal) lingers in a rose garden. The last act in a long-running Jacobean tragedy called Sons of Anarchy
  • Rape and fiery death in a Palestinian prison, terrorist theater in which everyone is playing a role except The Honourable Woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal, magnificent throughout)…
  • Boyhood: A guy who once worked on her septic line pops up in a restaurant to thank Mason’s mom (Patricia Arquette) for her life-changing advice years ago….
  • Sliding through Detroit’s deserted yellow-gold streets, Only Lovers Left Alive; Henry Ford’s factory that became the palatial Michigan Theater that became a car-park…
  • The doctor’s (Aidan Gillen) awful parable of the human condition, flaying a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who’s just fallen off the wagon, in Calvary
  • Tom Hardy as Locke: “You don’t trust God when it comes to concrete.”
  • “L’aire de panache,” Gustave H.’s shield against mortality and bad manners—The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • Late in Edge of Tomorrow (now commercially retitled Live Die Repeat), the general (Brendan Gleeson) and the audience more or less simultaneously catch on that Cage (Tom Cruise) and Rita (Emily Blunt) have been here before….
  • Birdman: Starting to play mad scene after finding his wife in bed with a guy, Riggan notices Mike has a raging hard-on. Theater audience notices, too….
  • Unbroken: after the strafing, underwater view of life rafts against the sky, light showing through bullet holes…
  • What happens on that beach, Under the Skin, and the kinds of sense it doesn’t make…
  • Blue Ruin: color horizontals of a carnival at night…
  • Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), spread out on his recliner, reminiscing about the days when he was somebody—The Drop
THE DROP
‘The Drop’
  • The long fall of Smaug, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Scritchy plastic couch contributing to the year’s most distinctive and unsettling sex scene, inInherent Vice
  • Love Is Strange: Aging lovers, too long apart, spoon in the bottom deck of a bunkbed….
  • Boyhood’s gutsy mom (Patricia Arquette) abruptly overwhelmed at life passing her by: “I thought there would be more.”…
  • George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) and other assorted dregs jigging to fiddle music on a river-raft, slowly swallowed up in darkness, The Homesman
  • In Only Lovers Left Alive, Adam and Eve lean in the doorway of a Tangier dive, drinking in Yasmine Hamdan’s unforgettable performance of Moroccan blues….
  • Monsieur Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel: “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”…
  • Under the Skin: small quick blaze in snowy woods…

Kathleen Murphy has written about movies for most of her life (Movietone News, Film Comment, Steadycam, MSN/movies.com, et al.), curated film festivals (Women and Cinema, Irish Cinema) and taught film at University of Washington. 

Veteran film critic Richard T. Jameson served as editor of the journals Movietone News (1971-1981) and Film Comment (1990-2000). 

Moments out of Time 2014

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the year’s films

We perpetrated the first “Moments Out of Time” in ecstasy over the cinematic splendors of 1971—The Conformist, The Last Picture Show, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry, et al. It ran in our Seattle Film Society journal Movietone News (“The trees creaking in the wind: the murder in The Conformist…“), where it became a much-anticipated annual feature ’til the journal wrapped in 1981. We’ve missed memorializing a few years since, but have enjoyed at various times the hospitality of Film Comment, American Film, Steadycam, Movies/MSN, and Cinephiled. A comprehensive “Moments” library is maintained at Parallax-View.com.

‘Cold in July’
  • Under the Skin: disembodied face lies in a lap, gazing upward, its eyes blinking…
  • SQÜRL’s banshee screech, “Funnel of Love,” over the first ravishing images—including turntable as flat circle of time—of Only Lovers Left Alive
  • “I was once considered a great beauty,” confides Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge extraordinaire, The Grand Budapest Hotel….
  • A dollhouse town and the relentless cheer of a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep), on the edge of the crazy-making emptiness of the American frontier, The Homesman
  • What to say, politely, to an Iraqi woman after your team has burst into her Fallujah home? “Hello….” Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, American Sniper
  • Birdman: After Mike (Edward Norton) blows up the performance, Riggan (Michael Keaton) storms offstage snarling, “Get him out of here!” Annie the P.A. (Merritt Wever) softly asks, “How do you want me to do that?”….
  • Threesome rocking out to “Gloria” on car radio: a rare communal moment of joy in Two Days, One Night
  • The Better Angels: Abraham Lincoln’s second mother (Diane Kruger) balances on one foot, wavering over a fallen tree trunk, the sun blazing a bright halo around her head….
  • In Exodus: Gods and Kings, a tiny white stallion, rearing beneath a heavens-high curve of tsunami….

Continue reading at Keyframe

Parallax View’s Best of 2014

Welcome 2015 with one last look back at the best releases of 2014, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View and a few notable Seattle-based film critics.

Sean Axmaker

My list this year is light on foreign movies, largely because I didn’t get out to as many festival screenings as I have in past years, and because many of the foreign language films placing highly on other lists have not opened in this corner of the world.

1. Boyhood (Richard Linkater, US)
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, US)
3. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)
4. Gone Girl (David Fincher, US)
5. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, UK)
6. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, US)
7. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
8. Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran)
9. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, Australia)
10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, Iran/US)
And because this film turns it up to 11. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon Ho, US / South Korea / France / Czech Republic) – high concept science fiction thrillers are always best when serving as metaphors for sociopolitical commentary. Amiright?

More honorable mentions (in alphabetical order: Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, Sweden), The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones, US), The Immigrant (James Gray, US), John Wick (Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, US), Locke (Steven Knight, UK), A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor, US), Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, US), Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, US), The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher, Germany), We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodyson, Sweden), What Now? Remind Me (Joaquin Pinto, Portugal)

Other published Top Ten Lists: Village Voice Film Poll, Keyframe
Also: Best of 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD

Sheila Benson

(as published in Village Voice)

1. Birdman
2. Foxcatcher
3. Mr. Turner
4. The Immigrant
5. Two Days, One Night
6. Leviathan
7. Nightcrawler
8. Force Majeure
9. Get on Up
10. Winter Sleep

Jim Emerson

(as presented at Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap)
1. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
2. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
3. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
4. Calvary (John Michael McDonaugh)
5. The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)
6. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
7. Happy Valley (Amir Bar-Lev)
8. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
9. The Immigrant (James Gray)
In a realm of its own, circling above the calendar year considerations: A Summer’s Tale (Eric Rohmer, 1995; first US release, 2014)

Robert Horton

(as published in Seattle Weekly)
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
2. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
3. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
4. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
6. Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier) and The Rover (David Michôd) (tie)
8. Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)
9. The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)
10. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)

Other published Top Ten Lists: Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap

Richard T. Jameson

1. Under the Skin
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. The Homesman
5. Two Days, One Night
6. American Sniper
7. Birdman
8. Mr. Turner
9. Ida
10. The Better Angels

Jay Kuehner

(as published on Fandor)
1. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
2. A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Ben Russell and Ben Rivers)
3. Jealousy (Philippe Garrel)
4. The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
6. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
7. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)
8. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
9. Story of My Death (Albert Serra)
10. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
11. Like Father, Like Son (Kore-Eda Hirokazu)

Moira Macdonald

(as published in The Seattle Times)
(in alphabetical order)
Birdman
Boyhood
Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Life Itself
Like Father, Like Son
Love Is Strange
Mood Indigo
Selma

Brian Miller

(as published in Seattle Weekly)
1. Birdman
2. Boyhood
3. Ida
4. Whiplash
5. Frank
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
7. Force Majeure / Gone Girl (tie)
8. National Gallery
9. Snowpiercer
10. The Homesman

Kathleen Murphy

1. Under the Skin
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. The Homesman
5. Ida
6. Mr. Turner
7. American Sniper
8. Two Days, One Night
9. A Most Violent Year
10. Force Majeure

Other published Top Ten Lists: Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap

Andrew Wright

1. Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong)
2. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
3. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
4. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves)
6. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
7. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
8. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
9. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
10. Cold in July (Jim Mickle)

Lists of lists:

Village Voice (poll and lists)
Roger Ebert.com
Keyframe Best Feature Films of 2014
Keyframe Daily Lists and Award 2014 Index

Polls
Film Comment
Indiewire Poll
Keyframe
Roger Ebert.com
Sight and Sound
Time Out London

Other lists
2014 additions to the National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1924
New York Times Year in Culture

Videophiled Best of 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD

The death of Blu-ray and DVD has apparently been prematurely called. Streaming and cable VOD still dominates home viewing but Redbox and other kiosk-based disc vendors have kept disc rentals alive (if not quite robust) and Blu-ray remains the format of choice for movie collectors and home theater enthusiasts, keeping sales robust enough to bring new players into the business. Kino Lorber expanded its release schedule with a Kino Classics collection of titles from the MGM/UA catalog and distribution deals with Cohen, Raro, Redemption, and Scorpion. Shout Factory has ventured into restorations and special editions as well as new partners (like Werner Herzog). Warner Archive has increased their flow of Blu-rays with some substantial titles presented in high-quality editions. Twilight Time has made its own limited edition business plan work and started adding more supplements to their releases, including original commentary tracks from the company’s film history brain trust.

This is my highly subjective take on the best disc releases of 2014 (of those I had the opportunity to watch and explore), with extra points for heroic efforts and creative archival additions. Note that this is strictly domestic releases—I do have import discs but I don’t have many and I barely have the time to keep up with American disc releases—and are as much about the importance of the release as the quality of the disc.

1. The Complete Jacques Tati (Criterion, Blu-ray and DVD) collects all six features he directed (including alternate versions of three films) and seven shorts he wrote and/or directed, plus a wealth of other supplements. Of the six features on this set, all but Playtime make their respective American Blu-ray debuts and two appear on disc for the first time in the U.S. From his debut feature Jour de Fête (1949) to the birth of both M. Hulot and the distinctive Tati directorial approach in his brilliant and loving Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) through the sublime Playtime (1967) to his post-script feature Parade (1974), this set presents the development of an artist who took comedy seriously and sculpted his films like works of kinetic art driven by eccentric engines of personality. The amiable oddball Monsieur Hulot was his most beloved creation, a bemused outsider navigating the craziness of the modern world, but unlike the films of Chaplin, Tati’s screen alter ego is just a member of an ensemble. A gifted soloist to be sure and the face of the films, but a player who weaves his work into the larger piece. Tati made comedy like music and this collection celebrates his cinematic symphonies. Playtime reviewed here.

2. The Essential Jacques Demy (Criterion, Blu-Ray+DVD Dual-Format set) offers the definitive American disc releases of six of the defining films of Jacques Demy, the Nouvelle Vague‘s sadder-but-wiser romantic, from his 1961 debut Lola to his 1982 Une Chambre en Ville, which makes its American home video debut here. Like so many of his fellow directors, Rivette loved American movies, especially musicals, but his taste for American musicals and candy-colored romance was balanced with a bittersweet sensibility. For all the energizing music and dreamy love affairs, his romances more often than not don’t really get happy endings. The films include his two most famous musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), as well as four early shorts—Les horizons morts (1951), Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956), Ars (1959), and La luxure (1962)—plus two documentaries on Demy made by his widow Agnes Varda, a small library of archival TV programs on the films, and the hour-long visual essay “Jacques Demy, A to Z” by James Quandt. Full review here.

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